Beaches and baths

Trip Start Nov 09, 2007
Trip End Feb 03, 2008

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

We said goodbye to the people at Hideaway Hotel in Kas where we had spent a very pleasant three days and headed north up the Mediterranean coastline. The plan was to head for Dalyan, just a short journey away. We stopped first at Patara beach. This is just north of Kalkan, about 40 km from Kas. The coast road on the way was magnificent, reminiscent of the roads around the Amalfi coast, with sweeping ocean views, hair-raising bends and winding roads. Beyond Kalkan the road leaves the coast for a while and so returns to a more standard variety road.
To get to Patara you have to drive down a bit of a goat track for 6km off the main road. As you near the beach there is a man in a booth and you have to pay to get in. It's only 2 lira per person and children are free. Just before you get to the beach there are the ruins of another Lycian city which looked interesting but we didn't have time to stop. In retrospect I wish we had, because it was the birthplace of Saint Nicholas and I think the girls would have liked to wander over his old home town (before he moved to the North Pole of course).
Patara describes itself as 'world famous', and is notable as a breeding ground for sea turtles. There are signs up preventing access during the summer months after 8pm, and advising people not to use umbrellas more than 20m from the shoreline. The girls were very keen to jump in despite the coolish day (top of 20 degrees). The water was not too bad and they had a ball frolicking in the gentle waves. Jess watched them while I went exploring at one end of the beach where I climbed a rocky outcrop to see a fantastic rocky cove. I chucked a big rock in and watched it fall down, down until it made a big 'sploosh' at the bottom, creating a white interruption in the azure sea. After about an hour it was time to leave so we jumped in the car and on our way.
Unfortunately, as we were nearing Fethiye I was waiting at a set of lights to turn left. The lights changed and I made the turn and headed on down the road, only to be stopped by a waiting police car. In Turkey (at this set of lights at least) when you turn left you then have to wait for the red light that the traffic stream you are crossing has. The police asked for my licence, then the car's licence (registration), then they asked me to get out of the car and come with them. This made Jess nervous - I think she was envisaging a Turkish Cool Hand Luke situation and I wouldn't come back.
The police shook my hand, drew on a piece of paper to show me where I had gone through the red light and actually appeared a bit embarrassed to be giving me the ticket (not that it stopped them!). The youngest policeman asked me 'You have cash?' but the more senior policeman said something to him in Turkish and that was the end of that, so I don't know what that was all about. So the fine was 108 lira, but I get a 25% discount if I pay within 15 days, which takes it down to 81 lira. Still a bummer, but I guess it's an experience!
We went straight past Fethiye and also the turnoff to Oludeniz with its famous blue lagoon. I guess I could have planned a month for the Med Coast alone. There's so much to see in Turkey. Getting hungry, we stopped at a place called Gocek. It is really beautiful, with large yachts moored there, a lovely waterfront promenade and some interesting shops. I was very pleased to read that development is tightly controlled to preserve its natural beauty and I think this is a lesson for some of the other areas that have been way overdeveloped. Unfortunately Gocek did not have a shop with the quick fix of a Kebab that we all craved, so we made-do with a pastry instead. If you are passing this way, I'd recommend a stop at Gocek.
Dalyan is just another 30 minutes past Gocek so we arrived shortly after lunch. I parked the car at one end of town with the idea of walking along the riverfront until we found somewhere to stay. We walked the entire length of the town riverfront with no hotels evident. Some idea! Evidently I had chosen the wrong end to park in because all the hotels and pensions are at the other end. As we strolled along the river we saw dozens and dozens of boats, all part of a cooperative. We might call it a price-fixing cartel, but I guess that's in the eye of the beholder. As it was, we enquired at a special desk that was established to control the boats in the cooperative and we were quoted 90 lira for a 90 minute boat tour. We kept on walking and a little while later we were approached by an independent guy (I knew there would be one) offering the same trip for just 50 lira. We said we were interested, but 'maybe later'. He walked along with us and said 'OK, 40 lira'. I asked to see his boat, imagining an old tub, but in fact it was a very nicely decorated boat, complete with pet rabbit, which sold it for me. We said to give us 30 minutes while we sorted out somewhere to stay.
Right behind where we were standing was a nice looking hotel, the Yeni Gul (New Rose) so we went inside and asked about a room. They said they had a family room available which looked very nice and was right on the river, with a balcony overlooking the action. Georgie and Maggie said that we had to stay here because they had the best selection of cats in the garden. The price quoted was 70 lira, including breakfast which was well within our budget.
We found our boatman who introduced himself as Ali Baba and we climbed onto his boat. The soft put-putting of the engine accompanied us up the river. Ali pointed out all manner of bird life, even an eagle sitting on a low tree waiting for his dinner. It was about 40 minutes up the river into a big lake to reach our destination - some thermal baths where Ali had promised we could get a mud bath.
The peacefulness of the river and the lake is hard to describe. We were captivated by the quiet solitude the surrounded us. As we neared the Sultaniye thermal baths we could see a domed structure that Ali said was a hammam. We pulled in and someone came out to greet us. He explained the procedure - first we were to take a mud bath, then a cold shower to wash off the mud, then a bath in the thermal pool.
What can I say? It was just the most fantastic experience. The outside air was cool and the mud was hot. We painted ourselves with it, following Ali's recommendation of its curative powers. We squelched and oozed around in the sulphuric mud, pouring it over ourselves, rubbing it in to each other's backs. Then it was time for the cold shower. It seems like there's nothing so cold as a cold shower after you've been luxuriating in a thermal mud bath! We all turned a bright shade of pink, then quickly hustled over to the thermal pool (that's the clear one, no mud). It was even hotter than the mud bath, so we plunged in, turning ever pinker. Jess said we were like lobsters slowly cooking without realising. For sure we were starting to look like lobsters. Ali said it was safe to put our head under, so we all dunked down. I felt the hot water stinging my face. The water was very salty and so we were able to float without any effort at all. The process of turning us into a sulphur-smelling rabble was now complete, so we got out and changed and jumped back into Ali's boat, handing over our 4 lira each to the pool attendant.
Evening was softly falling as we headed back across the lake. The surrounding mountains covered in haze took on a surreal atmosphere. Maggie took a turn steering the boat, taking us skilfully through the reeds. Ali chatted with us about his life on the boat and the river, lamented the influx of English and Dutch expats that were driving up prices for ordinary Turkish people.
Georgie took a turn at the helm and brought us through the bends in the river as we returned to our dock. We ate at a restaurant (Atay) recommended by Ali as good value and more traditional food. The recommendation was sound and we dined well, the strolled back to Yeni Gol to sit by the open fire.
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