This story may deviate from my usual style in travel writing, but it’s a travel memory nevertheless; one of those unprecedented events that eventually become dinner-table anecdotes, told with much enthusiasm. While they’re unfolding, however, as in this case, they’re anything but enthusiasm inducing.
As may have become obvious over time, my boyfriend and I fervently enjoy traveling, and equally, camping. So far, our camping trips have been nothing but wonderful experiences. This was perhaps the only one that wasn’t all that great.
Catching a break from classes back in late November, we decided to head over to Fethiye for a few days. We had planned on staying in three different towns and hiking to each along the Lycian Way. Naturally, we were eager to see the ancient Greek ghost town of Kayaköy, a short trek from Fethiye. Our plan was to explore the ruins of the abandoned village during the day and then camp at night, and hike to Ölüdeniz in the early morning. Since it was a spontaneous trip, we hadn’t meticulously planned out everything beforehand, but having seen a particular campground highly recommended on Trip Advisor, with great reviews, we decided we’d just go there.
Upon reaching Kayaköy, we walked directly to the aforementioned campground. We saw the gate open, which wasn’t so unusual, but when we entered it, the place was as abandoned as the ghost town neighboring it. We knocked on all the doors and called out, but no one responded. The outdoor bar was completely open, with expensive bottles of alcohol lined up and food left on the kitchen table, as we saw from the window, so the owners couldn’t have gone far. My boyfriend still found it a bit strange they would leave everything open like that, but assuming it was a small community with no crime, we didn’t think much more of it.
We then went to other camping grounds to ask if they were open. The first one said they were closed, since it was off-season, but recommended another place (which also turned out to be closed). We inquired about the first place we had visited, and strangely, the man told us not to go there. When asked why, he simply shrugged and said, “Just don’t. I don’t really recommend it.” But since no other campgrounds were open, it seemed to be our only option. Luckily, we managed to find an active phone number for the place, and when we called, a man answered and told us that he and his wife (who evidently ran the business together) were out for a couple of hours but would be back by evening. He said we could set up camp, and that he would meet us later. The place was a bit secluded but quite picturesque, so we pitched our tent and left to go sightseeing. We spent the whole day exploring and hiking, enjoying the breathtaking beauty of the ruins of a once-thriving village. By late evening we were quite tired, and around 10 p.m. started back to our campground – and what turned out to be an unexpected half hour of hair-raising fright.
When we got there, we found the place still empty. No one had returned, and it was quite late. My boyfriend rang the owners again, and they said that they had decided not to return, but we could leave the money under a table mat by the bar. They also told us the kitchen and bathrooms were open if we needed to use them. The place was dark, and the yard where we had set up camp was huge and unlit. The area around the property was mostly farmland, and not a soul was in sight.
My boyfriend started to feel a bit uneasy. He was dubious as to why a business owner would leave their property, with a bar full of expensive alcohol and a half-unlocked house, completely open to two total strangers. Using the flashlights from our cell phones, we made our way to our tent. My boyfriend kept looking around anxiously. His uneasiness slowly rubbed off on me, and I told him if he was really feeling so strongly about this, we could just go to the bed and breakfast where we had dinner earlier, and stay the night there. He agreed, but continued to keep a cautious eye on the place.
We decided to pack up our tent. Since it required a lot of folding, and he was already apprehensive, I told him to simply shine the light toward me while I packed. Aggravating my growing concern, he would constantly move the light and check the surroundings, which prevented me from packing very fast. His repeated motioning for me to talk quietly was also getting me increasingly panicked. As soon as I had folded the tent, we stuffed it into its bag and, barely taking time to zip it all the way up, hurriedly grabbed our belongings and bolted out of there. He still seemed nervous; I told him to relax now that we had left.
The road back to the main area of the town was also dark and isolated. It was while we were walking along it that he said, “There’s something I wanted to tell you, but not while we were still in that place.”
“Well, what is it?” I asked.
He hesitated, and then said he didn’t want to scare me, but he was certain that he saw someone lurking in the dark behind the wooden cabins and by the bathrooms, twice. No one was supposed to be there except us. I got chills, but still tried to rationalize, saying it was a farm area and there were probably a lot of animals nearby. Maybe it was a cat moving around. But he was adamant it was a human figure, walking as a human would, periodically standing still and trying to be stealthy. That was why he was in a hurry and kept checking the surroundings, and that’s why he was telling me to keep my voice down.
The hair on my back was standing up at this point. I kept looking back while walking as fast as I could to reach the lighted area of the quiet town, and only really relaxed once we reached the bed and breakfast, locked our door and paused a moment to take in what had happened.
We gave each other a look full of mixed emotions, and could only laugh at what had happened and how we had reacted. We can’t know who was lurking back there, or what their intentions were, but in this case, I happily accept remaining ignorant and having given in to our instincts, and vow never to take such a risk in a small, quiet town again.