Monday, November 24, 2014

FidEgan's FastPacks - Episode 8 - The Lycian Way - Turkish Hiking, History, and Hospitality

John and I are currently on a world trip where we plan to persue our passion of trail running through the various landscapes and environments of the world. As we pass through each country we want to post our top pick for a trail run that we did. This does not mean that this is the best trail to run in that country. It just means that it was our favorite that we did. We are both using Ultraspire Fastpacks to carry our gear, hence the name of the column.

In this case this we did this trail as a backpack. It theoretically could be done as a Fastpack but because we are currently living out of our backpacks, and it's a point to point trail, we elected to carry all of our gear and full camping equipment and take our time as we moved along the coast. It was just easier that way.
One of many incredible sunsets

Where: A hiking trail that follows the southern coast of Turkey between the cities of Fethiye and Antalya. Most people hike this trail in the spring, but fall is another popular time. Summer is too hot and during the winter the upper terrain is covered in snow.

Facilities/Trailhead: The trail ends are in the villages of Ovacik in the west and Geyikbayiri in the east which are close to the towns of Fethiye and Antalya, respectively. There are many towns and villages along the route that have bus and dolmus (minibus) service so shorter sections of the trail can be easily hiked. For the entire length of the trail with the exception of two sections in the eastern mountains there are pensions and hotels you can stay at. Sometimes this means catching a dolmus at the end of the day to get into town but you could do the majority of this trail without camping gear. However, if you have a tent and cooking gear then the variety of camping spots is vast. Water is the only limitation when it comes to camping as this region is very dry. Many of the cisterns and water sources along the trail are less than ideal. If you camp then you absolutely will want a water filter (not just water purification tablets). Camping fuel is also a difficult find. White gas or butane canisters might be able to be found in Fethiye or Antalya, but not easily. A Whisperlite International that burns gasoline would be a good choice. 
Kabak Beach pension    
Camping amongst ruins

Fees: There is no cost involved with hiking the trail itself except for at Chimaera and Guynuk in the eastern end of the trail.  There the trail passes through "park" areas that charge a few dollars for entry.  If you are going east to west there would be a charge to enter Olympos but going the other way you enter the area from the mountains were there is no entry gate.  Staying in pensions ran in the 70 to 120 Turkish Lira range per night (~$30-$55) for two people. Eating in restaurants usually cost about 15-20 Lira ($7-9) for an entree. The food in Turkey is amazing, one of many things we will miss about this country. Word of warning about this trail – the availability of ATMs along it is sparse. Have plenty of cash on hand so that you don't run out in the middle of the trail (like we did) which involves a day of riding buses for hours to get to a money source.

Terrain/Trails: The trails runs the gamut of terrain types. From goat paths, to single track trails, sandy beaches, Lycian and Roman roads that are worn smooth by 3000 years of feet and hooves on them, to dirt and paved roads. Much of the smaller trails are covered with fist size rocks that would probably make running on the terrain (for many) painful. The trails are marked by yellow signs and red/white paint hashmarks. For the most part the trail is well marked and if you go more then 200 meters without seeing a marker then you need to start looking around. Many days we would miss a marker or turn but would quickly realize it. There is some trail rerouting going on Gurses and Demre which is the only area where we really got lost. Part of our problem was that we had an old edition of the guidebook and map. Having the current edition with the latest updates probably would have solved that problem.
Sign trail markers 
Paint trail markers

Distance: The trail runs for over 500km (300+ miles) along the coast and coastal mountains of southern Turkey. The guide books describe hiking the trail over a 30 day period. We took 38 days as we would find a scenic beach or town and not want to leave. It was refreshing not to have to make a deadline as there are some incredible spots along the coast that warrant a longer stay.

Description: This trail has a huge amount of the three things we like best about Turkey – hiking, the history, and the hospitality. The hiking is gorgeous. Sometimes you are at sea level walking along the beach. At other times you are at 5000+ feet with panoramic views. Every corner we went around there was a new sight or perspective to see. The history along the trail is like nowhere else we have ever seen. Layer after layer of history going back 3000 years just lying in the bushes everywhere as we walked along, from the early Lycians who fought against Greece in the Trojan War, to Persia, Alexander the Great, Romans, Byzantine, the Crusades, the Ottoman Empire, and now theTurkish Republic. There are all types of ruins and buildings all along the trail: Lycian tombs, remnants of cities, Roman amphitheaters, baths, and aqueducts, some of the first ever Christian churches, forts built by Christian Crusaders, Ottoman era cisterns, and statues of Ataturk line the path that we hiked. It was a rare day that went by without passing some piece of history. 
Trail is a Roman aqueduct
Roman aqueduct Delikkeer
Statues of Ataturk abound  
After several earthquakes some of the ruins are now under the ocean where you can swim or kayak over them. Turkish hospitality like most Muslim hospitality we have met cannot be beat. Strangers would invite us to stop and have tea, bread, and olives with them. People would pick apples, pomegranates, and grapes and give them to us as we hiked by their homes. The Turks would also be very helpful as we moved along the trail. Many times as we left one village we were told that their friends in the adjacent village would be ready to receive us once we got there; “it is only a phone call away”, they'd say. The one warning we would offer for those considering this trail is to beware if you are allergic to bees or have a fear of snakes, or dogs. This region is known for its honey making, especially in the western part of the trail closer to Fethiye. There were thousands of bee hives that we passed so often you could hear the trees buzzing with them, and some of the water sources are overwhelmed by them. The bees seemed fairly docile, however, so as long as you don't freak out they will not bother you. John did get stung once in the ankle when one got caught between his foot and shoe but that was a freak occurrence. 
Cluster of bee hives
We saw multiple snakes. None of the ones we saw were poisonous, though they do exist here. Most were grass snakes which are harmless as was the Whip Snake we saw. However, the Whip Snake was very large (~6 feet) and moved super fast (faster then we could run) which was a little unnerving. Probably the biggest threat was all the dogs, especially the sheep dogs guarding their flocks. Many were just noisy and were scared to come close but there were a few that were downright aggressive and had to be chased off with our hiking poles. We were warned by several Turks that these dogs can be dangerous, especially at night. 
View over Olu Deniz
Canyon to Alinka
Leto Temple, Letoon
Letoon Amphitheater
Harpy Tomb, Xanthos
Amphitheater, Xanthos
Tombs with Arch of Modestus
Genoese fort, Simena              
Ucagiz Bay                             
Medusa, Myra                        
Tombs in Myra                      

If you enjoy eating excellent food, good hospitality and hiking all day through ancient history then this trail might be for you. There is a reason it was voted on the World's Ten Best Walks.