Turquoise Coast October 21st

It is truly amazing how much Turkey has going on both geographically and culturally. Only one night seperated us from the lunar desert of Cappadoccia with its population of Turks wearing head scarves; and the brilliant blue coast of the Mediterranean. It's called the Turquoise or Blue Coast, but really its colour is more true to the deep throbbing blue of agate crystal, lightening to a baby blue when hit by extreme sunshine. The surrounding landscape is still very arrid, with rocky islands hovering near the mainland, covered in scrubby pines, cryprus' and olive trees.
Our Keanu Reeves wannabe took us to the dockside and communicated to a another man that we needed to get our gulet (boat).
Gulets are a must in Turkey. They are wooden boats that have the masts and framework to use sails and wind-power but mostly use their diesel engines to tour the coastline.
Our Gulet bobbing in the harbour, with Zafir on board.

The entire trip prior to this moment Kirsty had been fretting that she had done everything wrong.
"The Book says we should inspect the boat before booking," she said in Ankara, days ago, frowning at the Lonely Planet guide.
"Nothing we can do about it now," I replied.
"The Book says don't book the Gulet through a Travel agency in Istanbul," (which, obviously, we had).
"Oh well," I said, and sipped my orange juice.
The same fear was coursing through both our brain synapses: The next boat we see will be a pirate vessel trafficking humans off the coast of Somalia. Her fear, however, was far more pronounced than mine. Even before we met up in London she was preparing me for a rusty tug-boat with bio-hazard heads. I could only reply, "who the hell cares? I'll be on a fricking boat!"
I love boats, I love sailing, I love being on the water. I think it is some primordial recognition that eons ago it used to be home. Then again, I may be unhinged.
A very tanned Turk with luxurious dark long curls and Oakley sunglasses hauled our bags into his skiff painted a light seafoam blue and stinking of diesel. We puttered into the harbour, navigating around huge Gulets.
"Where's your boyfriends?" he shouted over the engine.
"We left them at home," Kirsty shouted back. He seemed satisfied with that answer. At a long wooden boat he halted, grabbing the metal rail of a staircase that descended into the water. With his other hand he hoisted one of bags up to a grinning deckhand named Ali. Kirsty and I climbed aboard, and stood surveying the scene. Our captain introduced himself as Zafir, though I would forget that name almost instantly. Turkish names, like Turkish vocab, were very dificult for me to distinguish and as a result I never remembered anyone's name.
The Gulet itself was amazing. There were long cushions on just about every space available for lounging.
"You can sleep up here, on deck, if it gets too hot in your cabin," Zafir told us. There were 8 2-person cabins below deck, with their own private heads and a supply of fresh water to do some minor washing and rinsing with. All our meals would be prepared and served on board. We were not to wear our shoes on deck, or go below deck while still wet from swimming, "but the sun dries you off in no time," Zafir smiled.
Right, and we were feeling that sun. Acutely. Standing in our pajamas, and cardigans, while looking at Zafir and Ali lounging in their t-shirts (more often no shirts at all), sandals and shorts, we felt pretty special. As soon as we were able we ducked into our cabin, pulled on our swimsuits and shorts and sundresses and headed up to lounge and relax.
"I have a feeling this is going to be a lot of write postcards, read books time," Kirsty observed, looking faintly worried. Having so little free time, or, rather, having so little time when she doesn't need to be managing anything, she doesn't quite know what to do with it when it comes along.
On the other hand, I am a free time junkie. I had brought along Ernest Hemmingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls (wrong country, I know) and was looking forward to chipping away at it. I settled myself at the bow of the gulet, having smothered my skin with SPF45 and lost myself to sun, waves and Andalucia.
An hour later we still had not left the harbour. Zafir had told us he was expecting 6 more passengers, plus two who had been aboard the night before. With every buzzing of the water taxi I looked hopefully to see passengers coming our way. I heard a splash and looked off the rails to see Kirsty in the blue water.
"It's a bit cold," she reported.
At last the buzzing of a boat could be heard approaching. It was laden with grocery bags, a young Turk with light brown skin and light brown hair who I will henceforth refer to as Swim Champ (because I forgot his name),and a very white couple. Nathan and Veronica, hailing from England (hence the paleness); the passengers from the previous night. They spoke with such plummy accents and used typical English phrases... examples of such are escaping my mind right now, that when they did occasionally say something biting, we were apt to either not notice it at all or think it was very witty. Swim Champ gave Kirsty and me an appreciative (and, in retrospect, an appraising) smile and descended into the galley to make our lunch.
Two hours later the buzzing of the water taxi could be heard again. Six people boarded, four of them looking like they hadn't had a good night's sleep in two weeks and that only a ciggarete and a beer could sustain them now (in actual fact, they pretty much said so). There was Marcus and Syrah from Australia; not a couple, possibly not even friends prior to this trip, but you could be forgiven for thinking so based on all the pictures taken of them together. Traveling with them was Mark and Jonah, both from Portland and apparently living 10 minutes away from each other, but had never met until staying in the same hostel in Istanbul. All four had met, decided each other's itineraries suited each other and had been in each other's company for the past week, at least.
On the same bus as them were James and Catherine, from Canada. You have no idea how difficult it is to admit that in print, and ON THE INTERNET. I swear to God, I would have pegged them for being from the most conservative land of jerks ever plotted on Global Positining Systems. In fact James was from Montreal, and his WIFE, Catherine who lived and worked in NYC as a public servant. Of course, no one realised just how annoying this couple could be. The foursome had actually invited them along, thinking this would provide hours of entertainment while at sea. If only they had realised.
Having a full ship, Zafir hauled anchor and we were soon merrily chugging along, cresting through the magnificent Mediterranean. Our first stop was a swimming cove. Because our Gulet had such a late start we had only half an hour to splash around it. Zafir urged Kirsty to hurry as she practically trembled in her haste to take off her sundress. When she was in just her swimsuit he pushed her into the sea. I looked at him. "You're not doing that to me," I said.
The cave itself rose in a graceful, almost Gothic arch from the lapping waves of the water. Inside it was still fairly light from the sunshine and the water was a soft blue, giving the impression that light pierced through from beneath us. I kept extending my legs, sure that at some point I would be able to reach the rocks beneath me (I might have, but not while keeping my head above water). Marcus and Jonah began cawing and hooting to hear and not just see the apex of the cave.
When we began to swim back Zafir slyly pulled the boat out just beyond our reach.
When we boarded, and rinsed with fresh water, Swim Champ rang the bell to signal that lunch was finally on the table.
What a lunch it was! Nathan and Veronica had explained to us that breakfasts aboard were much like any other breakfast we'd had in Turkey, lunch was primarily vegetable, and dinner was the meal with meat or some form of protein. Following this model, twice a day we treated with the most spectacular salads. They were platters jam packed with cabbage, cucumber, pommegranate and half a dozen other vegetables/fruit that I couldn't discern from the plethora of flavours. Lunch also included a cooked vegetable, that day it was green beans with potatoes in a tomato sauce that was positively delicious, and a starch like pasta or rice. We fell on it like a flock of seagulls, barely speaking except around motuhfuls of delicious food.
Zafir had also explained to us that we would only be charged for beverages. There was a tally sheet with our names and each time we selected a pop, beer, wine, reki etc; we would mark in the appropriate boxes. Kirsty, unable to drink, constantly told me, "but you can have a beer, or whatever you'd like." For whatever reason, I just wasn't feeling the desire for any booze for most of the trip.
As we were feeling more satisfied Zafir slowed down and steered fairly close to the coast line. "This is the sunken city, all along here," he said, gesticulating. Immediately there was a dash for the port (left) side rail and for intimidating cameras that looked to weigh at least 20 pounds. Mark, Jonah and Catherine all poised themselves with sharp eyes for good compositions.
"Where's this sunken city?" Jonah asked us.
"There, can't you see it?" Kirsty pointed to a clump of rock.
"Oh, yeah." The shutter of his camera clicked. "I'm just wondering where the kebap stand is. I see a door lintel right there."
"I don't kow what that is," Kirsty admitted. "That's sounds like a fancy architectural term."
"Well, I am an architect," Jonah replied. He was also an architectural photographer. None of the three photographers seemed to be satisfied with the vista presented to them, until a little herd of goats came into view. Suddenly the air was filled with the rapid fire of cameras going absolutely nuts.
What a shot! What a scene! How truly Mediterranean! Wait, is that goat munching on a plastic bag?
"Yes," Zafir confirmed. "He's eating a plastic bag."
"That one's going to be tonights kebaps, right?" Kirsty joked. Zafir didn't get it. He shrugged his shoulders and turned the wheel starboard (right. Right?)nosing the gulet towards a tiny island crowned by a ruined stony castle with a red Turkish flag flapping in the wind.
He weighed anchor then turned to us. "OK, so if you want you can go to this island. You can walk to the top of the castle for 8 lira and see the tombs. Or you can just wander around. We'll be here for...," he consulted his watch, "one hour. Ali can take you in the boat." Zafir gestured to the little motorboat trailing behind us. Ali was in the middle of scampering into it while untying it. Within seconds he zoomed to the stairs, awaiting us to precariously descend.
"Atchaba," Ali grinned at Kirsty as we settled ourselves on the skiff with Syrah. We were joined by Marcus and Jonah and just as Ali pushed off the side of the boat, Mark, James and Catherine called over, "are you coming back for another group?"
This must be Ali's life: that no sooner has he one confirmed load of passengers, and has set off, people who previously decided they didn't want to go have all of a sudden changed their minds.
Both Ali and Swim Champ seemed to do quite well with passengers, though. They made friends with us, admired the girls in their bathing suits, flirted with us, drank with us. Ali, it became clear to me, was not as adept at chatting up the ladies as Swim Champ. But he seemed to be under good tutelage, and with a few more seasons, I forsee Ali becoming quite the Valentino.
We pulled up at a shallow dock, disembarked and then set off uphill. These islands are like scrubby, olive tree covered little mountains, rising from the sea and so erverything from the shore line is on a somewhat steep incline. If you live near the docks and you want to visit your friend, you have to go up. If you want a cool pommegranate juice, you have to go up. If you want to pay 10 Lira for a coin festooned scarf to wrap around your rump, you have to go up. If you want to escape all the Turkish women selling you beaded bracelets, you have to go up.
The acme of all this upward mobility is the very top of the fortress, which is where the flag pole is anchored. It costs 8 Lira to achieve peace and spectacular views of the shimmering sea.
I don't know the vintage of the fortress, it actually had some medieval Italian elements, but in my fantasy it was the keep of some provincial Greek city-state ruler. How such a dictator could look from his bedroom chamber, or top of the look out tower, down onto the Mediterranean, down the slopes of his tiny, isolated city-state and NOT feel like the king of the world, I don't know. Maybe if he looked down the other side of the slope, away from the sea and saw the Lycean sarcophagi dotting the hillside like a flock of sheep.
It was a dusty climb, under the beating sun, and after a while the sea became quite blinding. Kirsty and I were joined by two German children who seemed intent on either breaking their necks or giving their parents cardiac arrest. They climbed all over the rocks and ruins, leaning out over the open space to call to their mothers whose frantic admonitions came echoing back.
Kirsty and I descended, purchased ice cream and waited for Ali to deliver us back to the Gulet.
With everyone back on board, Zafir set sail for a small cove a small distance away from a town called Kas (pronounced Kash). I settled myself with Hemmingway at the stern on some cushions and had just become thoroughly engrossed in Robert Jordan's conversation with the Gypsy when James and Catherine settled themselves rather close to me.
James, I would later decide, resembled a turtle as much as any one human being can. He was rather elderly, with large eyes made all the larger by the thick lenses in his glasses. His lips had begun to thin and he had a habit of pursing them together and smacking them. He was also extremely rude. Without ever realising it.
His wife, Catherine, was Asian and it worried me that she was a public servant in Queens. To be one, as far as I understand, an individual has to have a high school diploma, a Bachelor's and a graduate degree. I could believe that she had achieved a diploma. But her obtuse observations, her needing me to break down simple concepts, like how all four of my siblings are half siblings, made me seriously doubt she had earned a Bachelor's. She was also very antisocial.
Neither of them would leave me alone. When I revealed my hometown, Calgary, and my current town, Poughkeepsie they had quite a lot to share on the sujects, most of it incorrect. When, in reply to James' inquiries as to what he did, I said my father was dead, and had been dead for over 10 years, James offered me the initial, "I'm very sorry to hear that," and then picked at the subject for the next 10 minutes. It was like he was prodding me to show some anguish or sadness. He apologized profusely for bringing the subject up.
"It's OK," I answered, "you didn't know."
"Yes, but still, it's not nice to talk about it or bring it up." James then went on to say how he hated people bringing up his first wife who had died. Once the subject was broached, however, it was James who discussed her at length, while Catherine (his current wife) rubbed his legs with her foot.
Marcus and Syrah were sitting on the other bank of cushions, drinking effes, widening their eyes and smirking at me each time James or Catherine said something extraordinarily out there. James broke off the awkward conversation when a sudden desire for white wine overtook him, leaving Catherine to ask me what my mother does. I said she was a librarian for a private university and gave the name of the institution.
"Is that a Hebrew school?" Catherine asked. Ladies and gentlemen, Vassar College supports and accomodates followers of Judaism, as well as many other theological leanings, but it is NOT a Hebrew school. You would think a public servant an HOUR AND FORTY FIVE MINUTES away from Vassar would know this.
Mercifully, James yelled from the galley, "HONEY! COME LOOK, THEY'RE COOKING THE FISH!" Catherine stumbled down the steps, her huge camera putting her equilibrium WAY off.
As you may have guessed, we had fish for dinner. It was delicious and perfect. Anchored in the cove, nestled in the crook of a cliff face and moored by a very long blue rope to a pine tree, we were observed by dark silent, creepy lycean tombs that had punctured the cliff face.
"How would you even get a body in there?" I wondered as Jonah, Mark and I perched on the rail in the stern.
"I don't know, who's even buried there?" Mark replied.
"Who?" Jonah asked.
"Achilles. He was buried in a rock tomb like this and his girlfriend from Troy, I forgot her name, at the last moment sealed herself in the tomb with him," I explained.
"Wasn't Achilles invincible or something?" Mark asked.
"Except for his heel."
"His what?"
"You know," I tapped my own heel, "the Achilles heel?"
Both Jonah and Mark stared blankly at me. "You've never heard of Achilles' heel?"
"Is that like the Achilles' tendon?" Jonah shrugged.
"No, well, I guess so. Achilles' mother, Thetis, dipped Achilles in some river that was supposed to make him invicible when he was a baby. But she had to hold onto him somehow, so she gripped him by the heel and that was his one vulnerable spot. It ended up being his doom in the Trojan war." I looked at both boys. It was difficult to gauge their reactions because Jonah's face was generally impassive except for these very subtle smiles and grins that would creep across his face. Mark on the other hand usually wore sunglasses, but when he was enthusiastic or engaged it was unmistakable.
"Wow." They said after a moment. "I never knew that, you know all the good stories don't you?"
Fruit and Vegetable servings: back to 6 baby!


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