Beena Nadeem and her daughter set off in search of adventure on a tour of inland Turkey
“This is the best day of my life,” shrills Lillia while tickling the belly of a supine trout. Six years of nurturing and 2,000 air miles and her zenith is the underbelly of a fish.
We are in Turkey’s Taurus Mountains – just 45 minutes from the main coastal town of Fethiye. Lucent waterfalls tumble around us and meander through giant oaks. Yaka Park is a beatific high-altitude playground, where one can eat pancakes from giant tree houses. We sink into doughy cushions and watch two women crafting flatbreads. Back from her piscine-stroking antics, Lillia is mesmerised.
Heading back to our accommodation in nearby Yaka Village, Tuscan-like hills are punctuated by gluts of trees: figs, orange trees and the fiery blooms of pomegranate. We’re staying at a mountain lodge beside the ancient Lycian town of Tlos. Pillars mark tombs carved into the hillside and with no such thing as ‘keep out’ signs here, Lillia happily clambers into the belly of the cool mountains.
The next morning, we drive through the vast mountain-top forests. We stop off to look at two disdainful ostriches while scooping up colossal pine cones. Soon we arrive at the abandoned town of Kayakoy. It’s very hot and Lillia is in no mood to look at ruins, but no sooner has she befriended a grasshopper, we’ve almost walked around it. At the foot of the town, we find a beautiful restaurant, its tented roof trailing with wisteria and grapes.
The next day, we take the short drive to Saklikent Gorge. At 20km, it’s the longest in Europe. Rushing torrents of icy water have cut 300 metres deep. In summer, it’s possible to cross the river, but be warned, temperatures are cryogenic. Lillia smiles the whole way across: safely clamped to my partner Ian’s back. After four attempts, I grimace my way across without even trying to feign bravery.
After a lunch of barbecued trout, we decided on white water rafting. Actually, it’s more shallow river rafting on inflatable rings. Following our guide, we float downstream. It’s breathtakingly beautiful as the land folds back into bleached quilts of rock. “Best day?” I shout over to Lillia. “Definitely,” she replies.
Our last day is spent on Pataya Beach. Its warm waters gently lap honey-hued sands and provide the perfect nesting site for endangered loggerhead turtles. Come evening, I sit by the pool of our cottage, watching shooting stars. Chirping crickets are interrupted only by the occasional burst of a nightingale and I think, “this is the best day of my life”.