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Trekking in Turkey part three

By Tim Hollett
Special to The Packet

It’s a typical early start the next day. We wander past a huge Roman fort onto the delta of the Esen River. Patara Beach, the longest sand beach in Turkey, starts here. But we won’t walk it today as our route is inland past the ruins of Letoon and Xanthos, skirting the head of the delta, before arriving at the distant end of this 18-kilometre-long broad expanse of dune-fringed white sand.

As we wander into the nearest village to look for a taxi to save some comparably uninspiring flat walking through the sea of tomato greenhouses that are the defining feature of this delta, a farm tractor, towing a trailer load of tomatoes, comes to a halt beside us. He motions for us to jump on. We are not sure how we will fit, but as he insists and doesn’t seem to want to take “Hayur” (no) for an answer, we pile on: Lisa on one fender, Clare on the other, while Ross and I balance on the hitch. As the driver up-shifted into third gear I thought to myself that if I do lose a leg on this ride, at least there is a 50-per-cent chance it’ll be the bad one.

Fortunately the only casualty of the tractor ride is the crate load of tomatoes that I haul down over my head when climbing down off the hitch. The driver thinks this hilarious. We reload most of the tomatoes, but keep about as many as we can carry, once again at the vehement insistence of the driver.

The remainder of the day is spent exploring the UNESCO world heritage sites of Letoon and Xanthos. These ruins, unlike most in Turkey, actually have small administrative buildings and an entrance charge. Like everywhere else though, goats get in for free.

Late afternoon, we find ourselves in Klinik, waiting for a dolmuş (taxi), when a young man in a 20-year-old Turkish car pulls up. He has a baby on the passenger seat. He tells us, in very good English, that he has a boarding house in Gelemis, near the eastern end of Patara Beach. He offers us a ride, no strings attached. We agree. Clare takes the baby in her lap.

En route we stop at one of his greenhouses. He gives us a tour. Thousands of tomato plants, and a few beehives for pollination, produce two crops per year. The tomatoes are shipped as far as Russia. But prices are down at the moment. Our driver has a third job as a toll booth operator at the Patara Ruins.

When we get to his Zaybek (boarding house), we are not disappointed. Three generations of his family live there. The pool is spotless, as are the rooms. There is bottomless tea from a wood-fired kettle, and we are served one of the best home cooked meals of the trip. It proves to be an ideal spot to recharge. We stay two nights, explore the ruins of Patara and enjoy a leisurely stroll and swim at the beach.

The next hiking day takes us back around the eastern side of the Patara Delta. A large dog accompanies us most of the day. He is a docile and well-mannered creature until a charging Rottweiler startles us. Our littlest hobo springs into action, chasing off the intimidating canine and then returning to walk peacefully with us again.

The last few hours of this walk is along a Roman aqueduct, which makes for mercifully level travel. There is a section that was designed as a siphon. Stone blocks, each bored out and fitted together precisely with the next, made a watertight seal when lined with clay. The Roman engineers made water run up hill this way. It is hard to believe that some of the villages serviced by such systems almost 2,000 years ago, have only again been provided running water, the second time, in the last few years.

We spend the next four days hiking along the coast with the Australians. We climb higher into cloud shrouded mountains, explore still more ruins, and continue to enjoy the famed Turkish hospitality and fresh local cuisine. In total we cover over 150 kilometres of hiking. At Kaş, the laid back coastal tourist town about a third of the way through the Lycian Way, we enjoy one last evening meal with Clare and Ross and then part ways. Lisa and I grab a bus on to Antalya, where we are to fly back to Istanbul, while the Australians continue their walking holiday. We are envious!


Tim and Lisa head to Instanbul, Turkey's largest city, full of history and culture, in the next installment of Around the World, coming next week.

Organizations: UNESCO

Geographic location: Turkey, Gelemis, Patara Beach Russia Antalya Istanbul

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