Maçahel, Camili Biosphere Reserve
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At the End of the Road in Maçahel, Turkey
In the Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey, I am seated on the valley-view deck of my guesthouse, the small Dedaena Pansiyon. I'm in an area called Maçahel, in the country's Artvin Province, a short bumpy ride from the country of Georgia. Dedaena is a rustic affair that clings to a steep hillside from which a broad sweep of mountains – some of them snow-capped, even in late May – includes only two dozen or so manmade structures and a sheer scar of road carved just a couple of years ago through forest and precipitous cultivated terraces. The only sound is the incessant thrum of an out-of-sight river, a warbling aria of birds and a brood of roosters who don't seem to care when morning is. It feels like the end of the road here and it sort of is. After all, the region is fabled for its inaccessibility once the snows begins. For six months of the year, locals in need of serious medical attention must be snowshoed out by a team of villagers. But there's both electricity and telephone, as in the 1980s, Turkey completed the ambitious process of bringing both to just about every village in the country, including Maçahel. Maçahel is an ecotourism heaven, which is why I am here. It is now part of the Camili Biosphere Reserve, Turkey's first UNESCO-recognized area in which "to improve human livelihoods and safeguard natural ecosystems, thus promoting innovative approaches to economic development that is socially and culturally appropriate and environmentally sustainable." Magic.
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