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Walk easy on Turkey’s newest long distance path

We had the Carian Trail, the latest, and the most formidable of Turkey’s new paths, twirling and twisting around the high and narrow Loryma Peninsula near Bozburun, all to ourselves.

Five new long-distance routes allow Turkey to lure visitors in the off-season, in autumn, winter and spring. We sampled the Bahceli to Taslica stretch of the Carian Trail.

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Climbing a steep slope on an empty hill in Turkey, we kept a close eye on Burak up ahead. Our guide to the country’s latest outdoor challenge, an ultra long-distance walk, he knew all the scratch-free ways through the wiry, scented, knee-high scrub. Besides, he had our elevenses in his backpack.

We paused to admire one of the many asphodels that emerge like a horticultural miracle from the hard, dry ground. Tall and thin, like magicians’ wands, with pretty miniature blue flowers, they grow out of big bulbs that manage to slumber un-shrivelled, and escape being eaten by porcupines, in the torrid July and August sun. That’s what you miss if you only visit Turkey in high summer.

Only an hour west of the frantic, flat-out, holiday resort of Marmaris, we had this five mile sampler of the Carian Trail, the latest, and the most formidable of Turkey’s new paths, twirling and twisting around the high and narrow Loryma Peninsula near Bozburun, all to ourselves. (The total length is 500 miles, and that would require several long holidays put together.)

Just below us was a line of deserted coves, well out of range of the Marmaris day-tripping boats. An enormous black bird described princely arcs over the cliffs. It was an eagle, but which one? Our bird book gave us a royal choice of three.

A yacht drifted out of a bay, on water like a flat, deep blue mirror. When it had gone, there was nothing on this unchanging coast to link it to now. The Roman poet Cicero crossed, from somewhere close to here, to nearby Rhodes to practice oratory on the beach. Returning today, he would hardly see a change.

These waters are rich in history. Somewhere out there they found the Serce Liman Brpnze Age wreck, one of the most important finds in the Mediterranean. In the cargo was tin from Afghanistan and copper and amber from Syria. It’s on show in the Underwater Museum in Bodrum.

We passed under a hill, crowned with powerful fortifications. Byzantine or Greek? Or older still? They stand high, haughty, and aloof, these ruins. They have withstood aeons of weather and earthquake. They will be here into the far-off future.  

Turkish tourism usually calls to mind comfortable hotel holidays, close to the beach, with balmy boat trips, jeep safaris and coach outings to fabulous archeological remains.

And for good reason. Visit in high summer, outside early morning and late afternoon, and you won't walk far in the burning sun. The best time is the blissful pre-dawn hour in the golden-creamy light, when the slightest countryside sound carries for miles in still, syrupy air.

The five new long-distance routes allow Turkey to lure visitors in the off-season, in autumn, winter and spring. We sampled the Bahceli to Taslica stretch of the Carian Trail in late September, when the temperature was a genial mid-20s C, under a benign sun. 

The regional government opened this epic trail in 2013. It meanders through South West Turkey, hugging the coast, linking small villages, ancient sites and olive groves, on paths and stone-paved roads. It strikes up into forests, and swoops down into quiet bays, following the sea edge. 
The trail honours the Carians, who lived here 3000 years ago. Their high time was during the rule of Mausolus. His tomb was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Burak was leading us over the traditional ways of local shepherds and beekeepers. Red and white flashes were painted on stones, trees and any handy unmovable object every 50 metres, sorting out tricky changes of direction.

Walkers settle any remaining navigational doubt by building up a cairn, a pyramid of stones. It’s the tradition that applies from Snowdon to the Himalayas. We added a symbolic pebble to reinforce the message of this Stone Age GPS.

Even in such a natural landscape, you see hints of human design. Where did those neat little trees with their welcome circle of shade, come from? Planted by a considerate shepherd? No idea. We took a welcome break under one. Burak shared his timeless traveller's picnic of nuts, dried apricots and figs.

We walked on, happy in our private time warp, somewhere between Alexander the Great and St Paul, who was shipwrecked on such a coast as this. Then something called us back to today. We rounded a hillside, and the path turned downhill, to the first sign of domestic life in hours. It was the strident, very late in the day crow of a cockerel from far across the valley.

Our final trial was a narrow, stony path between two stone walls, presumably meant for cows with rubber suspension in their hoofs. 

Then on into the tiny village of Taslica. In the only cafe, which, good to see, displayed the Carian Trail motif prominently in its window, alongside the map of the route, we discussed the day.

The standard ramblers’ statistics, of miles or hours, we decided, simply didn't fit. Instead we measured our section of the magnificent Carian as 10,000 breaths of pure sea and herb-infused air.


Factbox.

Carian Trail, cariantrail.com.
Turkey’s four other long distance footpaths are the Lycian Way, the St Paul Trail, the Kaçkar Mountains Trail, and the the Evliya Çelebi Way.

Gareth stayed in Söğüt at Yesil Ev, a group of three stone villas, rebuilt by the English
owner.
Yesil Ev is only a few metres from the Carian Trail, on a section of the path, leading, from Bozburun, directly up and then over a steep hill, from which the reward is a sumptuous view of the quiet bay at Söğüt, a fine example of the small seaside villages, still little-developed, around this area of coast.

Yesil Ev (can accommodate from two to twelve people - prices are inclusive of breakfast as well as afternoon tea and cake) is available though Airbnb.
https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/3675521?checkin=30-07-2015&checkout=31-07-2015&s=7d8f.

He also stayed at the Dionysos Estate, which can be booked through Exclusive Escapes http://www.exclusiveescapes.co.uk/properties/the-dionysos-estate

www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/3675521?checkin=30-07-2015&checkout=31-07-2015&s=7d8f.
www.exclusiveescapes.co.uk/properties/the-dionysos-estate
cariantrail.com.

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