Saklikent Gorge, Turkey
Crashing through the water, fighting the strong current of the river, I hold on tight to my bag. My shoes are soaking, my shorts are getting wetter by the second and the chill in my legs is creeping up to a point where it could become very uncomfortable. But this is an unavoidable discomfort. My path is blocked by the streaming waters and the only way through is to walk – or scramble, really – over the rocks through the river.
I’m at Saklikent Gorge, a natural beauty about 50 kilometres from the Turkish city of Fethiye. I had jumped on one of the minibuses that serve as public transportation in the area and an hour later arrived at what turned out to be a very popular spot for families on a hot summer Saturday afternoon.
After paying the entrance fee, I had walked along a narrow pathway along the side of the canyon to a beach area. This is where the hard decision had to be made. Do you stop here and enjoy what is visible… or do you push through the freezing waters?
I had contemplated just stopping, to be honest. More out of laziness than anything else. I didn’t realise what was beyond, I thought I could see it all from here, that the effort and discomfort of ending up with wet clothes would not be worth the return. I turned out to be wrong. Oh, so wrong.
Saklikent Gorge is about 300 metres deep and stretches out for 18 kilometres. While you can’t walk the whole way along it, the path after the water trap has some of the best examples of what is on offer.
The water is shallow and slow-moving in these parts. At times the path is wide, sometimes it narrows to a point where you have to climb over boulders to pass. There’s a slight chill on the ground with the sun unable to break through to the bottom – but the rays of light which do shine through a crack bring a splash of colour to the red walls.
Some of the Turkish families seem to have been here before. They cover themselves in the mud from the ground and let it dry on their bodies. On some of the walls, names and messages have been written in the dried mud.
Every turn of the path seems to reveal a slightly altered aspect of the canyon. The rocks change colour, the water interacts differently with the ground, the light shines through from another angle. To walk through the gorge is such a pleasure.
How could I ever have considered staying on the other side of that gushing river? These shorts and shoes will dry eventually!