Personal experience of the hike: Quarantine on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea

RUBRIC: Travel to a pandemic Author: Yana

In the spring, copywriter Yana planned to go hiking in the mountains of Turkey - but ended up in self-isolation in a resort village on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

For March 2020, friends have planned a commercial hike along the Lycian Trail in Turkey. The western part of the route was familiar to me, and this time I wanted to go east. The pandemic that was raging “out there” did not seem to be the reason that could disrupt my plans.

Flight to Turkey

The adventures began already at the airport: it was fun to run through the empty halls of the airport and shoot a story that we are in the safest place in the city, because on March 17, very few people flew abroad. The temperature was measured on the plane, and we flew happily to the warm sun of Antalya.

Our hostel was located in the old Kaleici area, which is usually packed with tourists. But this time the shutters of the houses were closed, and the tables near the cafes were empty. We were expecting a group of tourists in a week, so we left for the route, and upon our return, we did not recognize the city at all. Banners were posted everywhere with warnings about the terrible virus and instructions on how to behave in public places.

Banners were posted everywhere with warnings about the terrible virus and instructions on how to behave in public places.

“The pandemic that was raging“ out there ”did not seem to be the reason that could disrupt my plans."

Tired and scared, we made our way to the hostel where our belongings were kept. The owner, backing into the yard, guiltily handed over the packages and asked to leave the territory. In Turkey, a self-isolation regime was declared, and hostels, according to the law, could no longer receive guests. Cancellations fly to our tour, everything collapses. We find a hotel that is ready to enter us and think about what to do next.
rent a house in Turkey and wait out quarantine in a quiet city by the sea

Flight to Turkey

On the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey

Bicycles on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey
I don't want to take the first ticket that comes home - it's scary to spend the last money on a non-existent flight. The guys decide to rent a house in Turkey and wait out the quarantine in a quiet city by the sea. I have no money to rent an apartment, no laptop to find a remote job. The only thing that remains is to go hiking. In the morning our paths diverge: the guys leave to live in Fethiye, and I go to Goynuk Park, from where the road to the mountains begins.

Alone on the trail

During five nights in the Lycian forests, I met two foreigners on different parts of the route: Stephen from London and Rebecca from Australia. They, like me, could not fly home. Rebecca, collecting daisies, said that this is the best time for walking - no crowds of tourists!

I didn't have a power bank, so I charged my phone at the rare shops along the way and kept it off most of the time. I remember the evening when completely exhausted, I set up a tent near the stream in anticipation of a hot dinner. Alas, all the wood was wet. In addition, I found a tick on the body. I had to quickly turn on the Internet and google how to properly get the bloodsucker out. Going online led to a mountain of messages from relatives and friends from Russia, all of them were about one thing: "Things are bad, the coronavirus is not a joke, come back home by any means." These messages struck me as funny. What is the crown? I am in the middle of the forest, and a tick has stuck into me. Dental floss helped out - I made a loop and escaped from the terrible beast. I put him in a shampoo jar.

According to my experience, you cannot do without a special rescue kit on a hike. Think about it, the first thing that comes to mind is a jackknife, followed by a compass (otherwise how can we find northwest or southeast?), Then perhaps we should take a lantern ... and so on.

Emergency multi-functional survival kit
Emergency multi-functional survival kit - everything you need for survival in one kit! Having such a set would greatly simplify my trip.

The next morning, the path went up and went around the Takhtalidag mountain, its height is 2365 meters above sea level. Usually, tourists include the ascent of Tahtali as part of the route: the backpacks are left at the foot and in four hours they make the ascent and descent. I wanted to get up, but the weather was bad that day: I hurt my hand and almost got lost in the clouds at the pass. This happened because I passed the directional arrow into the forest, lined with stones. The trail is well marked with paint throughout the entire route, but there are blind spots, so before the hike, you need to download maps and keep your phone charged. Don't do as I do - arm yourself with power banks!

With each new village, the joy of travel disappeared. The villages were deserted. At first, it seemed that everyone just parted, until somehow I saw the shadow of a boy running through the tightly curtained window - this made it even more creepy. The first days of the journey I wanted to talk to people, learn the news, but I frightened them: some tactfully kept their distance, others shouted "crown!", Waved their hands, and shouted for me to leave. I had nowhere to go - only forward.

At the edge of the forest, I met a man with a little puppy running around him.

- This is Tommy, - Ramon introduces us, - Tommy is my best friend.

Ramon and Tommy are the first and only ones who greeted me with smiles on the way to the Beydzhik village. We drank tea, discussed hunting dogs, Rameau gave a piece of paper with his number "in case of problems," and then offered to throw it to the village. There was a double-barreled shotgun in the back seat of the car. At the village, Rameau presented fruit as a gift and we said goodbye. When the women in the mountains waved their hands, refusing to speak, the man with the gun and the dog gave the necessary warmth. The pandemic has shown that to see each other without the usual masks, it is enough to wear medical ones.

The eastern part of the route ends with a descent to the sea to the village of Cirali. I decided to rest there for a couple of days and then wander among the sea and mountains. Searching for accommodation on Airbnb returned no results. I just walked, looked into the yards of the campsites, and asked if it was possible to stop. The last campground marked on the map was refused, but they whispered that the neighbors were accepting everyone. So I ended up at Orhan's campsite. 

camping near Orhan

Camping Cirali

A place for a tent at Çıralı Camping Bungalow costs € 5, a bungalow - € 8. There was no mood to bargain, and after five nights in a tent, I preferred a bungalow with clean sheets. And the next day, Turkey announced the suspension of transport between the provinces. Now, to get from Antalya province to the airport of Mugla province, it was necessary to obtain a special permit from the embassy and present it to the police at the checkpoints. It became unsafe to continue on the road.

legalized my stay in Cirali

Turkish cuisine

Mountains in Turkey Camping Chirli

Ancient Bridge in Turkey Camping Chirli

Nature in Turkey Camping Chirli

Mountain Nature in Turkey Camping Chirli

Life and cultural program

The camping is located a five-minute walk from a sea beach over three kilometers long. The beach is on the list of specially protected areas due to the Red Book loggerhead turtles that come to Cirali to lay their eggs. In the spring it was impossible to observe how the turtles hatch, but I appreciated other features of the place.

Quaint trees grow on the coast, and in the southern part of the beach near the mouth of the Geku stream are the ruins of the ancient city of Olympos. Over the years, the city has been raided by pirates and Arabs. In the Roman period, it reached its peak, and in the Byzantine period, it was abandoned. I could not get through the main entrance, but I jumped over a dried-up river and made my way to the ruins along a wild path. I discovered the remains of the fortress walls, the colonnade, the remains of buildings overgrown with greenery. She lingered with a book on the steps of the ruins of the theater. True, on the way back, I still met the police. They explained that due to the coronavirus, it is impossible to visit the beach and the surrounding area. They warned that next time there will be a fine of 400 liras (€ 41). So I had to look for a new place to swim. Orhan spoke about a secret black sand beach located on the Lycian Trail on the way to Tekirova (36.43343 30.48034). It takes about an hour of trekking to get to the bay from the campsite, but it's worth it!

Being in Turkish self-isolation, most of all I missed the paper Russian-language books. Once on the beach, we met with Maria from St. Petersburg, who at that time had been living on the Mediterranean coast for about a year. She shared Orhan Pamuk's book “Istanbul. the City of Memories ”and suggested that it is most economical to stock up on food in the resort village at the market, which is open only on Mondays during the pandemic. Having learned about this, every week I jumped on my bike and went for cheap vegetables, fruits, olives, cottage cheese, and herbs. So the days passed: Orhan allowed me to ride a bike, I had a book about the history of my beloved city and access to inexpensive tasty food.

Then Maria told how she and her husband fry marshmallows in the fires of the Chimera. The Turks call this place Chimera Yanartash, and it is also located on the territory of Cirali. A natural fire has been burning on the slope of the mountain for several thousand years: natural gas comes out of the slope, which ignites in the air. Several dozen of these torches are constantly burning there. According to legend, the Greek hero Bellerophon freed the inhabitants of Lycia from the fire-breathing monster Chimera. He buried the chimera just on this very slope - that's why fires appear, emerging from the ground.

The road up the mountain is equipped with garbage cans. Even in a pandemic, a security guard monitors orders and cash registers. I had no money, and he agreed to a deal - on the way back I will grab a couple of bags of garbage. So I managed not only to admire the lights and the panorama that opens from the mountain but also to make this unique place a little cleaner.

Nature in the mountains in Turkey

Clouds in the mountains in Turkey

Turkish cuisine

Orkhan once said that at such an incomprehensible time I should not spend time alone and began to invite me to the table: to drink coffee with a cupcake prepared by his mother, and to chat about everything in the world. Socialization was beneficial and I developed an interest in traditional Turkish cuisine.

Orhan's mother often pampered with treats: gözleme cakes, biscuit cakes with sesame seeds, spicy cream soups, dolma. Most of all I liked Kyser. We discussed the recipe with the hostess, and I often cooked this dish myself.

Kyser is a bulgur-based salad with parsley, tomato paste, green onions, garlic, tomatoes. The salad is dressed in olive oil, lemon juice, and spices - salt, pepper, paprika, and mint. For beauty, we added pepper and lettuce. Now I often cook kısır for my boyfriend and dream of one day going with him to his favorite places in Turkey to make new culinary discoveries.

Turkish cuisine

Turkish market

Ascent and departure

Irises were already blooming in Cirali, and flights were still canceled. On April 10, people from the coast moved towards Istanbul, hoping to get on an export flight to Moscow, when suddenly a curfew was imposed in Turkey. The surprise resulted in queues at bakeries and the cancellation of a flight to Russia - less than 24 hours before departure. Since then, curfews on weekends and holidays have become commonplace - the streets were patrolled by police, it was possible to leave strictly to the store and back. Sitting locked up in a bungalow and endlessly reading messages in the chat was unbearable, and I decided to isolate myself for the next four days of quarantine in the mountains. The weather in April was good, the snow on the top of Takhtalidag melted. I agreed with Orhan that I would be back in three days, packed my backpack, and set off on the road early in the morning. She crossed the already familiar roads and by five in the evening was at the edge of the forest, where she met Ramona and Tommy. There was no one in the summer house, which meant that I would spend the next few days alone.

In the morning I climbed the mountain. Clouds floated around, and it was the best self-isolation I could imagine. Having gone down, I collected dry needles to get fire and make a cup of coffee. I barely had time to write to my relatives that I had successfully descended from Takhtala when the phone was discharged. Ahead were two days of silence and solitude with nature - a forced, but such a wonderful retreat.

Climbing the mountains of Turkey