The unbelievably boring trio of people we’d met the day before had led us to the Fethiye Guesthouse. The owner uncannily resembled the Dude. (Ahmet Lebowski.) Two humans were in the outdoor-visqueened-off dining area, John and Cat, from real english speaking countries. It was exciting. John was an IT person from I want to say Tennessee who had saved forty thousand to “save up for a house, a family, other life things” and then instead just left, and Cat was a Kiwi in between internvolunteerships doing disaster preparedness training. They had a car. They had also invited us, over wine and cheap food, to explore the region with them tomorrow. We readily accepted. I had missed the invitation because I’d gone to bed. Jari informed me of the invitation the following morning. Anticipating such an arrangement, I had set my alarm to ring at 8:30. Ernie heeds the travel gods.
First we got into their little white lada and drove around Fethiye. We stopped in an alley made from low white walls. A long staircase went up to the cliff walls which rose above the town. We climbed. We posed. We saw the king tombs. Man-sized openings into the rock wall, with carved archways and lots of graffiti. “Seni Seviyorum Zeynep,” that sort of thing. Imagine the facade of the parthenon carved flat into a wall and you’ve got it. Sort of. The view was magnificent. We overlooked the bay from the king tombs.
“What’s next?” I asked when we got back into the car.
“There’s a big gorge to check out,” John said. “And the city of Tlos.” I tapped an empty water bottle at my feet. We drove out of town–the roads got more and more rural. Cat’s iPhone directions led us astray. We drove through a dirt neighborhood, lined by plastic greenhouses and fallen concrete pillars, to get back on the highway. On one of the rusted powerlines, Jari spotted an OLUM TEHLIKELI sign with a cartoon skull. Death will result.
“This skull is different from the ones I saw back in town,” Jari commented.
“I think it’s non-standard,” I said, and kicked at the water bottle. John and Cat consulted their iPhone.
We made it to high savannah, with a small two-lane byway mounting and curving through low hills. It was dry, hot, and sunny. Our road carried us through some flat villages and outside of town to a tall rising cliff. I began to ask where the gorge was, and then saw it–a cleft in the rocks which split it from top to bottom. It was really awesome. We drove up and saw there was some tourist development around it–a restaurant, a parking lot, some shops–but all were empty for the winter. It was January, after all, even if it felt like summer to the Alaskans in the back.
We parked wherever and went into the ticketing area. We saw that the boardwalk which ran inside the gorge was locked with an iron portcullis. Jari and John climbed over the turnstiles and talked about another way around. I climbed over and then swung on the outside of the portcullis to the other side of the boardwalk. The others followed. We walked under a traffic bridge and into the gorge.
Grey stone rose on either side of us. Slate-colored water stormed below us. Our boardwalk went to a little riverbank with benches and a tree garden, and then stopped. We wanted to walk further into the gorge, but the riverwater was running to high to keep going. Jari and John waded into the water. Cat took pictures, I looked at trees and then climbed a tree overhanging the water. We were completely alone in a gorge in the shade with a river and some trees. Up near the top, the sunlight fell on a carved-out section of rock, and a stout little tree poked out. Go tree!
Anyways there wasn’t anything else to do so we left. We came out to the parking lot and played in the river some more. Jari and I found a tree, a pomegranate tree, overfull with ripe rotting pomegranates, most of which had smattered to the ground in wet red blobs. We threw them at each other for awhile, like fruit baseball. We noticed that a dirt road ran alongside the river. A tractor with some country folk went down, and we decided to follow them. We drove very slowly, as the road got muddy and our car had no concept of what four wheel drive might be. The fields grew high with wheat. I felt like we’d accidentally gone into a mark twain rustic american fantasy. We followed the tractor around muddy curves. The children waved at us. I felt strange, since what were we even doing there. We crossed a little bridge over a tributary to an abandoned power plant, and decided to stop following the tractor family. We stopped the Lada. Cat took pictures. Jari and I hopped over the rusty iron pole wall and explored. The building was whitewashed and had more OLUM TEHLIKELI skulls, again different. The little tributary ran into a resevoir, overgrown with algae.
“Let’s throw something in,” I said.
“I bet that it would be like aliens to them,” Jari said. “like THIS IS NOT OF YOUR WORLD”
“How would their tiny little brains even begin to rationalize such a happening.”
“They might form a religion.” We threw in some sticks and rocks and rusty paint cans, and watched the tiny proto-catfish and frogs scuttle away from the impact zones. John got back in the car and we followed from the pond. We did a five-point turn, and drove slowly back along the rustic wheat mud river road. It was beautiful and quiet.
[side note: as I write this from my balcony in Rasimpasa, it is election season (it happens in 11 days) and occasionally a political van will drive by, telling people to vote for whoever. I know these vans pass not because I can see them (I am four stories up) but because they all broadcast a unique turk song. Can you imagine this happining in america? Vans driving around, playing rock songs written about Sarah Palin? This is truly a strange place.]
We started driving back to find the city of Tlos, but we saw a hand-painted sign which directed us towards a waterfall. We followed. Why not? We found ourselves looping through the hilly farmland, the ghost of the gorge rising in the distance. We found a bare dirt parking lot with an empty thatched-roof restaurant and a bathroom shack. A wooden staircase led down into a ravine.
We climbed down. The ravine was enormous–way larger than we expected. The farmland was so even for miles that it didn’t seem likely it could suddenly drop so far into the earth. It was never-never land inside. Impossibly lush and green. A spray of water ran through a hollow in a tree to the ravine’s floor below. At the bottom, the river ran up the ravine, and we found a wooden shelf full of rubber shoes. The waterfall was apparently 300 meters up the canyon. We found big bamboo river poles, put on the rubber shoes, and set out.
The canyon was narrow–we climbed boulders and improvised wooden bridges and fallen trees and I have never felt more like tarzan. All the while, the river ran between and beneath our feet. We waded through it. It would have been impossible, John commented, to do this in our regular shoes. We propped our river poles against the canyon walls for stability, sometimes through hanging vines or greenery. When we finally got to the waterfall, we were worn out.
It was spectacular. It felt sacred. The river spilled from above into our grotto, into the middle of a round pool. A fallen tree lay across the length of the grotto, some twenty feet up. A tire was wedged into the waterfall’s path.
We made our way back, mostly quiet. I wish everyone could do this expedition. It was the sort of grown-up version of a lot of adventures I’d dreamed about as a kid. Hike up a river canyon to a waterfall with river poles and rubber shoes. In my imagination something usually happens–something magical–when you arrive at the magical waterfall grotto with the tire in it, but in the real world there never is. You just hike up a river canyon with river poles and rubber shoes and see a magical waterfall grotto with the tire in it, and then hike back, and then take off your rubber shoes and set aside your rubber pole and then you remember it.
When we got to the top of the ravine again, back to the bare parking lot. Still nobody around for miles. We brought out our food and moved some tables and chairs up from the thatched-roof restaurant. The refrigerators also had some coke and beer in them, so we took those too. It was the best lunch. We snoozed in the restaurant’s hammocks until we heard the rumble of a tractor in the distance–and old woman came to the parking lot. The shack was hers, and she began doing stuff with the fields behind it. We put all the tables and chairs back and left.
We drove to Tlos, on a hill, but we were all pretty worn out. Tlos is an ancient greek city complex made of bronze-colored ruined stone amidst the pastures of a turkish village. We arrived first at a castle/tomb/hippodrome sort of arrangement. The castle steps rose from the ancient horse racing field, and an aqueduct-looking thing ran alongside it. A single cow was eating in the horse track. Some goats played near the king tombs. We all climbed to the top of the castle and just stared out at the plains and the mountains. It was sunny and hot and dry. It was so nice. Jari left first, then John. Both headed towards the amphitheatre. Cat stayed the longest. I followed the others.
Coming down, we discussed our options. Jari didn’t want to spend another night in Fethiye. Neither did I, but I was nervous about hitchhiking to the next town, wherever that might be. It was getting late, which meant getting dark. Jari convinced me and John to drop us off at an intersection near Fethiye. It was the crossing of two small highways. John and Cat unloaded our stuff from the car, our backpacks, and gave us a hug and facebook information, and sped off in the white lada. We watched them go. We took stock of our surroundings.
A middle-aged turk in a baggy suit, hunched over to the left, stood next to us, also hitchhiking. Behind us was a restaurant attached to something like a barn or a slaughterhouse or an animal jail. The smell was terrible. We both waved at the first car, and then looked at each other, and just started laughing. It felt freeing. After about fifteen minutes, the man in the baggy suit moved about fifteen feet down the road, to distance himself from us. He also managed to get a ride immediately afterwards. Who picks up an old turk in a baggy suit before two fresh-faced young american kids? We laughed about that too. We baa-aa-aaed at the lambs to entertain ourselves. Eventually we got picked up by a young man in a minivan driving to Kınık . We wanted to get to a coastal city of some sort, either Kalkan or the distant Kaş. He drove us along for about thirty kilometers, and then entered the city of Kınık. The first thing we saw were rows of long greenhouses, made orange by the setting sun. It felt industrial and strange. The road was set slightly higher than the ground level, so we could see miles of these things on either side. We drove at a crawl to the center of this town. By the time we had arrived, it was dark. Our driver bid us a fond farewell at the statue of Ataturk and we looked around. A few stray dogs, haggard and evil-looking, wrestled near the feet of the single building with lights on, a doner restaurant. Two men stood next to it, smoking. The buildings, dirty and black, loomed above three stories on all three sides of the intersection. We had absolutely no clue where to go next. I sort of wished he had left us on the highway at least.
I started up one of the roads. Jari followed and we found a bus station. We asked for the next bus to Kalkan, and they told us not until nine. It was five o’clock. We had four hours in this place.
“Okay,” I said, staving off the panic. “Let’s get a doner.”
We walked back along the industrial street to the Ataturk statue, and to the doner place. The doner man was laughing. He talked to us and the unsmiling smoking man. The haggard street puppies wrestled at our feet. We ordered our food, and the doner man kept laughing. He made sandwich after sandwich, and yet the restaurant was empty. We waited for maybe fifteen minutes, watching the puppies, the sandwich-making, the unsmiling smoking man, and just when I was about to crack they put sandwiches into our hands. A bus passed us.
“Shit!” I said, and took off after it. Jari followed. At the bus station it bore a large “Kaş” on the window. We got on and laughed and laughed and laughed and ate our toxic sandwiches.
“Imagine if we had had to stay there,” Jari said. It was the worst town. Kınık.