A Travellerspoint blog

September 2010

Ephesus & Saklıkent Gorge - Waist-Deep in More Ruins

Turkey

sunny 24 °C
View Around the world on joshuag's travel map.

As I eluded to in my last post, I departed Olympos with two Aussies, Scottie and Charlotte, on our way to Ölüdeniz near Fethiye. Our main reason for heading there was because it was a good base to visit the nearby Saklıkent Gorge (or Canyon).

Our first night in Ölüdeniz was very quiet and involved a couple of beers, a game or two of table tennis and our discovery of the most delicious chicken kebabs in Turkey - actually I had got my Turkish words for "chicken" ("tavuk") and "wrap" ("durum") mixed up so, in each of the three occasions we ate there, I confidently offered to order for all of us by saying, "Three chicken tavuk lütfen!". So in effect I was asking for "Three Chicken chickens please!"... The women at the fast food joint were so nice they held back from laughing at us.

Early the next morning we set off on our trip to the canyon 50 km to the east of Ölüdeniz. The canyon is 18 kms long and in parts is 300 meters deep. Only about 4 km of the canyon is accessible by foot and it can only be done during summer. The very beginning of the canyon is narrow and the water is too deep to walk through so the only way in is through a wooden walk way bolted to the side of the cliff.

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The path just past the entrance to Saklıkent Gorge

Once past the deep and narrow entrance, the gorge widened a little and we passed a small but violent waterfall that fed water to the last part of the canyon. After this waterfall there wasn't as much water flowing through the main canyon but the water became extremly murky, which is what made walking up the canyon a challenge. Most parts were knee deep but others were just above the waist level and there was no way to tell which parts were which (a walking stick would have been handy).

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The shallow part at the beginning of Saklıkent Gorge

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Treading carefully in Saklıkent Gorge

Two seconds after I took the above photo, the girl with the yellow top lost her sandal and it floated slowly away from all of us. She pleaded for someone to run after it and stop it but we were all just as far away from it as she was and we didn't know how deep it got so we stood there with the old "don't look at me" looks on our faces. Her boyfriend standing on the bank on the other side didn't seem to try too hard to go after it either. We didn't stick around long enough to see if it was rescued or not. The three of us were all wearing snug wet-socks that we hired to protect our feet so we weren't in danger of loosing ours.

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The incredible looking Saklıkent Gorge

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One of several precarious looking rocks in Saklıkent Gorge

We were never in much danger of being swept away as the canyon alternated between deep and shallow points every so often, but we were always in danger of getting our cameras wet if we accidentally stepped into a deep spot so it was quite slow going. Most of it was quite easy, but certain areas were quite tricky and they involved climbing over boulders or walking around the edges of the canyon hugging the cliff side where it wasn't so deep.

Eventually, after about 2-3 kms, we reached a waterfall and although we could have continued physically, going underneath it would have resulted in the end of our cameras as well as everything else we were carrying, so at this point we decided to turn back.

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The waterfall at the end of our walk through Saklıkent Gorge

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Charlotte and Scottie at the waterfall in Saklıkent Gorge

There were local guides walking up and down the canyon helping people navigate their way through tricky areas. Inevitably, one of them tried to guide us without us asking for his help. I was a bit reluctant to accept his help because at that point we were managing quite well and we knew ulitmately it would lead to demands for money. As it turned out, he did turn out to be quite helpful when we reached parts where it got deeper and the current became much stronger. He obviously knew the river bed like the back of his hand because he knew exactly where we needed to step and he didn't even hesitate as he strolled through the area like a cheetah. On our return he also took us over a large boulder which we had previously waded around on our own with the water lapping up to our chests.

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On way back through Saklıkent Gorge - We used the guide's knee and hand as steps to get past this large boulder

A few hours after we started, we were back at the entrance to the gorge with a bit of time to spare before the next public minibus departed for Ölüdeniz. Once back in Ölüdeniz, we indulged in another "Chicken chicken", before we embarked on a long walk down the valley to the beach so we could catch the sunset.

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View of Ölüdeniz Beach from top of valley - I have to stop doing that pose, it's getting old now

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Me, Scottie and Charlotte at Ölüdeniz Beach

The actual town of Ölüdeniz wasn't much to write home about, in fact it didn't feel like we were in Turkey at all. The town is full of British tourists, lots of families and plenty of middle-aged men who paraded around proudly with no shirts on, their pasty white pot bellies hanging over their too-short shorts. Even the Union Jack was flying more prevalently than the Turkish flag throughout the town. All the stores, restaurants, bars and hotels had English signs and the restaurant menus were dominated by items like steak, chips and mushy peas - I guess the locals are willing to put up with this pseudo-invasion in exchange for those precious tourist dollars (or should I say pounds).

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A rather contrived action pose during one of our table tennis matches at a bar in Ölüdeniz

Early the next day Scottie and Charlotte sadly returned to London (where they are working) and I jumped on a bus to Selçuk in the Izmir province on the west coast of Turkey.

Even though Selçuk has its fair share of tourists, it doesn't feel like they've overrun the place. The cafes were full of locals (mainly men) playing backgammon and oKey (a traditional Turkish board game) and most of the people out walking around appeared to be Turkish. This was surprising considering that this is the town at the door step to what once was the second largest city in the Roman empire (after Rome).

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Fountain and Aquaduct (with stalks nesting on top) in the center of Selçuk

The day I chose to visit Ephesus (also known as Efes) was almost unbareably hot and the crowds were out in droves, but it was still well worth it. The amazing columned facade at the Library of Celsus was easily the most impressive structure. The Great Theatre would have been just as amazing had part of it not been obstructed by the ubiquitous cranes, fences and scaffolding I keep on coming across during my trip. I tell you, with all the scaffolding I've seen ruining the vistas of major tourist attractions, I predict that it should be an excellent time to go backpacking in around 2012.

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The Great Theatre in Ephesus - only by the use of a clever angle and on-the-fly cropping was I able to obscure the crane and fencing to one side of it

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The amazing Library of Celsus in Ephesus

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Curetes street leading to the Library of Celsus from the Upper Agora in Ephesus

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Stone relief in Curetes street, Ephesus

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Odeion (Small Theatre) taken from Upper Agora, Ephesus

After Ephesus, I visited the Monument of St. John which was on top of a small hill near the site of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, namely, the Temple of Artemis, built circa 550 BC. In fact from the walls around the monument of St. John, you could get a decent view of the remnants of this ancient wonder. Unfortunately, little more than a single column is still standing... I guess that's better than nothing.

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If you look hard enough in the center of the photo, you can see the last remaining column of Temple of Artemis (one of original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) - view from Monument of St. John, Selçuk

The Monument of St. John is supposed to be where St. John, Jesus's favourite disciple (or one could say, his main hommie), came on a holiday sometime between 37 and 48 AD (or it was a pilgrimage, it's something like that anyway). It's also the place where he was supposedly buried and also legend has it that when he came here, he was acompanied by the "Virgin" Mary.

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Monument (Basilica) of St. John, Selçuk

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My reflection (I'm such a poser) in glass barrier of tomb in Monument of St. John, Selçuk

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Tomb of St. John, Selçuk

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Basilica of St. John, Selçuk

I was leaving Selçuk the next day on a sleeper bus so I had the entire day to continue exploring, but after all the walking I'd been doing on the previous few days, I could only muster the strength to go to visit the Ephesus museum followed by a trip to a shady park were I lay on the grass, relaxing, watching life go by (right next to a big dried dog turd which I didn't notice until I got up and stepped on it).

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Various statues in Epheus Museum in Selçuk

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Statue of Fertility Goddess Artemis with rows of egg-like breasts in Ephesus Museum, Selçuk

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Model of Temple of Artemis (one of original Seven Wonders of the World) in Ephesus Museum

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Night time view of Aquaduct in Selçuk as I walked to the otogar (bus station)

While I was travelling around Turkey I had noticed that in most otogars (bus stations) there were what seemed like feverish celebrations with music and dancing. I found out later that they were all send-offs to all the new military recruits (it is compulsory for every male from 18 to 41 to serve up to 15 months in the military). There must have been a whole bunch from Selçuk being conscripted because the day I left it was mayhem at the otogar with lots of Turkish flags, drums, trumpets and singing.

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Farewell celebrations to some young military recruits at Selçuk otogar

And so, I myself said farewell to Selçuk also. My next stop would become one of my favourite cities in this little journey of mine.

Posted by joshuag 10:55 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey ephesus selcuk efes saklikent saklikent_gorge artemis st._john saklıkent_canyon temple_of_artemis Comments (0)

Olympos - Tree Houses in the Mediterranean Paradise

Turkey

sunny 25 °C
View Around the world on joshuag's travel map.

I finally made it to the Mediterranean coast, and what better place to dip my first toe in the water but in Olympos, an ancient city dating back to the 2nd century BC. It was invaded and settled by several groups until the Romans conquered it in 78 BC. This means there are plenty of Roman ruins through out the valley and most of them lie within an open air museum located between the beach and the town of Olympos. Not that Olympos is much of a town, it consists mostly of a single main road running through a steep valley. Along side the road is a small stream which runs completely dry for a large part of the year. On the other side of this road you can find a long row of pensions (guest houses) and a sprinkling of small general stores here and there.

It took three buses to get to Olympos from Cappadocia but it was well worth it. As soon as the last minibus started making its way down the winding road down to the valley of Olympos I knew it was going to be hard to leave this place.

I arrived at Saban Pension where I had booked three nights based on the recommendation of a Dutch guy I met in Göreme. Saban describes itself as a tree house pension catering for people who want to relax amongst the peaceful surroundings. This is in contrast to several other bigger pensions there which attract the "young party people". It was perfect for me because for the first time on my trip I was beginning to feel a little jaded. The tree houses weren't really tree houses, more like cabins on stilts "amongst" the trees, not that this mattered to me because the surroundings were beautiful and I chose to stay on a ground level bungalow with an ensuite thinking I'd move to a tree house on my second or third night.

The pension is owned and run by three siblings, Meral (the sister) and her two brothers Ali and Hussein and they were some of the nicest hosts I'd come across on my trip, especially Meral who looked after me so well during my stay.

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Some of the tree houses and bungalows at Saban Pension in Olympos

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The view from my bungalow at Saban Pension

It felt like I was at a school camp but without the annoying children, actually for that matter there weren't any annoying adults either. It was the end of the low season so there weren't that many people staying there. The place oozed of relaxation with scattered çadras (raised wooden booths with cushions), picnic tables and hammocks nestled amongst the trees - not to mention that the beach was only a five minute stroll down the road.

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Relaxing in a çadra at Saban Pension - My table tennis skills vastly improved by the time I left Olympos, I even got the hang of the Asian style (chopsticks) grip

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The stream that runs through Olympos

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The river mouth that meets the Mediterranean sea

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Part of the beach at Olympos near the river mouth

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Looking back inland along the river from one of the hill top Roman forts

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View of the bay at Olympos from the Roman fort

There was lots of interesting wildlife in the area, including lots of lizards, frogs, tortuses, sea turtles and almost translucent spiders the size of small rodents, including one that decided my bungalow was a nice warm place to stay one night. Strangely there weren't many birds around which you'd expected in such an isolated forest environment. On most nights for a period of about 15 minutes just after sundown, a swarm of slow flying insects descended on the valley, they didn't bite but they were attracted to sweet smelling objects like drying washing or recently shampooed hair (luckily for me I was quite lazy at doing laundry and shampoo is a foreign concept to me).

Olympos has a fine pebble beach and even though it was extremely fine pebbles, in places near the shore-line they were quite large and it was usually impossible to make a graceful exit from the water. Though it was quite funny to see the tough muscly guys exit the water stumbling and sometimes squealing like little girls. During the week the beach was nice and peaceful, but in the weekends the crowds exploded as it was a very popular holiday destination for Turkish teenagers.

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Relaxing at the peaceful beach in Olympos

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Some of the Roman ruins at Olympos

One of the best things about Saban pension was the food; I'd go as far to say it was the best food I'd had on my trip so far. Because Olympos is so isolated there are no restaurants therefore dinner was included by most if not all of the pensions in Olympos. Meral was the genius behind the menu and along with her cook and small army of helpers, they prepared a delicious spread each and every night.

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Queue for dinner at Saban Pension - the food was absolutely delicious

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The after dinner bon fire at Saban Pension

Olympos was also a great place to meet people because instead of the situation you get in a large city where everyone from a hostel goes out all day visiting distant sight-seeing spots, at Olympos there's a campsite atmosphere and aside from going to the beach or wandering around the ancient ruins, a popular activity was to hang out at the pension and relax with a few cold Efes (a popular Turkish beer). Everything about the place was telling me to stay so I kept on extending my stay by an extra night. By the time I'd been there over a week, Meral just told me I was welcome to stay for as long as I liked and for me to just give her notice the night before I was ready to leave.

So many good people came and went while I stayed there, there were virtually no days where I didn't have someone to hang out with and if there weren't any other guests to play with, I just hung out with Meral drinking Turkish coffee.

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Paxton (a fellow programmer and all round good guy from Canada), Paul (South Africa), Tianca & Cambi (Aussie twins - could be the other way around) and me after dinner at Saban Pension. Paul, Cambi and Tianca were travelling together - they were the first people I met in Olympos. Paxton stayed there for quite a while too and we hung out for the best part of a week.

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Paxton, Paul and Tianca smoking some sheesha in a çadra

One night when Paxton, an Irish guy and I went to a different pension for a change of scenery (the bar had closed at Saban). There we met a bunch of crazy drunken Koreans and a lovely Turkish girl called Ayşegül who was there with two friends from the UK. I found out she was a sports referee who amongst other things, does marshalling for the Turkish Formula 1 Grand Prix. For me it's unusual to meet people who also follow Formula 1, let alone one who is female and never before had I met someone who actually works at the events! Needless to say I bored her with endless questions about her job. At the time I was toying with the idea of going to the Grand Prix in Istanbul so we exchanged contact info so we could perhaps meet at the race.

On my second week there two nice Kiwi girls, Eve and Caroline, turned up at the pension and naturally we ended up hanging out for a few days. They were the first Kiwis I'd actually spent any time with during my trip and it was quite nice to hear the Kiwi accent again after so many months. We formed a nice little group along with another girl, Jesse from the US.

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Jessie, Ali (pension co-owner), Eve and Caroline enjoying a few wines after dinner at Saban Pension

A good sight-seeing spot near Olympos is the eternal flames located in the neighbouring village of Çıralı and about 200 meters above sea level. The eternal flames called the Chimaera may be seen issuing from the ground. The fuel source for the flames is natural gas seeping through cracks in the earth. Legend has it that they've been burning constantly for over a thousand years. I must admit it was quite a strange sight to come across after climbing this small mountain in the pitch black darkness. It looked like dozens of large but completely silent campfires in the middle of a rocky outcrop.

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One of the Chimaera flames shooting out from the ground

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Me (barely visible) standing next to the glow of one of the Chimaera flames

Except for my strolls around the Roman ruins and walking to the beach and back, I wasn't really getting much exercise in Olympos, so when someone suggested going sea kayaking, I happily agreed. So early one morning a group of about ten of us from different pensions set off down the river and out to the Mediterranean sea. We travelled near and around the coast line at a fairly decent pace. The views were spectacular but as one can imagine it was difficult to take photos whilst in a kayak given that everything got absolutely drenched. In fact our cameras were inside a sealed water-proof container and the only time it could safely come out was when we stopped half way through at a deserted bay. By the time we got back we'd been paddling for about three hours and my arms and back definitely felt it.

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The sea kayaks on a deserted bay near Olympos

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A large blister on my hand from the kayak paddle

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Me, Eve, Caroline and Jesse having lunch after our kayaking trip

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Caroline, Me (with cheesiest smile) and Eve outside one of the bungalows the night before Eve and Caroline left Olympos

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My bung eye - I got something in it at some stage and it blew up like a baloon for about a day, I took this photo as it was getting better

After the Jessie, Eve and Caroline left, three separate couples turned up, Scottie & Charlotte and Rob & Jane from Australia as well as a young couple from England and we hung out during my last week in Olympos

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Scottie, Jane, Me (looking even more tanned than after Goa), Rob and Charlotte around bon fire in middle of a "nightclub" open air dance floor (a couple of the pensions in Olympos had nightclubs) - we were the last ones to leave before it closed which is why it looks so empty

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Jane, Rob, Scottie and Charlotte looking cold and miserable on Olympos beach during our painful wait for the sunrise after a long night out

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On our way back to the pension after sunrise

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Me and Meral (pension co-owner) - she looked after me so well during my stay, making me countless Turkish coffees, making me breakfast (even when I had slept in and missed breakfast hours) and on several occasions she cooked my favourite dishes for dinner

By the end of my stay in Olympos - I'd become part of the furniture, it had been over three weeks and I thought perhaps I should move on so that I didn't miss the rest of the summer in Europe. Besides I had plenty of places to still visit in Turkey and Scottie and Charlotte invited me to join them on a day trip to Saklikent Gorge near Fethiye further west along the coast of Turkey.

So I packed my bag and said goodbye to paradise...

Posted by joshuag 02:25 Archived in Turkey Tagged beach mediterranean olympos chamera saban tree-houses Comments (2)

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