Chilling in Camlihemsin
It was about 10 p.m. on the Friday the 13th and we had just driven straight through the tiny town of Çamlihemşin without seeing a single sign for our hotel. We did see an Efes Shop, Turkey’s equivalent of an ABC store, and stopped there only to learn that it was closed and we would get no drinks tonight. We had driven all the way from the other side of the Kaçkar Mountains, up to the Black Sea Coast, and then back down into the mountains. It had been a very long day.
So instead of bravely driving around and trying to find it on our own in the darkness, we broke down rather quickly and just called the hotel for directions. They said we should have taken the road right before the town, driven up the mountain, and then parked after we saw the big truck on the right, you know, after a few curves. In daylight, we would have seen the sign, but now we were just looking for a big Toyota and counting curves.
Amazingly, we found it, only to start our next task: hiking through the woods to find our lodge. The voice on the phone said to just keep walking on the path until you find lights of the main house. It will seem like you’re in the middle of the woods and can’t possibly be in the right place, they said, but just keep walking, and you’ll get there.
Sure enough, it felt like we weren’t in the right place. I was tempted to call again to make sure we were walking down the right path through the woods in the middle of the night, but Emily seemed confident that we on track, so we kept walking. We were sharing the headlight I laughingly threw in the bag as I scrambled to pack the week before without a clue that it would actually be so useful.
After about 15 minutes, we indeed arrived at the lit up house in the middle of the woods. After being introduced to the family running the place and a few woofers, they brought out a late dinner for us. Although I was sort of annoyed about the difficulty of finding the place and hike in on the dark unlit path, after one bite of food I completely relaxed. Ekodanitap, our hotel for the weekend, gets rave reviews for its food, and even with this cold, late dinner we joined the chorus. We had some kind of soup, an amazingly delicious fresh salad and stuffed peppers. Everything was seasoned and cooked perfectly and just what we needed.
After dinner we went to our bungalow and crashed. The innkeeper had upsold us from a treehouse to a bungalow, as he thought the tree wasn’t really suitable for two people (althought that’s not what the website said). However, we were so tired that we just went for the bungalow and walked up the steep hill to crash for the night.
We had plans to go on a long hike the next day, but as it was the day after hours of exhausting driving we ended up just chilling at the lodge. Since we had morning sun on our balcony and a view of the mountains all day, with the sounds of the river rushing by, lounging was a good choice.
We did manage a walk into the village to check out some of the local architecture. Çamlihemşin is an Armenian village of a small cultural sect, the Hemşin. Everybody is incredibly friendly and warm. Here’s some of the local buildings:
At night, we met the the other lodgers. Two guys from Istanbul brought one of their sons for a rafting weekend on the Tortum River, which they said was phenomenal. A music group, Patlika, was staying there to provide entertainment after dinner. And the WOOF Turkey manager was there with a seed expert friend to start a hike through the Kaçkars. Because it’s the only place everybody eats side by side at the main house, it’s a pretty social area. We all got to know each other. From the band, I even learned why Emily and I couldn’t drive through the mountains the day before.
The band’s name was Patika. I have a habit of asking the meaning of names in Turkey, since there’s almost always a meaning and maybe even a story behind it. Patika was no exception. It’s a hiking road through the mountains. The band is based on the Black Sea coast and sings classic Turkish songs as well as those of the Laz (Black Sea) and Hemşin people. They played all night while all of the guests kept themselves lubricated with raki.