I am walking part of the Carian Trail, an 800km hiking route in south-west Turkey. Read part 1 here.
Day 4: Bahçeli to Cumhuriyet (Söğüt) (9km)
Today is a day of letting go. Letting go of the egotistical desire to complete a certain amount of kilometres each day. Letting go of my aversion to the bees and wasps. Letting go of cursing at the spikey bushes and the relentless sun. Today will be my lazy day, where I will walk just a handful of kilometres, and have time for meditation, reading and juggling. The day starts with a real test: a steep walk over the rocky mountain with no shade the whole way, 30 degree heat, and lots of prickly bushes scratching at my skin.
I notice how my relationship to the insects is changing. Locusts, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, flies, wasps, bees, giant hornets, caterpillars, centipedes, mosquitoes, earwigs, and the thousands of spiders who cast webs at the height of my face, are no longer getting to me. Wasps fly around me and I don’t curse!
Eventually I reach Taşlıca village, where, in typical Muslim fashion, there are lots of men sitting outside the teahouse, and no women in sight. I ask for a place to eat food. There isn’t one. One of the kind men takes me to his house, and his patient wife cooks me vegan food.
I then make a decision to take a short-cut, to cheat, so to speak, and miss out two days of the hike. So I walk to Cumhuriyet (Söğüt), a tranquil little place to relax for the night, only slightly touched by tourism. The wonderful Yoka at Saranda Pension lets me stay in her garden for free. “Will you be okay out here? There’s lot of mosquitoes…” she says. I tell her that I will be fine. The next morning I wake up and my eyelid has tripled in size from a mosquito bite.
Day 5: Cumhuriyet to Selimiye (18km)
My day starts on an overgrown path, foliage enveloping me, and I can’t see where my feet are treading. A snake slowly slithers away from me in the undergrowth.
“There are many snakes, but they are rarely seen,” the Carian Trail guidebook says. I wholeheartedly disagree with this! I’ve already seen two snakes within a couple of days, and when I hiked the Lycian Way I sat a metre away from a giant poisonous viper.
I swim in the clear waters of a bay, meditate and eat breakfast.
The bay after that is beautiful, but it’s all set to change as new hotels are being built on the coast. I speak to some English people who are coming out of a half-built hotel complex. I assume that they’re the owners. I wonder to myself how they can’t see the destruction that they’re doing to the landscape here.
“Walk on the big road!” some Turkish locals say to me, gesturing to me that the next part of the Carian Trail involves scrambling upwards over rocks, using your hands as well as your feet. Nothing new there, I think to myself.
After a lot of climbing, I find myself in a meadow of wild flowers. There’s black wasps everywhere, coming out of nests in the ground. Nests in the ground!! What the hell?! The trail becomes indecipherable. Relax, I tell myself, un-tensing my shoulders.
It’s a long walk over rocky terrain to Bozburun and then to Selimiye, an expensive little tourist village, where I sleep for the night.
Day 6: Selimiye to Turgut waterfall (19.5km)
Unsurprisingly, day 6 involves lots of difficult climbing over rocks which are covered in spikey bushes.
After a day’s walking I start the long descent to a waterfall. I decide that I will sleep there. After all, there won’t be any locals there, right….? And I also have a desire to meet other hikers. I haven’t seen any other hikers since Day One, and I’m feeling lonely. Other hikers might camp at the waterfall, I think. I finally reach the bottom of the waterfall in darkness. The trail is flooded, so I take off my hiking shoes and wade barefooted, barely able to see. I finally reach wooden viewing platforms.
Suddenly, a torch light flashes at me. Someone approaches me in the darkness.
“Welcome,” a man says in the pitch black.
He asks me what I’m doing, and whether I want to camp here. I meekly say yes. I ask him what he’s doing here, but my Turkish isn’t good enough to understand his answer. It seems that he’s a night guard for the waterfall. He takes me to a viewing platform and tells me that I can sleep there. He leaves me, and I burst into tears. I’m exhausted, and it’s dark, and I’m alone at the waterfall with this man. I’m scared. But I can’t work out whether it’s rational to be scared or not. I get into my sleeping bag, my Swiss army knife in my hand once again, and try to sleep.
An hour later I’m woken up with a flash of a torch. The man is standing next to me. I yell in fright. But in typical Turkish fashion, the man has kindly brought me dinner, which he has cooked himself. He gives it to me with a warm smile, and says goodnight.
I wake up at 5.30am and wait for daylight. At 6am I pack my bag. As I leave the waterfall, the man says good morning with a warm smile, asks me if I slept well, and then insists on giving me 20 lira (£5) for breakfast. This man has shown me such wonderful kindness (and so has everyone else that I have met on the trail). But despite this, my mind is working overtime, imagining bad scenarios, and I am becoming fearful of everyone. Perhaps the most difficult thing about hiking solo is the amount of time I have alone with my mind.
Day 7: Turgut waterfall to Hisarönü (19km)
Today’s walk is pleasant because it’s cloudly, and I am finally walking through forest again. I hike up to an old tomb and eat breakfast.
Turgut village is a lovely little place. An old woman climbs up to the branches of her plum tree and gives me a handful of plums to eat. Another woman beckons me over to sit with her for tea.
After climbing and descending through forest, I eventually arrive at the ruins of Kastabos. It is here that I finally meet fifteen other hikers from Germany! But they’re not hikers in the traditional sense. They’re part of the newer tourist wave of retired walkers who pay a tour agency shitloads of money to take them on little parts of the trail, and who have their luggage taken from hotel to hotel. They are very friendly to me, although they’re confused as to why I would want to do the trail alone. Sometimes I am confused about that decision too, I think to myself.
An hour later, I arrive in Hisarönü, and finally complete the first 103km of the Carian Trail! The second section starts in Datça, and so I hitchhike there (with the German tour group!).
Wandering around the town, I see an English couple and ask them if they know of a cheap hotel. Their names are Albert and Christine. They live in Turkey and they invite me to their home for the night. I end up spending three nights at Albert and Christine’s. I’m fed the most amazing vegan food which Albert cooks, and I’m showered with kindness and love. After 103km alone with my fearful, stressed out mind, Christine and Albert’s hospitality comes just at the right time. Words can’t express how grateful I am to these two people for their warmth and compassion.