Antalya Easter 1993

Team:†††††† Phil Luff, Steve Tooms, Rob Murgatroyd and John Wlldman.

This was a one week trip to visit the intriguing little area about 20km North West of Antalya in Turkey. Some of you have already been there on trips 1988, 1989 (when the Kirkgozler Chasm was found) and 1992. The area consists of 4000 to 5500 feet high ridge stretching 15km North to South. On itís West side are a set of large (a few kilometres across) closed depressions with seasonal stream sinks. On itís East side are a set of big resurgences emptying onto a plain.
The plan was to walk
along the ridge and then back along the depressions, looking for and asking about, caves and potholes. Unfortunately there is no word in Turkish for pothole, which makes life a little difficult. Another problem is that some of the area is an archaeological reserve where the mere mention of caves earns immediate arrest.
We flew
from Heathrow and arrived at about 10pm at Antalya Airport. Yildirim was there to meet us as he had promised. He drove us at his usual breakneck speed to our pansiyon whilst describing a horrific accident that had occurred to him on that very road.

The next morning (well, afternoon) found us at the roadside near the North end of the ridge with four rucksacks and a trackless sea of thorn scrub through which we had to make our way. John found that his rucksack (borrowed from his girlfriend) had been trashed by Turkish Airlines making it almost impossibly uncomfortable to wear. We set off up the hill through the scrub. By mid afternoon we had reached the end of the ridge and sat down to admire the view. The temperature was about 25 degrees C and the sun was shining with a fresh breeze to keep us cool. The first karst features were found but there was nothing promising and no locals to ask. Phil found a small snow patch and we played around in it for a few minutes, taking photos to show the supposed rigours of this trip into the ĎHigh Taurusí.

We walked on for about two hours and found a pleasant campsite beneath a small cliff with a fine view. Firewood was provided by the Turkish peasant habit of cutting down trees (or at least bushes which is all that is left now that theyíve cut the trees down) for the goats to eat. We all lay down in our (or in Johns case his girlfriendís) bivvi bags to sleep.

By morning about six Inches of snow had fallen, It was near freezing and the snow was still falling. John had managed to get a large quantity of snow inside his sleeping bag and soaked almost everything that his girlfriend owned. He was in a bad way too, having spent most of the night lying in a snowdrift. We could not continue along the ridge and John needed to dry his things. We decided to drop off the ridge and get to the nearest village where we could get a bus back to Antalya.

Well, thatís what we told John.

We knew that John hadnít a clue where he was so when we got into the valley we just kept walking. He followed and by the time he realised that we were walking away from the village it was too late. Luckily, the sun came out and we stopped to dry our things. Some shepherds came over to chat and feed us, we kept asking about caves but didnít meet with much success. People knew of their existence but no-one could actually take us to the entrances. We camped under an overhanging cliff but we were kept up all night by the shepherds manic dogs.

The next day we continued walking South and met an old man with some cows. He abandoned his cows in the woods and showed us a short cave and a pothole near a major seasonal sink with at least two pitches. But it had been entered some time before. The old man took us home for a lunch of olives, unleavened bread, yoghurt and milk. That afternoon we walked down a canyon towards the road and camped under another cliff. We found a few more small caves but nothing major.

The following day we walked out to the main road and got a taxi back to Antalya.

We had a days rest and then a further day on the South end of the ridge. We found a few small caves and some short pitched but nothing major. The only people we could ask about caves were forestry officials, and as caving in Turkey is illegal we didnít feel like asking.

It was a pleasant trip but pretty useless as far as caving went.
The area is obviously not riddled but there are certainly things to be found. If we could have spoken better Turkish we have had more chance. If anyone has time to spare in Southern Turkey; a couple of days at the South end of the ridge, with an interpreter and diplomatic immunity, might pay dividends.

Steve Tooms

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