J and I took off for the hills yesterday; we were looking to escape the mind-filling sight and sound show that is the quarry just 50 mts from our house. It had to be yesterday because rain was (correctly) forecast for today and when it rains we are likely to be imprisoned by the mud that covers our now totally broken road.
Our plan was to visit a rather interesting little valley where a river has carved a deep trench through the puddingstone of the valley floor. We arrived at the top of the track leading down to the valley to find it closed off by a trench and bund wall, so we parked up and set off on foot.
It was not to be – from this end, at least. The great Dalaman River Baraj has been closed, the waters have risen and another of Turkey’s unique little biological and geological gems has been lost. We judged the height of the water and figuring out that the top part of the valley might not yet be inundated, we set off back to the car.
On the way down we’d spotted some abandoned, and probably illegal, chrome mines and I decided on a closer look.
Turkey, along with South Africa and Kazakhstan are the world’s largest producers of chromite ore, and with no known substitute in the manufacture of stainless steel, it fetches a high price. High enough for many to risk their lives by burrowing deep into mountainsides with minimal equipment, in tunnels that are unsupported and barely large enough to accommodate a sledge or small tip-cart for hauling out the tailings and ore. Often all that can be seen to give away these mines is a litter of differently coloured scree below a small hole that allows the ‘miner’ to crawl in. The area we were walking through was littered with these burrows.
One, in particular, drew my interest because it appeared to be better organised and equipped. It also looked as though it had been recently and hastily abandoned with relatively expensive equipment and winding gear left behind. These illegal miners are nothing if not enterprising with an ‘extension lead’ for their winch hooked into overhead electrical lines some distance away. Near the top of our climb there is a large sign for a large mining company and it is my guess that the ‘illegals’ have been driven off by the Jandarma or ‘Heavies’ employed by the company – otherwise why leave all the gear behind? On the other hand, this type of mining is pretty much impossible in winter with the additional risk from flooding.
Whilst not condoning the dangerous practices of these unlicensed miners, I understand and sympathise with the desperation that leads these and countless others around the world, to put their health and very lives at risk in order to survive. I make no apology for describing the current global economic and political system as shit – the sooner it passes the better – for the planet and any species, including our own, that manages to outlast it!
Anyway, where were we? Right! Off to the top end of our valley. We drove around the mountain and came in via the back door, so to speak. Once again we parked up and set off beside the river, this time walking downstream. It wasn’t long before we were once again confronted by this country’s determination to sell off whatever it can. All along the track there was evidence of attempts to drill and place explosive charges, regardless of the fact that there are subsistence farmers in the area. Most had failed because they had struck water which was jetting out of the boreholes. One had succeeded, and a large area of the mountainside had been brought down,spilling into the river, and then abandoned as unsuitable.
An intrepid local had managed to get his tractor across the scree and J and I followed; walking on until we reached the area where the floodwaters of the dam stopped us in our tracks – here we made our picnic lunch. Later we wandered the area to see what might be about – plenty of the usual suspects, plus there were masses of cyclamen. Then came a call from J, who is an excellent ‘spotter’. What
she had found was not a rarity, although in 15 years here, neither of us has ever seen it before – Romulea bulbocodium ssp leichtliniana; a delicate, white, star-like flower facing an uncertain future with water levels rising. The temptation to break our rule and rescue this gem was considerable; however, these plants seldom survive their relocation for very long. Nature is best left alone and enjoyed as and when we can.
I don’t know what it was about yesterday that changed things inside my head and lifted the dark clouds a bit – it was, after all, a move from one scene of destruction to another. Perhaps it was the thought of people so desperate that they crawl into tiny holes in the mountainside that brought some perspective; perhaps it was that flower that appeared like the ‘Light of Galadriel’ (which was given by Galadriel to Frodo Baggins as a light to use in dark places), whatever, it’s nice to be back!
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü