My favourite thing about the Mediterranean is the sound under water.
Hobbling along the smooth, off-white pebbles to the lapping waves of the sea, everything is glittering and soft and laughter, a world away from the vast and wild beaches of Australia. You ungracefully bury yourself in the milky blue and immerse your head to hear the clockwork effect of pebbles being rolled over by waves. Without claustrophobia and without breath, it is meditation for the brain listening to the pebbles tickling emptiness with their edges. This feeling is magic, but lifting your head out and rejoining reality isn’t so bad either. We have just spent two weeks in south Turkey hiking the Lycian Way.
To capture the experience, I am remembering a dry walk in a sunburnt country, where a slight breeze and gulps of life-giving water made all the worlds problems vanish in a rehydrating, cooling second. I remember smiling eyes and basic living, the staples of cucumber with salty handmade fetta and impossibly juicy tomatoes on bread, sweat dripping down our backs and stinging our eyes to hinder the vertical cliff drop of jaggard rocks and tough trees spiralling into the deep blue. Spotting turtles that are a reminder that if they can survive out here, we can too. The remnants of roman ruins whisper lost history in the wind. I remember handmade carpets in villages where our host ate with us every meal and communicating with hands and expressions, swimming in every hidden bay during the day and making our heads swim with beer every night. I remember being woken by the Muslim call to prayer, guzzling gozleme, walking with electric blue butterflies, purple aloes that stink like flesh, hitching with a goat, teetering over landslides, paragliding from a 2000m father mountain, laughing about language differences, kayaking over a sunken city and sharing stories with locals.
Mum and dad and I flew into Antalya and explored the city by boat and foot and had a day of catching up on travels. I am fresh off the year of Spanish exchange and mum and dad just arrived from the incredibly manicured Switzerland that has the price tag to match the perfection. Turkey is in stark contrast to this, where prices are flexible and food is cheap, patience is a virtue and nothing is in order but somehow it all works. I came to Istanbul at the end of last year for a week and wrote extensively about the gastronomical adventures. I won’t linger this time except to say that it’s a wonder that everyone isn’t overflowing from homemade pasta and crumbled fetta, grilled capsicum, stuffed eggplant, steaming Turkish bread, pickled rainbow chillis, mouth watering pide, honey dripping baklava and shimmering Turkish delight. We started our adventure breakfasting on a rooftop overlooking grey stone cliffs shooting out of the ocean near Olympus like a dramatic religious vision. Clouds added mystery to the coastline that lay in waiting for us on the Lycian way, and rather than catch a bus out of the city in the sticky heat, we found a speed boat to take us 60km along the coast and then jumped on a little dolmus bus for another four hours of awesome mountain and sea combo deal views. Arriving to Kas in the twilight and falling over our pansiyon accomodation for the night, we strolled the marina and ate meze followed by whole baked fish. I said a little prayer to having such an amazing family unit, but we are missing Daniel. My little brother is looking after the house and has literally taken over, putting photos of himself and his girlfriend annalise on the wall of mum and dad’s room. We kayaked over Kekova for a day, spotting turtles and diving into the sweet and salty water. Out in the sea it is like cutting the deepest blue stillness with a knife as you paddle. I read the joy on the face of mum, who is a proper water baby and looks so alive with the rejuvenating assistance of the sea. After laughing about our lack of walking to date, we went further along the coast hugging road and began our hike in Berzigan, hiking down to Kalkan. English tourists are so common that menu prices are expressed in pounds, and the Turkish touts know exactly which part of the country the tourists are from by the differences in their vowel pronunciation. Leaving this coastal hub in the morning cool, we escaped built up civilisation for a week and found a jungle of thorns in our way. Bare legs above boots felt the violent tug of the bushes and soon had drips of red to prove it. The rocks were razor sharp, and mum and I ended up slicing our knees while scrambling on rock faces. It was so hot that my head pounded and made me laugh at our idea of a family holiday while peering down at the black ant sized tourists lazing on the beach. I can hear dad in my head telling me that I shouldn’t make it sound so hard, but it was pretty damn tough. However, we couldn’t have felt more satisfied when we found secret bays, and peeled off our second skin socks to take the well and truly earnt swim that feels like all of your Christmases coming at once. Putting your feet up in the shade is like entering heavens gates. A cold beer at the end of the day is like holding your newborn baby. I think you get the idea.
Lost in a myriad of foreign place names, from Kalkan we hiked to Gelemis and from there we bused to Xanthos ruins and continued from Pydnai to Gavaruguli. On arrival in this G town, we had gotten lost following the precious and sometimes sparse red and white markers that direct you along the Lycian Way. We edged nearer and nearer this village which was perched atop a Rocky Mountain and glowed with the promise of a cold shower and shady courtyards. When we arrived, it was just a lot of barred pensions and dogs barking, so we backtracked 6 kilometres in the hope we would find somewhere to sleep. Camping sounded good, but mum was seriously hangry (hungry + angry) so we didn’t want to chance it without water and food. We found eight dollar most basic beach bungalows amidst a camping ground of dreadlocked Turkish men and feasted on, no joke, three huge fish each. The next few days around Bel, Gey, Kabak and Faralya were soul inspiring. Turkey has it’s own rythym, where family is priority and work comes second. I never felt like an object of money to the people, and often when we handed over the minimal amount of money to cover our board, our host would hardly look at it. Here, it’s about human relationships and a good life. I don’t think it comes down to the religion, but more the small town culture. We stayed two days at the heart of Butterfly Valley, which has been beckoning me for two years after a friend told me it is his favourite place on earth. Dad installed new ropes on the 350m pupil enlarging, hair electrifying climb down to the beach.
Our new South African friend Car warned us that we were about to be ripped from our little Turkish dream bubble as we pulled into this crazy place called the Blue Lagoon, which reminded me of everything our perceived essence of Turkey is Not. Fat bellied tourists roll around sunning themselves like leopard seals, while hairy predators comb the beaches holding a stubby and looking for a prey female. It is beautiful, but it has been eaten up by capitalism and party boats. Karaoke is the king and David Attenborough would have a field day documenting this unique study of human anthropology. Dad and I went paragliding, getting inside the head of a bird, and then we hiked out of the basin to Kayakoy, where we were picked up by my Turkish friend that I met during Uni in Spain. He lives in fethiye just a few kilometres further, and we were hosted for the night by his family. Mum and I were given handmade presents that made our hearts ache, and his mother put out a spread for dinner so delicious that I am still full from eating two days later. We picnicked together on Sunday because it is a Turkish tradition to go to the seaside with family and spend the whole day frolicking in the water and having a barbecue. I left mum and dad and Kagan and co from the picnic yesterday to go to back to Antalya. The inland scenery is like a painted dream of green mountains so different to the rest of the Med because of their sharp, jutting shape. We have only had a little taste of this huge country, and despite Kagans mums cooking, I am hungry for more. I sat with three carpet shop owners last night who told me they once sold 1.2 million dollars worth of carpets to a rich Russian who will give them as presents to the directors of his company. I will head back to Madrid today to grab my bike for the next adventure. There are strikes at Madrid airport so I can’t take my bike on the plane, so the adventure has already begun. I have no idea how to get to Paris by 9am tomorrow morning with my bicycle but I’m sure it will work out, because honestly, life always does.
I have water in my eyes as I wave goodbye to the Mediterranean Sea because I don’t know when I will return, but I do know that under those neon blue edges, the pebbles continue to roll their clockwork magic.