Travel Note Throwback
These steps are too high, surely not for human legs to climb. I can go no more”, I resigned and sat on an adjacent rocky platform. It was pitch-dark and not even my hands were visible to me. Thankfully Arijit was holding one of them in his firm fist, and stood silently by my side. Our guide had moved ahead, and now I could see his flash light beaming, as he was returning to us.
There were many tourists without any assist light with them, and were struggling in that dark unwinding steps. People had come for a relaxed beach vacation on this part of Turkey, and this place is only an optional sight-seeing spot. No one probably realised that climbing up Olympos Mountain would be this real a trek. We were in the Antalya City of Turkey, and it was past 8 in the evening then. We were climbing the Olympos Mountain to see Chimera, the fire breathing monster, and the fire that is still burning!
But we were only half way through then. Encouraged by seeing me resting, a few other fellow travellers came to seat near my stone top.
“Didn’t I tell you to smoke less”, a lady scolded her friend. It was late October, and there was slight chill in the wind. Some more flickering flash lights passed by. The woman who was guilty of being a heavy smoker was completely breathless and was panting frantically, all red. I offered her my water bottle.
“We should hurry, or my torch battery would give away”, said our guide. So, we all got up and started following him. The way was narrow, and some turns were particularly dicey; had I not been in my trainers, would sure have hurt my ankles by then. Our guide was actually our hotel appointed driver, but he offered to lead us with his torch, for which I am particularly grateful. He was showing us which stones not to step on, and correcting our wrong turns. I thought we have almost reached, when I saw some tourists descending.
“These are the same steps climbed by Bellerophon on his way to fight Chimera, the monster. These have been restored in recent times,” our guide mentions, reaching the top of the last few steps.
Ah! That explains. I knew these steps can’t be made for normal human to climb, and I was no Greek hero! (Although, I had started feeling like one by then!)
As we reached the top of Olympos, there it was! Chimera, or the flaming rocks – Yanartaş.
A remarkable natural phenomenon, that has been recorded at least for last 4000 years in the Yanartaş area, in Turkey. Scattered points from where fire emerges from within the rock gaps, and burns incessantly, with some flames springing as high as 3 feet. While you might be tempted to try and might even succeed in dousing the small flames completely, they will start burning again within minutes.
The Mythological Story:
This area in Turkey called Yanartaş is thought to be the same place – Lycia from ancient times. In the story from Ilyad, Bellerophon, a kind young boy had angered his ruthless king Proetus of Tiryns while protecting Pegassus, the divine horse from his capture. While he had been looked upon kindly by Goddess Athena, and was blessed by her to be able to ride the untameable flying horse Pegassus, the King was infuriated all the more when his Queen took special interest on Bellerophon. The King, avoiding killing a guest directly, sent him to King Lobates, his father in law, with a letter in hand. What Bellerophon didn’t know is that Proetus had asked King Lobates to ‘kill the letter bearer’. Lobates in his turn, unwilling to displease the Gods by killing a guest, hatched a plan.
Lycia at that time was troubled by a ferocious fire breathing monster – Chimera. As Homer described, Chimera had a lion’s head, goat’s body, and tail of a serpent! Bellerophon was sent by Lobates to kill Chimera, hoping that he will die in the quest. He didn’t. With the help of Pegassus, hero Bellerophon succeeded in defeating Chimera instead. He choked Chimera throwing block of lead down its throat.
As the myth goes, some says that the monster still lives and is only sent deep under the earth by Bellerophon, and that it is still breathing fire through the gaps in the mountain.
Apart from this story of Chimera, the belief of the eternal fire burning in Mount Olympos, the home of the Gods also befits the name of this place.
However, I’m only too sure that you have already figured out the presence of methane and other volcanic gases to be the real cause behind this natural phenomenon. Although, Greek mythology never fails to fascinate, does it!
How to reach:
Chimera, also known as Yanartas locally, is within a small village – Chireli in Antalya province of Turkey. Antalya International Airport (IATA: AYT; ICAO: LTAI) is the closest airport.
You can rent a car at the Antalya International Airport. From Antalya International Airport, follow signs to Kemer. After passing Kemer, drive 30km in the direction of Ulupinar. After passing Ulupinar, the next sign will be for Cirali. Turn left at the sign, then drive another 7km downhill until you cross a small bridge. After crossing, you are in Cirali.
there are several hotels in Cirali. However, if you have planned to stay in the old town Kaleici in Antalya, or near any other beach, visiting Yanartas can be fitted in a day’s itinerary.
Other places of interest in Cirali village are the ruins of Mount Olympos, Cirali beach, which is the nesting ground of Caretta caretta turtle, a rare species, and also nearby Phaselis beach, known for it’s transparent pristine water, and private beach experience.