The sign stood waiting to alert me, its letters spelling out its caution in 2 languages.
“Warning! Flammable Area”
This was at the bottom of the Mount Chimaera flame field. As I had started my morning on the opposite side of the mountain, I had entered the field from above, so the sign showed up after the fact. Fortunately, the field was fairly self explanatory and I was able to identify it and avoid the flaming crevices as I walked gingerly through.
The field was pretty amazing to see, because according to myth, the beast Chimaera, with the head of a lion, body of a goat, and tail of a snake, was interred here. Chimaera could breathe fire, and continued to do so despite his imprisonment.
The ancient legends also tell that the flames were once so bright that sailors used them as a landmark at night, although they don’t seem nearly so luminous today.
There are actually two flame fields on Mount Chimaera. There is a much smaller field near the top pass, with a few holes licked black with small flames.
As I looked over the major field of flame from below, I paused to consider all that was around me. Behind me were the ruins of a basilica. And surrounding one of the flames were the ruins of the Temple of Hephaistos.
This is sacred land. There are places that early men identified as sacred or holy, and that designation tends not to be lost. Even if there are no more places of worship here, this place — this fire-touched rock — this is sacred. I could feel the power of the place as I walked through, an experience that felt a little bit sacreligious. And I could sense the importance as I gazed up at the side of the mountain.
This was the highlight of my day today. Had I not hiked this path I might have someday seen the lower field, but I would have never seen the upper. And they were remarkable.
There were other highlights today as well. One was the satisfaction of making it through a 17 mile hike. Yes you read that right. It was supposed to be 15 miles, but I got off trail a couple of times. Oh and the driver dropped me off at least a half mile from the trailhead. That also set me behind to start the morning, but being chased by a large angry dog helped me recoup some of those precious minutes.
The other highlight was passing through the ruins at Olympos. There isn’t a lot left here. The pilings for a bridge, and some fragments of buildings.
I think there’s a theater, but we were barred from entering.
And there is a bit of a basilica.
The rest of the day was much better than yesterday. The trail was much better marked, and for the first half there were even striped tapes hanging from trees to show the path (you can see it at the far right edge of the frame).
And the trail was also much better trodden and identifiable, with the exception of a lengthy stretch walking along a beach. But it’s hard to get lost when the instructions say “follow the beach.”
There was only one place where I ended up entirely off the recommended path, and I knew that it was coming. My driver yesterday warned me that when I left Olympos, the path to cross Mount Musa had changed, and that I should just watch other hikers.
I don’t know if he’s heard, but there’s a pandemic. There really aren’t many other hikers.
So I asked the owner of a campground how to get to the Lycian Way. He gave me outstanding directions. I was to go past his fence and turn left. Follow the path to the chicken house and go behind it on the left side. When I got behind it I should go up.
And that’s just what I did. There were no markings or paths. I looked for other footprints to guide my direction. I clambered up the rocky slope, and when I finally found myself back on the marked path, I stopped and ate my lunch.
As the day passed I never tarried too long in any one place, because I knew the hike was a long one and I didn’t want to be in the mountains after sunset. Sunset is at 6 pm here, so that was the metric I kept watching as the minutes ticked by. The climb up Mount Musa was challenging and took longer than I expected, but I made it, and there was still decent light in the sky when I reached my hotel at 5:45.