The eternal fires of Chimaera
Close to the town of Olympos, I ditched my bike, hiding it and all my belongings under a tree just off the road, and headed off to climb the unique Mount Chimaera. Drawn to weird and wonderful environments such as Western Turkey’s Pamukkale, I knew I had to visit the eternal fires of Chimaera (Yanartaş) where methane leaks from vents in the rocks which has peculiarly caused the mountain to be on fire for millennia. It has some historical significance, used as a natural lighthouse for sailors, and inspiring Greek Mythology’s part-lion, part-goat, part-snake fire-breathing monster ‘Chimera’.
Even after 6,500 kilometres on the bike, my navigation is still to be desired, and I headed straight up the wrong path. Instead of skirting around the bottom of the mountain, my path went up and over the
mountain. I had to step over and crawl under fallen trees. ‘Not many tourists have been along here’, I thought to myself as I climbed straight up the steep, untouched mountainside, my feet slipping on loose rocks and untrodden leaves above precarious drops. I didn’t much fancy the prospect of coming back this way at night under the light of my phone! When I eventually reached the top of the mountain, dripping in sweat, I could see from such a vantage point where I was meant to be, the eternal fires of Mount Chimarea several hundred metres lower.
After falling down the steep slopes, I arrived in one piece, albeit in a slightly less dignified manner than the others who had simply paid the 6 Lira (£1.50) and walked up the easy, designated footpath. It turns out that by climbing up and over the mountain, you can evade the 6 Lira fee
though – may be useful to know!
Dozens of plentiful, tiny fires flickered, licking the rocks turning the mountain plateau into a birthday cake, the vibrant orange flames dancing in every direction as gas escaped from the mountain’s many vents. As the sun set, and shrouded us in darkness, the scene was enough to convince anyone magic was real! Little did I know what Chimera had in store!
A man approached, his shirt loudly claiming ‘Real men do yoga’. He warned me and my new Kiwi and American friends not to be alarmed by any chanting, and in fact, if we wanted, we could join in. I love the way travel and open-mindedness can open doors to incredible experiences, which is precisely how I
found myself holding hands in a circle of strangers, one palm up, one down (to give and receive… obviously) chanting. We went around the circle and breathed our ‘wish’ for the world into green leaves, before laying it in the fire. An owl hooted eerily somewhere in the distance, but I think I was the only one that heard it, the religious members entirely lost in their chanting. The leaves crackled loudly when thrown in the fire, our wishes transformed into the now vibrant blue and green flames which suddenly seemed alive, and then into the smoke filling the air with the sweet smell of myrrh, and then up to a higher presence, maybe?
My own use for the eternal fires of Chimaera!
Like the sailors in times past who prevented their ship becoming an untimely wreck, and the religious followers tonight saving the world, I had my own equally important use for the mountain’s magic… cooking some pasta! Too good an opportunity to miss, I’d carried my saucepan with me. The heat of the fires quickly brought my pasta to the boil, requiring rigorous stirring in between posing for pictures for the amused onlookers! My friends and I all agreed the final pasta tasted incredible. I suspect we were all just hungry after our chanting, but maybe, just maybe the eternal fires of Chimeara had breathed their own special seasoning into the dish, completing what truly was an unforgettable experience.