Gary & Lorraine's Overland Journey from Devizes to Sydney travel blog

Contemplative moment on Iztuzu Beach

The other side of Iztuzu Beach - the Dalyan delta

The ghost town of Kayakoy

Our cruise boat moored at Spoon Island

Swimming in late October - who'd a thought it?

Skipper Gary at the helm

It ain't called the Turquoise Coast for nuthin'

The bizarre flames of the Chimaera

The tomb of Mevlana - the original whirling dervish

Entry to Sultanhani's caravanserai


October 23rd

[Lorraine]

After a restless night from a)the pounding music wafting across the sea from Marmaris' nightclubs, b)mongrel dogs roaming around the campsite barking and fighting and c)the drunk German couple having a domestic nearby we eagerly put some distance between us and the campsite. We drove to the town of Dalyan, a once sleepy backwater that is now completely given over to tourism but not in such a huge way as Marmaris. The place consists of small family run pensions and bungalow type apartments filled with mostly Brits on a late holiday looking for a bit of sunshine. After stocking up on some groceries we set off for Iztuzu Beach, a 5km sand bar separating the sea from the mouth of the Dalyan Delta. The beach is one of the last nesting sites in the Mediterranean of the loggerhead turtle and sunbathers are kept behind wooden stakes in the ground so that the nesting sites are protected. We walked the length of the sand bar and back again (restorative beer at the turnaround point) and sat and admired the sea view on one side and the river delta on the other.

(Gary)

So far we have found Turkish campsites to be a bit past there best, some what tired and lacking investment, much like many of people we find in them. As a good example our neighbours last night were interesting; the motor home next to ours was parked there probably for the last time two years ago by a retired polyglot of mixed heritage who drank the local spirit Raki like water. On the other side we had an older German guy who sun bathed naked, howled like a dog during the day and argued with his young partner between evening drinks. We are now out of season but please!

After leaving Marmaris we enjoyed a relaxing day at Iztuzu Beach and a peaceful evening camped on the side of road just above it.

October 24th

[Lorraine]

We continued a little further down the coast to Fethiye which is a long, rambling town lacking character until you reach the lovely harbour which is lined with boats that can be hired for day cruises or charters lasting anywhere up to a week. We joined in and signed up for a day cruise around Fethiye Bay for tomorrow. Later in the afternoon we drove to the "ghost town" of Kayakoy or once known as Karymlassos when Greeks made up the population of the town.

(Gary)

After sorting out our boat cruise for tomorrow we headed along the coast a little further towards the old Greek town of Kayakoy, which meant passing through the very British resort town of Hisaronu. Some of the many signs advertised places like; The Rovers Return bar, The Royal Windsor Hotel, Hamish McTurks bar, The English Rose Restaurant which served full English breakfast all day and best of all Del Boys supermarket, quality products at genuine prices I'm sure!

Our destination was a very different town, devoid of concrete, plastic and neon, a town barely lived in these days due to the 1923 treaty of Lausanne, where by the Christians of Greek descent moved to Greece and Muslims of Turkish descent left Greece for Turkey. In some was it was a 'gentlemanly' form of ethnic cleansing where the towns 13,000 inhabitants upped and left. These days most of the houses, shops and churches are either ruined or only just standing, so while wandering the streets only abandoned for 80 years I had a similar feeling to similar visits to more ancient sites that had been unused for over a 1000 years.

October 25th

[Lorraine]

What a great day! We set off aboard a traditional Turkish sailing boat or gulet as they're known locally for a day's sailing or motoring as it turned out around some of the 18 islands in Fethiye Bay. It was a gloriously sunny day, about 26 degrees with not a cloud in the sky. There were about 30 of us on board, all Germans and Brits with me the only Irish/Australian. The day was spent sunning ourselves on deck and then jumping into the turquoise water for a swim at the island stops. On the return leg back to Fethiye the skipper hoisted the genoa and turned off the engine. The sail wasn't big enough to take us far in the light wind but it was magic to just loll about on the waves and hear nothing but the low chatter of everyone aboard and the wind filling the sail. It was idyllic. I tell you, with the fantastic weather, beautiful scenery, amazing history and undoubtedly the friendliest race of people we've come across, Turkey has shot to the top of my favourite places list. At the end of the day we drove to Oludeniz campsite and parked up right on the shore of the lagoon. This day certainly ticked all the boxes.

(Gary)

A fine day indeed, I particularly liked one small island called 'spoon island' not only for its shape and setting but also for the large imported colony of domestic rabbits, which reminded me of the old house/workshop I worked at in Nairobi which also had a large population of bunnies bounding around. I always found it disconcerting to have wildlife creep up on you as you work in Africa, as so little of it was pleasant.

October 26th

[Lorraine]

Today's drive hugged Turkey's southern coastline with the Med and now I know why they call this part of the country The Turquoise Coast. They weren't exaggerating when they coined that name. Every turn of the road revealed another protected cove sheltering a sandy beach with shallow waves lapping the shore and the turquoise water turning a deeper shade of blue as the water deepened. On our way to today's destination of the Chimaera, we took a wrong turn that turned out to be not so wrong after all. The road ended at a town called Olimpos which is apparently well known on the backpacker circuit for its odd range of accommodation - treehouses. We stopped at the original treehouse hotel, Kadir's Yoruk Treehouses which was started over 20 years ago and has been steadily added to ever since so it now has a sleeping capacity of over 300. We got talking to the manager - an Australian oddly enough and he filled us in on all the goings on. Olimpos is nestled in a beautiful green valley filled with eucalyptus and pine trees which provide shade from the sweltering sun. There's nothing much to do here but hike in the valley and check out the ruins of Olimpos, or chill out with a beer or two playing chess, backgammon, cribb or whatever. Needless to say it had a chilled out vibe and I can imagine people stopping for a night and staying longer. Not us however, we set off again in search of the Chimaera, with correct directions this time and arrived shortly before dark. I had never heard of the Chimaera prior to arriving in Turkey but when I read about it in our Lonely Planet guide, my interest was piqued. The Chimaera is a cluster of spontaneous flames which blaze from crevices on the rocky slopes of Mt Olimpos. Sounds intriguing doesn't it? Well worth a visit I thought. We waited until after dark and then set off with torches in hand, up a steep track for a kilometre. I was wondering when we'd know we'd come to the right place when lo and behold, before my eyes were flames sprouting out of the earth. Bizarre, surreal and perplexing are words that come instantaneously to mind. No-one can explain why these flames spurt from within the ground, nor what type of gas it is that seeps from the earth and bursts into flame upon contact with the air but they were seen back in ancient times and myths have been created about them. We were the only people at the place for about 15 precious minutes and it was fantastic to sit in the darkness and be hypnotised by the flames dancing around us.

(Gary)

I've got second place on the text again which as you can read above leaves little for me to add, other than a few sidelines and semi-intellectual wanderings. So still heading East we drove through the hills and along the tortuous coast road to the town of Demre, not a great looking town due to the extensive coverage of fruit and vegetable polytunnels, but one with a long and rather jolly connection.

Well prior to mince pies, middle age spread, changing his name, moving north to the Arctic Circle and living with Elves and reindeer, Father Christmas or plain old Santa Claus was just called Father Nicolas of Demre. After many years of trying to stay awake and meet the man, I was a little surprised to find out that Santa Claus was actually Turkish. It turns out that back in the 4th century S C eventually got a name for himself by anonymously dropping bags of money down the chimneys of poor family's without the means to provide a dowry for their daughters, thus allowing them to then get married and live happily ever after. This probably explains why he is the patron saint of virgins but gives little clue to explain his patronage over sailors, pawnbrokers, Russia and other things, maybe something to do with getting money for a boat, to sail north via Russia?

The flames fascinated me; I had heard of them before but thought it was all imagination, myth and legend rather than real flames pouring out from the ground. Normal looking pine covered hillside and metre high flames shooting out all over the place since who knows when, we should have taken a few sausages and a case of beer up there and made a night of it!

October 27th

(Gary)

An hours easy drive found us cruising the dusty streets of Antalya, Turkey's premier resort town on the Mediterranean coast looking for parking and our other basic requirements; the market, the butcher, an internet café, a book shop and an ATM. Wandering the old town streets behind the ancient harbour we struck lucky in the form of the Owl Bookshop which had a wide selection of used books in English, not to mention an engaging owner who I think had read all of them. After recounting details of the books we had all recently read he helped pick out a few more to keep us going, WH Smiths it wasn't. Having ticked off all our requirements and taking in Antalya's highlights we headed inland towards Konya, our overnight stop was in the town of Akseki in the Geyik area of the Taurus Mountains.

[Lorraine]

The road to Antalya hugs the coast and afforded us fantastic views out over the Mediterranean and the turquoise coloured water. I never tire of looking out across the sea and watching the various boats (gulets, private yachts and commercial ships) plying the sea up and down the coast. There are still a few tourists around, especially Brits soaking up the last of the summer sun during the half term school break but we can foresee that very soon we will be two of only a handful of people still travelling around as the temperatures cool. Whereas in August we were swamped with fellow tourists and couldn't wait to see the back of them, it will be interesting now to see how we go when we're the only tourists around.

October 28th

(Gary)

We had arrived in Akseki a little after sunset and quickly picked a quiet looking spot along one of the towns few flat streets, we awoke to the sound of a school marching band touring the town's streets in preparation for 'Republic Day' tomorrow. Judging by the looks, waves and smiles we got they don't see many tourists in the town, then again we must have looked a bit like gold fish staring out of our strange bowl as the first 30 female drummers passed with the horn section, percussion and rest of the school in tow. From our rousing start we continued through the mountains to the city of Konya, where we visited its sole tourist attraction, the impressively ornate museum of Mevlana. This site of Muslim pilgrimage is dedicated to Celaleddin Rumi, a mystic philosopher who produced highly respected poetry and religious writings, following his death in December 1273 his son organised his father's followers into a brotherhood called the Mevlevi, or whirling dervishes. In December of each year the Mevlevi undertake their worship ceremony that involves an elaborate whirling dance that represents a union with god. With luck we can see the dance on our return trip through Turkey.

Return through Turkey? Yes our original plans have changed 'a little', the current thought is that we are going to travel down to Cairo and then return to the UK via the less snowbound parts of Eastern Europe, where we will sell the van and fly via India to Australia. The reason for the change is that Iran is being a pain in the neck with paper work for our van.

*** Caution: most readers will fine the next bit very dull. There is an internationally recognised document called a 'Carnet De Passages En Douanes' that would entitle us to temporarily import our vehicle duty free into Iran and other places, that we don't have. Many countries outside of Europe are more easy going and allow a temporary visit by other means, but Iran insists we have one and we don't want to buy one. The carnet itself only costs about £120 but the big catch is the insurance for the carnet, 5 times the vans value. We paid £13,000 for the van, even if we lied and valued it at only £5,500 (they laughed and said no when I said it was worth just £2,000) we would need to put down either a fully refundable bond of £27,500 or take out insurance that would cost £2,750 of which only 50% would be refunded when the van and carnet return to the UK. That still means £1,375 just to drive our un-insured vehicle through the place, which in my book means it's time to loose the van and use public transport. ***

So enough of that text from the Economist magazine, after a bit of shopping we left Konya and crossed part of the vast and somewhat desolate Anatolian plain to the 13th century caravanserai town of Sultanhani where we spent the night in the good company of the campground manager.

[Lorraine]

The Central Anatolian steppe is a vast and undulating grassland with mountains way off in the misty distance. In the midst of this flat emptiness is the town of Sultanhani. We thought it would be an ideal place to stop and rest for the night and it turns out that the Seljuk sultan Alaettin Keykubat thought exactly the same thing when he constructed a caravanserai in 1229. Literally meaning "caravan place" a caravanserai was the first kind of "motel" and they were built every 15km to 30km along the 13th century Silk Road through Anatolia. They were staging posts for commercial camel trains and merchants. Each caravanserai is a monumental stone building with a huge, highly decorated main entry door that opens out to a large open courtyard and a slightly smaller but still grand and lofty vaulted hall in the rear for use in winter. The open court, where the caravans loaded and unloaded, was surrounded by rooms which served as treasury, repair shop, store rooms, hamams for men and women, toilets, sleeping rooms and a kitchen. In the centre of the open court is a small mosque to serve the travellers. The caravanserai in Sultanhani is the biggest along the old Silk Route and we were certainly impressed by its sturdy stone walls built so long ago.

Our friendly (as all Turks seem to be) campsite manager Ferit Ozul, invited us to his house later in the evening. We waited until sundown and for the Muezzin to wail from his minaret that it was okay to break the Ramadan fast for another day. With a gift of Turkish Delight (predictable?) we arrived and sat on cushions having removed our shoes at the door and met Ferit's wife and two daughters. We took tea, black with sugar and served in tulip shaped glasses with Ferit interpreting for his wife. We spent a lovely, if sober evening talking about our travels, our jobs (Ferit is Sultanhani's only shoe maker and repairer), our home life, the cultural differences between Europeans and Turks and Turkey's inevitable inclusion in the EU. It was our first experience of a Turkish home and Ferit has warmly invited us back to Sultanhani on our return journey through Turkey to stay at his house as his guest.

October 29th

[Lorraine]

Today is Republic Day in Turkey and commemorates the proclamation of the republic by Ataturk in 1923. It's the biggest civil holiday of the year and we heard the drums and horns of the parade from our campsite. We said our farewells to Ferit and headed further north east towards the Cappadocia region, with a hilarious stop at a Fiat dealership enroute. Tonight we are camped in the village of Ihlara. It's pretty cold here at night but we're hoping it won't be too brisk to take on a walk through the Ihlara Gorge tomorrow. Gary has been here before; a couple of years ago in August when he said the place was packed with tourists. Today, we saw two other tourists so we may have the Gorge to ourselves tomorrow.

(Gary)

An interesting day that started slowly for all three of us, the cold weather had Lorraine and I looking at each other to decide who gets to hop out of bed and turn on the heater, when I finally did make the effort I was more than disappointed to find only cold water in the campsite shower and not enough water in our tank for the van's shower, that's a few cold showers in a row now. The poor old van has also been suffering with the cold, which means I am going to have to get my hands dirty again, these days I find getting my hands dirty as a mechanic as appealing as visiting a dentist. So after a slow game of vehicle leap frog involving us, 50 or more tractors and heavy oncoming traffic the day just had to improve. The town of Aksaray provided the needed tonic in the form of a Fiat car dealership. After a long and very entertaining game of charades I had the salesman, the foreman, several painters, a couple of panel beaters, a customer, two mechanics and an electrician either convinced I was mad or that I wanted them to fit a set of heater glow plugs to the engine. Tea was served, Lorraine laughed, tea was served again and low and behold they had the parts and fitted them without incident. Three out of the four were found to be defective, so I asked to have them all changed as the fourth was probably on its last legs, but no, only three could be fitted as the fourth was still OK, nothing would not bridge the cultural divide of fitting an unnecessary item. I left with a big smile, clean hands and the strength to sing through another cold shower.



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