Sunday, May 5, 2013

Turkey 2013

Back to Fethiye on the Gulet AlaTurka 2

So far, our two day stay in the small fishing village of Kekova was a highlight of the trip. Scattered with Lycian tombs, it lies right across the Sunken City that dates back to the 4th century B.C. - the Hellenistic and Roman times. There are ruins of a castle up at the very top of the hill and along side of it there are numerous intriguing Lycian tombs.

As they had promised, in the early afternoon, after watching several gulets come through the harbor, the AlaTurk 2 motored into the harbor and moored right in front of our pension. She backed in towards the pier and extended the gangplank onto the pier. We said our good-byes to our host couple and boarded AlaTurk with our baggage. What service.

Mustafa, the contact with whom we had been communicating welcomed us aboard and showed us to our stateroom. We went below deck, down a hallway past several doors to either side, towards the bow of the boat. Stateroom #1 came with a double bunk below, a single bunk on top, two portholes, a hanging locker, drawers and an ample size head with shower. Nice, clean and comfortable.

There were a total of 19 passengers and three crewmen aboard - Ausies, Dutch, German, Austrian, Portuguese, American and the Turkish crew. Quite an international group. The gulet is twin masted ,75 feet long, Turkish built vessel. Although capable of sailing, when heading north, they only motor. The wind is typically northerly or non-existent. On top of that, they have tight schedules to meet. Well, I really hadn't counted on sailing anyway.

On the aft deck, there is a long table that tightly seats twenty passengers. There, breakfast, lunch, tea time and dinner is served. The food is wholesome, tasty and varied. Although there appeared to be an ample amount of food served, with several young, healthy males aboard, the food vanished as quickly as it was served. You really had to focus on getting some on your own plate. (We found out later that there were an extra couple of passengers aboard who they hadn't counted on.)

As soon as we left Kekova, the skipper took us across the bay to the Sunken City. We hugged the coastline and could see structures, columns, stairs coming out of the water and what looked like possible docks. Then, in around 200AD a strong earthquake,  placed much of the village ten meters below sea level.

Ruins from the Sunken City

After the Sunken City, we stopped at a cave and had a chance to jump off the boat to swim into the cave for a peek. It was just a big hole, but the swim was refreshing. We then motored to a small bay on the back side of an island, and along side several other gulets, anchored for the evening.

Taking a dip by the cave

The next day we went to Kas, the quaint town the four of us had visited by car. It was just as interesting coming into Kas the second time - this time by boat. Diane and I walked around the pleasant town to another part of it where there is a marina and haul-out facilities. We then returned to the boat.

Arriving in Kas by sea

This probable Anatolian mix dog had incredibly light blue eyes

Typical tour boat being built 

There's always a carpet shop along the way

Chow time on board

That evening we again anchored in another bay, had a chance to swim and mingle with the other passengers and then had dinner.

The next day, we were awakened early by the starting of the engine. I peaked out of the porthole - it was still dark. I could hear the crew bringing up the anchor. Shortly we were on our way. I went back to bed.

By breakfast time we were anchored in Butterfly Valley, a narrow, steep, almost mystical looking cove that would be suitable for a Steven Spielberg film. The area is a fertile agricultural one, best known for its figs, citrus fruits, mulberry and carob. Although we didn’t it spot it, the valley is named after the Jersey Tiger butterfly.

Coming into Butterfly Valley

After breakfast, a few of us swam ashore. The Dutch family disembarked here and planned to camp and hike out to somewhere. Those Dutch seem to have a real adventurous spirit.

After a brief walk around the bay, we swam back to the boat. We pulled up anchor and went onward to Oludeniz, a town known for having one of the top ten beaches in the world, the Blue Lagoon and paragliding.

We anchored next to a thirty foot high rock cropping that quickly called out to our Ausie boys to climb it and jump off of it. Pretty soon, a bunch of the young folks were climbing it and doing swan dives of the rock.

When we were settled into the anchorage, the skipper asked if anyone was interested in paragliding. Hesitant at first, a few minutes later I agreed. Four other young passengers also opted in when it became evident that Oludeniz was one of the premier places in the world to paraglide, with a take-off spot that was 6500 feet in elevation!

Panoramic view from the take-off area
It took an hour to drive up to the take-off area, so high in elevation that snow remained in the shady, north-facing spots. When we arrived at the take-off area, the five of us were assigned pilots after which we got together with them to get specific instructions for take-off, in-flight and the landing. The flight itself was going to be about one half hour.

Preparation for take-off

A few minutes later, I was fitted into the tandem gear, with me in front and the pilot behind me. The mild breeze quickly lifted the wing off the ground after which we began to run towards the end of the take-off area. Suddenly we were airborne and picking up momentum as we glided away from the mountain.

At one point, I counted over thirty paragliders in the air 

There were dozens of other paragliders in the air, some higher, some lower in altitude, some higher. But they were all heading down to the same landing spot in Oludeniz. What a sight it was! Having had my one day of paragliding training in Santa Barbara some months back, I was pretty relaxed and knew much of what to do. I settled into the flight as we glided, made turns, encountered some updrafts that took us even higher.

What appeared to be our boat at anchor was a tiny speck in the water. Far more visible were the cities of Fathiye, Oludeniz and another one far away. I could see for many miles in spite of a bit of haze in the air from the humidity.

View of the Blue Lagoon, soon after take-off

Our boat is actually visible anchored near the rock

Towards the end of the flight, to descend more rapidly, the pilot spun the wing into a series of sharp turns. We were then positioned right over the beach front area of Oludeniz. Then, to prepare for landing, he instructed me to be ready to run as we our final descent. All went smoothly as we glided over the roof tops of the buildings and dropped down onto the pavement.  What a great ride.

Once back on the boat, it was tea time. The crew brought out tea, coffee and an assortment of cookies. At the same time, the skipper was busy trying to fix the windlass, which was preventing us from pulling up the anchor. As it turned out we had to wait for a welder to come from town to weld a piece that had broken off the windlass.

Welding the broken part of the windlass
After the repairs we done, we proceeded onward to St. Nicholas Island, another one of those spots that reportedly had been the home of St. Nicholas, the real Santa Claus. Apparently, there is good reason to believe that the tomb of St. Nicholas is on this island.

We anchored just in time to afford a short hike on the small island before sundown. It was extremely interesting because of the numerous ruins and that we were totally free to roam and explore every part of it. Diane and I hiked to the peak and were lucky to get there and see a marvelous sunset.

The next day, with one more stop for lunch and a swim, we headed into Fethiye and disembarked. An agent from the cruise company was there to welcome us and show us to our hotel. We said our good-byes to all the other passengers we had become acquainted with and to the crew, who had been such a great team.  

The skipper and his crew

St. Nicholas Island

Ruins of one of the 7th century churches

The AlaTurka 2 at anchor (far right) in St. Nicholas

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