Cascoly Travel -- Turkey: Chimaera, Olympos, Phaselis
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Cascoly Travel
Turkey: Chimaera, Olympos, Phaselis

From our journals: Hike from Kilicli to Ucagiz. Descend from upland village and old Byzantine fortress on red dirt roads bordered with flowers, scrub and olive groves. Then proceed down switchbacks to the ruins of Aperlae and a pleasant coastal walk to pretty Ucagiz. Time for a swim before continuing on for overnight in Finike.

Left hotel about 8:30, and drove to Kiliclar. While the route looked straightforward, Lutfi arranged for a local guide, but tther guide  never showed up,. So we stopped in the village and soon had 4, then 5 then 6 older men discussing what we might do. Some said it couldnt be done at all, others that someone had told them it was possible. Meanwhile, several old women placed themselves strategically on porches and park seats so that they could observe from a distance. Finally, we found a young man, Mustafa, and left, giving several of the old men some of our empty 5 L water bottles and promises to send pictures. (after we'd been taking pictures candidly for awhile, they still wanted to pose for several more.)

Walked out from village about 1-2 km, slightly rising to get over the hill leading down to the coast. Then steeply down for about 1 ½ hrs, to arrive at Aperlae. Passed ubiquitous maquis, olive, and now tamarind trees (keci boynuzu – ‘goat horns'). At a well we met some tea pickers coming back uphill with a load of tea on their donkey. A few fossils among the limestone fragments and rocks lining the trail. Reddish clay dirt, easier going than yesterday, to get to Aperlae. Interesting small town, no real excavations done, but can make out the city walls, a basilica, and a series of houses with lots of potsherds, sprawling down the hill to the bay. At the other end of town, rock steps lead past more Roman tombs, and some Lycian ones. (Guidebook said 2 ½ hrs to this point). About noon, started across the small isthmus, then a gradual uphill climb with great views of the protected bay, with several gulets anchored. Easy trail, but very hot. Trudged steady, but slowly, now with views of the minaret of Ucagiz (Kekove) tempting us forward. Reached the town about 3:30. Elapsed time 5 ½ hrs including lots of stops on the traverse. Guidebook allows 6 ¼ hrs.

Left town, then stopped on a hill at an abandoned tea house where Lutfi and Mustafa prepared a lunch of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, grilled peppers and excellent lamb chops. Back in the bus, and on to Myra, reaching it just before the gates closed. They're restoring the theatre so dont allow us to climb up near the tombs! But we can go into the theatre itself. Then on to Finike, arriving about 7 pm. Dınner at 8, at a small restaurant around the corner – excellent eggplant with ground meat and peppers in a tomato/olive oil sauce, then spicy Adana kabobs. Brief walk around town, then back to the hotel about 9:30

May 28 Tuesday (Day 14)-We travel back to the mythic past today, from Ulupinar, over coastal mountain ridges, then descend to the mysterious flames that sprout from the rocks. Myths say that this ancient site is where the hero Bellerophon and the flying horse Pegasus defeated the fire-breathing monster Chimaera. They drove it underground, from where it still belches fire. Whatever the source, this site is uniquely interesting and a great introduction to Turkey's mixture of past and present.

Retracing our steps, we then walk down the mountain, following a valley to the sea, where we walk thru the local village of Cirali. We then traverse the coast, walking on the beach past an imposing promontory with the remains of a Byzantine castle to enter the remains of the ancient city of Olympos. A river divides the site, now occupied only by turtles and ducks. Hidden among fragrant pine forests , much of the site is overgrown, but you can find temple gates, the necropolis and other major buildings. Emerging from the past, we walk thru backpacker treehouse pensions (complete with internet access). Our bus will be waiting to take us to a nearby restaurant for a lunch of gozleme (Turkish crepes with a variety of fillings).

After lunch, we'll stop at the site of Phaselis, once an important port with 3 harbors. We'll have time to explore the site, or swim in one of the abandoned harbors, or just relax in an ancient agora.

9:10 started from Ulupinar; trail wanders off in several places. Not your ty[pical trekking: We wandered through a couple of gardens, then thru a small cafe and started to follow the track steeply up and across some terraces. The owner came out and called us back, then led us through his gardens and onto a better track. There had been some wash outs last winter, so he told us a way to avoid the worst, and we continued on and down to the bottom of the first stream, then across a nearly dry brook and started the ascent on the other side. By 10:30 we'd reached the top, and the upper flames; more uphill than indicated in the guide book, but steady, and not difficult. By 11 we'd reached the lower flames

More pensions, more backpackers, than we'd experienced only a year earlier. gulets in harbor. Admission now up to 10 Million [this was before the Turks revalued the Lira] from 5 last spring

Back in Ulupinar for lunch on a cushioned platform set in waterfalls, with fresh grilled trout.

As we left we noticed a typical contruction project - while a few men operated a crane on a truck, a dozen or so others off to the side provided commentary and 5 or 6 more down the slope, were helping to bring up piece of ancient aqueduct. During all this, a boy carrying a silver tray provided tea tto all involved – obviously the most important part of the process.

Then a brief stop at the beautifully sited harbors of Phaselis

May 29 Wednesday (Day 15)- – Today we visit Termessos & Antalya museum

Freya Stark described this site wonderfully:

A spring was splashing into a sarcophagus by a shed of scattered tables, and drivers to the plateau stopped for a glass of tea. From here a shepherd boy led us for two hours along a path that slants through woods, to where the town is slung like a hammock between sharp ridges.... Out of Pisidian roughness and tribal foundations easily Hellenized, Termessus emerged and flourished with many temples. Their doors and pediments and tumbled columns survive in the descending basins of the valley; the pedestals of stoas show Greek inscriptions, where lichens and spring shadows blur the forgotten names. A great wall, six feet wide or more, still stands across the iner valley, with the disc carvbed upon it which seems to be the sign of Termessus, so frequent is it on all the tombs that scatter the crests of the enclosing hills. Beyond it,the street led to temples, a grass grown market, a gymnasium shaddowed by budding plane trees like an Oxfcord quad in spring; and at last, on the tip of the defile, to the most beautifully sited of all Pamphylian theatres, whose shallow stone seats and endfolding crags look three thousand feet down a straight ravine to the sea.

It's a 2 km walk to the ancient site of Termessos, but today it was just us at the theatre. Along with Pergamum, it has to be the most dramatic setting for any theater - the seats cascade down a asteep slope, with the orchestra, the playing area, at the bottom, surrounded by mountains. We walked back by way of tombs We descended the trail to ‘Alcestes' tomb, then continued on a slightly brushy trail on down to the parking lot. We stopped for tea – the current snack tent and outlying benches now sprawl across the trail, while larger WCs and an entrance kiosk are being constructed.

Just as we reached the theatre, Lutfi's cell phone rang – it was 'M' a missing member of our tour, who'd been stranded in Saudi Arabia when the government there had without warning susoended all US credit card transactions. She was having trouble with getting airlines ticket paid for, and looked like she'd have to cancel. But Lutfi got working and soon had several other options for getting the ticket paid. Using friends and informal money exchanges in Istanbul, Cairo and Riyadh, he found a solution. By the time we got back to the hotel, all was fixed, and M. was still on schedule.

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