Nov 17, 2010

No more lying on the beach at the Mediterranean

I have been holidaying on the Turkish Aegean-Mediterranean coast for as long as I can remember. These holidays usually involved relaxing, sunbathing and swimming but not trekking. So in May 2008 we decided to do a three day backpacking tour on the Lykia Trail that has been recently discovered. The trail is an old trade route of 509 km and covers an area from Fethiye all the way to Antalya. It is mountainous, sometimes hard to pass and at times lacks water. However, it is worth your effort because it preserves incredible views of the Mediterranean through the trees and high cliffs. Some of the places are inaccessible by road. Although it is said to be one of the ten best long distance hiking routes, you must be crazy to hike it during summer.

The Gelidonya lighthouse with the Beşparmak (Five fingers) islands.

We flew from Istanbul to Antalya and ended up in Kumluca, 75 minutes from Antalya airport by cab. After passing Mavikent, we started the trail in Karaöz. This turned out to be a dull walk on road side. So we decided to swim in Korsanini bay and hitch hike until the end of the road to start hiking properly. We walked pretty flat for a while. Towards the late afternoon, however, it all got steep. When we finally got to the famous Gelidonya lighthouse, we were exhausted from climbing. According to the Sky Magazine, the name is coming from "kaledonya" meaning swallow (bird in Lykian language). The lighthouse is the highest in Turkey over 200 metres above sea level. It has an incredible view of the Beşparmak islands which was quiet a dangerous passage way for ships in ancient times due to strong currents. Indeed, you can see the currents from high up. The deeps of the sea is said to contain few ship wrecks. 

Olympos beach where caretta caretta turtles leave their eggs.

We decided to sleep in the porch of the lighthouse while others simply put their tents around the available flat surfaces. The best time of the day was when we took out our Chilean wine that we carried all the way from Istanbul. Unlike the college youth around us who were drinking cheap and (warm) beer, old farts like us hike in style and watch shooting stars all night!

Olympos ruins at the end of the Lykia trail by the river.
Next morning we started the day early as the route all the way to Adrasan (13 km) was going to be tough with lots of climbing. This was exacerbated by the fact that in the lighthouse there was no water. Our wine drinking contributed to dehydration and the “stylish travel” turned into complication! The strong May sun did not make things easy either. So what ever water we were left with, we could only wet our lips for 4-5 hours. You can only imagine what happened when we finally found water. We were like cattle! When we reached Adrasan, a nice dinner on the river was definily earned. 

Typical Adrasan restaurants on the river.

Given the trauma of running out of water the day before, we the girls skipped hiking next day and took a cab to Olympos and spent all day at the beach while "our man" hiked the Adrasan-Olympos route of 16km. Olympos is a special place where the little river from the mountains merges with the sea as well as a natural park where sea turtles (caretta carettas) nest. 

Lykia trail from Kaleköy to Üçağız with tombstones.

At night, we walked from Olympos up to Chimaera. This is a natural gas outlet that looks much more romantic at night with the flames going up randomly. Again we took our wine and coffee while watching the flames. But another option not to exhaust yourself yet again is to basically sit on the beach in Olympos and watch the stars amid the waves like many students and backpackers do. What the Lykia Trail  offers in terms of peace, views and nature is pretty addictive. Our next trekking destination on the Lykia trail will be the route from Appellai (in Kaş) to Kaleköy.

Don't you love Turkish English in Olympos? "Keep clear please!"

A shorter version of this post is available at Hurriyet Daily News.