Lycian Coast


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Middle East » Turkey » Mediterranean
May 27th 2016
Published: May 27th 2016
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Sabbath, 21 May – Fethiye (“Fet-ee-aye”)

We decided on the scenic route along the water, even though it was going to take longer than the inland highway. However, we were rewarded with drop-dead gorgeous scenery as we wove between coast and mountain. The landscape is rocky yet shrubs and trees abound on the steep slopes between coast and peak. The Grampians meets the Aegean. Along the way there were families selling gozleme from their open-air pizza ovens. I wanted to stop but we didn’t have any small change and we couldn’t ask a poor family to break a hundred.

100kms later we re-joined the main highway and we both agreed that today has been the prettiest day of driving thus far. It still astounds me how mountainous and green Turkey is.

Once in Fethiye, we spent a couple of hours checking out the nearby ghost town of Kayakoy. The local Greek Christians were persecuted and expelled in 1922 after the Ottoman Empire fell and Turkey became a Republic under Ataturk. It has over 4000 buildings on the hillside that were abandoned so that was an interesting 30 minutes to wander through the crumbling town.

On the way home we saw some ancient rock tombs carved into the mountainside. The Lycian people built it around 500BC so they are 2500 years old and very imposing over the Fethiye cityscape. The inside of the tombs have been raided long ago so there’s nothing to see inside, and once we’d taken our outside photos, we went back to the apartment for an evening swim and an early night.

Sunday, 22 May – Fethiye

We are now on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. The scenery hasn’t changed though so it’s a blur as to where the Aegean stops and the Mediterranean starts.

It was raining this morning so we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast and by 10.30am the rain was intermittent enough to allow us a 4km walk along Calis Beach. Fethiye is a real Brit hotspot and we’ve heard more English here than anywhere else in Turkey. The city was mostly destroyed by an earthquake in the 1950’s so thankfully the re-built streets are wide and quite easy to navigate, compared to other towns we’ve driven through. The city itself is not as cute as Bodrum but the backdrop with the towering mountains adds beauty that would otherwise not be there. It doesn’t feel Turkish and I think it’s because of its newness.

After lunch the rain had moved inland and the sun returned so we drove out to Oludeniz, which has a stunning blue lagoon but is spoilt by a purpose built tourist village. We decided to keep driving around to Butterfly Valley instead, named so for the Jungle Butterflies that call this gorge home. The cliff drive was breathtaking. The 10% gradient road is half way up the mountainside so you have towering rocks above you, blue water below and blind corners a car width wide. The hike down to Butterfly Valley can be quite treacherous with ropes and rock climbing manoeuvres required in places. We had planned to do the hike because despite the steepness, most of the guide books say it’s do-able by anyone with moderate fitness levels. However, we arrived at 5.30pm and given it’s a 2hr return trek with a high degree of difficulty, we felt it was too late in the day to start. It looks like a ripper trail though and I was disappointed not to get a chance to tackle it. However, the drive to the end of the road 8km further up was brilliant and we stopped by the side of the road to take in the majestic view of the southern coast (inaccessible except by boat). It reminded us of both the Canadian Rockies and the drive between Hermanus and Capetown.

We munched on pink lady apples, had some cheezel-covered peanuts and some water before heading home for the night. Dinner was boiled potatoes and carrots with grilled zucchini and haloumi cheese, finished off with a homemade mocha using fresh milk!

Monday, 23 May – Kas (“Kahsh”)

The coastal drive from Fethiye to Kas is georgous, still with rugged mountains but the vegetation has changed from trees to low windswept shrubs. The ocean is the roughest we’ve seen in Turkey and there are actually surfing waves at some beaches. It’s rather perplexing why they have step ladders down off the rocks into the ocean for swimming, but they do. Nothing like a morning swim being washed up on the rocks.

On the way to our first stop, Patara Beach, we came across another tortoise crossing the road. This time I got to rescue him and put him at the side of the road. His head and flippers thrashed wildly outside the shell, trying to get away. He didn’t hiss at me like Dwayne’s one though so it can’t have been all bad.

Just before arriving at Patara, the mountains give way to a wide valley that is wall to wall greenhouses. There are rows and rows of long white tents, bursting with ripe tomatoes and peppers. We haven’t seen many greenhouses in Turkey but obviously this area is big into it.

Patara beach is the first beach we’ve seen that’s completely sand and not pebbles or rocks. It’s 18km in length and at night it’s used by sea turtles for nesting. The colours were dazzling blue but the rough seas and winds were churning up the water near the shore. Patara actually has a large section of ruins behind the sand dunes. It was one of the main cities in the Lycian league, inhabited from the 14th century BC but its golden age was the Hellenistic age (300BC). It is mentioned in Acts 21:1 that Paul and Luke went there. Like Ephesus, it also had a harbour before silting up, although it’s easier to imagine given the ruins are only several hundred metres away from the current shoreline. There is an old lighthouse built by Nero, a columned promenade, a partial amphitheatre and a restored political arena. There are also bath houses, cisterns, aqueduct and other ruins but they are a wall here or an archway there. Very rudimentary.

After Patara we continued on our ocean road drive and were absolutely gob smacked when we came around a corner and saw the most brilliant cyan coloured water near the shore, creating a cobalt blue further out. Behind the beach was an imposing fissure gorge that once had water flowing out to the sea. The road cut in between the two features so that the gorge was to the left of the bridge and the beach was to the right. It was called Kapatas beach and was even more stunning that Simi!

We checked in at Kas and wandered around the cute little town. We had a crunchy pumpkin dessert that was orange like pumpkin, but had the consistency of crunchy jelly and the flavour of peanut butter and honey. Very weird. I found some bamboo bath towels for only $20ea so I think I’ll buy those before we leave tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 May – Ucagiz (“U-chahz”)

We had the weirdest deep fried puff bread for breakfast this morning. It was almost like a Turkish version of a donut, but looks like a puffa fish. I also went to get my cheap bamboo towels at 9.30am this morning but the shop was still closed. That was a shame.

We had a traffic jam on our way down into Ucagiz from Kas. There were approx. 100 goats scattered across the road making their way towards us. We had to stop and wait for the herd to pass. It was a quick trip though, only taking an hour between stops.

More greenhouses sprawled in the valley behind Ucagiz.

We pulled into our pension and were warmly greeted by our host, Halil. He speaks English, German and Turkish and was most keen to squeeze some fresh orange juice from his garden and have a chat. His entire courtyard garden is covered in vines and trees, offering a lovely place to chill from the warm sun. You can also have dinner with his family for a small fee, but when I said I was vegetarian, he suggested a restaurant down on the waterfront. I take it we’re not invited to dinner tonight. He even has 10-day old kittens so I’m getting my fill of patting or holding them every time we pass that way. They are so heart-warmingly tiny!

Ucagiz is the smallest place we’ve been so far. Its shoreline is protected by a large island called Kekova just off its coast and because of all the boats that moor here, there are no beaches for swimming. This suits us fine. We’re here specifically to see Kekova, the Sunken City. There are underwater ruins and we were hoping to book a tour directly from Ucagiz, but there are no companies here to book with. However, Halil assures us that it’s just as good to hire a captain and boat, so he’s going to do that for us in the morning. It’s a shame we can’t actually swim, dive or snorkel over the ruins so we’ll be floating on top and trying to see them through what will hopefully be calm water.

Everyone in Turkey smokes, even more so than France. It’s very annoying.

We seem to have stumbled into an infestation of Germans. They are everywhere now. Even the menus are in Turkish and German. Turkish tourists still outnumber foreigners but Germans and Russians are now the dominant foreigners.

We’ve spent the day in a most leisurely fashion, having gozleme for lunch, naps in the afternoon and chill time in the garden. I was a bit dubious about how we’d go for vegetarian given there’s only 5 or so restaurants. However, we wandered down to a waterfront restaurant recommended by Halil, and indulged in a vegetarian mezze buffet for $7.50 each. There were 16 dishes including fresh beetroot, roast potatoes, zucchini fritters, red cabbage, tzatziki, green beans and lots of others. It was most delightful to watch the sun set and munch on tasty vegetarian. The down side is that we are only 25m to the mosque so the calls to prayer are disturbingly loud. Tomorrow will be an early one.

Wednesday, 25 May – Cirali (Shi-rali)

Beds in Turkey are too firm for my liking. I have to keep rolling over to save my hips from pain. The blankets are lightweight like a sheet and they seem to use double sizes on queen beds, meaning that it barely covers two people. Between the hard bed and having to fight each other for warmth, our sleep hasn’t been as peaceful as I might have hoped.

After breakfast we rented a boat and skipper for an hour and went over to Kekova. It used to be a large town on a very rocky island and one finds it hard to imagine how they could build on such a steep canvas. However, there are ruins on the island and ruins underwater down to a depth of 6m. Like a lot of antiquity, it was flooded by an earthquake in the 2nd century AD. However, the people stayed on the island until the 14th century where multiple Arab invasions meant it started its decline as a town. It was totally abandoned in the 19th century. Unfortunately it was a very windy day so we couldn’t really see anything underwater.

After Kekova the captain dropped us off at a seaside village called Simena, famous for its old castle, again built on Lycian ruins by the Knights of Rhodes. There wasn’t really anything to see there either, except another tortoise rescue. We walked back 4km to our pension and checked out for the drive to Cirali.

In hindsight I think we should have taken a full day tour from Kas which would have cost $120 instead of $40, but we would have gotten a guide complete with explanations and it would have been for a full day rather than an hour. Oh well, you don’t know these things until you arrive.

The drive was again absolutely stunning. After an hour we reached our half way point and another stunning cyan coloured beach, but this time it extended for several km’s rather than just a bay or inlet. The town, Demre, had even landscaped the edge of the beach with grassy areas, playgrounds, bbq’s and covered picnic shelters. We made a snap decision to stop and have lunch overlooking an ideal view. Definitely our fave lunch spot.

The foliage changed from windswept brush back to forested mountains, steep as ever. It amazes me how trees cling to those slopes. We dropped from the mountains down into Cirali after 2pm and checked in to the campground. I thought I’d died and gone to Tahiti. The sharp, triangular peaks soar over the 3.2km beach and azure waters. It was a wow moment. Tonight we’re staying in a safari tent on the beach. We enjoyed a glass of fresh pomegranate juice from the backyard of the restaurant we ate at, which is unusual because pomegranate season isn’t until mid-September. We reckon they probably bottled it last year but the flavour was intense and left a tingle in the mouth.

After dinner we walked up to Yanartas – the eternal flame of Olympos, known as Chimera in English. Another wow moment. When you arrive at the open rock plateau, there are over 15 different places where the fires seep from various rock openings. Fuelled by underground gas, escaping through cracks in the rock and igniting on contact with air, these flames have been spontaneously combusting for at least 2500 years. We got there at dusk and watched the pitch black drape like a heavy blanket over the valley whilst basking next to several flames. They do not burn high or wide, but if you sit on a rock you’ll soon know if it ignites under your legs, as we saw happen to one couple as they jumped from their seats. Other people were enjoying a wine and toasting marshmallows. The flames are mesmerising and it’s more magical than I anticipated.

We descended just after 9pm by the light of our smart phones (how romantic!) and arrived back at camp ready for bed after 10. However, it is just coming into turtle nesting season so Dwayne said “Wouldn’t it be cool if we saw a turtle on the beach.” Of course, seeing a turtle actually nest in the wild is very rare. It’s against Turkish law to use any light which may deter them so we surveyed the beach in the dark but couldn’t see anything. However, we decided to go for a walk anyway and within 50m - BAM! There was a Caretta Caretta (Loggerhead turtle) at the end of the shoreline, scraping her way over the rocky beach towards the sand dunes!! We were the only people on the beach and she was the only turtle.

For the next 4 hours we sat a mere 1 metre away and watched her dig 4 holes before finally wallowing in the 4th pit, going into her trance and digging 60cm down into the sand. By 2am she was still digging and since there was no sign of imminent egg laying, we decided to give her a pat and leave her to it. I don’t think she even knew we were there. A watched turtle never lays, as they say.

How amazing to verbally express a wish to see a turtle, then actually see one 10 minutes later, and get the privilege of watching her all on our own. That wasn’t a coincidence – that was God rubbing His hands together with glee and saying “Surprise!” I love that He blesses us with such simple pleasures.

Thursday, 26 May - Antalya

We told our campground host this morning that we’d spent 4 hours with a caretta caretta and he almost didn’t believe us because sightings are so rare. We went back to the site though and took photos of her covered nest. There is a team that walk the beach each morning and find nests, cover them with a wire pyramid and write the date they were laid so people don’t disturb the nests. Come August there will be hatchlings running like Ussain Bolt towards water. They hadn’t marked our nest yet, although there were a lot of other marked nests that we hadn’t seen in the dark.

The view down the beach to those Tahiti-like mountains was too captivating to leave, so we pulled up some beach chairs under an umbrella and took in the scene one more time before check out. I could have looked at that view all day. I have found my favourite place in Turkey.

Sadly, we left Cirali behind. Yet another tortoise on the road requiring rescue but the oncoming car stopped and the passenger went to pick him up. However, he was having none of that human interference so he got his skates on and sprinted across the road whilst the guy on the road had a chuckle. I’ve never seen a tortoise waddle so fast! It’s nice to know that other people are also looking out for them too.

Antalya is a city of 2.5 million people, it is easily the best located city in Turkey. Surrounded by jagged mountains and turquoise sea, it is easy to see why the Russians and Germans like it. They have an old walled town with pretty architecture and cobblestones, and that’s where we are tonight in our 1 bedroom modern apartment. Antalya itself has km’s of resorts and hotels, like the Gold Coast, but the old town is very quaint. Takes about 2hrs to look around.

I’ve already checked the bed and it’s a plush bed for a change, but the doona is still a double on a queen. I’m also looking forward to cereal and milk.

Friday, 27 May – Antalya

Had a most excellent sleep last night – the best in southern Turkey.

Our first stop was the Antalya museum, which has a lot of pottery/jugs/bowls etc from as far back as 5000-7000BC. Ironically, those old jugs and bowls don’t look much different to the ones found in 500AD, even though there is 4500 years difference between them. Just goes to show that some things wear just as well as others. They also have statues and sarcophagus from 1-3AD, dug up in Perge. It was interesting enough to spend 2 hours but then we exited for our next stop.

Termessos. Wow, wow, wow. We went there on a tip from our friends, Jared and Lyndelle. Unlike every other ruin we have visited, this one is completely untouched. No restoration or excavation. It’s 1000m above sea level on a set of cliffs, overlooking a 360 degree view of the Mediterranean and mountains. Even Alexander the Great couldn’t conquer it. We arrived at the car park and set off into what looked like our own Indiana Jones adventure. We clambered over rocks, ducked under overhanging trees and bouldered over large blocks of marble ruin. Some of the buildings were remarkably intact, like the gymnasium wall, others were less so. We passed several people at the lower gate who were descending, but when we reached the upper gate and main site, we had the whole place to ourselves. We couldn’t help but feel like we had entered Narnia and were looking at Cair Paravel after it had fallen into ruin in “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. The theatre is the standout feature. It only seated 4000-5000 people compared to larger theatres of its time, but it sits on a saddle between two towering peaks and has a very Macchu Picchu feel about it as you look down 1km to the valley below. Broken in the middle, it exists in two halves with plants growing out of any cracks they can find. We sat there for 20 minutes, soaking up the silence and gravity of the achievements. This is our favourite site because it is so different to everything else. It’s remote, it’s enchanting, it’s surprising.

I couldn’t think of a better way to end our time on the Mediterranean.

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