Friday, October 26, 2007

Dog tired

Anyone who knows me will probably know I don't like dogs - I'm scared of them. Well, Turkey has the scariest dogs I've ever seen. The Kangol is bred to guard livestock against attack from wolves or bears. They are big dogs - about the size of a hatchback - and often wear collars of nails either to protect them from wolves or just to look hard. Walking here means you will probably meet one sooner or later. We met three on our walk from Kas. It was a bad day for us really - after five hours of fairly rugged coastal paths, made worse by the mud from recent rain, we decided we couldn't continue on the section of the walk we were doing. We had planned to camp but had not found water all day. Our guidebook indicated three houses - they were deserted. We decided to take a small road that would take us back to the main road and it was along this we were angrily greeted by three Kangols. Admittedly one was a puppy - about the size of a German Shepherd, but it was three too many. We waved to their owner, the dogs got closer, we shouted to the owner, I could count the dogs' fangs, the owner waved us on. What trauma.
Eventually we reached the main road and flagged a bus down going to Kale. We talked about whether we could continue our walk with the lack of water. In Kale there was an anti-PKK rally taking place following an attack in the South-East. 8 soldiers taken hostage, the military threatening to enter northern Iraq, ultra-nationalists clamouring for action. The rally met at Ataturk's statue in the main square. Too many flags and a shouting speaker. A minute's silence for the "martyrs" (soldiers) killed, and then the national anthem. All a bit scary really. We left immediately for Ucagiz.
Happily we found a nice pension and got chatting to Canadian neighbours, Ruth and Gordon, who are on a cycling holiday here. They have enhanced the quality of our travelling experience by donating to us a spare travel-plug, an essential piece of kit if you need to soak your smalls overnight. The next night two German guys turned up who had also walked the stretch from Kas. They too had given up for want of water. We returned to Kale to visit Lycian rock-cut tombs and a theatre. However we skipped on St. Nicholas' church. Born in Patara, he was bishop here around 600 AD. There was a very tasteful statue commemorating his work and generosity to children.

Our next bus dropped us at a trout farm and restaurant. We ate trout. We then descended down towards the sea. On a ridge in pine trees we camped just above Chimaera. This is a strange place where gases seep from the ground and ignite on contact with the air. There are two places where continuous flames are burning, and these became the focus of a fire cult in Lycian times. It was a great spot to camp, but I felt it was the last time I would carry water to a campsite. Next day we descended to Cirali beach. Here all the pensions are hidden amongst the citrus fruit orchards behind the beach. We stayed three nights and relaxed on the beach. This was our last stop on the Lycian Way.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Greece for the day

We have spent nearly 3 months in Turkey and need to renew our visa, but it is simpler to leave the country and re-enter and pay for the new stamp in the passport (Ching! That'll be ten quid thank you). Conveniently located 3 km off shore is the Greek island of Kastellorizo and from Kas there are boatrips every day. Well, actually, as we found out on Friday afternoon when we arrived, they are every weekday, which meant we have had an enforced rest over the last two days. This suited me - I had sore heels, scratched legs, backache, and very smelly feet. Gayle just had a sore ear from all my whingeing. After a couple of days of force-feeding ourselves meat and carbohydrate (moussaka, kebabs and a small island of bread), we looked forward to a day in Greece.
Yesterday we awoke to rain but it was Sunday and we had nowhere to go so waited for it to clear. This morning the pattern repeated. Donning raincoats we joined the hardy few on the quayside waiting to board - an odd mixture of young French, old Germans, an English ex-pat, two young English women with chav tendencies (although I found the sequinned Turkish flag on the red tracksuit rather charming) and an over-amorous man trying to smooch a very disinterested woman. We boarded promptly at 9.55 and left tardily at 10.35, but the crossing was quick and we had three hours to explore. This island was used to film Mediterraneo and the main village was historically much larger than Kas on the mainland. Now it felt deserted - closed up for winter, with a handful of workmen building or renovating houses. Smart Greek houses on the front were boarded up against the winter weather. And a good job too because the westerly winds brought heavy rain soon after we arrived and we had to take refuge in one of the cafes along with the young French. Turned out they were Club Med employees brought over for a new visa because they didn't have work permits.
The rain eventually passed over and we wandered the empty backstreets and up to the old abandoned church. A circuit round to the castle brought us back to our boat. We crossed back across the bumpy straits and as we arrived back in Kas the sun came out. And that was our day out in Greece............

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thunder and lightning

The sun rises over Phellos and we feel the benefit of camping high. Nice to eat your coco-pops in the sunshine. We strike camp quickly and start winding down the trail to Kas. We reach a very pıcturesque village apparently stuck in time and then stride across red earth tracks though fields to the very edge of the precipice overlooking the sea. We are at about 600 metres and down below us is Kas town and the Mediterranean Sea. The path appears to descend the cliff face beneath us. At first it is well-built, but soon deteriorates to shale and dirt. At the very end we have to clamber down to the newly-tarmacced road. The road builders have dug away the final few steps. Morons.

Kas is a modern touristy town but feels normal enough at the end of the season. We are planning a quick jaunt to a Greek island but have to wait until Monday, so we have a restful weekend wandering around and catching up on our books. Each night there are big storms - heavy warm winds and then rain, culminating in thunder and lightning. Quite glad we're not in our tent! We have been eating well - lots of steam-tray food, buckets of bread and kebabs. There are regional variations of the kebab, named after their origination e.g. the Adana is spicy, the Tokat made with aubergine. We have adopted this nomenclature to describe bowel-movements - a frequent topic of conversation for us travellers. Thus one might have a Trabzon, an Urfa, or if you really are not well, a Safronbolu........

Lots on the TV about the possible invasion of northern Iraq. In the one english-language newspaper there is absolutely no discussion of a political solution to some of the issues the PKK have. Interestingly many Kurds have voted for Erdogan because he talked about having more control over the army. The prime minister seems also to be pressing the US for support at a time when an "Armenia" bill is being discussed by the US Congress. Is it all just noise? The real issues seem to be about the economic development of the South East and for the Kurds to have more cultural rights.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

More walking and not walking

Rain - it's definitely going to rain. We are road-walking past a sea of polytunnels and the sky is very menacing. You can see the rain coming over the mountains. We pass three men sat outside a small building. "Dolmus?" Now, I seem to have given Gayle the impression that I do not wish to walk all 500km of the Lycian Way, and I may have received some criticism for this. But neither of us hesitate to jump into the minibus. The rain falls. We looked out in wonder - it's been a while, you understand. We hang around for the sky to clear before heading to Xanthos which was the capital of the city-federation of Lycia. Mark Anthony lay siege to the city and trashed it. Then 2000 years later a British "explorer" came across it and with the help of the navy removed one of the few remaining buildings. It now stands in the British Museum - which is a fat lot of good for those walking the Lycian Way.
After a wander around we head to the beach of Patara. We find a great hotel just about to close for the winter. It is still hot and sunny most of the time, but the rain this morning is a taster of things to come. Patara was the port for Xanthos - but the estuary silted up and now there is the longest beach in Turkey - remarkably unspoilt. The ruins of Patara are also buried in sand - with a few exceptions - the amphitheatre and the council building where representatives of the federation met. After a couple of days rest we continue on an old Roman road which contours inland through pine forest. We emerge at an aquaduct which was airtight to create a siphon and draw water uphill. Our trail follows the bed of the aquaduct back inland and we stumble out onto an unfinished new highway which leads to Kalkan. A workman leads us down over boulders and through a brand new appartment complex to the street. A flash salesman pulls up in his car. "Would you like to see a duplex?"
Kalkan was probably once a lovely fishing village but now it's spread out and there are holiday complexes and new appartments everywhere. We take a room in an old pension. The owner tells us he now has lots of English neighbours. We find a little cafe to eat in and watch the evening parade of holidaymakers out on the town. Next day finds us climbing up the mountain above Kalkan on an old migration route - a lovely stone road which leads us to the summer pastures and cooler air. It's a long haul though and halfway up I'm struggling - sunstroke I think. Gayle reckons on last night's beer. We stop for tea at a small tea house with the old men of the village. They all stare at us for five minutes and say hello, then thankfully someone pulls out a deck of cards and their attention switches. We take a dolmus to the next village and then walk in the late afternoon sun to Gockoeren. We're looking for somewhere to stay. On the road into the village a couple of dogs detect our presence and menace us. They are with a goatherd but the idiot can't call them off. We get past them and stagger down the main road looking vainly for a pension sign. An old man spots us and takes us in to his daughter's house. They feed and shelter us. After tea the family and neighbours come in to talk to us. Gayle is game so we get out the phrasebook and with a bit of pictionary she soon has them laughing.
Our next day leads us down a forest track and then climbs old paths up to the head of a wide valley which we circle. It's a nice walk although we spend a bit of time thrashing through scrub bushes. Not much water on the uplands though and we fill up for the night at about 2pm at a fountain that is no more than a trickle. After a long day we climb to a ridge with the overgrown ruins of Phellos. It's an atmospheric place with views out to sea and inland to the high mountains. We pitch the tent and watch the stars come out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Walking and not walking

The Lycian Way seems popular until we realise that we are passing day-walkers trying to walk off their Full English Breakfast. The path is well-trodden as it traverses the steep slopes above the coast. We start to climb and pass a sweaty heavyset man coming back. "Sticks eh?" he comments, " You'll need those." "How do you know?" Gayle asks. Above us paragliders ascend and descend in spirals. Below us turquoise water and rocky headlands. İt is really too sunny and hot to be walking with our packs and I am worrying about water after we pass the third dry cistern. But we drop over a ridge and outside a small village is a running fountain. Gayle shoves her head under the tap.

The views are tremendous back along the coast and above us Baba Dagi - the mountain from which the paragliders are leaping. We find shade in pine trees and pass by hundreds of bankers boxes. Except they're not. They are beehives. Finally our path begins to descend through another village and along a narrowing valley and we emerge at the tarmac road in Faralya. Here we find a lovely pension with a swimming pool run by a beautiful Turkish man with blue eyes. He knows he is beautiful and this makes him ugly.

We meet Jenni and Chris here. Chris has twisted his ankle so the next day we walk the short leg to Kabak with Jenni and Chris takes the dolmus. The walk is brief and we descend to the beach at Kabak. It turns out to be the kind of place you get stuck in. There are a few pensions wıth wooden huts and tree houses and we pick one that looks the oldest but best laid out. Communal meals are taken in the shady restaurant. There's a network of paths leading up and around the old olive terraces on which it sits. The beach is pebbly and quiet and the water clean. In the afternoon we find Luke and Cali pitching their tent at the pension. The evenings are extremely sociable.

It takes us four days before we summon the courage to leave and walk out of the bay with Jenni and Chris. The onward path is an old route that winds its way up what looks like vertical cliffs from below. We lunch together at the top and then part ways and continue to another headland just beyond the village of Gey.

It is Eid or Seker Bayrami- the end of Ramadan. In Gey we stop at a house to ask for water, 5 litres. They have a small dowser in front of the house. There's a bit of a family gathering and they invite us in for tea and biscuits. Fresh grapes are produced for us and we are urged to sit and eat and drink. We manage to communicate a little bit and are glad of the rest in the shade. As the sun drops we say goodbye and stagger off with our fresh water supply. About half an hour later we camp on a tiny flat pitch just as night falls.

Our next day takes us on steep paths along the coast to Bel, another small village where we ask for water and are again invited in for tea and biscuits and the usual mime show. The generosity of the people is quite wonderful. As we relax a guided group walks past. We set off to catch them up and do so on a forrested ridge. The path has moved off the coast but emerges down a very rocky descent to an empty village. We have a choice - to take the contouring coastal road or a short up and over. Foolishly we take the latter. We slog up a forest road and find a fountain dripping into a tank. It takes 40 minutes to fii up for the night. We then struggle through the forest and over the ridge and all the way down to a ruined fort at Pydnai. We are at the very end of a huge bay with a 30km beach. The whole estuary is a mass of polytunnels full of tomatoes. Exhausted we camp behind a cafe at the beach.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Ghost Town

After a very relaxing week or so around Goreme we take a bus back to Antalya. From the infernal August temperatures the days are now more comfortable in the late twenties. We deposit spare clothes and books at a pension in the lovely old town and then catch a bus on to Fethiye from where we want to start walking the Lycian Way. This way-marked path is the first of its kind in Turkey and we have a guidebook and map of the route which runs along the coast from Fethiye to just south of Antalya. Fethiye feels quiet and normal when we arrive and we find a room in a tiny cheap little place run by an old woman who speaks no English. Gayle haggles hard in sign-language and basic numbers. After some shrugs, raised eyebrows, fisticuffs and a bit of hand-wringing we agree to stay and unpack our super-light rucksacks. We have a bare room on a shaded roof terrace over-looking the marina. The ensuite bathroom is typically tiny - the kind where you can have a shit, shave and then shower all in the same spot.

On the terrace we meet Cali and Luke - a couple who have cycled here from Lancaster and look like it. Gayle is fascinated by the idea of cycle-touring and they are soon getting the Twenty Questions. They are great company and we find out they have been blogging as they go ( ). They kindly show us how to change the language on the blogspot screen when we log in to it here - the default language is always Turkish - and this means we can finally start posting blogs.

We fill our packs with trekking food (packet pasta sauces, chocolate spread, museli and coco-pops, mmmmm ) and head off on the preliminary stage of the Lycian Way climbing stiffly out of the town and over a peninsula down to Kayakoy. The day starts badly with our first canine 'brush' - a German Shepherd left to guard an empty house shows his displeasure at our route choice along the road in front. We try to argue reasonably that we are on a public road and the Lycian Way is signposted in this direction but he just won't have it. I hurry past with unseemly haste and take to the old cobbled road in a sweat.

Kayakoy is an old abandoned Greek village which has become a tourist attraction. The town was abandoned in 1923 with the exchange of Greeks and Turks after the Turks won their War of Independence. In most places the houses would have been taken over by Turks but it's believed the Greeks cursed this place and now it is a ruin and subject of a Louis de Berniere novel. After a bit of toing and froing and knocking at a closed pension a man walks out of a shop and accosts us. He takes us to the Kayakoy Art Camp. It's finished for the summer and they have a room set in lovely gardens. It's perfect for us and we doze in the hammocks and ignore the two toy dogs that want to play. Later we stroll around the ghost town set on the hillside above the fields. It's a big place. Apparently the town was so wealthy that the roof tiles were imported from Marseilles. What an odd fact. I wonder if Louis de Bernieres picked up on this detail.

The next day we catch a dolmus to Ovacik from where the Lycian Way starts properly. The village is one huge resort catering to Brits - an overspill of the already over-developed beach of OluDeniz. There are signs everwhere advertising Full English Breakfast Live Premier League Football Azda Happy Hour Sunday Roast Dinner. It is a depressing sight. We walk past the Pink Palace - a restaurant and swimming pool presumably named after the naked pink punters all lying out around the pool. We wonder whether the Greeks' curse had a wider reach than the Turks realised.