Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lycian Coast between Fethiye and Finike

Our forty mile voyage southeastward from Fethiye to Kalkan takes us past the Yedi Burunlar, or seven capes, where the foothills to the Taurus Mountains tumble steeply into the sea. This seven mile stretch of water can be notoriously rough in just moderate winds and was quite lumpy even in the light winds that prevailed for us.

The hills give way to the flat plain of the River Esen with its six mile long sandy beach with extensive dunes, the Taurus Mountains still towering in the distance to provide an outstanding backdrop. The colour of the water changed from its normal deep azure to glorious turquoise in a defined line where the flow from the river carries sand in suspension; a phenomenon that we have never encountered before.

At the eastern end of the beach lies the Lycian city of Patara which is known to have been in existence from the fifth century BC. Greek mythology has it that Apollo was born here as was Bishop Nicholas, famed for his unfailing generosity and the original Santa Claus, in actuality in the fourth century AD. Beatified as St Nicholas of Myra he became the patron saint of Seafarers, Brewers, Brides and Bakers. Now we understand the reason for the Sailor’s affinity with beer!
The predominantly Greek village of Kalkan was, as many others, devastated by the Turkish Greek Population Exchange in 1923. Since then the village has been permanently inhabited only since the eradication of malaria bearing mosquitoes in the 1950’s, the villagers preferring to shun the ruined houses and live in the fertile plain high above. The old ruined hillside village above the small harbour has been restored and is truly charming with its whitewashed stone houses with their shuttered windows and wooden balconies with brilliant bougainvillea cascading down to stone paved streets and alleyways below. One has to forgive the tourist nature of the place with its numerous restaurants and souvenir shops and one’s eyes should not stray to the hillsides above and surrounding the old village that are covered with hotels, holiday complexes and villas.
Further east Kas, once the ancient 7th century BC Lycian town of Antiphellos, is now a boisterous resort. The old quarter with its attractive balconied Greek houses (it was the Greek town of Andifli until the population exchange in 1923) which line the narrow stone streets and Lycian sarcophagi are dotted around. At the top of the street called the ‘long bazaar’ stands the double chambered ‘Lion Tomb’, a monumental stone sarcophagus adorned with exquisitely carved lion’s heads on its vaulted roof.
The small but extremely popular harbours of Kalkan and Kas boast shower, toilet and laundry facilities cost £16 per night inclusive of electricity and water. Kas probably has the most friendly and helpful harbour crew that we have encountered on our travels; Ismail or Smiley, the restaurateur, who delivers bread to the boat daily with no request for payment and the harbour master who is courteous and extremely considerate.
With a change of courtesy flag we are back in Europe in the Greek outpost of Megisti or, more popularly, Kastellorizon, a small island just a mile and a half from the Turkish coast. On entering the sheltered bay the panorama of the village set below the barren rocky hills is the most enchanting we have seen during our travels. Gracious neoclassical buildings painted white with contrasting pastel shades, brightly painted doors and wooden balconies amongst colourful bougainvillea and hibiscus line the waterfront. To cap it all we were not asked to pay for berthing on the quay although we gather that whether one pays or not is a hit or miss affair!
The magnificence of this place is even more remarkable than meets the eye considering that the village or town of 20,000 people, as it was then, was bombed to near destruction by the Nazis. In the nineteenth century the island was a flourishing trading post but this period of prosperity came to a close with the Turco-Italian war in the early nineteen twenties. Many of the inhabitants did not survive the harsh rule of the Italians or the Second World War blitz and about 80% of the survivors immigrated to Australia. The two hundred or so indigenous people that remain on the island together with Aussie relatives seeking their roots are rebuilding apace and the Island’s fortunes are looking up with the nascence of tourism.
In the cool of the early morning we climbed the steep path up the mountain behind the harbour to an elevation of about 300 metres. The view from the top over the harbour with the Turkish mountains as a backdrop was magical. Thyme, sage and oregano grew wild, the first of the autumn crocuses were blooming and a goat stood on a crag above us no doubt marvelling, as were we, at the view! A French lady we met at the top described it as mystical probably because of the priest chanting in the church far below.
The trip to Kekova Roads of about fourteen miles involved a pleasant sail to windward maintaining just under three knots boat speed in five knots of breeze and a flat sea. Kekova, ‘home of the sun’, is an ensemble of picturesque, olive and maquis covered rocky islands that protect a virtually landlocked sea with a myriad of perfectly sheltered beautiful bays and natural harbours, unspoiled landscapes and the ruins of ancient Lycian cities, some underwater now consumed by the turmoil of earthquake. This place has the blue skies and orange sunsets of a Van Gogh painting along with brilliant starry nights, peace and tranquillity, mythological mystery and the sparkling sea. It is a place to anchor, relax and reflect.
Nothing can, of course, be perfect. In these anchorages we are bedevilled daily by a mini plague of flies some of which nip us brutally. This amongst other things has driven us towards showing the first or perhaps the final signs of madness; we are talking to the creatures; ‘Don’t come near me I don’t like you’ – ‘you have two choices either you leave the boat or you’ll die’, etc. They don’t seem to listen or perhaps they fail to understand but it is of no consequence ultimately as they fall under the grim shadow of the ‘SWAT’!
Miggy and I had visited Ucagis separately some 25 years ago. The three or four restaurants on the waterfront are little changed and that which Miggy frequented all those years ago ‘Hassan’ still has the same chef and waitress! The village has grown with more villas and holiday accommodation but maintains its rustic nature. The really significant growth is in the tripper boats that take visitors to see the ruins of Lycian Apollonia along the northern shore of Kekova Island to see the sunken city under the clear water. From the castle high on the rocks above Kalekoy, formerly ancient Simena, we have a bird’s eye view of the bays, inlets and islands of this enchanting area.
One wonders how the Lycians who made their homes here over 2500 years ago would feel if they were to return to see their houses and the sarcophagi of their departed relatives partly engulfed by the sea and their harbours full of strange looking craft that are entirely useless for carrying amphora of olive oil and other goods for trade with the rest of the then known world; but perhaps we should instead wonder at the luck we have to be able to witness all this and everything else about our amazing adventure.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Lycian Coast from Marmaris to Fethiye

We continue our adventure sailing south east along the Turkish Lycian coast, named to reflect the indigenous Anatolian civilization that used to inhabit this rugged mountainous area some three to four thousand years ago. We see memorials to these warriors and skilled sailors in tombs carved out of sheer rock faces and massive sarcophagi sometimes engulfed by the very sea that these people plied.
Forty miles or so from Marmaris we entered the Fethiye Korfezi or Gulf with the chic yachting centre of Go├žek, a small hamlet when we both sailed here twenty years ago, at its head and the working town of Fethiye on its eastern shore.

The particular attraction in this area is the virtually landlocked sea of Skopea Limani sheltered from the open ocean by a chain of islands on its eastern side. This calm waterway measures about seven miles long by two miles wide and its shores are indented with numerous beautiful anchorages seemingly carved out of the sandstone and granite hills whose pine clad slopes drop precipitously into the sea. The water truly is crystal clear and, at this time of year, perfect for swimming with a temperature of around 29°C. The air temperature in the shade rises to 30°C so it doesn’t feel at all cold taking a plunge just refreshingly cooling. Neal swam for the first time for probably twenty years so inviting was the water. We anchored in Kucuk Kuyruk in superbly beautiful surroundings and about a boat length from the steep to rock shoreline. The water is deep until very close to the shore and so a substantial amount of anchor chain has to be let out and the anchor made to bight before rowing or swimming a long line to the shore to tie to a tree or a rock. This can be quite entertaining in a crosswind as the boat gets further from the shore and more line has to be bent on to allow the swimmer or rower to even make dry land! We were one of just two yachts in this secluded cove and we felt a sense of ownership as well as sheer pleasure.

We are visited by a Kingfisher and we hear frogs first thing in the morning which inspired me to write an excuse for poetry:
By sunrise the croak of a frog and the chirping chorus of the birds gives way to the cicadas chatter; a kingfisher darts from rock to branch and back then dives fruitfully for its morning catch; he’s here again for lunch and tea followed by the humble bumble bee to quench his thirst and then as fades the evening light the screech of a solitary owl haunts long into the night.The delightful anchorages in Skopea Limani are too numerous to describe in totality but a few are of particular note such as Tasyaka Koyu or Tomb Bay with its Lycian and Pigeonhole rock tombs, colourful oleanders and the rock painting of a fish by the famous 1970’s painter Bedri Rahmi Eyyupoglu and the fjord like Boynuz Buku Koyu or Spring Bay with its Gunluk trees and teeming wildlife, the exquisite but crowded Yassica Adlari anchorages, Hammam Koyu or Ruin Bay with its partially underwater Byzantine ruins and Kapi Koyu or Wall Bay, the large wall on the shore covered in Graffiti where I made an absolute mess of trying to moor stern to in a light cross wind. I was embarrassed and cross to say the least!

The sheltered winter harbour at Tersane Island where peace reigned was idyllic. The ruins of the former Greek settlement abandoned in 1923 by reason of Ataturk’s Population Exchange policy boasted a shipyard after which the Island is named. A farmer or two lives here now with cows, goats, chickens and donkeys

It was forecast to blow for a few days so we felt it prudent to seek the shelter of Fethiye and its modern well appointed marina with helpful staff all at just £23 per night. Miggy took the opportunity to take our dhobi to the laundry and we had a dirty carburettor in our outboard motor repaired.

We made the trip to Kayakoy by Dolmush and passed through the holiday complex from hell, Hisaronu. As Kayakoy appeared through the pine forests we were startled at the sight of a hillside covered in a vast number of derelict stone buildings arranged in terraces so as not to overlook each other and so that each house could enjoy the view over the valley below, the sunshine and the cooling breeze.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire and in his drive to establish a Turkish state in 1923 Ataturk introduced a ‘population exchange’ programme with Greece whereby Turkish Christians were exiled from Turkey and sent to Greece and Greek Muslims similarly were exiled to Turkey, a sort of non violent ethnic cleansing! Those who returned to Kayakoy preferred to live in the valley rather than on the hill and so this ghost town was created. It is haunting to wander the streets and through the houses of this once thriving community of 25,000 people who lived, learned, worked and played together; Christian, Muslim and Jew alike, and to think of their sorrow at leaving their homes and friends and all this within living memory. How can the human race be so intolerant and callous? A classic book ‘Birds without Wings’ by Louis de Bernieres, which we have read, makes it all the more poignant and brings to life the history of this region and its turmoil.

On a brighter note we are having enormous fun and have relaxed totally after a busy but enjoyable time in the UK seeing family and friends. We love Turkey and its people. For those of you who don’t know and who wish or need to contact us while aboard our telephone number is +447872226912.