There is another book project simmering in a recess somewhere in the sponge that passes for my brain. It owes its existence to a chance comment (and later prodding) by a blogger friend from the US – she and her artist husband will collaborate to help pull this whole thing together. The inspiration is a classic book about the back roads of California – I sent for a copy and what arrived is a gem printed on hand-made paper.
Our adopted country of Turkey is changing and ‘developing’ at an astonishing rate of knots – dirt trackways get covered by layers of tar and chippings before morphing into four-lane super highways! Finding the quiet, life-enhancing back roads that still yet meander through mountains, valleys and villages, where not much has changed apart from satellite dishes and FIAT tractors, seems like a great idea.
J and I have enjoyed wandering off the beaten track as we explored our new country; we always sought out backways whenever we could. Getting ‘lost’ and discovering great views; pretty, workman-like villages and some wonderful people go hand-in-hand.
This was how we discovered Karaçam (Black Pine) some years ago. We were following a forest track way up into the mountains behind our local town of Ortaca – it was a wild ride, zig-zagging through the forest, crossing roaring rivers, negotiating rock-falls and sliding through muddy pools. Even then progress was rearing its (often) ugly head as we waited while a bulldozer widened a section of track – asphalt was coming!
With J on a family visit to the US, I decided to revisit Karaçam and then push on northwards through the mountains with the hope of linking up with the main trunk road at the town of Acıpayam. I’d be plotting the route, taking photos and jotting notes for the book project. The weather was not looking promising!
The dirt track used to be pretty good for driving on; since the original trip the road has been ‘improved’ with asphalt and the results are bloody awful with the surface broken and pot-holed. The drive however is as wonderful as ever with fantastic views around every bend. Not long after hitting the mountains the clouds closed in and the rain fell; not so good for photographs but I find something magical about gazing down into cloud shrouded valleys, catching ghost-like glimpses of distant villages.
Finding Karaçam was like stumbling across ‘Brigadoon‘ (of the musical fame); the clouds lifted and there it was – unchanged for 50 years – well, since last I was here! A small stream runs near the mosque and there is a wonderful old Çinar (plane tree) with a ramshackle bench. Nearby are village houses that look as if they have been there for ever.
The asphalt ended at the village so it was back to dirt track and mud – bucket loads of mud! Someone had made a couple of signposts – Köyceğiz (where I had come from) 65 kms and Acıpayam 80 kms. Hmm! As good as halfway – Acıpayam here I come! But it was not to be – the track was in a bad state; slippery and dangerous – discretion dictated turning back and trying again another day when conditions are more favorable. Shame really, because my electronic maps say that another 10 kms would get me to villages on the Denizli side of the mountain.
So, will this route make it into ‘The Back Roads of SW Turkey’? Not yet – but maybe it will be fit for purpose by the time we get to the first re-print!
Alan Fenn,Okçular Köyü