Friday, 19 July 2013

My trip to the Pure Life Village at Beğiş, Korkuteli, Antalya

High rise hotels have ruined many beautiful coastlines and areas all around the world, so it was inevitable that globally, countries and the tourism industry are being encouraged to consider environmental, cultural and aesthetic concerns when expanding tourism. Unfortunately these factors are not always taken in to account, so I was delighted a few weeks ago to be able to visit Pure Life Village near Korkuteli which is an excellent example of sustainable tourism.

 Beğiş - an almost abandoned mountain village near Korkuteli
The Pure Life Village is the brainchild of  Mehmet Biçer, who is the General Manager of large hotels in Antalya and Oludeniz. His dream was to develop a tourism project which was environmentally friendly and would boost the livelihoods of poor people living in the countryside. A very good friend of mine had been asked if she would like to manage the houses for holiday let, so I went with her to have a look around and get a feel of the place.

The village of  Beğiş, 12 km from Korkuteli and around 1 hour from Antalya, had become almost abandoned as villagers moved away due to the fact that the village had no water and the younger generation left to seek work in a more modern world. Those residents that remain in the village live a semi-nomadic existence, spending all of the summers with their stock in the highlands, returning only in the winter months to spend time in their homes in the village.

Lunch break for the nomadic herders who live in the mountains with their goats as they have for many centuries...
Likely from generations of goat herders they are natural and skilled stock men with animals in near perfect condition ....

............. No mean feat with hundreds of goats spread across the hillside
The traditional houses built from stone, wood and soil are almost a century old, and the un-restored houses show for a very different lifestyle than that which we take for granted. With space for their livestock under the houses, the upper rooms had access via a hatch for managing their stock in inclement weather. Most of the houses have just two rooms, a small hallway and an outside flat roof. One room was for daily living, with an area for the children to sleep, the other would have been for the mother and father. There was no electricity, no running water, and life was hard for these people, by the standards we are used to. Water would have to been carried from the wells which collected the rainwater, oil lamps lit the houses and the toilet was in the courtyard. I found the village fascinating.

A traditional house un-modernised - animals below, living accommodation above
As part of the tourist renovation, water has now been connected to the village for the first time and those houses which are available to rent have been sympathetically restored, providing the mod cons we expect, such as electricity, plumbed toilets, showers and inside stairs etc. whilst retaining a lot of their original features. All of the restoration has been done traditionally without the use of modern tools or technology. This makes for basic but fairly authentic accommodation.

Renovated village houses offer basic traditional accommodation
The houses each with their own garden are supported by a communal area where there is a pool, dining room and BBQ facilities. Meals can be provided and are prepared using local and organic produce.

The communal area offers a pool, sun loungers, dining room and BBQ
Whilst the project is in it's infancy at the moment, it is hoped that it will offer the opportunity to experience group activities such as traditional Turkish cooking, local crafts etc in the near future. In the meantime it offers a very different and enlightening holiday alternative, set amidst stunning scenery where lovers of nature, walking and Turkish history will find it a fascinating place to visit.

Whilst I was there we visited the nearest town of Korkuteli, which we really liked. There were most main banks, a good selection of shops, several restaurants and cafes and even a library.

The mountain scenery is stunning
We also drove up into the mountains where the scenery was simply stunning and the villages were like stepping back in time. I was surprised to see that in the plains between the mountains there was thousands of acres of corn being grown, and all of it standing tall, healthy and weed free. No need for crop inspectors here. We can only assume that although the corn stretches over many acres, individual families are responsible for pieces of it, because we saw a family harvesting some, with the children on the tractor, Grandma wielding the pitchfork to stack the cut stalks ready for straw and mother and father cutting the corn. Teamwork that any corporation would be proud of.

The best quality, weed free harvest I've ever seen
We visited a village high up in the mountains, where clearly they do not often have visitors, because we were stared at as though we were aliens just off the space ship, and when we stopped to talk to them they were incredibly shy. Originally we thought if we continued over the mountains we would eventually reach Antalya, but when the tarmac road turned into a dirt track we did begin to wonder, so we asked a small boy of about 7 or 8 years old who was walking through the village.

"Does this road go to Antalya?"

The boy looked at us for several seconds and thought before replying "I don't know".

Trying a different approach we asked "What is further along this road?"

Again he seemed suspended in time searching for a reply and then pushed his shoulders back, stuck out his chest, looked us in the eye and said "Another village".

We thought that was brilliant!

Village life high in the mountains
As it seemed unlikely that the rather poor rubble track led anywhere other than higher up the mountain and possibly 'another village' we decided to turn around and head back to the 'Pure life village'. However, busy as we had been chatting and admiring their ability at corn growing, we had not noticed that we had passed another track, and as we retraced our drive we came to a fork in the road with absolutely no idea of where we had come from.

Hmmmmmmm! Which way?
Choosing one at random, it soon became apparent it was not the way we had come, but we opted to continue anyhow and passed through another couple of villages, before the road turned into track and we continued up and down through the most beautiful mountain scenery, at times up there along the snow line.

A very large mosque in the middle of nowhere - Why? for the herdsmen perhaps?
Eventually the track started downwards and we passed through thousands of acres of forestry, before eventually joining the Fethiye/Antalya road having travelled full circle. On our way we passed marble quarries, goat herds which may or may have not been tended by our  Beğiş villagers, a huge mosque in the middle of nowhere, presumably for the nomadic herders, fabulous scenery, villages with houses we would have considered inhabitable, friendly but wary villagers and fascinatingly a house with a stone in which had clearly been robbed from an ancient site. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

A bit of stone robbing here I think
So what was my verdict on a stay at the Pure Life Village. A fantastic and different idea of somewhere to stay, not yet brought to it's full potential. You really need to have a car. It is possible to get to Korkuteli by public transport and be collected from there and if you are content with local walking only and bring your food and drink with you OK, because the nearest shop is in Korkuteli 12 km away. But if you want to explore and visit the fascinating local area and it would seem a shame not to, then yes you do.

If you are not interested in nature, walking and exploring mountain villages then you would consider yourself miles from civilisation. But if you do like to see traditional Turkish villages, and enjoy the fabulous scenery, walks and nature, then it offers a very different holiday destination. For somewhere to totally unwind - perfect. There are teething problems with the houses, and the village was lacking in written or verbal information about what to do and where to go.  I suffered from meeting Yakarca (see my recent post 'a fairly grim three weeks ...') and the mosquito nets need attention. But these are problems that the management are aware of and are addressing.

Would I go again?  When it is properly up and running, the current problems have been sorted and there is an on site manager, I (and my insect repellent) will definitely visit again and I look forward to exploring that part of Turkey further. Many of you will have visited the 'Ghost town' Kayakoy and wondered what it would have been like to live there. This is a good opportunity to find out about traditional Turkish village living.

If this proves to be successful, it will save an almost abandoned village from extinction, providing the villagers with a means to remain in their homes for time to come, which is what sustainable tourism is all about.

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