Endless walking and the eternal flames

We thought we would take on the ruins on the second day but ended up a hiking trail, part of the Lycian Way, the 540-km trail along the ancient coast of Lycia – one definite thing on my bucket list. Since we had water with us – as well as chocolate – we abandoned the old ruins in preference for a short but quite good walk away from the buzz of the beach. According to the timestamps on my photos, we apparently did about three hours walking, more or less. We definitely came across more ‘serious’ hikers who were armed properly for the long haul, even in spirit as some of them went along singing as loud as they can.

Weird trees among other things
Weird trees among other things

Escaping civilisation
Escaping civilisation
Lycian ruins
Lycian ruins

Starving, we headed to one of the beach restaurants, where ended up becoming a regular there during the short time there. Let me just tell you though, when you order spaghetti and tomato sauce, well you don’t actually get anymore more than spaghetti and tomato sauce.

Embracing my new vegetarian self.
Embracing my new vegetarian self.

Further down, the beach was the Olympos Lodges Hotel, a bit fancier than our pension, especially with their beach huts. We sneaked into one for a nap but then I started feeling guilty about being there – this is what being shooed away from beachfront hotels in Mauritius all your life turns you into – so we ordered some çay. The waiter probably thought he was being clever when he asked for 10 TL for our two teas. After a short heated exchange, we managed to get the price down to 5 TL which I still think is a rip off for tea in Turkey. We sipped our teas and napped – attempted to in my case.

Cosy beach huts, anyone?
Cosy beach huts, anyone?

We headed back to get ready for our coming nocturnal adventure: to go see eternal flames on Mount Chimaera, located at the other end of Çıralı, the neighbouring village. Warm clothes were definitely a must; I was definitely grateful for my jacket on the way back. Since we were going to miss dinner time at our pension, we stopped for some gözleme, Turkish pancakes, before heading back to the beach. Usually they are salty but in Olympos, the sweet options available were quite a welcoming change.

The way to Çıralı was quite straightforward: just follow the shoreline. While the village wasn’t that far, it was quite a challenge to find an even pace on the not-so-sandy beach, at least for me anyway. We left just before sunset, at around 6 pm, which meant that most of our walking was done in the dark. It also meant creepy shadows, just out of spooky film. We stopped at a market for some drinks for the long way ahead and finally some more tea at the foot of the mountain. We rented a torch although we realised that we didn’t actually need any for the way up. The temple of Hephaistos, the blacksmith of the Greek gods hence associated with fire due to this, can usually be seen during the climb but of course, we didn’t see get to see anything as it was too dark. The torch was too blinding for the climb and the moon was doing a much better job at keeping us from falling down. The way down, now, was completely different: I would probably have cracked opened my skull on a rock while falling if we didn’t have that torch.

For some reason, I love this grainy photo...
For some reason, I love this grainy photo…
The sun setting over Olympos
The sun setting over Olympos

Three hours of almost non-stop walking and we were finally at the eternal flames. We both expecting the whole thing to be much bigger but it didn’t mean it was any less magical. We weren’t the only one to have had the idea of coming here at night. Most of the flames were already “occupied” so we were a little bit further up, lay on the ground and watched the stars while we waited for the crowd to dissipate a little bit. We were even spoiled by a shooting star.

A series of flames on Mount Chimaera
A series of flames on Mount Chimaera
Never ending burning...
Never ending burning…

The temperature definitely dropped a little bit at some point, by which most people had already left except for one group who was especially loud and not very good at singing. We moved down, to one of the flames, to get warmed up and finally take in this queer phenomenon of nature. This very spot is apparently largest venting of abiogenic methane on solid Earth, which sounds quite impressive when you say it. We were joined a little while later by the said loud group who came up for pictures and ended up being in all of them. I think a few weeks later, they’ll be wondering why on earth there are two foreigners in the midst of all their pictures.

I think it must have been at least two in the morning when we finally left. The people working at the ticket booth and the shop were definitely waiting for us to come down to close and go back home. We bought some ice cream for the way but even that didn’t make the whole walk back any easier. I was definitely dragging my feet by the time we reach the beach. We thought we would sleep in the beach huts for a while but we only lasted an hour. Out of nowhere, the wind started getting stronger and it definitely got too cold to be outside. We had to crawl under the gates to go out since the beach closed at 10 pm (from what I remember) and it was such definitely such a nice feeling when my head hit my pillows.

The manager, in the morning at breakfast, told us that we must be the first people to have taken so long to go there and back. Usually people just go for a picture and come back, rather than staying five hours up in the mountain. It was definitely worth the walk and lack of sleep. The next time I’m going, because of course, there’ll be a next time, I’m taking marshmallows with me.

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