There was a time, way back, when I believed in maps – I’d been weaned on a diet of Ordnance Survey military and Wayfarer maps as well as Shell Route Planners. Maps were maps, maps were accurate, maps were reliable, things of beauty, treasure troves of information – and then J and I came to Turkey!
Here, we rapidly learned, maps were the physical manifestation of someone’s fevered imagination! Designed to confuse Greek third-columnists and Soviet ‘Spetsnaz’ special forces; maps here showed roads where none existed and nothing where they did. Whole towns upped sticks and moved miles to where you might eventually find them – if you were lucky, had unlimited time or happened to pick up a local who was hitching a lift there! Navigating off of the main roads, and even on them, was a trifle hit and miss to say the least.
So it was that way back when J and I were searching out places to settle down we set out very early from our overnight stop at Kalkan. In our search for places that would give us the right sort of vibes, we were heading up and over the mountains behind the town following the so-called main road to the town of Elmalı – ‘Appley’ (or ‘With Apples’ if you want to be precise) in English.
Pretty soon the asphalt ran out and we were on the dirt which got progressively rougher until we considered ourselves lucky to get into second gear from time to time. The hours dragged on as we ground our exhaust system across the uneven terrain and dodged the heavy construction vehicles that were working on a new baraj. Eventually we crept into the small town of Gömbe, a pretty enough place nestled to one side of the river valley, where we stopped for a very late lunch.
These days, anyone making the journey would wonder what the fuss was about as they whizz along the new road that bypasses the baraj and Gömbe. Back then it was a nightmare and because of the construction work the road from Gömbe to Elmalı was also a mess. The plain between Gömbe and Elmalı lies 1100mts above sea level and my enduring memories are of the glorious smells of apples and woodsmoke (it was winter). By the time we got to Elmalı it was dark and J and I had had enough – it was going to take a lot more hours to get back to our base in Dalyan so instead of stopping in the town we drove on and until a couple of months ago we had never been back.
When we did, we were delighted! The town has great charm with many lovely old houses, a beautiful main mosque, a quaint little mosque and water from the mountains cascading down gullies in the steep streets. The air is cool and sweet in summer and although it gets bloody cold in winter it makes a great base to explore the surrounding countryside which is magnificent. Missing this little gem the first time around was a mistake.
Elmalı and little Gömbe both have charm and interest but for me they are mainly useful as a base to explore the stunning mountains that surround them. I’m not going to spend any time describing in detail, suffice to say that J and I spent three days walking, touring and exploring before taking the magnificent drive back that takes you up over the mountains and down to Seki before rejoining the main mountain road from Antalya to Fethiye. It wasn’t enough, so we’ll be back for more.
If you haven’t been to Elmalı or explored the surrounds I recommend it to you, especially when you want to escape the heat of summer for a while. Meanwhile, here are a few photos to whet your interest.
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü