This year has seen the part of Mediterranean Turkey where we have our second home, enjoying fantastic weather. The sun has been shining every day, the temperature has been in the mid 20C’s and there has been a light breeze. Ideal walking conditions.
We had just returned to Turkey and were keen to get in a few walks. Within 24 hours of arriving we had managed to set up not one, not two but three walks with three different sets of friend and all to take place over the next three days. Were we mad?
Patara – the dunes, the beach and the ruins
Before we had left London, we had been in communication with a South African friend who was at her apartment in Kalkan but was due to leave for home within a couple of days of our arrival. It was agreed that a good walk would be the best way to get together and exchange all our news. When we phoned Les on our first morning, she explained that she had been asked to take a couple of lady visitors on a walk the next day, would we like to join them. Of course, we said yes.
Les was not sure how able walkers they were so it seemed best to choose one of the low level walks where the total length could be adjusted as we went along. Our fears were unfounded when they turned out to be active members of the Liverpool branch of the Ramblers Association and had walked in many countries. We could also tell they would be fine when we saw how suitably dressed they were.
The walks starts from the car park in the centre of Gelemis, the central village of the Patara area, with about 2km of uphill road walking. The steepest part is at the beginning easing into a fairly gentle incline. At the roadside there were trees laden with pomegranates or “nar” in Turkish. The fruits were all shades of red and ready to be picked. Interspersed with these trees, were orange trees with their fruit in various shades of green, yellow and pale orange. They would be ready for harvest in a month or so. It’s one of the delights of walking in Turkey to see the different fruits that grow at different times of the year.
On our right we passed a rather sad looking hotel. There had been an hotel there for many years but about three years ago it underwent a serious refurbishment and looked rather swanky. The reason for this revamp was the need for a hotel to house dignitaries from around the world being invited to the grand opening of the painstakingly reconstructed 2,500 year old Lycian Parliament building. Unfortunately, as so often happens with ambitious projects, things took longer than planned and they missed the official opening date. When it was completed a much lower-key ceremony took place although the President of the Republic did do the “ribbon cutting”. The hotel does get summer visitors but it missed out on the international event that might have made it into an all year round destination.
As we walked along the road it gradually changed from a proper tarmac surface to stones, then rutted mud and more stones. The last half kilometre or so is through pine forest. That provides some welcome shade but also restricts the views. But there is a prize waiting for the walker when the road eventually comes to an end. The trees stop and you are standing at the top of some magnificent sand dunes, several hundred metres high, with a view from left to right along the whole 18km of the Patara Beach and the view ahead right over the Mediterranean. Magnificent.
The walk then continues down over the dunes to the shoreline. Normally there would be plenty of people around. Some would have come by car to play on the dunes and to picnic. Others would have walked along the couple of kilometres from the beach café to get a little peace away from the sunbathing throngs and a few would be walkers like ourselves. But today not a soul was in sight apart from a few distant specs in the café area. The joys of November walking.
After a short break at the water’s edge, three of our party decided to take off their boots and walk the next stretch in bare feet on the warm but not burning sand. The other two of us preferred the protection of boots against the scratching sand. We took another break near to the café which seemed to be still open but most certainly lacking in customers. Then we followed the boardwalk to the main beach car park. Normally, even out of season, there are ten or more cars here but today there were but two.
The route then crosses a number of small fields, some with crops growing and others given over to the goats. And then we arrived at the ruins of the amphitheatre and the shiningly new reconstructed Parliament Building. It was time for lunch, traditionally taken on seats in the amphitheatre. Our visiting Liverpool ladies were truly impressed.
After lunch we walked around and inside the Parliament Building then along the forum which is gradually being restored to its former glory. So much of the original stonework of the Parliament Building had been lost that, during restoration, the archaeologists had to have new stones carved or reconstructed using artificial materials. All the stone was cleaned to keep the contrast between the old and the new to a minimum. It is very effective. The forum seems to be being reconstructed from all ancient stone work. A nice contrast.
The next construction on our mini tour was about ½ km away passed marshland and through scrub. In ancient times this whole area was part of an inland sea which formed a major harbour. In its day, it had been used by Alexander the Great to bring in troops from Greece and to move them eastward along the Turkish coast. Around ten years ago a major storm swept away mountains of sand and revealed the ruins of an ancient lighthouse. It is now recognised as the oldest lighthouse in the world. Reconstruction of the building was in full swing until about two years ago when work suddenly stopped. Should it ever be completed the final structure will stand about 30m high and will be topped by a circular stone inscription which is sitting waiting nearby.
Our final stop was at the ruins of Hadrian’s Granary, a series of warehouses used to store grain waiting for shipment. The buildings are remarkably intact but look strange standing on silt and reeds with no sign of the sea that was the original reason for their construction.
And so the final stage of the walk went slowly uphill through scrub land that, in Spring and Summer, is well populated with lizards, chameleons and tortoises. Today we saw nothing. Then we entered an olive grove where the crop had just been harvested. A man and a woman were engaged in the essential task of pruning the trees and clearing out undergrowth in preparation for next year’s growing season.
We re-joined the road that we had started on just below the “white elephant” hotel and walked back into Gelemis village. We had covered between 8 and 10 kilometres and were ready for a cool glass of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. An excellent end to our first walk.