Kemer, nearly ready to go...

Vasco da Gama
Ian Strathcarron
Mon 19 Apr 2010 03:29
We have had two very hot days and it feels as though summer has arrived here in southern Turkey. Many of the boats overwintering in the Marina have already left. Some have gone north to the Black Sea, others west towards the Greek Islands and Croatia, Italy, France or Spain, or towards the Atlantic. Quite a few boats will spend the summer cruising around the Turkish Riviera before returning here next winter. The boats going east include us and several who are joining an annual rally called the EMYR (East Med Yacht Rally). There are usually about 60 yachts and they visit Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. This is what we are doing but we want to do it our own speed and not with a lot of other boats. The advantages of the EMYR are that the organisers take care of visas and permits and arrange visits to all the important sites en route, but people who have been on it say it is all very rushed and some boats have been on it more than once to catch up on things they missed the first time.

We arrived back in Kemer Marina on Easter weekend and found a flurry of Easter activity. The keen cooks had been in the kitchen of the Navigator Bar and Restaurant and baked hot cross buns. On Easter Sunday there was a celebration brunch, followed by a parade of Easter bonnets, a religious service on one of the pontoons, and the traditional Sunday hike. The most outstanding bonnet was made by a Swiss yachtie and eccentric called Hari. His headdress was created on a large board, on which there was a garden, containing two live baby rabbits and two chicks. Last year his bonnet had included a duckling he bought in the market. It’s now a large duck and lives on his boat, and rides around in a basket in front of his bike. It is easy to forget we are in a Muslim country, apart from the chanting muezzin five times a day. But there is no sign of religious fervour in the town and most women wear western dress. In the country areas they wear baggy flowery print trousers and headscarves and a black waistcoat. Ian remarked that none of the printed materials match or are colour coordinated which I suppose is part of their charm.

Tourism has brought some coastal development but most of this coast has been empty for nearly two thousand years. Nearby are two ports created by the indigenous Lycian people around 700 B.C., but also colonised by Greeks and Romans. Phaselis has a north and south bay, behind ancient breakwaters and we wandered through the excavated streets between shops, houses and baths and sat in a magnificent small theatre. There is a triumphal arch built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It’s a magical place to visit, hidden in a forest of pines. Ancient Olympus was a more important port, also originally Lycian, but with Greek, Roman and Byzantine ruins. The town was built on either side of an estuary, and the town walls still line the river. Half ruined houses, statues and mosaics become apparent as you wander through the jungly undergrowth of oleanders, bay trees, pines and wild figs. Ancient Olympus is at the end of a long trail down a mountainside and became famous for tree houses built for visiting hippies in the 1960’s, some of which still survive.

It was a very hot day when we visited Olympus but we could not miss the Chimaera, also knows as Burning Rock. It is a cluster of flames which burn constantly through crevices on the rocky slopes of Olympus mountain. The trail to reach it is fairly steep for one and a half miles, then the flames appear, between 20 and 30 fires randomly appearing. The Chimaera is mentioned in Homer, and was a source of awe for ancient people. The modern explanation is that it is caused by a mixture of underground gases, including methane, which spontaneously ignite when the gas contacts the air. In any event, it is still an awesome sight and worth an uphill hike on a hot day!

We expect to leave here in two days. It has been a long winter stopover and it will be good to back en route again.