Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Olympos: it's not ruined by an itch.

I’m itching to tell you a good story and I don't even have to make up any of the content in it. 

It's a tale that involves tree houses, spotting Turkish Rastas (that's a Rastafarian), ruins, fire burning from the side of rock faces and bed bugs. 

Sounds random? Hopefully it does...

Currently I’m covered from the head (well neck) to toe in a pattern of bites. I'd have to say that on a level of itchiness they win gold. And like a face quickly growing red with embarrassment, after spotting that first bite on my wrist I soon noticed the dozen on my legs, arms... and it continues on. If you've had them before you'll agree with me that you do feel slightly sorry for yourself and although not contagious you start to wonder if you should remove yourself from human contact, but than everyone reassures you that they can't see them and it's not that bad. 

Cue sympathetic violin music to start playing.....

My last encounter with these little pests was 3 years ago, in Morocco after a night out in the Sahara. Back then I wasn't surprised that something had eaten me alive. I think we kind of had it coming considering a huge group of us were sleeping under the stars with blankets and a few camels watching over. But this time was different. Instead I was sleeping in a modern day tree house that was clean, had sheets and a bed. 

Luckily this hasn't tainted my experience of Olympos and the fantastic time I've had here. 

Even if I feel like a leper with spots. Or is that a bit too extreme..??

Olympos is a slight mission to reach if you’re coming from the West Coast. It takes about 6 hours on the bus. Time moves quickly by if you have a window seat to gaze out over the ocean. I think some of the bus drivers in this country get confused thinking they are F1 drivers. Tail gating and overtaking on tight bends seems to be the preferred approach to 'get ahead.' On each turn I was letting out another 'Oh Shite.' I hope each and every one of them feels like winners when they've pulled into the depot after their last stop. 

To get into the valley that is Olympos, you need to change onto a smaller van from the little bus station. My half hour wait here the other day was entertained by a skinny chap who after serving me cold lemonade, just wanted to talk, ‘Lord of the Rings.’ His son, (or just a local kid), was enjoying head butting my hand when all I was trying to get him to do was a simply high-5. 

As this was going on another guy had started the annual wash down of everything in sight. Holding the hose in his right hand he used his left to wave people out of the way (unless they were in need of a wet cool down). In between the head butting, hand slapping and Hobbit chatting, I managed to keep dry.

I’ve come to notice since arriving in Turkey everyone takes part in the daily wash down. Buildings, pavements and the more expected gardens, I don’t blink an eyelid anymore when I see someone hosing down the side of their building. I was told the other day that if there is water coming out of the taps still than there is no water shortage in this country, so nothing to worry about. 

Finally driving into the valley, I felt like we were somewhere special. The main drag is a dusty, unsealed road. Hand painted signs direct you to your accommodation or perhaps a visit to Sheriffs bar? It's a lush, green valley and at the end of the dirt road is the beach. 

Bayrams tree house is huge. Like a campground but instead the tents are wooden houses on stilts. The crowd mainly considered of the ever present Australians and a few families. You immediately feel at home here - even more so when you try their banana smoothie. There's hammocks everywhere or shaded tree houses with cushions to lie and watch the day go by.

The days have passed by here with trips to the beach. Passing Roman baths, several tombs and a theatre its hard to act cool, calm and casual when you walk to the beach in Olympos. It's not often that you walk through an ancient city to go for a swim. 

Since being here, I've noticed that there is a definite certain looks - particularly for the guys in Olympos. To get it right you need to sport the Jesus look. Long black hair, a tiny frame and you boast a beard that rivals the length of your hair. Or if brushing your hair isn’t you right now than dreadlocks is the answer.  A guitar and a taste for Ben Harper are also beneficial to complete 'the look.'

After a visit to the Chimaera Flames the other evening, I've decided that if I lived here, I'd have to set up stand and sell pink and white marshmallows. Maybe if successful I'd branch out to include hot dogs just so visitors could cook their dinner and dessert during their visit to the flames. Puffing away on the side of Mt Olympos, the cause of these flames is still unknown but most believe its methane gas leaking out since 4th century.

I've only scratched the surface of this little valley of goodness in the 2 days spent here. It's a gem of a spot and if you haven't visited definitely add it to the list. 

The end.

Toodle pip x

Main drag of Olympos.

Arriving at the beach.

Remains of the old city.

Chimaera Flames.

Chilling out at Bayrams lodge.

Bayrams Lodge.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Dalyan & Iztuzu Beach: My body is a temple (again).

I'd like to say that I'm now completely 'enlightened' after spending last week on a Ashtanga Yoga retreat at Grenadine Lodge in Dalyan (I'm still in Turkey).

But I think that would take a few years (and a few yoga retreats) for myself to ever feel that way.

Tucked away from the picture menus and badly burnt tourists (Ahem... mainly Brits but you have to admire them for it as they are masters in sporting great tan lines) wandering the streets of Dalyan town, Grenadine Lodge is a mini haven to get some R&R.

It's surrounded by fields of pomegranate and orange trees, all the rooms overlooking a large pool shaded by a few palm trees. The staff go out of there way to make you feel at home. So much that you don't ever want to leave, and after each trip into town you realise how much nicer it is at the lodge.

Our group of 'retreaters' consisted of a team of 8, plus our wonderful teacher, Jana who originally hails from Austria. At 07:30 each morning the day would begin in the thatched hut with a hour and half yoga session. A series of sweaty asana sequences would soon wipe away any bleary, sleepy eyes and you'd immediately feel wide awake.

Jana was a fantastic teacher who was able to share her 20 years of knowledge with positivity and encouragement. 

After that, breakfast. Followed by pool time. Another evening hour and half yoga session and then the day ending in a delicious vegetarian Turkish dinner.

The week wasn't all sweaty gym gear and chlorine stinking swimwear. 

Iztuzu is a short Dolmus ride away where you can chill at the beach and visit the local turtle hospital. Run on donations from the public, turtles who have been beaten and bashed by boats or local fisherman are often taken to this sanctuary to recoup with the hope of a full recovery. Shells missing and huge chunks taken out of their heads, it's a sad reality to see what mankind can do to these harmless creatures. A tank filled with water and baby turtles is the small part of hope for these creatures that they will survive and continue on. I take my hat off to the locals and English volunteers working there over Summer who answered our questions and do such an amazing job.

Back onto the theme of body cleansing... the mud baths are a famous spot to visit in Dalyan. The locals believe that a few trips to the mud baths will help you looks 10 years younger. I can't guarantee this but I can promise you that you will walk away with baby soft skin and stinking of sulphur from the thermal pools.

I won't bore you for too much longer. This week wasn't about 'being a traveller.' I wasn't on any massive adventure (unless you count a few bike rides into town that ended in getting lost down some side street surrounded by fields and stray dogs). So I don't have juicy stories to tell about life on the road whilst you tuck into your M&S sanga for lunch (I hope you treated yourself to the meal deal) or are stuck in traffic on the drive home from work.

But this was a great pit stop in the slow crawl home and I can say that I do feel like my body is a temple again. I'm sure this will have changed after a week of living like a backpacker again, not knowing when your next meal will be and enjoying each sunset with a cold beer or cocktail in hand.

Toodle pip x

Famous Lycian Tombs of Dalyan.

Iztuzu Beach.

Itzuzu Beach.

Dalyan and The Turtles.

Best market pancakes.

Dalyan town.

Dalyan town.

Mud slinging.

Charlies Angels?


Monday, 22 July 2013

Calis: In Turkey I can have my cake and eat it too.

Nothing much to say here. 

There seems to be crumbs and remnants of wine everywhere....

Oh and I feel sick from eating too much Birthday cake.

Toodle pip x

PS: Thanks Giselle for entertaining everyone in the entire restaurant (including a surprised me), with the Birthday cake.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Ölüdeniz and Butterfly Valley: Two places close in proximity but worlds apart.

Ölüdeniz is certainly the answer to why this part of Turkey is labelled the Turquoise coast.

Unfortunately, in my eyes, it's also a perfect example of a pretty spectacular area getting 
destroyed by an influx of a certain type of holiday maker.

Coming from Fethiye, it's about a 25 minute drive. Catching a Dolmus is the best way we've learnt to get around the coast. Pronounced 'Dole-Moosh', the 'buses' are pretty much large vans, decked out with a few handrails to ensure that everyone packed in like sardines can still hold onto something if they are stuck standing up. It makes for an entertaining (but not always fast) ride around for only a few Lira each way. Waving them down can often be a luck of the draw on who will stop for you. 

Driving along, every single restaurant you start to pass in the more built-up areas have the classic sign out front saying, 'Full English Breakfast here.' 

I thought we were in Turkey? 

How about that cultural experience.

I guess the picture menu may work for some, (as long as there is a picture for fries too as you wouldn't want to get that basic side confused) but for me it's a nono I try to avoid.

If you can turn a blind eye to all of this and the punters that match you may remember that your still in Turkey. Which is nice.

Bobbing up and down in the ocean are various Turkish Gullets, the wooden boats that will take you just about anywhere including Butterfly Valley.

It's a 20 minute ride along the coast to this spot. Coming into the bay you soon forget about where you were before as both are worlds apart but still share the same beautiful electric turquoise waters.

I think people expect something to be there, some sort of attraction when they arrive to Butterfly Valley and many go away feeling disappointed. (Dare I admit it but I did read this from people who had left reviews on Trip Advisor). 

There isn't much there. There certainly isn't any mass tourism. Or picture menus.

And that is why I liked it.

I read that there are meant to be over 60 different butterfly species living in the valley and that it has been their home for over thousands of years. Only in the 90s did hippies really discover the valley, moving there from the Blue Lagoon in Ölüdeniz  to escape mass tourism. 

Funny that, as now that's why most people still go there.

We didn't see any butterflies the day we were there. And we even obeyed the signs to keep quiet as it can scare the butterflies away. But we did see a camel and a very cool Combi  Van tent. 

At this time of year, the waterfall isn't streaming down into the valley but it's still provides a solid cool off from the afternoon heat. 

Most people who stay there either camp on the beach or take the luxury option of a beach shack styled bungalow. Us day trippers instead took the last ferry back to 'reality' knowing we would be missing an epic night under the stars.

Toodle pip x

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Pamukkale: hot springs, terraces and Euro posers.

I knew we had to visit this place. But when and where was always up for debate.

Pammukkale lies in the Denizli province in the inner Aegan Region. It's about a 4 hour drive from Fethiye by bus and well worth a day trip but maybe not an overnight stop.

What sets this place apart is the landscape. Again, Turkey your a country that doesn't bore people with amazing scenery. Please take a bow.

So let me describe the landscape in this area to you.

Over a long period of time, calcium enriched hot springs have been running down a cliff side. As the water has fallen, cooled and then hardened tarvertines were formed. These little pools have shaped the landscape today, still the springs pump out from the sides of the mountain and you can sit beneath mini waterfalls or plop yourself into a pool and admire the view.

Being such a spectacular place it attracts hordes of visitors. I'd love to know what the record number of tourists to the place are each year. Driving into the region, our driver commented to us, 'Welcome to the Las Vegas of Turkey.' Coming from Cappadocia where there are already a few tourists around this was something else.

No shoes are worn when walking over the hardened calcium and the texture on your feet feels like your receiving a complimentary foot scrub.

The area is also home to Hierapolis, the ancient Roman spa city, where you can still walk through the ruins and admire the theatre, baths and even a cemetery, all for a small price.

We didn't venture here, instead choosing to get our hair wet under a hot spring. Watch some of the Euros strike their 1980 Sports Illustrated swimwear poses for the camera and laugh at the number of people who'd attempt to walk along the edge of the cliff for the 'perfect shot' to then only get the whistle blown and arms waved at them by the guard working there.

Great day out. Even the people watching.

Toodle pip x

Friday, 19 July 2013

Fethiye: Thursday bus ride and Friday's day in the office.

We met an interesting character who went by the name, Tufan on the bus from Antalya to Fethiye yesterday.

He boarded the bus in style. That is, he created such a racket with trying to load a box on board through the back door that was large enough to fit a small house inside. 

We were sitting in the back seat, glad to have something to watch and laugh at, a nice distraction from the 3 hours we had left on the bus in the afternoon heat.

Within seconds he'd striked-up conversation with us. Excited that we were from New Zealand he began chatting, telling us that he'd been living in Australia for the past 10 years between Sydney and now Perth. But that each year he takes a 6-7 month oversee trip. Usually ending back up in Turkey as he owned a place in Dalaman.

This interesting Turkish character soon turned the conversation into something much deeper for a Thursday afternoon bus trip.

Tufan started telling us that the reason why he decided to move to Australia in the first place was to find 'answers' and inner peace. He needed to remove himself from a mainly Muslim culture and immerse himself in one with multiple religions and types of individuals. And that for him was Australia. 

Over the past few years he's been trying to find those answers to life some of us are desperate to solve. "Why am I here?' 'What purpose do I have?' and the list goes on.....

But can these be answered?

I don't think he was coming from a spiritual or religious push when he talked to us. Dressed in a crisp white shirt, boat shoes with a mop of silver grey hair on his head slickly combed back he looked more like a European holiday maker who should be sipping an Apertivo pool side. Or perhaps Turkey's answer to Sir Richard Branson? 

It turned out that he owned his own advertising agency in Perth, alongside a few other businesses and a family that didn't often travel with him. So I guess he did fit the Richard Branson mold slightly. 

The entire time we were waiting for the pamphlet to appear from the back pocket introducing his new spiritual way of thinking and encouraging us to join.

But that didn't happen too. 

Instead he continued on, telling us that he doesn't go looking for opportunity, things just happen to him. I assume he was talking about his successes in life, that for me to achieve, I have to go find them if I want it. 

He was desperate to help us find the best tour, restaurants and accommodation in Fethiye, even though we already had a place to stay. Jumping on his phone several calls were made cutting the conversation about life's journey back to the simple topic of travelling. 

Waiting for us at the bus depot until our apartment pick-up arrived. Tufan extended another warm smile and a heartfelt goodbye. We left unsure if he was genuine or just a interesting character. Either way it made for a great Thursday bus ride.

Toodle pip x

PS: Pics below from our Friday 12 Island boat tour - a tough day in the office.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Cappadocia: A playground for kids of all ages.

I feel like I’m in my own Star Wars film. It’s the Return of the Jedi and I’m dressed in a long cotton cloak, my hair is plaited, rolled in buns above my ears and in my hand is a saber.

But in the background I can hear the R.E.M sound track, Man on the Moon.

Then all of a sudden Fred Flinstone appears. Or was that Obelix carrying a huge triangle shaped rock on his back?

This all may sound slightly random. That’s because it is, especially when I’m no expert on Star Wars films  (although I do love the scenes with the Jaba the Hut).

But everyone has a different way of interpreting what the Cappadocian landscape means for them, even our tour guide yesterday who said that it’s like a dream.

I must say that I did learn yesterday that there is speculation over whether Star Wars Episode 1 was even filmed here. Rumour has it the actual location was Tunisia. I’ll leave that up to the Star Wars groupies to argue over.

It’s our last day here; the camera now has over 300 photos (at least) of different rock formations. I’m sure every visitor to this region must upload the token Facebook album with each photo titled, ‘Rock 1, Rock 2…. Ending in Rock 200.’ Maybe with the inclusion of the names given to each type of formation or the words: ‘at sunset’ just to jazz things up a little.

To get sick of staring at this amazing landscape seems impossible. It’s simply stunning. Especially at 05:30 when the sun rises and around 50 hot air balloons take to the horizon. Or in the evening during a walk through the Rose Valley admiring the sun slowly declining. Each time you look at the surrounding landscape you spot something different. Maybe a horse or dogs face in the rocks, a new set of pigeon holes; another cave that monks may have lived in or the chimney tops of the rocks.

For once I do agree on what every guidebook has to say about this area. Feel free to think otherwise, but for me I haven't seen any other landscape in the world quite like this one. It's certainly special. 

Our home for the past 3 days has been a cave but with all the mod cons, it’s strange taking a shower in a cave that is also equipped with a hairdryer. I don’t think this novelty will ever wear off.

Staying in Goreme; this little dusty town is the beating heart of Cappadocian tourism. The main drag is lined with a few ATMS, carpet stores, motorbike and cycle hire and tea shops. There’s a definite laid back attitude about the place. Since leaving Istanbul we’ve adopted our Western style of dress again. It’s a cool change especially when the days are sweltering. Because of the influx of tourists within the region (surprisingly a significant amount of South Koreans) you don’t feel like your disrespecting the culture by showing shoulders and legs. The sun sets slightly earlier here than Istanbul, kids are playing in the back streets until late with a few chickens around and outside the mosque locals break their Ramadan fast for the day.

Boredom in Cappadocia can only come to those who seek it. There aren’t a million tourist agencies here and hot air balloon operators for no reason.

In the heat of the day we’ve walked and bused our way around most of the sites in the area mixing things up to see places ourselves and going on the famous ‘Green tour’ to check out the underground city, Derinkuyu which I’d highly recommend. The city was once occupied by about 5,000 people (although they only lived there for up to 6 months at a time), and descends to about 35m below ground with 7 levels. Meaning that you need a guide to take you through or you’ll easily get lost. It’s insane to wander or shall I say crawl through narrow tunnels then enter large chambers that were once used as living rooms, for wine-making or as stables for live stock. There’s even a small church and a morgue.

Afternoon tea was spent wandering through the Ihlara Valley. Then drinking çay on huge lounges in a hut perched over the river with a few nosey geese for company. I couldn’t picture more of a relaxing place to chill out in. Even if the geese were trying to steal our sugar cubes.

The region is also famous for its wineries such as the Kocabag winery in Uchisar. We knew to not expect anything on a scale to what there is in New Zealand but to expect a great tasting dry red and the fact that grapes are sourced from the villagers who have vines growing in hidden valleys throughout the region.

I’ve been really spoilt in Cappadocia with so many good luck charms coming my way. My clothes are now adorned with too many safety pins containing a few brightly coloured beads and the eye of Medusa or a Peacock eye (everyone I speak with has their own opinion on what it represents) that is meant to give the receiver good luck. But today, our last day here I received what most Westerners are used to getting as a sign of ‘best wishes.’ We all laughed at Phil the other day when he became a victim with a huge drop landing down his arm. Mine landed on my head. I even felt it hit. A big dropping from a small sparrow; hopefully that’s all the good luck coming my way for now.

Toodle pip x

Künefe, a dessert made from angels hair noodles, cheese and syrup then baked.
Goreme Town.

Too many opportunities for Good Luck in Goreme.

Rose Valley.
A very hungry goat.
Uchisar 'Castle.'
Pigeon Valley walk.
Rose Valley.
Frescos in the Goreme Open Air Museum.

Rose Valley walk.

Eye of Medusa? Or a peacock eye? A sign of good luck?

Derinkuyu Underground city.
Selima monastery. 

Ihlara Valley.
Fresco painting.

Ihlara Valley afternoon tea over the river.

Cappadocia Hot Air Balloons.