Demre, Fethiye

Trip Start Sep 29, 2006
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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Monday July 15-- Kas to Demre (Santa Claus!)

Again, through the same childlike persistence that convinced Ece to take the Yanartas tour, I convinced her to backtrack sixty kilometers toward Demre. But since we weren't taking a tour, she didn't mind so much.

We checked out of our hotel and took our bags to the bus station. We paid the men at the station a couple YTL to watch our big travel bags so that we didn't have to carry them with us. I took a backpack with all my important stuff in it (I don't trust anyone as far as I can throw 'em).

Demre doesn't have much to offer tourists. It has some beaches, sure. Every coastal town in Southern Turkey does. But one unique thing it does have is the Church of St. Nicholas, aka Santa Claus.

Demre turned out to be the most crowded place I would visit on my vacation. I hadn't seen a Greek person the whole time I had been in Turkey, but the area around the church of St. Nicholas was filled to bursting with Hellenes on a Greek Orthodox pilgrimage. Ece and I paid 4 YTL each to get into church, where we waited in long lines to see everything from the statues of Old St. Nick to the ruins of the ancient church, pieces of which dated from Roman times. Outside the church we wandered through icon shops that sold beautiful icons and little vials of holy water for a small fortune.

A half hour was enough in Demre. We caught the bus back to Kas, grabbed out bags, and left straightaway for Fetiye.

Kas to Fetiye

Kas to Fetiye was another three hour journey, and it was nail biting. We moved so slowly that I thought the driver might be drunk. The people on the bus were all hot and unhappy, and it seemed as if everyone was trying their best to make his or her neighbor feel the same.

By the time we got to Fetiye, Ece and I were ready to call it quits on buses. But Fetiye, although not a very populous city, is built on a hill, and the sections of town are spread out over a great distance. We learned that we had to take a service bus from the Otogar to get to where we wanted to be.

Thirty minutes later we were in Oludeniz, the party of town that boasts Fetiye's best beaches and nightlife. We were hot and tired. We walked into the Magic Tulip Hotel, which quoted us 35 YTL a night each for a room with air conditioning, tv, and breakfast. The hotel also had a pool.

"What do you think?" said Ece. "Should we look and see if we can find something else?"
"If we go searching, maybe we'll walk for an hour with our big bags and find a room for thirty YTL."

She took my point. We dropped off our bags, put on our swimsuits, and went down to the sea to cool off. Afterwards we showered and went out to get some food.

The first thing I noticed about Fetiye is that it's little Britain. I'm told that the city of Marmaris is worse, but that is difficult for me to imagine. There were very few Turkish people walking around. All of the signs were in English and half of the prices were in pounds. The waiters all had bad British accents and despicably styled hair (Turks by and large have adopted a David Beckam-ish, Sonic the Hedgehog style hairdo). Everyone called me "mate."

The prices also reflected British currency, as 1 pound is worth 3 Turkish liras. Food was ridiculously expensive, and Ece and I ended up splitting a half chicken breast with a smidgen of rice and potatoes on the side. That and two beers. Total bill: 24 YTL. ($18, but only 9 British pounds!).

After dinner we went in search of a tour to Saklikent Canyon, a place which Ece told me that I must see. There are many little tour companies offering a variety of options: paragliding, scuba diving, boat trips. We decided on a jeep safari tour. The salesman initially pitched a line to us in English, whereupon Ece surprised him with Turkish. He offered us a 25 YTL all day tour. Not bad. Then he heard my Turkish.
"You a foreigner?" he asked me suspiciously.
"Yeah, I'm from America."
"Well then," he chuckled, looking for all the world like he had missed a golden opportunity. "35 YTL for you." I laughed, although I didn't think it was funny. "Saka, saka," he said. "Joke." 35 YTL is the tourist price, and 25 YTL is the Turkish price.

Now that the next day was all planned and dusk was in full swing, we decided on one last dip in the sea. Then we retired early to conserve energy for our big day.

Tuesday July 16-- The area of Dalyan, featuring Tlos, Saklikent, Letoon, and Patara

The overriding theme for the day was dirt: How much dust and mud can we both cover ourselves in and ingest?

We got up at 7:45 am and caught breakfast just as it was being laid out. We were being picked up by our jeep to go on "safari" at 8:30. It would prove to be an interesting and exhausting day.

Our jeep rendezvoused at a gas station with several other jeeps. I was in the Turkish car, since our tour guide had apparently marked both Ece and I down as locals, and the remaining vehicles consisted mostly of Brits. These happy-go-lucky, wild people had all brought along water bottles and squirt guns, and they never missed a chance to fill them up and spray their fellow safari-ers. There was one boy in particular who Ece called "that maniac" and who resembled a younger version of our soldier on the rafting trip in Olympos.

Our first stop was Tlos, where there are some amazing Lycian tombs carved into the cliff face. The guide in charge of the whole operation made an announcement telling us that unfortunately we didn't have time to explore the ruins, since our tour would take us a total of 250 kilometers today. However, right after that we went to a little café where we stopped for a half hour. Apparently they had plenty of time to try and sell us food and drinks at criminal prices.

From there it was off to find Saklikent Canyon. To cover all the distance we needed to travel, we had to use the back roads, which are unpaved, dirt roads. Our driver always came third or fourth in the caravan, and the result was that we ate dust for almost half the trip. It was really disgusting. The landscape was dry as an old petrified bone, and the white sheathes of dust that each jeep kicked up created a wall so solid you couldn't even see. I put on my sunglasses and attempted to breath through my wet towel. By the time we got off the dirt roads (and there were many), everyone was always covered in white dust from head to waste.

Saklikent Canyon was the main attraction of the tour. Ece had visited it about a decade before, and she had fond memories. She recommended that if there was one place I see in the Fethiye/Kas area, Saklikent was it.

The jeeps curved down into the valley and deposited us on the banks of the river that cuts through the canyon. There was a big café there where we were to have lunch. The café was built on the banks of the river with tables right up on the water. We were given a half hour before lunch to walk and see what we could see, so us and every other tourist followed the river up the canyon. The walk wasn't exciting, and in hindsight I might have taken a different course (if there is one to be had, which there might not be). In any case, the midday culmination resulted in a nice fish dinner. Café workers took Polaroids of all the tourists eating and tried to sell them to us. The cameraman didn't like me since I wouldn't pose for his picture and I kept making faces.

Then we were off again! We went downstream to a place where the rocks turn to mud. Everyone jumped into the water and covered themselves in mud as thick as clay. Everyone who went into the water was covered from head to foot and resembled an elephant trying to keep itself cool at a watering hole. Our tour guide did some semi-choreographed water acrobatics that we were obliged to follow. Afterwards we walked across the road to the normal, rock bottom stream and washed ourselves off in the icy waters.

Again, during this whole ordeal they took digital pictures of us that they tried to sell to us later at a disgusting price. Since they know you can't touch your camera while you're covered in mud, and they also know that you, tourist # 568,969D, will probably want to encapsulate this mud caked memory of craziness in Southern Turkey for all of eternity, they are willing to oblige you with a burnt cd of the whole day for a mere 60 YTL (!!). Since Ece and I paid only 25 YTL each for the tour itself, we couldn't justify a cd at that price, especially since there were only a few pictures of us, none of them good (the workers only took pictures of the British tourists, particularly the families... they definitely know where their bread and butter is, that's for sure!).

We were herded back on the jeeps. After more throwing of icy cold water and squirt gun fights, we sped off to Petara beach. On the way we passed Letoon, which was the sacred cult center of Lycia, as well as the empire's most important sanctuary. We buzzed on by again. It was painfully obvious that this was not a history tour.

Petara beach is made up completely of sand. This cannot be said for many of Turkey's beaches, so Petara is a beautiful exception. It is also the second longest beach in Eastern Europe, after one in Croatia. The water was beautiful and the sand felt great. I actually felt relaxed for the first time the whole tour! But thirty minutes later we were back on the jeep.

Our next stop was a gas station. There was a swimming pool, and we all sat there as they tried to sell us the 60 YTL burnt picture cds. They also gave us a questionnaire and survey and asked us to rate the tour. We gave it a great rating because as tours go this one was cheap and action-packed. But right after they gave us the survey they shuttled us off to a huge gold manufacturing center to try and sell us jewelry (I shoulda' seen it comin').

They took us back to our hotels one by one. I dragged my sunburnt, waterlogged, dust encrusted, tired butt out of the jeep, got it a shower, and went out to meet a couple friends of mine who I had been trying to hook up with for a few days. Ece and I met Rich and Damon, who were on a month long travel tour of Turkey, at a café a block from our hotel.

And then I went night swimming in the sea again.

Wednesday July 17-- Butterfly Valley

We awoke late. Very late. Like, it was noon.

This day in Fethiye was unplanned. Our original intention had been to catch a bus headed back toward Istanbul, but all of the buses headed in the general direction of Istanbul were booked solid.

The Turkish general elections were taking place on July 22nd, and Turks have to be in their home districts to vote. There are no absentee ballots. If you're not home, you can't vote. Since the elections were called early by the conservative leaning AK Party, many people feel that the July 22nd election date was a ploy aimed at limiting the voting rights of certain groups, most notably expatriates, poor people who work in different cities, students, and liberal secularists who are always on holiday debauching themselves in Southern Turkey this time of year.

Since we couldn't find a direct bus headed toward Istanbul, we booked a ticket to a non-tourist town for the next day in hopes that we could find an alternative route.

I convinced Ece to go on another boat trip with me. I don't know what possessed me to try it again. The sea just looked so enchanting, so calming and inviting, I could almost convince myself that my stomach wouldn't be a problem.

I wanted to go to Butterfly Valley. Butterfly valley is famous for two things: It's butterflies, which come once a year some time between June and September (there were no butterflies when I was there, apparently they're not very punctual creatures), and it's hippies. The valley is a major attraction for hippies on the old Lycian Way (you may know it as the hippy trail). I had heard many great things about this place from my students and from Rich and Damon, who had visited it the day before and raved about it.

We caught the 2 p.m. ferry. It is ten lira each for a roundtrip, and the ride is a half hour long. My stomach was fine for a half hour and I had no problems. However, when we got to the valley, Ece expressed her displeasure at the abominable heat. I promised her a waterfall, since I saw many promising signs decorating the landscape that pointed in the general direction of "back" and "up".

So we walked. And climbed. The climbing was quite treacherous, but we were driven by the thought of a beautiful waterfall. Then we found it. And boy, was it doozey... huge, gigantic, gargantuan, catastrophically momentous, one of the natural wonders of the world.

That was sarcasm.

It was a trickle. We had climbed up a hill of boulders to find what amounted to a trickle. We cooled ourselves off and headed back down the rocks.

By the time we got back to the beach we were thoroughly exhausted. The hippies were swaying to Bob Marley, drinking beer, smoking, and rubbing their dreadlocks in peaceful pleasure. It was the most contrived scene, and the most manufactured atmosphere, I have seen since I happened upon an Outkast concert way back in 2000.

And the beach sucked. Huge rocks. A boring place to swim. Ece and I were happy when the 5 o'clock ferry departure call was sounded. "This place is so boring!" Ece exclaimed. I concur, and I would be interested to hear, now that I have seen Butterfly Valley, exactly why other people find it so appealing.

Back at the ranch we grabbed some grub and lounged about. The day was basically done, so why exert ourselves? We waited for tomorrow and the impending day of bus riding.
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