Two intrepid hikers braved the heat of late August and set out on a self-guided walk from Bodrum east along the Carian Trail to Akyaka. This part of the trail follows an old caravan route along the north shore of the Ceramic Gulf, a wind-scoured inlet between the Datça and Bodrum Peninsulas.
Apart from Bodrum, classy and sophisticated haunt of the İstanbul elite, the area is known for its olives, windmills and historic sites. Tiny bays edge the shore below maquis-clad cliffs; yachts flex their sails in the stiff breezes or pull in at shoreline restaurants and cafes. Olive groves surround the whitewashed villages where women cluster in the shade to weave carpets and men put the world to rights at the kahves.
Everywhere is evidence of a long and fruitful history. On the hilltop site of Pedasa, two women archaeologists explained the dating of a 6th C BC wall; a young student showed us the glazes on broken Byzantine pottery. Walled paved roads divide the olive groves and link the far-flung houses and ancient cisterns. Stony mule trails wind up and down the slopes, often through pines or strawberry trees, through gorges, past the graves of long-gone travellers. They link harbours where trading ships took on supplies (all-too-scarce water, oil, turpentine, amphorae of wine) to the towns of the interior. They pass pebbled beaches where, lit by the glitter of moonlight on the ripples, pirates dipped their oars in a silent approach on sleeping villages.
Inland, locals in the village coffee shops were not sure what to make of two foreign women, but, once over their surprise, could not have been friendlier. Every village has its own minibus service; getting around the route was evidently a breeze. The signposting and waymarking were mainly excellent. We had a GPS with us as a backup and used it in only a few places to save looking for signs in the long grass.
Altay, of Southwest Turkey, arranged a self-guided programme, including baggage transfers, accommodation, meals, transfers to hotels and unlimited telephone advice and support. The accommodation was charming – a rural farmhouse with friendly dogs, sleeping under the stars on the roof of a seaside restaurant, a luxurious boutique hotel with a line of yachts moored alongside. Food was equally delicious and service friendly – one fellow customer sent us over glasses of a local wine to test; another brought us a plate of fresh figs.
Next time, we plan the northern section in spring – I’m already looking forward to sleeping with the ghosts in the ruins of a Greek temple.