The World is an amazing place .... go and be in it

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Santa and the Dragon.


I’m a great believer in Karma. She hides around the corner to surprise you on the actions you have done, and she’s not always subtle in her rewards to you. Give Kizmet a jab and Karma’s return knock can be a mighty great kick that’ll send you sideways and unhinge those plans you'll have made. So why didn’t I heed this line of thought as we continued our journey and rambled across the stones of time.

We left Kas early in the morning aboard a bit of threadbare carpet wrapped in shiny metal we’d got at a bargain price from a real life Ali Baba. This magical zippy little car would whisk us around the tight corners of the Med coastline and squeeze us into the tightest of spots within a breeze, and it tickled M to no end to know he’d rented from a chap whose name was actually Ali Baba. We hadn’t planned for a long-term car hire while in the south-east of Turkey, especially after the duck and doge we’d experienced two days earlier but after an evening of impulse buying we now had two enormous boxes to add to our luggage which was growing each time we left an area. In Capadoccia a carpet bag filled with trinkets, rugs, dolls and woven fabrics joined the ranks of four backpacks. And now I had no longer been able to resist the glitter of Turkish lights (which will probably need a bank loan for the rewiring and installation into our house when we get back) nor could I ignore the vibrant colours of Anatolian ceramics and thus we decided to hire a car instead of trying to lumber all these goodies onto a dolmus (a minibus). The name Dolmus comes from the definition of “apparently stuffed” and one look at these little minibuses with their cramped possies is enough to entice me into renting a car.

In the early morning sunlight the Turkish Mediterranean sea sparkles like a turquoise gem, but we only get a fleeting glance as we drive into the hills and the sea we later  encounter is once again an ocean of plastic poly tunnels filled with tomatoes and other crops.  The tunnels spread out for as far as the eye could see yet it is far from an ugly sight as orange and mulberry groves infuse the shining plastic with flushes of deep green.

Our first stop of the day is the town of Myra, an ancient city of great importance during the Lycian era. I’m not sure if the town is still called Myra today, as I'm a little confused by the the maps we have as they seemingly give it a number of names – Kale, Demre and Myra. Either way, it has a lovely village atmosphere once we turn off the bustling highway and drive down wide cobbled stone streets which in turn lead into dusty narrow lanes to the site of ancient Myra and the Lycian Rock Tombs.

Even before we arrive at the site, the honeycomb of carved rock tombs springs forth from the mountainside. Looking almost like a grand apartment building, they are stacked upon each other encompassing the whole side of the mountain, a jumble of carved ornate rock doors and windows with beautiful reliefs inserted into the gables. In the sunlight the warm caramel and honey tones glow against the ‘steel’ granite cliffs.

These honey toned tombs are called the Sea Necropolis, (because they face the sea) and to the east of them sit the River Necropolis tombs, once colourfully painted in blues, reds and yellows but now faded to almost nothing. A magnificent and very well-preserved theatre  sits below the tombs. It's still used today for festivals, concerts and wrestling matches. In stark contrast to the theatre of Xanthos where I could imagine without any trouble the stoushes of gladiators, this theatre appears to be where you came for comedy and theatrical drama.

Stone blocks of faces in various theatrical poses lay scattered around the perimeter. In it's heyday the theatre held up to 10,000 spectators and  it has a wonderful acoustic vibe that  still resonates today. As M and I walk around the top diazoma (deck) of the cavea we listen to a chap in the orchestra belt out a patter aria that fills the air. We read there is an inscription on the western side of the upper theatre where the peddler, Gelasius staked out his spot for selling nibblies to the masses, but we can't seem to find it and wonder if the carving of man’s physique that we do find might be the 1000+ year old advertising billboard akin to “Kebaps, Kebaps, come and get your hot kebaps here

As well as these stunning Lycian tombs, Myra is also famous for being the home of one of the worlds most famous men, whose day is celebrated with an over exuberance of gift giving …. and I’m not talking about the saviour, Jesus Christ, but of Santa. The one and only, the original Santa Clause…. Saint Nicholas.

It wasn’t until I was in Kas that I discovered the inspiration for the jolly man with the jubbly belly and white beard was born and bred in Turkey. Born in Patara (which we didn’t get to even though it’s 'just up the road' from Xanthos & Letoon), Nicholas became the Bishop of Myra in 4th century A.D and was beatified after his death for his many generous deeds. It was said that he would secretly throw bags of gold into the houses of poor residents who were unable to provide dowries for their daughters, that he worked hard to improve the social welfare of orphans, labourers, sailors and students, and that he once persuaded captains of ships carrying wheat to stop at the port of Andriace and each ‘lend’ 100kilos of wheat to the people of Myra during a time of famine. Apparently this deed became a miracle,  for when upon arriving at their final destination; each of the ships had overflowing holds of wheat, more than they originally started with. Thus the compassionate deeds of St. Nic gave origin to the loveable jolly fellow who generously gives gifts to the kids at Christmas. Upon his death the people of Myra built a monument in honour of the Saint, this monument then became a basilica which unfortunately suffered destruction in 8th century from earthquake and invasions. A smaller dome church was later built to house the saint’s tomb. Then in 1087 merchants from Bari robed the tomb and carried off St. Nicholas’ bones to Italy.
There is no mistaking the intense venerating of Saint Nicholas as the complex where the little church sits is overflowing with pilgrims and tourists. It's shuffling room only as we all squeezed into the small ‘bee hive’ domed building which sits under a massive tent like awning designed to protect the church from the weather and elements. The fervour of the pilgrims stuns me as we are pushed and shoved, stood upon and elbowed as people try to view the site of the tomb and photograph the peeling frescos. There's so much ‘sign of the cross’ waving and kissing of certain areas in the church that I muse to M that I think "we've wandered into the Vatican and not some rural little church".

I'm also amused to watch another ‘glamour tourist shoot’ play out as a young woman in incredibly high black stilettos, little black lace dress and pouty crimson red lips strikes a pose on the beautiful marble mosaic tiles. Her partner clicks away with such zeal he's oblivious to how many others he is bumping into as he ducks and weaves his photographers’ stance. It amazes me even more as to how she manages to totter around on the marble floor without falling over. Polished to a smooth undulating finish by the years of time and the millions of footsteps, the floor is exceedingly slippery.
The naos’ (corridors) of the church are incredibly crowded especially near the ‘sarcophagus' so I wander towards the Atrium, a beautiful room tiled extensively in floor mosaics with intricate brick domed ceiling with contrasting incurvature lines. At the very end of the room is the sanctuary featuring a small semi-circled stone bema and four pillars.

The room is crowded, a large tour group swamps the area making it almost impossible to see it, more people wander back and forward from the arched doorways of the corridors. And then, as if by miracle, the room empties. I grab my camera to capture the room in its completeness and then just as I go to click, a man walks into the centre.

  “Please, one moment, may I take a photo, please” I say to him.
He looks at me, smiles, takes out his smart phone, holds it up, checks his face in the screen and clicks his photo. Then, he smiles back at me. I wait for him to move, but he doesn't. He just looks at me.
 “Please, I take photo, see no one in room, please could you move” I ask, making hand gestures towards the side of the room.
He smiles again. Then to my absolute astonishment turns to his other side, holds up the phone and looks into it. He smooths back his hair and takes another photo. I wait, feeling the frustration growing inside me. He doesn't move.
 “Please, sir, please” I plead. I can see more people approaching the room and I want desperately to get a photo of that room in an empty state. I begin to wave my hands. He smiles; a smarmy smug smile before turning his back on me and proceeded to ‘view’ the bema. The atrium is now filling and the moment is lost. Anger boils up and I growl under my breath.

Now, the reality is with these sites, gaining a photo with no other person in it is near impossible, and with the amount of ‘sights’ we now snap on our digital cameras and phones, if you were to ask me “will you actually look at the photo again once home, or in a years time,… what about in ten years time” the chances are I’ll answer “No”. So, I don’t know why I am being so dogmatic about photographing this room in an empty state and of course I’m not thinking about the absurdity of it all when I do something I would never, normally, do. I stalk up to the chap and snap out “I hope that’s a really ugly photo of you,” to him and end it with “you stupid horrible man.”
He gives me a look of confusion and it doesn't occur to me that he probably can't even understand me. I walk away, but not before being bumped by more devoted pilgrims wanting to get up close and personal to the pillars.
 “Don’t these people realise the contradiction of their actions to the compassion and generosity of the man this place is all about?” I grumble to M as we leave the complex. Of course,  I’m totally oblivious to the irony of my own words and actions but karma however has taken note and later she will give me a  swift little reminder.

From Myra we follow closely the coastline, a sharp hairpin road that hugs an almost flat Mediterranean sea, the rugged white cliffs that rise up from its depths contrasting starkly against the glittering turquoise waters. It’s breathtaking.
We pass through the city of Finike with its colourful wall murals and artistic street installations then drive up into the mountains to the Beydaglari National Park where two incredible sights await. Olympos and the dragon, Chimera. We must wait until nightfall to see the dragon’s breath, so we head to the ancient city of Olympos which straddles the mouth of the Ulupinar Stream which runs through a lush rocky valley to the Mediterranean .
We turn off the highway and drive heart in mouth down an almost non-existent road to a dusty chilled-out backpacker village (also called Olympos) filled with tree-houses sitting amongst flowering trees. Rows of bars and backpacker lodges with more pubs at the front, line the track and river side.
The pubs are filled with cushion laden daybeds and the track is bustling with bikini-clad, board-shorted 20somethings all heading towards the beach, towels in one hand, beers in the other. We find a miniscule patch of free dirt to park the car and join the hoards pilgriming towards the sea.
The track leads to the ancient ruins of Olympos, a once important Lycian city in the 2nd century BC and now a rambling trail of stone walls, patches of tile mosaics, carved tombs and crumbling vine clad structures. It’s like walking through a hidden garden long forgotten but still incredibly beautiful. The colour blue is everywhere in Turkey, whether it be the deep blue of Evil Eye amulets, the swirling hues of the Blue Mosque tiles or the shimmering blue of the sea, and here in the cool greenness of the Olympos valley, an iridescent blue flitters like slips of fire. Dragonflies, the colour of lapis lazuli and rainbow hematite illuminated in the soft dapple sunlight, dance above the trickling steam. They dart across dark granite stones and rest upon the green leaves. There is so many of them, they sprinkle the jungle in a neon glow.

We drag ourselves away from the fairy-like spectacle and cool quietness and find ourselves on the pebbly beach. It is filled with bodies laying upon its stones, soaking up the rays. There's so many sun-baking bodies upon this part of the Turkish Riviera, it reminds me of images of Christmas day at Bondi – packed to the hilt! 

It’s getting late into the afternoon and we’ve still yet to find a place to stay at our final stop – Cirali, home of the Dragon. We drive back up the winding pot-holed, just-a-fleeting-glance-of-tar road to the highway, turn right, drive a couple of hundred meters then turn back down into another twisting, full of holes, guttered track to Cirali, which turns out to be just five minute walk via the beach to Olympos (It takes nearly 40minutes to drive the18km of road up and down).
Cirali is adorable. Like Olympos it’s laid back, but there’s a more quieter vibe to it. Olympos is full of the 20something backpacker who’s looking to catch the essence of yesterday’s hippy trail.

Cirali is more of a ‘flashpacker’ village. Set amongst stands of orange groves, the ‘tree houses’ are little more refined from the rustic huts of Olympos and the cafes play a more mellower tune. We book into a sweet little motel in the middle of an orange orchard, creatively called “The Orange Motel” and quickly change into warm clothing and comfortable walking shoes for the hike up Mt Olympos where we will watch the sun set and watch the spectacle of the Chimera begin. The Chimera is a mythical Lycian fire-breathing creature, with the blended appearance of lion, serpent and goat. It was thought to inhabit the area near ancient Olympos where it roamed and roared its flaming breath. These flames still sprout forth, from the rock of Mount Olympos. Called the Yanartaş, methane gas permeates from the rock and has been burning for over 2500years. Although it’s impossible to extinguish them, they do ‘move’. 

 M and I drive the three km’s to the start of the path to the Yanartas. It's a steep walk up.
Although we don't find it too taxing,  the path is extremely slippery. The marble rock slabs are so worn by time and the thousands who’ve walked it, it’s like being on roller skates... on ice! and any little gravel dust on the marble see us sliding precariously. I’m astounded to see people trekking up in flip-flops and sandals and do my little under-the-breath 'tsk tsk' and shake my head. The path up is only about 1000metres and we reach the flaming rock mound after a half hour or so. It’s spectacular! Behind us the views are stunning and the valley, beach and sea stretch out in the soft sun setting glow. In front a large grey rock mound is peppered with flaming vents.

Small and large flames lap out; groups of people sit around them. Some roast marshmallows and toast bread, others enjoy a drink as if around a camp fire. One family is actually ‘rotissering’ a sausage. Just near the path and below the flaming mound sits the temple ruins of Hephaistos, god of blacksmiths, volcanoes and fire. There’s a party atmosphere on the mount, one group has brought music.

We’ve brought beer and packet of BBQ Shapes and so M and I find an unoccupied flame vent, pop ourselves down and watch the glowing sunset as music and laughter fills the air. Dusk falls and the mountain comes alive with lapping flames. It’s an amazing sight. When we first arrived it looked like there were only a few flames, but as the cold air hits the mountain, flames begin popping up all over the place.
Darkness descends and we begin the walk back down along with a few others. I barely step onto the path when my foot slips on a smattering of dust on marble and I slip to my bottom. “Whoa, that’s slippery” I say.  Next minute another woman just in front of me goes down. M helps me up and we gingerly walk down the pathway, torch in hand, trying hard not to step on the marble slabs – which is quite hard, for between the flat marble blocks sit large round stones poking out. A short way down we hear another person fall on the stones and stop to see if they are ok. They are. I keep telling M to be careful and not to slip – my main concern, if he gets hurt I can’t drive the car. Firstly, I didn’t end up getting my international licence and secondly, I can’t actually drive a manual car. Behind us an elderly lady is being helped down by her not  too much younger friend. M offers to help them and as he assists I continue on.

As I take a step down my foot catches the gravel and a very audible, sickening crack is followed by a searing pain shooting up my leg as I feel my ankle do a 90degree bend under my weight. I go down. We are still at least 700meters up from the bottom. I can barely stand, let alone walk. The pain is excruciating. M reaches me, does the ‘can you move it’ routine for which I nearly knock him out with a reflex action when he touches it, then he offers a solution to the problem – “I’ll piggy-back you.”
"Don't be so ridiculous!" I cry. An image of us both tumbling down the mountain flashes across my mind. I continue trying to hobble down. A guide with group coming up sees me and offers to send someone for a stretcher from the village but warns me it’ll take a while. A cold wind is creeping up the mountain and I'm starting to shake.  I'm not sure if its from the cold or it's shock, but I don’t want to spend another minute on the mountain. I thank him through tears and keep hobbling. It takes us over an hour to hobble and shuffle to the bottom. The drive back to the village is awful as every bump and turn sends more excruciating stabs into me.

It’s well after 11pm when we finally arrive back at the Orange and seeing my distress, the very concerned owners go for the doctor who just happens to live next door. Dr Ali comes and gently feels my ankle and gives a diagnosis – he’s fairly sure it’s a sprain and not a break. It’s as positive as could be hoped for and the relief is palpable, although Dr Ali tells me “It’ll be crutches and a boot for at least two weeks.”

Karma, she’ll change your plans if you step out of line.


Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Turquoise Coast..... Kas - part 2

The next day we’re up early and in the square to catch the shuttle for our boat trip. It’s another dazzling blue sky day with a sun that’s belting down and our spirits are high. We board the bus, smiles bright and wish everyone a cheery “Morning all!” Various Hi’s and hellos pop back, but what resonates loudest to my ears is a dry “oh don’t you hate it when you’re stuck on a tour with loud people,” from a woman who then proceeds to discuss at length at her neighbour in a strident voice how she thinks tours are for people who can’t organise their own lives or don’t have imagination. I try hard not to take her comment personally, telling myself I’ve probably stepped into the bus in the middle of her conversation and turn to the woman next to me and smile. She picks up her book and proceeds to bury her head into it and doesn’t resurface for the full 45minuets of the bus trip (or for that matter, the next 7hours - obviously a good book!)

We’re taken high into the hills then back down through small shanty like villages (we’re told by the guide they are nomads) to the port at Ucagiz where we board a beautiful timber double-decker boat and head out into a glorious blue on blue on absolute blue bay. The water is so clear you can see metres into it. Straight down it is the prettiest palest aquamarine, look outwards a few meters and it’s the most luminous blue.
Our first stop is the ancient sunken shipyard where we bob for an hour to enjoy a swim and sunbake. I dip my toe into the Med and pull it out in an instant. The water is like ice. The guide laughs and tells us it is sitting at about 20degrees which doesn’t sound all that cold. M dives in and gives a gasp. It’s freezing he tells me. I retreat to the top deck and enjoy an hour of clicking the scenery and chatting with fellow passengers who are also too chicken to face the water.

An hour later we pull up anchor just as another boat is approaching and I begin to understand the comment of the “no music”. It’s not about having pleasant chill-out beachy music playing in the back ground. It’s obvious some of the boats are full on party boats and this boat is one with it’s fast pace beats and lots of raucous voices emanating across the bay.
Out of earshot we glide past the sunken city of Kalekoy, the captain taking the boat as close to the city's watery edge as possibly allowed. It’s beautiful and mesmerising as we stare down into what was once houses and streets. A set of stairs goes to nowhere in the deep, further along the curved outline of a church can be seen. Above the waters line, crumbling ruins cascade down the steep mountain side. Kalekoy was once the bustling town of Simena until a series of destructive earthquakes sunk her six meters into the sea way back in the 2nd century AD.

I stare at it trying to get a grasp of the enormity of something so old. In Australia the oldest building we have wouldn’t even be close to 250years old yet. As much as it is glorious to drift close to the ruins, I would have loved to have kayak over the very top of it and be able to look directly down and see what once was. The sun flickers across the waves blurring the lines of history and shrouding it in a glaze of mystery.
The motor switches on and we leave the sunken ruins for a pirate’s cave which doesn’t look like much from the outside but is pretty impressive inside, then it’s to a small cove for another swim. This time I jump in, loose breath and grab the under side of the ladder to heave myself out of the water. I’ve lost all feeling! The water is unbearably cold. I’m back on deck within a minuet of entering the water and spend the next 10 wrapped in a towel with teeth chattering on the top deck.
M toughs it out and swims for a while. When he reboards, he is a strange two-toned colour, the tips of his fingers and toes are a brilliant white, the rest of his body is a funny shade of purple. It takes awhile for his normal colour to return. It’s embarrassing to admit we live near the beach, one of the best beaches in Australia, if not the world and we’re finding the Med too cold.
As the boat continues on we watch large green turtles bob up and down and swim along, they are so majestic to watch and I’ve not seen turtles this large so close before. Lunch is a delicious chicken sis with an array of salads that are very moreish and it’s all washed down with a pale ale. The party boat catches up to us and it sends both us and the turtles scuttling for somewhere quieter, another cove with more ruins perched on a hill close by. If we want to explore these ruins we must swim to the land. I can’t bring myself to even put my little toe in the water. The castle on the hill goes unexplored. How I wished the boat had a dingy attached for shore excursions.
I’m keen to get off the boat and explore the area and am delighted to hear that our last stop will be a tiny rock hugging hamlet which has a striking fortress perched high above it and an array of Lycian Tombs scattered across the ridge top.
We have only an hour on land, no where near enough time to explore the village, the tombs, the ancient city walls or the Crusader Fortress and as soon as the boat docks at the flower filled wharf, M and I sprint past the restaurant spruikers and scramble up the hundreds of steps to the fortress that was built back in the middle ages to protect the village and area from pirates who nested in the waters of Kekova.

We’re awarded with the most incredible views of the surrounding countryside and endless blue sea, it’s stunning. By time we do a quick look the fortress, take in its turrets, small theatre and spy a beautiful mosaic floor from a distance, we have less than 15minutes to walk the ridge line to the Lycian Tombs of Teimiussa. This miniscule timeframe confirms to us the reasons we’ve always been so reluctant to undertake tours ourselves and this last stop makes us feel like we’re running through a ‘tick it off your list’ process. Thinking of the words of the opinionated woman from this morning, I find myself wondering aloud, “just imagine what an extra hour in this landscape could unfold.” 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

A glorious trip in ruins.... Kas - part 1.

Other than becoming ‘deaf’ from the ear-popping 4660ft drop on the D350 mountain road, the 13hour night bus from Cappadocia to Fethiye is one of the best bus trips I’ve ever had the pleasure to do – smooth, comfortable and at times, extremely picturesque with an amazing light show from an evening electrical storm across the plains to a glorious sunrise dawning over soaring mountains, some of which glistened with remnants of snow.   The two hour mini-bus from Fethiye to Kas is horrendous. Not the worst bus trip I’ve ever been on (that accolade belongs to a Nepal moment of madness) but a bone shaker in any case. With windows and doors sealed tight, the driver refused to use any form of air ventilation and must have imagined he was driving an Audi sports along the Mediterranean coastline, cutting the corners so tight and hitting the brakes with such familiarity I was kind of wishing I’d just pass out from the stifling airless vacuum we were encased in.
The views of the Turkish Med were just as breathtaking as the driving skills we were experiencing and how I wished we could stop and really take them in at their full glory. We’ve arrived at Kas thoroughly shaken and became extremely stirred up when we see how quaint and laid back it is.
It’s love at first sight with the little guesthouse I’ve booked us into, only eight rooms with the sweetest little front veranda where breakfast is served every morning. A bow of vines covers the veranda, which is then framed by bright pink oleanders and pottered geraniums. Above the vines sits a row of windows with black laced wrought iron fringing contrasting against the stark Mediterranean whitewash. We can’t believe our luck with this place. It’s cosy, internally adorable and extremely cheap at only $30Australian dollars a night. Unfortunately I think they’ve forgotten to put a mattress on the bed. It is cement hard. Trouble is I’m finding all the beds rock hard in Turkey and wonder if perhaps it's my namby-pamby bones that are the problem. When I mentioned this to another Aussie we meet later down the track she agrees with me and imparts that she thinks it’s we Aussies who are too soft and maybe the beds are perfectly fine.

As we only have three full days in Kas the first thing we want to do was organise a kayaking trip over the sunken city of Kekova. In fact this is our whole reason in coming to Kas, so you can imagine our utter disappointment when we discover that none of the tour operators have been issued licences for kayaking tours and it’ll be at least another 10days before they can possibly have them. We just can’t believe we’ve missed ‘the boat’ again in our timing. We jump at the next best thing in touring the site and sign up for a one day boat trip that includes seeing a number of sites and a BBQ lunch. The operator announces with pride there’ll be no music on the boat. I think this a little strange at the time because I’m not adverse to music at all and begin to wonder if we’ve signed up for the ‘aged pensioners’ trip.
Once booked we take up exploring Kas village and I develop a case of the “OMG’s”. I can’t stop gushing over the adorable windows and door fixtures of the cottages, the single enclosed timber balcony rooms that jut out from the middle of the second storeys and the vine shrouded streets hung with lanterns.
Along the walls, fences and verandas sit rows of old olive tins potted with geraniums. Geraniums and pansies also fill old shoes, tea cups and at one place two pairs of jeans with healed boots. Evil eye amulets and colourful beads dot the marble and slate pathways and cobbled roads and lush vibrant kilims cover tables, chairs and cosy daybeds throughout the laneways.
We wander up ‘Slippery Street’ and find tombs carved into the rock mountainside Kas clings to. The view across to the Greek Island – a ‘stones throw away’ – is stunning. The Med is the most amazing blue I’ve ever seen, so incredibly clear and iridescent. M announces “chill time” and we amble down to the Tea Gardens which sit near the village square and face the port, and order Efes beers to cool away the afternoon heat. I notice a wreath being placed near the main squares statue and a small gathering of people holding a ceremony. After a speech, heads are bowed and people who were sitting around us or walking past all stand up and bow their heads for a moment of silence. I don’t know why they are doing this, but out of respect we too stand up and faced the wreath. Then people return to what they’re doing. M and I surmise this day must be some sort of remembrance day, similar to Armistice Day or our Anzac Day. Later in the evening I catch our guesthouse housekeeper crying as she watches the TV in the common area as I walk past. I ask her if she is alright but she speaks almost no English and so I don’t understand her answer. I smile kindly to her, nod and continue on my way. I don’t look at the TV. Because we’re so tired from the lack of sleep on the bus, we grab a Kabap takeaway, eat it on the veranda and retire early to bed.
We’re still getting over our flu sniffles so we’ve booked the cruise for our last day in Kas, thus today we’ll hire a car and drive back towards Fethiye to actually see that part of the coast. There’s a town everyone on TA is raving about, Oludeniz, and I want to see for myself what all the fuss is about. We head up onto the highway and begin driving when we notice that Kas has a peninsular so we double back to take a drive around it. I’m disappointed to see that wide scale development of ugly square block buildings cling with the hillside and cascade down to the beaches, they are all the same, oversized and characterless. Despite this, from the peninsular we have a great view of an incredible gouge that hangs over the coastal road across from the bay – it’s as if the mountain has split in two.
Back on the coast road we drive the switch-backs, dodging other cars, tourist busses that are stoping to let tourists out to take photos and a heard of goats ambling along with no particular place to go. They are taking their time and enjoying the view. The sign for Letoon comes into view and we turn off the highway and drive along dusty roads surrounded by plastic covered hot-houses filled to the brim with plump ripe tomatoes. Well we try to drive, what I really should say is, we played chicken and hop-scotch with the tractors loaded to the hilt with farm workers and packed high with boxes of tomatoes. So many tomatoes, they spilled onto the roadway, splattering the road with great splotches of red.
At the end of patchwork of paddocks and hothouses, we come across a theatre and ruins site which dates back to the 6th century BC.

Though not very big, it’s quite a lovely site, flecked with ancient olive trees with the gnarliest trunks I’ve ever seen.
Across the other side of the river from Letoon and up a hill is another ruin, this time larger. Xanthos. With an amazing Roman theatre and Lycian tomb sitting high on a pillar – definitely the best viewing spot of what ever was going on in theatre. As I sat in the back row of the theatre I tried to imagine this place back in the time of the Lycians for Xanthos was once it’s capital and a very grand city. That is until the Persians came and attacked and defeated the Lycians, and then those Lycians who survived the battle retreated to the city of Xanthos and killed their wives, children, servants and slaves before launching a suicide attack on the Persians. It reminded me of the Puputan of Balinese – so many lives lost.

The site is impressive, but I was disappointed and annoyed to read that many of the original bas reliefs and important artefacts of Xanthos had been taken from the site in the 1840’s by a Sir Charles Fellows and now sat in a British Museum. We went hunting for the large mosaic floor I’d seen a photo of but was unable to find it until M kicked his toe against a lump of gravel and old carpet and discovered it was the covering to the Mosaics and that this had been placed over the enormous floor area to protect the tiles and their colouring.
Further along on a hill was a lone tomb on a pillar, quite a magnificent piece surrounded by scrub and overlooking a sea of plastic polly-tunnels for as far as the eye could see. It was getting late and the sun was scorching, especially when we were walking around the granite rock theatre and acropolis so we jump into the car and continue on to Fethiye. We don’t get too far, as when we arrive back at the highway (after passing rows of rock tombs carved into the hill above Xanthos) we see the sign on the other side of the highway saying Saklikent Gorge. This was a definite must see on my list, but I was sure Saklikent Gorge was near Antayla, not Fethiye. I referred to our Map and saw there were two Saklikents. M decides that since we were near a Saklikent, there’d be no harm in checking it out to see if it’s the one I was thinking of. It’s back to dodging tomato tractors along the road, this time they are stopping to offload onto trucks that are parked under trees and further up the tractors become jeeps filled with adventure tourists zooming along the at full speed. The jeeps all screech to a halt near the river, off load the tourists who then all hold hands, walk into the river (only ankle deep) and proceed to cover themselves in mud, that is after they perform some sort of strange ritual, which I’m sure the tourists think is honouring something ancient, but in reality is probably giving the ‘guides’ and the drivers a good internal giggle – I know we were getting a laugh out of it!
We arrive to the entrance at Saklikent Gorge and find lots of gorgeous little teashops with hammocks and daybeds suspended over a creek. From a distance it looks so tranquil and adorable and as we’ve had no lunch yet, decide to drap ourselves across the beds, indulge in Turkish cuisine and watch the ducks paddle. The platforms the day beds are on are covered in flowers and greenery and when we come closer I discover the flowers are all plastic. It’s so very Kitch! But ever so sweet. The paddling ducks turn out not to be so sweet as they try to mount the platforms and steal our food. Almost as bad as cheeky Balinese monkeys!

Keeping tabs on time in Turkey is hard. In the spring/summer, the sun doesn’t set till late and it’s a super strong sun that belts down giving you the impression it’s only about midday, so imagine our surprise to find that we are lunching at nearly 4pm. Plans of going to Oludeniz and Fethiye disappear as it it becomes a quick gobble and go of lunch as we want to walk the Gorge and last entrance is at 5pm.
Saklikent Gorge is the second largest gorge in Europe and at 20kms long it’s the longest/deepest gorge in Turkey so we should have realised it was going to take a bit more than an hour to walk through it, but of course all sensibility goes off into the never-never when you’re on holidays and ‘you’ think it’ll be right…. a typical aussie mantra if ever there is one!... and we pay our ticket price and make our way into the gorge.
As we walk along the board walk from the entrance to the first crossing point we come across a number of couples walking the opposite direction, one couple stop and tell us they had been followed and ‘helped’ by a chap then at the end hit-up for guide money so be warned, and another couple told us they didn’t get to the waterfall as it was too hard. When we arrive at the end of the boardwalk a young chap offers his assistance to guide us up the gorge and wants 40TL – we don’t have any money with us as we knew we’d be walking through water and other than the camera weren’t carrying anything else. We tell him this and he tells us we’re not allowed in the gorge without a guide. We see another couple heading towards us, no guide in sight and mention this to the chap. He tells us they are locals, been here lots of time. I start to worry about going into the gorge. Another couple comes out, again no guide. Again the chap tells us they’re Turkish and they are allowed, but foreigners aren’t. 
I’m so disappointed and on the verge of turning back when M decides to hell with it and ignores the chap and leads me into the water. THE FREEZING WATER! Water that is so cold, I loose all feelings in my toes and lower regions. It goes to my waist. I no longer have a lower half anymore; it has turned to into an ice sculpture! M comments that in years to come, archaeology teams will have to excavate the gorge to find the lost ‘marbles of manhood’ that many a man will have lost in this river crossing.
We get to the other side and begin the slow slippery walk up the gorge. It is stunning! Pure white marble walls extend up, glowing in the afternoon light, water the color of cream rushes against our legs, we can’t see a thing in the water and so have to feel carefully with our feet. I’m terrified of getting my foot caught in any rocks/boulders. We traverse the gorges river from side to side, looking for safe footholds and not so deep water.
No more people are walking out of the gorge. Other than the rushing water and our breaths the gorge is quiet. It becomes colder and darker as we walk further in. The walls soar above us and the gap of sky becomes smaller and smaller until the walls either side appear to be touching. About an hour or so into the gorge we come to a point where we can no long just walk, but have to climb and scramble over rocks.
We can hear a loud crashing sound. To me it sounds like thunder and because we cannot see above us anymore, I can’t tell if there is a dark cloud above us or it’s the gorge wall touching. M thinks it’s a plane flying above us, but it’s too intermittent in my opinion to be an aircraft noise. “Perhaps it’s the waterfall we can hear” he says to calm me. We find it too hard to climb the rocks and so turn around to head back out. The water rushes around our legs and the rumbling gets louder. It takes less time to walk out of the gorge than in and when we arrive back at the boardwalk there’s not a soul around. At the ticket booth we find the place completely locked up, all gates closed except for a small gate near a bridge. There is no-one in the ‘shopping area’ either. M looks at the time. It’s 7.30pm. It’s also starting to rain. The noise was thunder. I’m horrified at the thought that we were in a gorge as a storm is approaching. I’m horrified that we are the last people to leave the gorge and that no-one of authority is around to do a ‘head count’ or to do a check of gorge to make sure everyone is out safely. I’m horrified to the point of pure exhilaration – as I feel a surge of freedom from the namby-pamby ‘high-vis’ safety conscious life we lead in Australia.

Later, as we walk the lantern lit streets of Kas, we come across a row of hard hats with candles lit beside them. It’s a make shift memorial and I ask the tea-house owner across the road from it what it’s all about. He explains that the nation of Turkey has just suffered a devastating accident and loss of life, a mining disaster that has taken the lives of at least 301men. I’m horrified at this news and it dawns on me now why our guesthouse ‘mum’ was crying last night. This tragedy will touch the lives of so many Turkish people we meet as we continue our travels, nearly everyone knows someone who has been touched. I send prayers to the universe to watch over the souls lost and protect and comfort those who remain. My heart goes out to Turkey and her beautiful people.