We set off on Tuesday with Can and Tuncer to see some of the south of Turkey, and as there are four of us, we are travelling by car. Our first destination was Akyaka in the Gökova valley, a small and beautiful town built in the Ottoman style. Despite the heat we decided to camp, as the setting is beautiful and it would keep costs down. Sadly, whilst the campsite we had researched didn't disappoint in terms of location, it has definitely gone to seed in recent years, and as if the lack of showers wasn't enough, the toilets were the most hideous we have encountered on the trip so far (including Albanian garage toilets).
Despite the toilets almost reducing me to tears, we decided to give it a go, and set up camp on the cliff overlooking the bay. Oli and I went for a walk and discovered a beautiful little swimming point down some steep, rocky steps. Our arrival caused several small crabs to scuttle from the rock and jump back into the sea in panic. We returned to the tent and sat looking out to sea as the sun went down, and were even lucky enough to see a couple of dolphins slowly cruising in the water below.
The next morning none of us had slept too well, and all felt in desperate need of a shower after a very warm night under the canvas. Oli and I were up earlier for than the boys, so went for another wander and discovered further beautiful swimming points tucked into the cliffs. Once Can and Tuncer were awake, we headed for breakfast in Akyaka centre,and asked the owners if they could recommend a cheap apartment. They did, and we gave them a call. Somewhat luckily / depressingly, it would cost us only about £6 more overall than the campsite, which is a small price to pay to not feel like you need a shower after every toilet trip.
We spent the afternoon chilling out by the sea and swimming in the cool, deep water. There are a lot of natural springs in the mountains which must run into the sea, as it alternated between warm and icy cold jets. Shoals of little fish crowd around the rocks, which was awesome but also kind of freaked me out when I was swimming amongst them. We brought the Go-Pro camera with us, and Can had a lot of fun playing with it.
Later in the evening, we headed back into Akyaka and ended up enjoying a few beers in a little bar with a great atmosphere. We rounded off the evening with a walk along the river and a çiğ köfte (pronounced chee). We have become a little obsessed with this snack since being in Turkey, which is made by rubbing very fine bulgur wheat with spices, oil , tomato and pepper paste in a ridged tray, and is served in a durum wrap with salad and lashings of pomegranate sauce. Delicious!
The next day started much as the first, with Oli and I going for a walk in the morning. Even at 10 a.m. the heat was almost too much to be out in, and we stopped for frequent breaks in the shade. The river was beautiful in the daylight; a deep, cool, turquoise flowing out to sea. We picked up some fresh bread and cheese börek for breakfast on our way back, and ate ourselves silly. Sufficiently strengthened, we went back to our swimming spot in the late afternoon, watching storm clouds brew over the bay.
The weather held out until we got to the car, and then broke spectacularly. The rain pelted down and was deliciously cool, although Oli and I can't help but think we are going to manage to bring bad weather wherever we go! The rain didn't last too long, and by the time we had eaten and headed back to town, everything was pretty much dry and the air was fresh and humid. Tuncer had gone to meet some friends, so Oli, Can and I drank glasses of tea at a little cafe on the beach, watching the moon reflect on the calm sea.
We destroyed the serenity somewhat as on the way home we decided to get Tuncer a card for his birthday the next day. The best we could do with so little forward planning was a postcard, and we deliberately picked the most ridiculous one. Here it is below:
The next day we headed to Dalyan, the countryside becoming noticeably more lush and humid as we went further south. We arrived in the outskirts and managed to find an apartment for five of us (Tuncer's girlfriend was to join us later that evening) for 75tl a night, which was most definitely a bargain. We spent the afternoon chilling out on the terrace, chatting to the owner, and playing with their seven month old golden retriever. The dog is hilarious, has a free rein of the street, and is the best of friends with two dogs from other houses, who also popped in from time to time.
The outskirts of Dalyan are lovely and quiet, but we had a shock when we went into the centre for some dinner to celebrate Tuncer's birthday. It is most definitely a tourist town, specialising in European package holidays – for the first time on holiday in Turkey we saw almost no internal tourists. Lots of bars were blaring out loud music and there were more English voices than Turkish, which felt really odd after being away from the UK for over two months!
We had decided to go on a boat trip the next day, but overslept somewhat and thought we would probably be too late. We got to the dock 10 minutes after departure time, and happily ended up on a really quiet boat with just five other Turks.
The first stop on the river tour is the mud baths. People used to believe they had healing qualities, but it is now known that they have nothing of the sort. We all stripped down to our swim-wear, but when I smelled the mud and saw the grey water, the absolute last thing I felt like doing was smearing it all over me! The others went in, and I assigned myself to the role of photographer.
Later in the day, the boat took us past the graves of the kings, huge monuments carved into the rocks around 400 B.C. Sadly you can't get close to them, so we continued chugging down the river delta towards the sea. The river ends at a huge stretch of sandy beach, which also is a nesting spot for sea turtles, and we were lucky enough to see some from the boat.
The tour rounded off with a trip to the ancient city of Kaunos, much of which was remarkably intact. We headed back to our apartment and had a quick splash in the pool, managing to have more of a play with the Go Pro.
Sunday brought us further south, to Sultan Camp at Kabak beach. The drive here was one of the most beautiful and hair raising yet, lush mountains gave way to a rocky coastal road – single track, with no crash barriers and massive cliff drops to the blue sea below. The road took us past the Butterfly Valley, and ends at a small village. It is not permitted to drive down to the beach, so we left the car at the top and took a taxi down. Once we saw the route, I was very glad to be in a car with somebody who does the drive every day. The road is just compacted earth and rock, single track with hairpin bends. There were no seat belts, so as it trundled over the rocks we were thrown about, with me hitting my head painfully at one point. Luckily no real damage was done, but it is bloody tender!
The camp here is basic but the setting and the beautiful bar area more than make up for this, and after pitching our tents, we wandered down to the beach for a swim. Although I am used to Brighton and Lewes, this is easily the most hippy place I have ever been. Painted signs on the beach advertise daily yoga sessions and handmade unisex clothes and jewellery. This is a protected area and undeveloped save for a few other camps like this one. The beach is beautiful, and surrounded by mountains. The sea gets deep very quickly, which makes getting out difficult with the waves!
We had heard there were some beautiful waterfalls that could be accessed by walking along the Lycian Way, which runs past our camp. We rose early (by our standards) so that we could set off in time to avoid the main heat of the day. The hike there was beautiful, and after climbing most of a rocky mountain through pine forested paths, we turned off to reach the waterfalls. This involved a rocky scramble down some very steep slopes, but was more than worth it. At the second fall, the plunge pool is easily deep enough to swim. Oli was the first into the icy water, closely followed by Tuncer. Can decided after about a minute that it was far too cold, so I stuck with just having a paddle.
As the day was getting hotter and hotter, we decided to head back down the mountain. It had been a brilliant way to spend the morning and was well worth the effort put in to getting there. We are now relaxing in the shade, and planning where to go tomorrow. The South of Turkey has been brilliant so far, but is insanely hot. We are all looking forward to the next stop!