Never be so faithful to your plan that you are unwilling to consider the unexpected. Never be so faithful to your plan that you are unwilling to entertain the improbable opportunity that comes looking for you. -Elizabeth Warren
Thru-hiking and rolling up your sleeves to get your hands dirty in a greenhouse? How do those two activities match?
Notes on Slow Travel, the name of this website, speaks for itself and our way of slow travel has never been truer than on the Carian Trail. Having planned ample time for this 850-km-long hike through Southwestern Turkey, we always take up on invitations for tea or to stay at people’s homes.
This time, right after we start hiking the Datça Peninsula, we said ‘yes’ to volunteer in a greenhouse for three days.
But, let’s start at the beginning about our hike across our fifth section of the Carian Trail. (If you just want the practical information, scroll down to the bottom of this page).
The Town of Akyaka
As you can read in our previous episode, about hiking the Mugla Environs, we sheltered for rain in Akyaka. Our hotel/apartment room there gave us a feeling of home. We truly like the town with friendly looking architecture of white plastered buildings with lots of unpainted wood for balconies, window panes and the like.
Akyaka is big enough to get what you need (no small gas canisters for camping though) but small enough to find everything all in one street. Lots of big, friendly, well fed and cared for stray dogs lie around on the pavements.
Hiking the Datça Peninsula
The Datça Peninsula covers the longest stretch of the Carian Trail, some 240 kilometers. This section also cuts through some of the remotest parts of it. By now we have completed some 600 kilometers and are in top shape so the idea of having to carry food for four or five days doesn’t bother us in the least.
Packed with heavy packs we’d hike to the Datça Peninsula, south from here, and walk it from east to west. This blog post will give you an impression of the eastern section of the hike.
Day 01 Akyaka – Bonjuk Bay
To be honest, we don’t start walking but take a taxi to cover the first nine kilometers of asphalt. This choice comes from me suffering a foot injury and fearing plantar fasciitis – a common hiking injury that is difficult to heal. Walking so much on hard road surface is not going to do this any good.
Finishing the hike is more important than these nine kilometers. It does mean we miss some ancient tombs near Akyaka. Choices… also, when hiking.
Once on the trail, it feels great to be walking again and carrying our home on our backs. The landscape in full bloom and stunning views of the Ceramic Gulf are an inspiring start.
Days 02-04 Bonjuk Bay
Yesterday we arrived late at Bonjuk Bay, expecting a paid campsite. It is, but solely for guests who know the owner, we learn after the gate was opened after some insisting from our part.
We met Selan and Eylu who had just arrived as well, Selan being hired for the season as caretaker of the permaculture and chef, and Eylu to work in the kitchen as well.
Officially we were not allowed in but Selan’s volunteer had just cancelled. “I have an idea, if you help me in the greenhouse, you can stay here a couple of days,” Selan suggested.
We looked at each other. Why not? We clicked with Selan right away and loved her enthusiasm. It would be nice to feel my hands going through the soil again after so many years. Coen knows I miss my vegetable garden.
So we commit to two days, and subsequently add another day because we’re having such a great time. The three of them work hard turning the soil in the greenhouse and clearing it of weeds and rocks for a massive batch of tomato plants in all colors of the rainbow. Meanwhile I prepare soil and plant thousands of herb and vegetable seeds.
Day 05 Bonjuk Bay – Karacasögüt
In the distance we see the harbor indicating this day’s destination. The water is super, super blue and forms a beautiful contrast with the green pine trees in front of it. On the other side of the Ceramic Gulf rises the mountain ridge that we tackled a couple of times on the Akyaka – Bodrum stretch.
The last two kilometers requires bushwhacking through forest and thorny plants, and getting around / over / under fallen trees. Waymarkers are on and off visible. The sea below us is phenomenally blue and transparent. At one part we see the hundreds of black urchins on the sea bottom.
Oh, and on the forest roads we see more turtles every day. Today including two very small ones. Hence I call today the Day of the Turtles.
Day 06 Karacasögüt – Löngöz
An easy day of mostly forested roads although we start on asphalt and are halted by military police. We can’t continue straight ahead – we’re at the entrance of one of Erdogan’s homes, we are told later – and have to go around it through a forest, which is beautiful and no punishment at all.
We pass marshy areas. Lots of mud pools to get around while the air is filled by a beautiful concert of frogs, birds, and insects that are all celebrating spring, or so it feels. At a big lake we take an early break, snacking on halva and nuts while enjoying just where we are right now. What a privilege to be here!
Day 07 Löngöz – Bördübet – to the coast
Arguably the least interesting day of the entire hike. It’s a long forested road that makes for easy walking side by side. For the very first time I understand why some hikers listen to music or podcasts while hiking.
I feel that this closes you off from where you are, not hearing the wind and animals as well as being elsewhere with your mind. However, I’m so bored I suggest listening to a podcast and so we do.
This helps the kilometers to pass quickly but it confirms my feeling about hiking with headphones – in retrospect I can recall very little of the hiked section.
Day 08 Coast – Emecik
Last night was one of the most beautiful camping spots we’ve had, a flat open area amidst the tall pine forest and transparent, flowing water streams on both sides that run into the sea just beyond our camping spot. Despite all this water around us, the night was warm and we had no condensation on the tent.
This day makes up for yesterday. It’s a fantastic day of walking. It’s a long hike that comes down to crossing headlands to get from one lovely bay to the next. The pebble beaches are not easy to walk on and we cross the headlands via narrow footpaths that meander through forest and thorny bushes.
Much of the landscape was barren and harsh looking a month ago, now it is in full bloom – the world is an explosion of colors. What a transformation we have seen in such a short time span.
The bays are transparent in all kinds of blueish green tinges. The views never tire.
The beaches, however, are all littered. Between driftwood and dried seaweed are a zillion of plastic bottles, blue bottle caps, sheets of shredded plastic abound. This area needs a massive clean up! It’s hard to determine whether the pollution is the result of picnicking people or rubbish that has been washed ashore – I assume both.
Day 09 Emecik – Datça
Finally, we can stock up on some food in Emecik. We walk to the shore and sit down. It’s only 10.30 am but we eat our bread with cheese – we are hungry.
From here it’s nine kilometers to Datça across the beach. The pebbles are hard to walk on but they alternate with stretches of hard sand (because it’s low tide), and flat, rocky surfaces. The best, I learn, is to walk as close to the waterline as possible where the surface is at its firmest. The walk becomes a game with the waves and trying to keep our feet dry, which keeps us distracted during the struggling parts.
The wind is fierce and the sun strong, burning our cheeks and nose. The blue water is enticing, singing its daily song of lapping on the shore. Today’s hike is a joy. On the right, beyond the pebble and sandy beach are abandoned lands or houses/pensions still closed for the season.
After five kilometers or so we arrive in a hamlet. It has a ‘bakkal’ (small shop). The owner is preparing the outdoor fridge for the first batch of ice creams of the season, and the first two brands are ready to be bought. Coen goes for a Magnum while I gorge on a bag of potato chips – I prefer salty food after a hike.
The shop owner prepares fresh tea and after three days away from the digital world we have some catching up to do and both activate a new Vodaphone scratch card. They work for one week, give 500 MB and costs 5 TL (about a euro).
With stuffed bellies we walk the last kilometers to Datça, the main town on this peninsula. It’s incredible how our lack of planning has worked out perfectly once more. Like on previous stretches our day of rest/stocking up will coincide with rain!
Day 10 & 11 Datça
Rest and rain and preparing our last 100 kilometers of hiking, which will be a loop around the western section of the Datça Peninsula.
Practical Information on Hiking the Datça Peninsula (eastern section)
- Cooking/gas canisters: On the trail is enough wood to cook on a wood fire but it’s not allowed everywhere so make sure to bring something of a stove. Note: in Datça they don’t have threaded gas canisters but do sell the local camping gas (perforation system? – no idea how to call this) as well as the tall, thin, stove-top gas canisters.
- Water: we hiked late March and water was plentiful, either fountains or water streams. We add purification tablets when necessary.
- Food: In Çamli is supposedly a small shop selling bread but we didn’t find it. We did find a fantastic restaurant, Burak Restaurant, on the trail with fantastic dishes. We found ‘bakkals’ (small shops) in Karacasögüt and Emecik.
- Camping: Don’t expect to be able to camp at Bonjuk Bay, even though it’s marked on the interactive map of the Carian Trail website as a paid campsite. We free camped everywhere, except Löngöz where we paid 20TL for a gorgeous campsite where in the summer the owner Ali is praised for its fabulous BBQ dishes (Ali’s Bar/Restaurant).
Practical Information on the Carian Trail
- The Carian Trail is an 850-km-long hiking trail along the Southwest Coast of Turkey. Find all info here.
- We use the Carian Trail Guidebook, by Yurus Özdemir, Altay Özcan, and Dean Livesley. Find it here and the Insight Guides Turkey.
- Here’s the hiking gear list with what we’re carrying on our backs for the next two months.