Left Perth at 7.50am or so for the long flight to Athens. It was a very long, and for me, a tiring flight after a chaotic time in balancing a new job and leaving the old job….
We arrived in Athens around lunch time and we were picked up by ‘Demetrios’ at the airport to go to our small apartment in Kolonaki. It was ‘Hidesign Apartment’. It had a large main bedroom; and in the Greek style tiny but new bathroom and a pleasant sitting room and thin porch/balcont overlooking the apartments opposite. There was a distinctive circular staircase – distinctive of many Athens apartments – and we were on the 4th floor. There was a tony three person lift which just fitted us in. Determined to stay awake, we walked down the residential streets to a delightful local café for lunch. I had ripe Roma cherry tomatoes, a mound of prosciutto and the most delicious fresh mozzarella cheese. We saw the delivery man arrive with a mound of cheese while we waited for lunch. We then wandered the streets looking for light provisioning for our apartment and to bed by 7.30pm – slept a good 10 hours.
Up early for breakfast on our terrace and then navigated ourselves to the Acropolis Museum. We walked via Athens major park, which although looking a bit unloved was a beautiful green oasis from the very busy Athens street. The museum was a beautiful building, perched over ruins of the old city, with glass viewing from walkways looking down on the archaeological sites. The museum was everything I’d hoped for and my major reason for another trip to Athens. It was dramatic architecture, wonderful interpretation and the artefacts ‘presentation was just wonderful. A great experience and being there early was absolutely essential to miss the tourist crowds. After that, we walked through the famous Plaka, which I do love, despite its tourist focus. The lack of cars and general atmosphere is intimate. I know it’s tourist ‘tack’ being sold but it’s so very Greece: souvlaki, the smell of Greek coffee, tavernas and cafes on every corner. We walked down to Syntagma Square, where Bill located the most perfect Greek custard, filo and honey cake for me and a meat and filo pie for him. When in Greece…. We sat in the square and watched a small demonstration (also very Greece) with the police lethargically looking on.
Heading back to Kolonaki, we conquered the local subway to find our way home. That evening Bill had located a typical Greek family restaurant, where in our enthusiasm we ordered so much food that we had to bring home at least a kilo of leftovers. The restaurant was a real local eating place and the food stodgy and decidedly Greek, lots of stewed vegetables and meat (kleftiko style) and slow cooked dishes.
My next museum of choice was the Cycladic Museum which was nearby to Kolonaki and housed in an old mansion just off a main road. We really enjoyed the Cycladic art and the icons and statues dating back over 2000 – 3000 years. Hardly a male statue in sight! Female icons were the go for the ancient Cycladians. That evening, our last in Athens we walked down to a rooftop bar at the local Hilton Hotel which overlooked the city. This was again walking distance of our apartment as was our choice for dinner at the stunning Cookoovaya restaurant. We had a superlative meal and great service at this leading Athens restaurant. A great way to farewell beautiful Athens.
Day 4 and 5
We had an early flight to Rhodes, which was delayed and the wait was tedious. In Rhodes we got a taxi to a beachside hotel/restaurant just out of old time to await the ferry to Fethiye. We lazed by the pool, reading our books and watching the ocean. Not a bad way to pass the time until we had the hot and unpleasant transfer across to Turkey. Arriving at Fethiye was a relief and in the evening we walked down to the centre of the town for a great Turkish meal and to absorb the great atmosphere of this small seaside town.
We did have a small drama on Day 4 as Bill mislaid his credit card. This caused some stress as we managed the ‘work-arounds’ of accessing enough cash to pay for the yacht deposit, cancelling his card and generally feeling dispirited by the whole affair. I had wrongly thought that we could access cask from ATMS using our American Express card, which is actually not the case, in Turkey in any case. The other fact is that in the areas where we were travelling in remote parts of the southern coast of Turkey it is largely a cash economy to we desperately needed enough Turkish lira to get us through the two weeks away. As a consequence we decided to stay in Fethiye for an additional day before setting out for sea. This would allow us to withdraw enough cash (the maximum daily rate for me was not enough to cover everything) to pay for the boat insurance (also cash required!) and for the journey.
We headed off very early on Day 6 crossing the gulf of Fethiye Korfesi to Skopea Limani. We stayed at Kapi Creek, a very picturesque bay surrounded by huge cliffs and ancient ruins scattered up the slopes. We took our dinghy around the head of the bay to a swimming spot away from other boats. The water was crystal clear and deep as deep as the cliffs drop off into the ocean.
Day 7 and 8
We moved a couple of miles to Tomb Bay, which had Lycian pigeon size tombs above us. We anchored and long-lined off the shore. We spent all of the day at Tomb Bay for Day 8 as well and had one of those long Mediterranean style swims (it was very hot); just propped up in the water, bobbing around and talking as we drifted past Turkish families on their small gulets on summer holidays. While there are many gulets in this area of the coast and these have western tourists, the majority of the tourism seems to be local tourism, Turkish families enjoying summer holidays.
Today we headed back to Fethiye for repairs (our dinghy motor quietly died). Once all sorted we had our first good sail. The wind was fresh as we made our way to the incredible Kracaoren Bay about 15 miles due south after going around the cape of the bay. All along the route were impressive cliffs covered in pine trees and dropping straight and deep into the ocean. Karacaoren is very picturesque and is deep and blue. There are ruins surrounding the bay and on an island which forms one of the sides of the bay. They are thought to be the remains of a medieval trading port.
The only restaurant in the bay was a ramshackle affair. It looked as if it had been built into a cave with the kitchen deep inside and the tables perched high over the water. The place was well established for the summer; with herbs drying, vegetables on display and simmering coals ready for baking bread and cooking meat.
There were about six boats in the bay and as there is no option but to eat there we were all at dinner. It was pretty shambolical with a pack of dogs roaming the floor and scrabbling around after an occasional cat. Still it was an absolutely beautiful spot.
Next morning we woke early and went by dinghy over to Gemiler Adasi which is a channel nearby to explore the ruins of St Nicolas Island – or Gemiler Adasi, thought to be the original site of St Nicolas’ tomb. It was sourced to 4th-6th century AD and St Nicolas was thought to be there in 360AD. The island town was on route to the Holy Land for the pilgrims during the Crusades. Now the place has 5 churches, all now rock fragments and wall and the occasional standing rock arch. In the 1650s the Arab fleet raided the area so the remains of the Saint were removed to Myra.
Back in our boat we headed further south to Kas, the exotic and ancient city of Antiphelos. This was a long haul and was 30 miles along one of the harshest areas of the Turkish coastline – the Seven capes. This area has no shelter and no bays in which to take refuge. We continued through and sadly there was no wind for sailing, so it was motoring all the way.
When we passed the capes we stopped briefly at the only port of call near Kalkan, Yesilyoy Lemani for a lunch stop, putting out the anchor amidst several day tripper boats. After another few hours of motoring we made it to Kas where we headed into the new and very modern Kas Marina. This place was full service, three restaurants, a swimming pool and air-conditioned shower block. I could really enjoy this. We wandered up to a marina restaurant after a luxury shower, and wouldn’t you know it the food was less than impressive. We got better in the remote bays where we had been in previous nights.
Kas was a Greek city until the ‘population exchange’ in 1922, when the Greeks were expelled and the area was resettled with Turks from Anatolia, Anatolian Plateau and the Balkans. 1.2m people were removed from Turkey during this time to refugee camps and then to be resettled around the world. This included Kas, but not the two islands just off the coast. Kas is now a busy town serving the tourist industry and the many day tripper diving and tour boats. Just off the coast are Kastorellizo Island and Ro which remain a part of Greece and many will know that this island is the source of many great now Australians, including that of two of our good friends!
On Day 11 we walked into Kas and found the local ferry company which went to ‘Meis’, the Turkish name for Kastellorizo. It was a very hot wait and lining up for customs but when we arrived in Kastellorizo, I was heaven. I do love Greece. The picture-book buildings, very Greek cafes right on the water, small gift shops. What can you not like about the Greek Islands?
It was hot. So we did a quick recce of the port then found the local swimming spot along a narrow walking path along the side of the cliff under the castle. After our swim we walked back into town and found a restaurant perched over the bay’s port for lunch. It had two Sea Turtles swimming below us as we had our grilled octopus and moussaka (when in Greece, eat Greek!). Superb. I also did some shopping in the cafes before we headed back to busy Kas.
Dinner on the boat of cheese and a bottle of good local red wine.
We headed 20 miles further east to the Kekova Roads, a long channel between Kekova Island and the mainland. It was a further 20 odd miles to a very remote area of Turkey coastline. Again the coast was rugged and inhospitable. We stayed at the most westerly point of Kekova, at Sicak Koyu. It was a muddy bottom and very calm with two tiny restaurants at the top of the bay. As we were the only boat there late in the afternoon, Bill went by dinghy to see if we they were cooking that evening. As a result, we had a unforgettable dinner looking up Kekova roads on a jetty platform made of hand strewn poles and rickety edges. The elderly owner had set up dinner just for us and after we left following our meal of squid, kofta and salad, the coupled pottered or puttered up the inlet to the comfort of their home, no doubt in one of the marginally larger townships nearby. A beautiful spot.
Sicak Koyo is a couple of miles overland from the sunken Lycian city of Aperlai. This city was destroyed by an earthquake in the second century AD. Some of the city slipped into the sea and is now submerged; the rest covers a steep hillside above Asar Bay. We’d checked with the restaurant owner the previous night about the track and the distance. His warning was get up early before it is too hot to walk. He was right about that! It was a hot, dry walk across the riverbed between the two bays but the hillside was covered with ancient wall, rock-carved tombs and castle walls. This particularly appealed to Bill, because he had a colleague at ECU who had conducted archaeological digs on the Aperlae site.
After tramping back to the boat, we moved on to the village of Ucagiz, a long, thin bay deep inside Kekova Roads. Unlike most of the remote bays we visited, this one can be reached by road, so there was lots of local tourism involving day tripper boats exploring the bays. We backed into the jetty, tied up and went for a walk through the village. The thought of another hot night sleeping on the deck of the boat was too much for Susan. She found a cheap local B&B, asked whether it was air-conditioned, and agreed to take the room if it was chilled by the time we got back from getting a few things from the boat. It was chilled, so we stayed and chilled, too.
Today’s adventure was to head offshore in search of a sailing wind. We couldn’t find more than 5 knots of wind, so we completed a circumnavigation if Kekova Island and anchored in another fabulous bay at the eastern end of Kekova Roads. This area, called Gokkaya Limani was our furthest point from Fethiye – or to put it another way our closest point to Syria. It was almost empty when we arrived, but over the day if filled up with noisy tripper boats. We puttered around in the dingy, inspecting the adjacent island and a large sea cave, followed by a quiet night on the boat.
This was a long day. We wanted to get as close as we could to Fethiye in one day. To avoid the possibility of having to bash into the prevailing wind, we got started just before daybreak, retracing our steps to Kas, passing outside of the Greek islands of Kastellorizo and Ro, and then on past Kalkan and the Seven Capes. Fifty nautical miles in a day, perhaps the longest single distance we’ve covered in a day in eleven charters, landed us back in Karacaoren and in striking distance of Fethiye the next and last day on the boat. More swimming, followed by another night at the crazy dog restaurant.
Day 16, 17 and 18
We headed back to the marina at Fethiye, signed out of the boat and checked in to a terrific hotel jest above the marina. We spent the next day or so checking the sights of Fethiye, shopping, and ended up with a pizza and a few beers in a rooftop bar. Beyond that, a long drive to the airport at Dalaman, a flight to Istanbul, then Athens, then Doha and then Perth. And there we were, arriving back to a cold and wet Perth winter day, brown as berries and very pleased with our fabulous mid-winter break.