Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Turkey Part 2 of 4 (Cirali)

After having a wonderful experience during the first leg of our trip in Turkey, we were excited to embark on the next location, the Mediterranean coast! There were a few challenges to overcome before we would see the warm turquoise waters. First up was getting there. We were 385 miles from where we were headed and had decided to take an overnight bus due to the popularity of it (based on  what we read online). This turned out to be a bit of an unpleasant ordeal as someone was in our seats and got aggressive with the bus host when he tried to make them move, the person directly behind us sounded dreadfully ill and hacked for the whole 8+ hour bus ride, and it was suffocatingly warm with no air flowing on the bus for the whole trip.

After a claustrophobia-filled night of little-to-no-sleep, we finally arrived in Antalya where we were planning to rent a car for the duration of our stay in Cirali (farther south). This brought us to the next challenge, which was finding a car rental. We searched high and low in the bus station and finally found the lone car rental company. Our interaction with the salesman was quite different than we had experienced anywhere before. To sum it up, a Turkish guy named Tony from Toronto rented us an old car that we had to pay for in cash. While looking it over we found that it was registered to a different company, had no fuel in the tank, and had an automatic locking feature after 1 minute of the ignition being turned off. The plan was for Tony to meet us at the Antalya airport in 3 days to retrieve the car, although he didn't specify where. We had no way of contacting him and could only somewhat communicate through broken Turkish and English. The situation seemed a little odd to me and I wasn't certain we were ever going to see him again. I was crossing my fingers in hopes that we had not somehow just bought a stolen vehicle.

After accidentally putting entirely too much fuel in the car than we were ever going to use within the next 3 days, we were on our way! I've heard bad things about the drivers in Turkey, but other than the fact that the road lines dividing the lanes only seemed to be a suggestion, I really didn't think it was any more aggressive than the Bay Area, California, where we currently resided.

On the way to Cirali, we wanted to make a stop at Termessos, a well-preserved ancient city located high in the Taurus Mountains. Prior to beginning the hike, we made a change into fresh clothes. Without even realizing what happened, we suddenly heard a 'click.' Craig's eyes immediately grew as big as saucers with the realization that the keys were still in the car and the click was the handy locked-after-one-minute feature. We looked through the windows and could see the keys stranded inside sitting on the platform just between the backseat and the rear window. 

The only potential entryway into the car at this point was the open trunk. I assumed this would be easy since there is usually an access way through the truck...but I was wrong. We did, however, find that we could fit a finger through the roof of the trunk, pop the middle seatbelt protector out and then technically be inside the car, even if it was only by a fingertip. After several failed attempts to loop the key ring with a stick to drag it through the hole, Craig finally got it! An hour later, we were finally able to start exploring Termessos!

After an hour of wedging our hands through a space in the car trunk, we finally get the keys back out using a stick.

Termessos was certainly one of my top 5 favorite things we saw while in Turkey. The trail through the old city climbed up a large hill and past several large armored walls that were at one point meant to protect the city limits. They are now crumbling and covered in vines, but it was impossible to not get lost in what it must have looked like at it's pinnacle. Throughout the hike, we saw several large (now crumbled) buildings and various temples dedicated to the Greek gods/goddesses, but the star of the city was by far the theater.

Situated at the head of the valley, the semi-circled theater, built to accommodate ~5000 patrons,  unfolded to a remarkable view of the plains below. A large limestone cliff, making up the far wall of the protective valley dominated the blue sky above. We sat here for a couple of hours admiring the details throughout the theater that would have been hand carved into marble centuries ago and imagined what kind of shows would have been performed. Adding to the mystique of this setting was an informational sign stating that Alexander the Great wrote about Termessos in his travels and quests to conquer. He equated the city as being an eagle's nest and due to it's strong position tucked into the valley crest, he decided to not attempt to add it to his list of undertaken cities. It was not until the main aqueduct collapsed during an earthquake that the city was finally abandoned.

Termessos. A view from the theater.

Me sitting front row at the show!

Another perspective of the theater. Craig is the tiny object sitting on the wall in the center.

After enjoying our hike at Termessos and our first glimpse at Greek ruins, we drove farther south to the city of Cirali, where we would stay for the next few days. Our home in Cirali was in a small area of bungalows in a river valley just upstream of the coast. It was a great location for walking to the beach, but away from the crowds. The owners of the establishment were super friendly and accommodating with  anything we needed. We even talked with the owner's cousin who at one time lived in Portland, Oregon!

We spent the next several days checking out the town of Cirali, lounging on the beach, swimming in the Mediterranean and checking out the nearby ancient city of Olympos, a city that a young Julius Caesar once defeated and added to the Roman Empire. The temperatures were much warmer here than I expected at this time of year. We had clear skies for the most part, with a few heavy rain events. While it rained, we sat at the open-air restaurants along coast and drank tea while we waited for the clouds to pass.

Morning tea in the garden. During winter and spring a river normally flows through here. 

One of the gullets that were common to see on the Mediterranean. This one was blasting Adele, which was also a common, as it headed to sea.

Turkish pizza!

The ruins of Olympos. We were unable to enter this section of the park because archeologists were excavating part of it.

Craig walks down an old street in the once happenin' sea town of Olympos.

Olympos. The sarcophagus of someone once very important. It was difficult to decipher the story behind who this person was, but there were lots of  detailed Greek carvings at the sides of the tomb walls. At some point, it was robbed of what it protected, evidenced by the hole in the center.

Evening beach near Olympos. Mount Olympos is in the background.

Once again, Turkey has the best breakfasts.

The night before we left, we went to see the Chimera Flames on Mount Chimera. We headed out just after dark and hiked up with head lamps through the woods until we reached a clearing. The entire hillside in the area was covered with patches of open flames! Fueled by an underground methane seep, these flames have been burning since the times of the ancient Greeks. This area inspired the Greek mythology story of the Chimera, which was a fire-breathing beast composed of three different animals--a lion in the front, a goat in the middle, and a python at the rear.

As with many of the sites in Turkey, we stayed here for hours being blown away by what an amazing place we found ourselves in. Within an hour's time, we were the only two people on the hillside and had the place to ourselves. As the night went on, the crickets got louder and their songs were soon ringing so high that we could not hear each other speak if we were too far apart. 

The dark sky disguised a storm that had rolled in over the Mediterranean, which we could see on the horizon. Bolts of lightning pierced across the distant sky, lighting up the sea below and was followed by the soft sound of thunder. It was almost impossible to leave such a captivating setting. Had it not been for the fact that the storm soon appeared to be heading straight for us, I'm pretty convinced we would have stayed there all night.  

Chimera flames

 Chimera flames

Not a great picture, but here's me with the Chimera flames and the Mediterranean in the background.

Video of the lightning, eternal flames, and crickets.Click here to see it larger on YouTube. Skip forward to ~1:15 to see the best of the lightning. 

On our final day, we decided to set sail in kayaks on the Mediterranean. The water was definitely the choppiest we had seen since our arrival, but I still felt confident that kayaking was a possibility. Somehow I forgot how prone to sea sickness I am and about 20 minutes of being on the water, I felt terrible. I thought if we could just make it around the next bend in the coastline there would be a beach for us to making landing on so I could recover. Unfortunately, rounding the next bend only showed us increasingly choppy waves and sheer cliffs dropping into the water. Looking back over my shoulder, the situation looked even more dire, as more storm clouds were building up and heading our way. With that, I faced the fact that I had to go back to the beach until the storm passed. Turning away from the horizon made me feel even worse and I struggled the whole way back to not loose my lunch. 

We beached just in time for the storm to hit and it began to rain. We took cover in some thick bushes just outside the walls of Olympos and waited it out, huddling for warmth since we didn't bring any warm clothes during the kayak trip. 

A few hours after the rains stopped, the sun returned and the waters calmed. I was still queasy, but agreed to at least paddle the kayaks from our landing point back to where we rented them. The sea was amazingly clear and warm and we jumped and played in the water until it was time to go to a home-cooked dinner our host was having for the guests that night (which was my favorite meal of the whole trip).

We headed back to the car to for dinner only to find ourselves in another car-predicament. Craig realized that the car key was in his pocket, which meant that it was also dunked in salt water all day while we were swimming. No problem, we'll just use the manual key to unlock the doors, right? Wrong! Doing so causes a kill-switch to be triggered and the car wouldn't stay started. We fussed and fussed with it, and in the end, it took replacing the fuse to reset the alarm. 

Looking back on it, we really didn't need a car at all while in Turkey and while it did allow us easy access to off the beaten path places like Termessos and the Chimera flames, there would have been other means of public transportation we could have used to avoid all the headache that came along with driving a car. 

Before ending this post about our fantastic time in Cirali, I should also mention that Tony from Toronto (the guy who rented us the car) did, in fact, find us at the airport. Apparently, there was a GPS tracker on the car. We were about to just leave the vehicle in the airport parking lot to catch our next flight when one of his workers approached us and drove the car away. I was never more glad to be rid of a a set of wheels...

Paddling on the Mediterranean as a storm rolls in.

Me post-storm paddling...having a much better time in calmer waters.

Craig letting it sink in that he's swimming in the Mediterranean.