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.