The Lycian Way
April 2022. The Lycian way is a 550 km long-distance trail in the South West of Turkey, stretching from Fethye to Anatalya, along the coast, passing through occasional tourist resort, as well as isolated goat farming territory, and forbidding peaks of over 2000m, that’s where I’m going. Quit my job, tent on my back, that’s where I’m going, with only Gozleme and the occasional kebab to fuel me, the walk will take the best part of a month. So let’s begin.
The Lycian way Diaries
Earlish morning start, walk to Zuid and then to Schipol. It’s busy in Schipol, the pandemic is petering out, but the airport is still full of masked faces.
Flight passes, major turbulence, which is scary. There are so many ways that I had imagined dying: dog bites; falling off a cliff; dehydration, but the possibility of dying on route to Turkey had not crossed my mind.
I didn’t die. Instead I arrived without fanfair in the pleasant city of Antalaya, which is actually the end point of the walk.
Arriving in Turkey the faint whiff of propaganda is present, showing off their infrastructure etc. The taxi naturally charges me double, but it’s still half the price of what it would have cost in Amsterdam. I arrive at my hotel in a dream, not much time has passed; flying has the characteristic of teleportation, not like a train or a long bus ride. Nice boutique hotel, midrange in the old town of Antalya. The start, and also the future end of this little odysee. I play chess with a Finish guy (I lost), but I’m already thinking about the walk, almost itching to get going, but I will have to wait. The old town of the city, tourist chic, slightly pushy waitors, but cute (the town not the waiters). I wander to the habour, but my heart is not in tourism in and around Antalya, the real reason I am here is my soon to be close friend the Lycian way. I’m excited but also slightly apprehensive, can I make it? Will I be too tired, too lonely on my own, will dogs attack me, will I run out of water or food, will the sun kill me, will my delicate white skin flake off my body.
The 10:30 am bus to Fethyi tomorrow, I try to sleep but I’m harassed by a mosquito, which kills my sleep. At 3am I relent and turn on all the lights and hunt the little bugger down. He’s dead, but so is my chance of a good night's sleep.
I wake up with bad Diarrhea, perhaps my stomach is not accustomed to the tap water here, or the spicy kebabs, or maybe it is the stress of leaving work and so suddenly catapulting myself across the continent, coupled with the bad nights sleep it is not the ideal beginning to a 30 day hike across the Turkish wilderness, but I might as well start and rest along the way when I get the chance. I force down some of the enormous Turkish breakfast laid out for me in the morning, I need all the calories I can get. My stomach complains a little, but I think I can survive the bus ride so long as there is a toilet stop somewhere along the way. The bus takes 3 and a half hours. (there is thankfully a toilet if you were wondering, and, although it’s not more than a dirty hole in the ground, I’m glad to see it nonetheless). It will take almost 30 days to undo the short ride along the highway. We cut inland through mountains that are visibly dusted with a sprinkling of snow. A shop in Fethiye and half a pizza to give myself a few last calories, and then a taxi to the beginning of the trail.
Hello Mr Lycian Way. My home from home for the next 30 days.
The feeling of reaching the trail head is surreal. I am the only one there, which figures, as it is past 4pm, no one would be stupid enough to start the walk so late in the afternoon. My day-dreams and actual dreams have been filled with nothing but the trail for the past months, I’m not entirely convinced that I am still not dreaming. This will be my life for the next month, simply plodding my way along this trail. The start is totally anti-climatic, but I begin, move one foot in front of the other and set off with a certain plodding rhythm. The first kilometer is easy enough, one down 499 to go. Soon 5km are behind me, and I’ve completed 1% of the trail. It gets suddenly harder, and I begin to struggle already, I’m just over 1% of the trail in and I’m already exhausted. It’s hot and the trail starts with a steep climb. The path is littered with tortoises, which I just manage to overtake. I, like them, am carrying my house on my back. Unlike them I am unaccustomed to warmer climes; it’s only in the low 20s now, but it feels warm with a full backpack and a body adjusted to the Dutch winter. The path follows the coast, and I get my first, of excessively many, views of the mediterranean. 800m of ascent and the path curves inland and opens up onto an isolated mountain vistas, this is one of the first breathtaking moments of the hike, of which there will be many more. I finally feel like I am traveling, finally walking and in the wilderness, out and about, moving, using my body, fending for myself, in the beautiful mountains of Turkey with everything I need in a great bag supported by groaning shoulders. A little further down the path there is the first functioning fountain. I had started to worry, as all the others that I had seen had run dry, and I needed water before I set up camp. Improbably there was also a little impromptu cafe that sold me a fresh orange juice with a private mountain vista. Two teenage girls with a few words of English. It’s already getting slightly darker and also cooler. I see a campsite on the map and so set off in that direction, but I’ve vastly underestimated the distances, and there is no way I can get there, so I set up camp in the nearby woods, first night and first wild camp along the Lycian way. As I’m setting up my camp I see the two girls ride past on a scooter. They giggle to themselves as they wave to me. I suspect that they think that I am crazy. It gets dark so quickly, and earlier than I had anticipated, so I end up finishing the setup of the tent in almost pitch blackness, and eat some cold food in the dark, with only the light of my head torch. Sleep.
I sleep moderately well given the circumstances. Sleeping on the insubstantial sleeping mat will get progressively easier, but for now I’m not totally accustomed to it. I pack up shop as quickly as I can and begin my first morning along the Lycian way.
There is a tiny town a few clicks further down the trail, so I’m able to fend off the caffeine withdrawal for a few hours at least. I walk for most of the morning through pretty hillside scenery, and meet the first other person who is walking the Lycian way. He’s a Turkish man. He plans to walk the whole thing but he looks woefully underprepared. I suspect he might not make it, but I wish him the best. We talk for a while but he is painfully slow and his English is quite limited, so eventually I leave him behind and press onwards. There are loads of little pretty guest houses along the route now, towards the early afternoon the path begins to fall down towards Kabak beach. I walk all the way down, expecting a substantial town, but find only a few ramshackle guest houses; most of which are still closed for the season, and hit the beach. It’s a remote beach with a restaurant and campsite on the beachfront; not ugly, but also not idyllic. I stop to have a late lunch here, and look around the campsite. It calls to me too strongly, the next section is a steep climb back up the other side of the valley that I, early today, spent hours descending, so I decide to leave it for the next day and stay at the campsite. It’s only a half day's walk today, but it’s good to pace myself. The lady at the reception charms me and manages to talk me into taking a cabin, this place has a warm shower and a cold swimming pool, both of which I avail myself of, this feels like cheating almost, but the real challenge is still to come.
A big breakfast at the hotel, which will help me with what’s to come. It’s the first real workout of the trail, a big accent back to the hills. Although the trail is ostensibly coastal, it spends a great deal of its time in the mountains. However, it also likes to keep sending you back to the beach, so that, although you never top 2000m altitude, you are ascending the hills right from sea level. Your calves, feet, and, most of all, knees are going to get angry with you at times. This climb is a reasonably tough ascent of 800m; by no means the biggest on the trail, but enough to get acquainted with all the weird little muscles in your feet and legs which you had no idea existed. I set myself a pace, 50 minutes of continuous walking, 10 minutes of rest; this three times and I’m at the top. There is a small honesty box selling coke and snacks, leave the money in the wooden box, and take what you want. It’s just what the doctor ordered. I’m tired but I feel good. Just a little further there is another adhoc cafe and supermarket. It’s just someones living room, which seems novel at this point, but is actually very common along the trail. I wolf down two Gözleme (Turkish pancakes) an absolute staple for the trail. There is an English couple here who are planning to go to Kas. I chat with them a little, they are not camping, and there light backpacks fill me with envy. They power on as they have been sitting here for a while.
Further along the trail is a dramatic rocky descent. The view is stunning, but it’s dangerous to stare, as the path is full of sharp and loose rocks. Just the place to twist one's ankle. Further down the hill to the town of Gey, where I stock up, and walk a bit further in search of a campsite. A beautiful spot appears at exactly the right time. It’s one of the most stunning camping spots along the whole trail. A little promontory jutting out from an otherwise rocky and narrow path, and a precipitous drop down to an emerald sea. This is truly a room with a view. There is a French family already here. They build a fire and I sit with them for a while. They are hiking a good section of the route with two young children, maybe 8 and 12. I’m impressed both by the boys and the parents. They seem to take it all in their stride. It’s nice to have a little company, I have not met as many people as I had expected, and the fire is nice.
I wake up to the general clammer of the French family creating noise through trying to be quiet. I’m able to pack up a bit more quickly than the family of four and get a head start with the walking, and begin the (fairly moderate) accent to the town of Bel. I stop just outside the town for a coffee at the house of a young woman with a small child, then stock up on supplies in the town itself. It’s another short walk to the next town, which is hardly a town at all, there is just a camp site and a woman trying to sell Gözleme, I politely decline and she seems angry, I simply can’t stop everywhere otherwise the walk would take months. Then I begin the descent of hell. It’s one of the first truly challenging descents, exposed to the sun, steep and rough, this is where a lot of twisted ankles occur. It takes me most of the late morning and early afternoon, and on the way down I meet a couple of walkers going the other way, who give me some tips, specifically they tell me to skip a long flat section full of industrial greenhouses that is coming up soon.
I hit the town at the bottom of the hill and have a big (late lunch) and check out the beach. It’s a nice secluded beach, but the waves are too violent, and the stones too big, to risk a swim, so I dip my feet and continue back to the path. It’s now quite late, but I’m able to tackle the next hill at quite a pace, I’m beginning to grow into the walk and my body is beginning to feel good.
The map shows an official camp site, but it is closed. However, the owner is still there and he tells me that I can camp on the beach outside the camp site and use the facilities when I need to, so this is what I do. I’m at the very edge of the enormous Patara beach, it would take a solid day and half of walking on sand to reach the other end. The official walk goes a bit inland, but it’s mostly boring farm land. This is where most of Turkey’s tomatoes come from, it’s miles and miles of identical greenhouses, so I ask the camp site owner if he can arrange me a taxi, which he sorts out in the morning. And I sleep on the edge of Patara beach.
In the morning I take a taxi to Gelimish, this is the town that serves solely as a jumping off point for the ancient ruin of Patara. It’s an impressive ruin, but I have been there before, so I don’t spend much time exploring it, and instead set off on the walk. The official path actually does a weird sort of loop after it reaches Akbel. It loops around back on itself and then back to the town of Kalkan. Gelemish sits on the end of that loop, so I actually have the choice of walking either the northern or southern part of it. I opt for the northern bit as it is slightly shorter. It’s actually some of the easiest walking that I’ve done so far. Much of it is along a proper smooth path, and it’s only gently up and down, so I’m able to make good progress. Then finally I hit a roman aqueduct, and the path walks literally along the ruins of the aqueduct for some time, another little highlight, and I picnic amongst the (almost) 2000 year old masonry.
I’m nearly at the town of Kalkan, where I can have a bit of a rest. However, the next section comes as a bit of a surprise. It’s only 4km, but it takes me over 2 hours to finish. This is the most challenging part of the walk so far, down very steep rock faces and loose scree, my ankles begin to make themselves known to me. I’m pretty done-in by the time I reach the town of Kalkan. Luckily I opt to stay in a hotel here and take a long cold shower to wash away the accumulated grime of the last few days.
Ordinarily the town of Kalkan would not appeal to me, it’s very much a British bastion, with English breakfast and night clubs for a certain kind of British tourist (one doesn’t like to generalise, but imagine a man with fold of fat where his neck used to be, a bright red sun-burnt head, covered in tattoos, and you will get the idea). Still Kalkan has everything that I need, and I make use of its many nice restaurants in the evening and settle down to some excellent food.
I decide to extend my stay at the hotel for one more night. This way I can do a day walk along the other side of the loop that I missed yesterday. So I take a taxi to the Eastern end of the loop and begin to walk the Southern half from the other direction. Because I’m walking in the opposite direction to the flow I realize that there are quite a number of people walking the trail that I normally simply don’t see. There are suddenly tonnes of walkers, and I have a quick chat with quite a number of them which makes a nice change to the usual enforced isolation of the first few days. This side of the loop hugs the sea more closely, and the views are stunning. The pristine blue of the med stretches out before me, and I can almost imagine an armada of Greek Triremes heaving their way into the bay below me.
The walk is quite easy again, there are lots of ups and downs, but it’s very good quality footpaths, and I’ve left almost all of my luggage in Kalkan, this feels almost like cheating again, but I don’t mind too much. I end back in the town of Gelemis, and take the minibus back to the town of Kalkan, and eat yet more tasty seafood and kebabs and soak up the cheesy British tourist scene.
It’s time to leave Kalkan and my sunburnt, and by now probably hung-over, compatriots and continue the walk. It feels like I’ve been here a while, but in reality it is only two nights. It’s three solid days of hiking to the next major town of Kas. I know that the town has everything I need, and that I will spend a rest day there, so I just need to get myself through the next three days and then I can regroup and continue. The first section is along a highway, so I take a taxi to the start of a trail, this actually saves me a good 40 minutes and puts a few ks, and a bit of an accent behind me. There is another little town, confusingly called Kalkan village, which I wind myself up towards from the side of the highway. Here the path markers are some of the worst I have seen so far, and I get lost constantly, trying to wind my way up to the next road and feel a bit frustrated, finally I get to the next town a little later than I thought and stock up on water.
Now it’s all up, and steep. However, the path is quite good, and I think I am beginning to grow my mountain legs, so it’s not too difficult, the long accent flies by and I cross the brow of the hill, leaving the sea behind me for a little while and coming to a beautiful open pasture with a row of shepherds huts. In the little town there is a very picturesque restaurant with a surprising number of tourists. I'm not sure how they have all made it here, but I join them for lunch, they are still eating a late breakfast. I feel smug that I have climbed nearly 900m, and they are just waking up to their borek and boiled eggs. I have a second breakfast with them, figuring that I need to take the calories where and when I can. It’s an idyllic little place, and I feel I could sit here for hours, but I push on.
The next town looks so close on the map that it could almost be the same place, however, this is incredibly misleading. It’s a steep up and down over rough terrain, with an often disappearing footpath, this is an extremely tiring little section that sucks a lot of energy out of me; I hear later that a lot of walkers opt to go along the road here and cut out this little section. The next town has very little in it, except a mosque. By now I’ve developed a Pavlovian salivation at the sight of a mosque; mosques mean crisp fresh water.
Another hill pass. The town I just left was the official end of the stage for that day, so any extra ks I crunch out now I see as a bonus. And the path opens out to an isolated rocky plateau, it feels like a magical place so I sit there for a while and contemplate camping here, but it’s a little early so I press on a little bit more, around the bend the sea reappears, and this is one of the most euphoric moments of the trip so far. I can see a small Greek island and the vast sea opening up before me. I set up camp by myself next to a small well and back track back up the hill to watch a stunning sunset. I feel truly at peace.
I wake up and start walking, there is no choice in my daily routine now, that is all that can be done. After about an hour I come to a farm that is not on the map, and an old lady who is selling breakfast, I don’t have quite enough food to make it to Kas, so I wolf down what I can here. After a while I’m joined by a German couple, Heike and Ernie, and for most of the rest of the day I walk with them. It’s nice to have some company after a while on my own, and the ks fly by as we chat and push further towards Kas. The couple are veteran hikers and they set a good pace for me. They also share some tips about long distance hiking in general. We stop for lunch in a traditional Gozleme place, an old lady sits cross legs and makes pancakes on an open fire, it’s a nice little sight to break up the day. I realise that there are no more shops on the route, and I ideally need slightly more food, as luck would have it an ekmek-mobile pulled into town (ekmek means bread) at this moment. It’s essentially a traveling bakery and little shop, so I pile up with food. I should have enough now to make it to Kas. We walk further, the couple don’t stop to break too much, but they like to set up camp quite early, so when they do I push on to the next camp site. It’s a little bit of a mistake, as I have to really march to make it to the next camp spot and it’s quite late before I set up camp. I’m at the top of a hill, which means amazing views. It also means I don’t have to start the next day with a tough climb, however, it is super cold up here, and the night is a bit icy, so not ideal sleeping conditions.
Now it’s one more day's hike to Kas, where I can take a rest day. This will power me on, as I don’t need to leave so much in the tank before I get there. There is one big town just before Kas, where I can buy some lunch. The start of the trail is nice and easy and I make good progress. I’m starting to realise that the quality of the footpath is actually the biggest determinant of how tiring the walk is, more than even the gradient. This is a proper dirt path. Then it turns off the path and becomes a narrow little rocky footpath with lots of scratchy plants, and my speed almost halves.
Then the brow of a hill and I see the sea once again, and a massive grassy plane, behind which (not yet visible) is the town. I carry on down and there is a little town with an amazing shop. Such small things give me pleasure now, I can buy an ice-cream here and a hotdog, which powers me for the final push. The next section is easy going across grassy fields, navigating the planes that I saw from above, and finally, the path drops off a cliff and the town appear; a steep cliff and the final destination of this section, one of the iconic views of the entire walk.
The guide book lays it on thick here, this is a very tricky descent, punishing on the ankles, and the knees, and prone to cause injury. I think they lay it on a bit too thick, it is not that bad after the first 100m of really steep descent.
It’s suddenly really busy, there are obviously lots of day trippers coming from the town, it feels almost jarring after the isolation of the past few days. When I reach the town, I don’t feel the euphoria that I felt before, instead I feel a real exhaustion, and collapse into my bed relatively early.
I don’t think I’ve quite eaten enough over the past few days, and I’ve been hiking for the past 9 days, albeit with some relatively easier half days. The rest is well needed, and Kas is the perfect place to have it.
A rest day in Kas. It’s the perfect little tourist gem, and has exactly what I need. I sit in many cafes, and eat a lot of food, then I visit the hammam, and get my haircut. Usually I’m restless doing nothing, but I feel like I’ve earned it, and I really enjoy the laziness for once. I also do a bit of shopping, and find, crucially, a small stove to take with me, up to now I’ve been eating cold food and relying on getting some warm calories in the ad hoc restaurant littered along the path, but there are bits of the walk from now on that are going to be more isolated, so the stove will be a game changer.
In the evening I feel a bit lonely and at a loose end, but luckily as I wander back to my hostel I hear the voices of Ernie and Heike coming out of the guest house next to mine, so I shout to them. They are also with Mo and Gül, who they introduce me to (although it turns out I saw them once before on the loop around Gelemis). I’ll end up walking quite a lot with these two, so the introduction is very useful. We go for tea and the tea turns slowly into beer.
I avail myself of the good quality coffee in the town, I’m slightly starved of caffeine, and the Turkish love to drink Nespresso, which is a crime against humanity, so this is my last chance to get a strong black Americano, and it’s nearly 11 before I set off. The guide book says 3 days to the next major landmark of Demre, but I’ll do it over 4 days to take it a bit easy. It’s after 11 by the time I set off. I feel amazing after my days rest, the legs have had time to heal and even grow a bit, I feel fitter than I did when I started, the accumulated fitness has overtaken the accumulated fatigue maybe for the first time.
The walk now hugs the coast, but this doesn’t make it all that easy, as there is lots of scrambling over loose rocks. I walk with a couple of Turkish guys, but they need constant breaks, so I leave them behind after a while.
Now the heat is my major problem, the weather has turned a little to the warmer side as April marches on, and there are no major sections of altitude. I reach a secluded bay and go for a lovely swim in the midday heat and sit under a tree. Very chilled.
The afternoon is weirdly exhausting, and the major energy I had found from my rest day has already evaporated. There are long sections along loose rock which tire my feet and lower legs. I make it to a campsite, it’s not too late, but I won’t go any further. There is a guy in a van selling a few small supplies.
Mo and Gül show up a lot later, long after I have set up camp. They set off quite late and arrived at camp around 7. The evenings are getting slightly longer, so they still have time to set up camp. They build a fire and I spend the evening with them.
Sonja, a German woman, joins us in the morning. She knows Mo and Gül already, and when she sees me she says “ah, you must be the famous Simon”. Quite how I became famous on the Lycian way I am still now sure. And so we start walking with the four of us. The going is slightly slower than before, but it’s nice to take it easy and also to have some company.
The trail hugs the coast, but it’s surprisingly isolated, considering this stretch of coast is mostly populated with tourist beach towns.
Our aim destination for the day is Apperlai. There is not much there in the way of habitation, but there are some beautiful, almost mystic, ruins scattered around the isolated inland bay. It’s one of the most evocative places on the trail. There is a small guest house and camp site here called the purple house (it’s not actually purple) and we stay there. There is no road here so everything they have must be brought in by boat. It also is not connected to a water source or even electricity, so they collect and treat rainwater, as well as generating power from a windmill. It’s a lovely little spot, and being given dinner, and later breakfast, makes the job of hiking so much easier.
I go for a bracing swim in the bay with Sonja, and admire the semi-submerged ruins both on land and underwater, another little highlight.
I set off alone, but now I feel like I have a bit of a crew. It’s me, Gül, Mo and Sonja. We fall into a steady rhythm. They walk slower than I do, but with fewer long breaks, so it kind of evens out. It’s a very different experience with the group. The isolation was an intense and meaningful experience, but with 30 days of that I would have gone mad, so the company is very much welcome.
We come to a little town by the name of NAME, which is actually unexpectedly a little tourist hot spot. We stuff ourselves with ice-creams and coke at the little kiosk here, and walk a bi further into town. I drink two Turkish coffees back-to-back, and stop in a little restaurant, proudly claiming to be home to the best chef on the Mediterrenean. I’m not sure about the claim, but the shrips are delicious. Coffeed and prawned I’m ready to go again. Sonja is desperate to try the boat trip here, which is something that all the tourists guides recommend, but the weather is actually quite rough, and I’m more interested in walking, so we leave Sonja behind, and continue with Gül and Mo, further towards the town of Demre. We camp somewhere near the coast. Yet another idilic spot with a private swimming pool (aka the sea).
Our next stop is the (relatively) big city of Demre. It’s quite large compared to the little hamlets that we’ve been stocking up in so far, but it has very little in the way of tourism, appart from boasting to chapel of saint Nicolas (aka farther Christmas, or santa clause if you prefer).
Not too strenuous a day of walking, as we near the town of Demre. We stop in a very beautiful pension and eat some gözleme and drink some tea. Mo takes off all his clothes to have a poo in the squat toilet. A rickety bridge to cross onto a beach Then a long walk through the town, which is a bit annoying and begins to hurt my feet. We hit up a proper coffee place and enjoy an americano and a great poo. We meet the dog Peynir, who follows us everywhere, even into the clothes shop. Great kebabs. We stay in a proper apartment by the beach, only made possible through our resident interpreter.
We leave at the break of dawn. The next three stages are cumulatively some of the toughest of the whole trail. There is not much water, and no food for most of it, so we have to carry a lot. We plan to do the three day hike in 2 days, to cut down on the supplies we have to carry, which will make it a tough one. We have to spend quite some time simply walking through the town, and then a long road to the edge of town and to the start of the trail proper. There are many young children waiting by the side of the road waiting to be picked up by their school buses, although we left at around 6.30 we are not really at the trail head until just before 9. The start of the trail is very ad-hoc, it looks like some green houses have been built after the trail was laid down, and the beginning is quite tricky and hard to find.
Three stray dogs follow us from the town, including the one who befriended us yesterday. They seem to take everything in their stride, they are Paynir (cheese), ekmek (bread) and zuyten (olive). Ekmek gets attacked by a shepherd dog half way up and disappears, if this were a horror movie he would be the token ethnic character who died first. We fetch the dogs some water from a nearby well as they are gasping with thirst. I’ve never really got dogs, but their company is quite reassuring and touching, and I begin to understand the appeal.
We reach the last town for a while, and stock up on water. There is nothing here much apart from the fountain. I’m now carrying nearly 5 liters of water, which makes my pack almost unbearably heavy.
We hit Alakalesi for a late lunch, around 2.30. I’m already pretty exhausted, but we are only half way up the hill. Alakalesi is the ruin of an old church, hidden from civilization in order to hide from the Romans who at the time were persecuting Christianity.
The next section is another 800m of climb, and is the most difficult sustained section of the entire walk. It’s excruciatingly steep, and covered in a loose scree, coupled with the unusually heavy load I do not entirely enjoy this section, at least not in the conventional sense. It’s already getting a bit late, pushing 6pm, which means we’ve been on the trail for almost 12 hours. At times it feels like my achilles tendon is going to snap clean off my foot. But there is a certain perverse joy in the hardship, and we push on, resting almost every 10 minutes. There is no camping site in sight, and the sun is dipping behind the mountains. Finally we reach a sort of plateau, the path is gentle and wide again, and made from solid dirt, and the view is stunning. There is a wide section of the path with a bit of a fire pit so we decide to camp, essentially on the path itself, but it is unlikely that anyone will pass us now.
It’s suddenly very cold, we are camping at 1800m, and we are covered in sweat and wearing only t-shirts, so we get very cold very quickly. The normally excessively verbose Gül is suddenly very quiet, so we know that she is uncomfortably cold. We build a fire to keep warm and set up camp. It’s an incredibly cold night. Early in the day we saw a dead goat stripped clean to the bones by wolves, so we know they are in the neighbourhood somewhere. I’m suddenly very grateful for the two dogs who sit and watch the camp outside. It’s a freezing night and I mummify myself in my sleeping bag, and bury my head inside; it’s now a delicate balancing game between suffocation and freezing cold. Gulp in the cold air and freeze, or bury my mouth and capture the warmth of my breath but suffer the consequences of increasing C02. I somehow manage to sleep, perhaps because I’m brutally tired.
We get up slightly later than yesterday as we are still very tired. Mo sets off on his own, probably because he needs a poo and is unwilling to open his bowels in the woods. My and Gul set off a little later and start making our way down the hill. There is a tiny bit of snow left on the trail, not enough to cause problems, but enough to be an interesting diversion. The going is really easy compared to yesterday, gentle ups and downs, and the views stunning, so we are in high spirits. We check our GPS and it feels like we are powering through the kilometers. Our next stop is Finke, and it feels within reach.
There are cows here, and we find a dead one, more evidence, we think, of protrolling wolves.
Suddenly the going gets incredibly tough, towards the end of the trail. It’s such loose and steep rocks that we are suddenly exhausted, and the high mood of earlier suddenly disappears, and I’m a bit grumpy.
We both take a tumble. First me, and Gul laughs, then she falls in exactly the same spot; karma.
I collapse in semi exhaustion, Gul tries to hadi me on, taking stuff from my bag and giving me a pep talk.
Finally, we reach Finke around 6, and I’m absolutely done in. Enrie and Heike are waiting for us in a cafe there, along with Mo. We drink several cups of tea and some sugar sweets, then a big bowl of sheep brain soup and a kebab and I begin to come round and feel human again. Gul’s family has a holiday home in this area, as luck would have it, so the five of us go there and drink some beers and spend the night. Happy to rest, happy to sleep, happy not to have to walk the following day.
Rest day in Finke. Gul and Mo continue, there is no stopping them. Ernie, Heike and I stay in the flat. They want to go for a walk in the area, but I refuse to walk at all today, so I take the bus back into the town. There our two dogs greet me, they seem to recognise me, and Zuyten rolls onto his belly in submission. I sit in a cafe for hours and catch up with some friends on my phone and drink some proper coffee. Then it’s time for the hammam again. This is a real local affair, and a real treat. I feel reborn and renewed. More than this I do not do, and head back to the flat for a lazy evening with Heike and Ernie.
I say my final farewell to the Germans and continue with the trail. There is a long section along the highway, which is boring and potentially dangerous, so I take the local Dolmus to the end of the highway. From there it is still 16 km along the road, but it’s not too busy and it’s sort of interesting in its way. I record myself and realise that I’m walking at 6km per hour, a blistering pace with a heavy backpack, but the flat hard asphalt feels like nothing compared to the tribulations of the last few days. With the rest day I feel invincible. The next town is Karaoz, and I make light work of it and make it there nicely in time for lunch. More seafood.
My relationship with food on the trial is a complicated one. I always want to eat a lot when I find such a restaurant, but also feel bad after doing so.
I’m still setting a blistering pace. The next section is an iconic one, to the Galadonian lighthouse at the edge of a peninsula. This is a great walk, and a relatively easy one, at least for the first half of the walk to the end of the peninsular. The view is iconic, with constantly changing vistas over the Med, and views of little islands in the sea, at constantly changing angles.
I had thought of camping at the lighthouse itself, but it’s actually quite early when I get there, so I press on. Now the path is much tougher, not so much the gradient, but the surface. I push further into the woods. As it is the weekend there are lots of Turkish people doing day walks, some of whom look brutally unprepared for the walk they are undertaking. I come across some who are less than half way round the peninsula by around 4pm, not sure what they will do apart from hike through the dusk and hope to reach civilization before they collapse.
I pass a camp spot, but it doesn’t look nice, so I keep pushing on to another, and another, and the loop around the peninsular is nearly complete before I finally relent and set up camp. It’s only another 4km to the next town. It’s still warm late into the evening, and there is no-one around so I sit out in the open in my underpants and try to cool down, still boiling long after the sun has set. I get bitten to death here by the mosquitos that abound. Good night's sleep.
I can’t sleep in, and it’s not that far to the next town, so I set off. Water is an issue. I don’t have that much left and it’s already quite warm, so I have no choice but to push on. I’m weirdly exhausted and in a slightly bad mood, maybe heat and lack of water contributing. The weather has turned to the hot side, and the midday heat is pushing the high 20s, as this section is very close to sea level.
I reach a little campsite after an hour and a half at the edge of town. It seems abandoned, but the one thing that I need, water, is there, so I sneak in and help myself; gulping down water almost to the point of vomiting.
Then to the town of Adrasan. It’s a pretty little beach town with lots of boats. I spend a good few hours here, drinking coffee, eating something, going for a swim, and then another coffee. So, although I arrived at 9am, it’s already gone midday by the time I am ready to set off on the next stage.
I can see the mountains rising steeply from the beach to the east. That’s where the path goes. It’s one big mountain pass over the ridge to the next town; Olympos. So I set off and it’s blisteringly warm.
It’s a weird sensation, my legs and general fitness feel super high. My calves have found a new power that I have never experienced in my life. It feels like I have two little hydrogen fuel cells in my calves. Yet at the same time I’ve also accumulated a lot of fatigue over the last few days, so I’m much fitter, but also much more tired than I was before.
The climb is quite tough, and it’s really really hot. I feel decidedly faint and have to stop a number of times before pushing on to the top. I know there is a shop selling orange juice up there, and that keeps me going. Yet at the top just before the orange juice stand I see: Gul again, having a picnic and a beer with a friend of hers, so I join them and the fatigue is forgotten.
Down to the town of Olympus. Getting quite late now. It’s an impressive ruin along a pretty river. I stay in the makeshift town of Olympus, in a sort of bungalow, including dinner and breakfast, making life very easy, and very pleasant. There are things to go and see, but I don’t go and see them, the beauty of exerting one's self is that one feels zero guilt afterwards about doing absolutely nothing for a while.
Another rest day. It’s an indulgence, but I am, afterall, on holiday. This time I go with Gül and her friends for a diving trip. I’ve never tried it, but they are seasoned experts, and luckily also instructors. So I’ve, rather serendipitously, wrangled myself a diving taster lesson. The diving is an incredible experience, as is the lounging in the sun with beers on the boat afterwards. We spend the entire day doing this, the diving lasts only an hour, but the beering and sun-lounging lasts much longer. I get a bit of a sun-burn, but I’m happy.
Gül and her friend join me and we start walking, the friend only follows for a bit, and before long it’s just me with Gül, as it will be now until the end of the walk. This feels like the home stretch, although by any reasonable standards it's still quite a long walk to go. We walk through the ruins, along the beach and slightly up to the town of Cirali, where we stock up on supplies and start the hike for real. It feels like we are almost at the end of the Lycian way, we plan to finish the hike in the next six days, without a major break or going through another major town.
Up to another town which is a place where people driving along the coast stop for food; so there are loads of fancy-ish fish restaurants. We sit in one with cascading artificial waterfalls and pools full of fish. We sit there really for too long, and it’s late afternoon and we are only halfway to the place that we want to stay. The next bits are a bit frustrating and we lose the trail a few times and are slightly running out of time. But luckily the going gets a bit easier and we make it to the town of Beycik, where we stay the night in a higgledy piggledy camp site. The owner has constructed all kinds of tree houses and wooden platforms of dubious stability, still it’s sort of chic in a rustic kind of way, and we are fed and watered.
The mountain of Tahtali is visible from the campsite, and it has been on and off for some time. This is the highest peak in the region and is dusted with snow even at this time of year. It’s where we are going, to the absolute high point of the entire Lycian way. The path doesn’t quite go to the peak, it’s more than an hour's detour to go to the top, so we opt not to, and content ourselves with slowly sloping up the steep slope to the mountain pass.
It’s some of the best hiking on the whole route, and feels isolated at times, although closer to the peak we bump into increasingly more and more people. We stop and picnic at the very highest point. The hiking has been immense and we are both very happy. We even sleep a little. We feel great.
Now it’s a steady descent for a long time. This is actually quite tough, but the scenery is still stunning, and as the afternoon wears on it feels increasingly isolated and remote, that’s the feeling I like to hike for. There are bits of snow on the trail which slow us down, and we get lost frequently. We are pretty tired when we reach the town so we opt to stay in a pension.
We stay with a local family and have dinner with them. They are just sharing what they would normally eat, so it feels like a nice experience. The pension feels super nice, and I sleep amazingingly well. One of the benefits of roughing it is that even the smallest luxuries (a bed and a warm shower) feel amazing.
Onwards, for a change we decide to spend the day hiking (joke). We pass the 2,000 year old tree, with a hollowed out bit that you could sleep in. The Romans built something here, but the tree was already standing, so it’s older than the roman ruins that surround it.
A little village, and we reach the end of the stage, but we hike a bit further to give ourselves a head start on tomorrow's stage and wild camp a bit further down the valley.
The day's hiking is down a gorge to Goynuk. It’s very different to anything that we have done before. Technically quite difficult hiking, but very fun. Parts of the gorge need to be negotiated on wooden logs and makeshift ladders. The beauty of the LW is that it seems to change so much in such a short period of time. This is something truly different, and we have a lot of fun making our way down the valley. At the bottom is a sort of park where people can zipline, it’s full of Russians for some reason.
We have to take a detour to the town to resupply, where we find a nice Gozleme restaurant and a decent supermarket. Last serious re-supply before the end. We’ve reached the end of this section, but we go back to the trail and start hiking again. Anything further will be a bonus. The next bit is a big climb, so getting a few more 100 m of altitude will break it up for tomorrow.
We make good time and get a bit of altitude and find an amazing campsite next to a little stream with a fire pit and lots of room to camp.
We were in some doubt, but looking at the map we realize we can be done tomorrow afternoon. My guide says we are already on the penultimate stage, whereas others say that there are two more after this one. Given that we taken a chunk out of the one we are on we decide to aim for a finish tomorrow. It’s a bittersweet moment, I’m fatigued, and will be very happy to stop walking, but this also feels like this is my life now, I’m so much in the rhythm of living on the trail and walking that it will feel jarring, almost empty, to stop. But philosophizing must stop, as we have two hard day’s walk ahead of us.
There are two more big mountain peaks to cross, both very high, but neither starting at sea level. By no means the most challenging on the trail, but we have accumulated quite a bit of fatigue. We get going, and reach the peak before we know it. There is a grumpy man selling tea, he tries to force food on us, but we settle just for the tea. Then the kilometers fall like dominoes as we trace the main road down to the next town of Hisarcandarda, where we have a late lunch with a family there. They are running a guest house, but we eat with them and it feels like they are old friends, even though I don’t speak their language.
It rains heavily while we are eating lunch. It doesn’t look like it will stop, so around 4pm we decide to waterproof up and walk in the rain. It’s again another experience, I realize that I haven't been rained on this whole trip, and the cool moist air is sort of nice for a change after the hot aridness of before.
The rain stops. We cross a hydroelectric power plant, which requires an adlib path across a trickling river, and a steep climb the other side. We push on a bit more, then on the brow of the hill we see something incredible. It’s the city of Antalya, that’s where we are going, that’s the end of the end, the final point. It’s weird to see, it brings home the finality of the trip. This is our last camp, and we sit and watch the twinkling lights of the city coming on, a different kind of view, and one we have not seen in a while. I realize that I am in the hills that I could see from the old town of Antalya. Thinking back on to that day when I arrived in Antalya and saw these hills I feel almost unrecognizable to myself. So much has changed.
I spoon with Gul because she claims that she is cold, but it is not that cold. I think I’m in love.
The final day of the trail. It’s one last push, once more unto the breach. The fatigue is crushing. We set off early and walk a bit, then stop for coffee and a little breakfast at 9:30, but I’m already exhausted. It does not bode well for the rest of the day. I think it’s a bit psychological, I’m so much more tired than I was before, even though I have only one more day of walking behind me.
It’s one more big climb, the last high point then it’s all downhill. It’s very steep, but the path is quite good, so we make it in good time to the devil's gateway. A sort of impressive rocky path and another interesting thing that the Lycian Way has thrown at us, one last treat.
Now we descend, the final, long, descent to the town of Geyikbayiri, and the terminus of the LW. It’s a tough scramble down, and one of the worst marked bits of the whole trail. This last stage was added later to the official LW, and it is less well maintained. It’s a totally different geography, with a rich red rock that we often have to scramble across.
Gul spies some people drinking tea on a terres, and asks if they will give us some tea, which of course they do. One last tea drinking session with the locals, and an experience I could not be having if I were not with Gül.
I keep looking at the GPS, 6k to go, then 5, 4, 3 and a half, nearly there. Tiredness is creeping up on us, but it doesn’t really matter because we know we don’t have to leave anything in the tank. We lose concentration, and both fall. Gul quite spectacularly, tumbling across the path and rolling several times. Luckily she is OK.
We reach the outskirts of Geyikbayiri. There are lots of people climbing, and more hippy types hanging out at the river at the bottom of the hill. I fall again and cut my hand badly and end up finishing the walk covered in blood.
One more little hill to the road and the end of the trail. Suddenly the road is there and the sign, a small anti-climatic bord telling the reader that you have reached the end, and we are done. We have walked the Lycian way. Many people say they feel a sort of ant-climax, but I feel genuinely elated. It’s good to have shared it with Gul, on my own it might have felt strange and empty, but so much better to share it with someone.
We take the mandatory photos with the sign, and before we know it we are hitchhiking to Antalya. We have to walk a bit through the town, and meet someone who is about to set off in the opposite direction. I can’t imagine having the whole trail ahead of you, I’m so ready to stop. Not to walk again for a long time.
The city is overwhelming. There are so many cars and restaurants, so many lights and roads, I feel like a wild man entering the town for the first time, not sure how to behave myself. We eat our body weight in chicken, and down a couple of beers. Then we head to the hammam for a sauna and a massage. Our muscles have given up, and we can hardly climb the stairs to the top floor. The massage feels like one of the hardest I have ever had, we both audibly scream in pain, and the two young women only laugh at us and push us harder.
To a hostel, and we drink beer around a fire and have a little cuddle and reminisce about what has happened and what we have achieved.
We drink a final coffee in Starbucks. A good symbol of the civilized world which we have rudely re-joined. We say our goodbyes, a little sad, at the bus station and Gul kisses me and disappears into the sunset, we promise to see each other again. I promise to walk again. But not just yet, there are coffees and beers and beaches and restaurants to be enjoyed in the sun for a good few days before I muster the energy to even think about doing anything else.