Besides the amazing ancient towns all over Turkey, the landscape is rich with diversity—snow-capped mountains, sparkling Mediterranean beaches, and Gaudi-esque volcanic rock formations of Cappadocia.
A sweet bonus for us during our entire tour was the fact that it was May, which meant beautiful, warm sunny days and cool, crisp nights untarnished by the smelly, summer hordes that will invade these parts in June, July, and August. Although we encountered many a tour bus at some of the more popular stops, filled to the brim with masses of Russian calendar gals or middle-aged Japanese folk dressed in smart traveling outfits and following just about anyone holding up a flag or umbrella, we also enjoyed a few places all to ourselves—a wonderful delight.
One of my favorite stops was this amazing water-cut gorge just a bit north of the Mediterranean. Saklikent Gorge (“Hidden Valley”) is the longest and deepest gorge in Turkey – 18 km long and so steep and narrow that the sun doesn’t hit the water in most spots, leaving it deliciously icy-cold even in the summer… and, of course, we experienced the leg-numbing waters first hand.
We tramped over a simple rope and plank bridge and down the hill on the other side right into the freezing river below. First we had to actually cross the water below the bridge, which was a chilling thigh high excursion and a nice wake-up call for a lazy, sunny afternoon. We walked (trekked in Aussie speak) for about an hour into the narrow canyon in and out of the shallow water which carved the path and marveled at its stark natural beauty. The water-sculpted smooth bone-colored limestone canyon walls soared above us as we hiked further and further into the serene canyon. It was unbelievably beautiful and wonderfully quiet except for our footsteps and the sound of sloshing water against the rocks. No other tour groups were around (hallelujah), not even the ones with pretty Russian ladies.
We really got to experience the freezing waters in a more intimate way as we went tubing down the river for several kilometers for about an hour. These were far from class III or IV rapids but, let’s just say it was enough to spill me out of my tube and plunge me down into the ice-cold rushing waters. Eeek. My butt got a good workout as we had to keep it somewhat ‘lifted’ in our tubes so as to not be bruised by the rocks underneath. Of course, I ended up with a few bruises where I sit anyway, but was too numb to notice them at the time.
It was good fun… well, besides shivering from cold, oh, and also the fact that my tube was constantly floating toward the banks of the river where dangling, evil bush branches waited to scratch up my arms and face. That was a nice, free exfoliating experience. Although I did have a paddle, it didn’t seem to do me much good as tubes are circular (really?) and I was either going round in circles or just going backwards half the time. But the paddle did allow me to block the branches from completely impaling me.
For some much needed ‘R&R’, we spent the next three sun-filled days on the Mediterranean in the seaside town of Fethiye. It was nice to just relax and walk around this charming fishing village turned tourism mecca complete with dozens and dozens of small boats lining the marina just waiting to take you on that ‘perfect’ day sailing.
One of my favorite memories here was dining outside at the local fish market. It was inside a kind of courtyard with the day’s catches for sale in the middle and lining the perimeter were a dozen or so fish restaurants. It was unique because you buy your fish from one of the many fish hawkers displaying their iced fresh prawns, sea bass, or calamari (my fav) and then bring it to one of the cute restaurants lining the market. They cook it for you how you like it—throw in some tasty garlic bread and a nice salad for just $4! It was such a great idea and I’ve never seen anything like it. It was so yummy and fun… we went there two of our three nights in Fethiye.
One day, our group took the requisite tour aboard a vessel sailing around the Mediterranean. We all looked forward to a lazy, quiet day tanning ourselves in the warm Mediterranean sun and doing mostly nothing—well, we thought it would be quiet, but the masses of Turkish tourists dancing to loud, repetitive Turkish pop music made it kind of impossible to relax. Nearly all of us had imagined we’d be on our own private boat plying the turquoise waters, but it turned out to be a bit different. We made the best of it, and I attempted to drown out the hideous music by turning up my ipod all the way, but the grating “thump, thump” still found it’s way to my ear drums.
We made about four stops during the day at different rocky beaches and islands where we could swim for about an hour. The best part? The crystal clear waters were deep and there was a diving platform high atop the top deck of the boat.
Always the adrenaline junkie, I was one of the first ones to jump off into the chilly waters. It was high enough that while in midair I was able to ‘take a moment’ and contemplate the fact that I hadn’t hit the water yet and wondered fretfully when exactly that would be. I knew it was high when I was able to complete my thought before hitting the sea. That was a daunting, yet exhilarating, feeling and it seemed to last just a couple seconds longer than I anticipated. And then, splash, I was sent into the depths of the Mediterranean.
Although I was trying my hardest to keep my legs crossed (the number one rule of jumping into water from high above), I think by the time I went in I had relaxed a bit and also was too preoccupied with keeping my bikini top on and in place. As a result of this, water, naturally found its way “up” into places it does not normally go. To give you ‘too much information’ (which I just love to do), let’s just say I was ‘leaking’ water out of a ‘couple’ places for the next hour or so. Enema, anyone?