Yesterday we turned around. Patara is to be our southern most point. But it’s beach is impressive enough to warrant such a distinction.
We woke up and enjoyed our breakfast with local tomatoes and local honey. The honey was particularly good. It’s harvested in October from late flowering trees. The trees have little pollen and so the honey has less sugar and more of a rich caramely taste. It was extremely good. From there we had heard of a secret entrance to the beach which didn’t involve paying anyone any money! So we set out to find it.
The town is very small and everywhere we went we passed old hotels that had fallen into dissuse and new hotels being put up. Eventually we made it to the dirt road leading to the beach. Our little Renault handled the road well enough and pretty soon we were at one of the most amazing lookouts I have ever beheld. We were on the edge of a rocky pine forest ascot gave-way to monstrous sand dunes undulating down to the clear azure water. We could see the twenty kilometers of beach stretch across the sea and the ruins of Patara being swallowed by the sand. It is quite a dramatic view.
Running down to the beach was pretty fun too. The soft sand rewarded leaping off drop offs and running full tilt down the dunes. And when we got to the beach it was nearly abandoned. We played in the sea, again doing some body surfing. I think some of the waves were actually big enough to surf with a board this time out. So we played in the surf, then warmed up in the sun to play in the surf some more. In the back of our minds was the trek back to the car.
When we decided to head back we had some route finding to do. The way we came down was totally unsuitable to climb back up. The soft shifting sand would make climbing up a nightmare. We ended up trying to stick to the weedy grasses growing out of the sand in places as well as the gardens of rocks that made up some of the low-points of the dunes. I think it was a 45 minute trek back in the sand under the blazing sun. But a towel around my head and the Mediterranean dripping off our skin made it a pretty painless challenge. When we got beck it was off to Saklikent Gorge to do some canyoning!
Lonely Planet had this blurb about how there was guided canyoning in the gorge and there were fixed ropes and leaping and climbing and all that great stuff. When we got here: not so much. But the gorge is very impressive. The camp is at the bottom of a mountain range which ends here is a sheer cliff climbing 300meters into the air. And like some giant forced one strong axe blow into the cliff the gorge empties its waters onto the plains.
I have never seen a 300 meter gorge so steep. It’s really astounding to look at. I was disappointed that there is no real Canyoning but the camp offered a “sunset tour” to the top of the cliffs. We figured it would be a short drive we could do on our own but elected to spend the 20lira anyway. I guess because we love spending money.
Turns out it was not a short drive; it was a steep, brutal hike! Our 20 lira didn’t buy us a car ride up but a guide for a 2 hour tour of the top of the gorge. It was wonderful!
He immediately set a pretty withering pace but it was the “sunset tour” and we had to get up and back before the sun set. I imagine it’s done at sunset more to avoid the heat than to admire the view. We started on a very badly deteriorated road and walked past some of the best climbing I have ever seen. The faces here are extraordinary. There is evidence of people going up some of the cracks but the faces look untouched. At some point this is going to become an amazing climbing destination. Assuming the Turkish heat and the Turkish cold don’t make climbing unpleasant for 10 months of the year.
We continued up, at the previously mentioned withering pace, to where the road gave way to dirt path and where dirt path gave way to a steep rocky scramble. Here is where I want to mention how incredibly impressed I am with how Sarah handled the hike: she destroyed it! I was seriously flagging. Three years drinking beer and never leaving the city in SF have taken their toll on my fitness. But Sarah was right there keeping pace, cruising up the steep path. So impressive!
Eventually we reached the plateau. It was made up of these crazy rocks. I don’t know what they are but the rain wears them into sharp edges and you can see the rivulets where the water runs off them. I guess the softness of the rock is why the gorge is so steep. It’s quite surreal.
Our guide (I really wish I could remember his name) brought us to more and more impressive vantage points of the gorge, of the valley, of the camp and of the mountains. It was really quite breathtaking. The gorge at the widest point we saw it took a second or two to echo our voices back, which is like 1 or half a k? At the narrowest it was almost instantaneous. The narrowest was right over the camp and the wall was so sheer you could drop a rock 300 meters down into the river below. It was amazing.
The hike down was without incident, we stumbled across some wild goats our guide tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to talk to (he did speak better goat than English). And we also picked some wild Rosemary and other great smelling herbs that were growing wild.
At the bottom we had the restaurant to ourselves for a tasty trout dinner. After that we chatted to the only other people staying here: a couple and their young child from Vancouver. They are going to school in Edinburgh and camping their way across Turkey for a month.
They said the trek up the canyon is pretty cool so maybe there is still hope for that leg of the adventure. We shall see after a shower and some breakfast! Seems like Saklikent Gorge might be worth the trip after all.