Tuesday, April 1, 2014

No More Lycian Way Trail, Turkey, Day 20, 28 March 2013

We left the trail behind and decided to enjoy the rest of Turkey as tourists on vacation.

Yes, of course we tried the Raki!

We escaped from Finike so we wouldn't be tempted to try restarting the hike.  Initially we thought we'd go chill at the beach at Cirali next to Olympos.  Maybe we'd get a third wind and try the trail again from there?  Well, a funny thing happened when we got off the bus at the turnoff to Cirali.  As it was still early in the season, the dolmus buses weren't running down the steep, long road to Cirali regularly.  We waited at the bus stop at the highway pathetically trying to hitchhike for probably an hour. Nothing.  Just as we had a promising prospect of a ride, two other backpackers stepped off the highway bus, casually waived their hand at the car we were trying to get, and poached our ride, just like that!  They sort of noticed us as they were getting in the car, and halfheartedly offered to get out of the car, but we were over it. We were in the backcountry hiking mindset and not in the traveler "backpacking" mindset yet. (After spending so much time in the actual wilderness, I hate using the term "backpacking" to describe touristing around catching busses, as in "backpacking through Europe") Dismayed, we decided to cut our losses and head for Antalya for a few days to get back on our traveling feet.

Antalya is Beautiful

Antalya was a wonderful city to visit and a good place to decompress from the trail.  Lots of amenities like cheap pansiyons and good food and plenty of things to see.  The Antalya Museum is not to be missed, and after such a historical trek, the exhibits really coalesced the essence of the sights we had just walked through day after day for a couple of weeks....Huge marble statues of gods, emperors, and other great stuff, or whatever was left after the British Government poached most of the artifacts for the British Museum in London....Check it out. They didn't get it all...

The beach between Olympos and Cirali
After a few days in Antalya, we decided we really wanted that Mediterranean beach vacation before we headed to inland Turkey.  So we jumped on the bus and headed back to Cirali to give it another look. And boy are we glad we did!

We met an English couple on the bus who were determined to continue their trek along the Lycian Way. They had been doing the trek in sections every year, rather than thru-hiking in one season as we had attempted. We commiserated with them on the bus ride. It was great to see how enthusiastic they were about getting back on the trail, especially since we didn't share their enthusiasm and so were not tempted to restart our hike. Good for them for the perseverance though.

We got off the bus and soon after caught a ride with a guy who ran a restaurant and pansiyon in Cirali.  Of course we had a great lunch at his place.

The mysterious Chimaera
We managed to rent bicycles and ride over to the Chimaera just in time for the evening twilight.  It was a great time to see this wonder. 

Tree house dining in Cirali
After our evening with the Chimaera, we had a late supper at one of the treehouse restaurants in Cirali - great food and a great spot to enjoy the evening.

We're finally on vacation in Cirali!
We even finally got a sunny day at the beach!  It was the day we were going to leave Cirali to somewhere else. But because the sun was bright and the sand felt good between our toes, we decided not to be fools on April Fools Day, and stayed for another beer and extra day relaxing at the beach!

Konya, Turkey - Mevlana Museum, Lodge of Whirling Dervishes
We finally left Cirali and caught a bus back to Antalya. We wanted to see Cappadocia.  Turns out a bus to Konya, a hotel room there, followed by a bus onward to Cappadocia was our route. We managed to catch a bus that same afternoon, so avoided another night in Antalya. Sometimes you just gotta get while the gettin's good. We weren't sure what we were getting ourselves into with Konya but it was easy to get around the town and find lodging.

Konya is famous for having the lodge of the Whirling Dervishes at the Mevlana Mosque/museum. We made sure to go have a look since we were in town.

Konya and the Mevlana mosque (with it's own box containing some beard hair of Mohammed!) was really the only place in Turkey where we felt out of place as non-religious westerners. This place is a huge Muslim pilgrimage site, so full of tourists of a more sober, shall we say, persuasion. It was more difficult to find a beer (we had to scout down some of the back alleys to find the Efes sign). Clearly the pilgrims to Mevlana were somewhat dismayed that we were there. Robin tried covering her head, but then she saw that the security guard, a woman, wasn't covering her hair, so she didn't, but then it seemed people were angry, so we had to go. It was really uncomfortable...

Yet, our lodging hosts were perfectly friendly and outgoing and not once did we feel threatened.
Incidentally we had to spend some time in the Konya bus station trying to figure out our next bus.  We ended up walking back and forth among the station agents.  We gave up on schlepping our backpacks everywhere and eventually just set them on the bench in the middle of the station.  We didn't babysit them.  We didn't tag-team wandering around while the other watched the bags.  We just set them there and left them while we wandered around figuring things out. We always felt so safe and secure in Turkey that we just didn't worry about locking our stuff in our arms at every moment, and of course nobody cared about our stuff.  Perfectly safe.  Naive?  I don't know. As long as you have your passport and cash card with you, it's all replaceable anyway. Turkey was one of the safest feeling places we had ever been.

Hiking around Cappadocia

After some more bus riding, we made it to Cappadocia, surely one of the highlights of Turkey.  We wanted to see the sights, do some more hiking and see what it was all about. The weather was cool, overcast and blustery, but the hiking was great and the scenery awesome. What we didn't know was that all of the people there were waiting for the weather to improve so they could go ballooning. 

More Cappadocia Hiking sights

Lots of caves and old churches in the rocks around Cappadocia.

Coincidence?  Blasphemy? Does Robin have something important to say?

Yay! A camel (poor beast)

Touristing is serious business

We even signed up for the "Green Tour" offered by so many companies in Goreme.  It was a very interesting tour including the underground city and a very nice walk along the river.  And of course we met some great people also on the tour. 

No caption necessary
We weren't quite prepared for the open-air museum though.  A horde of tourist buses and too many people. It was like a slap in the face after our weeks of hiking with goats. We wandered off into the solitude of the surrounding hiking trails instead. We can't say we can even recommend the open air museum because of the masses, but to each their own I guess. We were part of the crowd ourselves!

Ballooning Cappadocia
The morning we were leaving Cappadocia, the weather finally cleared and it was balloon mania!  What a sight to wake up to so many balloons above. The ballooning seemed a bit expensive to us though, and we weren't tempted.

Lots of balloons!

Inside the Blue Mosque

Seeing as we hadn't decided what to do next, we opted for Istanbul, as you can get anywhere from there, plus it has weeks worth of sites itself. What a city!  So much to see and do. We found a great little hotel in the Sultanahmet area for our late'ish arrival, then had an amazing meal just around the corner. Things were looking pretty great, if much more expensive :)

Sadly, when we awoke the next morning we learned that a dear family member had passed away and we needed to fly back to the States right away. 

Outside the Blue Mosque
It's never easy to deal with grief, and trying to make last minute travel arrangements on a Sunday in a foreign country does not make it easier.  We did our best to enjoy our day in Istanbul under the circumstances.

We walked through the Blue Mosque and around the grounds of the Palace.  We went over to Taksim Square.  We were overwhelmed by the Sunday crowds.  The Grand Bazaar was closed.  We were worn out.  We went back to the hotel and worried about the unexpected flight home.

Not sure Chunk has a photo of bricks with a Mosque?

We didn't get to see Istanbul properly - but seeing as it's been there for thousands of years, it surely will be there for us to visit another time.  It's always great to dream about our next adventure!

Turkey was great.  Can't wait to go back. Go there.  It is amazing. The people are amazing.

One more word of advice: Absolutely DO NOT attempt to thru-hike the Lycian Way. The hiking sucks. It really does, a lot of the time. What makes it great are the people, sites, and goats. If you do some of the hike, you do NOT need a tent, as the only place that required camping was not scenic enough to justify the gear, so just skip that part.  Instead, do section day hikes, from Pansiyon to Pansiyon skipping the ridiculous parts of the trail. Meet the wonderful people of Turkey, enjoy the food and goat companions, look at the tombs littering the landscape, and you can't go wrong.

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