Monday, April 12, 2021

Üç bayan on the loose on the Karia Yolu

Pretty but scratchy
"Three ladies, aren’t you scared??" the farmer asked incredulously as he pointed us in the direction of the gate that led out of his field and onto the dirt road climbing out of Bağlarözü bay.

Used to getting such responses to our hiking adventures in Turkey, we scoffed amongst ourselves at the question. But had we known what we'd be getting into before we finally reached his farm, we might indeed have been a little trepidatious.

Our first hike on the Carian Trail as it winds its way around the Datça Peninsula in southwestern Turkey started off easily in the beachside village of Palamutbükü, following rural roads past newly tilled fields with chamomile flowers growing wild on their edges. The signpost for Knidos pointed us up a trail into the scrabbly hills, and then down again onto a rocky path overlooking the watery gradient of blues where the Aegean Sea blends into the Mediterranean.

It all seemed so easy
at the start... 
Somewhere around the halfway point of what was supposed to be a 7.5-hour hike on "a mix of path and dirt road undulating around the coast," I was brought up short. We must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. But how? A rocky slope rose up steeply to one side of the narrow path; to the other side, there was only the sea. Pausing to contemplate the situation, I leaned on one hand against the rock and realized there were red and white paint stripes blazed onto the stone right next to my palm. So we were still on the trail after all. But there was nowhere for me to step next.

Right beyond my feet, the path ended in a steep drop-off to the sea, where the incoming tide crashed against a large, jagged rock, thwarting any thought of jumping into the surf. I sat down and scooted myself as far over the edge as I could go while still holding on, but my feet still dangled above the slippery rock. Even if I could make it down without twisting an ankle, or worse, we would be in the sea, with who-knows-how-many similar maneuvers ahead.

The path was supposed
to go above the shore,
not in the sea...
I recalled seeing a dirt road branching off up over the hills some ways back – maybe we could scramble our way up to reach it? Neither option seemed great, but we had to choose one, so up we went, trying to pick our way along loose scree and around unforgiving scrub. The undergrowth released aromas of rosemary, marjoram, and lavender while sharp, hard branches of other plants scratched into our legs.

Judging by the gap in photos on my camera roll, it was a good two hours before we emerged onto the surprised farmer's land and were gratefully reunited with the fickle trail markers and (at least for a while) a wide road. As the daylight began to wane, shapes started to emerge from the rocky landscape we now shared with a few herds of goats – remnants of the city walls of ancient Knidos, our destination at last.

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