Final day in Türkiye
I hadn’t gotten enough of the ruins of Aperlai, so I woke up early and swam to shore with my safeswimmer/drybag thingy filled with shoes, clothes, iPhone. I had spied some structures from the Gulet that I wanted to check out, so I zigzagged up the hill, using the tops of walls where I could to move along and to get some views of the bay below. I saw more mausoleums with Latin text, the ruins of a castle, lots of arches and doorways. I noticed that some of the openings in the walls that remained standing had been filled in at some point with stone, some rather hastily it seemed. Was this done due to an impending attack centuries ago? I also noticed some large natural openings in the bedrock, all of which had been incorporated inside a structure. Were they used for water storage? Food storage? I saw signs of the wild boars we’d heard the night before, and caught glimpses of with a flashlight from the Gulet. I came upon an open field, like a town square, then followed the protective outer walls of Aperlai back down to the edge of the bay, and swam back to the Gulet. This little adventure made me feel like I was 10 years old.
As is the custom at breakfast, cheese appeared. Three kinds. A mild feta, and two other cheeses that have only been described to us as “white” and “yellow”. Turkish cooks don’t seem fussy about cheese but it’s always present and always delicious. Perfectly soft boiled eggs were served along with yogurt and fruit. Even a dish with pure honey comb from our captain's own bee hives appeared. I haven’t seen milk served here in any form.
(Heather here - I’d like to weigh in for a minute about the spectacular turkish coffee I’ve enjoyed all week. Just a tiny little cup, a demi-tasse, I believe, is all you need. It’s thick and rich and energizes your soul. It’s almost like a snack, like a hug and a kick in the pants. It’s delicious and satisfying. It feels somehow essential. And the tiny little cup comes out with this impossibly small spoon. It’s fantastic. Hopper cannot (may not) have any of this awesome stuff. You may recall from other trip blogs that he is transformed into his own evil doppelganger (hopperganger) with more than a swig of caffeine. I mourn this for him as I slurp my last, rich, gloppy sip. What amazes me is how the locals drink this stuff all day - sometimes up to 5 times a day, including one late at night after dinner. I don’t know how they sleep but it looks very good on them.)
We motored out of the bay, leaving Aperlai behind us. In a short while we were at Uulu Burun, the site of the Bronze age shipwreck that our local fixer and host Don had helped recover back in the 90s. It’s a severe place, just sea and rock. There was only a little wind, but the chop was doubled with reflective waves off the steep cliff. Perhaps this is a clue as to how this ship carrying such valuable cargo slipped beneath the sea some 3,300 years ago. The wikipedia page on the wreck is pretty good if you’d like to read more. Even though it was choppy, we jumped in anyway if for nothing else to tell our friend Don that we’d been there.
(HP here - I for one was really swept up by the history here. The cliff face and deep blue swell are dramatic and lend to my imagination of this incredible ship, stuffed with precious cargo. I wish I had a time machine. Swimming over the site is an experience I won’t forget.)
Once we swam around the corner we were in the lee, and things smoothed out. The underwater scene is so cool here. There are massive ledges, caves, crevices. It’s endlessly interesting to swim over. I’m always looking for artifacts, and am often rewarded with amphorae fragments, constant evidence that these waters are so rich with history.
(HP here again. I can safely say that we have finally found the thing that slows Hopper down in the water. Archeology. And in particular, amphorae fragments. As we swam through Aperlai, I kept losing him. Once he popped up to say “I’m going to be slow. I have to touch EVERYTHING”. My favorite quote of the trip, and it kind of sums up how I feel about this entire country.)
Back on the Gulet, our captain steered us into a tiny little bay, not much wider than the boat is long. A pale bottom made the water a lovely turquoise. This is what our friend Kerry Hucul (of the Promenade) calls a Happy Spot. The Captain’s two boys went ashore to collect firewood, then splashed around with us. Boat kids are always awesome to hang with in and out of the water.
We had felt them before, but this part of the coast has lots of freshwater springs that empty into the sea right along the shore. The saltwater temp here is about 80 degrees, but the freshwater is about 65, so it’s this great little cool off when you swim into one. The same thing happens in Kona, Hawaii. I’ve heard it takes 30 years for water to reach the ocean from up on the volcanos there. I wonder if that’s true here on the Turkish coast, as well. You can tell when you swim upon one because the water gets a little blurry, like you’re wearing someone else’s prescription goggles.
Our captain had some coals going, and he slapped a couple of whole fish on the grill. When they were perfectly done, they were served with the half dozen or so other dishes we’ve grown accustomed to: yogurt with rocket-like greens, cheese, bread, a green salad, assorted grilled vegetables, a really fluffy hummus, a grilled tomato of course. I hope at least one of our future guests like these, I just cannot eat a hot tomato. I’ll give you mine. Are you out there, hot-tomato eating open water swimmer?
(Dear Turkey, please do not feel obliged to grill, boil, stew or otherwise heat every one of your many amazing tomatoes. Love, Heather)
A nap after lunch has grown customary since we’ve been on these Gulets, so why break tradition? There’s a really slow vibe on this part of the coast, a lot more laid back than Bodrum, even. Sailboats anchor in one of the hundreds of little bays like the one we are in, people splash around, have a glass of wine.
I woke up from an epic nap ready to jump in for our final swim of the trip. The water seemed even clearer here, which I wouldn’t have thought possible. The sheer cliffs above plunged into the sea, visible for over a hundred feet below us. It felt like flying. Massive cracks in the cliff faces above and below the water made for great places to duck into. We found a ledge about 15 feet up, and still feeling 10 years old, I climbed up and jumped off. As we swam along, the midday sun glared off the rocks and heated up the water above 80. Just before it got uncomfortable, bam, we hit a series of freshwater springs. It’s quenching, exhilarating, refreshing, sublime.
(HP - swimming in crystal clear water along steep cliffs pitted with these deep slots where chilled fresh water surrounds you...it’s a swimming sensation I hadn’t ever quite experienced before. I couldn’t stop myself from poking into each nook and cranny, trying to find the source of the spring, confusing my senses of touch and vision in the coolest way. This is for sure one of my top 10 open water swims. Those of you who have been on a boat with me know I say that a lot, but this time I REALLY mean it!!)
I did NOT want to climb out of the water. The promise of figs helped. I haven’t talked much yet about the fresh figs here. They’re the perfect after swim snack: not too sweet, nice texture, and they replace the salty squeaky taste in your mouth with a yummy richness.
(Dear Turkey, after a lifetime Newtons, thank you for introducing me to an actual, ripe fig. I am changed, forever. Love, Heather)
Back in the little harbor in Kas, we picked up a couple more trinkets and some cash in town, paid our captain, said our goodbyes, and hopped into a waiting car we had previously arranged. Our destination was Göcek, about a 2 hour drive. The sun doubled in size in the haze as it began to set. We retraced some of our route from 2 days ago through an agricultural district, where farm workers were gathering around roadside tables to talk about tomatoes, I imagine. Or politics. Probably both.
(Hi, it’s HP again. Funny story. I bought some gum. Turkish gum. When I travel, I love trying snacks and buying products with lots of writing I can’t read on the packaging. So we went into a little convenience store and I picked up a package of gum. All indicators pointed to some sort of refreshing minty experience. I got in the car and unwrapped the package, and it immediately smelled like I’d tapped into a white pine, or opened a can of turpentine. So of course I handed a piece to Hopper and let him try it. His face said it all. I still haven’t tried the gum, but I brought it home for my son and his friends to try and gag over. Dear Turkey, more delight, less gum. Love, Heather).
Göçek is potentially an important town for us, as it’s where we’d board our Gulet next year with our guests. I’m immediately charmed. It’s a yachting community with lots of pedestrian-only streets and a fabulous boardwalk lined with open air restaurants. I have a knack for finding trendy little hotels, and the Villa Danlin is no exception. Simple and reasonably priced, but in the middle of everything. Close enough to the docks so that you could wheel your luggage from the hotel directly onto the Gulet. We’re always looking at these details as we scout a trip.
I had heard the owners of a local wine bar were knowledgeable and friendly, so we dropped in to meet them and to try some Turkish wines. It so happens that the bar is directly across the street from our hotel. The proprietors are everything I’d heard, and the wines were fabulous. In 10 minutes we had made a local contact, picked a red and a white wine for our future trips, and got a restaurant recommendation.
We ordered mezzes, but by the time they arrived, the last 10 days had caught up with us. We were fading. The calamari perked me up a little, as I dipped it into one of the 5 yogurt dishes we had ordered. These people know how to prepare calamari.
(HP - I wanted dessert. I couldn’t stay awake for it. Until next time, baklava.)
We fly home tomorrow.
- Hopper (and Heather)