Olympos and the flaming Chimaera
Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
235Trip End Nov 30, 2009
Show trip route
The first of these scheduled stops would be Olympos, another ruined city of the ancient Hellenistic period and a bit of a new age hippy/backpacker haven in modern times. Sort of true to my word that I wouldn't subject Mystery to any more ruins, it was for other reasons that I was coming here; Olympos has one of the best beaches on this long stretch of coastline and it also hosts the mystical Chimaera - an natural flame that has burnt here over the ages. Haven't seen one of them before so had better stop by if I'm anywhere in the neighbourhood I reckon.
So down we descended on switchback roads into the Olympos valley. I know I probably keep saying this but the cliffs and mountain ranges around made for some of the most spectacular scenery we'd witnessed in Turkey so far, which is certainly saying something - it keeps getting better and better. The change in elevation is probably about 1,000 metres from the heights to the valley floor below and the views from the narrow roads sometimes take the breath away. I was already starting to regret only having a night to play with here...
Olympos village is quite commercial in that it is heavily geared for backpacker tourism and all the modern conveniences are provided, despite the very unusual and difficult to reach setting along both sides of a rocky river bed. They have the location and years under the belt so it is an expensive place, geared to making serious money. Fortunately the central area is located away from the archaeological site and further still from the beach (you have to walk 200 metres and pay $2, then walk 500 metres through the ruins to access the beach), so these glorious environments are still pristine and retain their immense beauty that the original inhabitants would have enjoyed over 2,000 years ago.
First records of the settlement were from coinage minted around 170BC, but it is highly likely that it was inhabited well before that. In those times the river that spills onto the beach could be entered by ships and both banks at the entrance could be used as piers, which would have made life pretty easy for both traders and travellers that visited Olympos. Sweet.
Around 80 BC a pirate captain called Zeniketes conquered the town and used it along with the myriad of nameless coves on this coast of Asia Minor as a base to terrorise the waterways between Greece and Syria. And I am quite sure I read somewhere that Julius Caesar's first assingment as a young officer was to rid the area of the pirate menace - which he duly did (after being captured and held for ransom by them) using the courage, strategic thinking and guile that would become his trademarks in later years. And if I remember the tale rightly, to celebrate he held a mass crucifixion of hundreds of perpetrators somewhere in the area. You'd think twice about causing trouble after that...
Christianity came early to the area and is evidenced in some of the ruins like the chapel far above right (which probably dates from the Crusader period when the Venetians, Genoese and Rhodian knights conquered the area). On the whole the ruins are quite pretty as the surrounding jungle overgrows them, resulting in a scene very reminiscent of those you see in computer games. I wouldn't come just for the ruins but they are a nice touch.
We were pretty knackered from our movements but had to back up that night to see the Chimaera. Because it's best viewed at night and is about 5km away from Olympos, north of Cirali, you really have to take a tour to get there and back. The half hour walk up an 'easy' path is certainly an adventure (make sure you bring a flash-light!) but wiitnessing the fiery hillside at the end of it all is well worth the effort.
Apparently the composition of this naturally occuring gas is yet to be determined and leeches from one particular hillside from maybe eight vents within a 50 metre square radius. The gas combusts on contact with air so even if you suffocate a flame it will self-ignite again and resume its eternal vigil. Bizarre indeed. The flames are not quite as large as some of the photos indicate - I was having fun with my camera's long exposure setting. The attached video (4.5MB) shows a typical flame flickering gently in the darkness.
Here are a few scenes from around Olympos itself. The precipitous cliffs are very reminiscent of some places in Thailand and the river would be quite a sight when water was flowing though it. Must have been Eden back in the day. The huts at Bayrams are quite similar to those in many other 'tree house' establishments - basically tightly packed bungalows along some of the worst constructed paths I've come across. Still, they are modern and comfortable and the water was hot, so we weren't complaining.
The last picture is of peacocks roaming the grounds of 'Olympos Lodge', an expensive (200 Euro per night) resort located on the Olympos end of the beach at Cirali (pron. Chirali). If you can afford a taxi or don't mind the kilometre trek with backpack to get there, you will also find treehouse huts situated directly on the beach. They are a little more expensive but you are paying for a more laid back atmosphere.
So that was our 24 hours in Olympos. Would have preferred to spend a little more time here but Cappadocia is up next so it was a worthy sacrifice.
Next entry -> Fairy chimneys of Kappadokya
Travel Affliction of the Week
You must think I'm the healthiest guy on the planet because I haven't had a major ailment for as long as I can remember - probably since the dreaded 'Nail Ejection' episode around Myanmar times.
Well, it's my sad duty to inform you that I've recently succumbed to every dentists' staple staple money-spinner, Mentos Tooth. Over many long bus and train rides I've developed a fondness for munching Fruit flavoured Mentos and one of my previously filled molars has disintegrated under their crunchy, chewy then tangy influence. The head of the amalgam has sheared clean off, resulting in a sensation not unlike chewing rocks and a gaping hole in the bottom left side of my mouth.
Apologies for the unusual angle but the accompanying picture says it all. It's not painful or annoying but will cost a bit when I eventually get somewhere to fix it.