Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Pamukkale

Never a dull moment in Finike Marina! Last week the marina staff organised a trip for a busload of us to the famous hot springs in Pamukkale, in the highland province of Denizli. Once again our tour guide was the delightful and knowledgeable Tyfun, a former Turkish Army colonel who is now enjoying his dream career showing tourists the highlights of his country.

Tyfun tells us about the history of Hieropolis



Finike mariners



The trip was fun from the outset, with great company comprising cruisers from a dozen countries and many lifetimes of experience. The drive to Pamukkale was splendid. As the altitude rose steadily, the orange groves of Finike gave way to apple and almond blossom, with small traditional villages nestled in the valleys. Most of the homes had great stacks of firewood  (fruit tree prunings?) beneath them, and pens for goats and sheep adjacent to the house. There was still plenty of snow on the mountain tops here, shimmering in the bright spring sunlight.







Just out of Pamukkale is the ancient site of Aphrodisias, dedicated, of course, to the goddess of love and beauty by the Greeks, but actually a site of human habitation for at least 5000 years. This area is famous for the quarrying of high quality white marble, so many of the city's statues and inscriptions have survived despite a devastating earthquake in the 7th Century that pretty much finished off Aphrodisias. Towns have sprung up since, and the last big earthquake hit the town of Geyre hard in 1956, so it was relocated to the west.



Ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite


The same series of earthquakes produced the ruins of Hieropolis, which we visited the next day. As always, the tombs seem to survive better than anything else, and there is a long front street of sarcophagi and funerary mounds - not my idea of a cheerful entry statement, but the ancient Greeks seem to have had a different perspective: a fine tomb was a mark of status and aesthetic pleasure. And of course, many of them would have been in the marble business.




Hieropolis is also the claimed site of the martyrdom of St Philip the Apostle, who was crucified with his seven sons. Eight individual chapels make up the spectacular church here - well worth the climb for the view alone. The trip to Hieropolis was made even more interesting by the company of Anne and Gordon, Scots friends from the neighbouring Warrior 40 Sarah Grace, who are keen birdwatchers and amateur botanists. Ruins are apparently ideal sites for both activities, and we thoroughly enjoyed finding and photographing some lovely birds and plants. My knowledge of European species is very limited, but its interesting to see the parallels with different niches in Australia, and to find what we think of as garden plants growing wild - especially the vivid red (and occasional purple) anemones. By the way, we would definitely recommend purchase of a Turkish Muzekart (Museum Card) for 50TL. It pays for itself very quickly if you like museums, galleries and ancient sites.
Anne and Gordon overlooking the ruins of Hieropolis



Anemones, dandelions and camomile



Despite all the fine artefacts in the museum at Hieropolis, my favourite piece was a double sarcophagus in the small folklore museum in the apple-growing town of Elmali. The departed couple, carved in relief on the lid, are clearly engaged in a tussle for the doona, and the woman (loser in the doona war) is wearing a nice pair of bed-socks!





We stayed two nights in the Colossae spa, which reflected its name by being enormous and catering to busloads of tourists, even in the quiet season. The hot mineral water is channelled into various pools for which many health and curative properties are claimed  - arthritis, rheumatism, high blood pressure and skin complaints amongst them. Donning our fetching bathing caps (5TL), Terry and I relaxed in the indoor pool for half an our or so - very soothing at about 35C. The next day I tried out the hotter and more mineralized outdoor pool where I almost boiled myself alive and had to adjourn for a cool shower to recover. However, my arthritic hands did feel much better.




The highlight of the trip was a visit to the famous travertine terraces of Pamukkale (which translates to 'cotton castle', referring to the cotton plantations there, but also, perhaps, to the pure white calcium deposits of the site). The whole area is a bit like a giant stalagmite, formed from calcified hot water seeping from the volcanic mountains surrounding it. Shallow, scallop-shaped pools have formed as the water has made its way down the slopes, creating natural baths. Only a few of these can be used, to protect the structures, but there are plenty of hot water canals for soothing your weary feet. Like the 'fairy chimneys' of Cappadocia, the blinding white travertines and blue water create a landscape that seems surreal and could almost be on a different planet.



 


 Travertines under a threatening sky











Sunday, 30 March 2014

Back in the USA


It was another epic journey halfway round the world, but well worth it to catch up with my mum and stepfather again. Elizabeth and Kent live in Golden Valley in north-western Arizona, just across the Nevada border. It’s a spectacular but harsh environment of mountains, mesas and vast desert plains covered with cactus, stunted junipers and the occasional Joshua tree or cypress. Animals are surprisingly plentiful, with rabbits, wild burros, jackrabbits, ground squirrels, quail and other birds of all kinds very common, and coyotes, roadrunners, rattlesnakes and bighorn sheep often encountered as well. Even wolves and mountain lions have been seen from time to time. The Colorado River winds through the valleys like a vivid blue serpent, sustaining all this life in a dry land. And I mean seriously dry: your skin flakes, your nose bleeds, your hair goes electric and your eyes feel like dried apricots. The pharmacies do a brisk trade in various products to address these ailments and constant rehydrating drinks are vital if you don’t want your kidneys to shrivel to the size of dried beans and your pee to resemble black coffee.
Wild burros
Quail
Surprisingly, perhaps, a lot of people come here for their health. I’ve been told the clear dry air is great for asthma, bronchitis and similar complaints. Mum is doing well, still going for a good walk a couple of times a day and going down to the Tropicana in Laughlin for a game at the casino from time to time. Kent wasn’t in great shape when we arrived, but a new doctor, a course of Gatorade and some of our best healthy cooking saw him improve significantly over the fortnight. Watching him get a little better each day was the best thing about the whole trip.
 
 
Amidst the cooking and catching up, we managed to entertain ourselves in best western style as well. Championship Bull Riding at the new Laughlin Events Centre was a highlight, with some of the gamest young guys I’ve seen being flung around like rag dolls astride these wild thrashing bulls. I was interested to see that each bull has a rating, just as the riders do – obviously bulls are rated on how quickly they can get the guy off, while he is rated on how long he can stay on board. CBR was a fashion event as well, of course, and we felt a bit naked without our ten gallon hats and embossed boots. Denim and rhinestones were de rigeur for the gals, along with tats of roses, ropes, hearts and horses. A local DJ kept up a steady background of rock and country music throughout the evening, but when he played ‘Cotton-eye Joe’, the foot-tapping just about brought down the stands. It was great fun!

 

The next afternoon we headed down to the Colorado Belle casino to see Benny and the Swamp Gators play zydeco music against the backdrop of the Colorado River (cold and fast-flowing at the moment) and the mountains. Lots of cold beer contributed to a very laid-back and entertaining afternoon. We also took a drive out along old Route 66 to the small town of Hackberry, with its nostalgic General Store.
 
Benny and the Swamp Gators
 
 Hackberry Store
 

Before we knew it, it was time to bid farewell to the folks until next time. We spent a couple of days in Terry’s favourite town, Las Vegas Nevada, where we spent up big on boat stuff (particularly a new VHF radio and relay, of which I have high hopes) and managed to enjoy a couple of great meals and a performance of Jersey Boys, which was wonderful.

Many thanks to mum and Kent for a fortnight of great company, and for helping us to all sorts of cool stuff using their casino comp points! Thanks also to our lovely friends Jerry and Ellen, whom we met at Cooley’s Landing in Fort Lauderdale, aboard their boat Grace. They live in Vegas and had offered us a place to stay when we were in town. I wonder if they really believed we would appear on the doorstep?  Anyway, they collected us from the airport, put us up in their beautiful home (which is full of wonderful memorabilia from a lifetime of cruising!) and fed us right royally. I do hope that we can repay their hospitality some day.

 

So here we are back in beautiful Finike, where everything is green and blooming and the air smells of orange blossom. This is not how I ever imagined Turkey! Next up is a trip to the famous hot springs at Pamukkale for a little rejuvenation and recovery from sitting for hours in planes and buses.

 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

On the Hard


For the last five days we have been living ‘on the hard’ while Common Sense has had her bottom scraped clean of algae, barnacles and other marine growth, followed by the application of a couple of coats of anti-foul paint. We contemplated doing this work ourselves, but the sight of several other cruisers spending weeks cursing, covered in grit and dust convinced us that it would be a fine thing to contribute a few hundred lira to the Turkish economy and get the local guys to do it.  900TL and it was done in one day (early start, late finish) by two painters.

 
 
 
 
Common Sense after her wash
 
Common Sense was in excellent shape after almost 3 seasons covering many thousands of miles – All the way down the US East Coast, a nip across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas, a run through the Bermuda Triangle and a passage over the Atlantic.  Then it has been two seasons in the Med from Nth Africa and back.  Whatever Cap’n Dave put on it before he sold it to us was a very wise choice as almost all the growth came off in a pressure wash alone.
 

 
New paint and a shiny prop
 
We had other jobs to do: Terry installed a new speaker in the cockpit to replace one that died, and put in the fittings for our new Dyneema lifelines (we will buy the line itself when we go to the US in a couple of weeks) while I polished up the propeller, filled a few minor dents in our fibreglass and fixed the knotmetre. It was exciting going back across the marina when we got dropped in, seeing the speedo functioning again.  We can get the speed from the chartplotter but having 3 of 4 instruments working and 1 showing 0.00 used to bug Terry no end.

 
Dropping back in with Terry onboard for the ride

We still have a couple of things to do – our “Fremantle Australia” homeport lettering needs to be replaced, for example -  but Common Sense looked quite splendid on the outside as she hit the water yesterday morning . We are very glad be back in the slip with our friendly B Dock neighbours, the gentle rocking of the ocean and no great high ladder to climb up and down twenty times a day. The inside is quite another matter, and one of my goals for the year is to finally have a cabin that is comfortable, homely and where everything is STOWED.

Signs of Spring are all around us here in southern Turkey, in the mild weather, the snow melting from the mountaintops, flowers and green buds everywhere, new produce in the markets. It’s time to get out and about for some more hiking and sightseeing in this beautiful country.


Snow on the mountains

It’s off to the US for a couple of weeks on Sunday to visit my mum before we sail away northwards for the next season.  10 days in Arizona in the desert then 4 or 5 days in Terry's favourite city, Las Vegas Nevada.
 


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Home ... and Home

Aries docks at the Dome

As many of you know, we spent much of December and all of January at home in Western Australia, in Perth and Bunbury.  It was so good to see all our friends again and to spend time with the kids and other family.  Heartfelt thanks yet again to the Cowans for the chance to house-sit our summer ‘home away from home’ and to dear Pauline for putting up with us for weeks on end – we hope we paid our way in gardening, cooking and odd jobs! Special thanks to Jo for the loan of her car – sorry about what all the berry-eating parrots inflicted on it!  As always there is a long list of people to thank for sleepovers, meals and a general good time: Leonie and Steve for great company and a way higher star rating than Noovoh;  Kathy and Pete for a great day on the water (with dolphins!) and gatherings with friends; Ann and Robin for a warm welcome complete with pizza oven;  Colin and Sol;  the South West Cruising  Club; all the crew at the NAB; Jenny and Robbie and the kids for fun times down on the farm; Lea; Pat and Julee, Jo and Bill and all the kids for a great family Christmas, Marg and Mike; Robyn, Christina and all my old friends from school; future cruisers Jeanette and Neil; Jan; Dawn; Pat and Terry; Sue, Olga and Sally; Penny; Pauline and Jerry; Melissa; Blin and Kim; Lisa and Aaron; Lizzy for chauffeuring us and Mart for a great evening at Green Street Bar – and everyone else along the way.  It wasn’t just the 26 hour journey back to Turkey that wore us out!
 
Lizzy, Keith and Martin, Christmas

Apart from the people, it was lovely to get back to the beach and the bush, especially down south.  Our beaches really are sensational – clean white sand, clear water, plenty of aquatic life, surf and no crowds.  The down side is hearing the theme music from “Jaws” every time you go in the water.  The other negative is the outrageous cost of everything – a meal out is at least five times the cost of something similar in Turkey, for example – which reflects high salaries and high property values of course, but was a bit of a shock still.


The beach goes forever

Before we knew it, it was time for the long trip back to Common Sense. 11 hours to Doha, six hours from Doha to Istanbul, an hour from Istanbul to Antalya, two hours on the bus from Antalya to Finike – 26 hours including layovers. And strangely enough, stepping aboard felt like we were coming home.

Robbie and Jenny at Lone Crow


 Martin stocks the beer at Green Street

Friday, 10 January 2014

Finike Life (Terry)


Well, we’ve settled in here in Finike with 290 other boats – the marina is pretty full for sure.  Lots of people we know from other places in the Med – some Australians we met back in Monastir last year, some French guys we met there also and some people we knew from Greece. Our friends from North Carolina who crossed the Atlantic with us are 3 boats away, and the other Catalina 42 Mk II who was with us is 30 miles away in Kas.


 
Finike Marina, Antalya, Turkey
 

For the moment, we are focused on settling in and getting BOAT jobs done. For those fortunate enough to NOT own a yacht, BOAT is “Break Out Another Thousand”. So far, so good. The Bow Thruster is finally fixed! Backing in anywhere was always a mystery – will it work or won’t it? Trying to tie up stern-to in Agios Nikolaos on Crete in 40 knot winds was a nightmare and it didn’t work. Now I know it will. The Hydrovane got itself bent in Kythnos when we were banging onto the dock wall. Straightened now. Works again. New anchor chain is in the locker, all 300ft of it. No more jiggling a shackle around the windlass when you get to 90’, then jiggling from chain to rode at 140’. If we want 300’ out, it’s going to be all chain. Auto bilge pump switch (somewhat important!) replaced and working. VHF still away with the repairer.

Just sourced a spinnaker pole that I’ve been chasing for a year.  Now we just have to match it to a mast track so it’s got somewhere to live and stay out of the way.  Lots of canvas work done to repair things that were worn through or ripped off in the winds.  Also getting a big “tent” made to go over the boom and out to the lifelines so we can spend more time out in the cockpit.  At the moment, we have a connecting piece between the Dodger and the Bimini but it slopes down and I have to bend to get under it so a tent that is boom-high will be good.
 
 

Common Sense's spinnaker
 
We have a full social calendar here – Monday evenings are Turkish classes and Monday afternoons are computer classes.  Yoga in the mornings.  Monday night is Film Night, Tuesday afternoon is Tech Talk where you get lectures and Q&A on Diesel Motors, electrics etc, Tuesday is Games Night (darts, cards etc)  Wednesday night is free, Thursday night is Quiz Night, Friday morning is walkies (we walked to a town called Turuncova a couple of weeks back, 8kms there and 8 back but some people cheated and caught the bus home),  Friday night is Happy Hour over in the closest bar, Saturday night is Pub Night and Sunday is the weekly BBQ. There are so many people at the Sunday BBQ that there is now also a 3pm Saturday one.  Sunday morning is a bike ride to somewhere.  Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings are Yoga mornings.  Friday once a month is a bus to Antalya, 100km away for the Symphony Orchestra concert.
 
2013 in summary
We started our year out of Tunisia headed for Lampedusa. Where we were last winter in Monastir is in a bit of an uproar at the moment.  12kms nth of there, in Sousse, some dude did the suicide bomb trick last week and the same day the coppers caught two more with explosives in the Bourghiba Mausoleum complex, which we walked past every day to go to town.  It’s about 500 metres from the marina. 

Our friends Olivier and Lauren were outside of us, as was another French guy, Eric, with our Belgian friend Laurent a couple of miles behind. We regularly catch up with Olivier and Lauren in all sorts of places. Laurent got himself dismasted off Malta, politely declined “extraction” by the Maltese Armed Forces, who, to their credit, let him continue. Anywhere else the jackboots would have come out and his forcible removal would have ensued. Laurent sailed his little “Caracal” back to the south of France with half a mast sticking up and a genoa poled out to replace his mast. He’s now headed across the Atlantic.
 
From Lampedusa, we headed for Malta and a rendezvous with our very old friend Avertano Role. Tano is one of life’s great characters, thoroughly committed to whatever he does. He is a lecturer at the University in Malta. It was great to catch up with him and spend a lot of time with him and his wife Sharon, who combines her job as a Chemistry teacher in high school with being a fantastic cook and generous hostess. It was one of our highlights of the year.
 
On to Sicily and the historic city of Syracuse. I could live there, easy. It is where our friend Guy on Skaf IV explained to me his theory that there exists a “Mediterranean Man”. He insists there is more to link a man from Syracuse to a man from Marseilles to a man from Tunisia than there is to link a Sicilian to a Venetian. There is a North/South divide Guy says that is not economic, it is a way of thinking about what you want out of life and I’m beginning to think he’s right.
 

Syracuse Harbour - anchored where boats have anchored for 3,000 years.
 
We spent some time in Calabria, in La Castella to be precise. This had some intrigue for me as my schooldays were spent in the company of people named Calabrese, Saraceni etc. Here, in Calabria, the first street up from the marina is Saraceni street! These are guys I spent 8 years of my young life with and I was excited to see where their roots are. After a week or so in La Castella, we were part of the furniture. We would take up position outside the Camel Bar on the main drag each night with a beer and a wine and watch the Passegiata. By the end of the week, we were being acknowledged. We sat across the road (all of 30’) from the old people’s flats, and everyone who passed stopped to pay their respects to them. On the other side of the road, we got a nod, which I felt was a damn good start.
 
 

Birreria di Camello
 
I have never been what you would call “emotional” in my whole life. Definitely “reserved” or maybe even a little stand-offish at times. Doesn’t wash here in the Mediterranean. The barman/owner of a pub is just as likely to hug you as is the local priest. I was in a post office in the town of Kefalos, on Kos. They had an old postal franking machine that businesses used probably 40 years ago when I worked for the State Electricity Commission (bet none of you remember that!) I went to look at it and the Post Master was excited that someone bothered to even acknowledge it was there. So I got a hug. Unheard of in Australia but I must admit that this idea of not being shy about being demonstrative is changing me. I think the Italians call it “Paesano”, but that’s limited to really close friends. I think the Greek equivalent is “patrioti”, as in “Yasu file, Patrioti”. I felt comfortable in Greece with my Greek Great-great-grandfather, and the Greeks I mentioned it to seemed to take just that little more interest in me when they knew that I was at least a little bit Greek.
 

This guy is a music producer on Crete - bought one of his CDs

Greece for us was a mixed bag. I was at ease in Piraeus with its dirt, graffiti and bustle. I just love places where people are working and making a living, like Cadiz etc. Life is tough enough in the Med at the moment, so a bit of grime is passable for mine. At night, Piraeus comes alive and you can’t see the dirt. I loved it. I also loved the Tour de Pelopponese that we did with our friends Kathy, Leonie and Steve. Nothing amazing happened – it was just a wonderful 10 days of cruising and friendship and I could do that again any time, same cast, maybe different location. New casts are welcome in the future if you can make the time. We were sad when it was over.
 

Piraeus and the Bay
 
For the rest of the Aegean, you can have it. You want to get a four-letter word out of me (and those I worked with know that’s easy) just say Kythnos to Santorini and you’ll get a firm “F… that” from me. Wind? I think that’s where they test 747’s to see if they can take it! After barreling down the entire chain, all we could do was hit Crete and that was mostly because it was in the way and it was too late to go around it. Our Bermuda Triangle storm was bad but seeing 55 knots over the deck three miles off Agios Nikolaos had me wondering if we were ever going to make land safely again. Tying up there was probably the greatest relief of the year. I didn’t know where I was until the next morning, and we ended up spending about 3 weeks on Crete. Of anywhere in Greece, this would suit me best of all. It is a rich, diverse island with enough going on to keep you interested in life. Rhodes is similar but has far more tourists.
 
 
"Prana" - flew past us doing 14.3 knots
 
From there, it was a little easier, though we were stuck by weather in a few places. It was no big deal, though, as they were nice enough to just hang out in anyways. A friend of ours in Bunbury has family roots in Astipalia and we went up there on an overnighter and ended up staying more than a week in a nice bay one east of the old pirate hangout of Maltezana (yep, they were Maltese pirates). From there, it was Kos, Rhodes and finally Kastellorizo, where so many Australian Greeks come from. Lots of them were back there, too, and Australian accents dominated the seafront.
 

The harbour in Kastellorizo
 
Turkey is wonderful – we were told by many that we would be amazed at how good it is and they were right. It is modern, civilised, hard-working and friendly. Where we are is a great location and the bigger cities are superb places to visit. Istanbul itself is amazing – our time was mostly on the European side and we enjoyed it immensely. It was about to snow as we flew out so we don't actually miss that bit. The walk down Istiklal street with a million others is a wonder of a weekend. It certainly is Istanbul's busiest street.

 
Istiklal Street, Istanbul
 
What did we learn? This is a lifestyle that has amazing rewards in the sights you see, the nights at sea, the people you meet and the time spent together. There is always the great sadness of cruisers when you have to say goodbye to those who are special, but you hope to see them again in ports or anchorages down the track.
 
 

Artur, Benoit, Florence, Charlotte and Thibault - on their way to Brazil
 
So far, we have been to very few places we thought we would definitely go to, and we have been to dozens of places we have never heard of before in our lives. We have sailed into harbours with tricky moorings, then anchored in wide open bays where the anchor bit first time and we didn’t move for days no matter what blew.
 

Common Sense - Astipalia
 
 
The boat is holding up well (marvelous what the application of $$$ can do! – they say there isn’t a cruising problem that can’t be fixed by throwing money at it). We are still comfortable in each other’s company, and rely on each other to do different things around the boat well.
We do miss our home turf but we’ll keep doing this until our health forces us to slow down. After this, perhaps a Canal Boat in France, then an RV in the USA. Then we’ll do the caravan around Australia. Life is too short to sit in front of the TV. (we gave ours away in Portugal last year).
When we get back from Oz, we think we can squeeze in a trip to Las Vegas again to see Carol’s mum in Arizona. Then Carol is off to Africa to visit her sponsored school girl, who is now almost ready to finish school. I have no interest in that entire blighted continent, apart from the Mediterranean bit in the West, so I’m not going. I’ll just hang around Istanbul perhaps or go over up into Romania for a little look.
Common Sense-wise, next year we will be headed up the coast of Turkey to the Dardanelles
From there, we haven’t decided. Probably the northern Aegean, then down past Athens again and around the Peloponnese, and up to Italy where we are hoping to spend some time if we can organise student visas and enroll in a language school.
I can’t see us getting out of the Med for a couple of years yet. It just grabs you and doesn’t let go.
 
Arriving in the Med - Padraig, Terry and Carol


 


Thursday, 19 December 2013

Cappadocia

We are now the proud holders of Turkish Residency Permits for the next twelve months, which will enable us to take our time exploring this amazing country. If our recent trips to Cappadocia and Istanbul are any indication, it should be quite an adventure.

Cappadocia lies on a high plateau in the centre of Turkey, but the landscape makes you feel as though you have somehow landed on an alien planet. Its weird "fairy castles" and "chimneys" look like giant toadstools or conical hats, and some of them look more than a little phallic. But "fairy castles" they are, according to all the tourist literature. The formations are the result of volcanic activity: a thick layer of ash has been compressed into soft white stone, then a layer of lava has become a cap of hard grey basalt. Over time, gullies have formed through erosion, leaving these tower-like structures behind. The landscape is rendered stranger still by human activity over at least three thousand years. Dwellings, churches and storehouses have been hollowed into the rock and underground cities form a warren beneath the earth, some of them nine storeys down. It was fascinating to tour one of these cities: reservoirs, ventilation systems, stables, kitchens and food stores, waste management and places for worship were all carved into the stone, along with great stone disks which were rolled into place to cut off the tunnels, blocking the cities from enemies and trapping them within a section of tunnel, effectively burying them alive.

Balloon rides are a popular way to view the landscape, and these add to the spectacle: on a busy day, you can see a hundred or so multi-coloured balloons rising from the stark white peaks into the vivid blue of the sky. We went on a hike through one of the valleys, with the strange white and pinkish peaks rising on either side, a truly surreal experience.

                                                   Photo from Travelife because I forgot my camera!

The town of Konye lies close by, famous as a centre of Dervish worship, and home to the great Dervish poet Mevlana, also known as Rumi. Here we had the opportunity to see a Whirling Dervish devotion, a strange ceremony and not at all what I had imagined. It is definitely not a dance of rapture or celebration, but a sombre and intense analogy of death. The tall hat represents the tombstone and the white clothing, the shroud. The whirling and gradual raising of the arms signifies the soul leaving the body. The whole performance is a memento mori. Accompanied by rhythmic traditional drum and lute, the performance is mesmerising.

 
2013 is winding to a close. Next week we will head home via Istanbul.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Antalya and Arykanda


Legend has it that Antalya was founded when Attalos II of Pergamum sent his servants off in all directions to find a ‘Paradise on earth’. The city’s setting, amongst the pine forests in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains, overlooking a wide, sweeping bay, is indeed beautiful. The view changes at different times of the day, with the Mediterranean vivid blue or glittering silver, and the backdrop of mountains in receding ranks of blue, grey and purple. In some places, waterfalls cascade over cliffs into the sea below.


 Antalya today is a prosperous city of about a million people, built up around the old city centre of Kaleici, a typical walled town with winding cobbled streets and restored Ottoman houses. Most of the houses have a bay window projecting from the upper storey and a courtyard garden full of olive and citrus trees at the back. We stayed in one which has been converted into a pension – they are full of character and the bay window is perfect for checking out the passing parade in the streets below. The only remaining gate into the old town is Hadrian’s Gate, built in honour of the Emperor’s visit in 130AD, so we got to walk in his footsteps as we have done those of Julius Caesar, Octavian, Alexander, Archimedes, Hippocrates … and countless others! The ancient port is now a harbour for fishing boats and tourist gulets. There is no space for cruising yachts, but a new marina is under construction a few miles further around the bay.

You’d think we’d have had enough of archaeological museums by now, but the one in Antalya is a must see. It has the usual Mediterranean layers of history and prehistory, but the highlight here is the “Room of the Gods”, a collection of fine marble statues of classical gods and emperors taken from the theatre at Perge. It is an exceptional display, with each piece skillfully highlighted in the darkened room. Pride of place in the museum is a marble known as The Weary Hercules, whose bottom half was discovered by archaeologist Jale Inan at Perge, then matched to his top half discovered in a fine arts museum in Boston. Negotiations ensued, but as you can see, it was a bit difficult to argue that the pieces did not belong together – and the Turks argued that they belonged together in Antalya, close to where they originated.
 

Next day, appropriately enough, we journeyed out to the ruins of Perge, about 17k out of town and easily reached on the marvelous Turkish bus system. Perge was a Roman city which became prominent after the Trojan War (1275 BC), though earlier relics have been found. The theatre from which most of the marbles were excavated was closed off, but you could still get a pretty good look at the three tiered stage, where, according to the reconstruction at the museum, the marble gods were displayed. The University of Istanbul is still working on the extensive site – you can’t help wondering what treasures might lie beneath your feet as you walk the streets of the ancient city.

After a long day of walking, a visit to the Turkish Baths was in order, so we headed down to the historic hammam a block from our pension for a scrub down and massage - the works for about $20 each. Terry was expecting the full Turkish wrestler treatment in the blokes’ section, but it turned out to be quite gentle. Afterwards we found a great fish restaurant (Chef’s) where we had a plate of fried anchovies, a plate of sardines and a plate of calamari for TL31.  You get a basic salad, dip, water and pita bread free.  So for $A16, we had dinner in a good quality restaurant on “restaurant alley” in Antalya. That’s $A8 each. It was so good we went back the next night and had exactly the same. Beers are a little more expensive though in Turkey so they added $A2.50 each to the bill. 

On our third day we thought we were old hands at the bus system, so we attempted to make our way to a local beauty spot called Duden Falls. Tip: it is much better to get a bus to the central Otogar and then find one to your destination than to try to connect up the various suburban routes. Apparently no-one in Turkey understands the mysteries of suburban bus routes, but they are all too polite to tell you they can’t help you, and will direct you very helpfully all over town. Two hours later we did reach Duden – an extraordinary watery paradise in the middle of a featureless outer suburb of Antalya. Freezing cold crystal clear water tumbles in torrents down from the mountains; there are ancient fern-covered trees and caves where you can actually wander in behind the falls to view the scenery through a curtain of water. The park was full of Turkish families and young couples relaxing in this cool, green, secret paradise.


Home to Finike, but not for long. Next up was a day trip by bus to Arykanda, around 27k from here, at the foot of Falcon Mountain. Now this was a revelation! No tour buses or souvenir shops – in fact, no-one but us, arriving near the town of Arif Koyu where a few villagers have set up a street market at the bus stop where the track up to the ruins begins. But what a site it is! You hike up the hill (stopping to pay 5TL at a booth if there’s anyone there – if there’s not, you’ll meet the guy somewhere in the park) and discover the remains of an extensive Roman/Lycian town, built on five terraces against the vast cliff face of the mountain. It is in better condition than any of the other sites we’ve visited, and the different buildings are clearly identifiable. There are even some mosaic floors still intact.  
 

Apparently Arykanda was never admitted to full voting rights in the Lycian League as it had the reputation of a profligate party town, always in debt. The ruins support the story: there are three theatres (for drama, poetry readings and music), a stadium, a large commercial agora for shopping, and a substantial wine press – clearly a town devoted to pleasure! The setting is amazing: sitting in the large theatre, you have a view out over the whole valley and the surrounding mountains. Pine and cedar trees shade the remains of the town and thyme and mint grow up between the paving stones. Terracotta shards are everywhere – you pick up a fragment and imagine a potter turning a clay vessel, a woman filling it with oil – two thousand years ago!

We had this entire site all to ourselves, and wandered freely around, imagining the lives of the people who lived there in the second century BC.

 

On the way back down the track we stopped in at the Arykanda Pension and Restaurant for a delicious lunch of grilled lamb and their specialty – fresh trout from ponds built into the mountain streams. A nice grilled trout sets you back 10TL – that’s about $A5 – and of course there’s free pita, dips and water thrown in. You sit sipping your Efes beer looking out over an awesome view of forested mountains and valleys full of orange groves, with the ruins behind you and the sound of streams cascading and birds everywhere. Then, just as you think it can’t get any better, a herd of beautiful little deer comes racing down the mountainside and the restaurant owner hands you some binoculars to check them out. We hung out in the market for a while waiting for the bus, and got to sample some of the mountain water that seems to gush from every tap, pipe and hole in the rock around here.

Don’t miss Arykanda if you ever happen to be in this part of the world.

Next week we’re off to a town called Kemer to obtain our Turkish Residency permits – about $200 gets you a “blue book” which gives you a Turkish Tax File number so you can get into doctors and hospitals cheaply, plus you can come and go through the airports like a Turk can.  We’re probably going to go for a year’s permit. We’re off to Cappadocia for a 4-day trip with others from the marina on the 21st, then it’s home again on December 9th – can’t wait to see  you all!