Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Middle East Travelogue #3
Dear Friends and Family,
Well, the last time I sat down to write there had been an incident in Jordan, and now there has been an attack on the US Embassy in Syria, another one of our destinations! I'm glad they are getting this out of their systems before we get there! We enter Syria on the 17th.
I had intended to write this send it a few days ago but when we went to the Internet place in Dalyan, we couldn't get on Yahoo! So if this is a little too long, that is why. I also have to get this written and sent quickly because in a short time we are meeting Jan & Lorna to go back to the bus station where we are catching an overnight (ugh) bus to Cappadocia tonight. Nine hours sleeping on a bus - not one of our favorites...
We seem to be spending a LOT of time on buses, as a matter of fact. The public buses are nice, mostly air conditioned, and until yesterday, not too bad. But yesterday we had a 9 hour trip from Dalyan to Olympos which took about 6 hours longer than it needed to because of all the stops. This is the BIG disadvantage to having such a small group. If our group was bigger, the company would rent a minibus for the group and then it would go direct. There was kind of a funny incident on our first public bus. We were the first on at Pamukkale so we got the front seats with great views. Then we went to the next town where a bunch of people got on and it turned out that there were assigned seats so the bus guy made just about everybody shuffle until he got us in the right seats.
Pamukkale was one of our enjoyable stops on this tour. It means cotton castle and it refers to the white hillsides and pools caused by thermal springs. We stayed in a cute pension right near them and could easily walk up the hill to them. The biggest problem was that once you get on the limestone deposits, you have to take off your shoes and walk barefoot. There were areas we had to cross with lots of little rocks which hurt our tender feet. The deposits themselves were kind of smooth but sometimes had hard ripples in them. There are lots of pools but many are now dried out because the water flow has changed. There were so many people there that it was hard to walk uphill with all of them coming down from where the buses park. One lady ran Elaine into a tight spot and she hit her toes so hard that she now had a totally black and blue toe which looks like it is broken. Luckily, she can still walk if she uses her sandals. When we got to the top where most of the people were sitting around in the pools, they were nearly all Germans. One thing we have noticed in our travels is when you combine warmth and water, there WILL be Germans there! It was very hot the day we were there, which was kind of a bummer because besides seeing the pools and terraces, we wanted to walk through the ruins of Hieropolis at the top. This was a Roman city where people used to go for the curative waters of the thermal pools. It was finally abandoned because of all the earthquakes - they got tired of rebuilding it. The ruins were in pretty good shape and walking through the necropolis, where there were interesting sarcophagi, was the best but too darn hot to do it for long.
From there we took a bus to a coastal town called Goçuk where we boarded our gület. This is a wooden Turkish yacht about 70 feet long and which sleeps about 15. Supposedly we were going to cruise the Turquoise Coast, which is what they call the southern coast of Turkey because the water is such a beautiful color. Well, we motored over to a nearby cove where we tied up for a while and snorkeled. The equipment was crappy, and the area where we snorkeled had only a few sea urchins, some yellow sponges, sea grass, about 4 kinds of small fish, and one worm with lots of legs like a centipede. Luckily, the water was pretty warm and refreshing. Of course Lorna didn't swim or snorkel because she is so reclusive that she has not brought a bathing suit. In fact, she doesn't wear pants or shorts either - just long skirts, long sleeved tops, usually a safari jacket, a big floppy brimmed hat, and thick glasses. She reminds us of tales about Victorian ladies traveling. Anyway, Jan, Elaine and I enjoyed it. Then we moored for the night in another cove where the crew fixed us a nice chicken dinner and we enjoyed eating on deck. The temperature was perfect and we stayed up late playing cards with Jan and Mehmet, our captain. Of course we slept well with the quietness of the setting and the balmy temps.
The next day we moved on after breakfast to a resort town called Dalyan. This is a popular place for English people and prices were even quoted there in pounds. Here the big draw is a beach where loggerhead turtles come to lay their eggs, some stupendous rock tombs carved right into the cliff face overlooking the town and across the river, and an ancient ruined city called Caunos. The first evening we were there we waited until late afternoon for a cooler temperature and then we 4 took a boat across the river and walked down to the rock tombs and climbed up there. It was steep and there was lots of loose rock so it was treacherous but we made it. Getting down was the hardest. There wasn't much in them, so actually they were better seen from a distance and we didn't need to climb them at all! Then we walked down to the ruins of Caunos and poked around there but darkness was coming so we had to hurry back to the river where our boatman was waiting. This area has a big estuary because of the river and the silting up of that area from it, so there were mosquitoes for the first time. I had some bites by the time we got back even though I had bug stuff on. The next day Jan, Elaine and I went on an excursion where they took us up the river to some mineral baths and mud pots. There we soaked for a bit, then went into the mud pools and got totally covered in mud, which is supposed to be excellent for the skin. Wow, did we look silly with all that mud all over us, plus it was a hoot to be in there because we were so buoyant we were floating on top of the mud pool. Luckily, they had showers to wash off all the mud, although we found out when we got back to the hotel and showered that we were still wearing some of it under our suits.
Next we went in the boat to the lake for a fresh water swim, then had lunch at a riverside restaurant of typical Turkish dishes. It was a buffet and the food was OK but not great. Then we went through the estuary which was covered in water reeds and bamboo all the way to the Turtle Beach. Here there were umbrellas and lounges to rent but we just kicked back on the sand, took a swim in the warm Aegean waters, and enjoyed the sun for 2 hours. It was a fun day and we think we look younger from the mud bath but who knows!
While we were walking in this town we were passed by a parade of cars following a pickup truck which had about 10 boys in the back, all between the ages of 7-10 I would guess, and all dressed up like little princes. The cars were blowing their horns and making a fuss. It turns out that this day these boys were going to be circumcised and this was a big event. They give them gifts and make them feel special; I suppose it helps with the pain. They say that after that now they a men. Yah, right...
Permit me to make a few more comments about the culture. Many of the older women wear traditional dress, which is either a long and baggy flowered skirt, with a long sleeved top and a scarf which covers all their hair, or in place of the skirt they wear big baggy pants. The younger women seem to be wearing mostly western clothes, and often, just look like women or girls in our country. It is common to see three generations of women together with only the grandmother wearing traditional dress.
The biggest pain here is being around all the people who smoke like fiends. For example, they even let them smoke in the Internet places and I had a guy next to me a few minutes ago who was about smoking me out. Nearly everyone smokes and there are butts everywhere as well as lots of air pollution. I'll bet they will have lots of health problems coming up. The young people are mostly very thin and fit looking. If anyone is chunky or fat, they are usually 40 or older. Childhood obesity is almost non-existent. This despite the fact that they eat massive quantities of bread at every meal and round bready things called simit in between!
Last night we had an interesting event at Olympos. On Mt. Olympos there is an area called the Chimera where gas escapes from the ground and fires light there spontaneously. So we went up there after dinner, in the dark, and hiked about a mile up a steep trail to see these. Took some pictures and then hiked back down, arriving back at our treehouse camp at midnight. This is a backpacker area and today we hiked through the ruins to the beach. We could see why they stay there - the beach was beautiful and the area is too as there are lots of pine forests around. Wish we could have been there earlier yesterday to enjoy the beach too.
I've got to get this sent so we can get back to the bus station. Sending huge hugs to everyone.
Love, Mary & Elaine


CaliforniaGrammy said...

Geese! Stay away from the damn terrorists! What an adventure you two are having . . . truly awesome writing, I really love reading it.

CaliforniaGrammy said...

We're packing up getting ready to meet all the folks at Winchester Bay . . . just won't be the same without you guys!

Laura said...

Miss you Elaine and Mary. We too are getting ready to go to Winchester Bay on Monday. We are in Florence right now. The Sekiu fishing trip was terrible. The only ones getting fish was the Indians at 10 bucks a fish.
Bye for now, be safe...love, laura and gordon