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.
Anxiety levels during the time of Covid are high even amongst the most fortunate of us.
Jonathan and I feel exceptionally blessed to be on our boat in beautiful and fascinating Turkey. This week we feel doubly so, thanks to some generous and warmly given assistance we have received here in Finike with our application for a 12-month temporary residents visa.
Thanks first to Samet of Finike Yachting Shipping Agency who, after our unsuccessful attempt at making the initial on-line application, efficiently executed the process in just a few minutes and then magically had an appointment booked with the Turkish Immigration Department organised for just a few days later.
Samet then took us to Tarik’s car hire office and organised our transport. He also accompanied us to the Finike Marina Office to request an original copy of our marina contract.
To be honest after hearing from other yachties about having to get documents translated and the need to move between government departments in different parts of town, I felt quite anxious and wasn’t looking forward to this process at all.
It was therefore so helpful to have Samut’s advice and knowledge of exactly what the Immigration Office required. He just took all the stress away from getting everything organised!
The day before we were to travel to Kemer for our appointment we heard that we would need to take a pink file to Immigration for all our documentation. We were reminded instantly of our disastrous attempts to find pink files on the island of Belitung in Indonesia when we were trying to extend our visas there. There wasn’t a pink folder to to be had anywhere on the island! In the end, we and our friends from S/V Yantara arrived with orange ones (being the nearest to pink we could find!) and despite their protests, the Immigration officials did allow us to use them!
Just before we started to head for the shops in Finike to search for pink files we received a visit from Seda who works at Tarik’s car hire/tourism company.
She asked us to bring our passports and a list of other documents to the office just outside the marina so Tarik, the owner, could check we had everything required. I went to the office with Seda and was surprised but delighted to see that they had very thoughtfully provided us with the necessary pink files.
They checked all of our documents, took photo copies and arranged each one in the correct order in the file. Finally Tarik reminded me to bring the originals of all our documents and to be at the end of our dock at 8.40am where he would be waiting to drive us to Kemer – just over an hour’s drive along the coast from Finike.
The whole process on the day went extremely smoothly thanks to Tarik who drove us there and walked us to the Immigration Office from the car park. He then drove us on to the Taxation Office and even went in to pay the fees on our behalf.
We were driven back to the Immigration office to show the proof of payment and were issued with a receipt and even given our Visa numbers so we could organise (after a six-day wait) our Covid vaccinations without waiting for our official “Ikamet” (residency) cards to arrive.
We feel so grateful to Turkey for allowing us to stay as temporary residents in the country during these difficult times, especially as it’s virtually impossible to go back to our “home” country of Australia.
Flights to Australia are prohibitively expensive (think many thousands of dollars) if you can get on one that is. This, combined with the strong likelihood of flight cancellations and with two-weeks quarantine in a hotel at your own cost, has made our return problematical to say the least.
It is so comforting knowing that we have the certainty of having somewhere we can stay in our floating home for the immediate future.
Huge thanks to Samet, Tarik (and Seda) for all their assistance. Other than paying for the car hire we were given all this invaluable help and support without any charge. We are so grateful!
Another highlight of the week was a lovely pot luck dinner with Catie and Michael from S/V Alyse and Giles and Julia from S/V Elisabeth.
A visit from the beautiful (and massive) resident turtle in the marina was also exciting . What a magnificent creature!
We have explored Finike a little more, watched the snow slowly beginning to melt on distant mountains, and had more encounters with the friendly marina dogs.
Cemal (Jamal), the technical manager at the marina and the hydraulic engineer came to look at our passarelle (gangplank) which is leaking hydraulic fluid.
We also enjoyed going to the massive Tuesday market with Heather and Robert from S/V Amorgos Blue and Cate. We bought lots of delicious things to enjoy through the week.
A stroll round the streets of Kaleköy (literally, Castle village) in the stunning enclosed bay of Kekova Roads, in Turkey, was a must before the dinghy trip back to our catamaran Sunday.
We had just eaten our first meal out in a restaurant since December (and that was the first since the previous August) due to Covid restrictions. It felt ridiculously good!
Feeling rather full we decided not to go all the way to the castle (more of a fort than a full-on castle) but we had a lovely wander round the village which clings to the hillside below.
Back on board Sunday we had an unexpected “flying” visit from David and Jaynee aboard Adventurous who were on their way to join their travel buddies on Imagine 2 – already anchored over the other side of Üçağız.
The next morning dawned still and warm and we had our first outside breakfast of the season which was really wonderful.
At around 9 am we decided to haul the anchor and start our three hour trip to Finike marina.
At first the anchor seemed to be coming up fine but soon it became apparent that we were very stuck. Had we become tangled up on a rock? Or had we snagged something on the ocean bed?
After a bit of manoeuvring to see if we could disengage whatever we were caught on we decided that we needed to find out our exactly what we were up against.
Slowly, slowly we pulled up the chain in tiny increments to avoid stressing our anchor winch. Soon the anchor was near the surface and we could see what had happened. It was caught on what appeared to be a massive disused mooring chain. It was incredibly heavy!
How were we going to get it off? Drastic action was needed or we would be stuck in Kekova Roads for ever!
We needed to tip the anchor somehow to get the massive chain to slide off. Captain Birdseye cleverly managed to thread a rope through the “loop” of the anchor using the boat hook. What next though? We obviously couldn’t use the anchor winch to tip the anchor on its side. We then hit upon the idea of tying the rope off on the cleat on the starboard bow so the anchor was held in position and as soon as we loosened it off it tipped and the huge chain slid back off into the water and we were free!
Soon we were gliding along towards Finike where we were planning to stay for at least a month while we apply for a one year residency visa, look into the possibility of getting a Covid vaccination, make dental appointments, get a few boat jobs done and do some land travel.
As with the Kas-Kekova Roads leg there was no wind so we just switched on the engines and enjoyed the passing scenery – rock formations, the remains of earthquake-ruined ancient buildings and the village of Kaleköy with the fortress rising magnificently high above.
Nestled snugly in a small bay we saw the superyacht M/V Never Say Never which apparently you can hire for a mere 6,000 euros a day!
The three-hour trip passed quickly and soon we were radioing Finike Marina to let them know of our approach.
Our call was answered immediately and in no time at all we were being guided into the marina by two staff members in a dinghy.
Everything went very smoothly and we were soon tied up and ready to check in. As we have signed a year’s contract with Setur Marinas in Finike we are able to stay in Finike at any time within that timeframe without any extra payment.
Although we prefer to be anchored out it is great to know that we can also stay up to one month in any of the nine other Setur marinas for a total of four weeks each. An excellent thing if we need to leave the boat to visit family (Covid permitting), go land travelling or family and friends visit us. No more luggage transfers by dinghy!
After a warm welcome from Marina manager Barbaros and his staff at reception we wandered round to get our bearings and on the way acquainted ourselves with the marina dogs Emma ( just one year old and an affectionate and playful little dog) and the sweet, deaf but perky, 15 year -old Paspas (Turkish for Mop).
That day and the day after, several people stopped at our boat to say “hello”. However, it was very difficult to see who they were as of course their faces were covered by a mask and often a hat too. It was a case of “guess the guest”.
Amazing what a small world it is – especially in yachting circles – one of our “callers” was Liz Colman from S/V Liberte who we last saw several years ago in the remote Andaman Islands. Others we had met more recently last year in Turkey. It is always such a delight to reconnect with people no matter how long you have known them or when you last met!
Donna from Intrepid Kiwi, who we met along with Ross last year very briefly in Gocek, kindly offered to take us on a bit of a tour round town, along with another recent arrival to Finike, Heather, from S/V Amorgos Blue.
Donna took us to three department stores (supermarkets that also sell everything from pots and pans to furniture), to hardware street (browsing heaven for Jonathan) and many other shops (my favourites were reminiscent of shops from my childhood that were “old fashioned” even then) and other various points of interest.
When we had our first and very quick visit to Finike last August we had found a fabulous baker’s shop where delicious bread of all kinds is made in a wood fired oven. So we were able to show Donna and Heather this wonderful place and of course we all purchased supplies to take back to our boats.
The bakers is at one end of short covered laneway and the rest of the space is taken up with a fishmongers and a cafe/restaurant. Having walked our feet off we decided to take the weight off and have a hot drink. Two of us had delicious cappuccinos and the other two had çay – one “normal” and the other herbal, also declared “very good”.
When we arrived in the marina we saw that the bowl at the bottom of the machine installed by a pet food company on the dock was empty. We all put one Turkish Lire (about 15 cents Australian or 10 Euro Cents) in the slot and for each coin a handful of dried animal food was delivered to the bowl. Such a great idea to feed the many local homeless cats and dogs!
Before going back to our boats we called into the boatyard to meet Donna’s delightful rescue kittens Huey and Louie. As we entered the yard Donna called out to them and they came scampering up, jumping like dogs trying to get picked up by her.
During the week we caught up on all the normal “housework” as well as a few boat “projects” such as re-doing some old sealant in the galley that did not reach Capt’n Birdseye’s (or my) standards. He also did a great job replacing bathroom taps that had tarnished over the years with brand new shiny ones!
One afternoon I wandered down our dock to say hello to Australians Jill and Shelley on S/V Eucalyptus. I had “met” Jill on an non-sailing related Facebook page (any other Chat 10 Looks 3 members out there?) so it was great to meet at last.
As the week wore on we met a quite a number of Finike marina residents – most of who had wintered over there but some newer arrivals too.
At a Friday night dock party we met a crowd of new people, amongst them were Roland and Dagmar a German/Swiss couple with three children. Roland very gallantly offered to go up our mast to fix the anchor light which had recently stopped working.
When he got up there he found a loose connection and was able to fix it straight away which was absolutely fantastic!
One of the absolute highlights of the week was a delightful visit from a rare Mediterranean monk seal. Apparently the population of this breed is estimated at less than 700 in the world and a group of around 100 of them live on the coastline of Turkey.
We were really fortunate to see this gorgeous creature especially as – after sunning itself some way from the dock and boats – it slowly swam right up to Sunday and came to literally an arm’s length away from me! After spending some minutes with me the seal swam sedately out of the marina.
We had a lovely last weekend in Kas with the crew of Polykandros, starting with a wonderful picnic in the grounds of the small Hellenistic theatre just outside the town.
To get there we first took the dinghy to the very wobbly jetty near a fisherman’s ramshackle hut. We scrambled up the slope, skirting past the very noisy cockerel who was defending “his girls” by puffing out his feathers and crowing at the top of his voice while the hens pottered about scratching at the earth – totally unconcerned.
At the top of the slope we crossed over the road and found one of the paths that criss cross the hill which rises above the anchorage. As we walked we saw the remains of (more) ancient Lycian tombs, lots of very old and knarled olive trees and a huge array of glorious wild flowers. Spring has definitely sprung in Turkey!
At the theatre we were introduced to fellow yachties Yvette and Martin and their son Jason from S/V Pisces 2. They had recently been in Finike Marina but first met the Whittaker family in Athens, at the Alimos Marina, shortly after we had escaped lockdown there, last June.
Later that day we had a last evening with the Polykandros crew. Fortunately the weather was very calm, unlike during the previous week, and we were able to sit outside and enjoy watching the almost full moon rise over the hills.
The following day was departure day for both boats but sadly in completely different directions. Polykandros was heading up the coast towards Fetiye while Sunday was going the other way, making for the Setur Marina in Fineke.
The morning was absolutely still – not a ripple in the water nor the slightest whisper of a breeze – so still in fact, that the yachts in the marina and the hills behind were perfectly reflected in the water. It was stunningly beautiful.
Luca had left his cap on board the previous night so we arranged to hand it over to him on our boat hook as Polykandros made a farewell “lap of honour” round Sunday.
It was really sad to say goodbye again so quickly but we will catch up again for sure.
Later that day we also hauled anchor and left for the short three-hour trip to Kekova Roads – approximately the half way point to Finike.
We hadn’t been out on the water for more than 15 minutes before we were stopped by the Coastguard (border control) boat.
It was a little unnerving waiting for the officers to give us the OK to leave. Had we transgressed a new rule? Were we on some kind of “banned” list? After checking our passports, ship’s papers and our transit log and spending an inordinate time on the phone checking with who knows what government department, we were sent on our way but not before a vital piece of paper came loose from the folder and blew away!
“Man overboard” I cried and while Capt’n Birdseye quickly untied the rope holding the coastguard’s boat, I kept my eyes trained on the errant piece of paper. Fortunately the coastguards were able to retrieve it and it was soon drying on our draining board!
We had a very pleasant motor to Kekova Roads – there wasn’t a breath of wind so we didn’t bother getting sails up.
Arriving back at Kokova was such a pleasure- we had last been there almost seven months ago and at that time this lovely spot had been very busy with lots of gulets and other tourist boats, cruising yachts and charter vessels.
This time as we motored past Kokova island through one of the three entrances to this glorious and enormous fiord-like bay, we saw just one solitary fishing boat – such magic!
Under leaden skies we meandered along – past rocky islets with ruins on them, random craggy rocks and then the commanding Byzantine Castle built high up on a hill to fight pirates!
We entered the anchorage outside the little village of Üçağız through the all-important port and starboard markers. There are so many rocks lurking under the water that much caution has to be taken!
Safely anchored opposite the remains of what was once the ancient Lycian port town of Teimiussa, we were visited by another couple of Coastguards who once again wanted to examine our paperwork and made more phone calls.
The chief pointed to our Turkish courtesy flag and shook his head tut-tutting. “New, you need new”. We looked up and sheepishly agreed. It was looking very faded and rather tatty!
That night we enjoyed a long sundowner while we watched the full moon rise in all its glory.
It felt really good to be tying up at the wonderful fish restaurant on the quayside of Üçağız belonging to Hassan although sadly it was all closed up and none of the family appeared to be around.
Wandering through the tiny streets it was a pleasure to see the village hadn’t been spoilt like so many others have by the growth in tourism. Sure, there were some restaurants and guest houses but nothing has been built to spoil the charming rustic character of the place.
It was surprising to see how many ancient tombs were dotted around the village – often used as shelters for the local chickens and others just occupying random spots in the car park, people’s gardens and in laneways.
Before long, we had come to the end of the “modern” village and following a pathway that went cheek by jowl to the front door of the last cottage, we found our way to the ruins of Teimiussa.
Apparently very little is known about these ruins but inscriptions on the tombs indicate they could date back as far as the 4th century BC.
There are ruins of a necropolis, but no city walls or other major structures – possibly these could have been damaged by earthquakes and just slipped into the sea.
The tombs are absolutely magnificent – made from local limestone, many have been carved into the cliffs but others have been carefully placed on site with stone wedges to level them up. Without exception, these tombs have been robbed – this must have been a problem even in the ancient times, since many of the tomb inscriptions are apparently curses against desecrators!
It was poignant to see the holes ruthlessly bashed into the sides of tombs and lids “dangling” half on and half off with just enough room for a robber to reach in and snatch jewellery and other precious items belonging to the long dead.
The day was still young so we made our way back through the village and hopped aboard our dinghy for a little ride around.
The good captain suggested that we should go for lunch in the village of Kaleköy so we puttered over to the small harbour that lies in the shadow of the castle fortress.
There was only one restaurant open so that’s where we went!
This was the first proper meal out for months (because of Covid lockdowns) so we really enjoyed ourselves. It felt like such luxury to be eating at a table in the sun, with a crisp cotton tablecloth and an ice cold beer (our first this year!) in frosty glasses straight from the fridge.
Calamari, hand cut chips and a beautiful salad never tasted so good!
It was an eventful few days! Some great things, some not so great.
On Sunday we entertained aboard S/V Sunday for the first time in seven months – one of the good things that happened!
Our guests were the crews from Polykandros (who we spent three months in lockdown with at Alimos Marina, Athens) and A B Sea who we met only recently at Kas marina.
By coincidence (but not entirely surprising as the live-aboard yachting community is a very small world) the Whittakers from Polykandros and Aannsha and Baz from A B Sea already knew each other so it was a very cosy and enjoyable night.
Just as everyone was leaving, the weather suddenly started to change for the worse. Fortunately everyone got back to their boats safely but as the night drew on it became quite nasty with winds blowing up hard. Definitely one of the not so great things that happened.
Soon after they arrived back the crew on Polykandros had to reanchor as they were stretched out on their anchor chain and were perilously near rocks. By this time the wind was really howling and the weather and darkness made reanchoring very challenging.
We stayed up on anchor watch until 1.30 am but went to bed with our iPad open at an anchor watch app and slept fitfully for a few hours.
At 4.30am we were woken up by the sound of roaring like an express train – the wind was now raging at 50 knots, gusting at 70 knots. The noise was really quite scary. Around 5.30 a big gust seemed to take us rather too close for comfort to another yacht on a fixed mooring so we hoisted our anchor and moved to a spot far away from other boats or any other hazards!
We were safely reanchored just as the dawn call to prayer boomed out on the crackly sound system belonging to the main mosque. I have never before been so glad to hear this call signalling that the sun was about to come up!
We stayed on board all of the next day and reanchored again in a better and more comfortable spot as more wild weather was predicted. Fortunately that night, although windy, it was not nearly so bad as the previous one – although we did wake up a couple of times when a “bullet” went through.
The following morning the sky looked extremely threatening – massive and angry looking clouds with a distinct reddish tinge were building above the hills surrounding Kas.
Having just cleaned the decks from the last red dust rainfall we weren’t looking forward to seeing what was about to eventuate.
Then the skies opened spreading sticky red dust all over the boat. The red sand had been carried on the wind all the way from the Sahara Desert. This fall was much worse than the last one!
Not only did it stain everything it landed on, the red sand apparently also carried various poisonous substances we didn’t like the sound of including lead, zinc, chromium, vanadium, arsenic and nickel! Not exactly cool refreshing rain!
We had to cancel our dinner date aboard Polykandros that night as it was just too risky. The normally smooth calm waters were whipped into a frenzy every time the wind blew up and we didn’t want to get in the dinghy in that sort of weather.
The following day we had a very pleasant morning tea on Polykandros – the Whittaker’s had moved to the marina for a few days to recover from their terrible night during the first storm.
Later that day we started the clean up from the “red rain”. Arghh what a mess!
We had a lovely time at the Friday markets with the Whittakers – it was great having helpers to pick out the eggs and choose the best looking strawberries.
While at the market we met an interesting dive boat captain at one of the vegetable stalls. His name was Levant and he gave us the recipe for a delicious soup called Tamini with fresh garlic, celeriac, leeks and mange tout (snow peas). Or maybe his name was Tamini and he came from Levant or perhaps that was the soup? Anyway, I have now made it and it was really delicious (I added a good squirt of lemon juice, a stock cube and some noodles!)
That afternoon Luca and Nina came over to Sunday to have their first drawing class with Jonathan since we left them in Athens. Luca did some amazing cartoons while Nina and Jonathan concentrated hard on drawing one of our “grand ducks” from our grandpet calendar made by our daughter-in-law Sarah in Brisbane, Australia.
Once again the wind blew up suddenly around 6 pm just as Jonathan was about to drop Luca and Nina back to Polykandros (who was now at anchor once again). We were a bit concerned that they might be frightened but they seemed to relish the rocky ride home.
Later that evening the sea calmed down and a beautiful full moon rose. A lovely end to a mixed bag of good and bad over the previous few days!
Back on the boat again we spent a week settling back into the rhythm of life on board. The days were filled with reorganising everything – finding homes for winter clothes, rearranging linen and towels, restocking the pantry, reinstalling the water maker, getting the sails back on, scrubbing the decks and fenders, cleaning and reinstalling the outside window covers and catching up with washing and “indoor” housework.
The beautiful mild weather we had been enjoying during the first week here in the delightful harbour town of Kas, Turkey, had turned to much cooler weather with high winds and lots of rain, interspersed with occasional sunny spells.
We were fortunate to be moored on Arm C of the marina. – very close to the supermarket which was very handy as there were quite a lot of heavy items that we needed to restock.
The downside of being at the end of this particular arm was that it was in direct line with a vicious wave pattern whipped up by the high winds that caused Sunday – a Lagoon 420 catamaran – to pitch and twist on her lines.
The first night that Sunday was in the marina we stayed in the apartment that we had hired and the following morning we arrived to find some marina employees hard at work making repairs to the decking on our arm. It seems the bucking and twisting on Sunday’s lines had caused a couple of bolts to sheer overnight. It sure was rough on the end of “C” arm!
We had to rearrange our lines and add a couple more to provide more stability and stop Sunday moving around quite so strenuously.
Having recently stayed quite a few months on and off with our daughter and son-in-law who follow a plant based diet made us think more about trying to eat much less meat in our diet. This has meant all my go-to meat based staple meals had to go and I needed to establish a new repertoire.
So I have introduced meals for the winter months such as vegetarian versions of Chilli Con Carne, Shepherds Pie and South Indian Coconut Curry and also added new recipes like Turkish style Ratatouille and Almond, Aubergine and cauliflower Balti. All highly delicious, nutritious and easy to make. Plus we have enjoyed the new textures and flavours. Each week I will be trialling a few new recipes to see how we like them.
Once again we loaded up with vegetables, fruit, eggs, fresh herbs and lovely spices at the Friday markets and even bought a wooden pestle and mortar to crush spices with. Of course we stopped for Gozleme – cheese and spinach and banana and honey this time – delicious!
Between food shopping and boat jobs we also had some great walks around the town – revisiting places we had discovered previously as well as visiting an ancient temple (the original building was 1st century AD and later additions were from the 3rd Century) for the first time.
We also wandered along the waterfront where industrious workers were preparing restaurants and cafes for the forthcoming season (Covid permitting).
A little over a week after being splashed it was time to leave the marina and anchor out just a few hundred metres away in the little anchorage near the boatyard.
The marina deck staff were very helpful untying us and our departure went extremely smoothly.
Fortunately the weather had settled down for the time being and it felt great to be at anchor again.
We were excited to hear from Silke and Tim Whittaker from S/V Polykandros that they were arriving in Kas on Saturday 20th March.
The last time we had seen the Whittaker family was the day we left Athens Marina on 1 June 2020 after spending the whole of our three month lockdown together in Alimos Marina.
Having spent a lot of time with each other – sharing meals, doing art classes, playing games, swapping movies, working (unsuccessfully) to get our Greek visas extended and generally keeping each other’s spirits up during those difficult days of the first Covid lockdown – we had become very close so we were very much looking forward to seeing each other again.
Last Saturday Polykandros came into view. Before they had come alongside Sunday to say “hi” their beautiful little dog Lucy let out a big yelp of excitement and started running up and down Polykandros barking joyously!
We were amazed that after almost nine months she not only remembered us but was also so pleased to be reunited!
Soon after they were settled at anchor the Polykandros crew lowered their dinghy and came over to “Sunday”. It was such a wonderful reunion!
Later, while Tim and Silke went to do some much needed shopping for fresh provisions we went for a great stroll with Luca, Nina and Lucy.
We walked up the hill away from town and around the coast to see the delightfully small but beautiful Hellenistic theatre (built in the 1st Century BC) that seated 4,000 people and has wonderful views over the Mediterranean Sea.
It was such a great feeling to be sitting at a cafe in the lovely harbour town of Kas in Turkey about to bite into our first tavuk şiş (chicken kebab).
We felt so grateful to Turkey for allowing us in and to the Netherlands for letting us go in these difficult times with Covid lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Apart from a lovely pub lunch in December with Jonathan’s brother and his partner when we were in England briefly for a visa run, this was the first time we had sat down for a meal in a cafe or restaurant for at least six months! Turkey had just changed its guidelines allowing restaurants and cafes to open but at only 50 per cent capacity.
We were staying in a very pleasant apartment while we worked on getting the boat ready to launch after her winter’s rest on the hard standing at Kas marina.
There were lots of jobs to do as we had stripped everything that could be moved off the deck space in order to protect them from the UV, wind and rain.
While we were away we had some covers made for the winches and one for the passarelle (electronic gang plank). We were very pleased with the results.
The boat looked in good shape and we were very happy to see that she looked very clean (we had paid for the decks to be washed in time for our arrival.)
Infuriatingly a couple of days after we arrived the wind and rain swirled round dropping copious amounts of red dust from the Sahara desert. It took days of work to get rid of it!
Meanwhile we enjoyed the walk to the marina from the apartment every day, meeting the local cats, dogs and chickens on the way and each day noticing something new and surprising to appreciate.
One such discovery was the site of the Friday market – a big open space in front of some new apartments. We were delighted with this discovery and when market day came around we of course went to have a look.
It was a fantastic market with heaps of wonderful locally grown fruit and vegetables as well as interesting shiny kitchen implements, colourful Turkish carpets, fragrant spice stalls and stalls selling delicious olives and cheese.
There were also clothes and shoes on sale as well as hardware, tools and various household items. Our favourite was the goat bell stall!
Best of all there were a couple of stalls making gözleme – those yummy stuffed pancake-like dishes -made in the traditional way in a massive hot plate and using a very thin and long rolling pin to ensure the “pancake” cooks in a perfect circle.
Back at the boatyard, the last bits of work were underway on Sunday before we “splashed” her.
Primer was applied to the bottom of her hull, the propellers were removed and painted with special paint to keep molluscs from camping on them and the sail drives were serviced and had an oil change. A through hull fitting from what had been a skipper’s toilet was sealed and secured. Then the final coat of anti foul was painted on and she was ready to go!
We had to move apartments during this time for the last two days on land as we needed an extra couple of days and our apartment wasn’t available but we didn’t have far to go – just one flight of stairs up!
We named it the Eyrie as it was right at the top of the little block of apartments but despite the stairs we really like it for it’s sloping ceilings and glorious views.
Fortunately, every day when we walked down to the marina we had taken a portion of the 80kg of luggage we had brought from the Netherlands. On the final day we just had a few things and our food to take with us.
On launch day the wind had started to blow up so it was decided to wait until the following day for safety’s sake. We were very glad we had booked the extra days in the apartment.
Finally the splash day arrived and the lumbering giant of a travel lift moved her from her resting place and placed her gently in the water.
The whole process went very well, our engines started first time and nothing leaked! Soon we were being assisted into our berth on dock C at the marina. It was a very smooth process as the two marina workers assisting us were very capable and clear in their instructions.
Soon we were tied up and settled and back doing some of the “settling tasks “ such as blowing up the dinghy and attaching it to the davits.
It felt so good to be in the water again – preparing for further adventures and with the prospect of more “Salty Tales” to be discovered.
One of the positive things about Covid restrictions is that we have made the most of every opportunity to celebrate life. Normally we would probably allow Valentines Day to drift by unnoticed but this year we got out the bunting and decorated the house and then ordered a delicious take away gourmet meal. It was such a treat and great fun!
We were back staying with our daughter Hannah and her husband Pieter in the Netherlands while we prepared to return to our catamaran Sunday in Kaş, Turkey.
Taking advantage of the milder weather Hannah and Pieter went on a week’s break in the camper van while we “cat sat” and started packing.
In between our preparations we found some more places to explore, including an amazing water reserve called the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen.
The park, very near to the famous tulip fields, is made up of hundreds of sand dunes which filter the rain water before it is collected and purified to serve the population of Amsterdam.
We saw lots of water birds and at one point three stunning young adult swans took off and flew right over us just feet away from our heads. It was such an impressive sight but I was very disappointed that I didn’t manage to capture it on camera.
There were also heaps of deer – some of which were very shy but others were much bolder.
We managed to get pretty lost at one point – the park is vast!
Meanwhile back in Pijnacker the first signs of spring were beginning to show – there were crocuses and mini narcissus blooming in every green space and garden.
Two days before we due to leave for Turkey (on 1 March) we had the most wonderful surprise. The Christmas parcel that our son Ben and his wife Sarah had sent off in November finally arrived! Only two months late but great timing!
Sarah and Ben had bought us a range of lovely Australian themed gifts which was so thoughtful especially as we had hoped and planned to be spending Christmas 2020 with them in Brisbane.
To celebrate we had drinks and nibbles outside – just like an Aussie Christmas except we had a space heater and a wood fire for warmth!
In our parcels a couple of us received mini bottles of some very special gin. We also had another small bottle of gin and the remains of a larger bottle so on our last night we had a gin tasting and sushi night. A great way to celebrate our last night together (for a while!)
The following day, we bade our sad farewells and armed with our negative covid test results, left for the airport to fly to Turkey and back to our catamaran Sunday.
Everything went very smoothly checking in at Amsterdam and on the flight to Istanbul but our stop over in Istanbul was not the greatest.
We hadn’t booked accommodation as we had discovered that if you are unable to book an earlier connecting flight and there are more than 12 hours between your flights then Turkish Airlines would pay for a night in a hotel for you.
The long and the short of it was that we walked kilometres to try and find the desk where you organise this and in the end we gave up and booked an airport hotel at a travel desk.
We paid top dollar and ended up in the dingiest and most horrible hotel possible. We agreed it was one of those disastrous events that we would put behind us and never mention again!
Early next morning we were back at the airport for the short plane ride to Dalaman where we were met by the car and driver we had organised from the Netherlands.
The weather was cloudy but felt warm in comparison to the Netherlands and the two and half hour drive was very pleasant – with lovely mountain views and gorgeous glimpses of the Mediterranean Sea.
The apartment we had booked in Kaş was perfectly located – very close to the shops and the market and just a short walk to the marina.
We had lovely views from our balcony and the only downside was that the apartment was situated right next to a mosque so every morning before dawn we were awakened by the call to prayer.
Very quickly we learnt to turn over and go back to sleep despite some noisy roosters and barking dogs who conspired to try and keep us awake!
It was great to be back in Turkey at the start of another new sailing adventure!
On our last leg from France back to the Netherlands we had planned to revisit the northeastern city of Metz – a town that we love and have visited several times before.
Sadly the river was badly swollen and running extremely fast so the camper parking area on its banks had been completely closed off.
It was still only early afternoon so we kept going and drove over the border to Luxembourg where we stayed the night in very comfortable but snowy site at Heiderscheid.
The following afternoon we were back in the Netherlands to another joyful reunion with our daughter Hannah and son-in-law Pieter.
We were very excited to learn that snow was on its way to the Netherlands! A couple of days later just as we were turning in for the night, snow flakes started to fall and soon a very thin white layer covered the garden, the road and parked cars.
When we woke up the next morning the whole world was completely white. What a glorious sight!
Having been brought up in Brisbane, Australia, our daughter Hannah had only seen snow for the the first time just a few years ago so she was very excited that morning!
Lockdown in the Netherlands has been a long haul with small freedoms being withdrawn every time there was a government announcement so the diversion of a thick blanket of snow was extremely welcome.
We decided to go for a walk just to see everyone out and about enjoying this wonderful distraction.
We saw kids being pulled along on toboggans, people walking with big grins on their faces and families sledging down slopes leading to the local canals.
We stopped to watch one family sledging who very kindly gave our daughter Hannah her first toboggan ride.
The local woods looked stunning with snowy Christmas card scenes at every turn.
There was also cheering news at this time from our son and his wife in Brisbane – we were now proud great grandparents to a newly hatched duckling. Our great grand duck (called Little Duck) is very cute!
The snow remained all week and each day we went for long walks to enjoy the still-crisp white blanket, coming back rosy cheeked and red nosed for delicious hot chocolate (sometimes laced with a dash of Cointreau – delicious!)
The temperatures were below freezing every day and down to minus 10 some nights so towards the end of the week the canals began to freeze over – much to everyone’s delight.
By the weekend anyone who owned a pair of skates was out enjoying skating – either on nearby canals or on local lakes.
Hannah was one of those who took to the local lake to glide across the sparking ice in the bright sunshine. That was after skating canals in the neighbourhood for a few days.
The lake was thronged with skaters! It was an wonderful spectacle – reminiscent of a Bruegel painting – there were highly competent speed skaters, parents pushing babies in little carts, toddlers hanging onto small chairs to stay upright, groups of teenagers in long lines, young men playing ice hockey, “elders” sliding steadily but gracefully and everything in between.
There was such a feeling of joy in the air but as we walked round the lake I felt slightly nervous about seeing all this close interaction with other people. I mean we were meant to be in full lockdown right? Not even allowed more than one visitor to your home, not even in the garden! I said to Jonathan- we are going to see a spike in Covid numbers in the next few weeks. Sadly, there has been an increase in infection numbers but maybe there were other factors involved. Whatever the case, the advent of the snow and ice was an absolute thrill to young and old and definitely lifted the spirits of one and all.
Imagine driving along a winding coast road in the South of France heading towards St Tropez with the windows wound down. The golden mimosa that tumbles down at each side of the road exudes a delicious, delicate perfume and the jagged glimpses of the turquoise sea flash in your eyes. The sun is warm on your face and the wind is in your hair and your senses are flooded. These are those moments that you feel really glad to be alive!
Are you in a low slung vintage sports car with the roof down or riding a big 1500cc touring bike? In my mind I was in a 1950s Mercedes-Benz 190 SL but in reality we were trundling along in our less-than-sporty camper van! It was still an amazing experience and we felt so grateful that we were able to do this on a warm February day despite all the Covid restrictions and regulations.
We had already enjoyed some wonderful and dramatic countryside that day as we travelled from Gémenos to the lovely beach area of La Gaillarde. on the Mediterranean Coast.
Having recently had some bad experiences with finding spots to stay in our camper van, we were a little concerned that our choice for that evening wouldn’t work out for some reason. Luck was in our favour though and we found “Chez Marcel” when I noticed a small sign for it. Lucky I had my eyes peeled.
We had a lovely spot with a sea view and once we had settled in we went for a beautiful walk along the shore, enjoying the small coves, doing some rock hopping and watching families enjoying the late afternoon sun. It really felt as though spring was on its way.
The next morning we were delighted to find that Marcel had mistakenly interpreted my enthusiasm for pain au chocolate for an order (I did order a baguette). So we just had to buy them and ended up relishing them for morning tea.
We had decided it was time to start making our way back to our daughter and son-in-law’s in the Netherlands. It had been a wonderful trip but we had to start getting organised to get back to our catamaran “Sunday” in Turkey.
We decided to do our usual thing and take the scenic route rather than use the faster but soulless toll roads.
The first leg was very winding, scenic and took us through “Les Alpes” once again.
The snowy scenes were beautiful and in such contrast to the balmy weather we had experienced on the Mediterranean coast.
We stopped for the night in a small camper park surrounded by mountains – just outside the small town of Sassenage on the outskirts of Grenoble.
The following day we set off again reasonably early in good conditions but soon we were surrounded by low clouds, then heavy rain. On the positive side, we saw a lovely rainbow that appeared to end on a van in front of us.
It was astonishing to see how flooded everywhere was. How long had it been raining for?!
That night we found a wonderful place to camp by the side of a lake in Vaivre-et-Montoille in eastern France. We had the whole lake to ourselves! The serenity and calm was so welcome after a wet and wearing drive.
The drive from Mourèze to our next destination – the Cap Cerbère – couldn’t have been lovelier with acres and acres of grapevines, glimpses of the snow-capped Pyrenees and most lovely of all, the beautiful sight of golden-yellow mimosas in full bloom.
Soon we were on the Mediterranean Coast on a precarious narrow and winding coast road with lovely views. We were driving behind a massive truck that appeared to be lost and having trouble squeezing past the oncoming traffic.
At one point we encountered roadworks where the poor driver had to nurse his truck through the road workers and their machinery. We felt fortunate to be behind him as we knew if he had managed to get through so would we!
We arrived in the town of Cerbère in the late afternoon. Only four kilometres from the Spanish border, the town is best known for its border railway station. France and Spain use different rail gauges so the station is quite busy with various transfer and gauge adjustment operations.
Just beyond the town is the Cap Cerbère where we were staying the night. This beautiful cape had magnificent views along the Catalan coast both to Spain and back towards Perpignan.
We felt so fortunate to be able to park for the night in this fabulous spot – as I’ve said before, France is definitely the best country to tour in a camper van!
After a bracing walk along the cliffs we sat on a seat conveniently placed just in front of the van and enjoyed a delicious bottle of wine (amazing wine is another good reason for travelling in France!)
As we sat there a glorious full moon rose slowly over the ocean and within five minutes its bright reflection could be seen in the sea below, making it look as though there were two moons shining. What a wonderful sight!
The following day we retraced our steps along the winding coastal road heading for a paid site where we could replenish our water etc.
As it was winter, we had (so far) been able to get into all the available camper sites quite easily but that was not the case at Beach Farret in Vias where there was literally “no room at the inn”. We hadn’t realised how popular this area was and of course it was Friday evening – it seemed “everyone “ had headed for this part of the coast for the weekend.
We had a couple of other possibilities lined up but with the 6pm curfew we were cutting it fine. So we headed for Marseillan-Plage and kept everything crossed that the site there wasn’t full too.
We arrived a little after 5.30pm and to our relief there was plenty of space in the camper park. We stopped at the barrier, paid for our entry and an extra two Euros for water via a machine and hey presto we were in!
Before settling down for the night we urgently needed to fill up our water tanks but we couldn’t find the tap anywhere! Eventually Jonathan found it outside the boom gate which meant – strangely – that we had to exit the park to fill up.
Unfortunately, the fitting on the water tap was completely different to any that we had seen anywhere else in France and try as we might, we couldn’t cobble together our hose attachments to make them fit to fill our tank. At one point Jonathan thought he’d managed to find a solution but then the hose shot off the fitting very dramatically – completely soaking him!
By this time, it was almost 6pm but we made a quick and soggy dash to the shops to see if we could buy a new fitting – of course, with curfew coming up every shop was shut.
By the time we arrived back to the camper park it was past 6 pm and then disaster – the ticket we had paid for earlier just wouldn’t open the barrier!
We tried phoning the emergency phone number and I explained in my school girl French what had happened. The lady at the other end didn’t appear to understand and didn’t have a word of English so I gave up. I think maybe I had a wrong number!
Fortunately for us, a very nice guy walking his dog around the camper park offered to call and this time got through to a man who grudgingly agreed to come over and raise the barrier for us. We were not happy campers and he was furious (and probably scared) about being out after curfew.
Like all life, van life has its highs and lows and the next day we went from a definite low point to yet another low point!
The drive from Marseillan-Plage to our next destination was grim – pelting rain, flooded roads and a camper site that didn’t exist.
Despite the awful conditions there was marvellous moment when to our amazement we spotted flocks of Pink Flamingos in the salt-water marshes of the Camargue. We were hoping to see some of the wild white horses that the Camargue is famous for but no luck – perhaps they were hiding somewhere from the rain.
We had a nightmare drive at one point with heavy traffic along a dangerous winding road. Along the way we saw a horrendous single vehicle accident where a sporty looking car had skidded across the road and was hanging over a precipice – with only two wheels left on solid ground.