Turkey’s Turquoise Coast – Lee’s trip



TurkeyÕs Turquoise Coast


Would you believe there is very little tidal movement in the Turkish Mediterranean Ð like 30cm max! As we paddled the 150 or so kilometers in TurkeyÕs SW we wondered at the lack of shellfish, seaweed and seagulls and determined it had something to do with the tiny tides. But, never mind, there were plenty of other things to also wonder at.


Steve and I were on a ÔTurkish OdysseyÕ offered by Southern Sea Ventures – 7 days kayaking camping to toughen us up, followed on by 5 nights on a wooden boat called a gulet playing the pampered tourist. The group came together at the first nightÕs hotel where we met 3 other Australian couples, our highly experienced British (Turkish resident) guide, Sally, and her assistant Kiwi Luke. When the season finishes in Turkey, Sally and Luke are likely to be found leading kayak tours in Doubtful Sound, NZ. We were lucky in that all couples were about the same age (av. 50ish) and were informed that we were ÔyoungÕ as some groups average 60. Sally is in her 40s and Luke was the only youngster.


Everyone had requested single kayaks as we all laughed at the emotional stress of paddling with your spouse. However, for a larger group Sally opts to take a double in case one gets ill or has an off-day. So our flotilla consisted of German made Prijons:  2 Kodiaks, 6 Seayaks and a double Excursion in which we rotated couples and it fondly became known as the Queen Mary or Bloody Mary depending on the dayÕs interaction with the partner.


Our kayaks were each packed with two 5-litre jugs of water (fore and aft), heaps of  food, a sleeping bag & ground sheet, and a medium dry bag instructed to half-fill with our personal gear(!). We literally dropped the loaded kayaks from the esplanade 4Õ down onto the lake at Kšycegiz and set off around the lake to get used to our crafts.  The Prijons are actually quite comfortable with good back support and the double, although a strange bow for a sea kayak, was sluggish to respond but as steady as a rock. We also became familiar with the weather patterns we were to expect. Around noon the wind would whip up and be steady until at least 4pm, then evening paddling could be quite pleasant.


At the end of the first day skirting reeds, we had the delights of a hot springs spa and mud pools plus the bar which we patronised with the gusto of sailors at sea for months! Our camp was hard ground (and thermorest) and a fair few bugs. Plus the Turks have not yet embraced the concept of ÔKeep Turkey CleanÕ and anything near a town has an unsightly array of rubbish. But I did find a very large land turtle that is now a movie star.


Next day was a complete change as we entered the Dalyan River delta plied by tourist craft and pleasure boats. Here we stopped for a walk amongst ancient city ruins, marveled at the cliff-face Lycian tombs and watched a lovely lady effortlessly roll out gozleme (pancakes) for our lunch. The reeds here grow to 3m tall and there were so many channels we could easily have got lost had it not been for the boats traveling the familiar channel to the township for the nightÕs moorings. Camp was an isolated beach just outside the river mouth but in view of a sand spit with resort umbrellas. Our little spot had a most beautiful sunset and tracks to and from a mound made maybe 2 nights before by a nesting giant loggerhead turtle. On the hillside we could hear the occasional goat bell and were warned that they are hungry and brazen and therefore to close up hatches and take washing off bushes.


Now we were on the Mediterranean traveling east past beaches and jagged limestone cliffs.  We had a total of three headlands and the first one was a challenge for Steve and me.  That afternoons swell rose to 2m, not many whitecaps but the rebound wash from the cliffs can be felt up to 1.5km outwards and the turbulence threatened our comfort zone. Safely around the point we encountered bays and coves that would delight a pirate and the waters now a calm beautiful light jade. Oleanders in full bloom often heralded small beaches on which we had lunch or made a camp sleeping on stones under the stars and a near-full moon. Meals were far superior to my camp cooking and always with a Turkish theme – breakfasts of bread, cheese, tomatoes and olives, and jam, lunches a hearty salad and meats, and dinner a literal feast.


Steve and I opted for the double around the next two headlands but the conditions were never as hairy as the first. Instead we wandered in and out of caverns, coves and the odd cave, covering up to 30km a day. The rocks formations didnÕt vary much in colour but the shapes and strata layers were intriguing and the turquoise of the water just magic. One evening Luke prepared a shallow hangi by heating rocks to cook our meal of baked potatoes/onions/stuffed eggplant (and baked bananas in nutella and cointreau) while we used the embers to cook spicy sausages on sticks. It was the only time we had a fire.  All the cold weather gear we had been advised to bring had been left in civilization as the weather was very warm and our sleeping bags proved a bit too hot.


The last and southern-most point on our route turned us into Fethiye Bay with its many islands and a mass of smaller coves.  We were heading to Gšek but now in quiet popular waters with other pleasure craft. The camp here was walking distance over a ridge to a  ÔmarinaÕ and a nice cold Efes (local beer). Next morning we played in our cove doing eskimo rolls, re-entries and balancing to stand upright on a very wobbly kayak, taking more photos and snorkeling. The last camp was at a cute cove in a small outdoor family restaurant, at which we ate an evening meal, and with a lovely garden surrounded by a stout fence to keep out the goats. There were some 90 stone ruins here, all houses carefully numbered, belonging to Greek families re-settled to their land of ethnic origin after WW1 as part of a Turkish/Greek population swap.


At Gšek we were back in the midst of summer chaos. We emptied kayaks, said Ôbye to Luke who was to return them to headquarters, then collected our luggage and headed to our double-masted 6-berth wooden gulet to settle and meet the captain.  Sally was to be our guide and interpreter here too. What relaxing opulence this wasÉÉ but that is another story.


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