The guy at the campsite had mentioned that there was a brilliant trek one could take along the coast of the beach we were at. It was part of a longer month-long trek along an old Roman trade route. The beach was closed off by cliffs from both sides so one would have to climb them to start the trek. Apparently the trail led to some sea caves and judging by the way the campsite manager described it, it was definitely worth a visit.
Me and Aaya headed out towards the cliffs pretty early around 10 am. Just before the cliffs begin, a small river comes from the mountains behind us and meets the sea. On the banks of this river are the ruins of an old roman town and one had to walk through these to get to the other side of the river. I think it was called Olympos but I can’t remember very well now.
Once we got to the cliffs we started moving away from the beach. The trail was pretty straight forward. Follow the coastline, was what the guy had said. The view was absolutely stunning. It was the perfect Mediterrenean postcard. Soon we couldn’t even see the beach anymore. Our trail led us a bit of a ways in towards a sheer faced cliffside with a scary drop on its side. Keeping in mind what the camp manager had said we kept following the cliff face till eventually the trail sloped downward. It was almost 4 hours into the trek and we couldn’t see the sea caves anywhere. We should’ve reached there a whole half hour earlier according to the directions given, so naturally we assumed we were lost.
We sat down on the cliff looking over the sea and had ourselves a little picnic, until Aaya suddenly decides that she wants to climb down the cliff face to the water. The was a sheltered cove sort of structure where we were sitting. She looked really excited and for some reason my entire yolo attitude came back to me. So i decided to screw my inhibitions and we slowly started climbing down. It was one of the best decisions ever. We sat for what seemed like days with our feet dipped in the water and just chatted away the time. We even got into the sea eventually and swam out to a rock popping out a little ways away.
Almost two hours in there randomly appeared, from on side of the cliffs, a man snorkelling. He hailed at us and we waved him over to our little rock. He was Ukrainian and spoke very little English, but could speak Russian very well. Aaya being Kazakhstani could speak Russian too, so I was out of the conversation for quite a while. It turns out that the guy had come snorkelling from the very sea caves we had been looking for. Aaya turned to me very excitedly, and I’m not sure I liked the glint in her eye. She eventually convinced me to swim out into the sea behind the Ukrainian guy and go to the caves instead of walking to them. I’m not sure why I even agreed, but I went for it!
We left our essentials behind in a small nook in that cliff cove and start doggy-paddling out. Five minutes into the swim Aaya looks back and tells me she can’t swim very well. I remember almost laughing out! The whole situation just seemed so wild. I was on a sparcely inhabited bit of coastline in southern Turkey, swimming in the open sea (which was so clear that day, it was mind numbingly beautiful) to a cave on the side of a cliff, following a Ukrainian guy wearing snorkels, with a girl from Kazakhstan holding on for support. I maintain to this day, her convincing me to go for it was one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life. Why? Because we eventually did reach the cave and I saw for the first time of truly magnificent a cave can be.
The roof of the cave shimmered incessantly with light reflected off from the water below. Stalagmites(-cites?) hung low over our heads and ocassionally sparkled when the light hit them. A single shaft of light came from an opening somehwere above. the cave walls were jagged and sharp and red. There were these weird red, spongy, tube like creatures stuck all over the wet rocks. It was like being inside a dragon’s mouth, but a lot less gross and a lot more awesome. The Ukrainian guy packed up at this point and left via the land route. We lingered, quite obsessed with the cave for a very long time. What we didn’t realise until much later, was that the tide was coming in. If we didn’t make it back to our cove soon, we’d be in trouble. We couldn’t walk back because we’d left our shoes behind and the ground was harsh.
Eventually, we turned away from the cave and started paddling back. This time we didn’t have someone with snorkels to guide us between the rocks and corals, plus the tide kept pushing us towards the cliff. I was pretty terrified to be honest, but I kept it to myself. Couldn’t let the lady see that. Somehow, we got back. I don’t even remember the whole swim now but once we got to that little rock outcrop we just lay there, dazed by the whole experience for a quarter of an hour. It was just so surreal.
After another hour or so (I had lost track of time by now) we managed to pull ourselves away from our little cove. The real pain from the cuts and bruises from our swim finally hit us. Each step hurt because I had a million small cuts on the sole of my foot. A long and painful walk later, we stumbled into Olympos and nursed our aching bodies. The day wasn’t over yet though. We were leaving the next day and we still had to see Mt. Chimera before that. The locals called it Yanartaş, which meant “flaming stone” in Turkish. The Chimera was a great fire-breathing mythical creature from the old greek tales. Keeping up with its namesake, the mountain literally breathes out fire from inside it.
After sunset, we walked up this mountain. Almost near the top we came across small flames coming out from crevices in the rocks. They say that these fires have been burning for almost 2500 years! It was a chilly night, so we huddled near the fires for a bit. Some of the fires were bigger than others. At night it looked like these pockets of flickering light strewn across the ground as far as you could see.
It was nearly 11 by the time we got back to the beach. Without saying a word to each other we practically passed out with exhaustion. Most of that day exists only in memory, since we’d left our stuff behind in that cove. Aaya and I made a pact to go back to that place one day. Alone, if not together. It would remain one of the clearest memories etched in our minds forever.