Alex and Marta leave early. It’s a sad goodbye, especially for Lisa. Am I just hardened to them now, or do I not get so attached to people?
Almost immediately we meet an Australian backpacker named Ben who spent the night on Ivo’s old bed. Lisa has already invited him to join us by the time I’m ready for breakfast. We are going in search of the mythical sounding “Paradise Beach” the hippy in Butterfly Valley told us about.
We walk a fair way before getting a lift in the back of a pick-up truck which speeds around the mountain road, making us laugh and shout for joy – wind in our hair clearing sweat from our brows. They drop us by the fork in the road on the way up to Boğazıçı and we begin walking again. This time it’s a looong walk, the sun at it’s hottest. The others are losing faith, but I know there will be a car. There are two in fact, both minibuses. The first tries to charge us 20 lira, which of course we decline. The second asks for ninety. NINETY LIRA? Sara repeats the amount again in Turkish. Yes, it’s correct. We shake our heads sadly and begin our walk again. What happened to that famous Turkish hospitality? People here have money in their eyes.
A man on a motorbike stops. “Hello, how are you?” Fine, fine, a bit hot maybe. This guy knows the local area, tells us it’s a long way to Alınca where we’re headed. We decide to send one person ahead with him to the next village. Lisa gets on the back and we wedge two backpacks in front. Another car stops almost immediately. There are already four people inside, but we stuff Ben into the boot with the two remaining backpacks and Sara and I squish in with the two adult sons in the back seat. “But… we have a friend in the next village…” we tell them in Turkish. They’re a bit confused, but we soon find Lisa and our motorbike friend translates for us. At first they ask for 20 lira to take us all the way, but seeing we have little and are prepared to walk, they squash Lisa into the front seat with the driver’s elderly father and shove both remaining backpacks onto Ben in the overcrowded boot – despite Sara and I pleading we have space on our laps. This is not a big car. It has trouble climbing the mountain on little more than a dirt track, with eight people and four full-sized backpacks worth of weight. At times I think the whole thing will fail, but somehow we make it up and over the mountain, with gasps of amazement from Ben in the back who has a panoramic view through the boot window. They agreed to take us for free, but Ben gives the driver 10 lira anyway and the man seems happy, wiping his face with it and shaking our hands.
It’s still a little way to Alinca. We’re all hot and hungry, but the view is spectacular and we’re now walking downhill beside beautiful green meadows full of wild flowers. “It’s like the Shire in Lord of the Rings!” says Lisa. We could happily camp here, but the thought of Paradise Beach draws us onwards, along with our rumbling bellies. Then what should appear? A pension with a restaurant and swimming pool, right at the top of the mountain! The place seems deserted, but soon a man arrives in a suspiciously familiar minibus. It’s the first man that stopped – the one who charged twenty lira. We decide to eat here despite the man’s selfish attitude. We’re short of options, and there’s an English menu with a vegetarian section – almost unheard of in Turkey. The man seemingly feels guilty and gives a discount on the food, with free water and extra bread.
Full and happy we continue our trek to Alinca, now with cooler sun, fuller bellies and accompanied by two of the dogs from the pension who broke through the fence and bounded down the road after us. The smaller, more timid one joins us for the night in our makeshift camp on top of the cliffs. Now I have both Sara and Ben sharing my two-person tent with me, but somehow it’s a comfortable night.
Our little dog friend is excited to see us awake, but soon the minibus appears and a displeased restaurant owner bullies him into the car and drives away. A man shouts down from across the way, “Iyi gunler! Nasilsinuz? Cay?”
“Cay? Shit yeah!” cries Ben and scurries up to the man, while the rest of us do our various morning rituals of yoga or make-up.
We have kahvaltı (Turkish breakfast) in a nearby pension. The man charges us 65 lira for four Turkish breakfasts and a small bag of bread and tomatoes, which eventually he throws in for free, knocking five lira off the still excessive price. What’s wrong with the people around here? We ask the way to Paradise Beach. “Cok uzak!” he tells us, “Cok zor!” – very far, very difficult. Looking over the cliff we can see turquoise sea lapping at the pure white beach below. It doesn’t seem far away – half an hour tops. The pension man says four hours, but it seems so unlikely. Our only provisions are fifteen of the flat round ‘nomadic breads’, which look like big crumbly pancakes, a few tomatoes and two small cucumbers, but we decide to give it a go.
We attempt a number of ways down, but all apparent paths fizzle out, ending in thick thistly bushes or sheer drop. We find way-marks for the Lycian Way and decide to follow it along the cliff until we find a clear way down. We each have about a litre of water – probably twice as much as usual, but it’s almost gone within an hour. The sun is unrelenting. We come to a small waterfall and refill the bottles, but I’m certain we have nowhere near enough. The way leads up, over, around rocks. We’re moving further and further away from Paradise. I’ve given up all hope of getting there, but Lisa and Ben are more determined, frequently leaving Sara and I in the shade with our bags while they go off to explore a new potential route down, but to no avail. That’s it, there’s no way down. A turn gives one final glimpse of the pristine beach below and we all wave goodbye to that particular dream.
We come out into a beautiful meadow, like the shire we left far above. A large central oak has been neatly encircled with stones. A way-mark on a rock shows splashes of orange, white, pink and blue. Eh!? The Lykian Way is marked red and white – what’s going on?
One path branches off and seems to drop over a cliff edge. A small stone on the edge has a blue and red marking. None of us dare speak our hopes for fear of jinxing it, but we follow the trail, which soon becomes nothing more than a loose-rock landslide down the cliff. A giant boulder halfway down shows another red and blue marker. Down here? Seriously?
Please forgive my not not taking so many photos from this part of the journey – I was in fear for my life! Somehow we scramble our way down with help from a suspicious looking pipe, which shoots down into the narrow valley below. What the hell are they piping down here anyway? We find the path again just past the boulder, taking us off to the right and onto marginally safer ground. Lisa and Ben shoot off ahead; Sara and I amble down a little slower, stopping for a few short breaks. Near the bottom we come into a pine forest. Strange barbed wire divides the land into a grid for no conceivable reason. Finally we reach the beach and we’re here at last: Paradise.
But we’re not alone in Paradise. Three vibrant red kayaks sit just inside the bay and one blue tent has already been put up. A small group of men seem to be having a meeting in the middle of the beach. Lisa and Ben appear from the bushes at the far end. They found a different trail and almost disappeared off around the rocks, having to clamber down a small cliff to get to the beach. We’re all excited and it’s not long before our clothes are off and we’re all submerged in the vibrant turquoise water.
Drying off on the beach, we watch the other men collecting firewood, putting up more tents and arranging cooking equipment. We laugh to see how disorganised we are in comparison, with only enough for a sandwich each and a litre of water between us. Some of the others come by one at time to greet us. Dirmot is an Irishman, living in Turkey the past ten years. Dean is an English guy who teaches kayaking. Deniz (“Sea” in Turkish) is a guide, leading a small group of Turkish men, mostly his friends. They’re camping in a separate group, further down the beach. The guide has long wavy black hair and seems like a bit of a stoner. He sits with us a while. He’ll be leading the others out through a different route in the morning, around the coast to the the next bay. We ask if we can join them and he agrees in his chilled-out manner, shrugging and smiling.
That night we’re invited to the fire. “No food, no cay, no water,” the man at the pension in Alınca had told us, shaking his head to dissuade us from our foolhardy venture. We have enough for a sandwich each and half a bag of rice, but without water or a pot to cook it in. Fortunately Turkish – and Irish – people are very generous and we cook our rice in Dirmot and Dean’s trangier.
Dirmot tells us no boats can shore here because of the rocks – a fact that has probably saved this beach from development. Recently someone tried to build down here, but it’s forbidden and was torn down again. The pipe we saw is what they were using to bring fresh water down.
After a night under the stars and relaxed morning, we set out with the Turkish guys and leave the other three to their kayak training. It’s a fair walk to the next beach, “Pirate Bay”, but nothing like the landslide of the previous day. We arrive to find a small, mostly pebbled cove with a few ruins, including a small church. There are people on this beach too – familiar faces from other parts of the Way, including one with a wagging tail – it’s our foxy-dog friend from Kabak! She’s hungry and thirsty, but we’ve no food to spare and very little water left, despite a tourist donating the remains of his picnic to us: more bread, some olive paste and quite a lot of cream cheese. Ben, the only non-vegan of our group, celebrates with a five-cream-cheese-triangle sandwich.
We told the Turkish guys not to wait for us, we’re bound to be slower on the way back up. We had no idea how slow. It’s a looong way up, and the path zig-zags all the way up the mountain. With only one gulp of water left between the four of us, we’re practically crawling under the blazing sun. All I can think about is water: drinking it, swimming in it, pouring it over my face… “Oh for a pool full of drinking water I could just swim through and glug..glug..glug..” “Oh yes!” says Sara, wide-eyed, “that would be the perfect thing!”
We reach the top at last, somewhere near the meadow and oak tree we came past – could that really be yesterday? Time is behaving strangely these days. Lisa and Ben take our empty bottles to a farmhouse and come back smiling with plenty of water. They’ve just seen the Turkish guys, who apparently made it up only ten minutes ahead of us. They will camp for the night in Gey, the next village.
We amble along the Lycian Way some more and find them in the first pension, eating heartily with backpacks and gear strewn around the small courtyard. They’ve been given a good price by the family who live here: 15 lira for dinner and breakfast, with free camping in the garden. The family seem very sweet. It’s perfect, we’ll stay too.