Gods and Monsters

Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
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52
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Trip End Jun 19, 2006


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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Olympos - I'd been looking forward to this for months. Laura from Goa was coming over to meet me for a week, and I couldn't wait to see her again. Plus, I'd heard a few stories about Olympos, this idyllic backpacker haven nestled amid ruins on the Mediterranean coast, and it sounded like just the escape from backpacking that I needed. It had been a long time since my Goan holiday, and not only was my tan fading fast, but so was the sightseeing urge. Sure, I wanted to check out Ephesus and Pammukale, but as the hot days slipped by and I kept lingering at the beach, I realised that I'd seen enough ruins and tourist traps on this trip. Turkey has, above all, been about the people I've met, and never more so than Olympos.

God, it's a magical spot, and the intrinsic beauty of the place, still barely developed beyond a few backpacker essentials (beds and bars), struck me from the start. I'd had a fairly traumatic time getting to Olympos, from the Gallipoli battlefields the night before. The overnight bus (the goddamn last for a while I hope) was the thing. 14 hours from Canakkale to Antalya, and about 10 hours in to it I realised that some wanker had stolen my iPod from the bag at my feet while I was sleeping. Ropeable is too short a word to describe me at that moment, but helpless also gets its own point across. There was nothing I could do - the person I suspected had gotten off the bus at his stop earlier that morning at dawn, and I'd had no need to check my bag since the previous night. My iPod was in dirty Turkish hands, and I was bereft of my soundtrack. Karma will come for him, and that thought helps me sleep at night. Bastard.
So I needed something special to cheer me up that afternoon, and as I staggered into my guesthouse that afternoon, the twin sights of Laura and the view across the ocean I'd seen on the way down the hill did wonders to lift my spirits.

Sitting on the Mediterranean coast at the foot of Mt Olympos, named after the storied halls of the Greek gods, Olympos has its own share of legend. At the end of the pebble (woohoo, no sand!) beach, as you walk beside the warm sapphire waters of the Med, then up into the hills, lies a fabled monster and a modern wonder. The ancient Chimaera, where tongues of fire lick out from the rocky ground, giving rise to the tales of the legendary fire-breathing monster of Greek mythology, half-lion and half-goat with a serpent tail, and forever securing for young Bellerophon, as he soared on Pegasus, his place in the pantheon of heroes. Caused by natural gas seeping from the rocks and igniting in the air, in classical times the Chimaera was more extensive and much bigger than today, being visible at night to sailors as they nervously sailed their galleys past the feared coast.

Nowadays Olympos is one of the main stops for the serene gulet tours that ply up and down the Turquoise coast from Olympos to Fethiye, and for days trips of Eastern Europeans from the resorts of Side and Antalya. Despite these frequent invasions, the beach was perfect, and the weather got hotter and better everyday. And the water was amazing. I'd never swum in the Med before, and it was almost cathartic on the first day. Missing electronics and bus-stiff muscles stopped worrying me, as I stroked through the cool sea, as clear as a Baywatch underwater scene.

The daily intrusions into the idyll ("How's the serenity?") by the Eastern European flotilla did get on one's nerves. Although, it soon became almost worthwhile for the entertainment value. Surely the worst dressed people on the planet, and with an insatiable need for cheesy and semi-pornographic photo-ops on beaches, they kept us all in a happy bitching mood for days! It really was quite a sight.
Cruise boats, packed to the gunwales like slave galleys, disgorged their captive Eastern Europeans onto the stony beach. They streamed down the gangways each day, a spectrum of skin tones, from luminous lightless white to overexposed scarlet. Cold Slavic tonals clashed with Enrique Inglesias and awful Russian pop, jarring the peace of the beach.
Leopard thong bikinis and banana-hammocks abounded, giving us endless hours of amusement.

The real joy of Olympos though was the people...no, the friends I met there. Australians abounded (I think Melbourne is currently lying abandoned, judging by the number of Melburnians I've met in Turkey), a couple of Americans, some Brits, a Norwegian, and one token Kiwi made for a great mix, and an amazing week of partying and sun. The incomparable Kristy and Rhiannon - lovely Western Australians, and gin dealers extraordinaire - deserve a special mention for putting up with me (and my constant requests for Salmonella Dub and orange juice). Thanks girls :-)
And to all those who helped to name Floyd (my sheesha) that night, it was much appreciated and he says hi!

So it was all going well. Then we met Mick. Mick was from Brisbane. As we found out, repeatedly, he'd not been home in 7 years, and it didn't take long before we all started to wonder if that was because he'd been kicked out. Mick was special. I'm bloody glad he wasn't a Kiwi.
It was not an auspicious start. "I haven't been home in 7 years. Do Aussie chicks still suck down bongs?" he asked of Kristy and Lani, having already blessed then with the fact that as the flower of Australian womanhood they had restored his faith in "Aussie chicks".
We should've known then. He was well-pissed, and quiet rumours had already reached our ears about this guy, but we were paralysed by disbelieving laughter already, and so it was that the Mick Express took off.

The tale of his encounter with an Aussie girl with a "hairy muff" in Croatia will go down in history as perhaps the funniest (not with him, not at him, just utterly absurd) story I have ever heard. We just exploded with laughter, every extra bit of detail (and there were way too many) about this profusion of pubic hair made us laugh until we hurt. Childhood memories were scarred in the process ("It was like finger-banging Humphrey B. Bear"), and it just kept on getting worse.

Announcing his intentions (apparently it was a done deal) to marry Lani and the increasingly far-fetched details of their future life together had us in fits again (Lani, to her eternal credit, took it like a trooper. Trev fell off the couch; I had to leave to catch my breath), but things were starting to cross the line from ludicrously amusing to crazy, and that's exactly what the lad was.
Full-frontal, tea-cosy wearing, bat-shit crazy.
Pretty soon we were suggesting that he go to bed, and before we could say "Goodnight, you nutbar", he was picking fights with everyone. Apparently he was going to take Eli and I on in the street at noon, two on one. Sadly, it never came to pass.

Sober, Mick was tolerable and did improve somewhat over the following days, but he was definitely not quiet right. He had the eyes of something cold and scaly, an intimate knowledge of the full names of serial killers, and a compulsion for a game called AquaTurd. You definitely never wanted to shake the guy's hand - we all knew where that puppy had been.
Mick and his mate Travis (a much nicer bloke, although a little odd too) liked to play a game they called AquaTurd. Now, AquaTurd is a clever game where one player, having seized the opportunity whilst out swimming to "drop the Cosby kids off" into the sea around him, then proceeds to throw the turds at the other player. A direct hit in the face makes you a winner...apparently. Even better, if he misses, you can then return fire with his own ammo. As Mick says, "There's nothing more fun than smacking your mate in the face with his own shit." Beautiful.
Sadly, I never got the chance to witness this battle of two such athletes. I'll get over it. I'm no trendspotter, but I suspect that AquaTurd will never be something to add to the sporting glory of Australia.

Things were getting worse when I left, and I knew it was time to go. The scum had risen to the top of Olympos unfortunately, and it would be soon skimmed off, but I had a plane to catch. It was sad, and hard, to leave the place, and the friends who still remained. Kristy, Rhiannon, Bjorn, Matt, Justin, and Nathan - great people everyone of them. The rest of the crew (Trev, Lani, Abi, Grant, Linne, Eli, and Laura) had already hit the road in the days before me, and I was sorry to have to say so many goodbyes. That's definitely the hardest thing to deal with on my travels, the goodbyes and the friends you have to leave behind. It's one thing I'm not sad about as this trip ends, but meeting these people and the good times that you share that make it hard to say goodbye are worth infinitely more than any sadness.

It's been an incredible week, so thanks to them all. I'm probably going to find my way back to Olympos this summer to work, so there will be more good times I know.

Meanwhile, the sun is setting on my Eastern Odyssey, and it's time to follow it into the West. On June 1st, I leave Asia and my solo travels behind me, and head to Italy. One more day to go.

See you in Istanbul...
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