Tuesday dawned dry but with threatening clouds. It’s March, so what does one expect? An early morning email from the Tuesday Walk leader informed potential walkers that he was not intending to walk as rain was forecast. Well it is March, isn’t it, the month for rain in the Northern Hemisphere. And Turkey is no exception.
To digress slightly, we used to do most of our mountain walking in the West Highlands of Scotland and in the English Lake District. These regions are, to say the least, prone to rain but it didn’t stop us getting out. If we’d waited for a dry day our outdoor time would have been severely limited. Of course, in Turkey the expectation is for loads of sunshine but the question is which comes first, the weather or the walking. You will gather my answer.
So, nothing daunted, we headed to the meeting point at the planned time and waited to see if other stalwarts would arrive. For a while none did and then, just as we were beginning to plan a local walk for ourselves, two others, Chris & Janice, arrived keen to do something.
As we didn’t know the walk that was on today’s agenda, I phoned a regular (Andy) who might know something about it. But no, it had not been his suggestion and he only vaguely knew what was proposed. End of conversation. So we decided to do another walk in the same area that we knew well but which would be new to our companions. Off we set.
As we drove up the long hill out of Kalkan on the Elmalı road, my phone rang and it was Andy. He had spoken with another regular and Barry knew what was planned. Basically, the aim was to explore a forestry area running east from Haҫioĝlan at the head of the Sarıbelen valley. We decided to meet at a point on the road through the Sarıbelen valley that was a familiar stopping place on the Sarıbelen circular walk, an old favourite of the Tuesday Walkers.
We met and then drove in convoy the last few kilometres to the proposed starting point via a short detour trying to find the head of a trail. We stopped at the end of the serviceable road. To our left was a small encampment of ramshackle shelters, smoke coming out of a metal chimney emanating from one tent and a rather rusty satellite dish staked in the ground. On closer examination we could see a cable coming across the nearby fields presumably supplying electricity for the TV. It was all a bit eerie as no one came out to see who was passing. As one of our party remarked, before we set out into uncharted territory, it was a bit like a scene from “Deliverance”.
By now the rain had settled in so we donned whatever wet weather gear we had and strode off down a forestry road. This road went slowly downhill through a pine forest with a rushing torrent of water down to our left. The water was milky white having picked up limestone dust from the surrounding terrain. It looked, quite literally, like a good place for white water canoeing, not wide enough for rafting.
The road is well constructed with a surface of red limestone broken rocks imbedded in limestone clay. It was easy to walk on. Because of the rain there were lots of streams of water coming down through the trees on the hillside to our right and flowing across the road on their way down to the white water. They were easy to cross and didn’t get our feet too wet.
After less than one kilometre, we came to a much more spectacular waterfall, more accurately a cascade, perhaps 100 metre high over rocks to our right. Crossing the outflow from the cascade meant some delicate but straightforward balancing on rocks surrounded by the torrent of water. It would be a different story on the way back.
About one kilometre later we came to the lowest point (by height not spirits) of the route at a junction with the Lycian Way. We recognised it as a place we had passed whilst walking from Phellos, 14km to the east, to Gökҫeören, 8km to the south three or four years ago. Some walkers had just passed here and were still visible heading across a wide are of meadowland leading to a long climb to Phellos. For our exploratory walk we turned right towards Gökҫeören.
After a short level stretch, the route started to climb steadily through an ever narrowing, steep-sided valley. The past winter has been particularly wet in this part of Turkey and there was lots of evidence of the destruction that prolonged rain can produce. Every few hundred metres the roadway was almost blocked by landslips. Fortunately none had completely closed the road but there was a clearly a lot of work to be done by the forestry people to re-open it for business.
At one point we met two German girls with enormous packs coming down the trail towards us. Somehow we managed to have a meaningful exchange with them despite a scant knowledge of German on our part and their similar problem with English. With the common interest, i.e. walking, somehow language took a bit of a back seat. We were more interested in making mutually encouraging gestures and recognising each other’s love of the outdoors.
Because of the fairly continuous rain, we didn’t spend quite as much time as usual enjoying the scenery in detail but we did notice the abundance of shrubs and wild flowers in bloom. We really missed the presence of our resident botanist and fellow walker. But it was still possible to be impressed even though the names were mostly unknown to us.
As this was to be a so called linear walk – you return by the same route in reverse – we set a time for turning round. When that time came we had covered nearly four kilometres and were happy with the distance. It is probably true to say that by this time we were all feeling a bit sodden and anything further would rapidly move the walking experience from pleasurable to masochistic. On a normal day, in better weather, this would have been the natural place for a snack break, but we were all more intent on a reasonably swift retreat.
On the route back it was surprising how many things we noticed that we had failed to see, or which hadn’t registered, on the outward trek. One of these was a fairly elaborate, almost ornate, wooden structure leaning against a small rock-face and from which emanated a water pipe providing drinking water for the passers-by. What was hidden by the wood was anyone’s guess.
At the junction where the Lycian Way turned eastwards, we saw some small, vivid scarlet flowers that had completely missed our attention on the outward trail. They looked a little bit like closed up poppies but a bit smaller. They had very short stems and the flowers were just above the ground. Further research hints that they might be a variety of flotillary or fritillary – are they the same plant family?
We did start to notice that the little streams that we had crossed with barely a skip earlier were now becoming a little more challenging. A bit more care was needed to keep boots moderately dry and the limestone clay was becoming more tacky and sticking everywhere. For me the biggest problem came at the water crossing below the 100 metre cascade mentioned earlier. The water was now much deeper, flowing faster and the crossing point was less obvious. The rest of the party got across with much ado but when I set out my old inner ear problem started to kick in which plays havoc with the sense of balance. A small explore upstream for an easier crossing point proved futile. Back to the original spot and, with the assistance of a walking pole held out by Chris to provide some support, I was across. Phew!!
It was now but a short walk back to the encampment and the cars. There was now some signs of life and a few “merhaba”s were exchanged. Soon we were stripping of the worse of our sodden clothes – within the bounds of decency – and out boots were removed and stowed in the backs of the cars. Andy and Barry said they were going to go to Evimiz (our House) for a beer but the rest of us decided that a hot shower was the priority.
Back in Kalkan we were quickly brought into the real world when we discovered that there was no electricity, not just in Kalkan, but across much of Turkey. Some problem, as yet unexplained, had managed to bring down a large part of the national grid. Fortunately our hot water tank was full and showering was bliss. It may have been a wet walk but the walking was great and the company even better. “Singing in the Rain” will become our theme song for future wet Tuesdays.
For future reference we all thought an even better version of this walk would be to start at Gökҫeören and finish at Haҫioĝlan. This would require a bus or dolmuṣ, depending on numbers, to drop us at the start and collect us from the finish. The walk would start along the Lycian Way route on a tarmac road which turns into the forestry road and it would be gently downhill for the 8km to the waymark described above. At this point a short diversion along the trail towards Phellos would bring you to a river crossing and some attractive meadows. This would be an ideal spot for a sandwich break. Then back-tracking to the waymark, the route would go straight ahead for about 2km gently uphill to the finish. Rather than stop at the encampment, a more interesting finish would be to continue walking through Haҫioĝlan village to the road junction at the entrance to the village on the Sarıbelen side. This would add about another 1km. A walk for another day – maybe even for a dry day.