Tuesday, 26 February 2008

On the road (again) to Antalya

For the second time in four and half months the alarm clock went off at 08:01. However this time because I was staying in the backpackers in the centre of Bodrum, the early morning call to prayer woke me up a few hours earlier and I could not get back to sleep.

My bus left the station at 09:30 and I arrived with plenty of time to spare. It was a short five minute walk from the backpackers but either my big shoulders are not as strong as I thought or my rucksack is far too heavy. Can you guess which one I went for! Now the rucksack is a big one, 85 litre capacity with an additional 10 litre pouch on the front and still I could not get all my stuff into it!

So I left behind the kettle and coffee maker, my life is now one luxury item down.

I still have several other items that I am wondering about. Do I really need a water filtration system, a bivvie bag, a stove, the battery add on thingy for my camera and my sleeping mat? Notice how my hammock wasn’t on the list! Mind you if you add up the cost of all those things it comes to the wrong side of 500GBP. Think I may well post them back if I decide to lighten my load.

Anyway back to the bus station….

The bus was the most modern one I could find with nice big wide seats (yes my arse is still wide but not as fat as it used to be). The destination of the bus was 500kms south along the Aegean coast, to the city of Antalya, which was nice because that was where I wanted to go (having once got on the wrong night bus in south America I’ve learnt my lesson).

As the bus made its way out of town and onto the main highway, I almost caught the glimpse of a tear in my eye reflected off the bus’s window. On the bright side I would not have to trike up the steep hill.

It was a seven hour journey; so on came the headphones, back went the seat and out of the window went my gaze. The first half of the trip was along the coast to the town of Fethiye. The Aegean Sea was dazzling in the sunlight and the rugged coastline was dotted with olive groves and pine woods. The colours were amazing, the turquoise blue of the sea, the lightening blue of the cloudless sky and where the distant mountains reached up to kiss the sky, the softest, most embarrassed pink I’ve ever seen.

Once we left Fethiye the bus turned inland and headed towards the snow capped mountains. It was weird to look out of the bus to the right and see the sea, then look left and look at a mountain range capped with winter snow. The higher we went the lower the temperature gauge displayed in the bus went. On the coast it was 21oc and at the highest point along the road it was 13oc. Once we got to the highest points there were still patches of snow lying around the edges of fields, beneath the large shady tress and on the north facing sides of the many rocky outcrops that littered the terrain. The road rose over the high points and then fell into the valleys below. Some of these were only a few 100 metres wide whilst others stretched for several km’s.

I finally got into Antalya at about 6pm. The city is nestled between two mountain ranges that rampage into the sea. The wide “U” shaped valley is almost completely covered by buildings (well there are over 600000 people living here). The hostel that I booked was within the old city quarter and the bus station is towards the edge of town.


The taxi would have taken me right up to the hostel door but the only way there was blocked by a gang of workers repaving the road. I was glad of this because otherwise I would have thought that the local council had run out of money for street repairs sometime in the 1700’s. So there was nothing else to do other than walk the last 800m. I know, I’ve gotten lazy.

I am staying in this city for four nights. There are a few places nearby that I want to go and see. As this is the off season I’m hoping that there are some companies still doing day tours. If not then I will have to hire a scooter, which I would rather not do. Turkish driving is a worry sometimes!

The hostel is quite nice; the room is a good size with free wireless internet connection. It has a pretty little courtyard but I am amazed that they bother to Photoshop the pictures they put on their web site.
After spending weeks in Bodrum, the guy here seems at bit pushy (especially about getting your money)….or I have become way to relaxed and carefree man….take you pick.

So, there you have it for the first time since the 12th of October 2007 I’ve travelled (well physically at least and I know I went to kos but that was only because I had too!) however, my mind has wandered everywhere…especially when I was down the gym on the rowing machine behind the cross trainer when a certain female member of the gym was on it……I’m sure you could figure out the rest.

Tomorrow, a self guided walking tour of the old quarter.

I.e. walk around, get lost and then spend an hour trying to find the hostel

Happy days are here again!

Wednesday 27th of Feb.

After a very easy and lazy night I was up early and eager to explore. Last night I dreamt that I would have fried eggs on toast for breakfast and was looking forward to actually having some. Sadly, that was not on the breakfast menu but the coffee and a fag or two did the usual trick.
After an early morning hot shower (which was a treat as my place in Bodrum only heated the water by the power of the sun…crap on a cloudy day) it was a case of camera on, feet moving. I decided to head downhill to look out over the Aegean Sea and mountains. Half of the city seafront is built on the cliff edge overlooking the old roman harbour. The other half stretches out along golden sandy beaches. I walked away from the centre of the old town and passed the football stadium (home game on the weekend). Then it was through the modern town and back out along the seafront for the 20 minute walk to the museum. I spent just over an hour wandering around and then made my way back to the old quarter.
Spent a while bimberling around the many little lanes (all of which are having new drainage and water pipes laid over the off season…hence no paving stones on many of them) I ended up down in the old roman harbour. It was whilst I was there that I came across a dive centre, it was open, they’re diving and soon so will I! The water temp, is 18oc which whilst cold for here is hotter than I have dived in in England. On the plus side there is on WW2 wreck lying on the seabed at a max depth of 32m....yippee I get to go wreck diving.

On the way back to the hostel I relented and hired a scooter for 2 days. On the plus side it has a 100cc engine so it should be able to outrun the dogs up the hills, I hope.

Thursday 28th of Feb.

Last night after having an expensive Iskender I popped down to Mr Blues Pub (which was recommended to me by the people in the dive shop….so you know its good). The door was very stiff to open and as I pushed hard it opened quickly. Stumbling in, the 1st thing that I heard was Mr Boom Boom singing the blues. Any place that plays john lee hooker is alright by me. It’s a small wooden panelled pub with a small bar at the end. Quiet but it’s the off season. On the brightside it’s the perfect place to chill out, relax and breathe in the perfumed air of the occasional jostick.

After two hours and three beers I walked the 157 strides to my hostel room (did I mention that it was just around the corner) and went to bed. Sadly sleep didn’t come till just before three in the morning…there are teenagers staying here.

This morning I was downstairs at 8am sharp for my 1st caffeine fix of the day and 10 minutes later I was on my steel donkey (it’s a scooter not a motorbike so it can’t really be called a steel horse now can it!)

Twenty minutes and a few wrong turns later I hit the open road and was leaving the city behind me. Donkey handled well enough and my eyes were checking out the road ahead, behind and to the sides for dogs, taxis and all other Turkish drivers.

It was a 40km ride to my 1st destination. Around halfway I just had to stop, my hands were ice cold, and my ears were numb (relax mum I was wearing a helmet but the only one that fitted me was a skull cap style one). It was warm ands sunny yesterday, today it was overcast and 10oc colder. Anyway, five minutes later I was back on the road and my turning off the highway was upon me. The side road twisted and turned continually uphill and 9km’s later I was in the car park below the ruined city of Termessos.

As I glanced up at the surrounding topography I could understand how Alexander the Great failed to capture this place.

Termessos is an “un-restored” ruin. So it’s pretty much in the same state as when it was abandoned. It took a healthy 10 minutes to walk up the rock strewn earth track to reach the city gate, a further 5 minutes to get to the start of the city. This place is in a nature reserve and I think all the trees and other plants know it. The various paths twist and turn around trees and the littered masonry blocks., leading to piles of rubble that were once buildings, half collapsed walls and the odd collapsed column.

After a while I ended up in the necropolis. Here were loads of sarcophagi scattered around, some intact, other smashed in and looted. Many were on their sides or leaning against each other in piles. From there I meandered over to the theatre.

Wow, fantastic location with amazing views through the misty clouds. Then I walked back down the valley to donkey.

The next port of call was nearly 20k’s across the valley floor. I followed the signposts and after each one the condition of the road deteriorated and the width narrower till I finally ended up on a single track gravel road that led to a dead end. No, I wasn’t lost (that comes later) the place I was visiting was at the end of the road.

The Kararin Caves have been occupied by various sections of the human races for the last 25 millennium. I spent ten minutes walking up from the valley floor to the mouth of the cave hoping it wouldn’t be like Wooky hole.

It wasn’t and it was all the better for It. Simple and sympathetic(ish) lighting illuminated the three caves. Now, a cave is a cave is a cave…off you goes to www.sfau.smugmug.com and look for yourself!

One good ting about coming out of season is the fact that at Kararin caves and Termessos I was the only person there!

Once I had walked back down (to the little museum…it was a single room with 3 display cases and a picture. Not really sure why they bothered) I got sat on donkey and started to head back to Antalya. Once there…yep, got lost and spent 40 minutes tying to find a location that I knew how to get back to the hostel from. Good thing I like side streeting.

The rest of the day, well it was mostly trivial stuff. Sorted out a couple of days diving, went for food and then spent two beers sitting in Mr Blues writing all this out in my notebook.

Tomorrow, it’s a longer day with double the distance to cover. Only went past one dog today. Yep, it chased after me; my 100% record is still intact.

So, what did you do today…damn I have a hard life.

Ps. Audrey, if you’re reading this, I was smiling all day longer. Sorry didn’t take a photograph.

Friday 29th of Feb.

Today promised to be a long day. If the mileage on the map was right I would be doing over 220k’s on a crappy little 100cc scooter.
I left the hostel in the early morning and travelled out of town and onto the dual carriageway, heading east along the coast.
The first place I was heading to was 45km away. It was the city of Aspendos.

It’s main (well if the truth be told only) point of interest is the amphitheatre. It’s the best preserved one around and it’s still in use today for concerts and other performances. Originally built in the 1st century ad and then refurbished by the sultan in the 13th. Personally, I like my theatres in ruins but it was very impressive. The rest of my time was spent walking around the site. There were very few paths so I ended up making my own. It was fun!

From there it was a “short” ride of over 60k’s to the town of Selge.

However before I got there I had to navigate the roman bridge over the Köprülü canyon. I left the main road and headed north away from the coast and into the mountains. Once off the main road it was 55k to Selge and 37k to the start of the canyon. The road started out flat, straight and quite frankly boring. 10k’s later my fingers were busy pulling the brake levers. It’s a shame that donkeys cornering abilities were to say the least, poor and unpredictable. Twice the road went left and I headed on straight, braking hard and cursing the bikes tiny wheels inability to turn and grip. The ones on my trike were bigger and faster around the bends!

I reached the roman bridge, which in its day was considered a marvel of engineering. The top of the arch is nearly 100m above the river. By today’s standards its narrow (a pick up wide) and when it was built it didn’t have walls on the sides…crazy!

I parked up, grabbed my camera and headed along the canyon wall path upstream. The trail lead up and under for about 800m till it came to an end. Along the way I came across a cave nestling in the canyon wall, big enough for a small family but not a tribe. Trout live in the river and I spent 5 minutes watching a guy land one. Landing nets are not much use as he was 20m above the water line perched on a ledge.

Selge was a further 11ks uphill along a narrow twisting road. Snow capped mountains to the left of me, bigger ones to the right of my and a canyon in the middle, at times 600m deep.

I’ve been on a few sites across Europe when “guides” are hanging around. Usually I find them an annoyance but this time was different. I was riding slowly enjoying the views; fag in hand when I came up to a right hand bend with a few houses on the left. There was this man standing in the road gesturing for me to stop. I did and he asked if I was going to Selge. Turns out I was already there. Not a sign in site. If hadn’t of been there I would of carried on passed it.

So, with the bike parked he escorted me past the mosque, across the school basketball court (50 kids and 2 teachers) along several garden paths to the amphitheatre. Personally I found this one more interesting than the one I saw in Aspendos. The views…don’t you wish you were here! Its times like this that I am glad the coin turned up heads when I tossed it in the air to decide if I would sell up and travel for years.

The entire old city of Selge is now a little village of perhaps 20 houses. The arable land is a mixture of flat land and terraces around and within the ancient ruins. As we walked from the theatre, to the agora and past the temple we crossed recently tilled terraces ready for the spring sow, the odd lost chicken and this being rural turkey…goats! As we know, cows here are mostly kept on leads and dogs aren’t…crazy crazy place.

If you have been to turkey then you have experienced the joys of haggling. As we made our way back through the village to the road, we were both working on our opening gambits…much more fun than poker. Because “I was his good friend he would give me a special price“. My reply was “I get paid less than that in London for an hours work and London is more expensive than turkey and you call m your friend?” this carried on for about 10 minutes and I have to say I find it a great laugh. All the time its going on I’m doing that scene from the life of Brian in my head line for line.

With money given and the look of “I’m a simple peasant with several hungry children who will not eat tonight because you didn’t pay me enough” coming my way I was on the road again.

It was 55km back to the main road which was were the petrol station was. All I had was a quarter of a tank of gas and gravity to get me there…only just made it!

In the evening, not sure of what I wanted to eat I bimbled. Came across a delightful little restaurant. Inside was a lady singing the blues, Turkish style! I was hungry, so I went half and half, mixed grill with a green salad accompanied with a rather cheeky glass of red. All that for about 26ytl. If I go there again I’ll save myself 17ytl and forget the mixed grill. And just have the salad (I hadn’t eaten a thing all day and I was “Man hungry”) it was huge, served with freshly toasted chunky farmhouse bread…

I did just say that I was “man hungry” and then went on about salads…oh dear me!

Monday 3rd of March

Today was my second day spent diving, which is one of my favourite things do to.
Yesterday, I arrived at the dive shop (www.apdivers.de: i like them, so they get the sfau thumbs up) based in the old harbour. It’s a short walk downhill from my hostel. As I was super keen to get wet and start fish stalking I arrived slightly earlier than the appointed time.

The usual formalities were gone through, if you dive you’ll know what they are and if you don’t…stop wasting time, get yourself trained and found out for yourself.
Within the hour my guide and I were on the little rib moving out of the harbour. Being used to English waters, to go out on a rib with just 2 people meant having no boat cover. However as the ride lasted 97.4 seconds and we anchored 26.78m from the cliff edge complete with steps and fisherman. If the worst happened an AV tow wouldn’t take to long to reach dry land.

So, kitted up I rolled back into the Aegean.

The water temp was 18oc, amazingly hot for England but surprisingly cold to me. All these days of cloudless skies and sunny days must be making me a wimp when it comes to the cold. Once we got under the surface and I had opened and closed my legs twice (if you’ve dived in a wet suit in cold water you’ll know exactly what I am talking about) the combination of the wet suit and my blubber got their acts together and things started to warm up.

As I hadn’t dived since last year (and sadly I only did 7 dives in total) I would be taking it easy. Max depth, less than 20m with a dive time of about 40 minutes.

The viz was about 10m, which was good for early spring diving here in Antalya. The wildlife here has, like Bodrum, suffered from over fishing especially when it comes to catching the immature and undersized fish. There were some small but nice looking rainbow wrasses about the place. We did come across a couple of good size octopus. Unlike lobsters they’re quite hard to coax out from their rocky holed hiding place.
This is because
A) Lobsters are stupid
B) Octopus aren’t

I was fairly pleased that after about 5 minutes my buoyancy control was back to its near perfect level and I was swimming nicely trimmed.
Back on shore there was plenty of time for the three things that make diving a joy
1) Mugs of coffee
2) Fags
3) Little lie downs in the sun

Following a 90 minute surface interval, my dive buddy was for some reason still feeling the cold, so we opted for a shore dive to avoid spending time on the rib. So we walked to the harbour wall and jumped off. All I can say about that dive is if you like checking out empty beer bottles on the seafloor then you’ll think you’ve died and gone to beer bottle heaven. If you don’t, you know to just say NO!
That said its still diving and let’s face it….diving always rocks!

Today was what yesterday was all about, practise, getting some depth and checking myself out. Today was a day for wreck diving. The last time I dived on a wreck it was 2006, in the English Channel (complete with beard and fat bastard stomach)
Which was far too long ago…although I don’t miss the beard or the stomach so much?

The wreck (www.antalya-ws.com/english/underwat/fransiz.asp) was sank in 1942 during WW2. It was 110m long and lay on the sea bed at a max depth of 32m. The deck on the ship was at 18m, so plenty of range.

On the rib, ready for a nice boat ride, we left the harbour. 200 meters from the harbour entrance is a permanent marker buoy. Yep. That’s were the wreck is…not even enough time to “boat chill out”. As Antalya had had a downpour the previous evening my fingers were crossed regarding the viz.

As we made our way down the large growth encrusted chain, the outline of the ship’s superstructure slowly started to appear. The viz, 8 to 10 metres, not bad! I was diving with the guide and she’s a damn sight more experienced than me and has dived this wreck over 2000 times but because this was only our 3rd time together deep wreck penetration wasn’t really an option. This was a shame because the ship has 3 big holds.

I managed (just) to resist the urge to go straight to the bottom of the 1st hold and start poking around. Instead I was content to glide over the deck and check out the cabins and wheelhouse.

27 minutes later we were back at the buoy chain, ready to start our ascent. At this time we were joined by a large school of fish, which as we slowly made our way up from 17m, followed us all the way to 10m. They were slowly circling the chain and every once in a while one would leave the shoal and come within 3 or 4 foot of us. Just checking out the weird looking sea creature. That’s me by the way

At the request of my dive buddy, I won’t mention the second dive of the day. All I’ll say is, cave, winter storms and flotsam.

Diving in Antalya
1) Better than Bodrum, which to be honest isn’t that hard
2) It does suffer from over fishing (but then so did Italy)
3) It has an absolutely great wreck, 200 yards from the harbour. If this wreck was in Dorset it would be covered by divers every weekend of the season.

I got back to my hostel room in the early afternoon. I had a mini siesta and then went to get my bus ticket for Wednesday’s journey to Pamukkale.

As I was making my way back I passed “Harrys tattoo and biker shop”. I thought about going in to see if I could upgrade my wallet to one with a chain (now that I’m wearing jeans I’ve got belts and loops) but I thought…maybe tomorrow.

This evening I went back to the restaurant I’ve already been to twice (well its good value). I like it, I walked in, sat down and the waiter said…tea, salad and what else… Once the meal was over I reached into my back pocket only to come out empty handed. Luckily I had only left my wallet in my hostel room and I hadn’t lost it.
Tomorrow, I’ll go and see Harry

Wednesday will be my last day in Antalya; I booked the hostel for 4 nights and ended up staying for 8. I like weeks like this!

Monday, 25 February 2008

In search of Reg

That’s right folks, tomorrow I am on the buses. After spending the winter here in Bodrum it is time to move on and get back to some travelling. After all, that is what I want to be doing, especially now that spring has come to turkey. The sky is blue, the sun is out and the dogs are still chasing after people.
So tomorrow I will be getting on the bus for a 7 hour drive south along the coast to Antalya . I will be staying for 4 or 5 days before heading north towards Istanbul. Which will take me about 2 weeks to get there as I have several places that I want to see along the way before I get to Istanbul.

I can really recommend Bodrum for a holiday however long or short your stay would be. I for one have greatly enjoyed my time here and it will be with a slightly heavy heart that I leave here tomorrow.

However, I can’t wait to see what is around the corner….

Thursday, 7 February 2008

bodrum life

I have now been living in Bodrum for 17 weeks and I have another 3 weeks left of my time here. This is the same amount of time it took me to trike here! So much for travelling but since I am not in a rush I don’t really care an awful lot. By some god fortune, the weekend before I leave, Chelsea play Tottenham in the Carling cup final. As the match is on a Sunday (I think) I will be getting on the bus to Selcuk on the Tuesday 26th. Why travel with a hangover.

Once I leave Bodrum I am looking at taking up to 2 weeks travelling along the coast to Istanbul where hopefully I will be able to get a visa for India. If I cant, then it looks like I get to see England again a lot earlier than I thought I would do, just to get the visa. you understand! Its not like I have had enough of travelling yet. I have only really just started!

My days here pretty much flow one into the other. I wake up when I want to, potter around the flat for an hour or two, then five or six times a week walk to the gym at the Delphi hotel in the centre of Bodrum. After that, pop into the backpackers bar for a coke (sometimes a beer if the workout was a “big one”). Then walk back to the apartment, play games on the computer., read, relax (which I have got really good at) Depending on he day, I.e. if there is football or rugby on the telly I will pop back to the backpackers and watch it on the big screen.

Damn I have a hard life.