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Green canyon, blue bay and freedom

Green canyon, blue bay and freedom

December 2019 · 7 min read · Muğla

The asphalt road ends at Kabak, a small village with a dozen farmers and fishermen family houses. When the dolmuş that brought me here leaves back to Fethiye, nature takes over. Silence, and the sounds of cicadas and birds. A scent of fresh pines and resin, a touch of dry wind coming up from the canyon below. Like my senses are massaged into a quiet soothing existence. It’s my type of place.

Kabak beach. South Turkey
Kabak beach. South Turkey

From my refuge in the shade of a leafy fig tree at the end of the paved road I could see a stretch of the blue water below. Pointy tall cliffs of orange and pink hue towering above me. The dirt road from here to the beach is steep and bumpy, snaking down the canyon. Jeeps carry people down to the bay and back.

A blue bay down the green canyon. Kabak, Turkey
A blue bay down the green canyon. Kabak, Turkey

There are 20-30 accommodation options of all kinds. Each with unique lodging, nested in nature, in bungalows, huts, rooms, tents and everything in between. From all comforts, AC, swimming pool, WiFi, room service, to empty lots you can pitch your tent in. Many of the camps and hostels names have a touch of spirituality to them: Mandala, Shiva, Shambala, Lilith and others.

Tree house? Not really. Just another special guest house in Kabak Valley
Tree house? Not really. Just another special guest house in Kabak Valley

Prices include breakfast and dinner, sometimes vegan, always fresh and healthy. I started walking down the dirt looking for camp to setup my tent.

I settled in a place that offered rooms and had an area for tents, it was all mine that morning. The camping area had a great view of the bay plus some privacy provided by trees and bushes.

Bring your tent or use one supplied by the camp
Bring your tent or use one supplied by the camp

It was still early when I had my tent up and headed to the communal area, kitchen and bar. The place feels like a large tree house with woodwork of naturally twisted branches and logs as rails and beams. Spaces are open, no real walls and although most sitting areas are roofed and well shaded, it felt like lounging under the canyon’s trees canopy. Excellent fresh breeze, pine scented with a touch or sea spray was blowing gently, caressing. I loved this place. I also felt as I’m not in tune yet since I just arrived from a 20 hours long journey in trains, busses, cabs and planes.

Life in Kabak beach. South Turkey
Life in Kabak beach. South Turkey

It was puzzling how silent everyone was. People were waking up and gathering in the communal area for some herbal tea. Any speech was done in whisper levels. I really wanted to talk to some people and learn about the place but no one seems to be willing to chat longer than a few words. Eventually I sat by the bar and waited to see who is on bar duty. Staff cannot be distinguished from guests as they are usually guests who decided to stay longer and got a deal - meals and bed in exchange for some daily hours of work.

Most of the people around were in their 20s-30s. There were very few non-Turk tourists. The dreadlocks guy behind the bar was extremely relaxed and silent. He said the Kabak camping and guesthouses enterprise began sometime in the 80’s when a European woman purchased some land in Kabak Koyu from the family who lives in the village up the road. She built a small guest house using locally available materials, and embedded it in the surrounding nature. A really special place. It took many years but slowly more initiatives of the same spirit came to be. Today there is even high class resorts with sky pool, fine dining and high end bar.

Some worry that development will eventually destroy the natural beauty and low key atmosphere of Kabak. In past years forest was cleared for a resort and there are plans for more development. However the camps and guest houses are built around and into the vegetation and have multiple levels, immersed in the canyon. Beautiful work. Unique, undisruptive and inspiring.

Kabak bay, south Turkey
Kabak bay, south Turkey

It was getting hot as I headed down to the beach. The canyon spills into a classic Med bay, bordered by cliffs on both sides. Wild green mediterranean forest of olives, pine and figs. Looking back into the canyon the view is very dramatic. Steep, tall canyon walls reach up into the clear blue sky.

Hanging out in a Kabak guest house
Hanging out in a Kabak guest house

Camping on the beach or lighting fires there is forbidden. The beach is a large arch of small smooth pebbles, not much sand. No shade. The bay is open to the south and receives some swell after the early morning. The surf was not very high but was brakeing with nice power.

Creative and effective woodwork with local materials. Kabak canyon.
Creative and effective woodwork with local materials. Kabak canyon.

There was a good number of people on the beach, mostly flat on their back. The place is popular with young Turkish city people. Families feel great with children here too. The etiquette is very liberal. Kabak freedom allows. Alternative, hippie, spiritual, relaxed and very cool and it takes a day or two to soak it in and integrate.

Fresh, locally grown produce. Delicious Turkish dishes.
Fresh, locally grown produce. Delicious Turkish dishes.

At the back of the beach there’s a nice large meditation and yoga platform. Here and there people were juggling, playing guitar, drumming. There’s one small overpriced supermarket where beer is a very popular item since it is a bit cheaper there than in the hostels bars. Turkish beer is excellent. All the food in Turkey is simply amazing. Fresh, tasty and delicious.

Let the canyon green life take over
Let the canyon green life take over

The Lycian trail passes in Kabak; there are waterfalls and small classic bays nearby to explore. Yet no one seems to be very active in Kabak. During the day people are hanging out on the beach, after sunset they head up to their camps for dinner, and later into the night some camps will start a bonfire around which nearly everyone gathers, playing music, chatting, drinking beer, laughing or just staring calmly at the orange flames. Very relaxing. After some 36 hours doing what everyone else was doing - taking it easy basically - I was changed. Just happy, content and tranquil. I wanted nothing in particular other than stay and be.

A Kabak guest house overlooking the bay
A Kabak guest house overlooking the bay

One day I climbed up to the high end resort. It is perfectly located, up at the cliff’s top end of the bay. It’s highly invested with smart, professional architecture. Yet it still retained the general look and feel of the handmade simple camps and guesthouses in the valley. A Scotish guy was bartending and I was the only customer but that was soon to change. He was a large guy with amazing stories and a great sense of humor. I laughed my head out that evening. A bit later a small party was forming around the bar and sky pool. It was a celebration of the last night of a week-long yoga and meditation retreat at the resort. The people were beautiful, happy and very friendly.

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Hidden trails lead to open dining areas. Kabak canyon
Hidden trails lead to open dining areas. Kabak canyon

As the moon climbed up into the clear night sky, I stepped out to the large wood balcony overlooking the bay. Positioned comfortably on a swinging couch I took in the dry cool night air and looked down at the water. Everything seems very small from this height. Like a miniature world. The mediterranean sea stretched out into the horizon, silver moonlight shimmering over the dark blue water. There was one sailboat anchored in the bay.

Simple living in Kabak camps
Simple living in Kabak camps

I left kabak the next morning by foot, climbing along a side trail to the top of the valley, which was a mistake. It was a hard climb carrying a heavy backpack. I cooled off in the breeze under a fig tree on the road above while waiting for a dolmuş to take me to Fethiye. Next year I’ll be arriving here by the sea. Twice.

It is hard to leave a sweet place like Kabak. I'l be back

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