Chapter 46: The Sunken City, and Chimaera Flames

Trip Start Oct 01, 2003
Trip End Nov 2004

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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Sunday the 25th was mostly another bus day. Getting tired of reading about those yet? Luckily they're much more enjoyable to experience, as it's nice to have the chance to kick back for a few hours and read, listen to tunes, or watch the scenery roll by. In the case of the Selcuk-Fethiye bus, the Mediterranean scenery was gorgeous. Fredierick and I got to Fethiye in the late afternoon and thought it would be fun to stretch our legs and walk from the bus station to the center of town. Wrong. It was about 2km and very hot out, and we made several wrong turns. Anyhow, I parked myself in a nice little single at Hotel Funya (formerly the Point Hostel) in the middle of everything, grabbed a pizza for dinner, and walked around the touristy town center in the evening. Fethiye is alright, I guess, in that Mediterranean resort kind of way, and it's more chilled out than the package tour hells of Kusadasi, Bodrum, or Marmaris... but it's still over-run with Brits on week-long holidays, the food is nothing special, and the buildings are mostly new and unattractive due to an earthquake in the mid 1900's. In its favor, there are some cool Lycian tombs carved into the cliffs behind the city, and there's an old fort perched on a hill, too.

The main decision I had to make in Fethiye was whether or not I'd do one of the 4-day backpacker gulet cruises to Olympos, so I spent much of Monday wandering around the marina talking to yacht operators and travel agencies about their trips. In the end I opted to skip it... partly because of the cost (US$180), and partly because it seemed too similar to the Whitsundays trip I took in January with Tom (and let's face it, without Tom the experience would pale in comparison). I also knew I could hit most of the sights on the coast on my own, so on Tuesday morning I hiked back to the otogar (bus station) and took the 3 hour minibus to Kas, further along to the east.

Kas was everything I'd hoped Fethiye would be: a charming Mediterranean resort town in a picturesque valley with winding lanes, old houses, unobtrusive tourists, lovely mountain & sea scenery, and outstanding food. I wanted to see some of the area and check out the "sunken city" of Kekova along with Simena castle (two noteworthy local attractions), but I didn't want to do an overcrowded boat tour... so I signed up for a sea kayaking trip for Wednesday instead. The day was really fun, and I got used to maneuvering the kayak quickly (it seemed more river kayak than sea kayak, but what do I know?). Our guides led us around for a few hours, stopping at various bays and beaches, and taking us over the sunken city, which really isn't so exciting, as mostly you can just make out building foundations and the occasional stairwell. Still, the water was a perfectly clear blue, the day was beautiful, the 10 other kayakers were good company, the landscape and omnipresent ruins were awesome, and the exercise felt good.

We stopped for a break at Simena Castle on the hill in the center of a quaint little traditional village, and our guide brought 5 of us up to the top for some stunning panoramic views. When we tried to set out again the wind was too strong (some people were being carried out too far despite their struggles), so we ditched the kayaks and walked 45 minutes back to the bus and our (late) lunch. The walk was pleasant, at least, because a strong breeze kept it from being stiflingly hot, and I talked with a nice English girl named Wendy for most of the journey.

On Thursday I hopped on the 3-hour bus to Olympos and set myself up in a dorm at Kadir's Treehouses, the original Olympos backpacker's haunt. It's a steal, at 15,000,000TL ($10) per night including all meals. The place is rambling, eccentric, and atmospheric; there's room for 200 guests in the sprawling collection of rustic wooden shacks and treehouses that are decked out with murals and wagon wheels and bear names like "Jabba the Hut," "Kultcha Klub," and, in my dorm's case, "Yum Yum Pig's Bum" (?!).

After dumping my bags I immediately walked the 20 minutes down the beautiful valley road to Olympos Beach National Park. There were pine-clad mountains reaching up in every direction, clear gurgling streams of icy water, and although the ruins of Olympos were subtle, the setting was sublime. The only downside to the park was the throngs of tourists clogging the forest path and taking up valuable beach real estate. The beach itself was pebbled, which suited me fine as I hate sand.

When I came back around 6pm, I met my two roommates - one was a German Turk whose name I never quite understood, and the other was a friendly guy from Istanbul named Aslan, which means "lion" in Turkish (naturally, all I could think about at first was "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe"). There were a surprising number of Turkish tourists at Olympos, which may explain why it was the first place I'd visited in Turkey that actually seemed packed. Aslan and I had a few beers, and he re-taught me how to play backgammon before we tucked into a delicious dinner. The whole vibe of Kadir's was like a summer camp, which was generally cool except that it meant putting up with scenarios like the group of Turks sitting around a guitar belting out a terrible rendition of Four Non-Blondes' "What's Up"...

After dinner Aslan and I joined 3 nice Mexican girls and a few other tourists on a minibus tour to see the Chimaera flames. The Chimaera, as you may know, is a mythological fire-breathing beastie made up of several animal parts, and it supposedly remains buried under Mt. Olympos belching fire from the earth after being defeated in battle by some hero or other. In actuality, natural gas originating from an unknown reservoir underground constantly seeps from several spots on the mountainside and spontaneously combusts when it contacts the air. We reached the flames by riding for 1/2 hour, and then hiking up a mountain path for 20 minutes. The effort was worth it, though, because the Chimaera is one of those semi-unexplained natural phenomenons, and the effect is pretty magical. The lack of safety precautions and environmental protection measures was pretty astounding, though. I checked out the Bull Bar dance club at Kadir's when we returned, and while they were playing admittedly enticing music (the Cure, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, Madonna), I was pretty beat so I popped in my earplugs and went to sleep before 1am.

I decided to leave the next night (last night) on the Fez Bus (kind of the Turkish "Oz Experience" hop on-hop off backpacker bus), because it ran directly from Kadir's at 9pm and arrived at Goreme in Cappadocia by 7am this morning. That meant I had to pack up, check out, and put my bags in storage by 10am or so, and then I hung around writing in my journal for the rest of the morning. I spent the afternoon at Olympos Beach again, killing time by reading, talking with a nice Turkish girl whose family ran a guesthouse nearby, and dozing. Before I knew it it was time to get back to Kadir's for dinner, and then I freshened up, said goodbye to Aslan and the several staffers I'd become friendly with, and got on the Fez Bus.

The bus ride was great, because it was only 1/3 full, and just like in Oz, our Aussie guide booked our next night's accommodation for us from the bus. I watched "Zoolander," listened to CDs, and slept on and off. We got to Goreme right on time and pulled up to a scenic viewpoint, where we watched hot air balloons dip in and out of the fantasy-world valleys of Cappadocia. The region is full of marvelous volcanic rock formations, and looks like a cross between the Badlands and Bryce Canyon. The crucial difference that sets Cappadocia apart is that people have been carving homes out of the rock for thousands of years, so there are mysterious holes and caves and tunnels and even churches carved into many of the rocks. There are dozens of ruins from "underground cities" in the area, too, and I plan to relive the "Tar Monster" episode of Scooby-Doo from my childhood by visiting one of those in the coming days.

This morning I checked into a triple dorm at Kose Pansion, which is run by Dawn, who is incredibly friendly and helpful. The place also has a magnificent swimming pool, so after my tiring bus ride I spent most of the morning lounging in and around the pool. I'll probably hang out in Goreme for a few days, as it seems like a fun town with lots to do, so hopefully I'll have some good stories for the next entry! Take care,

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