No Food but Good Company – Visiting Bayir on the Carian Trail

Visiting Bayir

Simplicity and slowness are core components of virtually all the best adventures. Walking is king of both of these. ~Alastair Humphreys

“What do you mean, nobody sells food? We need a meal! We’re hungry,” I gasp.

“Sorry, sorry, only in summer. But I think they have tosties (toasted sandwich),” the man hastens to say, pointing at the open-air teahouse, where a waiter is serving Coen Turkish tea as we speak.

What hiker can survive on toasted sandwiches? Not me.

Visiting Bayir

On the plaza of Bayir, around the big 2000-year-old plane tree are a couple of tables and chairs. In the summer there are thousands of tourists, the man explains, and there is plenty of food. Now, there are maybe ten.

While the lack of meals it totally understandable, this doesn’t bode well for the villages that are next on the trial, which are even smaller than this one. I had expected to alternate our typical on-the-trail meals of lentils and noodles with something different in villages along the way.

“Where will you sleep?” the man asks.

Good question and something we haven’t thought about yet. My feet hurt too much to set another step, let alone think clearly.

“You can sleep on the floor of the open-air terrace I have above my olive press museum,” he offers.

How kind! Meanwhile I spot a kitchen with stove in the back of his shop.

“If I buy rice and lentils here, can I cook our meal on your stove?” I ask.

I can, and that’s how we meet Irsat.

Bayir is de Rome of the Bozburun Peninsula, centrally located in a highland valley surrounded by forest and abundant spring water. According to legend, Podaleirius, the son of Asclepios (The greek god of health and medicine), founded the town of Syrna (now Bayir). He was physician to the Greek troops of Troy and married Syrna, daughter of a king of Caria. He was given the Bozburun (Loryma) Peninsula as a gift and founded two cities, one of which he named after his bride. (From: Carian Trail Guidebook)

The Olive Press Museum

Irsat isn’t the one who owns the store, his grandparents do. He lives in Marmaris with his wife and kids but is regularly here to look after his aging family members.

In his younger years, Irsat’s grandfather built an olive press and farmers from the region annually brought their olives to him to be pressed into olive oil. Fifty years ago he closed the business, “times changed”, but with the influx of tourism there was a renewed interest in olive oil.

Irsat started his own olive press factory in the nearby area using modern techniques, but to honor his grandfather’s days, he set up a small museum in Bayir displaying all the traditional tools and equipment used to make olive oil: Eski Yaghanei (‘Old Olive Press’).

Upstairs he built a terrace with the intention for visitors to drink a coffee or tea there but he’s been too busy to open that part of the business.

In Good Company

And so, between tables and chairs we set up our tent on the wooden floor and will have a quiet night there. We return to the shop and make a simple dinner of red lentils and rice cooked with some raisins and our last carrot (no other vegetables to be had in the village except on market days, which was yesterday). The family looks with a bit of amazement how we improvise and make the best of the opportunities presented to us.

We sit in the shop eating our dinner, chatting with Irsat while a few customers come and go. Or his grandparents come in smiling and we smile back – exchanging kindness without using words. His grandfather brings in a couple of fried little sardines to eat with our meal. It is an evening in perfect company.

The Charm of Hiking

This, for us, is an important part of the long-distance hikes we’ve done, the Baekdu-Daegan in South Korea and the Jordan Trail: meeting people. We love the hiking itself, we feel awesome conquering the wild landscapes on foot (well, we will; this is only day 2 and our bodies have not yet adjusted to the hard work and are suffering), we take great pleasure in wild camping.

But this, staying in villages of with people is just as an important part of a thru-hike like this 800-km-long Carian Trail in Southwestern Turkey.

Meeting people, talking with hands and feet and smiles or, if you’re lucky, in a language you share is the difference between walking THROUGH a country and IN a country. ‘Through’ means watching from outside. ‘In’ means connecting, sharing and (hopefully) getting a little understanding of what the country or (sub) culture is all about.

In that sense, our Carian Trail couldn’t have started in a better way than this, in the village of Bayir and in the company of Irsat and his family. Thank you for having us!

Practical Information on Bayir

  • Bayir is the end point of day 2 of the Carian Trail on the Bozburun Peninsula (starting in Amos; a 15-km-long hike).
  • Bayir is connected by road to the cities of Marmaris, Bozburun, and Selimiye. In summer tourists come here in bus loads, I’m told, to sit under the famous ancient tree and drink tea.
  • You can buy locally harvested almonds, honey, dried sage and oregano, olive oil and olive oil essence, among other locally produced food. On market days you can find vegetables but otherwise depend on the small grocery stores. I found red lentils, raisins, cans of tuna and pasta but no (Ramen) noodles or oatmeal (the latter 2 being our staples on a hike).
  • On the plaza with the plane tree and mosque is a big spring to fill up your water bottles.
  • There are plans to open a pension of some sort but now you depend on camping. When leaving the village we came across grassy fields right outside the town where you can pitch a tent.
  • We were here in February, when no meals were served except toasted sandwich, but apparently this is different in high season.

Practical Information on the Carian Trail

  • The Carian Trail is a 800-km-long hike in Southwestern Turkey, and Turkey’s Longest Coastal Hiking Trail. Find all info here.
  • We walk the hike using the Carian Trail Guidebook  by Yurus Özdemir, Altay Özcan and Dean Livesley. Find it here.
  • This is our gear list with what we’ve packed for the Carian Trail.

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