You left us camping next to the Belgian camper van on Fethiye seafront. This is where our friends Alex and Marta find us the following day. I really have very few plans for Turkey and it’s the same with the others, but we’ve heard of a “ghost town” not far from here, and Alex and Marta’s host has shown them a path we can follow to walk there. I’m reluctant to leave my stuff behind, but our bags are heavy and I do like the others and drop mine into a hedge, making sure to remove all valuables and cover it with branches.
We begin walking. It’s difficult to describe the beauty of this path: a steep climb taking us up the mountainside and into lush green fields, where tortoises nestle in wild flowers. We see red and white waymarks along the way. Hang on a minute – this is the Lycian Way, the long-distance trekking route I was reading about a couple of days earlier! I said I wanted to walk some of it and now here we are doing just that, quite by accident.
It’s many hours of walking before we’re finally rewarded with the sight of the abandoned village of Kayaköy in the distance, like a ghostly mirage. But it’s not completely deserted. A hippy shop and restaurant sit just outside the fenced-off boundary and a ticket booth sits in our way. Paying to enter a ghost town? Surely the Turkish state isn’t making money from a town that’s empty because they forced the Greeks out of it during the population swap of 1923? A Turkish flag sits proudly in the centre of the deserted village. What’s worse, there are English people everywhere! We walk around the edge of the village, seeking another way in, then settle for just walking straight past the ticket booth – no entrance fee for us!
We see a waymark pointing from the other side of the village to Ölüdeniz. It’s tempting to just keep on walking, but our bags are back in Fethiye and it’s going to get dark soon. We hitchhike back instead and camp for the night in our own little secluded area, Alex and Marta cooking up a feast on the campfire.
When Lisa and I decided to travel through Turkey together, she had one specific stop in mind: a friend told her it would be impossible to get to Butterfly Valley – supposedly the most beautiful place he has seen – without money. We’ll just see about that.
Actually we don’t know anything about Butterfly Valley, except that it’s beautiful, close to Fethiye, and very hard to get to. A bit of research tells us there are boats from Fethiye, but they’re expensive. There’s a path from a small village called Faralya, but it’s reportedly dangerous and difficult. We decide to give it a go.
We hitch-hike to Faralya. From behind the infamous George Pension we can see the white bay and what look like cultivated gardens and forest extending back through the narrow valley far below. It’s a long way down what look like sheer cliff faces on either side. Our familiar red and white splashes of paint show on a rock and something that might be described as a path begins to show itself as we peer down over the edge. This might be a good time to mention that Marta and Lisa both have a strong fear of heights.
The walk – or rather, climb – down to the valley is hard and at times there are ropes we have to use to climb down. We pass a few others on the way who gawk at our backpacks. Most people leave theirs at the top, but we want to camp on the beach and need all our gear. Alex and Marta have a three person tent, which Alex takes to throwing down one ledge at a time ahead of us – until it slips past Marta and drops over the edge – shit! The tent isn’t even theirs, but borrowed from a friend back home in Italy. We all peer forlornly at the dense woodland below. “We’ll find it later,” Lisa and I reassure them.
Finally we reach the bottom. We all want to go and swim, but first we have a tent to find. We walk the narrow path that winds backs through the valley. It’s almost impossible to work out where the tent came down, but Marta and Alex choose a point at random and fight their way through the thick bushes and undergrowth to the bottom of the cliff. Here’s a yellow sleeping bag hanging from a tree, here a pair of shoes and there… the tent! How can it be that easy? All smiling we head to the beach.
A swim and a sunbathe later, the last boat has left. We’re all feeling a little shifty as a man earlier asked where we were going and if we wanted to stay the night, which we fobbed off with a “not sure yet”. A boat of supplies arrives and we help the men carry the stuff over to a bar. After, three men accost us.“Will you stay here tonight?” “Well… we were just hoping to stay on the beach…” “Ok, 45 lira.” What??!! We try to explain our situation – we have little money, we have our own sleeping mats, we don’t need food or anything else from them… “Ok, 20 lira.” The one who speaks English stands to the front, the other two are back-up, one seems to be the manager. We try again – “we really have hardly any money…” The price drops to 10 lira each. We ask for some time to discuss our situation. I’m all for the gently, gently approach, but Alex and Marta are furious – “Let’s make a demo!” says Marta, “Let’s make a riot! Sit down!” I’ve decided I’m going to pay. I know the others really can’t afford it, but I have enough money and if at least one of us pays something it will be easier for the others. Lisa decides to pay as well; the others will leave. We find the “manager” (I’m later told the manager is away and all of these men are workers) and tell him – our other two friends really have no money so they have to leave. Lisa and I have a little, we will pay the 10 lira. After some more bargaining we get a meal thrown in for an extra 5 lira each and everybody is all smiles. We are even given blankets and there’s free tea, water and showers available.
We’re trying to blend in and make friends, but it’s not long before one of the three mean-faced men comes over. Alex and Marta were caught putting up their tent in the bushes further back in the valley. Apparently there are snakes, but of course they refused to leave the valley as it’s now almost dark and the climb is dangerous enough in daylight. Finally the men believe that these people really have no money. They’ve been let back in and we’re told they can also eat dinner. We are the black sheep of Butterfly Valley.
I befriend a couple – a half-Ozzy, half-Turkish hippy who may or may not be called Alan, and his girlfriend whose name escapes me. They’ve been coming here for over ten years and have seen the place change from a real hippy community to the money-grabbing business it is today. “Alan” also tells us of a really, truly free beach named “Paradise”. His directions are hazy and it’s also hard to get to, but I jot down the details he can remember.
We sleep on the beach by the fire, which only two other people deign to join. One of them, a Turkish guy, propositions me in the shadows when I go to brush my teeth. Paradise, this is not.
The trek back up is harder on the legs, but easier on the vertigo. After an hour and a half we’re back in the garden of George Pension and hunting gözleme further down the road. On our way we meet another traveller, heading to Butterfly Valley. We tell him it’s hard to go down and too late to go and come back up again, since it’s already afternoon. We invite him to join us instead, and he does. This is Ivo from Estonia, our new travel-mate.
A friend I met in Istanbul is also travelling in the area and she meets us with two other travellers. They decide to spend the night at George Place, but she promises to join us the next day for some adventures and she has a gift with her: the book and map of the Lycian Way!
Alex, Marta, Lisa, Ivo and myself hitchhike to where the road ends at Kabak in a safari jeep with music blaring from speakers in the back. The driver owns the cafe at the end of the road, says we can camp for free on his land if we buy a beer and some food. We even have toilets and a shower. Ivo doesn’t have a tent, but the man rents him a bed on the top floor of the bar. No walls, but there’s a roof and it seems comfortable enough.
We leave our tents in the morning and walk down to Kabak Beach. It’s a much easier walk than Butterfly Valley, but still takes an hour or so. The whole valley is like a construction site, with developments popping up all over the place. There are numerous campsites, cafes, pensions and “tree houses” – nothing like tree houses really, except they’re made from trees. Ivo who seemingly got sick of waiting for us came down ahead, but disappears forever not long after we arrive. So long Ivo!
This also used to be a big hippy area, and some of that energy is still here, despite the developments. I meet a Turkish Rainbow sister volunteering with some “indigenous” local people in their restaurant. She tells me the valley is a protected area and all of the buildings are illegal, but a new law is being pushed through to allow more development. Coincidentally, an MP owns about half of the businesses.
Sara, my Istanbul friend, arrives and we spend an evening in the one truly hippy place, Reflections. Three older women are there who we recognise from back in Fethiye. They’re trekking the Lycian Way. The oldest is 70. I saw her swimming earlier in her bikini and am stunned to learn her age. Another lives in Findhorn, infamous hippy community in Scotland. We also meet a Berliner named Tom who’s been living in England some years.
Back up to camp in evening, accompanied by a beautiful dog we have befriended. Our group is changing again. I’m now sharing my tent with Sara and Marta and Alex are leaving in the morning.