We carry our packs to a dolmus stop. Dolmuses are a combination taxi, bus, and minivan. They run a standard route but will stop anywhere along the route if hailed. Dolmus also appears on most Turkish menus, where it refers to grape leaves stuffed with rice and delicacies. It’s the concept of being “stuffed” that the two uses have in common, so it’s not hard to imagine what the trip was like.
On the other hand, dolmuses are efficient, cheap, and a good way to force ourselves to learn a few basic Turkish phrases like, “Where is the bus to Göynük? How much does it cost?”
phrases come in handy on the outskirts of
that Göynük is not on the map that Kate Clow has supplied. And on a close reading of the text, Göynük is
simply listed as a good place to hike out for supplies – perhaps two or three
kilometers off the main trail. So we
actually have no idea exactly where in Göynük we should start. I’m hoping that we can just go to the town
center and start from there, but the driver asks for a specific location. I tell him we’re going to “Göynük Yayla” –
the high Göynük mountain pasture that is on the
Well, this is not exactly downtown Göynük, but we see a few some crude painted signs that say “to the waterfall” in German, and the driver seems pretty sure of himself, so we drag our packs out of the dolmus. The bus drives off, leaving us blinking in the hot sun.
Strapped into the packs, we begin marching along a dusty road toward the Germans’ waterfall. Immediately, we begin sweating seriously. This is dry country, and there’s a big difference between the temperature in sun and in shade. But the air is not as dry as the country. I estimate that humidity is in the 40 to 50% range – low enough so a good breeze brings refreshment, high enough so any exertion, especially in still air, quickly builds a saturated microclimate around our bodies. Our sweat no longer cools, it simply drips everywhere -- into our eyes (mixed for piquancy with sun tan lotion), down our backs, along our legs, and into our heavy boots and socks.
Of course, there’s one problem. We had planned to buy bottled water, bread, cheese, and a few other supplies in downtown Göynük. There aren’t any stores on the dirt road we’re following now. In fact, so far, there aren’t any buildings. We march on anyway. Perhaps we’ll find the center of town this way.
We don’t. But we do find Mr. Malik. Mr. Malik runs a inn (or pension) about twenty minutes’ walk down the road we are following. He speaks only a little English, but we get by in Turkish, German, and English, each of us trying to speak the other’s tongue and relying on German as a fallback. Mr. Malik is not a Turk, he says with emphasis. He’s a Macedonian, from the Balkans. He shows us the framed picture of his father, hanging on the wall above two wicked looking daggers that could double as swords and would come in handy if you had an elephant you needed to disembowel, quickly.
The old man looks like he knew how to handle the daggers, too. He stares fiercely out at the frame, piercing eyes above a thoroughgoing bandit’s mustache that must have been his pride and joy. “Why are you wimps sitting in a café when you’ve got mountains to climb?” he seems to say.
Well, for a start, because his son insists that we can’t get there from here. The trail is out – rockfalls or something. But Kate Clow’s book was published less than a year ago, and she doesn’t say anything about rockfalls. We invoke her authority, and Mr. Malik wavers. Or perhaps he sees that we’re going to try no matter what he says. He sells us water and fills a plastic bag with bread and goat cheese. As we leave, he waves warily. I suspect he’s worried about having to bring our bodies out next week, and who will pay for that?
We soon come up on a second pension and café – “Ali’s Garden Café.” It has a map out front for German hikers. It looks nothing like Kate Clow’s map, but after long study we conclude that Ali’s “Pfad No. 1” (Path No. 1) will take us to a place that also seems to be on her map and that avoids the waterfall that Mr. Malik assured us was a dead end. We march up the road, looking for Pfad No. 1 and grumbling about Kate Clow’s mapmaking and route descriptions, which have left us without a clue how to find her trail from Göynük.
We save some ire for the Turkish government. Ordinarily, we’d buy good contour maps of the route, and that would allow us to identify roads, rivers, mountains, and routes on our own from the map. But the Turkish government, which has such maps, refuses to release them to the public. National security, it says. Perhaps they’re afraid the Greeks will come back -- storming ashore to set up a Lycian National Liberation Front in the mountains -- and use the maps to launch raids on Göynük.
So, mapless, we march on, the sun falling heavier and heavier on the dusty white road. The way is still flat, running near a dry riverbed, but the ground is rising steeply all around. Soon we’ll have to launch ourselves on the real hiking. Right on schedule, a rough arrow painted on a rock points us off the road to Pfad No. 1. We cross the river, then a small open concrete irrigation channel, and the trail launches itself up the slope.
Now it’s really hot. The brush provides only occasional shade. The air is heavy and still. Our shirts sweat through, then our shorts. We have only two thoughts – putting one foot in front of the other and hoping to God we aren’t on the wrong damn trail. Because the only thing worse than grinding up this hill would be heading back down to start over somewhere else. On past vacations, we have hiked for an hour, taken a break, then hiked another hour. Now we can barely plod twenty minutes without a rest. Sitting in whatever shade we can find, we consult Kate Clow’s guide, which naturally describes this stretch of trail (if it is this stretch of trail) with the breezy fondness of a woman walking downhill. We don’t recognize any of the landmarks she ticks off on her jaunty descent. But Gordon points out that many of the trail markers match the red-over-white blaze depicted in Kate Clow’s book. This is comforting, though inconclusive. For all we know, that’s how all Turkish trails are marked.
As we keep stumbling up the mountain, Gordon begins to look bad – flushed and slowing, even though we stop often for water breaks. Around noon, after another break, he walks a hundred meters and stops dead. Heat stroke.
drop onto our packs and think. I jog
outside in the
That time, we poured water on her and walked her back down. But here our options are more limited. We don’t have enough water for that. Besides, if water could cool us, why hasn’t all this sweat we were soaking in do the job? And walking out isn’t much of an option unless we want to call off the hike. How could we face Mr. Malik, whose doubts we’d brushed off? How could we face his bandit father, who probably ran down other men’s goats on this very trail just for a change of diet?
Still, Gordon can’t go on like this. Since I am feeling better than him, I decide to carry his pack as well as mine. This is really brutal. But it works. Soon, Gordon is looking better, sometimes leading the way and doing the trail finding. After an hour or two, he gets his pack back. What a relief. I now appreciate the joke about the guy who hits himself with a hammer “because it feels so good when I stop.”
We’re still at least half lost. We’ve seen one or two spots that might correspond to Kate Clow’s descriptions, but we’re missing more than half of them. We reread the already memorized paragraph. Have we really spent an agonizing day on one measly paragraph? Or is it worse than that? After describing a long stretch of trail, Kate says that it “eventually” crosses an irrigation ditch, the only landmark we’re sure we’ve seen. Perhaps all our sweat and heatstroke is encompassed in that one word. The thought is too much to bear. Still, the view to the north across the valley is what we expect. Besides, the trail has begun to descend. We’re not going back now.
As we’ve climbed, the brush has grown up in a sparse evergreen forest. The trail is shaded now, and the landscape has a classic charm. Stark white rocks and twisted three trunks break through a carpet of pine needles. The trail is dead quiet. We have not seen a single human being since leaving the road. Our breaks are peaceful and calm, though in the still air of the forest every part of our clothing is saturated with sweat. And we’re running out of water.
Among the guidebook’s landmarks that we haven’t seen are the springs and water sources Kate describes. This is serious. You can’t sweat for hours the way we have – drops falling every second from arms and face – without replacing fluids. We started with well over a gallon of water, but it’s nearly gone, and we’re deep into fluid debt.
If we’re right about our location, we’re descending to a stream that divides two mountains and then merges with the main river. Kate describes a charming camping site on the shores of the stream. And even if we’re not there, this trail is clearly going into a major valley, and it’s hard to believe there isn’t water at the bottom.
At 3:30 we stop for lunch. Hammered by the heat, we’re still not hungry. We just figure we should eat. Mr. Malik’s goat cheese has leaked all over the plastic bag, soaking much of the bread.
“Ordinarily, that would be disgusting,” Gordon says as he digs in, “but right now it’s just a good source of fluid.”
In fact, we cannot eat the dry parts of the bread. We don’t have enough saliva to soften it, so chewing and swallowing the harsh crust seems to cut our mouths.
Suddenly, as the trail swings around the bottom of a ravine, we spot a pool. Of a sort. It’s actually more of a mud puddle, actually, topped by a fuzz of green algae. As we approach, frogs leap to safety in the three-inch-deep swamp.
“Hey,” Gordon says, “if frogs can live in it, how bad can the water be?”
“Fish, too,” I say, pointing to a small one, which is unfortunately floating on its side at the surface.
Still, it’s clear we’ll be drinking this water, using our purification tablets, unless we can find a better source upstream. Luckily, exploring a hundred meters upstream we find another pool. No scum, no dead fish. A frog jumps in as I approach, and the water is so clear I can watch him swim several feet to the bottom and try to hide in the shadow of a stone. In fact, I can see him sitting in the shadow watching me take off my shoes and wade in up to my waist. It is cold but not freezing. Nothing could be better.
Gordon joins me. We treat the water and then drink it by the liter. When we finish, the world seems very different. We are cooled, dried, and no longer desperately thirsty. It is past 5:00. The air is merely warm.
A few minutes’ hiking brings us to a larger stream wide enough to require boulder-jumping to cross. At the edge of the stream is an area that must have been mud in the spring, so perfectly smooth is the ground. It will make a perfect place for the tent. It is surely the camping place with water that Kate Clow told us to expect. We are on the trail!
We swim again while boiling water. The air is just a bit warmer than balmy. We will need no sleeping bags. We boil and drink, boil and drink. There is no end to the boiling and drinking.
By 8:15 it is pitch black. I lie out on a rock in the stream on a kind of natural chaise lounge that spring floods have smoothed into the top of this great boulder. The stars are sharp. Life is good.