Islamlar is a village community in a steep-sided and steeply rising valley in the mountains behind Kalkan. The valley is famous for its fast flowing trout stream. There are a number of excellent restaurants where you can sample a freshly caught and grilled fish accompanied by the most delicious rocket and tomatoes plus a few chips, green salad, fried cheese and fresh bread. However, I digress, today was about walking not Turkish cuisine.
Ten years ago Islamlar was almost exclusively a place inhabited by local people but today many new houses have been built and are occupied by Turks from the big cities and a number of foreigners. The appeal of Islamlar is the coolness in summer when compared with the nearby coastal resorts. Most recently there has been a massive house-building surge with landowners trying to avoid red-tape, such as planning regulations, during an interregnum between an outgoing local administration and the arrival of the new broom. It remains to be seen as to whether the new broom – the AKP Central Government Party – will turn a blind eye or not.
The walk starts from the very centre of the village just below the main mosque and the collection of çay-bahce (Turkish tea houses, the exclusive preserve of men). The route takes a rough road on the left heading up out of the valley. For the first few minutes we were passing building sites where new houses were being erected. It wasn’t clear if they are being built for clients or, as I guess, whether they are speculative ventures. It was good to get past them and into the woodland above.
The wooded areas are interspersed with fields where various crops will be grown during the summer, sesame being a common one. We passed a lady tending a small fire, it wasn’t clear what its purpose was. As the general trend of the track was uphill, it was good to get some shade from the trees to help to keep us all cool.
On today’s walk there were twenty one people, the same number as last week. But not all the same people. There were several new faces and some returning regulars. It’s always good to have a mix.
Walking on rough roads – and later on tarmac roads – has the advantage of being able to move in groups, or at least in pairs, and to hold good conversations. It’s amazing what you can learn. Some things are fascinating other things are a bit more mundane but often very useful. In the latter category I learnt how you can switch household bulbs from expensive and sometimes unreliable halogen to new, ultra-efficient LED based lighting. On the more esoteric front, I learnt about the high yayla in the mountains where local shepherds and nomadic shepherds graze sheep and goats in the summer. These walks are a fount of knowledge.
The track descended slightly into a small valley large enough to accommodate around fifteen village houses and small-holdings. Here we joined the tarmac road. It curved round the head of the valley and then started to climb into a wooded area. The going was relatively easy and the party became quite spread out. I learned later that one of the new-comers, a young man in his early twenties, displayed an amazing prowess at sprinting uphill. I wish I’d seen him.
All the way from Islamlar we were walking in a vaguely westerly direction with the Mediterranean some 10km to our left and mountains to our right. There were occasional glimpses of the sea and some of the big mountains to the west, including Babadaĝ which stands at nearly 2,000 metres. And then we arrived at the viewpoint. This is nothing formal, just a grassy promontory in a natural clearing in the forest but the view is outstanding.
The dominant feature is the distant sea fringed by the 18km sandy beach of Patara. To the left the view is over Kalkan Bay with its two islands, Mouse and Snake, and with no sign of the actual town of Kalkan. Between us and Patara there is the dried up sea bed that now houses what seems like millions of poly-tunnels each with their crops of fruits and vegetables. The dominant crop is of tomatoes mostly destined for the Russian market. To the right of the poly-tunnels the ruins of the ancient Lycian city of Xanthos can be seen on a low hilltop. And further to the right is the wide valley of the River Eṣen that lies between the mountains around Babadaĝ and the Taurus Mountains. A fantastic panorama. As we soaked in the view, the humming of hundreds of bees assailed our eardrums. Honey production is an important industry in these parts.
A particular pleasure at this time of year is the profusion of wild flowers with their gorgeous colours, clear yellow, delicate pinks and mauves and a scattering of tiny scarlet poppies. Together with the fresh spring green shades of the trees, they provide joy to the eye.
It was now time to retrace our steps back along the road, to the small village that we had passed. Instead of taking the forest path back to Islamlar, we continued down the road. As we walked, through gaps in the trees, there were more views to take in. A sandwich break was taken in the entrance to small collection of modern, stone houses that formed a little holiday complex. At this time of year it was deserted but you could imagine that the place would be a relatively cool sanctuary from the searing heat of the seaside in mid-summer.
After the break the walk continued at first downhill and then, just to sap the last of our energies, turning quite steeply uphill back to Islamlar village and the cars.
This was a good walk. The views, as mentioned already, were outstanding. The overall distance was probably about 8 to 10km which was enough for today and the gradients were a manageable variation of uphill and downhill with no long periods of climbing. The only downside, in my opinion, was that so much of the walk was on tarmac road. Fortunately there was very little traffic so that wasn’t a problem but walking on tarmac can become a bit tedious. Despite that, this is walk to be repeated and relished.