I’ve spent a few days in Antalya, couchsurfing with a guy I have little in common with, but who was very pleasant and left me mostly to myself with my own door key and use of his bicycle.
Now I’m heading to the Rainbow Gathering. It’s the 5th Peace in the Middle-East Rainbow Gathering to be exact. Previous experiences have put me off Rainbows, but after the time I spent with Erik and the others in Trahila, I’ve decided to re-open my mind and heart to these people and gatherings. I wipe my mind clean of expectations and set off alone with my thumb to reverse back through all the places I’ve spent the last couple of months hitching and hiking through – back, back, back, all the way to Fethiye…
This is my first time hitch-hiking alone in Turkey. I take it easy, a little at a time. Lisa, Brice and the Swedes have made it to Olympos, so first I go to meet them in the pension where they’re staying. Olympos is one of the most famous tourist sites in Turkey. I stayed there just under twenty-four hours and I didn’t see a thing. I didn’t go to the beach, I didn’t look at the ruins. I’ve seen nothing but beaches and ruins for two months. What can I say? I wasn’t in the mood.
Back we go through Kumluca where I met the Kurdish family with Evan; back, back, back to Kaş, where we decide we’ve earned a beer. My first thought is of the barman I was flirting with when I was here before…
I’ve never been on a date like this before. Not only does he not speak English, he doesn’t speak Turkish either. In fact, he doesn’t speak at all. This is my first lesson in Turkish Sign Language, and it’s going pretty well. We’re also making ample use of my notepad, drawing and writing simple words in Turkish and English. Also gesturing of course – every hitch-hiker can relay any information she needs to in gestures. Through these mediums I learn a little of his life – how he was born deaf and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong; how he could hear a little as a child, but it steadily decreased until now he can hear nothing at all. Still they don’t know why. He can speak, but when he speaks people make faces at him and turn away. He mimes stitching up his mouth, a metaphor.
Can and Ali are pleased to see me. I told them I’d be back. Ali takes me out for dinner and I have a drink with Can, who still seems tired. Back on the camp-site they’ve been working hard. The new bar is almost ready and the kitchen is now in use.
Brice stays in Kaş and I hitch on alone – rewinding back to Kalkan where I stop for lunch and visit Maggi in her shop. It’s a nice feeling hitching through all of these familiar places, visiting friends along the way. Also strange, reversing through these experiences. Returning always feels strange to a traveller – at least to me it does.
My final rewind – not quite to Fethiye. I have my first dodgy ride, entering the car after determining where he’s going, as usual. “Memnun oldum” – pleased to meet you, I tell him. “Ben de” – me also, he says – then smiles and plonks his hand onto my knee with a sigh of satisfaction. “STOP THE CAR NOW!!!” He brakes immediately and I get out, furious.
The next car is another lone man. After we’ve been driving a good ten minutes I try explaining in Turkish what happened in the last car. The man seems to think this is normal behaviour for a Turkish man and anyway, what am I to expect? “Me, no problem” – he reassures me. And he isn’t, though he does offer a marriage proposal a few minutes later. I politely decline with a frown, which seems to confuse him. I just told him I’m a traveller, without any home. Why on earth would I be turning down a marriage proposal from a perfectly nice man like this? Some people will never understand.
We stop at the crossroads just outside Kemer. According to my instructions, the Rainbow is 7km outside Dereköy, a small village 14km away. A little far to walk, but certainly possible. Anyway, I’ve hitched quieter roads than this before.
Due to a hangover-inspired late start from Kaş, the sun is low. I manage a couple of very short lifts, the second of which is with three older Turkish men. They’re a bit strange, but mostly harmless. The one in the back is really annoying, telling me over and over that it will be impossible for me to get there tonight – “where will you sleep? What will you eat?” I don’t have the words in Turkish so revert to English – “It’s none of your business. Please stop talking to me. You are a very annoying man.” They stop near a water spring and he walks up to it with me, constantly babbling away. I stop another car, but the woman seems a bit freaked by the man and refuses me a lift, even though they’re going all the way to Dereköy. I watch in dismay as the car drives off.
Finally the guy leaves me alone and I continue walking up, up, up as the sun is setting. I walk a long, long way. I walk into the village, see a woman with scornful black eyes who ignores my cheerful greeting. Further on I meet a woman with a cow on a bit of string. There are children on bicycles who greet me – “He-llo! He-llo!” The woman smiles and welcomes me. She says her husband saw three others walking earlier and asks how many more will come? I tell her I don’t know and ask how far they went. “Cok uzak!” – very far! Bad news. I thank her and continue walking. Dogs bark at me – one almost goes for me and I collect a handful of rocks, even throwing one when teeth near ankles.
I’ve walked maybe 10km. As the sky darkens, so does the atmosphere of the place and I grow nervous. When I hear a car I think about hiding rather than hitching, but a glimmer of hope prompts me to stick out my thumb instead. A completely full, long burgundy red car comes and the man winds down the window. He gives me a funny look and I attempt to hide my pile of rocks behind my back. I must look a sight. I wearily ask how far it is to the end of this seemingly endless village. “Are you by any chance going to the Rainbow?” says an English voice in the back of the car. Oh the joy! The man gets out and literally posts my backpack through one of the back windows onto the piled up people and bags already in there. He squashes me into one of the two front passenger seats along with his wife and two children. I turn and take a look at my new, squashed friends. There are three Rainbow people in the back amongst more children and a bored looking Turkish woman – an English guy called Ben, a Spanish guy named Alvaro and a German girl, Christina. They’re Erasmus students living in Istanbul and I love them all instantly.
These guys also met the woman with the cow. She told them a lone girl came up the road before them and they were hoping to catch me up. I am so happy! Ben has better instructions than me and tells the man the name of a plateau where the Rainbow supposedly is. He says it’s only 2km from his house and we can stay there for the night, so of course we agree.
One annoying thing about sitting next to drivers is when they use the clutch, their hand can easily “accidentally” knock up against your thigh. Sometimes it’s hard to determine how “accidentally” this has happened. I feel a little knock and my head spins to look. Unfortunately, the wife on my other side sees me look and her head spins too. Now I have accidents on one side and suspicion on the other.
We reach the house, pile out of the car and into the lounge. The woman goes to the kitchen and prepares food and tea. The Rainbow people get out their instruments and begin teaching and entertaining the children. The man looks very pleased, occasionally ordering his wife to bring us something, occasionally just sitting, staring at me. I notice how he often finds little excuses to lightly touch my leg or arm. I mention this to Christina, who immediately becomes aware of it also. Later we mention it to Ben. He hasn’t noticed anything, but having been told he begins to see it himself. So the good news is I’m not crazy, the bad new is that we’re in this guy’s house and now he’s freaking us all out.
It’s time for bed and it seems the suggestion is a gender division between the two rooms. This is normal in Turkey, but me and Christina are having none of it and insist that we four all sleep together in one room. The woman looks very displeased about this, but she keeps quiet and we barricade the door with a chair.
We leave the house early and stop for breakfast by a river. The man pointed us down a faint path and told us the plateau is 2km away. After an hour of walking, we’re not so sure, but the few locals we pass – the man with the donkey and shotgun; the woman weeding her garden – tell us the plateau is this way. But eventually it becomes clear: we’re at the place, the Rainbow isn’t. Also, there’s no telephone reception. We stop to rest by a small wooden cabin at the side of the track-road and a car appears immediately from the other direction. Two men and a woman wearing communist party insignia baseball caps get out and begin setting up a barbecue. We sit with them and get out some of our own food, sharing it around.
They’ve driven all the way from Antalya and seen nobody else the whole way down this road. We’re clearly going the wrong way. We’ll have to backtrack, find where our path diverted from the piles of rocks that mark the way to the Rainbow. I’m sure we passed some last night in the car, but can’t remember exactly when. These guys have space for two more in their car, but they’re getting the Rakı out and putting more chicken on – clearly they’ll be here a while.
Alvaro and I decide to walk. We leave Ben and Christina with our backpacks and head back the way we came. Down, down, down in only an hour – a quarter what it took to walk up with backpacks and frequent breaks. Just past the house where we stayed last night – just maybe 50m past it – we see an enormous smiley face made out of rocks, a bit of fabric hanging from a tree and the infamous pile of stones. If only we’d gone the other way!
Partly relieved, partly kicking ourselves, we wait for the others, who appear half an hour later. Apparently after we left, the communists drank a whole bottle of rakı and started firing a shotgun!
It’s still a fair way to the Rainbow, but now we’re accompanied by occasional reassuring piles of rocks and the safe knowledge we’re going the right way…
The Swedes have left a day ahead of us. They’re both fit, fast walkers so we don’t really expect to catch them up. We are Evan, Brice, Lisa and myself. Following the advice of our Lycian Way book, we get a boat to Limanağza and cut two hours off our walk. A good thing too as we are typically late leaving.
Limanağza is a small bay filled with plastic loungers and an overpriced restaurant. We don’t stop long, but take the small way-marked track with the familiar splashes of red and white up and out of the bay. The sun is hot and shade is in short supply. By the time we reach the next bay we’re more than ready for a swim.
Shouts from a bush – it’s the Swedes! They’ve been snoozing here a couple of hours after an early start. Unbelievable that we caught up with them, but they walked rather than take the boat and spent most of the previous evening on the internet in Kaş. Now we’re a party of six.
It quickly becomes clear that I’m the slow-coach of this group. All the others are fit and used to walking. Even Lisa, whose pack is heavier than mine in comparison to her strength, is flying ahead in front of me. I can only take things at my own pace, so it becomes routine to lose sight of the others for a while and then find them all waiting for me in the shade of a tree half an hour later. But then of course I need a rest and the others want to get on…
We spend a night on yet another small bay. Everyone decides to sleep around the fire under the stars, but the arrival of a scorpion sends most of us hopping into the safety of tents. Only Lisa and Brice sleep out and are still alive in the morning.
The following day we’re trekking again. We lose the path somewhere along the way and find a road. Unsure of what to do I leave my bag with the others and walk down the road to see what’s there. A car comes and the man picks me up and takes me back to my friends. We’re all out of water and food and this man spreads smiles and delight all around when he pulls out a big bottle of water and several oranges which he splits between us all. Then he puts us in his car – but there are six of us, including four full-sized men, two of whom are body-sculptors! No problem – Lisa and I can fit in the front, three of the guys in the back – and Brice? Well he can just sit on the bonnet of the car! Seriously? Yes! Brice is happy as anything, sitting cross-legged Buddha-style on the front of the car as the man begins crawling along the dirt-track, but gradually increases his speed until Lisa and I cry out in alarm – “Yavash! Yavash!”Oh my god, he’s going to kill Brice!
But Brice is still grinning from ear to ear when we stop at the pension in the village. This is Ali’s House – and our driver is Ali! He must have come out searching for trekkers and poached us from the trail. Well, on this occasion we’re more than happy to eat and pay for all of the food and water this family bestows upon us.
Back on the trail, back into the heat. We’re walking through ancient Apollonia, dotted with ruins and tombs and weathered stone staircases. Here there is no ticket booth, no souvenir shop, no village or even a farmhouse. It feels almost obscene that the Way takes us down these ancient roads and steps, eroding them further. But they are still here after all these centuries, they must be built to last.
It’s late afternoon when we stumble upon Purple House, a beautiful pension right by the waters edge, surrounded by Lycian tombs. This is the perfect space to spend the night, camping for free in the gardens. There are slouchy beanbag chairs and all of the tea, beer or fruit juice we might want. There’s even vegetarian food, though it’s not at all cheap – the family have to go by boat to the nearest town for supplies – or at least that’s their excuse for the high prices. The nicest thing is the other travellers and an evening around the fire with them – particularly a 60 year old Persian man, trekking the Way in the opposite direction to us.
I have decided I want to walk alone for a while. It’s important to me to do this walking, but despite how good the others have been about it, I feel like I’m holding the group back. Also, it’s a big group and I feel our reception differently than when we were only two or three. Now we’re definitely tourists and are treated as such by villagers. The Swedes are great, but the constant laddish joking is beginning to grate on me and I want to re-find the spiritual (oh no, not that word – isn’t there a better one?) journey that was in this walk for me at the start.
It’s not so far to the next village, but now I’m alone my pace slows right down and includes breaks for yoga, meditation and a swim. I finally arrive at the village Üçağız just as the others are ready to leave. This is something I hadn’t anticipated, thinking we would almost certainly camp very nearby in the evening. I don’t know what to do and feel torn. I don’t want to wild camp alone and if I don’t go with the others now I’ll never catch them up again. On the other hand, the mere fact that I feel pressured makes me want to leave the group. I don’t like the way we’re making decisions without consulting everyone first and I’m too tired and hungry to think things through.
Evan is leaving the group now anyway and hitchhiking to Konya. In a split decision I decide to leave with him. I have no idea if it’s the right choice, how far I’ll go with him or what I’ll do after, but I buy some food for the journey; we hug the others goodbye and walk out of the village, getting a lift fairly quickly as far as Olympos…
I would like to end this post with a little hommage to some well-loved friends…
Lisa has abundant energy and wants to keep walking. Sara and I have less energy. We decide to hitch-hike ahead and meet Lisa and the others in Pydnai, a 15km walk away and the starting point of Patara – the 12/14/16/18/20*km beach.
We have to walk back along the way we came for a few kilometres before taking a different road. Before long we have a ride on a milk truck. This truck is collecting, not delivering milk, and stops frequently to meet old ladies with metal buckets by the roadside. The man sticks a device in and pours a little milk on his hand to determine the quality. Sara and I, both vegans, ride in the back of the pick-up with the milk, clinging on for dear life and squealing every time we round a corner and milk sloshes over us in waves.
We’re dropped at a crossroads. There’s no town or village marked on the map, but here we find shops, dolmuşes and a çay shop, along with maybe one-hundred-thousand greenhouses of tomatoes. It’s a strange place, made stranger when we meet a young albino with woggly eyes who asks us lots of questions, and his shy gawky sister who merely smiles and stares. Soon enough a car stops and we’re on our way again…
Kınık is a small town, but appears a giant city after days of fields and forest. We buy some supplies and sate our watermelon craving in a school playground, then hitch a ride out again. The man takes us to the end of the road at Pydnai, where he owns a pretty pension, with some of the tables and chairs right on the river itself. He says we can camp here for free, and shows us to a small patch of stony ground, perhaps large enough for my own small two person tent.
While waiting for our friends, we get chatting to a couple of German backpackers, Felix and Carl. They’re walking the Lycian Way too. Somehow we’re the only other trekkers they’ve seen the whole time they’ve been walking. They thought they were alone on this trail – a vision we ruin completely, telling them we saw forty people the preceeding day. We invite them to camp with us. Our friends arrive and after dinner we all trek into the woods and set up camp there, on an altogether nicer, grassier patch of land. Most of the Turkish guys have gone, only Deniz the guide is left along with Lisa, Sara, Ben, myself and the two Germans.
Raki and music by the fire, finally we get to hear Ben play his trumpet – the only thing he’s been carrying with him this whole time, since he left most of his bags back at the pension where we first met him. He thought he’d be back a day later.
It’s a very windy beach. No other tourists in sight, and all the women are fully-dressed locals in head-scarves. The further we walk, the windier it gets. We manage a quick swim and try to enjoy lying in the sun, with scarves over our faces to protect mouths and eyes from sandstorms, which seep in anyway through tiny cracks. But who’s this? Could it be… yes it is! – our foxy dog friend from Kabak and Pirate Bay. But now we are 30-40km from either of those places. This dog must really be the spirit of Lycia, we decide.
Finally we give up trying to enjoy this beach. We hitch a ride for Ben to Fethiye and hug goodbye. He’s got a lift with a very smiley man, who’s smiling particularly at Sara and myself. Another goodbye, another chapter turning. More wet eyes, especially Lisa.
A little forlorn at the loss of our adventure buddy, we three walk slowly back in the direction of the camp we made last night. Somehow after hitching Ben’s ride we’re on the wrong side of the river. Walking around a house in search of a way across, we’re waved at by a man and woman drinking çay on their balcony. They invite us to join them. Sara and I answer the Turkish questions as best we can – Sara somewhat better than myself. When we get up to leave, they send the daughter out to pick tomatoes for us from their garden. They give us some water and when they see where we’re trying to get to, send both the daughter and son to take us across in their boat. “Every day,” says Sara in wonder, “every day something wonderful like this happens to us. How lucky we are.”
Back at camp we three sit around the fire. We’re almost ready for bed when some car headlights flash into our clearing. A car drives right in beside us. “Merhaba!” says the smiling smiley man who we hitched Ben a ride with. He has a friend in the seat next to him, but we can’t see his face very clearly. Oh god, what is this man doing here, driving into the woods to find us? How can he know where we are? Could Ben have told him?
“Problem var mı?” asks Sara, curtly. He mumbles something about giving our friend a ride and getting to Fethiye safely. We thank him shortly. He waits, presumably for us to invite him over, which we don’t. “If there is no problem,” saya Sara in Turkish, “then good evening.” Pause. “Good evening,” he says, and drives off – first coming closer into the clearing, turning around and shining his headlights on both our tents. He leaves, smiling and waving. Shit. Now what?
We have a brief chat. None of us feel safe now. Our security has been compromised. But we’re also very tired and moving will be a pain. Damn, damn, damn, why did this have to happen the one night we’re all women? “What if he brings back more of his friends?” says Lisa. Ok, that’s it then, we have to move.
We pack our tents quickly and head back to the pension, put one tent up on the other side of the shonky bridge and all sleep in together. We’re not sure if the guys at the pension understand what our problem was, but anyway our çay is free tonight, as well as our camping.
We get a lift to Kınık in the morning with the man from the pension. He lets us pick some of the small orange fruits “yeni dunya” (New World) from the tree outside his house on the way. From Kınık we walk to Xanthos, ancient capital of Lycia.
The men drinking çay greet us warmly and decide not to take our entrance fee money. We leave our bags in a cupboard and go to explore. A small yet strong looking prune-like character becomes our self-designated tour guide and tells us about the place in his own blend of English, Turkish and German. We learn that the city was burned down not once, not twice, but three times – and two of those were the inhabitants themselves, who locked up all of the women, children and slaves and set fire to them, before committing suicide themselves. Pride can do crazy things to people.
Perhaps seeing that we’ve given this man some lira, two other men decide to escort us, but the energy is different and we quickly leave to picnic under a tree nearby. A teenage boy comes over and gives us some carrots, before walking quickly and shyly away. “Every day,” says Sara again in wonder.
We hitchhike to Patara. “Where do you want to go?” ask our drivers, two Turkish men. “Plaj!” (beach) we tell them. We drive in, through and out of the small village quickly and wind up a road on the other side. “Close your eyes,” our driver tells us. We do as directed, giggling in the back. “Now open!”
“Woooooooowww!” all three of us exclaim in unison. We’re looking down over kilometres of pristine beach and mountainous sand-dunes. It’s like a dream, like another planet. We clamber down the sand with our backpacks, find a nice hidden place to camp and watch the sun go down. The last edge of red orb sinks into the ocean, the sky glows a final peach-pink and shadow sweeps the dunes. 12/14/16/18/20*km of beach which allegedly close at 7pm. Somehow we can’t imagine being chased from this place – our little tents hidden from view in a small sand-valley encircled by small trees. You couldn’t paint a more perfect picture than this.
As usual we’re short of food and water. A shame because I want to live here on this beach forever. We walk the few kilometres to the touristic end of the beach, a far cry from the windy locals end 12/14/16/18/20*km away. Here it’s all British accents, sun loungers and wonky swimsuits barely covering white and red blotched flab.
Bartering for our dinner in Gelemiş, the small village, we’re offered a free place to sleep on the roof of a pension. To me it’s a warm night, but the woman comes up just as we’re settling down to sleep. She says it’s too cold and is worried about some men who may have seen us going upstairs. We’re given a small room with three beds and an en-suite bathroom. Our first beds in many days, but unused to the stuffiness we get little sleep and are bitten alive by mosquitoes. Still, we feel very grateful. (“Every day!” Says Sara).
Deniz meets us for breakfast. He’s walking the next part of the Way with Lisa, while Sara and I take it easy and hitch-hike to Kalkan, after a bit of çay and gözleme of course.
I step out of the gözleme place, raise my thumb and the next car stops. We’re in Kalkan 15 minutes later, calling our CS host to tell him we’ve arrived.
*the length of Patara beach remains undetermined.