After driving through snow for what seemed like weeks, it was such a pleasure to set off from the seaside town of Side on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, in bright sunshine with a completely dry and ice-free road.
We were on our way to Finike where we had wintered over the previous year (2021). We thought it would be good to show the marina to our travel buddies Jan and Jack, maybe rest over for a night or two and catch up with friends we had made last year.
After a lovely couple of days of rest and relaxation in Finike we recommenced our journey back to Didim 466 kilometres north.
It was lovely to see the snow sparkling on the mountains as we drove along the coast road and a great relief we were no longer inching our way down the steep and slippery mountain roads!
We stopped in the lovely little fishing village of Uçağız that sits within the series of stunning sheltered anchorages in the massive Kekova Bay.
We were keen to show Jan and Jack the fabulous seaside restaurant run by excellent chef and welcoming host Hassan and his lovely family.
Unfortunately, virtually every business in Uçağız was closed but by a stroke of luck Hassan and his wife happened to be in their restaurant and when they saw us they instantly recognised us and welcomed us inside.
They had no food to cook but generously made us tea and gave us juicy, refreshing oranges to eat.
This generous welcome to travellers is so typical of Turkish culture. Wherever you go, even if you are complete stranger, you are fed and watered and made to feel really special.
We continued on towards Fethiye, another favourite place of ours. On the way we came across a very typical Turkish scene – a herd of goats wandering along the road.
A little later we were surprised to see snow at the roadside and even more surprised to see a large number of families having picnics in the snowiest spots. It was obviously a really unusual event!
The snow soon disappeared and the rest of the journey unremarkable and soon we were in beautiful Fethiye, parked on the sea front just over the road from the hotel Jan and Jack had selected.
That evening we walked into the town centre for a really good meal and some great live music at a restaurant called Piraye.
It was great to arrive back at the marina the following day and we were relieved to find Sunday shipshape and looking good.
We had a lot to do in the following week before getting back in the road to drive back to the Netherlands.
One of the exciting developments was getting Sunday measured up for a new very light and large foresail that would enable us to sail more successfully in light winds.
Although a spinnaker style sail, it would be on a roller for ease of use and to enable this a new bowsprit needed to be installed.
We also needed to organise some other jobs such as finally fixing our wayward passerelle once and for all. Two unsuccessful attempts to stop the leaking hydraulic fluid had been made and we decided that new parts would have to be ordered from Greece where the passerelle (electronic gangplank) was made.
In order to avoid the dreaded Turkish customs process (we had heard of people waiting for many months to obtain boat parts) we had the bits sent to our daughter‘s home in the Netherlands.
One day we had a visit from a very curious cat who examined everything very carefully and wandered round “Sunday” as though she owned the place.
We were sad to be leaving the marina for a couple of months as we had met a great group of people there, however we were excited about our drive back to the Netherlands.
Our first stop was Viaport Marina in Istanbul. We were planning to make this marina our base in the coming year as we were hoping to go on the Black Sea Rally.
John from our buddy boat Catabella joined us on this leg as he and Sue (who was off visiting family) were also planning to make this marina their winter base (in fact Sue did the research to find it!)
We were pleased to have this opportunity to view the marina and it’s surrounds before making a decision on whether to take out a contract for a year.
We travelled over the Izmit Bay Suspension Bridge at the easternmost edge of the Sea of Marmara which connects the Aegean Sea to the Black Sea.
Less than half an hour later we were parked in front of the Crowne Plaza Hotel. John was hoping to stay the night there as it was just a stone’s throw away from the marina but unfortunately it was closed. We found a good hotel for him a little further away.
There were quite a few snack bars and restaurants behind the marina but they seemed to be more international pizza and burger style eateries rather than the more traditional cafes that we prefer. However, there was also a really well stocked supermarket, an aquarium, a water park, a lion park, a “big wheel” as well as a range of outlet stores.
The marina is only 20 minutes from Istanbul’s second airport and there is a metro station 15 minutes away from which you can travel to the centre of Istanbul.
The staff at the marina office were very charming and welcoming and willingly showed us round the marina in the pouring rain.
We were quite impressed by the cleanliness of the water, the ample turning space and good facilities, including a self serve laundry. The security seemed to excellent and there was access into the supermarket using your finger print.
Having received a good offer for year’s contract which included a month on the hardstanding and a bonus of an extra two months, we decided to sign up and pay a deposit.
Later on that day we started our long 3,000 kilometres (approx 1,800 miles) road trip to The Netherlands where we would stay with our daughter and son-in-law before returning to Australia for the first time in two and a half years.
It was pouring with rain when we set off that afternoon so we decided not to make for a specific destination but just to drive as far as we could go by early evening.
We turned off the toll road after driving about three and a half hours and found ourselves in a very rural area with tiny villages dotted between large tracts of agricultural land.
It was difficult to find anywhere to pull off! No car parks, no sports centres, no parks, not even a lay by!
After meandering along miles of country lanes we came across a very isolated, gothic looking, building at the end of a very long and lonely road. If it had still been raining, it would have evoked The Rocky Horror Show. It was absolutely miles from anywhere and definitely felt very creepy.
The sign swinging in the breeze read Bakucha and on googling the name we found the following: “Set on a leafy 200-hectare wine estate, this tranquil hotel is 23 km from the town of Lüleburgaz and 23 km from the D565 road.” We were tempted to go in and get a bed for the night but turned around and followed the lane back to a spot (the only one!) we had spied earlier next to what looked like an electricity substation.
Thankfully we had a reasonably good night there but I did wake up twice to the sound of an engine running and peeped out of the bathroom window to see headlights from a stationary vehicle just metres away. This was definitely unnerving as we were so far from anywhere and we didn’t know if the cars belonged to curious locals or someone with ill intent.
Fortunately, we woke up the next morning in one piece with everything intact and were soon on our way heading for Edirne near the Turkish border with Bulgaria, feeling that somehow we’d “dodged a bullet”.