After a break from cruising of nearly 30 years, we are sailing to the Indonesian Islands on our yacht Bali Hai
Author: Salty tales from Bali Hai
In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.
Located next to the charming village of Kiykislacik, the site holds endless surprises.
We had loved wandering around the 4th Century BC (and earlier!) ruins on the perimeter coastline of Iassos but we hadn’t yet walked up to the remains of the medieval castle built by the Knights of St John.
So off we went to climb the hill leading to the castle. Before we had gone very far we came upon a building site where around a dozen workers were working hard on a large hut-like structure.
As we came closer we saw that the structure was more of a shelter than a hut and we were intrigued to find out what it was for.
Using sign language, we asked one of the workers if we could go in and he waved us in.
On entering we were blown away to see a number of stunning mosaic floors.
We had stumbled upon the remains of a 2nd Century AD villa built in the Hellenistic tradition. The part we were standing in was the 12 metre by 13 metre courtyard which was once paved with marble interspersed with geometric mosaics on three sides.
On the fourth side was a series of three interconnecting rooms that also had mosaic floors.
Standing in the middle of the courtyard it was easy to imagine the grandeur of this amazing villa – you could almost hear the tinkle of cooling fountains fed from the massive cistern carved out of the rock – still there even now.
The views were magnificent and the remains of the villa and its outbuildings covered a large area. What a special place and such a surprise as none of the articles we had read on the site even mentioned it’s existence.
We left the villa behind and continued climbing,eventually arriving at the summit and the medieval castle.
The view was stupendous and as we stood drinking it all in, the muezzin in the village mosque started chanting the adhan (call to prayer). Such an evocative sound and one of those times that will stay in my memory for ever.
Earlier that day we had been in the village to try and post an urgent letter. Apparently there was no post office in the village so we decided to take a taxi to the nearest “big smoke” – Gulluk.
We went to the hotel in the village where we had eaten a delicious dinner the previous night and asked them if they could organise a taxi for us.
The proprietor very kindly called the local taxi driver and we were amused to hear him say (in Turkish) “it’s for the Australians”! The only way he would have known that was by hearing it from one of the other restaurant owners who had specifically asked us “where are you from?” We had a bit of a giggle about that – so typical of a tiny village anywhere in the world, as soon as a newcomer enters they are discussed and gossiped about!
On the way back our taxi ground to a halt as there was a car parked across the middle of the road. Was there a highway robbery taking place? Or had someone casually parked there after drinking too much raki?! It turned out that the quarry up the road was conducting a blasting operation and no cars were allowed to drive by during the explosion.
We waited for about ten minutes and then heard the unmistakable thud of explosives and felt a slight vibration in the air. There was a spectacular cloud of dust in the distance but once we were allowed to drive towards the quarry the dust had settled somewhat and the driver had no problem with visibility.
We had heard that there were some ruins of an ancient Greek agora (a central public space) in Iassos that somehow we had missed in our extensive roaming so we decided to see if we could locate it.
We thought we had found the entrance – very close to the village of Kiykislacik but when we saw three cows and their cowherd coming out of it we wondered if we had the right place.
A few steps on we were amazed to see how extensive the remains were – they extended over a massive area and as well as the Agora, we could see parts of the city walls, a small amphitheatre (a bouleuterion – where council meetings would have taken place), towers, columns that were once part of a covered walkway and other areas that had been excavated.
Apparently archaeologists have identified Mycenean remains (approximately 1750 to 1050 BC) and underneath these, two Minoan levels dating from around 2000 BC.
Other archaeological finds cover Geometric (900 – 700 BC), Hellenistic (323 – 31 BC) and Roman through to the Byzantine period.
Iassos was such an exciting and surprising find and we were absolutely amazed that this site appears not to be part of the normal tourist trail of important archeological sites.
We were so fortunate to have stumbled on this fascinating place and were happy to have shared the experience with just some cows, an artist at his easel and just two other couples.
It always intrigues us that there are so many ancient sites in Turkey that you scarcely hear of but when visited reveal fascinating surprises and mind blowing history.
The site of Iassos is one such place. Originally on an island but now attached to the mainland, it has been settled since the Early Bronze Age.
We were anchored in the bay in which the delightful and unspoiled village of Kiyikislacik is set and a short dinghy ride to the beach where we started our exploration.
First though, we went to have a closer look at the square tower standing in the water not far from where we were anchored.
As soon as we had pulled up the dinghy on the beach and walked a few steps we found parts of the fortified wall surrounding ancient Iassos – said to have been built in the 5th Century BC.
Everywhere we looked we could see the remains of small buildings – we could only guess when they were built and for what purpose.
One we thought could be a bath house, another we picked as a shelter for guards when on a break from being on patrol.
We walked round the perimeter of Iassos, marvelling at the scattered remains. Weaving our way through groves of wizened and elderly olive trees we kept the glorious blue sea always in our sight.
In some parts the ancient wall was more intact than in others and the most impressive section was over the other side of the isthmus.
There we saw massive arches that reminded us of the ruins of warehouses and granaries at the Adriake archeological site near Demre. Again, we don’t know for sure but this was what we guessed they were.
We turned inland and stumbled on an area that had been properly excavated although judging from the profusion of weeds and undergrowth, it was some time ago.
It was just incredible to think we were looking at small temple that dated back to the second century BC.
A little further along we discovered the sanctuary of Zeus Megistos which had an inscription that included a mention that dated it to the 4th Century BC.
Successive modifications that have been excavated have shown the importance and longevity of this build. The abundance of votive lamps and other objects dating from the 6th Century through to the late Hellenistic period show how long it was held in such esteem.
We wandered back off the “beaten track” to investigate some other buildings we had noticed earlier. One reminded me of a bakery but there were no notices or explanations describing what any of the buildings had been.
We didn’t really know where the official path was so we turned inland and basically followed our noses. Then we came upon a massive wall that wasn’t just functional but was also beautifully finished.
We thought that this must be an important structure but what was it? We climbed a well constructed staircase and discovered we were in what was once a massive amphitheatre.
It was hard to discern it’s layout exactly but a drawing made by Charles Texier, the French architect and archeologist who conducted some excavations in 1835 showed that it was still intact when he visited.
Sadly, in 1887 all the marble blocks from the amphitheatre were taken for the construction of the quays in the port of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). The price of progress!
We had been walking for a while and had seen so much. “Amazement fatigue” was beginning to settle in so we decided to walk into the village to try and find a late lunch.
We scrambled down the overgrown hillside and at the bottom saw the sign below warning hikers to beware of snakes and scorpions. A bit late for us!
Fortunately there was one place open for lunch and we enjoyed some freshly caught and extremely delicious calamari. A great way to end a rewarding day!
We left Bodrum vowing to return as there was so much more to see there. For now we we were pressed for time as our fellow travellers and cruising buddies Sue and John had a flight to catch to the UK and needed to get to Didim where they were going to leave Catabella.
They were going to do the trip to Didim in two hops, the first destination being a town on the other side of the Bodrum Peninsula, Yalikavak, where we would part company.
Yalikavak is an important hub for super yachts – mainly because the marina there caters specifically for these enormous luxury vessels.
Owned by an Azeri oil billionaire, the marina looked very swish and well organised. There were also many massive vessels – some almost the size of small cruise liners – anchored in the harbour.
We stayed in a one of the anchorages over the other side of the large bay to the marina, right near a sailing school.
It was great fun watching the kids doing the set course in their little dinghies – some taking it very seriously (mostly girls) some having little arguments about who got in whose way (mostly boys) and one rascal who tried to cause total chaos, almost managing to capsize his dinghy by standing up and rocking it from side to side, shouting and getting in the way of his fellow students and generally seeking attention in whatever way he could. He led the instructors (who would have rather been checking their phones) a merry dance! Great entertainment!
We all really enjoyed going ashore to the town although it was a bit of a long dinghy ride across the bay. There were plenty of amazing super yachts to ogle at as we motored over!
Formally the main sponge diving port in this area, Yalikavak still retains a village feel, with narrow laneways full of interesting shops and restaurants, some well kept green spaces and a delightful old fishing harbour.
On Sue and John’s last night before they departed for Didim marina and then on to England via Greece (doing a ten-day cruise instead of staying a a crummy hotel in England to do the required ten days of quarantine) we had a meal in a beautiful spot in one of those feet-in-the sand restaurants on the beach.
The ambiance was excellent and the sunset glorious and of course the company was excellent!
The following day we waved farewell to Sue and John and settled in for a couple more days in this comfortable anchorage.
We went into the town again to stock up on food and explore a little more.
Before leaving for our next anchorage we went to the marina to fill up with diesel and buy petrol for the outboard and the small generator we use to to power our water maker.
We felt a little intimidated lining up with the massive super yachts to get fuelled up but we were very impressed by the excellent organisation, helpfulness and service provided – even to little us!
Our next stop was a small and very sheltered bay outside a hotel complex called the Crystal Green Bay Resort. There was a bit of a blow brewing up so we thought it would be a good place to shelter – which it definitely was!
Apart from the resort, there was very little else in the bay – just a handful of fishing boats and the remains of a fish farm.
Nevertheless, we had a pleasant couple of days there, relaxing, walking, wandering in the hotel grounds and catching up with a few chores.
After a very peaceful and tranquil stay we experienced a drama when we were about to leave. As we pulled up the anchor we discovered that we had managed to hook onto an enormous and incredibly heavy old anchor left behind on the seabed.
It was quite alarming as while we were occupied in getting our chain off the massive anchor, we were being dragged further into the shallow water.
We eventually managed to disentangle ourselves but while in the process found ourselves almost wedged between the boundary ropes of the two swimming enclosures. Fortunately we were able to make a clean get away once we were unhooked!
The next anchorage – outside Port Iasos Marina was also super quiet and once again, we were the only boat anchored there.
After one night there we sailed on to Kıyıkışlacık – a fabulous little harbour full of intriguing history, pretty as a picture and where the remains of the Ancient Greek city of Iassos lie.
We anchored just behind a tower in the water which might date back to the 12th Century but could have been built much later, maybe in the 15th Century.
In the other direction was the delightful little fishing/farming village and towering above our heads to one side was the ancient city of Iassos.
Who could ask for more?This was definitely our sort of place!
We were absolutely shocked and horrified to see the level of devastation caused by the August forest fires as we sailed into the Cokertme area near Bodrum in Turkey.
It seemed that every millimetre of the hills had been completely ravaged.
Considering the wholesale destruction it was an absolute miracle that this tiny little village had survived.
Once again we were left open mouthed at the scale of the job that faced the fire fighters and full of admiration that they managed to save the village in the face of such a maelstrom.
Apart from a walk round the village our one night stay was uneventful and we set off for Bodrum the next day
We had hoped to see carpet and Kilim stands that are usually found in the village but perhaps the lack of tourists due to Covid and then the fires on top of that explained their absence.
It was exciting sailing into the port city of Bodrum and catching our first sight of its impressive 15th Century castle which dominates the whole landscape.
We really loved being able to anchor in the shadow of the castle and enjoyed the imposing view every time we were on deck.
Finding a place to leave our dinghies where we could disembark easily took a while but once we found somewhere we had fun exploring Bodrum with our travelling companions Sue and John on S/V Catabella.
Although it is a big city, it has an intimate feel to it as there is a profusion of narrow pedestrian-only laneways full of all kinds of shops.
Tucked in between the shops there were some delightful traditional cottages and bougainvillea-covered small apartment buildings as well as cafes and small hotels.
The highlight (apart from the amazing waffles!) of our short stay was our day going round Bodrum castle and the fantastic underwater archaeological museum housed within the castle.
Built by the Knights of St John, the castle is a maze of passageways that twist and turn with doorways and lookout points in unexpected places.
It has four towers – each built by people from different countries: England, France, Germany and Italy. Each tower was built in a different style – some square and some round.
Another feature that intrigued us was the carved reliefs of coats of arms placed by the knights in recognition of donations and other contributions to the building of the castle. There are two hundred and forty-nine separate designs that still remain.
The garden was a beautiful oasis of green containing a collection of almost every plant and tree of the Mediterranean region.
I also loved the funereal monuments that depicted the life led by the deceased person.
The mosque in the centre of the castle garden was once a chapel but after the capture of the castle by the Ottomans in 1523 a minaret was added and the chapel converted.
Inside the chapel there was a very serene atmosphere although I do admit to feeling less than serene when I realised that I was looking at an open tomb with 12 bodies stacked on top of each other. It is believed these bodies date from between the 12th to 14th Century AD.
In the museum we were amazed by the treasures that had been retrieved from a total of nine excavated wrecks.
I was particularly captivated by the incredible glassware discovered in the late 1970s from the wreck of an 11th Century AD ship that had sank near Marmaris due to anchor failure.
The glassware which the archeologists think came from Beirut was simply mesmerising.
Something else that really caught my eye was the broken glass that had been used as ballast – the ship carried three tons of glass – one tonne of broken vessels and two tonnes of raw glass.
There was so much to take in that we vowed to return to look at all the treasures again. So if you’re in Turkey be sure to visit this wonderful museum to discover the ancient treasures of the deep.
To our great relief, we had managed to get our anchor down in the Gökağaç anchorage at Yedi Adlari – despite both our ignition and the anchor hand controller being out of action.
We had also managed, with the help of John from S/V Catabella, to shut down the engine (and the dreaded alarm mentioned in my last blog) after locating the emergency cut off switch.
Now to find out what had caused the problem in the first place! It didn’t take Jonathan long to find the culprit – two wires in the engine well had melted together causing them to fuse which affected the relay switch to the ignition (and the anchor control device).
He carefully prised the two wires apart and taped them up which was enough to enable us to start the ignition and although the engine was out of action we were still be able to get the anchor up (thanks to sailing friends on social media who reminded us that this was possible by turning on the ignition only!)
We managed to find a marine electronics specialist via the very helpful Marlin Yachting Technical Service in Marmaris and it was agreed that he and his assistant would meet us at Değirmen Bükü (aka English Harbour, roughly two hours motoring for us and less than half an hour’s drive from Marmaris) in two day’s time.
After a peaceful night and a trouble-free raising of the anchor (albeit having to put up with that insistent alarm!) we set off using the port side engine only. This was quite uneventful although I must confess to being slightly nervous as we navigated the entrance to the anchorage where the jagged rocks taunted us as we exited in a slightly crab-like manner.
Değirmen is known as English Harbour (according to the pilot book for this area) and apparently it gets its name from the second World War when the British Special Boat Squadron used it as a base.
The bay is very large with a number of anchorages but most of them require stern-to mooring (where you anchor and then tie your stern off on land). As you probably know by now, we hate doing that – always preferring to free anchor when ever possible.
With that in mind, we headed for Malderisi Limani from which it is a short dinghy ride to Okluk Koyu where we planned to pick up the marine electricians and also have a meal at one of the restaurants.
We were also keen to have a look at the Turkish President’s summer palace in Malderisi Limani although we had heard that boats were not allowed to anchor there when the president was in residence.
Judging by the enormous security barriers on the hillside boundary it was understandable that security concerns about the easy access from the water meant you couldn’t anchor close to the palace when the President was there.
It therefore wasn’t a huge surprise when suddenly we noticed a small police motor launch heading straight for us!
The police officer/security guard aboard told us very courteously that we would not be allowed to anchor anywhere in that end of the bay and also, to our surprise, we were absolutely not allowed to go down the small arm to the side (Oluk Koyu) even though this was on the other side of the massive security fence.
This was really frustrating as that meant we couldn’t meet the guys coming in from Marmaris (or go for a meal at one of the restaurants!)
This small hiccup meant we had to turn round and have a rethink. Our research turned up a small village called Söğüt (pronounced something like “suet” as in the pudding). It was only an hour away and it had a good road connection to Marmaris.
On the way out we saw a lovely bronze statue of a mermaid sitting on a rock at the entrance to Okluk Koyu.
Apparently, the sculptor of the statue was Tanku Öktem and it was a gift from Sadun Boro, the first Turkish sailor to circumnavigate the world. This area was where he always anchored after every one of his voyages.
His inscription reads “The mermaid, in order to realise her dream, has travelled over the seas, crossed the horizons. She went through continents, islands and coves until she got to Gököva”.
Söğüt turned out to be real find – it was “so good”! It had a really pretty little harbour with a sailing school, one hotel, a handful of restaurants and a very well stocked and well run mini market. It was also very quiet, peaceful and calm!
Entering the anchorage on only one engine was rather hair-raising as we had lost the ability to manoeuvre easily. As always, our fellow boat owners were very understanding while we were negotiating our way through the other boats anchored there – even though we were getting perilously close sometimes!
Jonathan did a great job and in the end we found a great spot to drop our anchor a little further out than the other boats.
John and Sue on Catabella anchored quite close to a small beach and realised that they could put a line to shore quite easily. Sue bravely volunteered to swim the line over (her first time) and tie up – well done Sue!
The following day, exactly at the time arranged, Gökhan Coşkun and his assistant from AC/DC Marlne electric and electronics arrived. They soon diagnosed the problem – as we suspected a new relay switch was needed. They not only replaced the switch but also spent considerable time checking the wiring out, sealing everything up correctly and generally making sure everything was in good shape. They also left us with a spare relay switch in case the same thing ever happened again!
Earlier that day we were very surprised and happy to see the Whittaker family enter the bay on their yacht Polykandros. We hadn’t seen them since catching up in Kas early in the season but last year had spend many weeks (almost three months!) together in Alimos Marina, in Athens Greece, during the first Covid lockdown.
It was lovely to have a big catch up that afternoon on Polykandros and enjoy Silke’s delicious cinnamon rolls once more.
We also had sundowners with Silke and Tim aboard Sunday and an art lesson and popcorn making session with Nina and Luka before the family left for Bodrum.
Sadly, the Whittakers had decided to sell their boat and had lots of packing and organising to do before the handover to the new owners.
While we were in Söğüt we met Chris and Irene who hail from Christchurch in New Zealand and had lots of interesting sailing stories to share. After drinks on Sunday we went for a good meal at the beachfront restaurant in the village.
On our last day in Söğüt we walked round to the small marina where the famous Global Sailing Academy is based.
We were surprised to see how beautiful this little marina was, a small green oasis with weeping willows and even a “Monet bridge”. It was so beautiful!
It was also interesting to see that the marina, although small, could have accommodated Sunday if we ever wanted an alternative safe spot to leave our floating home.
In my last blog I described the atmospheric beauty of ancient Knidos which lies at the very tip of the Datça peninsula in the south-west of Turkey.
It was such a buzz being anchored in this harbour where many thousands of merchant vessels and warships had been anchored before us, over the course of more than 2,500 years.
Our friends Sue and John on S/V Catabella who had arrived in Knidos before us, decided to travel up the other side of the peninsula to Kairos Marina for a much needed hose-down of their boat which had been covered in soot and ash from the recent terrible forest fires.
We hadn’t had enough of Knidos yet and decided to stay an extra day to have a little more of a look round.
Shortly after we had waved them off we saw another familiar boat come into view – a pretty little traditional yacht called Wild Rover of Dart that we had last seen in Finike Marina when she was having new timber decks installed.
Her skipper Karl, anchored nearby and once settled, swam over to say “hello”. We arranged to have a drink together later but before long Karl came on over the radio and invited us over for a meal.
It was great to meet his crew Kendall, who was currently based in Chicago but was originally from Connecticut. We had a great time swapping travelling tales and stories from our youth, and setting the world to rights.
Later we decided to dinghy over and have a further look at Knidos.
Wandering around this site just before sunset was fantastic as the warm rosy orange glow of the setting sun brought the ancient stones to life and created a magical atmosphere.
We joined a small throng of visitors to view the glorious sunset from the water’s edge. It was absolutely spectacular – the photos I took just don’t do it justice.
As if the beauty of the sunset wasn’t enough, an obliging yacht sailed past the glowing golden orb just as it dipped into the sea. It was such a fabulous sight that when the sun had finally disappeared the crowd burst into spontaneous applause!
As if in competition to this wonderful sunset a full moon rose, shimmering in all her finery.
All that beauty called for a celebration so we retired to the beer garden below the lovely little restaurant for a nightcap.
The following day we were up early as we had arranged to meet the crew of Catabella en route to our destination Yedi Adalari (Seven Islands).
There was a wonderful breeze and for once we were going with it and had a great few hours of lovely sailing. We had a slight problem while we were pulling the main sail up as the piece of rope that attached the clew of the sail to the boom snapped!
Fortunately, the “lazy jacks” held the sail in place while Jonathan replaced the rope.
But that wasn’t the end to our woes! On our approach to our anchorage in Gökağaç at Yedi Adlari, we switched on our engines and brought down the sails. All was fine – until the water ingress alarm in the starboard engine started to buzz incessantly, persistently and very annoyingly!
We have become used to the alarm going off as it has been happening intermittently ever since we took possession of Sunday. In fact when we bought her, we had to reconnect the alarm – we figured the previous owners had got so fed up with the alarm going off for no reason that they had disconnected it!
So we simply ignored the alarm and carried on. Just before we were about to anchor we noticed that the rev counter had suddenly stopped working and then when I went to send the anchor down the hand controller wouldn’t respond!
Meanwhile that damned alarm kept on going and going with its interminable high pitched wailing!
Fortunately the anchorage wasn’t crowded and we weren’t in any danger of crashing into anything but we had to get that anchor down so Jonathan released the clutch on the windlass and just allowed shed-loads of chain to free fall!
Then came the problem of the engine – because the ignition wasn’t working the engine couldn’t be switched off.
Working on the principle that two heads are better than one, John from Catabella came over and eventually the emergency cut off switch was located!
Now we were stuck with no way of starting the starboard engine which is the one that controls the anchor winch.
Would we have to stay in (the rather bleak) Gökağaç for ever? Or pull the anchor (and it’s extremely heavy 10mm short link chain) up by hand? Or was there another solution?!
The find out the answer to that conundrum look out for the next instalment of “Salty Tales”.
Saying “goodbye” is never easy, especially in these Covid times when future meet ups are uncertain with lockdowns and cancelled travel arrangements possibly occurring at the drop of a hat.
However, we felt very grateful that our daughter and son-in-law had managed to leave the Netherlands and visit us for two weeks and we have many beautiful memories to enjoy until we are together again.
Hannah and Pieter left in the very early hours to get to Izmir airport as their flight took off around 6am. They fully expected the airport to be quite empty but were shocked to find it heaving with people.
They arrived at 4.15 am but after waiting over an hour to check in and then going through two security checks and standing in a long queue at immigration/customs, had to run to their gate to get to their flight in time!
We on the other hand, had a leisurely and very good breakfast and set off at a reasonable hour to return to Sunday where she was anchored in Orhaniye.
Rather than take the direct route back to Orhaniye we decided to drive first to Didim to have a look at the marina where we have booked in our catamaran Sunday for the winter.
On the way there we drove through a town called Şelcuk which we discovered, is the gateway to Ephesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 10th century BC.
The ruins of Ephesus include the remains of a large amphitheatre and the Library of Celsus. Also near Selçuk and part of the UNESCO site, is a marble column, one of the few remains of the Temple of Artemis completed around 550 BC which has been designated one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
We were excited to drive past Ayasuluk Hill, on top of which we could see a fine Byzantine fortress (7th century), also part of the UNESCO site.
There are many other amazing places of archeological interest belonging to the Ephesus site and we are very much looking forward to spending time to explore the whole area really well in the winter months.
When we arrived in Didim we found the marina easily and were happy to see it looked very smart and had great facilities. Everything was extremely clean and well cared for and there was plenty of space between moored boats and also for manoeuvring while entering and leaving berths.
The marina seemed rather isolated but apparently there is a regular bus route into town.
After a quick lunch we hit the road again and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, especially as we wound our way down towards the coast negotiating the alarming z-bends.
The next day we left Orhaniye to join Sue and John on S/V Catabella. They had left Datça while we were away and were now anchored below the ancient and wondrous site of Knidos which sits right at the intersection of the Aegean and Mediterranean regions.
Having had to return the hire car and do a bit of shopping before we left to join them, we decided not to try and get there that day. Instead we travelled to Ova Bükü, half way along the Datça peninsula for the night.
The following morning we arrived at Knidos before 10am but it was still pretty crowded with many big gulets (sailing boats built on traditional lines and now used as luxury tourist accommodation) and quite a few cruising boats too.
Some of the vessels were “Med moored” while others were free anchored and the space was limited so it took us a while to find a suitable “spot” but once we were settled we were very happy with our choice.
It felt amazing to be anchored in the shadow of this beautiful and atmospheric ancient Greek city, right in the spot where in the far distant past warlike triremes and merchant vessels carrying wine, wheat, olive oil, glass and other cargo had anchored.
The city of Knidos moved to its current location right on the tip of the Datça peninsula in 360 BC. It was first excavated in 1857 and of course, as with so many of these ancient sites, many treasures were taken to England and are now in the British museum.
Excavations by Turkish archeological experts were launched in Knidos in 1988 and have continued since then.
Most of the recent work has focused on the restoration of areas that were excavated and left by the early explorations. Abandoned excavation pits have been closed and ruins restored to give visitors a feel for how the city was originally laid out and it’s main features.
From the decks of Sunday we could see steep terraced hillsides, planted with olive, almond and fruit trees, that rose above our idyllic bay. On one side of the harbour was an amphitheatre, columns and various ruins while on the other side there were the remains of ancient harbour walls and terraces dotted with dressed stone.
It was such a wonderful experience exploring this rare historical gem. One of the most amazing aspects was finding so many bits of pot (and even an almost complete amphora!) just lying scattered everywhere.
We walked amongst temples dedicated to Greek gods and early Christian churches and chapels, some built on the site of temples. We were also amazed at the beautiful stone carvings everywhere.
A broad street with a row of heroons (built in ancient times for heroes or people who did important work on behalf of their city) took us towards a lovely amphitheatre from which we could see our boats anchored in the ancient harbour.
By an elegant water fountain right on the harbour we imagined overjoyed sailors drinking their fill and washing their salty faces after a long voyage. How delighted they must have been to see the beautiful fresh water cascading over the sides of this lovely fountain.
The restaurant right next to the site was open so what better way to end our tour than to have a lovely dinner under the shadow of ancient Knidos?!
It is said that “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good” and the scary events caused by the Meltimi wind in Datça (mentioned in my previous blog), proved this to be true!
Apart from the fact a drowning woman was saved, we also met some great people through the series of events caused by the “ill wind”
When our daughter Hannah noticed someone in trouble in the water and Jonathan was trying to get to Sue and John’s boat but being blown backwards in his dinghy, I put out a message on the Radio’s emergency channel calling “all ships” to let them know there was someone in the water and to assist where possible.
The message was picked up by Niki and Jamie from S/V Grateful who swung by the following day and very kindly invited all of us to dinner on their boat.
We had a lovely evening and shared many travel stories, ate good food and drank wine.
During dinner we noticed smoke rising from a hillside behind Datça town. Our hearts sunk as there had been so much destruction already from forest fires that week.
The fire fighters leapt into action and helicopters and purpose built aeroplane were soon collecting water from the ocean nearby and dumping sea water on the fire.
Fortunately being so quick off the mark seemed to do the trick and the fire was brought under control surprisingly fast.
The next day we sailed back to show our daughter and son-in-law one of our favourite spots – the outstanding anchorage near Orhaniye in the Hisaronu Gulf. It was a terrible shock to see how much of the beautiful pine forest had burnt out in the wild fires.
As soon as we arrived they dived off the boat and swam straight to the 600 metre sand spit that stretches out from the beach into the anchorage. It’s quite strange seeing people standing there – looking for all the world as though they are walking on water!
We had a really fantastic few days – Hannah and Pieter climbed to the top of the rocky hill on the small island and explored the ruins of the castle, (reputed to be Medieval in origin but there would have been a fort here previously, belonging to Bybassus, a town in ancient Caria.)
The climb was rugged but they loved the experience and said the views were amazing!
We found a beautiful sand-between-the-toes restaurant where we had a very special dinner to celebrate Hannah’s recent 30th birthday. It was a perfect spot to welcome the start of her third decade!
Part of her birthday gift from our son Ben and his wife Sarah was a parasailing experience, so one day we took a taxi to Marmaris and she and Pieter experienced a tandem flight high up above the sea. The views were amazing they said.
That day happened to be Ben and Sarah’s second wedding anniversary so we drank a toast to them and wished we could visit them (or them us) as the last time we saw them was when we attended their wedding. It seems such a long time ago and like everyone separated from their loved ones at this time, we miss them so much!
Pieter and Hannah’s stay with us was rapidly drawing to a close. We went for one last drink at the restaurant where we had celebrated Hannah’s birthday and drank a toast to family, far and wide.
There were last swims, last stargazing on the deck together and sadly, more watching helicopters fill up with sea water to dump on fresh (mercifully small) wild fire outbreaks nearby.
We decided to make their last day in Turkey a bit of a road trip as they were flying out of Izmir which was a longer drive than to Dalaman, where they had landed two weeks previously. Added to that, their flight was leaving at 6am!
The countryside was stunning and in parts quite different to the scenery we had seen previously. At the top of the range we were amazed by the landscape – especially the massive rocks all piled on top of one another, looking just like a giant’s building blocks.
By mid-morning we were ready for a break and stopped for gözleme – the Turkish answer to pancakes – at a small roadside stall. The lady there was lovely and showed Hannah the different steps used to make these delicious treats.
While we were watching her cooking, several guys on tractors drove by and then the tiniest woman I have ever seen leading her two good looking cows walked by! Having spent the last two weeks in tourist spots it was interesting to see a bit of rural Turkey.
We arrived in Izmir in the early afternoon and found the Doubletree Hilton hotel at the airport with no trouble. The only problem was it was the wrong hotel! I had inadvertently booked at the other Doubletree Hotel in Izmir! Who would know that there were two hotels of the same name?!
Fortunately the other hotel cancelled the booking at no charge but then we found out that it’s twin at the airport was full!
Eventually they did offer us a suite and a deluxe room which although expensive by Turkish standards, was still way under what you would pay for a normal room in a good hotel in Australia or the United Kingdom.
So we plopped our bags down and went out to explore Izmir (founded by the Greeks and known as Smyrna in antiquity).
We didn’t have much time but we had a walk around some of the popular tourist sites such as the Konak Clock Tower built in 1901 and the tiny Konak mosque with its lovely blue ceramic tiles.
The Kemeraltı Bazaar in Izmir covers a vast area and has existed in its present layout since the 17th Century but of course, the bazaar was in existence for centuries before then. Parts of it is still very traditional – selling sumptuous fruit, aromatic spices, olives, colourful vegetables, beautiful carpets, as well as plentiful fish and meat but there were also many stalls that sold gaudy toys, t-shirts and other clothes and tourist-focussed paraphernalia.
In the middle of the bazaar we came across the Hisar Mosque (“Fortress Mosque”) which we later found out, was built in 1592 and is the oldest, most significant, Ottoman landmark in İzmir.
We ate an early dinner in one of the lovely quiet and peaceful courtyards off the bazaar and then went back to the hotel for a swim in the pool and an early night.
Unfortunately, things did not go to plan! We were just getting ready to go to the pool when an incredibly massive din broke outside our window which happened to look out over the pool.
The windows were literally shaking to the “duf duf” music and there were tables set up for some kind of celebration in the pool area.
Given that Hannah and Pieter were leaving at 4 am and were hoping to have at least some sleep that night we agreed that the situation was untenable. The hotel was actually very nice and agreed they should have warned us about the party and kindly organised another hotel for us. So we moved again and we had a restful sleep! Third time lucky!
It was such a great relief to have our daughter and husband safely with us on board Sunday after an anxious wait beforehand wondering whether new travel restrictions would be initiated or their PCR tests returned positive.
Their arrival had been quite dramatic with terrible bushfires along the coast and lots of smoke and ash everywhere blocking out the usual intensely blue skies.
The contrast in temperature between the Netherlands (less than 20 degrees Celsius or 68 degrees Fahrenheit) and the extreme heat in Turkey (over 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit) was incredible but being able to jump off the boat and cool down in the beautiful clear water helped a lot!
After a couple of nights in Bozburun we pulled up the anchor and motor sailed to Bençik – a beautiful, peaceful, inlet on the Datça Peninsula that Sue and John on Catabella had found.
There was nothing there except trees and the remains of a holiday camp which had been defunct for many years.
After a restful couple of days swimming, eating, relaxing and catching up, we headed for our next stop – Kuruca Buku, a large bay on the west side of a point with a holiday village around the shore.
After a short walk across an isthmus we found Çiftlik – a small village on another large bay which has a handful of restaurants, a small supermarket and lots of holiday houses.
We had a good lunch at one of the restaurants there with Sue and John. What a pleasure it was to eat out at a restaurant with Hannah and Pieter! When we left them at the end of February the Netherlands was still in lockdown after several months. We hadn’t been able to enjoy a meal out together all the time we were staying with them (from mid-September until we left).
The next day we were off again – this time to Datça, which lies in the middle of the long and narrow Datça Peninsula. The journey was marred by the smoggy atmosphere, caused by the forest fires that had been wreaking havoc over the previous few days.
The sky at 6pm was as dark as it was under normal circumstances at 8.30pm and the sun gave off an unearthly glow.
It was great to walk along the “promenade”, past all the feet-in-the-sand restaurants (where a beer cost almost as much as a whole meal in other restaurants!) and enjoy the holiday atmosphere.
We found a very nice little restaurant overlooking the harbour where we had a very enjoyable traditional Turkish meal.
Datça is a popular tourist spot and despite Turkey being on the “red list” in the United Kingdom, the little town seemed bustling – there were quite a number of Turkish holiday makers and a good few Russians and Ukrainians too.
Our stay in Datça was rather eventful. It all began when a large turtle popped it’s head up close to the boat. Then we saw it again and once again, and then realised that there were multiple turtles feeding on the thick weed near to the boat.
Hannah and Pieter donned their snorkel masks and jumped in the water to see if they could see them close-to. We were surprised to find firstly that there were six turtles feeding and secondly, they were totally unfazed by their presence. Jonathan and I both jumped in too and were thrilled to be swimming near these beautiful creatures.
Later, the wind changed direction and it’s strength increased. Our anchor was put under load and lifted. Normally this would not be a problem as our trusty Rochna resets itself in these circumstances. However, on this occasion it reset in the thick weed which meant it couldn’t get a proper grip on the seabed.
We suddenly realised that we were gradually floating off towards the Greek island of Simi!
There be wasn’t any panic, we just pulled up the anchor and reanchored with no dramas. By this time the wind was around 30 plus knots and gusting higher.
A little later we were quietly enjoying a pre dinner drink when we heard an enormous snapping sound – like a massive whip being cracked or a high pitch thunder bolt. It sounded so close that we wondered if something had happened to our boat. A second crack sent us scurrying on to the foredeck and off towards the shore. Straightaway we could see the problem – the wind had caught Catabella’s light foresail (called a code zero) and caused it to start unfurling. The loud cracks were the sound of the sail flailing in the high wind.
Jonathan immediately launched the dinghy and got the motor going. Unfortunately he didn’t get very far as the wind was blowing so hard that the bow of the dinghy started to rear up which was scary to watch from the safety of Sunday.
Jonathan stopped the bucking by steering slightly off the wind but the small outboard was struggling and he started to head slowly (and backwards) out to sea! Fortunately he managed to get back to Sunday but it was very frustrating not being able to help the crew on Catabella.
In the meantime, Hannah was looking through the binoculars and called out in alarm “there’s someone in the water!”
Not knowing what else to do I got on the ship’s radio and put out a “person in the water” message to alert all the boats in the anchorage. We learnt later that other boats had picked up the message and had tried to launch their dinghies but like us, were unable to fight the wind and swell.
We thought that maybe someone had been knocked off the boat by the flapping sail but it turned out to be an older Turkish lady swimmer who found herself unable to get back into the beach and was slowly getting swept out to sea.
Fortunately two boats anchored near to Catabella, closer to land than us, had been able to reach them and were already assisting with getting the sail under control.
They jumped into their dinghies and went to the lady’s assistance. She was in shock and exhausted and too weak to struggle into a dinghy even with help, so in the end her rescuers towed her to Catabella.
It wasn’t easy to get her aboard but eventually she was safely on Catabella where she drank three big glasses of water and recovered somewhat before one of the rescue team (a professional skipper) took her back to shore in the ship’s tender.
According to Sue she couldn’t speak English so they didn’t discover exactly what had happened to her but they were very glad to have been able to save her despite being in the midst of their own drama!
What a week of highs and lows – of excitement and anxiety, of pleasurable anticipation and indescribable horror!
We were eagerly waiting for our daughter and son-in-law to arrive from the Netherlands but we weren’t allowing ourselves to get too excited as we have become used to arrangements being cancelled or rules changed at the last moment due to Covid.
Then, while we were hopping from foot to foot in excitement, a terrible, horrifying, tragedy unfolded – out-of-control bushfires sparked by the hotter-than-a-hairdryer wind that had first hit us a few days previously.
Up and down the coast terrifying fires raged and it seemed like all hell had let loose. There was wide scale devastation from Marmaris to Orhaniye and later terrible conflagrations up and down the coast and inland too.
We had left Sue and John in Orhaniye and were back in Bozburun where we had hired a self-drive car to pick up Hannah and Pieter from Dalaman airport the following day.
Social media were full of horrific images and stories of the blazes in Marmaris and surrounding beach suburbs. That evening Sue and John witnessed the terrifying fires first hand in beautiful Orhaniye.
Every boat was absolutely covered in soot and ash from nearby fires and I (selfishly but momentarily!) regretted spending the many hours cleaning to get Sunday “shipshape” for the arrival of our guests. Of course, that was definitely an extremely petty problem in the context of people’s homes and farms being burned and the vast tracts of glorious forest destroyed.
We set off on the Saturday morning for Dalaman – only 2.75 hours away but we had a few things to do en route.
It was a good thing that we left plenty of time as we had a slow trip along the 40 kilometres (25 miles) of winding road from Bozburun to the main road for Marmaris.
At various strategic points we encountered groups of fire fighters and trucks and water tankers as we wound our way along. There was smoke everywhere.
Once on the main road, traffic came to a complete standstill to wait for the water bombing helicopter to drop its massive load of sea water on one of the fires.
Soon we had been diverted off the main road and we found ourselves on a country lane heading for the Marmaris suburb of Içmeler.
It was like driving through a war zone. Black trees, burnt to almost total destruction, some less damaged but with ghostly scorched pale leaves quivering in the smoky atmosphere loomed above us on each side of the road.
It was heartbreaking to see such devastation and frightening to see that the tree roots were still smoking and in places, flames licking around the dead tree trunks.
On the outskirts of Marmaris we saw a number of damaged buildings but the firefighters had done an incredible job of protecting homes and businesses from the fires.
Eventually we reached Marmaris just an hour early for Jonathan’s second Covid vaccination but not enough time to do a couple of other jobs we had planned.
So we went straight to the hospital -perched at the top of a hill – to see if he could sneak in early. We had to wait a short while as the clinic was closed for lunch but he was able to get his shot straight away once it opened. Thank you again Turkey!
While I was waiting for him I sat in the car with the air conditioning on (the temperature was around 42 degrees with that hot wind still blowing) mesmerised by the heroic helicopter pilots dumping tonnes of water on the hillsides surrounding Içmeler.
Rather than travel into the centre of Marmaris we decided to have a late lunch at Florida – a favourite restaurant to go to when we want a change from all the delicious Turkish meals we enjoy.
Situated at the foot of the hills I’d been gazing over earlier, Içmeler is a small seaside area on the fringes of Marmaris. Florida is away from the seafront but it can be accessed by a canal from the anchorage and whenever we are in the area we like to visit it.
The road was cordoned off to allow fire trucks to come and fill their water tanks from the canal. An impressive array of pumps and guys to help a fast turn around for the fire trucks were ready and waiting.