Yesterday we had the first of our three walks. It was mostly at or near sea level and involved a lot of walking in sand and scrub. Today, by way of a contrast, our route was going to take us into hill country by tractor tracks and stony paths.
The Rocks of Saribelen
For a number of years a regular feature of life in Kalkan, outside of the main tourist season, has been the Tuesday Walk. They started as an antidote to the arduous, 15-20km walks organised on Sundays. Over the years, a wide range of routes have been explored and an informal catalogue has been compiled. Typically the walks are between 8 and 12km, take 3 to 4 hours and finish with lunch back in Kalkan. During the last couple of years, these walk have attracted a large following, especially in April and October the peak holiday months for people who own properties in the locality. This demand eventually stretched the organisational requirements to breaking point.
Arriving in November, we found that the original large group of Tuesday walkers had been reduced to a handful. No bad thing. The organisation was being handled pro tem by a couple, Mike & Ann, and the route planning by Bill. Two others were signed up, namely Jenny and our companion of the previous day Les. Plus Margaret and myself that would make a very manageable seven. In the event Margaret had to pull out due to muscle strain, so an eager band of six set out in two cars just after 9am.
The date was the 10th November, the anniversary of the death of the founder of modern day Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk died at 9.05 and traditionally at that time a siren wails in every community for one minute of remembrance. Everyone stops what they are doing and stands silently. For reasons still to be explained, the ritual was not observed this week in Kalkan. Must try to find out why.
The route for today, chosen by Bill, was a familiar one that involved more climbing than most. To get to the start involved a short car journey up the long road that traverses the main mountain behind Kalkan. The road has wonderful views over the Mediterranean and the islands and, over about 3km, climbs to around 500 metres before turning into the upper reaches of the Kaputaṣ gorge. Half way through the gorge was the starting point for our walk.
Finding the parking place proved to be a little difficult as some new road construction was taking place. The parking place had been reshaped and the river was now flowing through a wide concrete pipe with a concrete bridge on top. This made crossing the river very easy. Rather strangely, the rough path that we used to follow, had been transformed into a roadway almost wide enough for two vehicles to pass. What was going on? Although not tarmacked, this had the makings of a serious access road.
The road gained height quickly and soon we were looking over the upper valley of the Kaputaṣ river and across to the mountains that protect the village of Bezirgan. At one point we met a man with a wheelbarrow and a saw, gleaning kindling from the trees that had been brought down during the making of the new road. He turned out to be a familiar face, the father of our property manager’s wife.
Eventually the new road reached another more established road that traverses the hillside. We had to take stock as the construction work made things look a little less familiar. It was decided to take the track that continued upwards and this turned out to be the right decision. Within a few hundred metres we saw familiar features and soon were entering the village of Saribelen just below the mosque.
Normally, at this point, we would turn left down a narrow but sometimes busy road that leads to a cemetery. However the road had been transformed into a super-highway. Previously two cars would have to slow down to pass, now two lorries could pass at speed. After a few metres we began to wonder exactly where the new road was going and would it take us to the cemetery. A bit of quick thinking and we had decided to completely reverse the direction of the walk and follow the road upwards to a recognisable point that we would usually pass on our descent. This turned out to be a good idea.
Very soon we reached a track turning off to the right and signposted to “Moonstone Villa”. This was our route. The track passes three substantial, modern villas one of which had been on the market recently for £1m. Way out of our league.
Within a few hundred metres, the track took a right turn and, on the left, were the red and white way-markings of the Lycian Way. We would be joining the Way for the next section of our walk over the hills of Saribelen. Someone has been out recently with a paint brush and refreshed, and occasionally added to, the way-marks. The route was much easier to follow.
After a short upward scramble through prickly bushes and walking on the typical red stones of the Lycian Way, we entered a raised valley with grazing, scrub and rocks. This is a typical small valley carved out by a glacier. We often see sheep, goats and even horses here but today there was a small herd of cattle with a herdsman. It meant we had to watch our feet as there were plenty of droppings about.
After about 1km the high point of our day came into view. This took the form of a number of very large boulders sitting on top of the ridge to our left, on the north side of the valley. Soon the path started to move up the slope in a series of zigzags. Partly because of the fresh way-marks, route finding was very straightforward. Doing the walk the other way round, finding the path was sometimes difficult. Looking back at the valley floor we could see a large circle marked out by big stones and maybe thirty metres across. We notice it every time we visit this place but normally there are sheep in the circle with a shepherd and dogs. Maybe it’s the wrong time of year for sheep in the hills.
Once we reached the ridge there is a great view across the wide Saribelen Valley to the higher Taurus Mountains. Although it’s the middle of November there was no sign of snow. A measure of how warm and dry it has been in this part of Turkey. Usually when we reach the high point we do some scrambling on the big boulders. Today we made an exception and just admired their size and smoothness.
From here the rest of the walk was downhill. At first we were on a stony path with a few awkward steps then it was terrain more akin to alpine meadows. Sloping grass with a well-trodden path. There were a couple of very large mushrooms – probably 20-30 cm diameter – but however tempting they might have been, we all had stories about the potentially fatal effects of eating unknown fungi. Soon we were at the road with the last steps requiring good balance or a helping hand.
On previous walks along this route, coming from the opposite direction, we would have reached this point at the top of a steep path starting at the village cemetery. As mentioned earlier a change in the roads had steered us away from the cemetery route. We decided to avoid any route finding problems and just walk down the road which we knew would take us directly back to Saribelen Village. At the village, a sharp left turn just before a typical triangular store shed, took us back onto the track leading back down to our start point. We passed our property manager’s father-in-law again. He now had a lady assistant and the pile of sawn wood had grown.
Back at the cars, it was time to head to Kalkan for a spot of lunch. In previous seasons, lunch was always partaken at “Our House”. This season, with smaller groups it had been decided to try another place, Köfteҫı Süleyman, a relatively new eatery on the road down into Kalkan just above the Migros supermarket. It turned out to be an excellent choice although the service was a little slow and there were no complimentary snacks. However, the lamb köfte were top quality for texture and flavour. Washed down with a bottle of Efes and all seemed well with the world.
This marked the end of the second walk. Walk number three would be tomorrow with Roy & Caroline and would include a picnic. Great.