“I’m not going there!” Lisa, Sara and I all said when we first read about Kalkan. Yet here we are.
Kalkan is something of a British colony in Turkey – tourists, fish and chips and large screen TVs showing football and English soap operas fill the streets. I am reminded of why I left England. Our host is a Turkish man, an Alevi, which would be interesting were it not for the egotistical slant he puts on everything. The kind of man who has many stories, all designed for the listener to steadily learn of what a wonderful human being they have before them. Apparently, once he had seven women in his house, all crying because they wore inappropriate footwear of the Lycian Way. He’s horrified to hear of our friend Lisa, out there walking with Deniz (a strange Turkish man) with her plimpsols and not enough money. He decides she is now his personal responsibility, along with Sara and myself. We are no longer deemed capable of making decisions for ourselves.
We go to sleep while he’s still at work and when he returns, he’s horrified to find us sleeping on his two rather short sofas in our sleeping bags. “You can’t sleep like that – you’re ladies!” He whips Sara’s sleeping-bag off her, not even bothering to check she’s wearing anything underneath, and pulls the sofa out into a bed. He puts a pillow under each of our heads and then sits on his computer smoking next to my feet for the next four or five hours. Every time I stir he says gently, “I’m sorry, I am disturbing you.” To which I of course reply, “No, it’s fine.” This seems to aggravate him and when I get up to use the toilet I am remonstrated on my return – “Why are you angry with me?” “I’m not!” I say, surprised. “I’m just finding it hard to sleep – the heat, the light, the smoke…” “Aha!” he jumps on this – “I told you I was bothering you!” “But it’s your house!” I tell him… This only angers him more, since apparently I am not accepting his hospitality. “But look, I’m really not used to sleeping indoors these days…” I try to explain. “What?! You are crazy! Crazy lady!”
Lisa arrives the next day. She wants to couchsurf for the night, but neither Sara nor I want another night with this man. I get a text message from another CSer. She can’t host us, but knows of a place we can camp. We go to meet Maggi at her boutique shop. She’s an English woman, living and working in Turkey for many years. She does a lot of work with animals, especially stray dogs, many of whom hang out in and around her shop. We drink tea with Maggi and her friend and talk about animals, then she gives us a voucher she won in a raffle: a free meal for two in a restaurant nearby! Maggi calls her friend Attila who collects us in his car. Attila owns a bit of land on the edge of town where he was building a beach resort on the rocks until planning permission was withheld. Now he’s pleased it will get some use. It’s not exactly the picture that went through my mind when I first heard the words “unfinished beach resort”, but it certainly has it’s own beauty and we’re all delighted with it, deciding immediately that we will stay for two nights instead of one.
It’s a beautiful starlit night on the rocks, but when a storm whips up the following day we’re invited to stay with Maggi, despite her lack of space. Lisa steps on a nail outside Attila’s place on the way there and it goes right into her heel, so there’ll be no more trekking for her for a few days. Dropping Maggi’s name about town with the Turkish people yields free tea, discounted food, and a bar owner giving us free vegetables from his own garden. What a popular lady she is – apart from with the snobbish villa owners of course, who seem to think the stray dog population is putting off visitors, and that Maggi is encouraging it by helping with the Winter Feeding Program and medical care. I’m surprised to hear this – these are the happiest, friendliest stray dogs I’ve ever seen.
Now it’s Sara’s turn to leave us and we’re back to a party of two. It’s been awesome travelling with Sara and I know we will travel together again, perhaps to India overland this autumn.
Now it’s just me and Lisa alone again, our first stop is Kaş, a place I’ve been meaning to visit for quite some time. I tell Lisa, “I feel like Kaş is calling me”.
While I was in Istanbul I kept seeing these posts on Couchsurfing groups about a CS host with a campsite in Kaş, in need of a little help getting it ready for the tourist season. He’s hosting people for free and is happy if they can help out a little. It seems like a good thing to do and Sara has already been there and enjoyed herself, so now it’ me and Lisa’s turn.
Arriving at the road just outside Kaş, we’re greeted by a surprising sight – not exactly what I pictured when I heard the word “campsite”. “This just looks like a building site!” says Lisa, who’s known for telling it like it is.
The site itself is a slit of land, wedged between two main roads, overlooking a marina building. It mostly consists of cement platforms and piles of rubble, with a small building and a table outside at the top. We are greeted by Can (pronounced “Jan”). Can has glasses and long wavy hair, tied back into a ponytail. He looks stressed, but greets us warmly. We are given our pick of “bungalows” – small wooden huts with two beds in each. Lisa and I are charmed by the first one with the white rush walls. It even has a plug socket, so I can write on my laptop in bed.
The campsite has been shut for thee years, during which time a shiny ugly new marina has been built opposite, in place of what used to be a beach. Can was offered a lot of money for his land, but is steadfastly determined not to sell. Apparently they used TNT to build the road above him in an effort to push him out. “This is my castle”, says Can.
Ali and Nedim are the two other main characters. Neither speak any English and are both in their late forties. Ali is warm and charasmatic and we get along well, despite our limited shared language. Nedim is more of a private person and seldom takes the time to speak with us, but I suppose this is just his way. Mehmet arrives a day or two later. He’s a bit younger, very sweet, and speaks a bit of English.
Lisa and I are given light painting work and fed like queens by Ali, who turns out to be an amazing chef. It takes a day or two for the concept of veganism to sink in, but when it does we are fed up on gourmet food and are happy and at home at the campsite.
One day, Lisa and I are hitchhiking up to a “festival” (more like a fete, I suspect) in a small village, high up in the mountains behind Kaş. We’ve been waiting for ages since it’s an obscure direction we’re travelling in, but finally a woman and some children stop and we’re on our way. The woman is nice enough, but when she stops to collect another woman and more children, I notice the adult newcomer gazing at me with spite in her little beady black eyes from the front. I’m conscious for the first time of my bare-flesh arms and decide to cover up with the scarf in my bag as soon as we stop the car. Lisa and I take to gazing out the window, away from the beady black eyes… “holy shit!” we just drove past two bare chested bronzed muscular guys with piercings and tattoos wearing shorts. They were eating at a pension with backpacks right beside them – travellers! Proper ones! We have to stop this car. I bumble something in Turkish about this place being fine. The beedy eyes are very suspicious, and rightly so it would seem. We get out of the car and trek back to the place we saw the guys.
They are just finishing off their dinner, but no sooner have we said hello than the pension owner has rushed out to greet us and hurried us around the house and up some stairs to meet his wife. They put çay into our hands and the woman gets a box down from the top of a cupboard and sets about showing us every silk scarf she has ever made. “Mmmmmm… chok güzel!” We admire them, glancing at the window. How long will these guys be sticking around for? The man gets out his photo album and shows us pictures of all of the tourists he has met. Ten out of ten for trying, but we still have to say no to the food and pension room he’s trying to sell us. I try to explain in my terrible Tukish, a little embarrassed, that we want to speak to the men outside. Reluctantly he lets us go. They are still there. Apparently they were out walking on the Lycin Way and this small boy came and grabbed them and brought them here to eat. These people are so pushy!
The guys are Swedish and walking the entire Lycian Way. We tell them about Can’s place and say goodbye, certain they will never come.
We were wrong. Two days later two familiar pairs of shorts arrive at the campsite. They will stay and work for a few days. These guys are into body-sculpting and their idea of “rest” seems to be shovelling cement and bricks for Can and working out at the gym in town in their spare time.
Now there are more travellers at Can’s – us, the Swedes and an American couchsurfer named Evan. I also meet another American guy called Brice in a bar in town and all six of us decide to trek the next part of the Way together.
It’s a sad goodbye at Can’s. Lisa and I promise to return, but I’m sure Can and Ali don’t believe us – little do they know how soon we’ll be back…