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x0x Dreaming in green Caglayan Valley

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  • TRH
    [See more at http://www.TurkRadio.us/caglayan ] x0x Dreaming in green Caglayan Valley By HALIM DIKER Drenched in the Black Sea s luxuriant green, Caglayan
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2006
      [See more at http://www.TurkRadio.us/caglayan ]

      x0x Dreaming in green Caglayan Valley


      Drenched in the Black Sea's luxuriant green, Caglayan
      Valley boasts three plateaux, Mese, Catak and Camlik...

      Lush, spanking fresh green dominated the mountains. We
      were bumping along a narrow mountain road in the back
      of a truck that drowned the whole valley in its roar.
      At the end of the two-hour journey starting from
      Findikli, a coastal township of Rize province, a few
      scattered houses came into view in the forest. The
      engine quieted down. `This is it,' said Yilmaz Oksuz.
      `You'll have to climb the rest of the way on your own.
      This is our plateau, Achozli.' The rushing Caglayan
      River was audible from the depths of the valley. I
      struck out on a muddy stone path and started to climb.
      The mist falling from the sky, the droplets of spray
      from the river, and the dark valley bristling with
      giant trees reminded me of the haunted road in fairy
      tales that leads to the mysterious realm. The path got
      terrifyingly steeper as I climbed, and I grabbed on to
      the moss-covered box trees so as not to tumble headlong
      over the precipices. Next to a high waterfall I took a
      rest, mesmerized by its foaming cascade.


      By sundown I had managed to climb in close to seven
      hours a path the locals take in four. In the end I
      reached the Mese Yayla, a handful of charming wooden
      houses built on a sloping clearing in the forest. This
      is the first `yayla' on the path that starts from
      Caglayan Valley, the one the Findikli people come to
      first with the arrival of spring. When the pastures
      turn green they climb up to the higher plateaux once
      every two months, coming down again in autumn to spend
      winter in their villages. The plateau dwellers watched
      closely as I pitched my tent. A hoary elder motioned
      with his hand, `Come'. I went over to him. From a pot
      boiling on his wood-burning stove he poured milk onto a
      plate, set a large sheep's trotter in it and gave it a
      stir. Pulling a stone plate from the hearth ashes, he
      deftly removed a steaming corn bread, which he cut in
      two and set on the table. The house was redolent with
      the pleasant scent of the chestnut wood panelling that
      covered its walls. A large black jug suspended on a
      chain over the great hearth, expertly built of granite
      slabs, was boiling away. Catching me eyeing the house,
      he declared proudly, `I built it. I have two more

      One on the next plateau, at Catak, the other on the
      highest one, at Camlik Yayla.' His name was Gunner
      Osman. After dinner he offered me tea steeped over
      coals. I told him I was going to climb to Camlik Yayla
      in the morning. `Leave early,' he said, `the road is
      very steep.

      There's nobody up there yet. I'll be up too in a couple
      of days.' We said good-bye and parted. In the morning I
      awoke to the chirping of the birds as the sun's rays
      were beginning to caress the valley. I opened the door
      of my tent. There stood a small jug of milk, still
      steaming, a thoughtful breakfast offering from the
      yayla dwellers.


      I found Catak Yayla on a broad clearing where the
      forest ended. The yayla dwellers who had come up that
      morning were busy repairing their houses. Here the
      valley divided in two. I took the path to Camlik Yayla,
      climbing for hours among the rocks alongside yellow
      Pontic rhododendrons. As I climbed, Mt Marsis loomed
      into view in all its splendor.

      I was a little closer to it at every break in the thick
      layer of mist that had settled over the mountains. The
      sun had saved its red tinge until the very last. Just
      when I reached Camlik Yayla and sat down to rest beside
      a spring, the valley and all the mountains were
      suddenly bathed in cotton candy pink.

      One by one I tried the doors of the yayla houses of
      wood and stone built on the slope. Finally I found one
      that was open. I immediately tried to start a fire in
      the fireplace to warm up. The yayla was 2400 m above
      sea level, and the water started to freeze as soon as
      the sun went down. There was no one on this yayla yet.
      For two days I wandered in the surrounding hills,
      gazing for hours at the snow-capped mountains, the
      frothy rushing streams and the emerald green forests
      far below. I quenched my thirst with the `water of
      life' from ice-cold springs that burst from beneath the
      rocks. The Caglayan, whose real name is `Abu Hemsin' or
      Water of Hemsin, is the purest and bluest of all the
      rivers that empty into the Black Sea. At the end of the
      second day Uncle Osman showed up with a heavily laden
      mule at his side. He was as happy as a boy.

      It was his first time back here in eight months.
      Unfastening the double lock on his wooden house, he
      opened the door with a prayer and pointed to the
      snow-capped mountains. `It's just your luck,' he said,
      `there was a lot of snow this year. You can't make to
      the summit of Marsis. Come back in two months and
      you'll be able to catch the Salikvan Yayla bus from
      Yusufeli and get up to those two peaks across the way.
      I'll come with you up to the summit.'


      The two months flew by. This time I wound around behind
      Mt Marsis. The passengers for Salikvan Yayla got out at
      their stop. Twisting and turning, the driver reached
      the upper slopes of Marsis in an hour. `Do you know the
      way?' he asked. `Follow that path there, you'll be at
      Camlik Yayli in two hours.' He wished me luck and
      quickly disappeared back down the road to Salikvan. I
      wrapped my muffler tightly around my face and neck.
      Although it was August there was an icy wind. I took
      the slope down to the yayla at a run, went up to a
      house and knocked.

      At the door, with a beaming smile on his face, was
      Uncle Osman. He hugged me tight. I was up early the
      next morning. His woollen saddlebag hoisted on his
      back, Uncle Osman had already taken his cows out to
      graze. Climbing among the little streams and steep
      rises, I was breathless by the time I caught up with
      him. We reached the foothills of Marsis and, skipping
      over rocks and precipices, wound our way up to its
      3200-m high summit. While I rested, totally winded,
      Uncle Osman kept an eye on the cows through his
      binoculars. Ten minutes later he stood up again. `Rest
      up,' he said, `but budget your time so you'll get back
      down again before it gets dark; otherwise I'll worry.'
      And with that he vanished between the rocks with the
      agility of a goat.

      Gunner Osman was still full of life, as vigorous as any
      youngblood. In winter he picked the oranges, satsumas
      and grapefruit that he grew in the large garden of his
      house and gathered chestnuts from the forest and
      roasted them on the stove, all the while yearning for
      spring and the yayla season to roll round again.

      He was sad to see the traditional yayla way of life
      fading out and very incensed that today's young people
      never go up. On my last evening on the yayla he took
      out three big keys. `Here', he said.

      `This one is for Mese, this one for Catak, and this one
      for Camlik. Nobody will go up to those yaylas after I'm
      gone. But you come whenever you want, those houses are
      yours. Once you get a taste of this place, I'm sure
      you'll come back often.'

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