Üçağız -- ‘Three mouths’ and three rides: hitchhiking in Turkey
“Just you watch, as soon as I light this cigarette, the next car will stop and I’ll have to put it out,” remarked my Turkish friend (a seasoned hitchhiker).
Although I was initially skeptical about the science behind his prediction, he was immediately proven right. After having waited for 15 minutes without any luck, the very next truck pulled slowly into the verge where we were standing, arms outstretched and thumbs upright. “Works every time,” my companion winked at me, as we hoisted our bags into the cab and hopped in.
Hitching lifts may be common in rural areas where there is little or no public transport to travel between villages, to go to market or visit relatives, but is not generally a means of transportation between cities or on longer routes. However, since moving to Antalya, I’ve met many young university students and travelers who have told me that it really is the best way to travel this vast and varied country. I consider myself to be a fairly intrepid traveler. As a single woman I had been a little wary of trying this method alone in a country and culture that it still relatively new to me. However, last weekend, when my friend suggested a spontaneous thumb-powered adventure, I was keen to get my first taste -- which was how I found myself on the edge of the city on a windy Saturday morning, climbing up into the passenger seat of a pick-up truck.
Our first lift came from a man on his way to Kemer to collect old household appliances being thrown out by a hotel there. His business was in buying up these items to then refurbish, recycle and sell them. He also took told us with a bit of a nudge that he was paying a visit to a girl waiting for him in Kemer -- keeping petrol costs down by combining both business and pleasure.
He dropped us on the main highway before taking the turn for Kemer, wishing us well for our onward voyage. We didn’t have to wait long for our next ride, in fact just long enough for my friend to light his next cigarette, proving his theory correct once more. This time we piled into the back of a vehicle, greeted by two friendly men and the easily distinguishable aroma of rakı. Thankfully, it wasn’t the driver who was consuming it, but his jovial passenger, livening up the journey from Antalya to their home in Üçağız, Kekova. It was of course (as is the custom in this hospitable nation) offered around. As it had only just turned 11 a.m., we politely declined.
We’d set out on this trip with the intention of going to Adrasan, a beautiful village set on a peninsula just south of its more famous neighbor, Olympos. Our plan was to stay a night in a pansiyon there and then spend Sunday walking a section of the Lycian Way (Turkey’s first waymarked long-distance footpath that runs along 500 kilometers of the coast between Fethiye and Antalya) that loops around the peninsula to Karaöz. Neither of us had been to Üçağız before, so when (in the course of the stories flowing easily between the front and back seats) our new friends mentioned they had a pansiyon in the village, it didn’t take us long to decide to shelve the old plan and head there instead. Including a brief stop in Demre to buy hamsi and other supplies, we arrived in Üçağız mid-afternoon.