Walking the St Paul Trail in Turkey: Sütçüler to Eğirdir
One of the advantages of walking a route that someone you know has already done is that it becomes easier to plan short days. We had been assured that there is a nice camping spot with a spring bubbling up from under a tree within half a days walk from Sütçüler. After a week of walking we needed a late start and guaranteed wild camp and made the most of it by trying to make scrambled eggs using the billycan over gas. The gas was too hot and kept burning the eggs, so it ended up being a mix of poorly cooked egg with floating black bits. The plan is to have soft boiled eggs next time.
The guidebook calls out today as being one of the most notable days. The route goes through the middle of the ancient Roman city of Adada in Pisidia. Similar to previous roman ruins, it isn’t remotely commersialised and there was nobody else about whilst we explored.
The city dates back to the 2nd century BC, evidenced by an inscription recording a treaty and alliance with neighbouring Termessos, another Pisidian city built at more than 1000m altitude.
The ruins are quite numerous and spread over a large area. There are four imperial temples, a theatre, acropolis (fortified building typically on a hilltop) and an impressive agora/forum with large stairs leading to the acropolis.
It would have been a fun place to find a spot away from the ruins and camp, but it was too early and we didn’t spot any immediately apparent water sources. We carried on, aiming to get to the tree spring camp for lunch and then relax.
The tree spring was as good as we hoped, and we drank straight from the source. There was also a river in the valley bottom but it was almost entirely dry.
In the morning we were treated to the usual wake up call from the local mosque at 0430, it was a little early to start walking so we did our best to get back to sleep. For breakfast we enjoyed cold hard boiled eggs, having learnt from the previous attempt to make scrambled eggs.
We spotted the next food shop as we walked into Siphalier however could only find long-life food. As we left the shop we were greeted by the now familiar “çay… çay!” (pronounced like chai). So we walked over and enjoyed some tea whilst doing our best to communicate in gestures and with our phones. After our tea he led us to the real food market with vegetables where we bought oranges, aubergines, courgette, tomatoes, cheese and cucumbers. He also kindly gave us one of the orange fruit each, which I looked up later and realised was Persimmon. The market is off to the side of the route but is important to find to get fresh food. We also filled up our water at the çay shop.
We walked up into the Erenler valley and found a mountain pasture populated by a family of shepherds living in a well established camp. The bottom of the valley was quite busy with shepherds driving on old motorbikes and dogs guarding the sheep so we stopped by a water trough up on the valley side.
The Erenler valley was beautiful but unfortunately also where I was briefly ill. I woke up, got up, felt sick. We packed up but I continued to feel ill all morning. I wanted to make some onward progress so struggled up the mountain but going really slowly and stopping every 10 meters or so. It took the whole morning to walk a couple of miles. We knew there was a well on the other side of the slope so continued walking and found it around lunch time.
It was in a lovely forest so we decided to camp very early and spend the afternoon recovering rather than risk walking on and struggling to find water for the evening. By mid-afternoon I felt a lot better and was fine to carry on the next day. I think this was the only time we camped beside a well as most of the time we found water troughs, but shows that it is important to carry two/three meters of paracord to create a makeshift well bucket out of the billycan.
The next day was continuing onto towards Serpil and Yukari Gokdere. The route mainly took us through oak woodland and areas that almost felt like the grounds of an estate in England. It then broadened out into mountain pastures and very dry, bright orange ground.
It was a long descent from the mountain pastures into Yukari Gokdere. We walked into the town and looked at the market but found it didn’t sell any fresh fruit or vegetables. I think part of the issue is that most local people grow their own, so there isn’t much need for a shop to sell fresh food. It had bread so we bought a couple of loafs, and then a few tins of ratatouille and beans. Though quite heavy we discovered they are quite tasty.
A helpful Turkish man told us more about the next part of the route, climbing Davraz and that there was no water until the ski resort on the other side. He also warned us against camping in Kasnak Oak forest due to wolves, boar and just because camping isn’t allowed in the National Park.
There is a small lake/reservoir above the village where we decided to have a rest and wash. A huge dog turned up with a viscous looking spiked collar but despite this seemed quite gentle. We decided the reservoir was probably too public and decided to push on a little higher up the mountain.
We camped on the hillside a little bit above the reservoir at Yukari Gokdere and left at 7am to start the long climb to the top. It took 5 hours steady walking uphill, though mostly along tracks which made it easier. The alps and Pyrenees are tougher in comparison as the paths zigzag up vertical mountains whereas these steadily climb for hours on end. It was about 1000 meters of height over 9 miles from the town to the top according to the contours and route on Maps.Me.
The next surprise was to find it flattens out at the top and turns into mountain pastures with shepherd huts and very loud nasty dogs. Despite the human and sheep inhabiting the mountain top we couldn’t spot any water sources and it looked like they may bring water tankers up. So we made do with our remaining water for lunch, as it was getting into mid afternoon and we were starving. Over lunch I spotted Horned Larks hopping about, a delightful bird where the appearance reflects the name.
A thunderstorm swept in over lunch and we decided to speedily make our way off the top of the mountain. We could see the dark clouds building on the other side of the mountain and it quickly turned into a downpour. We kept on through the rain and found trees to hide under after an hour. We also learnt that rain on very dry dusty ground turns the dust into incredibly sticky mud. After a few minutes our boots had an extra couple of inches of mud, which makes walking feel very odd!
There were a few places to camp in the valley with Davraz ski resort but we decided to walk on, partly because the area was full of cattle and sheep, but also to put some distance between us and the ski resort.
We lit the usual campfire for cooking and then ate. Whilst drinking our evening tea and enjoying the view, a whole platoon of soldiers marched by! They were strung out over several miles so we sipped tea and watched them stagger past. None of the soldiers took any interest in us or commented on the fire
The final day of week two was the final push to Eğirdir, essentially a route march off Davraz and descending to the lake. Bits of the terrain reminded me of photos I had seen of Tuscany for some reason. Maybe the gentle rolling hills sporting occasional trees.
We arrived in Eğirdir at 2pm and checked in Charly’s Pension, cleaned up and rested then strolled around the town. Had super at Charly’s and met Ibrahim who helped with route, he marks out the red and white way markings. Had two beers each.
My parents recommended Charly’s Pension and I also recommend stopping there for a couple of days. You can stay at Charly’s or Fulya, both are owned by Ibrahim and we found him happy to help answer questions about the route. He was also crucial in crossing the major obstacle on the next part of the walk – finding someone to take us across the lake.
Posts in this series:
Walking the St Paul Trail in Turkey: Sütçüler to Eğirdir (this post)
Walking the St Paul Trail in Turkey: Eğirdir to Yalvaç
St Paul’s Trail downloadable route map: Routes