From Ulukişla we begin to leave the Anatolian Plateau to the Cilician Coast, a journey of around 100km, or five days along the old and now defunct winding mule track.
We are taking a route which has been an artery of history – the Cilician Gates. It is just a pass in the gorge of the Gokoluk River, but cuts dramatically through the rugged and already snow-capped Taurus Mountains. Alexander the Great and the army of ten thousand came this way before the battle of Issus, then Romans and Crusaders of the First Crusade. For Christians or derivatives, Paul of Tarsus came this way on the first and second Missionary Journeys – to the Galatians.
While walking the new E90 Tarsus-Ankara Highway, we can see the old serpentine mule track in places – 6-8 feet wide. It is the same that the Hittites and Alexander would have known.
More noticeable is a miraculous narrow-gauge railway built by Germans during WW1 between Istanbul on the Sea of Marmara and Baghdad. The viaducts and tunnels are still remarkable – and still in constant use by freight and some passenger trains. Vorsprung…… the line respects an ancient tradition.
We are aimed at Tarsus and Mersin, the latter being Yumuktepe with a renown as one of the oldest fortified settlements in the world with origins at 4500BC. The City has guarded the South Eastern end of the Cilician Gates ever since.
The substrate for all of this human history – is a geological history of violence and vulcanism.