I finished updating my map to show the entirety of the walking in Spain, where I went with my mom, and my brief detour to Morocco.
Aside from the pull to walk more, in truth I found Morocco a bit overwhelming and unenjoyable with the barrage of solicitations, the cities at least, and so am glad to leave it behind. There was a clear philosophy amongst some of the population–certainly not all though–of taking money from visitors, as much as they can, and it’s not a pleasant experience for me, open to strangers and sometimes naive as I am wont be. I decided not to pursue long-distance walking in Morocco as well because it’s not a country thus far suited to the independent traveler, with excursions to nature and archaeological sites dependent on tours and generally lacking information, supplies, or food for heading off into the mountains on long excursions alone.
When I started the Camino I had thought of walking through Turkey after Spain and I don’t know why I didn’t just head there right after Santiago; perhaps I thought a short break from walking might be needed. But it wasn’t, clearly, and I’m more than eager to get back at it. Before I get walking, however, some explanation of where in Turkey I’m heading and why is in order.
I’m heading Turkey-way because it has it all I want in one package: people in rural areas that I’ve read are still extremely friendly and truly hospitable to foreigners; more archaeological sites than one could hope to visit in a lifetime to inspire one of my greatest passions; and most importantly, a fair number of long-distance walks out there with at least some waymarking and a fair bit of information about. The latter is thanks to a British woman named Kate Clow, who over the past 20 years has been conducting extreme amounts of research and with a team of Turkish and international employees and volunteers, waymarking and maintaining several culture, history, nature, mountain, archaeology-packed trails–all-in-one –the goal being to bring a fresh breath of life and tourism to rural parts of Turkey where villages and ways of living are rapidly disappearing, presumably due to urbanization.
There are several that I know of and I’m probably forgetting some others: St. Paul’s Trail travels through the countryside and perhaps even on some of the same trails that St. Paul walked through during the first of his many travels to spread Christianity, beginning as he did in the ancient city of Perga and ending in Antioch in Pisidia. The Lycian Way, by far the most famous of these trails, explores the southern coast and many ruins of the ancient Lycian civilization. The Phrygian Way explores the ancient Phrygian civilization of Central Turkey with 3 starting/ending points all converging upon a site considered extremely holy to that culture. The Carian Trail, the longest and least traveled of all, goes some 800 kilometers along the southern and western coasts of Turkey, exploring the ancient Carian civilization and connecting the Mediterranean with the Aegean.
Although the Lycian Way is getting quite popular the others are significantly less so, with far fewer walking the entire lengths of any of them and fewer still walking during this time of year. So although the trails all pass through villages periodically, sometimes a few per day, sometimes none for 2-3 days, I’ll be alone a great deal of the time.
If all of this doesn’t intrigue you, the reader, then two more bits of information should put the icing on the cake. First, Turks are renowned for their hospitality, with invitations to tea constant and offers of food and a bed to sleep in quite common too–and unlike Morocco, nothing is asked, expected in return. This may change as these trails become more popular, so I’m taking this chance before it’s gone. Second, I’ve still got my tent and Turkey is as relaxed as they come towards camping outside, making it easy to sleep among ancient ruins or ask in villages to camp under the safety of the locals’ eyes. The idea is to be sleeping outside almost every night unless I’m invited to sleep in someone’s home or in a village’s hall.
I’ve decided to walk along the St. Paul Trail first since it goes through some rugged and mountainous country of well over 2000 meters in elevation and it’ll soon be getting cold there. After that, who knows, one of the others I don’t doubt, perhaps three of the ones I mentioned–there’s no harm in being ambitious! I’ll just keep walking here as long as the weather holds out.
Somehow the bus systems in every country manage to be extremely different from one another and in Turkey the only word to describe it was: chaotic. I found an overnight ticket in Istanbul to Antalya at the last minute and soon found out that the buses here don’t have bathrooms on board. Pounding a large coffee right before at the airport like a fool, at the first stop I ran to the bathroom a good bit away, leaving most of my belongings on the bus except my wallet. The bus was gone when I returned but fortunately was waiting, ready to jet off, in the middle of the road a bit further up. The stops were more or less me trying to assess how much time I had to use a bathroom or buy a snack. When it reached Antalya, I somehow didn’t realize it was the only bus station in the city and that I was supposed to get off. Luckily the bus driver pulled off to the side of the road a bit further up after I noticed my mistake and I headed out, happy to put paid transportation behind for the foreseeable future.
The time in Antalya was short and busy, time spent buying a guidebook for the walk, figuring out how to get to Perga, the starting point, meeting Turks and other travelers, buying a bit of equipment and food, and even buying a very cheap Turkish telephone in case I get injured or in trouble out in the mountains–all the more important since there probably won’t be many people walking out there between villages except me. The latter was only made possible by a wonderfully friendly Turk, Burak, who works at the hostel I stayed at and walked with me for an hour and half after his work shift, translating with cutthroat cell phone salesmen until we found a fair priced one and a SIM card to go along with it. In Morocco Burak might have held out his hand and expected 30 Euros, but here Turks do such things out of the goodness of their hearts and a desire to be friendly.
With sometimes poor waymarking, the guidebook is essential so I don’t get lost and it also has a good bit of history included in it about the sites along the trail, which I’ll be able to share as I pass through ancient ruins–and hopefully sleep in many of them–to make the experience a bit richer for both you and me.
Anyhow, I’ve said this before, but this time I think it might actually be true: Wifi will surely be sparse along this trail and the next one I walk. As I do get access to it I’ll try to post a couple stories of previous days, but you might notice gaps of 7-10 days I expect until I finish one walk, catch up, and hopefully begin the next walk.
As to Antalya itself, it’s an ancient Roman city with a wonderful old town that I saw only a bit of, but I’ll be back in the future since the Lycian Way ends here. With the events in Turkey of July 15th and the coup, signs of nationalism here are intense and everywhere. Anyhow, here are a couple photos before I head off.
My walk begins in Perga, a short distance west out of Antalya. So here I go again.