Ayşe's Trail a year on...
Nothing about Ayşe’s Trail has run in a conventional straight line. Neither the story, nor the winning of prizes, and certainly not the subsequent selling of it. I’ve been rather surprised anyone read it at all. It’s a peculiar novel/biography refusing even to stay put in one genre. It was a labour of love, a passion. Never a business decision. So with most authors and publishers struggling to sell books, it’s something of a wonder that I have been sustained by mine for a year.
But then, Lycia has always taken care of me.
For those who are curious, Ayşe’s Trail has almost sold 1000 copies, which is pretty darn good for an indie book in a niche as quirky as Lycian history and hiking. And just like a Lycian Way hiker, the book progresses over the literary terrain picking up new readers as it goes. Some love it, some are slightly baffled by it. But it certainly has a growing band of fans, most of whom know this area and have felt its magic. It is now being translated into Dutch, and the Turkish version is on the horizon too. Sales are not abating, they are climbing, especially since August. It has been reviewed by Today’s Zaman, Istanbul Time Out, Turkey’s for Life, Turkish Travel and Lycian Turkey. The Fethiye Times review is on its way. On Amazon this week it once again hit the top 5 best-selling books for Turkey, and on most days loiters within the top 50. Last year it made two ‘Top Books to Read About Turkey’ lists, as well. I’m chuffed to bits in truth.
As many know, most of the book was completed while I was writhing in corporate agony in front of a computer screen in Taiwan. From the other side of the world it seemed Lycia called out to me. As soon as I began writing and Ayşe began walking, something else pushed its way into the text. The landscape had something to say, or so it seemed at least. Many authors feel as though people or places are talking to them when they write. Fictional characters have a life of their own. When you are the one who pens their words, the question as to where this life is coming from and who is really speaking, eats away at you.
Ayşe’s Trail was written at a critical time in Lycia’s history. The novel was a union of many things, which perhaps made it more complex or overwrought than a perfectionist would like. Yet that is so perfectly Turkey and Lycia. Neither are tidy or neatly packaged. Both are jagged corridors of Earth where the extremes of everything are pushed together, where the unpredictable is a day to day occurrence. I had one overriding wish for the story, that it should preserve a slice of time in Lycia’s long winding history.
Because things are changing. They are always changing.
In the year since Ayşe’s Trail was published, much has altered in Turkey. Istanbul has been pretty much butchered both culturally and physically, politically the country is in turmoil, and the environmental destruction being wreaked on this beautiful land is staggering. Yet, peculiarly, and in typically unfathomable Lycian style, most of Lycia evades the worst of the damage. Is something else at play that we don’t understand?
Yes amidst the carnage there have been miracles, and in the name of positive feeling (because we could do with some of that these days, we really could), I’ve made a list of them at the bottom of this article, so that you can dwell on them too.
There have of course been losses. The main coastal road between Kemer and Kumluca is being bulldozed into some sort of super highway. Kaputaş beach is the latest victim of the concrete money grab brigade. Is there anything we can do? The most effective protection I’ve seen of any area is to establish some sort of ecological reputation for the place, to stamp it with an alternative identity. And to be stubborn about it. Identities may be merely mental constructions, but they have the power to shape the destinies of both land and people, as the cases of Cirali and Patara below should illustrate. I don’t think anyone truly understands how our minds are connected to our outer reality. Sometimes we wield amazing power over our fates, other times it seems life has its own plan. But there is a connection between our thoughts (our concept of reality) and the way that reality presents itself to us.
So if Ayşe’s Trail conjured up a pristine world of natural magic and historical secrets, if 1000 people lived it and breathed it in their mind as they read and more do so in the future, so much the better. Who knows how far that image reaches or where it truly ends?
In the meantime, once again a big thank you to all who participated at the outset of Ayşe’s Trail. She is still walking. One step. In front. Of the other.
The eco-miracles of Lycia 2015, from east to west:
Geyikbayrı: This year, a mining company were about to gouge through the mountaineering haven of Geyikbayrı. After many protests, the bid was taken to court and turned down.
Phaselis: Against all odds Phaselis was saved from a huge five star hotel complex by a succession of protests and the timely discovery of ancient human remains on the site.
Maden Cove: This unspoilt bay has been saved from development by a court order this year due to being a turtle nesting ground.
Çıralı: The Houdini of the south coast. Çıralı has slipped through the hands of large hotel developers over and over again. Being only an hour from Antalya airport, logic dictates it would have been turned into a Kemer style nightmare by now. But no. Due to the cohesive actions of its astute residents, its ban on late night music, turtle watches and organic product shops, Çıralı has carved an ecological niche for itself that is proving hard to destroy. Even Kemer borough council’s effort at developing Çıralı this year remained limited to the installation of wooden barriers to keep the cars off the beach.
Olympos: When we saw the signs for new roads in Olympos at the beginning of the year, we all held our breath. Kumluca borough council tried to ram an asphalt road all the way to the ancient city. They failed. Olympos, being owned by the museum, forced the council to stop the road at the river. Olympos has seen no major new development since the flood in 2008. The fleets of beach polluting gulets from Kemer and Antalya have also been halted this year.
Sazak Bay: The Rixos chain spent years trying to construct a holiday village in this pristine cove, home to one of the last monk seals on the planet. For reasons I can’t locate, they pulled out last year.
Ceneviz cove: This gorgeous bay, unreachable by road, has also been declared a protected area and not to be developed.
Finike: The destruction of a beautiful cedar forest just outside Finike by yet another marble quarry has just been halted by the courts.
Kekova: Remains untouched. This in itself is a miracle if you ask me.
Kaş: It looked to me as though Kaş would be demolished back in 2011 with the new harbour and the new road. It could be better. But it could be a lot worse. I love that the road between the amphitheatre and Kaş Camping remains blocked off, and thus crowd and car fumes free.
Patara: No one seems to have been able to get their hands on Patara. Like Çıralı, back in the day Patara established itself as a turtle nesting site and has thus kept the concrete at bay.
Travelogue meets historical fiction on the Lycian Way
AYSE'S TRAIL IS AVAILABLE IN PRINT AND ON EBOOK