February 21, 2009

Mount Chimera
Kemer, Turkey

I had a huge day trip with my CouchSurfing host Hasan today that took us all over this portion of the southern coast of Turkey.

Mountain Reprieve

We started the afternoon in the mountains west of Kemer. Accessible to those with their own vehicles, it's a beautiful escape from the hotels and mellow commotion of the off-season coastal city that I think only a small percentage of visitors ever get to experience.

Fish on the Menu

Driving south through the undeveloped landscape for 40 minutes or so found us at a popular stream-side restaurant (seemingly) in the middle of nowhere, sporting the very first (and very large scale) fish farm I've ever seen used exclusively for meals in an adjoining restaurant. We're talkin' huge fish!

Mount Chimera

Another 45 minutes south and we arrived at the village of Çıralı, proclaimed as one of the most beautiful parts of the south coast of Turkey (an area known as the Turkish Rivièra). Generally isolated and unspoiled by the mass tourism brought on by larger concrete resorts, there are only smaller hotels and guest houses in the area, run by local families.

A few kilometers north of Çıralı, about 200 meters above sea level, are the eternal flames of Mount Chimera. It's this location that's indicated by some ancient sources to be the origin of the myth of the Chimera (a monstrous creature of Greek mythology with the head of a lion, the body of a goat and the tail of a serpent, who roamed these woods and sprouted fire from her mouth).

Once a landmark used by (ancient) sailors for navigation, the site has since become an attraction for tourists and hikers moving along the Lycian Way.

Called Yanartaş (flaming rock) in Turkish, Mount Chimera consists of some two dozen flaming vents in the ground, grouped in two patches on the hillside above the long since fallen Temple of Hephaestus (the god of fire and blacksmiths). The fuel source for the flames is natural gas—largely methane, thought to be of metamorphic origin—seeping through cracks in the earth. The vents ignite spontaneously, and require no maintenance to keep the flames ablaze. (the entire location smells like natural gas)

Mount Chimera was a pretty wild surprise that I'd never heard of, and was all the more memorable a visit since Hasan and I decided to sneak into the place instead of paying the admission. We parked the car down the road towards town and cut a deep diagonal path through the forest until we connected with the main trail. Score.

Around Olympos

With the sun setting, we zoomed around the area south of Olympos (a site dating back to at least the 2nd century BC) before heading home along picturesque winding roads, flanked by snowcapped mountains and wiry pine trees.

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