After months of dreaming and preparations, the day had finally come. Boarding on the plane to Turkey, stopping in Istanbul to change planes and landing in Antalya have been the first steps into the unknown. We were two souls with two small backpacks. Some names and bus numbers written down a little piece of paper were all the directions we had for finding our new home. We finally arrived to our destination after changing two buses and hitch hiking the last kilometers, just as it was getting dark. There was music and laughter around the campfire and in the restaurant. The serene atmosphere let us know we reached the right place. So the first thing we did was to go to the bar to shake hands and try to remember as many names as possible.
The next three months can easily be described in three words: climbing, visiting and swimming, while returning each night to our small caravan in the far back of JoSiTo Camp.
If we went a bit up the dirt road we could see Antalya and the Mediterranean. We were surrounded by mountains and in the same time two steps away from the sea. Every day we heard the prayers from the mosque up in Geyikbayiri, the small village right above the camp, which also named the whole climbing area. It’s a half an hour walk away. All the narrow and steep streets of the village lead to the mosque. We came across small traditional houses made from stone and wood. Every local has at least one citrus tree in front of their house and a bunch of chickens. There are also large orchards with orange, lemon, pomegranate and olive trees. When they bloom their perfume is a killer!
Sundays were usually reserved for the Market in Cakirlar, the first village down the road. After walking through stalls filled with fruits, vegetables and all kinds of nuts, checking the piles of clothes and trying to negotiate, we would take our shoes off and enter one of the elevated bungalows to eat gozleme. This traditional dish is a delicious pastry with different fillings, cooked on a wooden stove by some old ladies wearing large funny pants. All the locals from the nearby villages come to spend their Sunday here with their families, laughing and telling stories, eating and drinking Turkish tea in small glasses. We were served by children who help their parents and their business in week-ends and holidays. The bazaar, with all its foods and traditions that are still well kept, is probably the best example of unaltered Turkish lifestyle.
Antalya is about 30 kilometers away. We would go up to the main road and hitchhike to Cakirlar. Once here, we waited for buses 501 or 521, both going to Otogar (main bus terminal). After a few trips we already knew our way through the city. Sometimes we would walk down the colorful streets of Kaleici (the Old Town) and stop in the Old Harbor to see all the tourist ships and fishermen boats coming in and out. Then we would take the old tram on the coast to Konyaalti Beach and swim in the emerald green Mediterranean then lay on the beach the rest of the day. A short walk to the boulevard would take us to 521 bus station. Buses in Antalya rarely stop if you don’t signal the driver. If we don’t pay attention, we might have to wait another half an hour for the next one.
Visiting the ruins of an old Lycian city above Geyikbayiri is a wonderful way to spend a restday in complete silence and peace. We spent an entire day walking around the ruins of Trebenna Antique City, exploring every wall, cave and tomb.
The cliffs of the Geyikbayiri climbing area are home to squirrels and birds. They are always carrying provisions up and down the rocks. Lizards and snakes of all shapes and sizes will cross the road and hide under a rock. During hot days, scorpions are looking for shade so always checked our caravan and any place we laid on the ground. Turtles will come out of the bushes, “in a hurry” to get to the next appetizing leaf of grass.
When we were not climbing in Geykbayiri or swimming in the Mediterranean, we would simply rest by the river, just behind the camp. On hot days we were cooling down in the basins formed by the large boulders. During the day we took long breaks and relaxed on the terrace by the bar sipping ada cay (sage tea), playing backgammon or chess or learning to crochet from one of our fellow campers.
From merely hearing the prayers from the mosque, smoking Turkish tobacco and drinking Efes, to eating street food and traditional dishes, finding the best baklava and learning to negotiate, we discovered we were beginning to act more and more Turkish. Camouflaged under our sun burns and with an ever-present smile on our faces, we realized we have been fitting perfectly in Antalya’s exotic landscape the whole time.
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