The ancient Lycian trail (Likya Yolu) is an ancient trading route that ran parallel to the coast of the ancient kingdom of the same name, mostly at a safe distance from the pirate-infested sea. The courageous Lycian merchants, who did not have express delivery services or container lines in those harsh times, were forced to load their goods on the backs of mules and donkeys and then wade for hundreds of kilometers along slippery and crumbling mountain trails, scorching in the sun and soaked by rain. The fleeting mention of donkeys cheered me up at first, but it turned out later that the modern followers of ancient traders prefer to carry their heavy knapsacks on their own hump. Eh…
But first things first.
The legendary route begins in the small village of Göynük, not far from Antalya, which is easily reached by low-cost flights from most major cities of the CIS; Onur Air flies there from Odessa. In Antalya we met up with the rest of our small group assembled by the “Kuluar” club, and then headed to the starting point by shuttle bus.
The first kilometers of the hike look easy enough: on an asphalt path, with an almost imperceptible elevation gain, the traveler gradually deepens into Harmony Canyon. Unfortunately, access to the most beautiful places of the canyon, including the famous “Hanging Rock” – paid (30 YTL, $ 15), and the vote of the group was decided to move on, saving both time and money. There is a reason for this – it is not exactly cozy to spend the night in the immediate vicinity of populated areas.
After bathing in a small mountain lake, the walk suddenly stops being languid, and the trail goes sharply uphill. For the novice backpacker, the hardcore begins 🙂
A small lyrical digression concerning the complexity of passing this particular route. For a person at least a little bit athletic there will be no special difficulties. Those who got used to sit in an office chair for years and do not take anything heavier than a computer mouse in the hands will have to sweat. I can’t call myself sporty – I am overweight, have some excess weight, years of sedentary work, a soft love for beer and pork ribs, as well as quiet evenings at the laptop. Nevertheless, somehow I survived.
How do you evaluate your strength in advance…? If a leisurely walk of 15-20 km on smooth paved paths of your native city does not make you collapse from fatigue, and your feet do not bleed – everything will be OK. At a minimum, the question will be in the motivation and mood, rather than physical capacity 🙂 Nevertheless, it is wOrth to be prepared in any case…
The first stop was away from the water, but it was not critical. After a steep climb you just want to lie down and die (the next day, by the way, the understanding came that it was necessary to do so).
However, [un]fortunately we have no time for it, because it is time to pitch tents. At this point, we discover a very unpleasant thing – the tent, which was designed for four people, could barely squeeze into three. I personally gave up trying to climb into it once I realized that I simply didn’t fit the length of the tent (with bent legs only). Oops.
The opening happened after the last tea was drunk and talked, that is, late in the evening. Well, thanks for the fact that it didn’t rain – I had to sleep under the open sky.
No matter what you say, there is a special charm in such overnight stays. The dying embers crackle and shimmer with ruby halftones, the titanic pine crowns sigh in the wind. Glade at the very top of ridge cradles you in its big hand, and instead of a roof over your head there’s dazzlingly shining starry placer. In the distance, on the black slopes of the neighboring mountains, something is howling, cooing, crunching, howling, and woofing. But by and large, the forest is already asleep, and so are you, and the wind, the sounds, and the hard rocks under the mat no longer matter (as long as the mat isn’t punctured and down).
(As it turned out later, our mistake was not to pour out the leftover soup immediately after supper, but to wrap the pot in plastic wrap and hang it on a nearby limb, hoping it would be refreshed in the morning. All kinds of feathery or furry little things stormed the kettle all night long; cautious but persistent rustling of the plastic, scratching, sighing and squeaking resounded over the clearing until morning, disturbing the sensitive sleep. What was our surprise when in the morning we found the soup untouched! Weak was the small southern Turkish fauna against the thick wrap of the pot … :))
The second day is probably the hardest: periodic elevation gains are aggravated by steep, slippery trails, and the “second breath” will not come until tomorrow. Because of this, many, without exaggeration, fairy-tale beauties (forest proper, mountain streams and rough river, waterfall, lifeless rocky rash at the place of mudflow, etc.) remain underestimated. Unfortunately, I have neither time nor strength to take heavy “pentagon” out of my backpack while walking, and it is simply impossible to carry it on my neck, so I have to take many pictures with my usual cell phone. Alas.
During short resting places there was no time for photo sessions: it was better to have time to drink and rinse in a hurry.
The second lyrical digression – about hygiene: for me it was quite a serious question, since the experience with long, multi-day hikes I had no, and two or three-day sorties with a tent to the sea does not count. As a result, the problem did not arise at all. It’s paradoxical, but: in a hike after a couple of days of physical exertion, many times poured sweat from head to toe, do not feel wildly dirty, do not smell and do not stick as much as after a day in town. And there’s no “crow’s nest” on your head the next morning. I do not know how to explain it, but it’s a fact. Yes, and icy water in mountain rivers, when you really want to rinse, not so cold as at home in the faucet 🙂 The only thing that really needs to be changed more often are the socks, but they are small and light, they are not a problem to stock up and wash.
Luckily, it is possible to take pictures at the bivouacs. While people are rushing happily to the nearest stream for water procedures, you have time to snap photos of our camp, and the campfire, and even the local fauna. Nevertheless, I was too lazy to run around and choose artistic angles with trembling hands, so, the whole picture report turned out to be strictly reportage.
I’ve made my own mistakes and I strongly recommend to all amateur photographers: don’t make the same mistake and don’t take long lenses to the mountains (unless you have a lot of portraits and floral-nascent macro). A widebar, and only a widebar, from 17 on a crope (or from 24 on FF), no other way. Preferably with a polarizing filter.
The third day – passing by the shrubby ruins of the Genoese fortress in the village of Gedelme (Gedelme), by the immense two-thousand-year old plane tree – still up into the mountains (I will not dwell on the detailed analysis of these sights: the description of the route exhaustively tells about them). Our goal is sparkling snowy peak Tahtali (Tahtalı Dağı, 2365 m). Passing day by day gets easier and easier in spite of increasing load: the fourth day – about 18 km with the set of 900 m. The body adapts… 😉
The cramped but comfortable camp was organized, perhaps, for our third overnight stay. Water is close at hand, the altitude is about 900 meters above sea level, and the cold is not felt yet.
However, the camp of the fourth day definitely outshone all the previous ones in its beauty. In a picturesque hollow, at the foot of powerful Lebanese cedars, with an excellent view of the Tahtali a.k.a. Olympus, as well as the no less photogenic surroundings.
Well, there is a price to pay for the enchanting views. The altitude of ~1800 meters above sea level – even in May, in the subtropics – means that by morning the air temperature will drop to 6-8 degrees Celsius, and literally a hundred meters from the bivouac there is already snow. We have to cram into the tent. Judging by the state of the tent one may suspect that the Everest pioneers Hillary and Norway had been using it, but alas there is no other choice: the sleeping bag is summery, and you will be freezing to death under the tent before morning. No sleep, half-bent legs but you have to wait till morning alive 🙂 As our next overnight stop will be much lower, again in warmth and outdoors.
In the morning we hide our backpacks in the rocks and rush to the summit without delay. Unfortunately, Tahtaly, like so many of its larger brethren, has a capricious disposition when it comes to the weather. We got a little winded in the morning and were too late to start the ascent. By the time we reached the summit, we could see through wisps of fog but only half an hour later everything was covered with dense milk. I sincerely sympathize with the groups that went to the summit even later: they obviously could not see anything.
Exhausted from the climb up the slippery and wrong slopes, exhausted, but happy, tourists rush in a noisy crowd to the cable car station, which is nestled on the very top. It looks wild and unusual there are cozy leather sofas, a souvenir shop, a coffee machine, sandwiches and beer… BEER! Even though it was the most expensive beer I have ever tasted in my life – 14 YTL for a small glass ($7/0.33 l), it was also the most delicious.
The only thing confusing: how Turks managed to keep their Efes so warm at the very top, among the endless snows…? 🙂
We take a photo, pile down the trail to our “Base camp” to get our backpacks – and continue downhill to a village with the funny name Beycik. Down there we find warmth, cars, people, store, food and the same Efes, but cold and three times cheaper, so even a sudden rain can’t spoil our mood…
From Beycik to the next village, Ulupınar, the road is a fairy tale. Lemon and orange trees again remind us that we are in the subtropics, cheerful black scorpions scattering cheerfully from under our feet, May bugs buzzing vividly in the springtime. In Ulupynar we have lunch, and those who wish can enjoy it in a glamorous restaurant on the waterfalls (freshly fried Forel, Russian-speaking visitors and Parisian prices are included). Overnight stay is also good: warm, the rain is over, the wind has calmed down, nearby there is a rough icy brook, in which (having dispersed goats and sheep which came to drink) one may get drunk, bathe and make a small wash. Ecstasy!
After Ulupynar there is a small spurt: wading through a small but vigorous river, a sharp ascent to the ridge and – voila! – Here they are, the famous Chimera Lights. The old legend says, that deep underground there used to lie a part of Nabucco gas pipeline, and as a result of gas leakage from the cracked after tectonic shifts pipe… however, you can google about versions of origin of non-flame 🙂
The camping site in the coastal village of Çıralı is just a short walk from the Chimera Lights. Dense column of dusty but contented campers, having smelled the rest, are trotting along. Chu! What’s that crackling sound heard in the distance…? That good half of the group broke into the orange orchard by the roadside, happily purring, eating ripe fruit cheek by jowl, while managing to fill their pockets and backpacks. There will be lots and lots of oranges, lemons, and medlars in the next three days, and tomorrow they will make you sick. But all that will not happen until tomorrow, and in the meantime…
After arriving in Cirali and settling in a civilized camping we spend the whole hour wandering around the territory and examining objects that have become so unfamiliar: an electric socket… a shower stall… a toilet… a gas stove… What the hell – just a chair… a table… Waking up from our obsession, we run to the beach and, despite the cold, with pleasure we dip into the crystal waves of the Mediterranean Sea. Here it is, a simple human mattress happiness!
Our constant companion during our stay in Cirali was a dog with the conditional name of Köpek (köpek, Turkish for “dog”), better known as “PASCHELVONOTSYUDA!!!11”.
This muteless dachshund fleabag was absolutely fascinated by the fact that two of the newly arrived group of tourists did not hide in a tent for the night, but stayed with him overnight in the open air, on mats, under the tent. Of course, by virtue of natural Turkish hospitality Kopek could not refuse to provide us with nightly security and chose a place for sleeping just at the head of our mats. If a cat rustles in the night darkness, a late biker rides by, or a neighbor’s dog snarls, sensitive Kepek would immediately burst into a deafening bark and rush to chase the villain away, showering us with a cloud of dust and pebbles from under his slippery hind legs. After a few seconds, convinced that the danger was finally over, our bodyguard would return back to the tent to reassure and cheer us up with hot salivating kisses on our faces before going to bed again. My involuntary reaction to such caresses gave Köpeck his informal nickname.
Our guard’s loyalty and determination were certainly worthy of encouragement – but, alas, rural Turkish stores do not sell meat, and no animal was obviously harmed in the making of local sausages and sausages. We had to pay off Köpeck with macaroni and eggs, which he was clearly not very happy about.
The last days of the trip were spent in relative peace and quiet. A visit to the ruins of the ancient Greek-Roman Lycian city of Olympos, a little radiation to the neighboring bays, relentless beach-going and immoderate eating of local fruits worthily completed our glorious vacation. It was time to go back to Antalya.
Contrary to expectations, Antalya was not a senseless and ruthless resort like Yalta, Koblevo or the Bulgarian Albena, where sun-drenched pink tourists with mattresses on their backs, not looking around, streaming across the roadway. Kaleiçi, a fairly lively metropolis with a population of a million people and a rather nice historical center, conquered us decisively.
The hotel was beautiful, it had walls, a roof and some water in the shower, and we didn’t want to dream of anything more. Tomorrow we would go home, but in the meantime we would have a farewell party on the terrace with our instructor Fyodor and his assistant Olga, who was also his wife.
I would like to tell separately about Fedor. He is a professional mountain rescuer (EMERCOM official), strong, reasonable, responsible and calm, and in addition to that a good man. Behind Fyodor we felt like a stone wall, and it is him to whom we are mostly grateful for the excellent holiday and a pleasant company. I hope we will meet again 😉
This was our first “wild,” backpacking and tenting expedition into the Turkish mountains. After the epic independent trips to France, Norway or Iran, you would expect that Turkey would seem too close and boring, but no! This fairly budget vacation took its rightful place among the others, left a lot of wonderful memories and – for sure! – Will only be the first in a series of similar ones. Now we are going to Annapurna! 🙂
We suggest you to read the review on the web-site of the author, there are more photos – review of the hike along Lycian trail from Vadim.