This is my first trip report. Until now, I’ve been somewhat intimidated by the high quality of the trip reports and photos on this site. However, this trip seemed sufficiently different from others to embolden me to post it here. A fuller report can be seen here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/zio1zcy6nmxgx5s/Kizkalesi%20April%202013%20Trip%20Report.pdf?v=0mcns
The GPS trace of the trip can be seen here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ir3ujji4p1b43dk/Kizkalesi%20April%202013%20combo.gpx?v=0mcns
A LITTLE BACKGROUND.
The trip was in an area of Turkey which in Roman times was called Cilicia Trachea (Rough, or Rugged Cilicia). It was heavily populated from Hellenistic until Byzantine times, approximately the 2nd century BCE to the 7th century CE. It was then rapidly depopulated. It is currently almost unpopulated outside of a few isolated villages, except for the winter camps of nomadic goat herders.
Nowadays, the area is mostly covered by thick maquis. This consists of a wide variety of mainly spiny vegetation, which is impenetrable except for some narrow goat tracks, or where the ground is too rocky for the vegetation to thrive. It is limestone country, so water sources are very scarce. The ancient settlements were usually supplied by cisterns. The current herders truck in tankers of water, and their camps are next to the few roads in the area.
The ancient towns were surrounded by extensive areas of terracing for crops. These are now usually completely overgrown, though some remain clear of trees and bushes. The towns were linked by paved roads, and the ground for these roads was cleared of loose stone, which was piled up along them like walls. The traces of these walls are visible on Google Earth, and that is how we planned this trip.
DAY ONE. Distance walked: 4.33 km, altitude gained: 324 m
The bus dropped us off in the seaside resort of Kızkalesi at 11 pm. We to hike north along a road for about three miles to where we knew there is a Roman watch tower with some clear terraces for the tent. (Thanks to Dan Yeruski for suggesting that a six and a half hour journey merited three nights rather than two.)
There are a number of shepherds’ camps along the road and we were a little worried about their dogs – shepherd dogs in Turkey can sometimes be vicious. Far ahead of us, dogs would start to howl as they somehow sensed us coming but we only came across one which had been left to roam free and fortunately he was all bark and no bite.
We arrived at the Roman tower and pitched the tent by the light of the full moon.
DAY TWO. Distance walked: 14.34 km, altitude gained: 497 m
We were awoken at 6.30 by the light and by the sound of cowbells. After a breakfast of coffee and cereal bars we made our way back to the tower.
A short walk back down the road brought us to the remains of a Byzantine town now called Hıdırlı, The remains include a pleasant church and a bathhouse.
There is also a short stretch of paved road. We visited here by car about twelve years ago and it was this stretch of road that first made me want to come back and explore this area.
We continued down the modern road the short distance to the upper part of Kızkalesi, passing beekeepers.
A dirt road led us past another Roman tower to the edge of the extensive Byzantine town of Korykos. We reached the ruins at the remains of the 5th/6th century Transept Church, the easternmost of the six churches that are identifiable (the town once had ten).
The largest church was the Tomb Church.
We continued a fine section of the sacred way east towards the sea.
Before reaching the coast road, we cut back uphill to the level of the aqueduct which supplied Elaeousa-Sebaste (now Ayaş) and followed its channel around the hillside before scrambling down to the small valley below.
We passed below the arches of the aqueduct then turned right towards the village of Ayaş.
We came out right at the top of Elaeousa-Sebaste’s 2nd century theatre, with a clear view over towards other ruins on what had been an island in antiquity.
We filled up with water at a house in the small village of Ayaş. Above the village, we turned onto a faint animal path that bore off on the right. It was indistinct and hard to follow at first, but grew a bit more obvious and suddenly we found ourselves walking on ancient stone paving. Although we’d walked on sections of paving in the ruined towns, it was exciting to finds ourselves walking on it out in the middle of the countryside.
The track was overgrown in many places and we often had to detour on to the piles of stones alongside to avoid thorny bushes.
We were too late for the best of the wildflowers, but the Jerusalem sage was in flower.
The track led down into a gulley, guarded by a spectacular fortress standing on a rocky outcrop. This was Hisarınkale (Castle of the Fortress), originally a Hellenistic settlement (probably 2nd century BCE).
A short distance farther along we came to terracing below some heavily overgrown Roman ruins. It was still a little early to stop, but we knew we were going to have to dry camp and the day was still hot so we decided it made sense to stop and conserve water.
We “cooked” a meal on the edge of the ruins with a fine view down the gulley to Hisarınkale while we waited for the sun to get lower.
While we were waiting, a herd of goats passed by. The dog contented itself with barking at us from the other side of the bushes until all the flock had passed.
We put the tent up to the sound of goat bells in the gulley below as dusk gathered, then hit the sack as the moon rose over the ruins behind us.
DAY THREE. Distance walked: 17.04 km, altitude gained: 678 m
The light woke us early again and we had coffee to the sound of goats getting moving on the other side of the gulley below our terrace.
We headed off through the terraces, stopping only to watch a caterpillar train. These caterpillars make cobwebby nests in pine trees, and when they move on they do so in a line head to tail. They are covered with long hairs which are incredibly irritating to the skin if touched.
We picked up the trail again beyond the terracing and followed it to another area of terracing with a tall ruin ahead. This turned out to be the apse of a church, which stood on the edge of an extensive area of ruins from the Hellenistic period through to the Byzantine. (The next day, we found out that the modern name for these ruins is Kabaçam)
Beyond terraces crisscrossed by goat tracks, we picked up a clear path which soon became paved again as it headed towards a gulley.
On the far side we took a wide track which led to a dirt road paralleled by the ancient road. This led us to a gulley strewn with ruins, the ancient town now known as Çatıören. On the other side of the gulley, there are the impressive remains of a Hellenistic fortress and temple.
We followed the track past Byzantine dwellings to the remains of a large transept church where we rested a while in the shade.
We were now keen to get hold of water, so we took to the dirt road (which has obliterated the ancient road), to Poşlu Mahalle. There was a water fountain and shade next to the mosque so we sat ourselves down and drank our fill.
On Google Earth, there is a very visible crater (a sinkhole) near Poşlu Mahall. I asked the imam of the mosque about it,and the local namefor it. We just call it “çukur” (“hole”) he said.
Four hundred metres on, we came to İmirzili (sometimes spelled Emirzili), which contains the ruins of a couple of impressive churches (there may be a third, but we didn’t see it).
There is also a Byzantine tower house and a 3rd century Hellenistic watchtower, with phallic carving.
A very stony tractor track led us back parallel to the way we’d come towards the sinkhole. The sharp stones made painful walking late in the day and although it wasn’t far, we were glad to reach the sinkhole. I was impressed, Bozena, my wife, less so.
Rather than walk back along the painful track, we took a risk on a goat track heading roughly in the direction of Poşlu, and managed to follow it all the way back to the mosque.
We had an easy walk down the dirt road took us to the ancient road into Çatıören .
From there we retraced our steps, sometimes with surprising difficulty considering we’d walked up the same route just that morning. Everything looks very different in reverse.
When we reached the terracing above Kabaçam, we chose a nice flat terrace with a fine view of the sea and set up camp.
DAY FOUR. Distance walked: 8.94 km, altitude gained: 239 m
After the usual early rising, we walked down the terraces to Kabaçam.
We spent some time exploring the area of Hellenistic to Byzantine ruins we’d missed the day before.
We followed the dirt road down past a herder’s camp. The area around it strewn with an incredible amount of rubbish (not all herder camps are like this), which made it a little ironic that were carrying out our little bag of rubbish from the previous evening.
Soon, we had to continue east across open land and across a gulley towards the historical site of Kanlıdivane (ancient Kanytelis). As the path descended into the gulley, it became cobbled with small stones. It was different in character from the roads we’d been following on the previous couple of days and more similar to the Ottoman mule tracks we’ve come across elsewhere on the coast.
It led across the bottom of the gulley and up into Kanlıdivane’s western necropolis, where there are Roman rock-cut figures and tombs in the cliff.
A narrow path took us through fields of high grass to the main site, where a Hellenistic tower and four large churches are built around a limestone chasm.
A tarmacked road took us down to the coast road and transport back to Antakya.