Sunday, 28 July 2013

The kebab tour continues

Here is a rough guide to bring you up to speed of where we have been in Turkey so far. I'm a bit behind again on the recounts, so I feel a map might make it a bit clearer in explaining where in this massive country we are. This is a photo of our map with my markings of where we have been.

We began our kebab tour in Antalya on the south west coast of Turkey (the yellow area near the bottom of the map with my terrible blue pen star). From there we took the dolmus (local bus) west along the coast to the tip where my first circle is, this is the hippy town of Olympos. Another dolmus west brought us to Kas, the second circle (stories of here find below). Finding it difficult to leave Kas, we finally did for another coastal city, west again, named Fethiye. We then decided to go through the pain of an overnight 12 hour bus trip (yes this country is much much much bigger then we assumed) to Göreme, located in about the center of Turkey where the pen is pointing. This is where we sit right now...(tales of this current leg of the trip will be posted later. Alex will now catch you up on Kas).

It didn't take long to get back into the water.
We didn't really want to leave the lazy village of Olimpos. Aside from the odd day of cliff jumping and rock climbing, our time was definitely forseeable as sleeping in hammocks for nine hours a day, breaking only to go for a swim or eat, should we stay in Olimpos. However, we were too early in to the trip to appreciate the solidarity. We knew there were a lot of stressful days of arguing with hotel owners, being dropped in the middle of nowhere by confused bus drivers and vomitting-up incorrectly cooked tavuk dürüm ahead of us, before we deserved to lounge around by the Mediterranean coast. So off we reluctantly headed to our next port of call, Kas.

The drive to Kaş is on a road similar to a stereotypical winding Swiss road they feature in any Mercedes car add. The only difference is if you skid off the road you either smash into a cliff or plummet into the sea. This apparently doesn't deter Turkish bus drivers from driving like wannabe Formula One drivers. Apart from being scared shitless, I was also perplexed as to why they would feel they need to drive so fast. The people who take this service are either backpackers or old women carrying 11kg bags of tomatoes to drop at arbitrary roadside shacks. No one onboard is in any hurry to commute (especially the driver, as he spends 20 minutes at each coastal town bus station talking about godknowswhat with all the other dolmus drivers parked there). I discerned the unwritten rules of this road are: 

1) As the inside lane has a 30m broken cliff wall just centimeters from the roads edge, vehicles are allowed to veer over into the middle of the two lanes when taking a blind corner 
2) As the outside lane has a 14m drop into the Mediterranean, should it mis-judge a blind corner, vehicles in that lane are also allowed to veer into the middle of the two lanes 
3) if on a blind corner, two cars are heading for a head-on collision, due to their respective claims of being allowed to occupy the middle of the two lanes, the person who must slow down and veer back into the correct lane position shall be determined by a game of chicken 
4) because tourist coach buses and cement mixing trucks are four times as large as the rest of the vehicles on the road, they are allowed to occupy the middle of the two lanes at all times 
5) every driver must carry a minimum of three mobile phones on his possession at all times. He must be using at least one of these phones to call his mum and other relatives at all times, ensuring they argue about every unresolved family matter, as well as texting his mates continuous updates on how many times he has evaded death on the road today.... at all times 
6) if an English speaking person advises he return back into the correct position within the lane and reduce his speed to at least within 50km of the recommended speed limit, he must pretend to speak only Turkish 
7) if a Turkish speaking person advises he return back into the correct position within the lane and reduce his speed to at least within 50km of the advised speed limit, he must pretend to only speak Hindi. 

If you don't focus on the best-death encounters every few minutes, the route is by far one of the most scenic drives in the world. The waters are crystal clear and due to the change in depths, the variation of blue and green hues are like looking into a massive Midori and Blue curacao cocktail.

A strange plant growing in Kas
Tomtom and Robyn (the Aussie couple who had been taking everyone rock climbing) had recommended we stay with a Turkish guy called Onur, as he had been super helpful on advice for things to do around kas. He was completely booked up for when we arrived, but he offered for us to sleep on the terrace of his hotel. We accepted his generous offer as the terrace was on the 6th floor and had a view of the whole city...and what travelling backpackers would turn down free accommodation???

Onur had a friend who was a tour guide so could get us a discount on any of the tours we wanted to do. We wanted to see Kekova (the sunken Greek city) so he arranged for us to go the next day. He had to head off for four days on business, so told us to call him if any problems arose, as his business partner at the hotel didn't speak English. As we left he recommended a small fish restaurant for us to eat at, so we checked it out on the way back. It was incredible. Really cheap but super tasty. The waiter was really friendly, and they offered a tropical çay that tasted like a mixture of mint and pineapple. We woke early the next morning, hiked our 30kg bags the 2km from the campsite into Kaş and dropped them at Onur's hotel. We jumped into a safari-style jeep with the rest of our tour and headed off. Onur had another friend visiting from Istanbul who was also on the tour that day. After talking to Burak for only 25 minutes, it became apparent to us that some people are just far more interesting than us: After finishing his Bachelor in chemical engineering, he moved to Russia for 3 years to complete his masters and begin his phd. He had to teach himself Russian as the University didn't allow presentations or a thesis submitted in English or any other language. When Putin banned gambling in Russia, his cousin flew in from Cyprus to try and export all the laters gaming machines from venues that no longer could legally operate them. Burat had to put his studies on hiatus for 2 weeks so he could facilitate business transactions between the Russian underworld and his cousin.... I don't think I will ever be that badass.

Burak was actually a really nice guy, so we had a great day cruising around the various Turkish islands the tour visited. Mehmet (the tour guide) was hilarious. He was German-born so would deliver the tours in Turkish to the locals, English to the tourists and then straight German whenever he had a large group of middle-aged Germans off trekking around turkey. His description of the landscape appeared to be heavily researched, but we found out later it was all just well-delivered BS he'd conjured up one day when he had a really boring group of people. The islands were absolutely gorgeous and the water crystal clear. You could see the fish swimming around the reef below you. We even saw two sea turtles! The only let down was probably the sunken city itself. It's UNESCO protected so you can't swim in the waters surrounding it. We had to view it through the "glass bottom" boat. This was a very misleading description of the boat. It was just two glass panels about A3 size that had been cut out if the hull and replaced with thick glass. Mehmet informed us that there wasn't really anything to see there, as it had all been pillaged by divers. We didn't mind though, they fed us like kings and the sun was out all day, so we had an awesome 7 hour boat cruise. When we arrived back in Kaş we went for a beer with Burak to watch the sunset over the city.

Ellen's Fact Box
The name "Kekova" is Turkish for "plain of thyme" and describes the region encompassing the island of Kekova, the villages of Kaleköy and Üçağiz. On the northern side of the island there are the partly sunken ruins (about 4m under water) of Dolchiste/Dolikisthe, an ancient town which was destroyed by an earthquake during the 2nd century. One of the bays named Tersane (which actually means "dockyard") was the site of an ancient dockyard that can partly be seen next to ruins of a Byzantine church. The Kekova region was declared a Specially Protected Area in 1990, however by this time already most of the sunken city's ruins have been taken by divers.

Although the terrace was gorgeous, we hadn't taken into consideration the fact that all the clubs and bars were surrounding the hotel, and it was Friday night. We were utterly exhausted that night, but the loud music, drunk people smashing bottles outside and the fact we couldn't find the light switch to the 200 watt terrace lights, meant we were kept up until 5am. As soon as a little peace had fallen over the city, the sun began to rise and the roosters, pigeons, cats, dogs and other stray animals began to rise and state their claim to the neighbourhood. Compounded to the noisy animal activity, at around 7am the old cleaning/cook lady came to prepare breakfast for the hotel guests. We naturally couldn't be annoyed with her, as she was super sweet, offering us some tea as she bustled about, but we were brain-dead. The regular 9-hours-well-slept Ellen gets pretty shitty with me about most unfortunate circumstances we face whilst traveling, however, sleep-deprived Ellen is just a whole another league. If the look on her face that morning could have been surmised as a hallmark card, it would definitely have read: "Words can't describe how much I hate you. All of the problems in the world are your fault." I could see her eyeing off a large salted cucumber on the terraces railing, and knew she was planning to hit me with it at any moment. We needed to find somewhere else to stay as I didn't even want to fathom what would happen if Ellen didn't get some sleep tonight. 

We left out bags and headed out to find a guest house. As it was the last weekend before Ramadan, the city was packed. Every place we tried was booked up. It looked like we were either going to have to dig a hole in the ground or attempt to sleep on the terrace again, and risk Ellen throwing me over the edge in frustration. We did a last-ditch effort along a weird back street. We found an awesome place that had a 5-bed dorm apartment. The guy we spoke to wasn't 100% sure as to whether there were available beds, but he offered us a key regardless so we took it, grabbed our bags and dumped them in the room. Three people had left, but we noticed another person had arrived and tried to stake a claim to the most comfy looking bed. The perpetrator walked in just moments after us, it was one of the Aussie girls we had become friends with in Olimpos.

We had only planned to stay in Kaş two more days, but ended up staying another ten! There was an American guy working at the guest house who gave us some awesome advice on what to do. Burat was around for one more day so we walked out to the Kaş peninsula to go swimming in the secluded bays. No tourists know about these bays, so there was only four other Turkish people out there swimming with us. An elderly lady runs a tiny cafè next to one of the bays, and makes the most delicious gözleme. Ellen also made me hike a 5kg watermelon out there in my bag, so we spent the day eating that as well.

Sean (the American guy) took us and jess on a trek through a massive gorge that surrounds Kaş. It was about 9km long and descended over 1000m, so it took us the entire day. He carried an entire grocery shop and a grill on his back, so we cooked up a bush bbq halfway down the gorge.

Stopping to make a small lunch in a canyon
Apart from being exhausting, the trek was painful as there were an abundance of those spikey thorn bushes and weeds that stick burs into your clothing and body hair, all the way down the gorge. The silver lining was the trek ended at a tiny beach just on the outskirts of Kaş. We were able to wash our cuts and go for an evening swim as the sun set behind the surrounding mountains. 

With more of Sean's insider tips we took a day trip to the tombs of Myra, where instead of paying the outrageously expensive entrance fee, we walked around to the back of the mountain, cut through some lime orchards, and wound up with an entire cliff face of meticulously carved tombs, which you can actually climb in to (unlike the roped-off tombs the tours make you pay to see). We also trekked to the top of the mountain, where a well preserved Turkish castle still stands. The views from the castle were amazing, as you could see all the surrounding fruit plantations and then the Mediterranean sea in the distance. Getting back to Kaş was slightly problematic as all the buses were full passing through, so we had to wait 2.5 hours at the otogar waiting for one that had available seats. As it was 40 degrees outside we ate our body-weight in ice-cream and ayran as we waited.

The entrance to one of the larger tombs we found
Lycian tombs of Myra
Saklikent Gorge
We spent a day canyoning at Saklikent gorge, two more days at the secluded peninsula bays, a day at Kaputaş beach (the most gorgeous beach in all of turkey), a day checking out the ancient  tombs and theatre in Kaş and two rest days, which mainly comprised of us walking around the markets eating ice-cream whilst I attempted to prevent Ellen from buying any jewellery. As Mehmet was running tours to Saklikent gorge and kaputaş beach, we ran into him on numerous occasions. Whenever he saw us he would tell us to just join his tour so we could either get help from the guides or feast on the abundance of food he had. At night we would always find him at Wall bar (a long cement sitting wall, which locals have turned into a bar, as one can simply by take-away beers from the markets and drink them on the wall, enjoying the free music blaring from all the surrounding bars), so we would have a drink together and talk to him about Turkey.

The 11 days in Kaş were truly incredible. But alas, we had to continue with our travels, so we hopped on a dolmus and headed to the next place Ellen's pen fell on the map, Fethiye.

No comments:

Post a Comment