Walking is our passion. Every day we try to do at least 10,000 steps – measured by my trusty smartphone. It’s not exactly a marathon but it’s a lot better than leading the life of a couch potato. Of course, on some days we don’t reach the goal but on others, we cover greater distances. The first Tuesday in December was one of those other days. We tripled our goal.
Having explored the hills and coastline around Kalkan for the last twenty years with our walking friends, we now have a good catalogue of walks to choose from. Most are around 7 to 10 kms in length and, including up and downs and breaks, take about 3 hours from start to finish. The only trouble is that sometimes we feel the need for a bit of novelty. This can sometimes be simply achieved by starting at the “official” end point and finishing back at the start. That may sound trivial but it’s amazing the different perspectives you get when walking in the reverse direction. I blogged recently about an old favourite where, by adopting this strategy, it could be argued that we found a better walk. Another strategy is to combine bits of two walks to make a new one. This is exactly what we did on the Tuesday in question and a great success it turned out to be.
An old favourite, that we had walked recently, starts at the highpoint of the main D400 highway to the west of Kalkan. A Lycian Way marker post indicates the starting point. The route descends gently along the line of the ancient Roman Lycian waterway that channelled water from the Taurus Mountains to the long gone port city of Patara. After about 4km you come to a wonder of water engineering, the Delikkemer Siphonic Viaduct. More about this later.
From Dellikkemer, on the outskirts of the village of Yeṣılköy, we sometimes turn around and return to Kalkan. On other days we continue along the Lycian Way to Gelemis village, a total of about 12km. From there, at the appropriately named “Travellers’ Rest” café, for a small charge, the owner will drive you back to Kalkan in his dolmuṣ.
Another old favourite, starts in the village of Yeṣılköy at the municipality picnic site, and follows a mostly new logging trail up through the woods to a vantage point where there is a good view of the nearby mountains and the steep mountain valley that holds the extended village of Islamlar. The route, which we call the Yeṣılköy Woods walk, then turns around and goes down the way you came up. A few years ago, before the logging trail was established, there were a number of goat tracks that provided variations for the upward and downward parts of the walk. Since the logging access was opened up the goats have abandoned the old paths which, in turn, have become completely overgrown. So much for progress.
It struck me that the two trails, the Delikemmer Walk and the Yeşılköy Woods Walk, could be combined to create a circular walk over a variety of terrains. It would be a bit longer than the normal Tuesday perambulations but was hopefully within our levels of fitness. As for a starting point, I reckoned that we should start at the lowest point and cover all the uphill in the first half of the walk leaving the downhill section for the end when we might be a little tired.
So a happy band of six walkers set out by car from the Kalkan Otogar to a minor junction on the highway where a track down from Delikkemer joins it. Our starting point was the road on the opposite side, a farm road that heads for the centre of Yeṣılköy village. The road provides access to dozens of giant poly-tunnels used to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and whole variety of other vegetables. As we walked along, there were plenty of people working close to the roadside which gave us loads of opportunities to practice “günaydın” (good morning) and “merhaba” (hello). Invariably we got a friendly response and a wave.
Occasionally we passed pomegranate trees bearing the last of the season’s crop and orange trees laden with fruit – still slightly yellow in colour – as the orange season is about to start. It was also the season for picking olives. Olive picking is women’s work. The men do have a role. They load the sacks of olives into their cars and drive them to pressing plants.
After a couple of kilometres, we entered the main street of the village. There were a few basic shops selling food and clothes. Most of the other shops were plying trades from hairdressers to cobblers to ironworkers. On one side of the road was a small square that housed the workshops of car mechanics. And, every so often, there was a ҫay bahce or tea garden. We stopped beside one of these which was adjacent to the main mosque. One our party felt the need of a toilet and, as we knew, every mosque has its washroom and toilet. Generally they are reasonably clean but primitive. Squats only. Any passer-by is welcome to use them.
As we stood at the roadside, the owner of the ҫay bahce came over and invited us into his open-air courtyard. We declined, explaining that once our friend returned, we would be moving on. He went away only to return bearing a tray of ҫay glasses and insisted that we all had one. How could we refuse. In our naïve, western way we assumed this was a ploy to earn a few extra lira. How wrong could we be? When we’d finished we put a few coins on the tray. The patron was out in a flash and handed the money back. The ҫay was a gift, a symbol of Turkish hospitality. We thanked him profusely and waved our goodbyes.
So far the walk had been on level ground which was great for a gentle warm up of the muscles. But as we reached the end of the village, the ground started to rise and ahead we could see the woody hillside where our route went next.
Taking a road to the left, we wandered past a few houses and poly-tunnels to reach the municipal picnic ground. This used to be simply a clearing in the woods where people had laid campfires and had casual picnics. Now it is a much grander affair. The municipality has set up about twenty picnic areas each with their own permanent barbeque, table and seats. It must be a great sight when they are all in use.
The start of the track is directly behind the clean and adequately appointed toilet block. The track is wide enough for a logging tractor and trailer. Many of the trees have numbered metal plaques attached which presumably indicate when they are to be felled. There is a large variety of small trees including pepper and turpentine trees. And, of course, there are plenty of the miniature oaks that have spiky leaves designed to rip the flesh of the unwary bare-legged walker.
The climb is quite steady with a few short steep sections to test the muscles. Eventually it comes round a corner and levels out at a spot overlooking the valley that leads down from Islamlar. And, more or less in the valley floor one hundred or so metres below, we can see the road that we need to join. This road is notorious for collapsed edges and serious ruts. The traffic varies from scooters and mopeds to cars and vans right up to industrial cement mixers and overloaded tractors with trailers. The pedestrian has to be ready to jump into the ditch at a moment’s notice.
After a short downhill stretch the road turned steeply uphill to the village of Akbel. On Sundays, Akbel has an excellent market. Today the market area was empty. We crossed it to join the Lycian Way and managed to take a wrong turning into the gents’ toilet. The men sitting in the adjacent ҫay bahce cheerily waved at us and pointed to the actual path. “Çok teşekkur ederim” (thank you very much) was our reponse.
Akbel is the proud possessor of a very new technical school. It occupies a purpose-built building. One of the features, that we can see as we pass, is a basketball court in part funded by the Kalkan expat community. It is lunchtime so we meet the students coming out for their break. As always happens when you meet Turkish school children they are quick to ask in English, “what is your name?” and other similar questions. We give them cheery responses and walk quickly onwards as we know neither side is equipped for a proper conversation.
The track we were following is actually a narrow tarmacked road. Coming towards us was an ancient motorbike and sidecar. As we got closer, into sight comes Kader. Kader is a partner, waiter and magician at Kalkan’s Kaya restaurant. When he sees us he stops and a long rambling conversation ensues. Kader is a very clever guy who, in addition to his many catering skills, is an extremely skilful magician. He is a true professional who has been known to attend conventions of the Magic Circle in such genuinely prestigious places as Blackpool in Northern England.
With our spirits refreshed we continue along the road till we cross our old friend the D400 highway. On the other side we soon see the familiar Lycian Way yellow signpost and pick up the red and white waymarks. From here onwards it is downhill back to the cars. The path follows the line of the ancient aqueduct to Patara and, even more than 2,000 years after it was built, the original structure is very evident. In parts you actually walk along the duct that carried the water.
And then we came to the archaeological star of this walk and, indeed, of the area, the Delikkemer Siphonic Viaduct. This is a miracle of water engineering. At Delikkemer the aqueduct had to cross a pass which involved a climb of around 50 metres. To maintain a downhill flow of the water would have required the construction of a viaduct some 400 or 500 metres long, a serious feat in those days.
With great ingenuity, a sealed pipe was built made up of hollowed stone blocks stuck together with mortar. The pipe crossed a short stone bridge or viaduct, and rose up on the other side to the required height. Water flowed through this pipe using the principles of a siphon and then continued down to reach the people of Patara, in those days a very busy port city.
Beside the viaduct a farmer was bagging olives that had been picked earlier in the day. On the assumption that he would not want to carry the bags uphill, I assumed there was a relatively easy route down to the road that we knew was nearby. With a combination of pointing and the use of the word “ariba” (car), he indicated the top of a short path that would take us to the road.
And so, after a walk full of variety, with uphill and downhill stretches, with woodland and farmland, and with glorious weather, we descended back to the main road and the cars. It had been a little longer than we had estimated, nearly 15km, but the encounters with strangers and friends along the way made it all very worthwhile. We were definitely in need of a refreshing beer or two. Suleyman’s café called.