200 km later........

Trip Start Sep 28, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Turkey  , Antalya,
Friday, April 15, 2011

We should have been in Jordan by now on the way to Israel before flying to Italy to meet with the family, but political unrest in Jordan and bombings in Jerusalem made us rethink our plans. We came to the conclusion that we should change direction 180 degrees and head north. Fingers crossed there weren't going to be any revolutions in Turkey any time soon….

Turkey comes highly recommended, however it's BIG and to be fair it should probably be granted a fair amount of time to properly explore.......and we only had three weeks. Rather than race around and try to see it all we decided to spend our time walking for two weeks along the Med and spend the remaining week in in Istanbul, perhaps returning to see the rest of the country after a summer in Europe.

The walk would take us 200km along the Lycian way, a long distance walking trail linking the towns of Fethiye and Antalya. While both start and finish towns are on the Med, the trail does not always follow the alluring turquoise water, sometimes taking us inland over mountains to elevated summer pastures and at least once every couple of days delivering us on the doorstep of a village or town, for supplies, sometimes even a pension for the night, and more often than not a feast at a local restaurant.

It all started in Kalkan a day later than expected due to some rain, a slower than expected bus trip and a forgotten hat, yes the lady in the white hat as she is known is these parts left her hat on the bus….it wasn’t all bad as while waiting at the bus station for the white hat to return we found Ayşe’s home cooking restaurant, the kitchen that kick-started us on our journey the next morning with the best Turkish breakfast of the trip. Every pension and hostel in Turkey provided us with the first meal of the day, but this one was special, a selection of homemade jams and dressings instead of jam in a packet, 5 diferent cheeses and lots of crusty bread, as well as hard boiled eggs, olives, tomatoes and cucumber.......Sorry Turkey we won't remember you as our favourite food country but we will put you down as the country with the best breakfasts.....a meal that takes time to devour and leaves you well and truly satisfied until long after lunch time.

People frequently ask us why we like long distance trekking….I must admit we ask ourselves the same question, sometimes early in the morning, very often in the rain and over and over again when walking up a mountain. The idea of strapping 15kg to your back and walking for 200km over 12 days at times sounds utterly ridiculous.

Despite the weight of the pack, the rain, the early starts, the smelly socks, the lack of showers, the camp food, the long uphills and the knee busting downhills, the hard mattress, the wild dogs and the aching joints we keep coming back for more………but why??

Over a beer on the water in the town of Kaş, our unexpected walking companion Werner (pronounced more like Verner), told us he loved the freedom, the solitude and the feeling of being at one with nature, carrying all you need in just one bag. His reasons hold true for us as well.....but surely there must be more to it?

Perhaps Werner himself is one of the reasons we love to walk........is it the people you meet along the way? We ended up spending a lot of time walking with Werner, a very well-read, well travelled German cabbie. As well as having a much better sense of direction than us he also proved to be very good company. We kept crossing paths with his unmissable bright yellow pack cover and had lots of conversations about travel, life, globalisation, 911 scepticism and the future of the world, as you do over a few Turkish beers and a block of chocolate. Germans seemed to me the flavour of the moment.......we have no idea why but every other hiker we met was from Germany. Was it a popular destination, or a good time to go on holiday....who knows, but Alex had lots of chances to practice her German.

As well as meeting many hikers we also love the opportunity to meet some local people and see places that haven't been completely changed by tourism. In Africa we found trekking was a great chance for us to get to know some locals over and above those you meet on the front line of tourism, and get a bit of an insight into everyday life. It was similar for us in Turkey, except this time around porters and guides weren't an option...that's right, we had to carry our own load for this hike. (And that’s our excuse for wearing the same t-shirts every day for 2 weeks….!)

When you go by foot you get to stop at the small villages and towns that aren't on the tourist trail. We met locals whose way of life is not that different to their parents, grandparents or even further back. One night we stayed with Nişat in a small village and he fed us a very generous dinner and breakfast. All the food he used had come from his land; the yoghurt, cheese, eggs, potatoes, olives, honey, walnuts, almonds, chicken and bread. Over our very simple but delicious meals with Nişat we attempted conversations in sign language, he even brought out his photo album to tell us about his family. We didn't understand much but we had a few laughs. That night we camped in his back yard, and were kept company by his two lovely dogs. Most dogs we met along the walk were terrifyingly ferocious guard dogs. We decided that Nişat must be a good man as soon as we met his two very happy, friendly dogs - a definite rarity in these parts.

The scenery on the walk repeatedly took our breath away. I think the Turkish coast line must be pretty hard to beat, and our jealous minds kept wishing we were on one of the many yachts anchored in all the seculuded bays we passed......Chris and Angela, where are you and your boat, we kept asking ourselves. On the hot days walking along the cliff edges the water was so unbelievably appealing........all you wanted to do was dive straight into the extraordinarily blue water. The most spectular sight was that of the approach to the town of Kaş. After two days walking through inland mountains and a long approach across a high summer pasture we came to the edge of a cliff with a several hundred metre drop straight down. We looked down to the town where we would spend the night, which was set in a lovely harbour full of boats. The sun was low in the sky and reflecting off the water. We were tempted to camp at the top of the cliff for the night, but opted for a bed and shower at a pension instead, so off we went down the cliff, zigzagging back and forth for the 700m descent.

The other amazing thing about the walk was the ancient Lycian cities and tombs we kept passing. The walk was set up to deliberately pass by all these ancient sites, and parts of the route were actually on roads the Lycians used some 2000 years ago. We’re still struggling to get our heads around the many different ancient civilisations that lived in this part of the world, but if we’ve got it right (and please correct us if we don’t) the Lycians were around at the same time as Ancient Greece and they controlled a very important part of the Mediterranean that connected Egypt and Greece. Later they came under Roman rule but for a long time they had their own language and distinctive form of architecture. Mostly their stone tombs are all that remain and we came across so many on the walk, as well as remnants of city walls and building foundations. We were often able to explore these ruined cities by ourselves with only the local goats to keep us company. It’s a bit of a shame we didn’t do more reading about the Lycians before we set off, but sometimes it was fun just to wander and climb around these ancient places and imagine what life must have been like.

Well, we've worked it out.....it's not the freedom, the solitide, the feeling of being at one with nature, it's not the local people, or the other hikers, it's not the beautiful landscapes, and it's definitely got nothing to do with historical sites.....we’ve decided that what we like best about hiking is the food, or more specifically, the chocolate. When you walk for 8 hours a day you can eat as much of whatever you like, and it doesn't even touch the sides. So we cooked up big hearty meals for ourselves each night, ate lots of bread and cheese and polished off a block or two of chocolate everyday...yum! And we were still hungry....

That's right, we walk cause we can eat and eat and eat.....and there is not a skerrick of the guilty in guilty pleasure!
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dinojay2 on

That looks amazing. A couple years ago we did just a few days from Alinca to Faralya, left us wishing we had set aside time for more. 200km is a hefty undertaking, though, impressive.

Hope the weather turns for you in Italy.

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