The Amazing Race

picture 136.jpg 

My mission was to get from Fethiye to Athens in less than 2 days without spending a lot of money. That meant no flying or using any kind of private transportation.

I had been planning this trip for more than a week and I was looking forward to it, since I was going to meet Ledi in Athens. I had contacted a travel agent to help me book the ferry tickets from Bodrum to Pirraeus via Kos since it is difficult to do it on the Internet. It went well. I had my tickets in hand:

  • Bodrum – Kos / June 29th / 5:30PM – 6:30PM
  • Kos – Pirraeus / June 29th / 8:40PM – 9:20AM (+1 day)

 picture 138.jpg

Fethiye – June 28th – 4:30PM.

Just out of the boat and freshly checked into a nice hotel thinking I had plenty of time to get to Bodrum the day after so I could visit the town.

Everything was just perfect.

It is when I checked my emails that luck turned around. There it was, a notification from the travel agent that my boat from Bodrum to Kos had been cancelled and he had rescheduled me on the 9:30AM boat on the 29th. That certainly was not good news but I was so thankful I had gone through an agent who took care of rescheduling and notifying me. Kudos to “Anker Travel” for their great work.

Hum, there was no way I could get to Bodrum on time if I slept in Fethiye that night. So I rushed back to the hotel and asked the clerk if he could find out when was the next bus to Bodrum. It was at 7PM and he told me the bus company would come to pick me up down the street at 6:30PM. I was there but I never saw the bus and it was already 6:50PM when I hopped on one of the buses that had Otogar written as destination.

“The bus station is only 2km East so I should be there on time” I thought optimistically. I was quite wrong as it turned out I had taken the bus in the wrong direction (misunderstanding between me and the Turkish driver). Well, what could I do? I arrived at the bus station at 7:15PM hoping that the bus had not left yet. Turns out Turkish buses leave on time so no luck there and I started to feel bad when I was told there were no other buses to Bodrum before 5AM the day after (too late for me).

This is when a guy just showed up from behind another bus and told me there was a way to get to Bodrum if I took his bus and changed at some other place whose name I could not understand. But he seemed to know what he was talking about and I did not have much choice anyway so I got on that bus hoping for the best ;). Luckily everything went smoothly from there. When we arrived where I was supposed to change bus, the bus steward told me to get out and handed my bag to the other bus’ steward. I got on that bus and we were in Bodrum at 1:30AM. Not the fastest way to get to Bodrum but I was on track to catch my ferry the next morning.

After a very short night spent in the first cheap enough hotel I found, I made my way to the ferry dock to recover my tickets and check into my first ferry. The guy at the counter gave me my Bodrum-Kos ticket but he could not give me or tell me where to get my Kos-Pirraeus ticket. I was a bit annoyed about that but I thought I would leave it up to my good stars (that have been good to me so far) to take care of putting everything together at the end so I got my exit stamp, boarded and found a nice spot to read and enjoy the view.

As soon as the ferry departed, an employee came towards me and told me he needed my passport in order to take care of my Kos-Pirraeus ticket! Yes, he just found me on the boat and took care of everything returning 5 minutes later with the ticket. It all worked out for the best again :).

Once in Kos and through the emigration check (welcome back to the EU!), I had almost 10 hours to spare on the island so I thought I could check it out a bit and take it easy on one of the numerous beaches for the rest of the time.

I just needed to find a place to store my bag for the time. As I was thinking about that, a woman on a scooter with her little girl standing in front of her came toward me offering lodging. After I explained what I needed, she told me I could store my bag and even take a shower at the end of the day all for 5 euros. I sat on the back of her father’s scooter with my big bag strapped on and here we were going through the streets of Kos. I have to say it was quite cool :).

picture 141.jpg

The day went well. I mostly lingered on one of the long chairs at the beach enjoying the sun, the warm water, and the “view”.

I was on time but the ferry ran late. Nothing too bad and we were on our way soon after 9PM. I spent my time reading, walking around the decks, watching Turkish TV, and sleeping where I could.

picture 152.jpg

We arrived in Pirraeus at around 10:30AM with the seagulls accompanying the boat as we entered the port. It is quite fascinating to see them play in the boat wind.

With some help from the locals speaking good English, I was in the metro bound to the Airport and checking into the hotel in no time.

picture 147.jpg

Athens – June 30th – 12:30PM – Not the freshest but Mission Accomplished! 🙂

A Blue Cruise Along the Turquoise Coast

Blue Cruise

My cruise along the Mediterranean coast ended today. The boat left Sunday morning from the Finike harbor and arrived this afternoon at the Fethiye harbor. We actually got transferred from Olympos to Finike by bus but I knew this beforehand so it was not a sour surprise.

picture 076.jpg

The gullet was a very nice boat called Suleimanbay with 8 cabins and sleeping space for 14. There were only 8 people on the boat the first day, Erin and Ann (Australians living in London), Stanley and Cecile (French), Sebastien and Marilou (French speaking Canadians) and Natalia (South African). A very nice American couple joined us the second day in Kas. Kind of a strange mix at first glance but it all worked out well as there was a lot of room on the boat to keep everybody content without stepping on each other’s toes.

The boat moved from one beautiful spot along the coast to another during the day. It anchored at the harbor on the 2nd night and at a cool spot the rest of the nights.

When the boat anchored at a nice place, a staircase was lowered to the water level. So, I was able to dive from the boat directly in the water and swim around the boat or even to the shore. I could also ask to be taken to shore by boat if there was something nice to see, which usually required some hiking as well.

When the boat was on the move, I socialized with the rest of the passengers, contemplated the amazing view, sunbathed, read a book, or simply slept.

I can remember a lot of cool moments that made this trip memorable.

Every morning, I would wake up, get on the deck and jump right into the water. It was great; I did not even have to walk to the pool or to the beach.

The second evening, we harbored in Kalkan so that the Ausies could see their team loose against Italy in a nice dive at the last minute. After dinner, Natalia and I checked out the little resort town. It is a very nice place built around the harbor.

picture 085.jpg picture 094.jpg 

On the morning of the third day, we arrived early at a beach located at the end of a valley called the Butterfly valley. Rod had mentioned to me that the place was very nice and I really wanted to check it out. Surprisingly the captain was saying the opposite, not nice, too hot, too far, trying to get us to stay at the boat. However, I had my mind set on going and was ready to swim there even with my shoes on if I needed to. But finally I managed to convince 3 other people to come with me. The captain had no choice but to get us to the shore. I was happy to discover a beautiful white sand beach with not too many constructions on it. The place had a warm feel of community with a garden and a small hotel. The way to the valley was very easy to find and the path was very pretty. It leads you to a lovely waterfall where I took the liberty to shower under it (How cool is that? :)). To add to the magic we were accompanied by beautiful butterflies along the way. Rod was right, the place was just perfect and we had the chance to enjoy it without other people around. Our boat actually left just as the place started to get crowded. The whole setting was amazing and I would not have minded staying there a bit longer. It was definitely better than Olympos. Thinking about it, maybe this is how Olympos used to be when it all started.

picture 103.jpg 

Our next stop was in Olu-Deniz whose lagoon is called the “dead sea” because it is protected by a natural rock formation. After lunch, I swam all the way to the beach with Ann and Erin to check it out. The water was much warmer in the lagoon and the setting was just beautiful. Unfortunately, the beach is fully covered with lounge chairs which is totally the opposite of what we experienced at the Butterfly Valley beach. Still we ended up staying there a bit too long for the taste of the captain who had raised the anchor and was ready to go while we were swimming back. He sent the small boat to get us and we were soon on our way. 

The final stop of the day was in the bay of Saint Nicolas Island. It was a bit disappointing because it was only 3pm and it seemed there wasn’t much to do there. I would have much preferred to have stayed longer in Olu-Deniz. The captain did not give any insight on the history of the island and declined to take us to the shore with the excuse that he was busy working on the anchor system. I guess that might be the reason he left early from Olu-Deniz. To make things worse, it started raining and sadly there was not much to do except dive or swim around the boat. However luck was with us that day as another tour boat anchored close by. It turned out this boat had a water slide on it and we were more than ready to try it out when invited by some Turkish guys. It was quite an experience sliding through the boat which certainly brightened up our day.

picture 130.jpg

On the last morning of the tour, we anchored close to a nice little beach and I decided to swim to the shore. On my way there, I spotted a small inflatable red ball that was drifting on top of the waves. It turned out some little girls had lost it and the waves and the wind drifted the ball too fast for them to be able to seize it. I caught the ball and took it back to the girls who… immediately lost it again :). So, I caught the ball and brought it back one more time (It was quite a fast ball!). Then I left. It turned out the girls had lost it again while I was on the beach but nobody was there this time to catch it. That little ball just wanted to be free!

Overall the cruise was great. However, some things were disappointing or just plain bad.

The program mentioned that the boat carries water toys like snorkeling gear and a windboard but unfortunately they were not available on board. There was a windboard but it was missing the sail and some other parts so it could only serve as a decoration! The captain on the other hand continuously promised he would buy some snorkeling gear at the next harbor but he never did.

Also, I was hoping to do some water sports at the stops but never managed to. Wave ridding and water skiing are forbidden in many places because there were too many tourists to make it viable, and not offered at all in some other places because there were not enough tourists to make it worthwhile. I was thinking to try paragliding in Olu-Deniz but as I mentioned earlier the captain wanted to take off earlier, so I missed the chance. Gokkaya bay is the only place where water skiing is available, but we arrived there too late because of our delayed departure from Finike. It was already dark when we got there :(. Too bad, it would have been a lot of fun to have tried these things.

The captain never sails the boat. He only uses the engine to direct it. It would have been nice to shut the engines down and just sail, as the wind was definitely strong enough to pull us. I guess I have to rent a boat some time and try it myself ;). 

I lost two towels in two days! Yes, I first forgot my travel towel in Olympos and then the towel I had just bought in Kas fell off the boat during the 2nd night! It must be a sign. I don’t know yet what kind, but without doubt it must be one.

And definitely the worst part was the fact that the captain and the cook made advances on the two Ausies during the first evening. The girls were certainly very upset and did not tell me until the next day. But, because of my experiences in the Middle East, I kind of guessed what might have happened when I saw them agitated that night. Very sleazy indeed!

But all these did not really compromise my enjoyment of the trip and the good definitely outweighed the slight bad. I would do it again any time.

At the end of the cruise it started raining, so I did not feel too bad about leaving the boat. I also have a long journey ahead of me so there is no time to look back yet ;).

Not Getting the Hype

One thing I have been looking forward to doing in Turkey is a Blue Cruise. Rod was the first to tell me about it recalling how much fun he had doing one last year. A Blue Cruise is a kind of cruise on board of a Turkish gullet along the Mediterranean or Aegean coasts.

I booked mine while I was in Antalya for 4 days/3 nights departing from Olympos arriving in Fethiye. This Cruise seems to be the one favored by most backpackers and it is also easy to find a cabin on one of the charter boats that cruise this way.

I was departing from Olympos and since the guidebook and some other people were raving about it, I decided to go to Olympos earlier in order to check it out. I had planned to arrive the day before, but because my tour of Aspendos, Perge and Side ended late, I decided to wait until the morning so that I could catch the last 1st round game of France. So I arrived here yesterday morning.

Well, it was probably a good thing.

picture 039.jpg

Olympos is composed of pensions organized around a main dirt road leading to the ancient site of Olympos and its famous beach. The pensions usually offer tree houses and wood cabins with shared bathrooms and showers, as well as restaurants, bars and sometimes nightclubs. It is definitely a backpacker’s hangout with a mixed international and Turkish young crowd ready to party hard. It has a bit of a feel of Dahab actually and you could say it is close to what Dahab was 5-10 years ago. The restaurants have cushioned areas just like in Dahab and you can even spot some cats too!

picture 046.jpg

The comparison for me stops here though. Unlike in Dahab, I did not really get hooked. The beach is great looking but it is a pebble beach and I don’t really like pebble beaches (it hurts my feet ;)). And except for swimming, there is not much else to do. The ruins have not been restored and are not maintained either. I was quite disappointed.

picture 050.jpg

The only interesting thing to see might be the Chimera flames not too far away which you can visit in an evening tour. You reach the flames after a 20 minutes hike in the dark. It is quite fascinating to know the flames have been there for thousands of years. They are weaker than they used to be but still going. If you extinguish them, new ones re-ignite seconds later.

After that, the only thing left to do was drinking a lot and getting pissed. I think I am over that so it did not cut it for me. I guess I am becoming too old for these kinds of things!

Even so, it was only when the whole pension became muddy in the evening, after water spilled in between the cabins, making walking around not so inviting, that I was set on my not so crazy opinion of this spot. Still, people are very friendly and the place does have a nice hippie feel to it.

I am quite happy to have stayed only one night though and to leave now for my cruise. Hoping to have a lot of fun.

Better Start Studying Mandarin

Pıctuıes 396.jpg 

I have been staying in Antalya for the last 2 days. Antalya is a very nice and charming old town. A lot of older houses have been transformed into pensions and hotels making it a heaven for travelers and backpackers.

Pıctuıes 390.jpg

The first morning, I walked around the old town checking out the main sights and randomly wandering through the narrow streets looking for an internet cafe or a way to the old port. I found the old harbor, tucked away in a fold of the landscape. It was such a nice place, so I spent some time there contemplating a very pretty Turkish gullet.

Late afternoon, I went to visit the Antalya Regional Museum (sometimes referred to as the Antalya Archeological Museum) which the guidebook categorizes as not be missed. I was not disappointed. The museum presents the information in the form of exhibition rooms each with their own theme, a nice change from the chronological order used in most of the museums I have visited on this trip.

I really liked the exposition on potteries that first explains how the potteries were made and then presents several types explaining their use and evolution via several great ancient examples.

The second theme was the Statues, showcasing fine marble statues of major Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, brought mainly from the ancient sites of Perge and Aspendos.

 Pıctuıes 400.jpg

The third theme was Sarcophagus. It showcased several Greek and Roman sarcophaguses. However, I really liked the Hercules sarcophagus that represents the 12 labors of Hercules. It is very well done. A rare dog sarcophagus was a funny sight proving one more time that the affection of people for their pets is not something new.

The second day, I reluctantly joined an organized tour to visit the ancient Roman sites of Perge, Aspendos, and Side, as well as some not so important waterfall. I decided to go with the tour because it is difficult and expensive to visit these sites on your own. This is when I really missed Egypt where I could just hire a taxi for the whole day for less than $20 and go anywhere I wanted.

Some people from my hotel had joined the tour as well. This is when I first realized they were all Asians; 4 Taiwanese and 2 HK citizens. Having met them before made the tour a bit more fun.

picture 020.jpg

Perge has large remains of an important ancient city that houses a Roman theatre, a stadium, a bath house, as well as agora and several temples. Not as amazing as Jerash or Baalbek but still interesting.

picture 025.jpg

Aspendos is mostly known for its theatre and it is the only thing we saw. It is definitely an impressive theatre. Like many other ancient theatres in the region, it houses its own festival every summer. I read there is also a fine Aqueduct there but we did not get a chance to see it.

picture 032.jpg 

Side is a nice city by the seashore with remains from its glorious past including a theatre (with its own festival. Surprise!) and the ruins of two magnificent temples to Athena and Apollo made out of nice marble, also located on the shore.

Two interesting things happened during the tour.

First, in between the visits from Aspendos to Side, we ended up at a, guess what, … Jewelry factory! I did get upset about it because I had managed to go through Egypt without getting dragged into a papyrus or alabaster shop and there I was, dragged involuntarily into a jewelry store in Turkey! Oh well, I calmed down and tried to at least enjoy the free A/C by looking for the cooler spots in the place. I also did my best to get a little interested in the “tour” but in place of being informative, the “tour” carried no content except the “guide” on accepted forms of payments and currencies. I guess they would even accept your soul if you were so inclined :p. Come on, if you tout a visit as a factory tour, at least provide something interesting and educative. Gladly, nobody in the group bought anything so we were out quite fast and could continue with the tour.

picture 037.jpg 

Second, during the visit to Side, the guide left us on our own and I ended up hanging out with the Taiwanese girls Jean, Jennifer, and Vicki. It was funny to see the touts trying to get the girls’ attention by talking in Japanese or Korean but never in Chinese. This tour and the fact that I was accompanied by 7 Taiwanese (the 3 girls + 4 guys that were going to Olympos for a day trip) on my way to the bus station the day after, made me realize that the next wave of tourists is definitely coming from China and Taiwan. This new wave is starting out with less expensive countries like Egypt, Turkey and Peru as well as South-East Asia, but it is clear it might soon turn into a massive flooding all over the world. Well, I am not sure the tourism infrastructure is ready for it… Start Studying Mandarin guys.

New Pictures

Jordan

Yes, the day has come!

I uploaded a load of pictures covering all the time since I left Egypt almost 1 1/2 month ago!

So, go to the pictures page and enjoy these pictures of Jordan, Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey. 

I will go back and edit some of the older posts asap to put these pictures in context.

In the mean time, I hope you like them.