The road leading to Dalaman Airport in south-west Turkey was uncannily empty – especially for a Saturday night. We had scarcely seen another pair of headlights since we had left Fethiye.
We were in a hire car which we had rented to pick up my sister Julia from the airport – an hour’s drive away from where we were anchored on the edge of the old town.
When we arrived, the airport approach was also eerily quiet – I had honestly never seen an airport so devoid of bustle – very few cars, no buses, one or two taxis, hardly any people and no planes landing and taking off!
It was so empty that while we waited for Julia’s flight to land we were able to park very close to the terminal building in a bay normally reserved for airport executives and VIPs.
It was so exciting to have our first boat visitor on Sunday – our Lagoon 420 catamaran – since taking possession of her in March 2020.
We had bought this particular boat – more like a floating apartment than a conventional sailboat – so that we could share our life aboard with family and friends. Then Covid-19 hit, no one was able to travel and we were rattling round in this lovely spacious boat wondering if we had made an expensive mistake.
Fast forward to the end of July/beginning of August, when many European countries opened their borders and travellers from the UK weren’t obliged to quarantine on their return, and my switched-on sister Julia quickly made the decision to fly to Turkey and join us for a week.
It seemed rather strange that while family and friends in Australia (where there are many, many, fewer cases of Covid-19 than in any country in Europe) were still unable even to cross the state border, let alone fly out of the country, hundreds of thousands of Europeans (and Russians who have scarily high numbers of virus cases) were pouring into top holiday spots such as Turkey and Greece. It is/was very confusing.
Putting our fears and doubts aside but ensuring we “masked up”, we spent the following day in the old quarter of Fethiye buying a few gifts for Julia to take home and on a mission to find coffee flavored Turkish delight for our sister Sarah whose source in London had dried up.
At each shop the assistant insisted on us having a taste test – pistachio, rose water, vanilla, apple, pomegranate and every other imaginable flavour of Turkish delight – except for coffee!
Some offered other sweets that were coffee flavoured. At one shop the shop keeper said he had coffee flavoured Turkish Delight in another shop and sent out his colleague to collect some for us. The colleague came back with a massive silver tray of “plain“ Turkish Delight that had been tossed in coffee powder. Not what were after at all!
We gave up on our quest after many attempts and feeling slightly seedy after all the sweets we had consumed in the name of research decided to go for lunch at the fish market before heading to the Lycian Rock Tombs – carved into the mountainside high above the sprawling town of Fethiye.
These amazing edifices look like the entrances to ancient temples but are in fact facades of tombs dating back to the 4th Century.
Apparently the Lycians believed that their dead were carried to the afterlife by magical winged creatures and so they placed their dead in geographically high places such as the cliffside – for ease of take off I guess.
The most important tomb is the impressive construction built for Amyntas in 350 BC which has a Greek inscription on the side of it which reads “Amyntou tou Ermagiou”, which translated means “Amyntas, son of Hermagios”.
That evening we had a delicious meal specially prepared for us as promised by “Ryan” the friendly waiter who watched over our dinghy for us while we were exploring the town.
There was no wind to speak of when we set off the next day to our first destination with Julia – a beautiful bay between Fethiye and Göcek called Ciglik Koyu.
Julia and I spent many hours enjoying the clear cool water, swimming round and round the catamaran while Jonathan listened to our chatter getting quieter as we swam to the bow of the boat and then louder and louder as we neared the cockpit where he was relaxing.
We were very close to the beach but in deep water and successfully tied off with our new long line on a reel which made the whole process so much easier! Mind you, there were only a couple of other boats in the bay so that in itself meant it was much less stressful!
We went for a nice but steep (and hot) walk along a track behind the bay and took some shots of the anchorage and of the ocean beyond.
Our next stop was Seagull Bay (Yavansu koyu)- one of the quieter bays in the Göcek area and one in which we had enjoyed for a few days a couple of weeks previously.
The water here is so clear that you can see right to the bottom even in 12 metres of water – just extraordinary and so gorgeous to swim in.
One day we took a dinghy ride and visited the underwater ruins in Cleopatra’s Bay and then sat and had a drink in a restaurant just a short ride over the water.
It was so beautiful gazing across the water watching people swimming and on paddle boards and the beautiful gulets (charter vessels based on traditional timber fishing boats) and other craft skimming by.
One of the things we loved about Seagull Bay was hearing the goats walk past the back of our boat on their way from Seagull Bay to goodness knows where.
First we’d hear the dull tinkling of the goat bells and then the gentle bleating as the older goats encouraged the younger ones to keep moving and not get distracted by some bramble or an interesting looking rock.
On a beautiful evening when the heat was less intense we decided to dinghy in to the rickety jetty in Seagull Bay and have a bit of a wander. Hopefully we would see some goats close to.
After tying up at the broken down timber jetty we stepped onto the small promontory and walked up the steep hill that sweeps up behind.
There we met a small herd of very cute goats who didn’t seem the least bit perturbed by us. Further on there were lovely views over this beautiful environmental area with all its stunning bays and inlets.
Closer to us we could see our catamaran Sunday anchored/moored under the protective shadow of a towering cliff.
We wandered back towards the jetty and on the way met the owner of the restaurant which we thought was derelict. He encouraged us to have a meal there but as we had already prepared our dinner we said that we could come the next day. “Yes, yes you come tomorrow, I will give you meze, fresh fish, everything…”
So the following evening we tied up at the rickety jetty once again with the plan to go for a walk before dinner and then have a meal and watch the sun go down at this unusual restaurant.
We walked up to let the owner know that we had arrived but we were going for a walk first and we noticed a huge fire burning in the stone fireplace. “Aah, heating up the coals to cook our fish,” we thought – although there was absolutely no one there.
We took the track that cut across the little beach and which meandered along the water’s edge behind where Sunday was moored and where we had seen the goats wandering – one way in the morning and back the other way in the evening.
As we walked towards the beach we saw three guys under a tree. What on earth were they were up to? Then it hit us – they were slaughtering a goat. Was the restauranteur planning a meat course too?
We waved, they waved, we walked on quickly. Around 40 minutes later we reappeared and found a small group of people sitting round a table, all very friendly and telling us to sit anywhere.
Our friend from the previous night came up and asked us if wanted a beer to which we said “yes” thinking that a pre dinner cold drink would be very welcome.
We drank our beer revelling in the golden light that is always so glorious as the sun goes down at the end of each day in Turkey.
There were no signs of food arriving and disconcertingly we noticed that our host was now having a full body wash (thankfully at least partially clothed) using a huge tank of water and copious amounts of soap not too far away from where we were sitting. He was extremely thorough and left no part unwashed – a detail which we would have preferred not to have been made aware.
Once he had completed his ablutions Jonathan approached him to see if he was planning to feed us or had he forgotten our conversation of the previous night ….?
Sadly it was quite clear that he was not planning to be the cleanest chef in Turkey and had completely forgotten we were coming. However, he went straight into damage control and instructed Jonathan to go and choose some fish from the fisherman sitting in the bay in his brightly coloured boat.
We were on a roll now and before long we had some beautifully cooked fish, a big salad, bread and a little later a plate of chips (but no meze!). The fisherman even came up to check we had enjoyed the fish.
As the sun sunk over the horizon we cracked the bottle of red wine that we had brought and tucked into the delicious meal, agreeing that we wouldn’t have changed a thing about the evening and that it felt as though we had eaten like “Kings”. Such a tremendous experience – a real Turkish delight!