Turkey – Saklikent Gorge & Fethiye & Kas & Olympos & Antalya

Our second week in Turkey was a busy one! We left Pamukkale and headed straight for the amazing Saklikent Gorge, which is Turkey’s longest at 20 km. Here we donned waterproof sandals to hike into the gorge which was absolutely spectacular. Well worth a visit! Since Fethiye was a nearby day trip, we hopped on local transport to check out its famous fish market (buy your fish directly from a vendor and a nearby restaurant will cook it for you…absolutely delicious and very affordable). Next up was Kas in southwest Turkey. The lovely Mediterranean Sea beckoned, so we had to oblige with a boat trip to the sunken city of Kekova. From Kas we went onward to Olympos to enjoy its lovely pebble beach and check out the nearby Lycian ruins. Since we had a free day, we opted to take public transport to check out Antalya’s Old Town, which definitely deserves a quick visit. Time is flying by…we have less than 2 weeks left in Turkey before heading over to Iran.

30 April – After a late breakfast we departed at 10 AM for another short drive to Saklikent Gorge. It is in a remote area near Fethiye but well worth the visit. Once again we drive into another awesome campsite (Saklikent Gorge Club) that has a pool, zip lines, river tubes, and instant access to the gorge. We placed our tent right next to the river bank which was perfect for lulling us to sleep next to the gush of the river. While setting up our tents, Kate informed us that we were offered a free welcome drink of our choosing at the bar…what a great way to be received! Kevin went for a walk into the gorge right away but was back within 10 minutes telling us that entry was 6 Lira but a guide was required, which costs an additional 70 lira. There were even posted signs indicating that a guide was mandatory. Kate checked with the campsite staff and they said to ignore the touts and just go it alone, as guides are not required. However, they did strongly advise us to wear sturdy shoes that could take a soaking or else rent their jelly shoes instead. We opted for our Tevas which were build to handle the water. Robby volunteered to carry the truck GoPro and off we went with a group of about 8. After paying the gorge fee, we had to walk along a wooden platform that ends at an open area. Sure enough, there were signs posted everywhere stating a guide was mandatory. However, we just climbed down to the river along a rock cascade and waded across the river via a security rope. Any thoughts we had about staying dry immediately vanished as we were waist deep crossing the initial portion of the gorge! After the initial crossing, the rest of the river is fairly shallow with very few rapids, and there are sections where you can walk along the ground instead of wading slowly through the river. The gorge narrowed and became much more picturesque the further along we went. It also became rougher with several spots that have rapids in waist deep water. Gill was the first victim of the rapids and Robby was fortunate to capture her spill on the GoPro. In fact, he made have inadvertently caused the spill since he was distracting her as she attempted to climb a slippery section of rock! Luckily, Gill popped right back up and wasn’t seriously injured so we had a good laugh and continued.

Anthony broke his foot here when he visited several years ago which put an end to his trip, so walking the gorge can be quite risky! While a guide is not required, we could see why hiring one is strongly recommended. Someone with local knowledge would be able to tell us the best route to take up the 2 km gorge rather than us fumbling about on our own. It was obvious when we reached the turnaround point as it was impossible to venture further without technical gear. Overall, the gorge is really impressive and well worth the effort! Back at the campsite, we had time for showers and dinner before going to the bar for our first group party. Kate’s goal was to get our driver (Kyle) drunk since we’d be camping here for two nights and he didn’t have to drive tomorrow morning. Everyone was in good spirits having a couple of drinks followed by a bit of dancing. DJ Gill was busy selecting music as the bartender didn’t want to. Things were going great until Kate decided to buy everyone a shot of tequila. It was some pretty nasty stuff but hey, it was free! Poor Helen fell victim to the overeager bartender (Barbaros) who wanted to swing dance with her. He was pretty wasted and it became obvious once he tripped near the fire pit and sent Helen tumbling down in a stream. She was concerned about her back (previous injury) and was pretty sure she had landed in the fire pit and was begging for someone to douse her with water. A tipsy Becky thought it was a great idea to tip the rest of her vodka mix onto Helen’s back to put out the fire…lets just say the night was a pretty crazy one! Kate’s goal of getting Kyle drunk didn’t quite succeed, but she sure did manage to get a few of the rest of us drunk! The party continued until around 2 am before we finally called it a night.

01 May – At breakfast it appeared there were a few with sore heads from last night’s shenanigans. Some of the non-party people complained that the music was quite loud into the wee hours. Kyle said that he had a bit of a headache, so perhaps Kate was partially successful in her goal. Since today was a free day, we opted to check out Fethiye while some of the others decided to float down the river. Fethiye is just over an hour away on public bus. Cook group 1 (Connie, Dya and Gunji) had to do cook group shopping, so they were keen on finding the market. We just wanted to see what Fethiye had to offer. There was a tourist information office near the marina (closed), so we opted to wing it. First stop was the marina (fantastic yachts), followed by ice-cream and shopping (we bought a couple of havianas flip-flops). Then we climbed up to the old fort for some nice views over the city before hiking back down and visiting the Tomb of Amyntas and other Lycian rock tombs. The mid day heat was stronger than we have had thus far so we figured it was time we dodged the heat and went back to the market for fresh fish. The rest of the group had just finished a lovely lunch but they did have to dispute the bill. We wandered around the fish market and checked out the massive selection before finally settling on 2 medium sized sea bass (25 Lira). The fish were taken directly to a restaurant where for 6 Lira each, they whipped up a delicious lunch of fresh bread, garlic butter, green salad and grillled sea bass. Amazing lunch and we left feeling stuffed and extremely satisfied. Fethiye is awesome! We briefly considered visiting Kayakoy or Oludeniz, but we felt really lazy after lunch and decided to just chill back at the campsite. After dinner everyone headed to bed fairly early since we had a big night last night and no one was in the mood for more partying. We took advantage of the power outlet to charge our stuff and get caught up on some admin stuff.

02 May – After breakfast, we left Saklikent and drove towards Kas with a quick stop at Kaputas Beach. Kate drew ‘OASIS’ in the sand and a bunch of us formed the letters “OASIS” with our bodies. The turquoise water looked amazing, and Anthony couldn’t resist so he stripped down and went for a swim. Helen was a bit cheeky and stole his clothes but felt bad and returned them after a quick laugh. We drove onwards to Kas and camped at Club Kas Kamping, which is located just a few minutes walk from town and right on the beach. We happily discovered that the campsite had a washing machine (free) in the kitchen area, so we did our first non-hand-washing load of laundry since the trip started. Becky had to do cook group shopping with Ichi and Andy so Robby had a quick walk around town. Afterwards, we both wandered into town together to check it out, joining Connie, Ichi and Andy. The weather threatened to downpour but that didn’t prevent Ichi and Robby from hiking up to a lookout point high above. Meanwhile, Becky joined Andy and Connie for a bit of window shopping where Andy picked up a nice silver bracelet and Becky snagged a Turkish towel for 10 Lira. Back at the campsite, cook group 2 (SCUBA Gill, Gill and Anthony) whipped up an amazing chicken fajita dinner. Yum! After dinner, several people went into town for the bar scene, but we enjoyed a bottle of wine by the seaside along with a fabulous night view of Kas.

03 May – This morning we had a boat trip scheduled for 10 am. After breakfast, we walked into town to stock up on drinks and snacks before meeting our boat captain, Captain Abdullah, by the waterfront. Kate wanted to join us but had been told that the boat could not accommodate additional passengers so she sadly waved goodbye to us by the harbor as we pulled out to sea. It was a bit of a chilly ride out, so drinking started early (10:30 am) to stay warm. Around noon, we anchored near an old marina close to the sunken city of Kekova for a swim and lunch. Captain Abdullah’s wife put on an amazing lunch spread and we ate till we were fat and happy. Delicious! After lunch we cruised around the sunken city of Kekova, and then over to Simena Island with a fort on the hilltop and tombs scattered along the waterfront. On the boat ride back it was getting rainy and cold, but the rain broke just as we made it back to Kas marina. Anthony and Lars decided to join us on our hike back up to the lookout point which provided awesome views of Kas, especially with the dramatic cloud cover. Afterwards, we returned to camp for Becky to be back in time for cook group duties. Just as they started, the rain came and cook group had to put up a tarp over the kitchen. It was the first time the tarp had been erected, so there was a steep learning curve! Thank goodness Kyle and Kate knew exactly what to do. Since the rain was intermittent throughout the night, everyone scattered to their tents after dinner and called it a night.

04 May – The rain continued throughout the night and was heaviest just as Becky had to get up to prepare breakfast. Urgh! We waited for a lull in the rain, and then hurriedly broke down our tent…it is soaking wet but hopefully can air out tonight. Today’s drive along the coast was very scenic with all the turquoise hued waters and lovely sandy beaches constantly drawing everyone’s attention. We stopped at Demre and had about an hour to visit both Myra and St Nicolas Church. Both sites were over priced at a steep 20 lira each so we just took a photo from the outside and moved on. An hour here simply isn’t enough time to try to see the sights. At St Nicholas Church, Robby tried to walk around an empty restaurant next to the church and one of the security guys tried to tell him that he couldn’t go around there. Kevin got into it with the security guard, and we just ignored him as all we wanted to do was get a better look at the outside of the church. The security guard was pissed that we refused to buy an entrance ticket to check out the church…sorry buddy but you don’t control the property next to the church! Back on Habibi, she took a turn inland and up into the mountains. The temperature dropped quite a bit and everyone bundled up into warm clothing. By mid-afternoon, we were close to our destination (Saban Tree Houses). Poor Gunji was having a pee emergency and couldn’t wait any longer…he apparently didn’t get the message about not waiting to the last minute to buzz for a pee stop. Even though we were only about 2 minutes from our destination, Kyle finally took mercy on Gunji and stopped to let him relieve himself. Kate had told us we would stay at ‘tree house’ bungalows at Saban Tree Houses, but we first we had a quick salad lunch before getting a briefing on local activities. Then we were shown to our bungalows – not tree houses! The bungalows all had private baths inside, which was a free upgrade that we did not expect. Most of the group decided to go together to the beach. Entry was 7.50 lira for 10 entries to both the ruins and beach. Becky unhappily discovered that she forgot her swimsuit in the shower at the last campsite. Then Helen said that she had forgotten hers too. Lars, Robby, Kate and Gill were the only ones brave enough to get into the water. The wind picked up like crazy and SCUBA Gill’s knickers were blown in front of Anthony. He did the only gallant thing he could do which was throw a heavy rock on them to prevent them from getting blown any further. It was way too windy to enjoy the beach anymore so most of the group headed to a beachfront bar, but we opted to explore the ruins (to include the tomb of Marcus Aurelius). After sightseeing, Becky used a little bargaining and picked up a new swimsuit for 50 lira at one of the small shops outside the entrance to the ruins. Back at the bungalows we had an awesome dinner (soup, salad, awesome eggplant & yogurt, veggies, rice and schnitzel). After dinner everyone was too stuffed to go see the eternal flame at Mount Chimaera and decided to postpone their visit until tomorrow night.

05 May – Just like dinner, the kitchen crew at Saban put on an amazing breakfast at 0900. We had both a cold plate (veggies, cheese & spreads) and a hot plate (eggs and a pastry). After breakfast we caught the 10 AM bus to the main road and then immediately got a bus to Antalya. From the bus terminal, we took the tram to the old town of Kaleici and made a loop around to all the main sites in the old town (Hadrian’s gate, wandering down the streets and seeing the old houses, old mosque, park, tower on the water front, old port, fluted mosque, and clock tower). Just as we visiting the fluted mosque, it started to rain and after the clock tower we ducked into a doner place for lunch and the rain really started coming down. While we wrapped up lunch, the rain lightened up so we went back to get more photos of Hadrian’s gate. There was a band starting to warm up, but it started to rain again so we called it quits and headed towards the tram. It was a good call because by the time we got to the tram, the rain started coming even harder than ever. We made it back to the bus terminal and took the bus back to the main road stop outside Olympos. From there we waited about a half hour for the next bus down into the village. While waiting we met an American (Derek) and started talking about travel. He ended up following us to Saban Tree House and staying there. We made it just in time for dinner and it was awesome once again. Some of the group was heading out at 1900 to see the eternal flame but since we had already seen it on a previous trip, we chillaxed in our bungalow.

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