The region we’ve been traversing for the past week was once a federation of ancient cities, and later a province of the Roman Empire known as Lycia. The coastline is now well-developed for tourism, and we’ve met more speakers of English here than during most of our journey so far. Numerous interesting extended conversations have distracted us from blogging for a while.

2009/09/17: Barking Cocker Spaniels Camp (Cirali) 86 km
The road out of Antalya and west along the coast was too busy to be ideal cycling, but the views were pretty. From  a high point on the road, we descended steeply 7 km to Cirali, a beach suggested by the Canadian family we’d met in Antalya. We were planning another day off, feeling we should enjoy some beach time having reached the coast. We installed ourselves at a resort which permitted camping. This meant our belongings were secure as we went for walks and swam, and there was  shower for getting unsalty after swimming.

We walked along the beach to the ruins of Olympos in the evening, scouting for an exit back to the main road which did not involve ascending the full 333 m we’d descended. The exit from Olympos would be easier, so we wanted to assess the feasibility of pushing our bikes along 1 km of pebble beach to an exit route through Olympos. We swam at night, and could see some phosphorescence.

The lady who ran the place was pleasant and a fabulous cook, and doted on her dogs. The dogs were sweet, but frankly, they could have done with a little more discipline. They barked often during the night, and I haven’t yet learned how to yell “Bad dog! Be quiet!” in Turkish.

2009/09/18: Day off at Cirali with Barking Cocker Spaniels
We set out to hike the 4 km to the chimaera, or eternal flame. The approach was along a hot dusty road that, in hindsight, would have been done more easily by bike. Climbing for 800 m, we arrived at the flames that may have been where Promethius stole fire from Zeus in the Greek myths. I didn’t really know what I was expecting to see, but each of a series of flames that appeared from the rock seemed to emerge from a pothole formation, and they looked for all the world like natural gas fireplaces. The Canadian kids from Istanbul had gleefully  told us they made “s’mores” on the flames, which I thought was a superb idea. (“S’mores” are a North American campfire concoction of gooey toasted marshmallow, chocolate, and graham cracker; so good you want “some more,” hence the name.) I wished I’d brought something to toast! On our return, a downpour turned us into bedraggled pair, and we accepted the offer of a ride from a sympathetic Turkish family as we walked back along the road.

2009/09/19: Demre/Myra 89 km
We pushed our bikes along the beach to Olympos, and started out on back roads. I was ahead of Chris when I came across a tiny tortoise, marching determinedly across the road. I stopped to watch it, then helped it safely along its way, wondering whether it was a recent hatchling, or perhaps only one year old.

We reached Demre and visited the ruins of ancient Myra with its Lycian tombs. Here we met an American couple on a two year bike journey. We returned to a basic hotel in Demre.  

2009/09/20: Kalkan 76 km
We met two Canadian men when we stopped for groceries in Kars, and chatted. We were alarmed to hear that one of them had been bitten by a dog the day before, and seemed unaware of the risk of rabies transmission. You could see the canine had really sunk its teeth into his calf! We encouraged him to at least see a local doctor soon. (Hey guys: Please tell us what the outcome was? Are you OK?)

The weather pattern on the coast tends toward afternoon thunderstorms, and an afternoon torrent changed our plans to camp into a soggy dash for a hotel in  Kalkan. There we met a lovely Dutch couple, and could have chatted forever.

2009/09/21: Big Pines Camp 50 km
As we left Kalkan, the Dutch woman very kindly gave me a nazar boncugu or good luck amulet to help keep me safe as I travel. (After so much chatting we never knew your names. Please do email us!)

Later, at Xanthos, we met a couple of British hikers who were walking the Lycian Way, a great combination of spectacular coastal scenery and ancient history. At Letoon, a UNESCO world heritage site, we were the only visitors and were invited for tea by the ticket sellers. We wandered through the quiet ruins, realizing this was our fourth Roman amphitheatre in under a week. The place was built to worship Leto, Zeus’s mistress. Apparently Leto, fleeing with her twins, Artemis and Apollo, turned some unfortunates into frogs when they refused her request for water. In honour of Leto, the site includes a nymphaeum. What remains of this is a marshy pond, now more populated by turtles than frogs.

In the afternoon, we were cycling through pine forest on back roads when movement and noises among fallen pine branches caught my attention. We stopped to  watch two busy adult tortoises. Judging by what was happening as we arrived on the scene, it must be mating season. I think we interrupted them, because soon one was lumbering off and trying to hide in the branches, while the other pursued and battered the first from behind, with a loud clatter of shell on shell. I think they were probably Spur-thighed Tortoises: (Testudo graeca ibera), and the baby one was as well.

At dusk, we found an idyllic camping spot among pine trees, and slept without the tent fly.

2009/09/22: Water Tank Road Camp 101 km
We got an early start, and stopped for sustenance at a gas station. There we met a holidaying British couple leading to another good chat, and ending with them presenting us with a nazar boncugu bracelet, which Chris now wears (or we’ll share) since I was already protected. We soon had to climb a steep pass as bikes weren’t allowed through the 1.5 km tunnel under it. Later, we met the same Brits again. They’d rushed to the local airport to find their flight had left 12 hours earlier, so were forced to extend their holiday. This sounded like something we’d do!

At dusk, we found an adequate camping spot and slept without the fly again.

2009/09/23: Marmaris 74 km
It was hot and humid, as it has been since we reached the coast.  We’d been riding past citrus orchards, and stopped at a fruit stand to buy oranges. We drank fresh juice that was squeezed while we waited, served in frosted mugs and made with fruit that had been kept in the refrigerator. Ahhhhhhhh!
We stopped near lunchtime at a kofte (grilled meatball) place, and ordered  Cokes so we could use their wireless. We ended by staying for a large lunch and a conversation with Izzet, a white haired gent who’d lived in California for an extended period, and who also lived in West Berlin before and during the fall of the Berlin Wall. His recounted his poignant memories  of changing times in Berlin in his fluent English, a unique blend of strong Turkish accent peppered with Californian 60s expressions such as “Hey, man!” Izzet provided us with the name of a suitable hotel in Marmaris, to where we headed, looking forward to day off before heading onto the Datca peninsula.


One response to “Lycia

  1. Well, it's certainly changed from when I wausy s in that area in a VW bus in 1969! There was no paved road and the main access was by ferry, but there were very rough dirt roads. We had Xanthos to ourselves and it didn't seem to have had visitors for some time. And basically no other tourists except some French ones settled in Kas. Marmaris was however busy back then. Boudrum was the Turkish hippies and some politically unpopular writers.

    Sounds like the ruins are still everywhere and open – so very little imagination takes you back 2-3000 years.

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