Thursday, 19 August 2010

Mules to Atanoglu and finally on to Karagol Lake

This was to be the final leg of our journey to the small hamlet of Atanglu and finally by van on to Karagol lake where Hassan informed us with glee we would be eating meat! Up until this point we had been largely eating a carbohydrate diet and the idea of barbecue chicken appeared very appealing indeed but first we had to negotiate the most precarious of mountain trails and I was to learn how important communications between us, our guide and team of muleteers was to be .

Bayazsu appeared as if it was on the roof of the world . Always high above the cloud line this pristine Alpine climate was perfect even though the air was getting a little thin.

We had hitched a ride in a van to a small village close to Beyazsu and met out mules at the beginning of the trail. It felt like a typical Sunday afternoon walk in the mountains. Glorious weather and magnificent views wherever we looked but sadly this was to be our last day high in the mountains.

At times the drop down the grassy slopes was exceptionally steep but the trail was easy to see and mules were perfectly happy. What we hadn't considered was the trail was for walking only and as the mules picked over the steep rocks we should have dismounted and not clung on for grim death . Rapidly our pleasant walk became a white knuckle ride, hanging onto our mules as they pitched from left to right . The drop to our left appeared perilous and we were now strung out with no sight by the last rider of the leader . It was clear our guides and muleteers had no experience of a group of mule riders and the basic rules of mountain riding .Furthermore our interpreter had no experience of mountain walking so it was difficult to explain my concern.
As the team pulled closer together and we made our way along particular tricky part of the trail, my saddle snapped and I unceremoniously fell to the ground on the right side of my mule. This proved Melissa's suspicions right that I was accident prone , if someone was going to fall of their mount it was going to be me. And she was right.

Our muleteers made fast work of fixing the saddle and a little nervous we got going again after our short rest.The remaining trail was to prove straight forward and if you are wondering where the pictures are of the dangerous bit, especially my fall, well thankfully no one had a camera to hand or felt like taking a picture which suited me.

The shot of the whole team relaxing while the saddle was being fixed epitomised the general tone of our journey . Relaxed and generally marvelous . What more could you ask for .

After a couple of hours we stopped and rested to eat some biscuits and drink a bottle of wine. I've mentioned in my blog a couple of times that it never ceased to amaze me why Hassan feed us biscuits for lunch. Why he never thought of some cheese and bread, a few tins of sardines and fruit I'll never know but there you go. Perhaps that is what he thought we wanted.

Yep this is the family snap but sadly missing our eldest daughter India who interestingly had just arrived back from India and Nepal after 5 months traveling. Yes it hadn't slipped our mind calling our eldest might cause some amusement if she ever traveled to India.

For future travellers my advice is take this trail but on foot or dismount at the tricky bits . Don't assume your guide or Muleteers have any training and accept that you are an intruder into their world and therefore never make assumptions . These folk only know their own way and it is up to us ,the international traveler to provide support and not the other way around.
Use your own knowledge ,plan and most of all relax and go with the flow but never assume.
I should add this is rich coming from me . We've done this type of trip many times and I still get caught out.

We had at last arrived in Atanoglu where we were to meet with Mavlute who was to drive us down from the mountain along a recently cut track to Karagol lake .

I took this picture as Mavlute was making his way up the mountain. You can just make out a white van. This is the whole team excluding Hassan and myself and I can thoroughly recommend traveling with so many people. Our journey felt more like an expedition than a holiday and the people of Macahel made it very special indeed .

The team - our girls ,Gem, Hassan's son and his cousin Orhan plus a couple of the Muleteers.
They had all made great friends and played cards into the night . I just hope money wasn't passing hands.

Our mules made a fetching site taking a rest and drinking up the view after our journey OK mules don't do views but they should it's a stunning spot.

The small village of Atanoglu nestling on the mountain side which was glorious in the summer although it must be impossible in the winter months which is why the inhabitants move down to the lowland pastures for the winter.
Mavlute drove us steadily down the mountain track and after a few hours drive we arrived at our destination Karagol lake which amazingly is considered high in the mountains and a popular tourist spot . Karogol lake felt as though we were in the valleys far below where we had been for the past week and I felt slightly contaminated by the trappings of western comfort and barbecued chicken eaten close to the spellbinding mountain lake of Karagol. The next day we were to realise how high we were as we drove yet further downhill for many miles before we found ourselves out of the mountains and in Borka.

The symphony of frogs to be heard in the evening was something new to me and a melody I shall never forget . This must be the land of the frogs. If not it should be .

This is the simple guest house where we stayed for the night. It had all the creature comforts we could expect but sadly lacked the traditional elegance of Macahel.

From her we were to make our way to Hoppa the following morning , then onto Batumi in Georgia where we were to catch our flight back to Istanbul.

Istanbul was not to be the end of our travels but it is the end of this Blog. If you wish to know anything else about this far way land yet to be discovered by the west drop me a line and I'll do my best to make introductions or help clarify my muddled recollections . You can get me on

Macahel needs ecotourism but only with a light footprint. The local people are poor and desperate to improve their standard of living . By traveling and staying in the region you will meet a few Turkish hikers but very few if any foreigners. Remember your Dollar, Euro or Yen spent in the right way will make all the difference and help this genuinely untouched part of the world continue as it has always done.

Travel light , spend your money with the people who need it and remember you have to work hard to find such places and paying your money to a holiday company only lines the pockets of a city dweller and I doubt you would see what we found but I may be wrong. Stay local and have fun. We did .

Regars Chris

No comments:

Post a Comment