In this guest article teenage traveller, Reka Kaponay shares her excitement at a walk in the Saklikent Gorge, Turkey, wading through icy water and taking a mud bath, before the day ends with a traditional Turkish meal. Reka writes;
As I lay in my bed, it took a few seconds before I realised again in sheer excitement, I’M IN TURKEY! Today we were heading out to what is arguably one the most beautiful natural wonders of this region, Saklikent Gorge, a 300 meter deep canyon that is close to Fethiye, forged through the power of the water’s elemental force, cutting its way through sheer rock over thousands of years.
A bus ride to the Saklikent Gorge
Given that it was late September and no longer high tourist season, the bus ride was filled with a couple of explorers like ourselves, but mainly with locals who were making the trip home to rural villages that lay in-between the canyon and the touristy Fethiye.
After an hour and a half, we finally descended into a deep ravine which signalled our arrival. As we got our bearings, we realised that we would be wading through water and mud over rocky terrain and would need to leave our shoes behind. A row of stalls lined the entrance to the gorge, hiring plastic wading shoes to all the visitors.
I looked up to see a towering ravine of ancient rock formations in front of me. It was as if I was at the entrance to a medieval fortress that would only allow me entrance if I knew its secret password. The view was entrancing and at the same time awe inspiring, knowing that the simple flow of water had sculpted this natural beauty. I stood on the suspension bridge looking deeply into the rapid flow of the river below me.
As we entered the park, we were swamped by tour guides trying to sell us their services for similarly ridiculous mark ups to that of the cab drivers of Marmaris. We ended up bringing helmets as a small precaution, but five minutes later we were taking them off and even leaving them behind to pick them up on our return journey, rather than lug them around for the rest of the walk. First, however, we had to enter the canyon and before us was a raging torrent of water about 20 meters across, that we would have to wade through to get to the entrance of the gorge.
An icy-cold plunge!
Pants rolled up and newly acquired wading shoes on, we plunged feet first in the water. I lost my breath when my feet made contact with the element. Pain shot up my legs and my toes felt like they had contracted frost-bite in a few simple seconds. My whole foot had turned numb. I shot out of the water, fast as a hare, shrieking like a hyena. I’m sure it was a sight to see. Lalika and Dad seemed to bear it better, as they were the first to begin heading through the fast flowing waters.
Soon it was up to their knees, but battling their way through they were the first of our family to make it across. During this time I was contemplating if I really wanted to go through with this. The look on Mum’s face showed me that there was no alternative and with a renewed collective determination, Mum took my hand and we began making our way through the ice cold water to the sound of Lalika’s cheers.
I nearly slipped at one point but thankfully I recovered in time and Mum and I emerged from the water half dry and very happy. The ice crystal water had somehow instantly rejuvenated my curiosity and I was keen to see what mysteries lay beyond the curves of the deep ravine in front of me.
Wading through the clay
I began to wade through the softest flowing grey clay that had deposited itself over thousands of years between this magnificent Moorish pink gorge towering over me. I was surprised that the locals hadn’t already made a beauty industry out of this, mining this natural resource, when I remembered that thankfully, it was a protected national asset, located behind the confines of a national park.
That didn’t stop Dad and Lalika from making a mud pack, as the two of them smoothed the liquid clay all over their faces, arms and legs. The mud also made great war paint and Lalika and I had a really fun time applying it before role playing a fierce battle of the clans.
The canyon snaked its way in curves and arcs in what seemed like a never ending array of rocky colours of beauty. After about 45 minutes of walking, we came to a fork in the canyon. To the right you could make your way through waist deep mud and continue on. The other choice to the left was neck deep fast flowing river. These were the only two options to continue on.
We decided that this was our sign to turn back, but in truth you can continue up through the canyon for another 15 kms as it is 18 kms long. On the way back, we faced a small crisis when my brother lost one of his croc slippers in the muddy stream and we had to drop to our knees in the murky river feeling with our hands as to where it could be.
It took us a couple of minutes, with some airing of our frustration at his carelessness, but we finally found it. We stopped just before crossing back across the freezing river to take a moment to marvel at our current location. We managed to cross the river once again with no trouble and we emerged with frozen feet but joyful smiles.
Learning about local Turkish cuisine
Changing back into our shoes, the wolves in our stomachs reminded us that it was time to eat! Walking through a canyon for an hour and a half and half bathing in cold water, really works up an appetite! We wandered beyond the closest and obviously touristy oriented restaurants lining the river walk. We decided to walk a kilometre up the dusty road, away from the park in the direction of some local stalls and we were duly rewarded for our efforts.
We found a smaller traditional restaurant that was built over a natural spring that flowed right through the middle of it. There were no chairs to sit on. Instead you reclined on comfy colourful Turkish motif cushions, while you ate on a small luxurious raft floating on the water. This is where we learnt our third and I feel most useful Turkish expression – Gözleme.
Gözleme is a pancake-like unleavened bread, baked freshly on an open grill convex metal hotplate, and filled with all sorts of wonderful fillings like Feta cheese and spinach, or chives and potatoes, or any other combinations of meats and Turkish spices. Of course back in Australia we were already familiar with Gözleme, but not in the manner that this Turkish grandmother, dressed in her regional traditional costume, was working this convex hotplate, heated by traditional wood fire.
Her hand movements were so skillful, that it was almost as if she was conducting a symphonic orchestra to its crescendo, rather than making a pancake. It was mesmerising and almost as good to watch as it was to eat. The Gözleme was not the only fare on the menu of the day. As those that don’t eat meat, we had a generous selection of figs, potato salad, roasted eggplant, beetroot, tomato and cucumber salad, french fries and of course more Gözleme to choose from… All of this was to the setting of this beautiful oasis of natural spring water and the surrounding granite mountains that embraced us.
It was extremely relaxing, so much so, that we all took a small traditional Turkish nap on our water raft bed. For me, this combined experience of the natural wonders and our lunch, were all the reasons why I need to recommend that if you are ever in this part of the country, then Saklikent Gorge is an experience not to be missed. Take a day away from the beach and you will be rewarded with a traditional Turkish experience.
Our ride back to Fethiye was hot and uncomfortable and the bus was packed to the brim with people from the villages returning to their jobs in the touristy Mecca that is Fethiye. I ignored this however, along with the heat, and dreamt of Gözleme and rocky gorges, as I dozed in and out of consciousness on the bumpy ride home.
Author Bio: Many thanks for this article to Reka Kaponay, a teenage life schooler traveling the world who blogs at Dreamtime Traveler
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