There’s a tradition amongst the walkers in Kalkan of going on reasonably challenging walks, mostly along parts of the Lycian Way, on Sundays. This week the tradition was broken in two ways. Firstly, due to a clash of dates – a leaving do for long-standing members of the group – the day was changed to Saturday. Secondly, the redoubtable MnM who organise the walks, were reduced to a single M, as the other was nursing a bad cold at home.
So bright and early on Saturday morning we were standing outside the Belediye (Town Hall), waiting for the bus that had been organised for the day. Soon a happy band of 14, plus Ramazan the driver, were heading along Turkey’s answer to The Corniche of the French Riviera. This is a beautiful, nearly 30km stretch of road that runs eastwards along the coast from Kalkan to the town of Kaṣ. Today it was perfect, with blue sky, turquoise sea and light, puffy clouds on the southern horizon across the Mediterranean.
Beyond Kaṣ, the roads turns inland and the high Taurus Mountains came into view. The tops were still covered in snow above 3,000 metres, but the lower slopes were clear. This is not good for the water supply in the area which relies, in part, on snow melt to fill the rivers and lakes. We could be in for a summer of droughts.
Leaving the main road our route takes a local road that crosses over a series of low ridges that separate fertile valleys. Only a few years ago these valleys had ploughed fields and animals grazing. Now they are covered with poly-tunnels which nurture a growing a variety of plants, although tomatoes predominate. The last valley has steep sides and to accommodate more poly-tunnels, rocky platforms have been built to create level ground. These platforms are, in some cases, over 5 metres high which must have taken a serious effort to construct. Being springtime, the colours are mostly shades of green interspersed with blossom of many other colours. Where land has been tilled, the bare earth is a strong, dark red in colour. This the best time of the year for colours before the sun starts to bake everything brown,
After about an hour’s journey we arrived at Kapaklı, our starting point for today. We’re all keen to get started so it’s not long before we’re walking down a rocky track to reach the actual Lycian Way about ½ a kilometre below. At one point the track has now been taken over by yet another poly-tunnel. We have a slightly precarious walk along the narrow edge of the platform to get past it. A short distance beyond we are on the trail proper.
The Lycian Way passes through some fantastic, scenic countryside and coastline. Today will be primarily along the coast. The path has been very well way-marked by Kate Clow, the originator of the modern-day trail, but of course, the numerous herds of goats don’t recognise the “official” path and insist on making trails everywhere. The walker has to take great care to follow the waymarks and not waste valuable, and frustrating, time getting back onto the trail. However, following the waymarks can be a difficult exercise as the ground is so rocky here that we need to keep our eyes on our feet much of the time.
But it’s worth pausing briefly every so often just to soak in the view and look around you. On one occasion the pause was well rewarded when a black lily was noticed growing out of the top of a rock. The black lily has the rather dramatic botanical name of Dracunculus vulgaris and, when in full flower, emits a very unpleasant smell reminiscent of rotting meat to attract flies. Fortunately, being Spring, it wasn’t quite ready to attract flies, only curious walkers.
The trail is very narrow so single-file walking is the order of the day. That can lead to some interesting conversations with the person in front or behind you. At one point the person in front of me said “Alan”. As that is my name I naturally replied. At which point the voice in front said “Oh, I didn’t know it was you behind me, I was trying to talk to the Alan in front of me”.
The first section of about 2km, is mostly downhill to the sea where we find some ruined buildings and a large water-well. Our arrival there coincided with the arrival of a herd of goats with their keeper complete with shotgun and a couple of Kangal dogs. When we stopped for a snack, one of the dogs decided to stay with us – probably hoping for some food. When the break was over, the dog obviously felt short-changed and cocked its leg against a rock in the middle of our circle. Point taken!!
The next section followed close to the shoreline but the path was very rocky, so we needed to stop frequently to be able to drink in the scenery. The goats were also going in our direction. They seemed completely un-phased by our presence. There interest was entirely focused on the fresh leaves on the bushes and trees – we encountered one which was completely enmeshed inside a big thorny bush – it seemed to be eating its way out.
On previous visits the lunch stop has been at some ramshackle structures, the remains of a café serving drinks to boats that came into the bay and moored at their pier. Today things have changed. The Smugglers’ Inn, for that is its name, has been repaired and repainted, with some basic kitchen equipment installed. Even the toilets have been revamped, a real sign of intent to do business. My guess is that they have worked out that the Lycian Way can provide a source of regular income all year round whilst the boats provide the best profit in the summer. Chai and coffee were supplied at moderate prices and they were quite happy for us to eat our own food at their tables.
The water proved to be too tempting for one of our gang. Before we knew it, he was in his swimmers and jumping off the end of the pier. We all expected a shriek as he hit the cold water, but no – off he swam around the little bay – better him than me.
The rest of the walk was over mostly flat ground. But even crossing the wide meadows required, once again, a lot of attention to the ground in front of one’s feet. The terrain is covered in stones of all sizes. If you don’t keep a sharp eye out you are in danger of looking like Corporal Jones in the credits of “Dad’s Army” when he trips up whilst trying to look the part of a professional soldier.
On a small hill to the left there are the remains of a fortress, presumably Byzantine in origin. A little further on, the well-visited byzantine fortress of Kalekӧy – also known as Simena – came into view. The tourists who visit Kalekӧy always go there by boat and almost invariably think they are on an island, but we walkers know better.
By now we are walking on a dirt road and passing, on our right, a large cemetery. The road then takes a right turn through a large boat-maintenance yard. It’s not so long ago that this ground was boggy right down to the sea and the road was often a bit wet underfoot. And as we would approach, little girls appeared selling strings of beads. Now that the land has been reclaimed and the boat-yard has taken over the land, all the past has gone.
The route has a final sting in its tail. The road climbs very steeply to get over a ridge that bars the way to Üçaĝız our final destination. Although fairly brief, the 5 to 10 minutes of uphill toil is the only bad bit of the day. But it’s quickly over and we’re down the other side into the port village and sitting down in Hassan’s seafront restaurant with a cold beer. A welcome end to the 12k walk in the sun.
Ramazan joins us and it’s time to head homewards. As we head back along the same route it’s strange how you notice different things from the outbound journey. Beside the “fields” of poly-tunnels the old stone cottages still stand although deserted and everyone now lives in modern houses. A sure sign of prosperity. We pass the spot where we once saw a very large, dead wild boar, presumably the victim of a passing lorry. And then as we start to drop down towards Kaṣ, with the Greek island of Meis dominating the view out to sea, the eyes become heavy and the land of nod takes over… . a relaxing end to a Sunday Walk on a Saturday.