The town that I was told I would need “a maximum of two hours to explore” by the owner of the hostel in Fethiye, and that a blog I found said I could potentially get stuck here for weeks. I had no idea what to expect of the place, but decided to book two nights in which I could relax if there wasn’t anything to do.
After an annoying bus change in Burdur I arrived here at 8pm. Luckily the manager of the Lale Hostel came and picked me up from the bus station, as my phone maps didn’t give me the best directions. I was dropped at my room, which was a lot nicer than expected as I had booked a bed in an eight bed dorm, and received a bed in a family room, as no one else was booked in to the dorm. I settled in and had a chat to the manager in the common area, a very nice and cosy room overlooking the lake. He said that I was the first person to book a dorm bed in the last four weeks, hence the different bedroom. It sounded like many Turkish families make their way here during the winter, especially for the nearby ski resort, however generally backpackers and hikers make their way through in Spring and Autumn.
I decided to go in to town for dinner, and was extremely happy to find the place bustling with locals, a luxury which the tourist towns do not have especially at this time of the year. I was baffled as to why no one comes to this lovely town, and am also very grateful that they do not, as this has allowed the place to keep it’s authentic charm.
The first day had me climbing Sivri Daği mountain, and this is a real mountain with no proper trail to follow in some parts. The beginning involved walking up a road to Akpinar village, which I thought was the furthest part until I started walking up the dirt/mud road up to the mountain. This area has sheep and cows grazing and I met a shepherd along the way who was moving his cows. Goats are complete with bells, and this combined with the singing birds made for some peaceful music. I can’t say the same for the walk, which became harder the higher I went. Eventually I came to the real challenge, about 300m from the top of the mountain, where mud turns to shale and I had to climb up much of the rock using my hands to keep from slipping. The top felt like a huge victory, and the view was the most incredible I have seen yet. The lake below was an incredible blue and the rock added a rush of adrenaline with it’s dangerous banks.
Attraction: Sivri Daği Mountain
Getting there: Walk south from the ‘tourist area’ until the last block of apartments where you will find a sign pointing to Akpinar village. Follow this until about 200m before the village and take a right at the road with a sign for the mountain. Follow this up and follow it to the mountain. The last 300m are steep and up rocks with no defined path. It is not a path for the faint hearted or unfit.
Climbing down was more difficult than climbing up, but twice as fun. The rock gave way beneath my feet and I slid down much of the rock. I made sure to have my gloves on and took it as a thrilling ride. Lucky I am a Capricorn goat as my trust in my own legs and feet is pretty good. While this was the most challenging part physically, my body threatened to give up on me on the way down the dirt path as it was exhausted after the huge walk up, and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I finally arrived at the village in the mountain and walked through as I was previously told that there was tea and gözleme to be found in the village. I couldn’t find it and started to head back down the mountain when a local told me “kahve” (coffee) and pointing back the way I came. I clarified pointing that way. Evet (yes), then hand directions for go left. Fantastic, so I headed back through the village and found myself at the most beautiful little restaurant perched with the perfect view of the lake. One tea and gözleme later I was ready to start down the mountain again. Down the mountain a couple must have felt sorry for me, so picked me up and with broken Turkish I told them I was going to Eğirdir, and so I had my first hitchhiking ride.
Day two and the clouds had consumed the lake, making for unpleasant hiking conditions. I was pretty sore from climbing the mountain the day before so it was almost a welcome bit of rain that kept me inside until mid way through the day. I went for a quick walk around the island – what could be described as the tourist area – which consists of hotels and restaurants. I was very happy I had chosen not to stay here as it is a fairly inconvenient walk to town from here. It was very nice for a quick walk though, and the lack of people there meant that I could sit in peace for as long as I liked.
After reading a book for a while I decided to try the local ‘delicacy’ cheese and sugar pide. I found a restaurant that makes this and went there to see what it would be like. The sugar was overpowering and very generous in it’s application. I hardly tasted the cheese for the sugar, and looking at the sugar cubes given for my tea I couldn’t help thinking that I would have been better off just eating a handful of those. I have generally been eating little sugar, so my head was spinning from a sugar high by the time I left. It was a good warm up for the coming days when I will be celebrating my friends and my birthdays. I also have eaten mainly savoury since being here so I figure I should try the many sweet treats Turkey has to offer in the next week.
From here I had intended to continue my sugar binge and buy some baklava, however my stomach did not agree, so I went for a walk north of town instead. I walked along the shore for a while finding many restaurants and the army base, before finding a peaceful area to sit and ponder life. It was a perfect little area on the rocks, with two little fishing boats bobbing up and down. Looking south there is no evidence of civilisation as the angle of the mountains from here blocks out the many towns surrounding the lake.
The next day I decided that a bike ride to the Kovada National park would be nice. I realised that it was 64km and I should have probably turned back in the first two minutes when I realised that the bike was too small for me. Nonetheless I continued to ride wherever the signs directed me. I rode for hours and hours through orchids and mountains. I stopped several times to see if I was any closer and to let my body rest. At several points I was wondering whether I should contact the hotel owner to pick me up. I found the turn off for the national park and still the ride went forever. I stopped by the side if the road near a lake to rest, eat and contemplate turning back. I had one last bit of inspiration and decided to continue on, to finally find the entrance to the park. It was wonderful, although possibly not worth the total 5 hours it took to ride there and back. I will definitely get a car next time as I didn’t have a lot of time to appreciate the park.
Attraction: Kovada National Park
Getting there: Ride around the lake to the south, following it around until you reach the third petrol station. There is a sign here for Kovada Gölü Milli Parkı, follow this for 25 km, and turn at the wooden sign about 1km south of the Kirinti town.
Cost: Entry to the actual park is free. My bicycle cost 35 TL for the day.
The park was filled with many species of birds and was completely devoid of humans bar the environmental officers that worked there. The ride home was hellish, with rain coming down on me for part of the way and having to ride right next to a road barrier. I was mid way back when I realised a heap of messages on my phone so decided I better check them. It was many people messaging me to make sure I was alright and not in Istanbul, as there had been a terrorist attack earlier in the morning which killed several tourists. At this point I had three things going through my mind. Was my friend who lives in Istanbul safe? Were the fellow travellers I had met safe? And, this bike ride isn’t as bad as being as being a victim of a terrorist attack so the pain from riding such a bad bike over such a long way became less. I finally made it ‘home’ and could just walk. Luckily the lovely man at the guesthouse made me sit down and have a cup of tea before I had a shower, making me come back to reality a little. I thought a peaceful night lay ahead, until I woke up at 12am from leg pain. I could hardly move my legs and when I did the pain was immense, a small price to pay for the adventure of being in such a beautiful place.
The next day had me on a bus trip to Cappadocia. This is an 8 hour journey and was a great chance for me to relax after the crazy ride to the National Park!