We have now finished our second and final week aboard the “Ya Selam” and have left the coast to start our trip home. The boat became our home, and we greatly appreciated the competent and ever-smiling crew, who practiced their English on us as we practiced our Turkish on them. The guest cabins were full, with a Turkish-English family of 4; our English guide and historian, John; a South African resident of Turkey who lived in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, speaks fluent Russian and is currently trying to trace the travels of St Paul in Turkey; and the four of us. Conversations at meal times were lively and wide ranging as we all sat around a large table where a wide variety of delicious dishes were served family style, while Turkish wine and beer were dispensed liberally by the attentive crew.
The weather has been so far uniformly wonderful, with cool nights and warm sunny days in the 70’s. The day starts with a beautiful sunrise at about 7:30 over the Greek islands, which are only a few miles away. Breakfast at 8:30 with thick yogurt, 5 different sorts of cheese (including fried cheese), toast, jams and honey, scrambled eggs, cucumber and tomato salad, tea and coffee. After breakfast each day we either sail in the morning then hike in the afternoon, or vice versa.
Some of the notable sights we have seen and things we have done…
We anchored in the ancient port of Knidos at the tip of a beautiful peninsula. The ruins of a 2,500 year-old city still exist, with shops, theaters, temples, and a huge plinth that once housed a gigantic nude statue of Aphrodite – designed to attract tourists. The statue is long gone, and an equally ancient statue of a lion from the other side of the port is now in the British Museum.
We were dropped at a tiny, wild and stony beach at the tip of the uninhabited Bozburun peninsula and hiked up a steep rocky track lined with thorny bushes to an old Greek church abandoned since 1923 when the Greeks left Turkey. Then on to a small equally abandoned village of stone houses, with an old windmill tower. The roofs of the cottages have long since collapsed from the earthquakes that occur regularly in the area, but we found red roof tiles, marked with the name of the manufacturer in Marseille, France.
We stopped for the night in the tiny village of Selimiye, and scrambled up the steep slope through terraces of olive trees to an ancient 16th century Ottoman castle, with spectacular views over the sea and the surrounding mountains. The town is so sheltered that it is full of citrus and palm trees.
Each day, our “gulet” anchors in a sheltered bay where we enjoy a swim in the crystal clear and buoyant Mediterranean water. It is bracingly cool and refreshing. The gulet has two little kayaks that we have paddled around the bay. At night we can sit on the front deck on a moonless night and see infinite stars and the Milky Way against the blackest of skies – a rare sight for Americans and northern Europeans.
We spent one day in Datca, a pleasant small town mostly given over to Turkish retirees who seem to enjoy sunning themselves and swimming in the sea as much as we do. Elderly gents sit in cafes drinking hot bitter Turkish tea and playing backgammon and “okey” – a cross between rummy and Mah Jongg. A hike through the town brought us to extensive ruins, so old there is little but rubble left, though much excavation is being done by archeologists. Enterprising local farmers grow peppers and tomatoes among the ruins. Everywhere there are shards of broken pottery and tiles of ancient origin among the rocks..
With a strong north wind and a due east coast, the captain decided to raise the sails and cut the engine. It was thrilling to see the huge white sails hauled up by our trusty crew and to feel our gulet moving along as fast as it did with the engine. It is a big heavy boat, but designed for sailing in these waters.
There is very little evidence of the State of Emergency in Turkey, or the refugee crisis. We did have an armed member of the military board a bus we were riding on, but they did not ask for IDs. One day, however, a fast Coast Guard cutter came up on the gulet and asked us to cut the engines. They tied up alongside, and demanded all our passports, plus the captain’s log and maintenance records. They also asked Lin to delete photos she had taken of their boat. After a few minutes, during which they presumably checked with the immigration authorities that we were all legitimate, they roared off. According to the captain they were acting on a tip-off that there was some people-smuggling in the area – we were only a couple of miles from the Greek island of Rhodes. A couple of days later we were stopped again, and woken up by the Coast Guard at 6 in the morning with bright searchlights. The captain was very annoyed.
Anthony and Sandy have been on the lookout for birds, though they are few and far between in this arid countryside. We have seen long-legged buzzards circling above the cliffs, and regularly hear the beautiful song of the rock nuthatch, but apart from that, not much of interest. We have seen goats, sheep, and donkeys on shore, and flying fish in the bays.
Now (Saturday) we have taken a taxi to Dalaman Airport and a plane to Istanbul, where we will get. Flight early tomorrow to Frankfurt, then Philadelphia, sadly leaving behind or on-board life of relaxation and rich indulgence.
We have posted some more photos on DropBox: