1st October 2020
The day of our exciting private bus tour with our flotilla also marked the first day of a new month. October – already. Where is this time going? We are nearing winter and I am not looking forward to that. I rather enjoy walking around in a bikini all day and the swims and washing drying well and being able to be outside and swim and walk. Although we heard that the winter is relatively mild in Turkey down south where we are.
We all met 9 am by the road and piled excitedly in our minibus. Lucy wondering what the heck was going on now. First boats now minibuses!
Jaynee and David suggested we go to the Saklikent Gorge first as it gets busier during the day when the day trippers arrive. It was such a beautiful drive and so special to see the ‘inside’ of the Turkey, as we usually just travel along the coastline. What I notice is the beautiful green and varied landscape. All the little farms and growers properties look so healthy, the soil is brown and rich, the beautiful triangle hay stacks. There are lots of greenhouses, but the gardens and fields look natural with a big variety of trees and crops and weeds.
It all looks beautiful and it looks like a simple but hard working lifestyle. The fruit and vegis here taste so good. Tim saw an old man driving an old tractor really slow over the field and an old woman dropping the seeds into the ground. It makes me wish somehow that we could turn the time back for the so called ‘developed’ countries. Some of our modern ways seem so backwards in regards to what the monoculture, bad soil management, the use of pesticides and insecticides does to the environment.
When we arrived in the Gorge I was mentally prepared to stay back with Lucy, as I very much doubted that she would be let in. We bought our tickets and it soon turned out that they didn’t mind her coming along. Saklikent, means ‘hidden city’ in Turkish and its around 50 km from Fethiye. It is 18 km long and 300 m deep and one of the deepest canyons in the world. It was opened to the public in 1996. Between November and March the water can get very high, so we had chosen just the right time to visit. The fresh mountain water pushes through the rocks, tastes great and is so clear and cold.
Once we crossed the bridge along the rocks there where some stalls with food and drink and then we had to cross the very cold stream to the other side. Our feet froze straight away, being only used to the bathtub temperature of the sea. Lucy plainly refused to walk any further and Paul had to carry her over.
The walk through the gorge was simply amazing. Geography lesson par excellence. In moments like this I stop worrying about our kids schooling, because all the experiences they have in the countries we travel are so much learning and taking in real life experiences. Lucy got proper lead walking sessions with Paul too, who had great experience in dog training. Lucy is the most obedient and well behaved dog, but walking on a lead is not one of her strengths.
I let the pictures I took talk for themselves. Its hard to put those experiences into words. The tall walls of the rock formations where simply breath taking. I couldn’t stop imagining the forces that formed the gorge, every so often worried about what would happen if there was an earthquake, but trying to enjoy it all the same. We all had a snack and drink after the walk and piled back into our minibus for our next stop, the pre arranged lunch at one of the village restaurants, the neighbors of the bus driver.
I was so hoping that it would be one of those inviting village restaurants with carpets and cushions all open to the road with their wares out the front, that we had driven past. And our dreams came true. We stopped at a really authentic village, family run restaurant, where grandmas, daughters, sons and grandchildren soon all got involved into serving us a delicious meal with most of the things coming straight from their land. We could watch the 2 grandmas rolling and frying the pide, grandpa fried the Kofta on the charcoal BBQ, while the grandson made us some freshly pressed Pomegranate juice. We all set spread out on the floor of the wooden platform looking out to the road under the trees. The floor lined with carpets and comfortable seating cushions and low tables. Soon there was a big bottle of Ayran, the salty yogurthy drink that we had mistaken for milk on our first day in Turkey. I rather like it now.
There was fresh bread, grapes from their vines, plates of freshly cut tomatoes, the pide and Kofta. Simply delicious. One of the grandmas gave us all a taste of their fig dessert and by the road side they offered their wares, Olives, Olive Oil, Fruit and Carob Syrup’s, Jams – I wished I could have bought one of everything. We settled on a couple of bottles of Olive Oil and the most delicious blackberry syrup – even topping my previous favorite the carob syrup. THE best meal experience we had so far. These are the moments that you can’t pay for, that no one can ever take away from you. So special.
We drove straight past Tlos and I thought the bus driver had made a mistake. He took us up the hill to some strange waterpark / restaurant arrangement that you could walk through. Its hard to describe, but I didn’t like it. I was one of those man made attractions, clearly created for tourist troops and we only had a short visit, as we had just eaten anyway. I was sure glad we had our lunch at the beautiful authentic family restaurant and not here.
Then we went back down the hill to the ruins of Tlos. We had heard from others that this is a real highlight, so we where really looking forward to it. Tlos is an ancient ruined Lycian hilltop citadel near Fethiye about 4 km from the gorge. Tlos is believed to be one of the most important religious Lycian sites and settlement on the site is said to have begun more than 4,000 years ago. It was subsequently inhabited by Romans, Byzantines and eventually Ottoman Turks, making it one of few Lycian cities to e continually inhabited up until the 19th century.
Again I was doubtful if Lucy could come and see the ancient city with us, but he lady at the entrance didn’t seem to mind, so Lucy dog took the trip to all the sights with us – an unimaginable thing in New Zealand or even Greece. All the adventures Lucy gets to go on!The site of Tlos was huge with a big amphi theatre, an ancient pool, the famous Lycian tombs in the hillside and ruins all around. Again I let the pictures speak for themselves.
We all where quite tired by then, thinking that we where headed back to the boat, but no there was one more. The bus driver suddenly drove into a tiny side street with bushes and growth scraping along the bus. We saw a little café and thought oh, we might have to have a tea here or something. We saw a big open lawn space with turkeys. Lori from Imagine showed off her skills in Turkey talk. It turned out we weren’t here for a cup of tea or to meet Turkeys, but to look at a big cave in the hill.
Tired but willing to have a quick look we all clambered after the bus driver slightly reluctant. Walking not far into the cave, we where grateful for our cellphone torches as it got pitch black. We came to a a hole a bit up in the wall with a ladder, thinking that was the way back out, but no there was more. The bus driver started to get onto his knees and belly crawled into a small crevice under a huge rock. Most of us slightly apprehensive as we didn’t know what was to come and none of us equipped for an advanced caving trip, wondering if we should really follow.
But like a flock of obedient sheep we all crawled after the bus driver, wondering all along if it was really a good idea. Luckily the crawl was not long and the next cave was big and dark. Lori walked behind me and suddenly gave a big screech and clung onto me, saying that something had just settled on her head, probably a bat. Using our torches and a faint light from the other side of the cave we could see the bats flying all along the cave ceiling. Slightly grateful we realised that this was the end of the caving trip and we walked out into open and back to the bus through the garden / forest area around the cave.
What a beautiful full day – this time we really made our way back to the boats and we all felt full and grateful for such a special outing. Counting up the costs for the bus and bus driver, all the entrance fees, the lunch the snacks it added up to $70 NZD for our whole family. That would have been one ticket for one attraction for one person in NZ. In the ancient city of Tlos we paid 10 TL per person, which is $2 NZD. For people with a tight budget like us – this quadruples the enjoyment factor, as in Greece we thought about everything we did 3 times and often felt guilty, wondering how long our budget will last.
It was so much fun to do all this with our beautiful flotilla family too, its way more fun to discover with others, the kids mingle with the other adults, Lucy enjoys the the human company and Tim and I are so grateful to have met such nice friends to share those experiences with.
That evening we went to bed with grateful hearts and full with new experiences to process.