Monday, April 07, 2008

The Lycian Way: Day 3

I awoke with verve and gusto. And three hours before anyone else. And hungry.

God smiled down upon us. The lingering clouds parted and at the princely hour of half past eight the sun rose lazily over the crest of the mountains and spilled its warmth into the valley; not that any of that makes Damon more of a morning person. By the time he pulled his idle arse from its slumber I had devoured enough my own body weight in olives, tomatoes, cheese, cucumber, yoghurt, honey, bread and jam. Our clothing and backpacks remained damp but Brian has assured us that today;s scenery would be some of the most spectacular along the trail. He was right.

We started uphill on a goat track and soon understood that not a few trekkers were losing their way on the Faralya-Alınca route. Brian's hand-drawn map would hold us in good stead to avoid backtracking and simply getting waylaid. The goat track moved uphill through the now daily dose of conifers and then flattened out over the saddle and onto a tractor path, upon whose left side rose terraces with craggy olive trees. It was now warm. As we moved over the next ridge it becomes impossible to describe the natural beauty. Think sharp intake of breath with an irrepressible desire to do an accapella Sound of Music into possible followed by uncontrolled rolling about in fields of buttercups and other flowers oft illustrated in children's fairy tale books. I have neither talent nor faculties to do justice to the perfect union of colour that held us in its sway. All that and Pan's tree too. There were a young German couple and two middle aged English folk attending to maps and fresh blisters but they held no interest for us.

This was nature like I hadn't tasted for three year since the valleys of northern Pakistan. The cacophony and incessant grind and greyness of Istanbul was all but lost as my head drowned in a sensory overload. we took some excellent photos too.

As we became more attuned to walking we felt confident enough to ask a goat herder for a shortcut. On the advice of Brian we had planned to avoid the village of Kabak, for the sole reason that I refuse to go anywhere named after a vegetable. Especially 'Pumpkin'. It sounded too David Lynch for my liking. So Nasreddin pointed across a gully and Damon and I nodded like we knew what he was talking about. Though we actually did, since speaking with herdsmen was proving more successful than with the average Istanbul taxi driver.

The next hour was spent wandering and wondering whether our newly chosen path was in fact a shortcut to Alınca. you cannot expect someone who lives in these parts, living with the ebb and flow of nature to have any real concept of time and distance. I realised that I had been a bad student and asked him open-ended questions. How would he possibly know what half and hour was? He'd simply told us that to keep us all smiling. In any case, while our timing was out we were on the right path and after encountering a bubbling spring among the oleanders we found the recently bulldozed track that would lead us upwards and onwards.

A quick break was followed by an emormous amount of walking. All of it spectacular and the majority uphill. Goats fed among the pines on gnarled bushes and the Mediterranean wove in and out of view as we weaved among the rock faces and along ledges. Damon dabbled in sunbathing atop a precipice that looked down the valley to a small beach and Pumpkin village. We'd managed to organise a picnic lunch from the previous night's lodgings so we feasted on spinach and bulgur, rice and flat bread.

We started to tire as uphill inclines became steeper, the sun beat down harder and we halted more periodically for a breath of air. After filling up at another spring we had only a couple of kilometres ahead of us until we happened upon Alınca with another awe-inspiring vista across Yedi Burun, The Seven Noses, a group of sharp peninsulas jutting out from the coastline.

A continent of septuagenarian German, Swiss and Italian walkers were busily consuming Turkey's favourite state produced beer (which personally I think is rubbish), so Damon struck up conversation auf Deutsch - he's talented like that. Next thing you know they're telling me of their experiences in Australia (Cairns was a dive, Sydney felt stuck in the 1950s, everyone was drunk after 6pm).

Damon chatted with a man for a while and then translated something to me. It goes a little something like this, Apparently there is a species of black dwarfish beetles that ingest pine sap that passes unaltered through their digestive system. Bees then feed on their fecal matter, return to the hive and produce something that is later harvested and sold around the world as pine honey. Marketing it as Double-Poohed Out Conifer Sap probably wouldn't assist with reaching sales targets. Once thing's for sure, I was right to move from German to French class in 9th year. Who knows what cultural dirtiness may have been impregnated into my feeble adolescent mind?

Still, Damon's half-Hun and his Teutonic tongue had us on a free ride to Gelemiş, our next starting point.

Gelemiş is a town becoming increasingly popular for it's long peaceful and surprisingly unpolluted beach. We didn't care for that as we had just walked a bloody long way and ended up falling into the arms of an old woman who offered us a camping place in her backyard for a fiver each. Best of all she left us fresh bread, cucumber, tomatoes, olives and bread.

At this point in the journey I stopped wearing my sole pair of underpants.

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