Having continued on from Olympos...
Flashback to Monday, August 19th
When a travel agent in Istanbul first suggested I might like to go on a Blue Cruise ("Australians love it!") I was almost offended. To me "cruises" are something only posh people do, and I'm a sailor, why would I pay to go on a boat, and why was I talking to a travel agent anyway?
Well let's go off on a bit of a tangent and tackle that last question first. Why WOULD I be talking to a travel agent, having a long history of DIY travel behind me and a healthy loathred for package tours? Frankly, I was kind of curious. What were they all about? How did they make their money? Did they actually have decent travel related ideas? Would it be considered some form of plagiarism if I talked to them about travel plans and then used some of those plans without booking through them?
First I stopped in at the travel agent on the ground floor under my hostel in Istanbul, and he traced a plan from Istanbul to Cappadocia to Nemrut to Konya to Olympos to Fethiye and back to Istanbul, which included some odd things like "in Konya you can have home made icecream" (uhh, or I could do that at home if I found it so novel), and he practically refused to take the Nemrut loop out of his proposal, and couldn't get the whole thing under $1800, which was way more than the shoe string budget I had in mind. But it was here where I first heard about the Blue Cruise, popular among Aussies.
Well that travel agent experience was rather unpleasant, I felt like he had tried to badger me into package deals I didn't want (the Nemrut thing was a package tour loop out of Cappadocia), or that didn't sound terribly entertaining (I'm sure Konya has its charms but it really seemed like he was just trying to jam it in). I thought I'd visit another though, that a friend of mine had strongly recommended. So I ventured over to True Blue tours, half expecting it to be some Aussie thing (being as "true blue" is apparently some sort of Aussie thing). The specific person I was recommended, an American expat, had the day off though, so I ended up talking to Ruta, a Latvian expat. Compared to the first guy though she was excellent, she quickly got the idea of my avoid-package-tours shoe string budget planning-one-day-at-a-time travel plans and made her recommendations accordingly. In the end I left their office with that one package tour booked for Cappadocia (since as she pointed out, it would be hard to see some of the far flung things there otherwise) and a bus ticket to Cappadocia and nothing more. Since travel agents sometimes do have special deals for things I called them a few times on my trip to see if, for example, they had a better deal for the Blue Cruise, and things like that. In the end I never ended up booking anything else through them, but Ruta still had nothing but enthusiasm for helping me sort out last minute bus transfers to get from Fethiye to Cannakale in the middle of the night when I called her at 8pm one Friday evening late in the trip.
As to the "Blue Cruise" itself, the first most salient point made to me was that it probably IS the most cost effective (in time, if not money) way to see so many different locations on the rugged Lycian coast. For the 200 Euros one gets a place to stay for four days, with three delicious (by all accounts) meals, which would work out to at least a significant portion of that cost no matter how you sliced it. Also though the word "Cruise" conjures up images of massive cruiseliners on which pampered vacationers sunbathe and carefully avoid rubbing elbows with locals, the Blue Cruises take place on traditional wooden gulet schooners with 12-14 passengers. The itinerary sounded packed with visits to interesting places an I started to come around to thinking it sounded like a fun idea. (Again, spoiler: best idea!)
Monday, August 26th
And so we arrived on Monday morning at the little harbor of Demre, which appeared to be a large protected cove, most of which was far too shallow for vessels. A little motorboat took us from the shore to where the Lucky Mar, a 65 foot gulet, waited at anchor.
In addition to myself and Stephen (who was from Melbourne, you'll recall), there were two fellows from Brisbane who had come from Olympos with us, and the girl who had gotten picked up by the wrong shuttle, also from Brisbane. Also on that shuttle was a guy from Canada. On the boat we met up with a girl from Melbourne (who apparently would have floated helplessly away while floating with a pool noodle in the sheltered waters of the cove, had the captain not dove in and pulled her back), two cute Spanish girls in their early twenties, and a Spanish couple, both journalists, in their late 30s. So that makes 11 people if I'm not forgetting anyone, with nearly half being Australians.
Having so many Brisbanites about was funny, since they'd be talking about some night out at the bars in Brissie or such and I'd be ignoring it as one does about the at-home happenings for foreign travelers, and then I'd suddenly remember wait I know the bars and localities of Brisbane!
Our captain was a cheerful suntanned weather-beaten looking fellow of maybe his late 30s, he spoke decent English and like many captain's I have known seemed to have some magic powers. In this case he seemed possessed of the ability to roll a dice while playing backgammon and get it to come out exactly the way he wanted it. There was a cook, whom we didn't interact with so much, I don't know where he was when he wasn't cooking, but he cooked some amazing meals. Didn't speak English. Unfortunately, writing this three months later as I am my descriptions may suffer but I think he was a somewhat slight man, with grey hair and a kindly and good natured face, who despite his grey hair moved with the nimbleness and rapidity of a much younger man. The third crewmember, "the first mate," also didn't speak any English, was a bit rotund and thoroughly jovial. I think he may have been the captain's father-in-law. He always seemed to have laughter in his eyes and a sly grin upon his face.
After lunch, the first in a long line of delicious "home made" meals, we set off for our first destination. Made a quick visit to a cave that had a banner over advertising a "pirate bar," and the captain practically put the boat's nose right into it.
Continued to the sheltered area inside "the Great Disappearing Island" of Kekova, as I like to call it. You see, now you see it, now you don't (or, probably easier than flipping through those two links, just toggle between the satellite view and the map view).
Here we arrived at the beautiful little seaside village of Kaleköy (known in ancient times as Simena), where all three crewmembers live (and all the above pictures were taken). Many of us were taken to the dock by the smallboat and wound our way up the narrow streets to the fortress ruins at the top. Interestingly, within this confines of the fortress walls there was a small amphitheatre. This struck me as slightly odd since usually the small amount of space in a little mountaintop fortress like that would be a premium and an amphitheatre could be located anywhere. Also pirate fans may be interested to know the fortress had been built specifically to combat pirates.
After we'd had our fill of enjoying the view from up there (see the top picture in this entry), we followed the meandering paths back down through the village. Since it is not accessible by automobile, the "streets," if you can call them that, are all narrow winding paths between the houses only about the width or two persons walking abreast. As you can see they're all crowded together on the slope there and sometimes it seemed the only way to reach a place was crossing across the porch of a neighboring house. The sealevel had either risen, or the ground has sunk, since ancient times, and there were some foundations visible underwater, and the tomb pictured below seemingly rising right out from the middle of the water. The water was about knee deep around the tomb and from the heights of the fortress you could actually make out a well worn path on the seafloor leading to it.
From there we headed to this cove just a short distance away. To anchor for the night, though it was still fairly early in the day.
While underway I saw the first sea turtle I've ever actually seen, so that was exciting, and then as we were anchoring we saw another one. The first mate dove in after it but to no avail.
Having a nice long evening ahead of us we had another delicious dinner and drank Efes and played backgammon. Though the food was included in the price of the cruise, they kept a running tally of beer's consumed by everyone and charged about $4 a (24 oz) beer at the end which seemed alright, it's more than retail but less than many bars. The two Australian lads from Brisbane in particular had huge tallies by the end
Also the water was a lovely lovely temperature and swimming about commenced as soon as we were anchored. The Australians quickly discovered they could float on a pool noodle and hold a beer with their other hand and spent many hours drinking in the water, having new beers tossed to them as needed (and I fear, since one of the Brisbane lads was also named Chris, while I kept myself to a beer or two on account of my budget, I may have been credited some of his).
The sun set and I watched the moon rise over the water, a large red crescent. The very symbol of Turkey. Eventually Jamie and Chris, the two Brisbane lads, were extremely "loose" (which means drunk, apparently) and they kept informing one another "ah you're so loose mate, you're so loose!!" which was rather hilarious. Filled with drunk courage, Jamie declared himself / was acclaimed our fearless leader and around 1am we (Me, all three Brisbanians, Stephen and the Canadian) embarked on a quest to see if the other boats nearby wanted to join us in the party in the water.
The first boat we visited declined, but one or two of its passengers engaged us with witty repartee at least. We then decided to swim the other direction to where some other boats were at anchor about 400 feet away. The first vessel was all dark, either all asleep or wisely pretending to be. Around this point Jamie started to advise us with alarm "I don't know if we'll be able to get back mate, we've gone like a mile!" but we just reminded him "you're too loose mate! You're so loose!" and continued on to the further vessel, where we could see some people playing cards on deck.
(Myself, Chris, Michelle (Brisbane) and Nick (the Canadian))
These persons, it turns out, were that boats Turkish crewmembers, and upon being hailed they turned a flashlight on us and yelled at us to "fuck off!" We immediately turned around but despite our obvious retreat the crewmember continued to shout curses at us. They alleged that their passengers were trying to sleep, but I'd imagine the passengers would have been significantly more disturbed by the crew's yelling at us than our initial hail.
Anyway, Jamie continued to bewail that we were miles away from our own boat and completely lost. As we headed back home the rest of us reached an unspoken agreement and informed him we just wanted to check out this last boat (which so happened to be ours) and then we'd head home. We told him this time he should actually go up on deck to see if anyone wanted to hang out. We arrived and he approached the boarding ladder, but then actually had the good sense to balk and say "I dunno mate I don't think we shoould be going on someone else's boat" ... and then he was shocked and alarmed when the rest of decided to go up all together. Even as we all stood on deck (he eventually came up after us), he still didn't realize we were on our own boat, saying "this is crazy guys we shouldn't be here!" "ah don't worry, you're so loose mate!" I'm not sure at what point it finally dawned on him that we were back on the Lucky Mar.
Even coming dripping out of the water at 2am I found I didn't feel cold! The water and the air were both so nice and warm. That night most of us slept on deck. This had been a very awesome day, what excitement would the next several have in store?? To be continued!
Next: In which there are veritable hills of cash, and we go looking for Santa Claus.
Blue Cruise, Day 1 - Loosely Piratical Adventures!
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