Lycian Way Day One, the part where we almost died
The beach was so beautiful, so open and warm, I had no idea that within three hours I’d be calculating the risk of death by exposure, freezing to death in the mountains versus self-immolation by cuddling open flames. (Read the first part of Day One on the Lycian Way, here)
With our impromptu canine companion, Max, we’d hiked across five hours of pine forested mountain slopes to reach this stretch of sand, and the world seemed perfect. Photos taken, soaked in calm, we found the trail off the beach, straight ahead and clearly marked with the red and white waymarkers of the Lycian Way.
A sunbaked moonscape of loose rocks added to the day’s toll on our aching feet with its hard edges and rolling ankles, but it was a soft and satisfied late afternoon without space for complaint. We passed a waymarker or two and continued up the trail. Up, up, and up the trail. Climbing without surcease. Grinding tendons and overworked ligaments. We put our heads down and stepped, past purple stone mined for chrome, over washouts and rockslides, steps slowly slowing. Don’t think, because thoughts contain complaints. Luckily my brother wasn’t quite as committed to this.
“Have you seen a waymarker recently?” He finally asked. “We haven’t passed any side trails, right? No place we could have turned?” I dug into my memory from the previous plodding eternity. The answer to all questions was “no.” Our feet kept going, but the worry was planted. Step by step, looking for waymarkers and finding none, only free ranging goats astonished to see us. We each held our last couple swallows of water in reserve. Being fully out of water is not a good feeling.
“Maybe we should check the book.” We had the first edition of Kate Clow’s guidebook to the Lycian Way, written for walkers going the other direction in 2000, and couldn’t match her words to our surroundings, though after fifteen years in a rapidly developing nation, that was no surprise. But her descriptions seemed to stay close to the sea. Looking up, we saw hazy peaks and dry valleys all around, no sea in sight. Shit. Shitshitshit.
Finally a hypothesis. We’d taken the alternate path, described as arduous, snowbound, and dangerous. Where did it go? The chimera. Natural gas flames that have been burning out of the mountainside for 2500 years and inspired the legend of the lion/goat/snake beast slain by Bellerophon. The temperature was dropping faster than the sun, and a cold wind was getting started. Snow on nearby mountains looked down without compassion. Going all the way back down, hoping to find the trail we’d missed in daylight, now in darkness, was unappealing, but getting caught in these shelterless mountains at night without any protective gear or water, hoping to find open flames to keep us from freezing to death, sounded even worse. Max looked at us with customary canine equanimity when we turned around and headed back down the mountain.
Arriving at the beach almost felt like the finish line, except we still had an unknown distance to walk, muttering menacing versions “They really should draw a big black circle around markers for the suicidal alternate routes” that generally featured copious profanity.
The last part of the walk from Tekirova/Phaselis to Cirali/Olympus passes through a series of ocean coves that would be beautiful, serene, even idyllic…to anyone not racing through dusk on feet made of bruises. Our altitudinous detour had eaten three hours, most of our energy, and finished off the sun. We spent two hours navigating loose rocks on rubbery legs by pale lamplight, returned to a mantra of “Don’t think, just keep stepping.”
Two zombies and a dog arrived in Cirali at 21:00 after ten hours of mountainous, rock-sliding hiking. The signs said go right, so they did, until the locals said they should have gone left. Too tired to be angry about getting lost, again, two zombies turned around and shuffled off that way to look for bottles of water and twin beds. The dog had other, mysterious canine concerns and went onward. Goodbye Max, and thank you. Hello bed, I love you. I’m sorry feet, I’ll make it up to you.