Sneaky road trip, riders in the sky, a ghost town and a fabulous breakfast

Lockdown in Turkey has meant we haven’t been able to realise our plans to travel – during the cooler months – to various locations inland. There are so many wonderful places to explore in this amazing country so it has been slightly disappointing.

The village of Kalkan

Restrictions have been loosened now however, and we are back travelling over the water. This is just wonderful but the urge to explore some places of interest on land was still there so while we were anchored in Kas we decided to sneak in a quick road trip – just for the day – with our friends Sue on John of S/V Catabella.

A profusion of bougainvillea

We hired a car and drove first to Kalkan – only just over half an hour from Fethiye. Kalkan was an old Greek fishing village which became part of Turkey in 1923 during the Greek/Turkish population exchange. Now it is a thriving, sprawling, town, a haven for tourists, especially from Britain.

Kalkan reminded us of Greece
Take away the minaret and this could be a Greek Church – perhaps it was once

The old fishing port still maintains its Greek character, with narrow, paved or cobbled lanes, a profusion of bougainvillea and small and simple whitewashed houses.

The small fishing port still retains its Greek character
One of the narrow cobbled lanes
Bougainvillea and whitewashed houses everywhere

We had a lovely time browsing in the shops – empty of people but not of tempting purchases – and admiring the wonderful view of the sparkling sea.

Who could resist this soap – it’s packed with vitamins!
Such inviting window displays
Another carpet wonderland!

Apart from seeing the old village, the reason for stopping at Kalkan was to find a suitable spot for a nice cup of coffee.

The Doy Doy restaurant seemed the perfect spot

The good news is that we found the perfect spot – the Doy Doy restaurant which boasted glorious views and every coffee choice you could wish for. The bad news was that the coffee machine had broken down!

The restaurant boasted glorious views

Faruk, who welcomed us in, and who turned out to be the son of the owner, was mortified and insisted on us sitting down anyway for free çay. When you consider a cup of tea in Australia costs between $2.50 and $4.00, and the fact they have had no customers for months, this was so generous.

No coffee but Faruk insisted on us sitting down for free çay

Next on the itinerary – the ruins of the Lycian city of Xanthos. This fascinating city, which was once the capital of Lycia, is perched on a hillside with extensive views of the surrounding countryside.

Xanthos is perched on a hillside with extensive views of the surrounding countryside
Many greenhouses can be seen in the middle distance
A closer view of some of the thousands of greenhouses in the district

The city has played a prominent role in understanding Lycian history. In the 19th Century stone carvings were discovered in both Greek and Lycian which led to the unraveling of the Lycian language for the first time.

Xanthos has played a prominent role in understanding Lycian history
Stone carvings led to the unraveling of the Lycian language for the first time
This column was covered in writing carved in the stone

It is also famous for its funerary art but very sadly, many of architectural and sculptural pieces were taken to England in the 19th century, by the archeologist Charles Fellows. Among these artefacts were the Monument of Harpy, the Tomb of Payava and the Nereid Monument. These remain in the British Museum to this day.

Xanthos is also famous for its funerary art
Sadly this tomb was plundered and the carvings taken to the British Museum in London
This is a copy of what was taken

Due to Covid there were very few other tourists there so we were able to spend a pleasant time wandering around the ruins undisturbed.

We were able to spend a pleasant time wandering around the ruins undisturbed

The peace and quiet belied the city’s violent past. When invaded by the Persians, rather than be captured by the invading forces, the Xanthosian men gathered their women, children, slaves and treasure at the acropolis and set them on fire before taking their final doomed defensive action.

The peace and quiet belied the city’s violent past
A section of mosaic which had probably been covered to protect it
Jonathan examining a column

In 42 BC the people of Xanthos again used murder and suicide to avoid being taken in the Roman civil wars.

Beautiful poppies in Xanthos
It’s hard to imagine the violence that was perpetrated here

The amphitheatre with its 2200 person capacity was very atmospheric and had spectacular acoustics. Built originally in the Hellenistic Period, it was renovated in Roman times.

The amphitheatre with its 2200 person capacity was very atmospheric
It was a great place to sit and soak up the atmosphere
Some of the large blocks of stone had collapsed – maybe during an earthquake?
It was very impressive
John trying out the acoustics

From Xanthos we headed to the popular beach resort of Ölüdeniz.

The first thing that struck us about this lovely spot on the “Turquoise Coast” is that it was full of cars! It really was very busy and the little car park we used was chock full!

The restaurant at Ölüdeniz

The second thing we noticed was that the sky was absolutely filled with colourful paragliders soaring and dropping like gorgeous mythical birds.

Riders in the sky!

Apparently, Mount Babadağ which towers above Ölüdeniz, is regarded as one of the best places in the world to paraglide from. This is due to its unique panoramic views, stable weather conditions, and because the mountain has incredible thermals.

Mount Babadağ which towers above Ölüdeniz, is regarded as one of the best places in the world to paraglide from

It was quite a sight to see the scores of paragliders floating gently in the sky, soaring upwards when they caught an air current and meandering slowly downwards and turning to land perfectly at a special spot in the middle of Ölüdeniz.

A quick lunch in Ölüdeniz

After a quick lunch in a waterfront cafe we decided to walk to the famous Blue Lagoon – we almost made it but were put off by all the commercial activity we could see in the distance – sun beds, cafes, craft of all kinds for hire and hoards of people.

On the way to the famous Blue Lagoon

Time was marching on and we had one more place to visit so we decided to turn back, leave the crowds behind and find our car.

We almost made it but were put off by all the commercial activity we could see in the distance

Just 20 minutes later, after travelling along a rather bumpy road on which we had to make an emergency stop for a slow moving tortoise trying to cross the road, we made it to the ghost town of Kayaköy.

Well spotted Jonathan! A helping hand for the very slow tortoise

This haunting place was once home to Greek-speaking Christian subjects, and their Turkish-speaking Ottoman rulers. The townspeople had lived in relative harmony from the end of the turbulent Ottoman conquest of the region in the 14th century until the early 20th century.

Kayaköy was a haunting place

Then in 1923 following the Treaty of Lausanne, the town’s Greek Orthodox residents were exiled and Muslim people exiled from Greece were settled there. The new residents found the land in Kayaköy inhospitable (and too full of ghosts!) and soon decamped, leaving the hillside village abandoned for a second time.

The town’s Greek Orthodox residents were exiled in 1923
The townspeople had lived in relative harmony for hundreds of years

I am currently half way through “Birds Without Wings” by Louis de Bernières – set largely in the village of Eskibahçe which is based on Kayakoy. It felt strange being in the village after imagining the place in my head so many times.

It felt strange being in the village after imagining the place in my head so many times.
The new Turkish speaking residents found the land in Kayaköy inhospitable (and too full of ghosts!) and soon decamped, leaving the hillside village abandoned for a second time.

It wasn’t hard to visualise the little children in the story, Christian and Muslim, running together through the maze of little lanes that twisted around the houses, past the old men playing backgammon outside the coffeehouse, past the women of the village gossiping at the well.

One of the Churches in Kayaköy
It wasn’t hard to visualise the little children described in Birds Without Wings – Christian and Muslim – running together through the maze of little lanes that twisted around the houses

How poignant it was looking at the empty houses and the abandoned churches, shops and other civic buildings. It all felt such a waste – all that meddling in people’s lives – people who had lived amicably side by side for generations suddenly uprooted from all they had known. And for what?

How poignant it was looking at the empty houses and the abandoned churches, shops and other civic buildings
Admiring the view from the fort
Looking over the farms from the highest point

We managed to get ourselves a little bit lost on our wanderings and ended up returning to our car via a rather circuitous route.

The Turkish flag proclaims ownership of Kayaköy
Another, very ancient Church

On our way we met a camel giving rides to tourists and then came upon its mate and baby along the way.

This was an unexpected sight
Mother and baby

We arrived back in Kas late in the evening to find the Oxygen Bar in the marina buzzing with people listening to the live music. No masks in evidence and social distancing seemingly completely forgotten, we decided to sit at an adjacent restaurant/bar to listen to the last few numbers of the night.

The Oxygen Bar was buzzing

Later we had a delicious meal at Vati one of the marina restaurants. After we had finished our waiter brought us – as a gift – a plate of fresh fruit and four shot glasses with a cocktail shaker containing a very shocking-green potion. It was a fun way to end the evening.

Lovely fresh fruit – such a kind gift
A great way to end the evening

The next day we once again experienced the generosity and hospitality that is so typical of the Turkish people.

On the way to breakfast

Sue and John invited us to join them for breakfast (kahvalti in Turkish) at the house belonging to Aysun, a short dinghy ride from Kas marina.

We arrived at Aysun’s house

Aysun runs some wonderful bed and breakfast cottages in which Sue and John had stayed the previous year.

The garden was beautiful and full of olive and fruit trees

The property is situated on the peninsula opposite Kas marina and is perched high up on a hillside overlooking the water.

The house was perched high up on the hillside

We arrived at the small jetty and private beach and after tying up our dinghies walked up the prettiest flight of stairs to a shady balcony where we were warmly greeted by Aysun.

After tying up our dinghies we walked up the pretty stairs

In the middle of the deck overlooking the water, was a table groaning with the most fabulous spread imaginable.

The table was groaning
Olives from the garden and freshly cooked menemen

There were black and green olives from the garden, apple jam, fig jam, chili paste and quince preserves all made by Aysun from produce grown on the property. The honey came from their neighbours up the hill. The tomatoes and cucumber came from the family farm. There was also menemen – the Turkish version of scrambled eggs – delicious salty white cheese, Börek – thin sheets of dough, filled with cheese and vegetables, fresh bread and other delicious treats.

Aysun joined us as we ate

We ate far more than was good for us and chatted to Aysun who continually topped up our cups with çay.

Sue at the breakfast table
Jonathan and I

What a hostess Aysun was and what a paradise she shares with her many guests from around the world! We felt sure that this would be the perfect place to stay and immediately thought of family members and friends who would just adore it. To our consternation Aysun refused any payment – she just loved it that John and Sue had returned to visit her. So very generous.

There were beautiful flowers from the garden on the table
Aysun seeing us off
Leaving Aysun’s beautiful B and B, such a great sunbathing and private swimming spot!

That evening we had the first rain in months. It was so refreshing and such a novelty to hear rumbles of thunder and the sound of the rain drops hitting the water surrounding us.

Rain- it was so refreshing
Very low clouds over Kas Marina

The sky looked very threatening but apart from the downpour and a few rolls of thunder, there was no really rough weather to contend with and as if to reassure us, a beautiful rainbow appeared over Kas before the rain finally stopped.

The sky looked very threatening
Soon the rain stopped and a rainbow appeared

Celebrating meals out, anchoring dramas and new discoveries

Arriving at Uçağız, the small fishing village in the heart of the landlocked bay of Kekova Roads felt a little like visiting an old friend.

On our way to Uçağız (photo by Sue on Catabella)

We have anchored close to the village more than half a dozen times and always feel so comfortable and welcome when we go ashore.

The small village of Uçağız where there are more tourist boats than head of population

Covid has really hit this little village very, very, hard. For too long the restaurants have been closed, the tourists haven’t visited to take trips on the beautiful gulets and every shop and business owner has been doing it tough.

On the streets of Uçağız
The restaurants have been empty for so long
Despite the relaxation of Covid regulations there are no tourists
There are always new corners to discover in Uçağız
One of the many Lycian tombs dotted around the village

We tried to do our best to make up for this by spending money where we could – buying some fruit and vegetables at the little greengrocers, eating gözleme one day for lunch etc. (We never tire of watching the gözleme making process!)

The greengrocers
Sue from Catabella stocking up
Getting ready for gözleme creating
From a small ball of dough our gözleme maker has rolled out a perfect circle and is now adding chopped parsley, cheese, and other good things!
She deftly rolls it onto her very long, slim rolling pin and passes it to the cook
On a special large circular gas-heated hot plate, the first delicious gözleme cooks

We also ate twice at our favourite restaurant – Hassan’s – on the waterfront. The second time Sue and I had lobster which was beautifully cooked and tasted absolutely wonderful!

Chef Hassan catches a large lobster
Sue and I slightly regretting our decision
It tasted amazing though

Yachties have been frequenting Hassan’s restaurant for many years and his fame as a fish chef extraordinaire is legendary. It was so special having our first lunch out since lockdown restrictions were reduced, at this legendary spot.

Loved these finely sliced chips
The calamari tasted good too

At our first lunch there we (Jonathan and I and Nikki who had been staying with us and Sue and John from Catabella ) were joined by our friends from Finike Marina Jill and Shelley who live aboard their beautiful Catamaran Eucalyptus (yes, they’re Australian!)

We were were joined by our friends from Finike Marina Jill and Shelley of S/V Eucalyptus
It was a great lunch and catch up

They came by taxi on this particular day as they were in the process of having some work done on their boat.

Hassan after preparing the fish at the water’s edge
Nikki having a chat with Hassan

We had a fabulous lunch and afterwards we walked through the village marvelling at the gorgeous array of flowers on display. This is such a fantastic time of year to visit Turkey!

Such a lovely time of year to be in Turkey
There were flowers out everywhere
More blooms to admire

Eventually we ended up once again at Jonathan’s most favourite shop – The Antique Carpet and Kilim store.

We ended up at Jonathan’s favourite store – The Antique Carpet and Kilim store.

We had already spent considerable time (and some money) the previous day looking at the gorgeous rugs. We had bought a lovely runner which will grace some lucky floor one day.

Jonathan loving getting down amongst the carpets (he was a carpet designer in a previous life!)
Proud owners of a lovely runner. Just need somewhere to put it now!

Once again, the ever patient proprietor and his mentor, pulled out all sorts of beautiful works of art for us to see. Several among us were tempted but wanted to take measurements and decide if a sailing yacht was really the place to have antique rugs.

Carpets, carpets, carpets!
So many gorgeous pieces of art
Outside the shop!

Our visitor Nikki who had sailed with us from Finike and spent almost a week aboard with us, went back with Jill and Shelley in their taxi. It was sad to see her go but she has her own boat that needs her attention.

Bye bye Nikki!

During our stay in Uçağız we had some incredibly windy weather. It was so blowy that we had to postpone our lunch with Jill and Shelley for a day as it was just too rough to dinghy in to the restaurant.

Some of the gulets moved from their berths to anchor out due to the string winds

It was the kind of weather that flummoxes even experienced yachties. Jonathan gallantly went to the aid of former fellow Finike marina residents who unfortunately caught their dinghy painter (rope) in their propellor while trying to anchor.

Jonathan returning the dinghy

The wind was blowing nine bells and the poor skipper had to cut away the dinghy and dive down to free the propeller. What a drama but fortunately Jonathan was able to retrieve the dinghy and bring it back to its owner.

During this window of blowy weather I decided to try my hand at a popular Turkish dish Tepsi kebab (tray bake Antakya). It looked and tasted delicious but we were sadly unable to share it with Sue and John on Catabella as the weather was just too rough for them to launch their dinghy.

Tepsi kebab before baking
Have to make a cake when the weather is bad – it’s a rule!

After a wonderful few days it was time for us to move on to our next destination – Kas.

Catabella on the way to Kas

This lovely spot also feels a bit like home as we have spent quite a bit of time here both this year and in 2020. However we have realised there are always lots of new things to find even if you think you know somewhere pretty well.

The view of Kas from our anchorage

Thanks to Nikki we have discovered the Muhtar supermarket which has lots of goods that are difficult to find in Turkey including cans of coconut milk, green curry base, Marmite and marmalade!

Some of our haul from the Muhtar supermarket

I now have several months worth of coconut milk in my stores!

We also found a delicious pide restaurant, a new wine shop and a restaurant called the Corner store recommended by Nikki where we had a delicious lunch one day.

Muhtar also have a new wine shop

Although we have a contract which allows us to stay at all the Setur Marinas in Turkey we had already exceeded the 28-day limit at the Kas facility which is why we anchored in the sheltered cove near the marina hard standing.

The last gulet on the hard standing gets “splashed” ready for the new season

We usually prefer to anchor anyway as it’s cooler, quieter and normally more relaxing than being in a marina berth.

The peace and quiet of an anchorage as the sun sets

Strangely we had two instances during our stay which definitely weren’t relaxing. Both times it was – despite perfect conditions – due to boats coming into the anchorage that failed to anchor correctly.

But wait – why is this boat cuddling up to us?!

Instead of laying their anchor by reversing slowly once it was dropped, the skippers just slung the anchor over and didn’t even stop to check it had set correctly.

She is slowly inching nearer!

The result was that twice we had other yachts drift so close to us that we could almost step onto them from our boat!

The cheese counter at the new wine shop

One yacht owner quickly realised that he was too close and pulled up some chain and ensured his anchor was set. The other seemed totally unconcerned and didn’t do anything until Jonathan made it quite clear he wasn’t happy with his anchoring and wasn’t wanting to be woken up at 3am with his boat banging into us!

The Corner Store restaurant

Fortunately discretion being the better part of valour, the other skipper decided he wouldn’t want to be banging into our boat at 3am either so he hauled anchor and actually did a decent job second time round.

Looking for cushion covers

Despite these couple of hiccups it was great to be back on anchor in Kas.

Walking the plank and drinking at a “pirates only bar”

A week after full lockdown in Turkey finished and Covid restrictions had begun to lift, the engineers at Finike marina started to put our hydraulic passerelle (gangplank) back together.

Our gangplank having its seals replaced

For many weeks it had been propped up with an ingenious steel bar (which we hadn’t asked for but appeared after they had removed the hydraulic system) and then later, a rather large log.

All that had been wrong with it was a slight leak of hydraulic fluid. It needed a seal (or what turned out to be a number of seals) in the hydraulics replaced. Seemed simple enough but the replacements had to be flown in from Istanbul and because of the lockdown, deliveries were severely held up.

This log did a good job of holding up our gangplank

It was so good to have it fixed finally and not to have to struggle to get aboard with the passerelle sticking up at a perilously high angle when the tide was low. At last we could walk the plank!

We were rather shocked at the bill – we were verbally quoted a sum for the work and then when it came time to pay, the bill was double the quoted amount. Eventually it was reduced to the original sum but it left an unpleasant taste in our mouths.

Note to self: get written quotes and warn the contractor that unless extras are discussed as they occur and signed off, they will not be paid! Not that there was any extra work done in this instance but still….

Playing Rummikub on S/V Eucalyptus- I think Albert wants to play too……

Maybe there is an expectation that customers will “bargain” when they receive a bill and thereby a mutually agreeable price reached or perhaps the contractors here in Turkey think we are all fabulously wealthy and can afford to pay elevated prices. Either way, being charged over and above what was agreed doesn’t sit comfortably with us.

Or maybe it’s just the box that’s so fascinating

Other jobs to be done before we left included a pump-out of the black water (toilet) tanks, a service to our large in-house generator, lots of food shopping and last minute games of Rummikub aboard S/V Eucalyptus!

The mobile pump-out set up

At last, after almost exactly two months in Finike marina we cast off our lines and left to feel the wind on our faces, swing at anchor and enjoy some more sailing adventures.

We left Finike Marina on Thursday 27 May heading for one of favourite spots – Kekova Roads.

Leaving with us were our buddies Sue and John on Catabella and aboard Sunday was our new neighbour at Finike marina, Nikki from Destination Anywhere.

Sue and John on Catabella

Nikki had quickly become a good friend since arriving at the marina during lockdown and we invited her to come along for the ride, as she is currently on her own and her very large (and beautiful) Beneteau is hard to sail singlehanded.

Nikki checking out the steering position

There was very little wind so we motored to our first anchorage, and as we slid through the beautiful clear water a mist settled around us which created an eerie atmosphere.

A naval vessel appears out of the mist

Fortunately the mist lifted as we approached Gökkaya Limamı and we were very happy to see that Catabella was safely anchored in an excellent spot and that there were only a few boats in the anchorage.

A tourist boat pokes its nose into a cave – we heard a loud graunching noise as it hit submerged rocks!

Gökkaya Limanı is a beautiful sheltered spot surrounded by a group of small islands which gives the bay a fiord-like appearance.

Catabella comfotably anchored in Gökkaya Limanı
Gökkaya Limanı is a beautiful sheltered spot surrounded by a group of small islands
We were anchored roughly where the red circle is. You can also see where the cave is and Smugglers Cove with “restaurant” marked

Aah! It was so good to be at anchor again! After a lovely (cool!) first swim of the season, in the clear blue water, we had a celebratory barbecue aboard Sunday and late in the evening we were treated to the most glorious full moon.

The first swim of the season
The bay has a fiord-like appearance
We anchored close to Catabella for easy access!
What a magnificent moon!
It was hard to capture the full beauty of the full moon.

The following day Sue and I taught the others how to play Rummikub (taught to us by Jill and Shelley on S/V Eucalyptus) – a fun game that apparently originated in Israel but is very popular here in Turkey.

The anchorage started to fill up at the weekend

We had more swims that afternoon and had a delicious curry night on Catabella.

A great curry night on Catabella
Nikki enjoying the evening sun
Relaxing with a drink or two

The following day we took our dinghies to explore the beautiful cave on the south side of the small and uninhabited island of Ashil Adasi.

The cave entrance

Inside the cave there are rocks lurking under the water like Captain Cook’s Crocodile while high up in the roof of cave tiny little bats squeak loudly and irritably at being disturbed.

It was quite dark inside!
Submerged rocks looking like Captain Hook’s crocodile
Definitely looks dangerous crocodile or not!
The black mass is made up of bats, hundreds of them, all squeaking indignantly
Sue, John and Nikki arrive at the cave (Sue has brought an umbrella to fend off the bats!)

The bats were starting to dart around in the dark – too close to our heads for my liking – so we headed out to explore the promising sounding “Smuggler’s Cove” just a short dinghy ride away.

Adjusting their eyes to the dark
Photo time! Meanwhile John avoids the crocodiles
Jonathan and I at the cave entrance
Us fleeing the bats!

At the mouth of the cove was a motor yacht anchored but as we made our way along, the cove started to narrow and the water became too shallow for a yacht to anchor in.

Then we saw a building that could possibly have been a pirate’s den, a smuggler’s lair or was it a bar?!

Was this a pirate’s den?
Pirates only allowed!

A notice proclaimed that “Pirates Only” were allowed and the guy who greeted us definitely looked a lot like a pirate! He offered us cold beers, coffee and çay but there was no food available (due to lockdown). It was lunchtime so we decided to return back to our yachts for lunch rather than go ashore.

The owner certainly could be mistaken for a pirate
We decided to forgo a beer for lunch on board
On the way back to the catamarans

The following day we decided to see if we could walk to the bar along the rough track that the goats take each morning to find new things to eat.

The little specks ashore are goats. We love listening to the goat bells tinkling and the goats “maaing” (apparently sheep baa and goats maa)
Making good progress along the path
Sue negotiating a rocky section
Lovely views!

It was a very pleasant walk with lovely views and strenuous enough to make us feel we deserved a cold beer at the Smugglers Inn Pirate Bar before walking back!

A cute little lizard
Sunday (in foreground) and Catabella at anchor
Jonathan and John (behind bars). Jonathan was hoping for a different kind of bar
And we found one!
Avast me hearties it was a pirate bar!
Waiting to be served
With plenty of “yo ho ho”
Enjoying a beer after our walk
Selfie time!

Thanks to Nikki and Sue for additional photography!

Big news week!

Thinking about what to write in this week’s blog there didn’t seem much news to recount but on second thoughts, there have been at least three events of importance this week.

The first is that Turkey came out of full lockdown which means we can walk freely, get boat work done (our gang plank – aka our passarelle has been waiting for new seals for weeks) and postal and courier deliveries can get back to normal.

There are still lockdowns every weekend which means we can only sail during the week and can’t wander around town or go for long walks at weekends although food shops will still be open.

At the post office trying to find missing post!
Our gangplank waiting to be mended

The second big event is that yesterday we received our Turkish temporary residency cards! This is such a wonderful relief at a time of travel restrictions and closed borders due to Covid.

It was a red letter day!
Officially Turkish residents now!

Last year, in contrast, we arrived in Greece just as the country was about to go under total lockdown. We moved onto our boat on March 17 the day lockdown began and from then on were confined to the boat and the marina surrounds for almost. three months.

Leaving Alimos Marino in Athens in May 2020 after almost three months in lockdown

There were barriers placed across the harbour entrance to ensure no one tried to sail off into the blue yonder (there were 1,000 charter yachts moored there and a tiny handful of cruising yachts – us and the Whittaker family on Polykandros to be precise.)

The Whittakers who we spent the first lockdown with in Athens, Greece

When our three months Schengen visa free period was up we were not allowed to extend our stay despite the circumstances. The Immigration official banged on her desk and shouted to Jonathan – who has a New Zealand passport but hasn’t lived there since 1984, “You go back to New Zealand and your wife must go back to Australia” (despite there being absolutely no flights!)

Despite being told (forcibly) to leave Greece we do miss the beauty of the Greek islands
Just one of the wonderful Greek sights – on the island of Amorgos

In contrast, in Turkey it has been very easy to apply for one-year temporary residency and with the help of Finike yacht agent Samet Gölgeci and travel agent Tarik Toprak, the process was easy.

We feel so grateful to Turkey for giving us the security of somewhere to stay while the world continues to be unsettled – unlike our home country, the hermit kingdom of Australia, where the government has made it nigh impossible for us to return.

Finike marina

The other important milestone was that I was called in for my first Covid vaccination. Unfortunately Jonathan is still waiting for an appointment but hopefully it will be his turn soon.

The Turkish health app letting me know that I could go in for my “jab”

Having had a very mild dose of Covid late last year in the Netherlands I wasn’t too anxious about getting grievously ill with the virus even if I caught it again but I really do believe that it is each person’s duty to think about the good of others before their own needs and desires.

The hospital in Finike is very modern

It’s all very well for people to decide they don’t want to be vaccinated – for whatever reason – but in order to get ALL of our lives back to normal we need to have the majority of the population worldwide vaccinated – ASAP.

The entrance to the Covid clinic

In the UK more than 37 million people (55.9 per cent of the population) have received at least one dose. Now the country is out of lockdown and Covid cases and hospital numbers are way down.

New cases are way down in the UK

So for those anxious about having a vaccine – look at the numbers. The vast majority of people in the UK who have been vaccinated have had no harmful side effects. In contrast, the small number of people who have ended up very sick in hospital and in some cases, dying, with Covid have been unvaccinated or have caught Covid before they were vaccinated or before their immunity had built up.

Deaths are right down. The vast majority of the people dying have not been vaccinated

In Australia people are being very slow to be vaccinated partly, I believe, because they feel that they have “beaten” Covid. Well they haven’t!

Hospital admissions of people with Covid continue to tumble

The Australian government has announced that the borders with the rest of the world will remain closed until mid-2022. There is no way the country will open even at that stage unless people go out and get vaccinated.

The entrance to the hospital in Finike

For those, like us, who have family in Australia (and dear friends of course) it seems a hopeless situation. We sometimes wonder if we will ever see them again.

This is where patients sat for 15 minutes after their vaccination

And just by the way, the Astra Zeneca vaccine is being provided at NO profit. Additionally, for those worried about blood clots it’s estimated this syndrome occurs in just six people per one million people vaccinated, on average, with the risk even lower for those over 50. This is about the same as your risk of serious injury from being stuck by lightning in a year in Australia.

No crowds, no fuss.

Anyway! Apart from those important events, the passed week has unfolded pleasantly with 7.30am yoga sessions (a miracle that I’m even awake at this time!); Scrabble or games of Rummikub in the afternoons; movie nights on S/V Catabella with a big screen, complete with popcorn and choc ices; farewell coffee and cake on S/V Liberte with Liz and Steve who we first met in Borneo, and drinks on other boats and on the dock.

Playing Scrabble has its tricky moments. This was Sue’s hand…..
….and this was mine!!
Just before our movie night we went to watch the flotilla commemorating Ataturk’s arrival in the Black Sea to launch the Turkish War of Independence in 1919
There were a lot of flares lit and patriotic music playing
Ataturk dedicated May 19 to the youth of the Turkish nation as Youth and Sports Day – a national holiday that (normally) sees young people take part in sporting and cultural activities with official ceremonies across the country

Yesterday we had a communal “casting off” party for all those leaving the marina this week. It was organised by the Turkish sailors who kindly invited us along to their celebration.

We all brought salads and other dishes to share to eat with the delicious “tray kebabs” cooked by the local butcher Nikki from S/V Destination Anywhere and Jonathan

We all took salads and other things to share and the local people organised large “tray kebabs” for everyone. The food was spicy and delicious and we had a lovely afternoon eating and drinking together.

The food was delicious! John from S/V Catabella enjoying a beer
Shelley (left) and Jill from S/V Eucalyptus
Sue from S/V Catabella

I have also been introduced to the delights of a Turkish spa this week by Sue of S/V Catabella.

The spa (Sue entering the bathhouse at the end of the passage)

Before our massage we were taken into a steamy marble-lined room with two slabs on which we were to lie.

Into the steamy atmosphere ready for the “dog wash” as Sue has dubbed it

Beforehand, hot water was sloshed over the slabs so it felt comfortably warm to lie on.

All set for the scrubbing

Then we were scrubbed from head to toe with what can only be described as one of those old fashioned pan scrubbers. While slightly excruciating it was also invigorating and strangely relaxing. At intervals we were rinsed by bucketfuls of hot water being sloshed over us which felt lovely.

After the scrub came the bubbles (not the alcoholic kind!) applied with what felt like a deliciously soft chamois, followed by a vigorous hair wash. Then after a quick dry off it was time for a wonderful but pretty conventional massage.

The massage itself was pretty conventional

Now lockdown is over we are slowly getting ready for our departure this coming Thursday. We can’t wait to out into the blue yonder again! One such task was to find a way round the strange phenomenon of having our telephone blocked.

A misty view of a mosque in the way to the phone shop

For some reason, after three months in the country, phones that are foreign made are somehow “disabled” by the Turkish government, regardless of whether you have a Turkish SIM or whether you are a temporary resident.

An unusual coloured bougainvillea

To get around this rather strange situation we have bought a small portable wifi hub with which we can “hotspot” using our disabled phones (apparently they can still do this!). We have also bought a tiny little Nokia with which we can receive an sms from our bank or credit card with a security code to complete a transaction. Hopefully this will work!

Our portable wifi hub

Not many photos this week but hopefully my next blog will be full of fabulous shots of blue seas and glorious landscapes!

Anniversary celebrations and a pre-lockdown escape

This week we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary on board our very comfortable Lagoon 420 catamaran in Finike Marina, Turkey.

“It was 35 years ago today ….”

Such a contrast to our tiny (28 foot) traditional cutter rig timber cruising yacht on which we spent our first wedding anniversary in 1987 in Ballina, New South Wales, Australia!

Our pride and joy having a day out with friends in Papua New Guinea

Although there wasn’t room to swing a cat in our little boat we loved it and had some great adventures in her in the Coral Sea, the highlight of which was an extended visit to Papua New Guinea.

In the intervening years we have had some wonderful anniversaries in fabulous places but it was particularly special to be celebrating our 35th on board once again.

Another anniversary – our 25th – in New York

Due to Covid lockdown restrictions we couldn’t go out to celebrate so we did the next best thing and ordered a lovely home delivery meal of fresh grilled fish, chips and salad (a loaf of bread came with it too!) – washed down by a very pleasant Turkish wine of course.

Our 35th celebration !

Talking of food, we have discovered that the fruit and vegetable shop we found on our first visit to Finike in August last year, not only delivers to the marina but also can buy herbs and other produce not normally found at the local market and shops.

This week he gave me a “menu” of goodies he could procure at the wholesale market in Marmaris and we ordered lots of fresh herbs, some fennel and “American” style capsicums, as well as some of the other “normal” fruit and vegetables.

All the “special” items our local fruit and veg man can obtain for us

We have been in Finike for over a month now and have been itching to get out and about and swing at anchor for a while. John and Sue on the catamaran Catabella felt the same way so we planned a short to trip to an idyllic little bay north of Finike called Çineviz Limani.

Here come the marina staff to help us with our lines

The day before our departure we heard that Turkey was going into a full lockdown for 17 days in an attempt to decrease the number of Covid cases before the summer season begins. This meant we had to go out for the whole lockdown or for only two days.

Sadly we had appointments and various bits of work scheduled in the following couple of weeks so we had to choose the two-day option.

Leaving the marina at Finike is very simple as one of the marina workers comes alongside in a dinghy to assist you and instruct you if necessary.

After helping us – on to S/V Catabella

As we slid through the water on our way out we passed S/V Catabella as Sue and John dropped their lines.

Letting go S/V Catabella’s lines

What a great feeling it was as we motored out of the marina! It was a sparking morning with scarcely a ripple to disturb the glassy surface of the water.

What a great feeling it was as we motored out of the marina
Farewell Finike!

We headed out as far as the fish farm just a short way off shore and then turned north for the four hour trip.

Going past the fish farm
Just behind us S/V Catabella skims through the water

Unfortunately the sail we were looking forward to didn’t eventuate as there was just no wind at all although about an hour before journey’s end we did roll out our foresail hoping to catch the few breaths that had begun to whisper across the water but had to give up and roll it back in fairly quickly.

There was scarcely a ripple to disturb the glassy surface of the water.
So calm we could see this turtle several metres away sunning itself

The coastline in this part of Turkey is rugged, wild and imposing and we enjoyed spotting the many caves in the limestone cliffs – lots of places for pirates to hide!

The coastline in this part of Turkey is quite wild and rugged.
There are loads of caves waiting to be explored!
Looks like there have been some rockfalls here!
There were people on the beach of this tiny little rocky island (spot the boat!)

As we approached Çavuş Burnu to start the approach to our anchorage – Çınevız Limanı we had spectacular views of Mt Olympos (Tahtalı Dağı).

A lovely clear view of Mt Olympos (Tahtalı Dağı) in the distance.

We were fortunate to have such a clear view of the whole mountain as apparently the peak is often covered by clouds, particularly in summer.

A closer view of Mt Olympos and still so clear

After we had settled John and Sue came over for gin and tonics and fish cooked on the barbecue. Lovely!

Buying the fish was quite the experience.
They were mostly very small so there wasn’t a huge choice
Sue and John arriving
Gin and tonics to start with

We couldn’t have been happier with our anchorage. Sunday and Catabella were the only yachts there, the sea was calm, there was no swell, the scenery was fabulous with awe inspiring cliffs dropping sheer into the sea. Bliss!

We couldn’t have been happier with our anchorage
The cliffs were awe-inspiring
It was beautifully calm – and no swell!
Sunday at anchor – photo credit Sue S/V Catabella – thanks Sue!

That night I looked for the full moon – it had been so bright the previous night in the marina but in the dark anchorage it was even more magnificent – a great silver orb reflecting like a lantern on the stillness of the calm seas surrounding us.

The moon rising brightly over the marina the previous night

This is what you miss staying in a marina – the magic spun by being on your own in an isolated spot where you can feel that the moon is shining just for you!

A great silver orb reflecting like a lantern on the stillness of the calm seas surrounding us.

The following day, after a relaxed start we took our dinghies over to Cirali Limani, the beach where the ruins of the ancient Lycian city of Olympos can be found – about two nautical miles from where we were anchored.

On the dinghy going to Cirali Limani
Cirali Limani ahead
The first signs of a ruined city perched on the rocks as we near the beach
The landing was pretty tough on the feet!
Who doesn’t love peering through a hole in the rock!

Both the guidebook and the sailing pilot were rather lukewarm about the ruins of Olympos (established around the 4th Century BC) saying they were “much overgrown and in a ruinous state” but we were absolutely enchanted!

The remains of a bridge over the channel which must have been navigable at one time
A leafy boardwalk beckons us in
A monumental tomb from the 3rd Century AD
The house of a wealthy Lycian family
Posing for the camera! Photo credit John and Sue from S/V Catabella

Yes, the ruins were set amongst overgrown trees but that really added to its charm.

The overgrown trees added a certain charm
I was reminded a little of Angkor Wat – definitely a little mysterious

It reminded me a bit of Angkor Wat in Cambodia – a little mysterious and with an atmosphere that made you feel that you might walk along a passage or turn a corner and suddenly find yourself in another time with people in strange clothes and speaking a completely different language.

There was an atmosphere that made you feel you could turn a corner and suddenly find yourself in another time with people in strange clothes and speaking a completely different language.
We really enjoyed exploring the ruins
On our way to another part of town
Some beautifully carved stone

Definitely a place that sent a few delicious shivers up my spine!

An incredible fig tree had spread its branches through the ruins
We wandered away from this part of ancient Olympos

We wandered away from this overgrown and mystical part of ancient Olympos and found ourselves in a paddock full of glorious spring flowers including a mass of vibrant red poppies.

Just a few of the vibrant red poppies we found
Such an amazing vibrant colour against the white of the daisies

Soon we were amazed to find that we had entered another part of the city – just as intriguing but with a completely different atmosphere.

The other part of the city had a completely different atmosphere
There were the remains of some formerly magnificent buildings

Here were Roman temples, early Christian Churches and a Bishop’s palace.

This anteroom in the Roman Temple had obviously been used later by the Christians
It was amazing to see the remains of paint on the walls of the anreroom
Jonathan pointing out the remains of a delicate leaf pattern
There were more remains on the hill in the distance

All the buildings were in a poor state of repair but the presence of a large crane gave us hope that restoration work was in progress.

Some restoration work had been done
The size of these walls indicate the grandeur of the city 2,000 years ago
The impressive entrance to the Roman Temple

The remains of the Roman Temple, such as they were, still enabled us to imagine the grandeur of the front facade of the Roman temple. Built in the first half of the second Century AD, to honour Emperor Hadrian, the temple had an impressive facade made out of cut stone blocks.

An artist’s impression of the temple facade
Using the artist’s impression we could visualise how the entrance must have looked
Jonathan showing how massive those blocks of stone were

After a lovely wander through the ruins we found a small restaurant open only for “takeaways” (due to Covid restrictions) but who allowed us to sit in their garden while they prepared some delicious gozleme for our lunch.

The cafe’s shady garden
Gozleme – delicious!
More buildings on the way back to the beach
This channel must have flooded once upon a time judging by the thickness of the wall

We arrived back to our respective boats and had a couple of hours of relaxation in the beautiful surroundings before a sumptuous roast dinner on Catabella.

We arrived back at our boats for some relaxation before dinner. S/V Catabella at anchor

We would have loved to stay longer and explore Olympos a little bit more and also try and find the Chimaera at the other end of the beach that we had motored to on our dinghies. The Chimaera consists of two outcrops of volcanic rock where escaping natural gas is permanently alight. Homer described this phenomenon as “a fire breathing monster part lion, part goat and part snake”. I really want to see that!

Alas, lockdown was starting at 6 pm and we had to get back in time to collect the dress, long pants and shorts I was having made by the local dressmaker from fabric I had picked up at the market for less than 10 Australia dollars.

Trying to explain what I wanted using Google translate! The Dressmaker’s son was trying to participate in an online class, poor thing.

Adalet, the dressmaker, had rustled these up in just a couple of days and we were anxious to pay for them before lockdown as she wouldn’t be earning much, if anything, during the 17 days when everyone was having to stay home.

Modelling my new dress – very cool for the summer

The journey back to Finike was once again gorgeous with calm seas, no wind and no swell.

Calm seas, no wind, no swell

The peak of the majestic Mt Olympos was still visible but the lower slopes were encased in a circle of low thick cloud – very atmospheric and a sight that will remain in our memories.

Mt Olympos hiding behind a thick cloud – just its peak visible
S/V Catabella following in our wake
The clouds were doing some odd things that day

We arrived in good time to go to the dressmakers and stock up on wine (supermarkets are not allowed to sell alcohol during lockdowns) and be back in time for “pre-lockdown drinks” on C-arm with some of our yachting compatriots.

More strange cloud activity
Pre lockdown drinks.

It was so great to get away – even though it was only for two days – as we felt thoroughly rejuvenated and ready to face lockdown with reasonable equanimity.

The inexplicable mystique of Delphi

 

With the successful survey under our belts on Sunday, the catamaran we planned to buy in Athens, Greece, we decided to take a little break.

On the way to Delphi

We headed for the ancient archeological site of Delphi, the Greek religious sanctuary sacred to the God Apollo (the god of light, knowledge and harmony), on Mt. Parnassus near the Gulf of Corinth.

How many miles had this poor man walked to paint the lines on the road?

 

My memories of Greek myths and legends was that this is was home to the mysterious oracle of Apollo which was famed throughout the Greek world for giving cryptic predictions to city-states and individuals about important decisions on battles, political situations etc. I was looking forward to seeing the place that I had heard so much about as a school student.

Once we had got out of the Athens traffic, we had a beautiful drive through a deep and fertile valley (the Kopais Plain) where to our surprise the main crop appeared to be cotton. We later learnt that Greece is the EU’s main cotton grower accounting for more than an incredible 80 per cent of total European production.

We saw many, many, small fields growing cotton
There was loads of fluffy cotton balls at the roadside

We stopped for lunch in Aliartos , a small farming community, opposite a cave with what turned out to be a Medieval tower perched above it. At the back of the cave  we could see the start of a “secret” passage which looked like it connected to the tower – maybe an escape route if the tower was attacked?

The outside of the cave with the tower above
We couldn’t find out much about this cave but we could definitely see signs of a passage to the tower above
Taken from inside the cave

 

Mount Parnassus here we come

Soon after lunch we started to climb up the southern slopes of Mount Parnassus,  and before too long reached Delphi.

Climbing up the slopes of Mount Parnassus
A common site in Greece – sheep at the side of the road
Reaching Delphi

The views were incredible!

Such an amazing view

To reach Delphi Camping where we hoped to stay, we had to drive on a road with the most hair-raising hairpin bends but the spine tingling trip was so worth it.

An incredible reward after all those hair raising hairpin bends

 

We arrived in the early evening and there was good news and bad news. The good news that it was open. The bad news was that it was closing for the Winter the very next day.

Such a wonderful spot to camp
Sadly it was a bit late for a swim

Such a shame as it was a fantastic campsite with the most incredible views over a deep valley densely covered with hundreds of age-old olive trees and onwards to the sparking waters of the Gulf of Corinth.

There were hundreds if not thousands of olive trees as far as the eye could see the in the valley below

The owners of the site were fantastically hospitable and after we had checked in presented us with a small sample tray of olives, tapenade, olive oil – all products from their own trees – and small nuggets of delicious cornbread

This was such a nice touch and very welcome after the drive up the mountain
 

They were so delicious that of course I had to go and buy several bottles of olives, a huge can of beautiful olive oil and some bottles of tapenade too.

So many tempting goodies (as long as you like olives) in the campsite shop
 

We really felt that we were in paradise in this beautiful spot. It was very high up so the air was sweet and clear, even the gentlest breeze generated a beautiful swooshing noise as the cypress tree branches moved above us.

The beautiful pine trees made a lovely swooshing noise – sounded a bit like the ocean

 

Heavenly breeze in the branches above

After a peaceful sleep we woke reasonably early to make the most of the day. We wanted to walk right round the ancient site of Delphi as well as spend a decent amount of time at the museum. Then of course there was lunch to fit in.

View from the road as we drove to the Delphi archeological site

 
We were looking for a place to park in the village of Delphi and was flagged down by a middle aged man who asked if he could help. We explained we needed a carpark for our plus-size vehicle but had found the most likely spot said “no camper vans” at the entrance. “No problem, “ he said “You can go back there, it’s OK. I’m the mayor of Delphi so it’s OK”!


So we parked up and walked through the village of Delphi towards the ancient site but first, following the example of our good friends on S/V Yantara, stopped for “an early lunch” at a very pleasant taverna with wonderful views.

Such a wonderful view from the taverna


After a typical Greek meal of a beautiful salad with great lumps of feta and juicy olives on top, moussaka, chicken souvlakia and a sticky and very sweet dessert, we walked the couple of kilometres to the ancient site of Delphi.

The Delphi site was on a steep hillside


For the next few hours we climbed higher and higher, marvelling at the Temple of Apollo and other temples such as the one dedicated to Athena and around 20 treasuries which were constructed to house the votive offerings and dedications from city-states all over Greece. 

The Temple of Apollo
A replica omphalus which marked the centre of the universe
More temples and the remains of some of the treasuries in the background
Incredibly many tablets inscribed in Ancient Greek still survive and have been transcribed to give a wealth of information on the history, religion and social life of the people of Delphi
This serpentine column once held a pure gold tripod dedicated to Apollo following the Greek victory over the Persians in 479 BC
Doric columns from a large stoa – a votive of King Attalus


There was also a spectacular amphitheatre (capable of seating an audience of 5,000) and at the very top of the steep site, a sporting stadium that could seat 6,500 spectators.

The magnificent amphitheatre
Looking down on the amphitheatre below
Another shot of the amphitheatre from up high
The athletics stadium


This stadium was where every four years, starting in 586 BC, athletes from all over the Greek world competed in the Pythian Games, one of the four Panhellenic Games, precursors of the Modern Olympics. 

Visiting Delphi was an awe inspiring experience

We were absolutely enthralled by Delphi but more than that, we both felt that it had an inexplicable mystique, something awe inspiring and profound.

No wonder the Ancient Greeks considered Delphi as the centre of the universe

No wonder the ancient Greeksconsidered Delphi to be the centre of the world. We could definitely feel the strange and compelling charm that would lead people to believe that.

What a miraculous find. This silver bull was cast in the 6th Century BC

The nearby museum was excellently laid out with many fascinating displays. One of the exhibits that really affected me was a stunning statue of a bull forged from three silver sheets connected by bands of silver-plated copper. This was made in the 6th Century BC.

So full of life and strength

The statue was so life-like and captured the amazing strength and movement of a real bull.

The discovery of the statue of Antinoos
Emperor Hadrian’s “beloved companion” who died tragically

I was also fascinated by the statue of Antinoos who was Emperor Hadrian’s “beloved companion”.  We had learnt about him when we had visited Hadrian’s Wall on the way to Scotland so it was interesting to see an image of this “youth of extraordinary beauty”.

Another treasure was a statue of a charioteer – cast in bronze in 470 BC and erected in honour of the winner of the chariot race at the Pythian Games held in Delphi.

The sculpture would have originally consisted of a chariot and horses but when the piece was rediscovered in excavations in 1896, only the driver and a few fragments survived. How aristocratic and noble he looks!

The bronze cast in 470 BC and erected in honour of the winner of the chariot race at the Pythian Games
This is how the original statue would have looked
A model of Delphi when it was all intact
A copy of the original omphalus which marked the centre of the universe

 

The views from Delphi across the the coastal plain to the south and the valley of Phocis were sensational and as we walked back to the van we were lucky enough to see this amazing vista in the last of the sunlight, the magnificent mountain slopes were bathed in marvellous reds and oranges. Such a glorious sight.

Because the camping site was closed we had no choice but to free camp but we found the perfect spot just a few minutes away with the same commanding views. 

 

Land travel and new sailing adventures

Our sailing adventures over for 2017, we embarked on some land travel in November, leaving Bali Hai on the hard standing in Rebak Marina, Langkawi, in Malaysia.

Bali Hai goes on “her holidays”

First stop was a flying medical visit to the island of Penang where we also met up with yachtie friends from Charon and Shakti. Thanks to a recommendation by the Charons we stayed at the he excellent boutique hotel Le Dream and enjoyed a great Chinese meal together at the wonderful Tai Tong restaurant in Georgetown.

Dinner with the Charons and the Shaktis

Leaving for Vientiane in Laos in early November we travelled from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur then from KL to Bangkok- a convoluted route but it was a lot cheaper than any of the other options.

The colourful streets of Vientiane

Poor Laos – the country was bombed to hell even though it was never at war.

Tragically many innocent people continue to lose their limbs from ordnance in their agricultural land and near their homes

Monks in Vientiane busy repainting their temple

Keeping fit on the banks of the Mekong River

We spent a few days exploring Vientiane before taking a mini bus to beautiful Vang Vieng where we stayed right on the river at the Elephant Crossing Hotel which had spectacular views over the mountains.

The glorious view from the Elephant Crossing Hotel in Vang Vieng

These mountains are riddled with caves

Many of the caves have an mage of Buddha near the entrance

This one was called the elephant cave for obvious reasons

After an adventurous few days caving, tubing and hiking we climbed on a minibus again to drive to Luang Prabang.

A group about to go tubing in a cave at Vang Vieng. Such fun and being in a group of two our guide took us deeper into the bowels of the mountain.

A short but pleasant hike after exploring a number of caves

No one could have prepared us for the breathtaking views that we experienced as we crossed the mountain ridges. The journey would have to rate as one of the most fabulous I have ever experienced. Thanks to the Yantaras for recommending the ride without talking it up. It totally exceeded expectations.

Looking back at the hair pin bend we had just traversed – hair raising!

Such a glorious view!

Luang Prabang is a gorgeous town situated where the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers meet. The French colonists left a legacy of gracious architecture and fine dining and this mixed with the natural beauty of the town, the many outstanding Buddhist temples and the lively markets makes it a bucket list destination.

The view from our hotel in Luang Prabang

Left behind when the French left Luang Prabang

A typical alleyway in Luang Prabang

There are many French villas in Luang Prabang

Busy streets but just a stone’s throw away…….

……a serene and quiet stretch of river

Coincidently the Shakti crew arrived in Luang Prabang the day we did and we enjoyed some great meals together and shared a wonderful day at an elephant camp.

Many beautiful temples and lots of traditional Laotian architecture to enjoy

The bamboo bridge close to where we stayed

We also spent a delightful day at the Kiang Si water falls. Although pretty crowded, the falls were spectacular and definitely a must-see destination.

The Kiang Si water falls were spectacular

We loved visiting these majestic creatures

From Laos we flew to Vietnam stopping overnight in Hanoi and leaving our heavy suitcases at our Air B n B before heading for the royal city of Hue.

It rained cats and dogs in Hue

The Citadel was flooded

Sadly we had constant rain the whole time we were in Hue so we’re unable to do much sight seeing although we did spend a day exploring the royal citadel which was very enjoyable except for the thorough drenching we received.

A sodden royal citadel

…but beautiful inside

Water water everywhere!

Back in Hanoi it was family time – many of our wider family gathered there to attend the wedding of one of our nephews. We had a wonderful time celebrating twice over – first at a Western style wedding and then a traditional Vietnamese style wedding day.

All too soon it was time to move on again – this time to Brisbane where we stayed with our son and partner. Over the Christmas period we were joined by sailing friends Jan and Jack from Anthem who had flown in from Darwin for the occasion. While they were with us, we met up with Cindy and James from You You who were also home for Christmas.

Christmas festivities

Yachties coffee date

After a busy month in Brisbane catching up with family and friends it was time to be reunited once again with Bali Hai.

We arrived back at Rebak Marina on 10 January to Bali Hai looking the bees knees with her hull polished, her bottom anti fouled and with a very smart brand new propeller. Ready and waiting for the Thailand Rally starting on 15 January 2018.

Always so good to catch up with our sailing buddies

The romantic tale of a recaltricant engine and a happy love match

Penuba, one of the stops in the 2015 Sail2ndonesia Rally, is a small, sleepy town on Pulau Selayar in Riau Province. 

Penuba from the water
We had been made very welcome there during the rally and had enjoyed staying in its well protected and deep harbour which had been highly prized by the Dutch well over a century earlier. 

The rear of the shop houses built by the Dutch on reclaimed land
One of our 2015 rally fleet members (a German born Canadian) had spent longer than he intended there due to engine trouble. In fact he was late in arriving due to engine problems and was forced to return after leaving to catch up with the fleet, as his engine was still playing up. 

Thelassi, our friend’s yacht with the recalcitrant engine
On this return visit he was helped by a young lady who lived with her family in Penuba and spoke excellent English. She was very happy to help our friend find the mechanics for the job using her father’s excellent connections. 

The jetty at Penuba where we parked our dinghies

The rest as they say, is history. They are now happily married and live in a very pleasant, cosy, beachside cottage on the adjacent island of Pulau Singkep, just minutes away from the main town Dabo. 

The beautiful view from the happy couple’s home

We had last seen our friend at Rebak Marina in Langkawi, Malaysia in November 2015 so we were looking forward to catching up with him and also to meeting his wife. 

Walking in the dusk in Penuba

We arrived in the early afternoon and went ashore just as dusk was approaching. Much to our dismay the great little restaurant where we had eaten during the rally was closed – as was every eating place (and there are only about three) in Penuba. Apparently we had arrived on the eve of an important religious holiday!

The Chinese temple

We walked along the small main street which had been built on land reclaimed by the Dutch. The timber walkways and shops are very rickety and look like there hasn’t been much maintenance work done since the Dutch left! 

The rickety walkway over reclaimed land at the entrance to the shop houses
However, each shop is a magnificent rabbit warren of all kinds of goods from fresh fruit and vegetables, to umbrellas, engine oil, notebooks, rice, hats, dried fish, plastic bowls, rope, snack foods and sweets (candies or lollies), pots and pans and brushes – anything you could think of. 

Pretty sure you could buy all the essentials of life here (except for wine!)



We wandered around the waterfront rather disconsolately (we were looking forward to eating off the boat!) but just after we past the Chinese temple as we heard a disembodied voice coming from the shadows in the half light calling our names. It was our friend and his wife!

A lantern in the Chinese Temple
The happy couple

Later on we made a scratch meal with the Yantaras and had a great reunion on Bali Hai. 
The following morning we were inundated by children from the stick village on the tiny island off Penuba town. Apparently their families were Orang Laut (literally Sea people) who at one time lived on sampans but some years ago were granted permission to build homes on the island. 

The children arrived in sampans which they carefully and capably manouevred round to avoid damaging our top sides
The children were so beautiful- happy, enthusiastic, eager to learn, polite and full of energy. They loved being shown round the boat, especially having the water maker and the chart plotter explained (through sign language mainly). 

Our happy visitors
You could tell that they were born to be on the water – even some very tiny ones rowed out to our yachts and they all hopped in and out of their quite unstable sampans with dexterity and confidence. 

Born to it! The children were so nimble and confident on the water and around boats
The first to arrive, two girls and two boys, were happily settled when another five arrived. And then another three. After that they kept on coming and we had to ask some to leave to make room for the next three sampans incoming!

A boatful of visitors
At one point there was so many kids and twice as much confusion and one poor little one (he can’t have been older than four) was left behind. Capt’n Birdseye hoisted him into the dinghy and his sister rowed her sampan back to pick him up. 

This little one got left behind! I almost kept him he was so cute.
In the end we had to ask them all to leave as we had an important lunch date to get to so they obediently filed off the boat clutching their notebooks and pens we had given them as though they were the Crown Jewels. 

Best breakfast ever

We declared it the best breakfast ever – maybe the food wasn't absolutely the best but the fun factor was 110 per cent!


Musical breakfast oh yeah!

After an early start (we were in the bus by 7am!) we drove from our anchorage at Tangung Bajau, into the centre of Singkawan. We stopped for breakfast in a small and bustling cafe where the coffee was strong and the food spicy (rice and chicken satay!). Our daughter, being vegan was taken in a tri-shaw to buy beautiful fresh fruit at the local market.

Chicken sate for breakfast?

While we were eating, a guitarist came in and serenaded us. He played lots of old favourites and before long people were singing along and having a great time.


Then the band arrived!

The guitarist had only been gone a few minutes when a whole band stepped into the small cafe! Two guitar players, an excellent fiddler, and a percussionist playing a beat box reeled off classic pop songs one after another – "Them ol' Cotton Fields Back Home", "Won't you stay a little bit longer" etc etc. By the time they got to "Hey Jude" every person in the restaurant was singing along.

It was such an excellent way to start the day!

We were on our way again heading to a Dayak village quite a long way into the hills near the border with Malaysian Borneo.

The blue dot signifies our tour bus


Such beautiful scenery

There were some spectacular views of tree covered hills, cultivated fields, unruly jungle and near villages. After about an hour and a half's drive we stopped at the gate of a Dayak community and after seeking permission from an elderly man at the gate drive in to look at the community long house.


The elderly chief gave us permission to enter Dayak territory

Unlike the traditional long houses, there was nobody living there, rather, we gathered, it was used as a community centre by the local Dayak people.


Climbing up to the Long House


Dayak artwork in the Long House

A Dayak diety

We hopped back on the bus and were soon winding our way up a mountain – higher and higher we went through a series of alarming hair pin bends.


Winding our way up the mountain

About an hour and a half later we had stopped again at a handicraft shop. The only things I was interested in weren't for sale so after a while we wandered off and made friends with a cow before boarding the bus again.


Modelling one of the items on sale


Making friends with a cow

Another half an hour down the road and we stopped again a warung (cafe) for lunch as guests of the local government. After a pleasant meal (with very welcome cold Bingtangs) we set off once again.


Lunch time


Washing our hands Indonesian style

A little after 3pm we finally arrived at the Dayak Village where we were greeted by a group of colorfully dressed dancers who welcomed us accompanied by a "gong orchestra".


Dayak dancers welcome us

We were presented with Dayak bracelets – all different, mine was a plaited band made from some kind of plant material. The welcoming party then offered us rice wine which tasted earthy and was poured from a piece of bamboo and drunk from bamboo cups. It had quite a kick!


Pouring the rice wine

Strolling through the sprawling Dayak village we noticed that most of the homes were made from traditional materials (but with tin roofs) and the floors covered with woven bamboo mats.


A traditional Dayak home

The people we met were so friendly and welcoming and as interested in us as we were of them.
One of the Dayak families we met


Making raffia

Many of the families sold handicrafts woven from bamboo and other plant materials and we all bought something to take back to our boats.


Dayak handicrafts


Fabulous Dayak baskets


Reluctant models

After a wander through the village and chats with families as we went, it was time to get back in the bus as we had a visit to a white water rafting spot scheduled in a nearby river.

We were hoping to hop into a rubber ducky and try our hand at rafting but sadly as we arrived thunderclouds were gathering and any hope of a quick rafting experience was dashed.

There was just time to have a snack and a drink by the beautiful river before the storm broke and we had to make a dash for the bus for the homeward journey.

Andaman Islands here we come!

We had planned to leave Thailand for Port Blair in the Andaman Islands – the furthest outpost of India that allows visiting yachts – on Friday 17 February. This would have given ample time for provisioning and last minute service checks for the three yachts travelling together – Yantara, Smart Choice and Bali Hai and get us in to Port Blair on Monday 21 February. 

Plotting our leaving date

However, as we have learned previously, when it comes to yachts you can never rely on everything coming together in the way you expect. 

A relatively minor but painful medical issue and a recalcitrant auto helm (self steering) delayed us and plan B was to leave on Monday 21 February.  

It was great for the Bali Hai contingent as it gave us lots of time to service the boat engine, cook and freeze some evening meals for the trip and get a few maintenance jobs completed. 

Beautiful Nai Harn Bay

It was also great to get to know Nai Harn Bay and enjoy some lovely walks, including over the saddle of land (up a very steep hill!) that separates Nai Harn Bay and Ya Nui Bay. 

The skipper walking across the saddle of land

On top of the cliff is a huge white windmill that generates electricity for the local area and which is a landmark for all the boats anchored in the capacious bay below. 

Top of the hill!

Hang gliders jump off the cliff and catch thermals like massive colourful eagles. We watched heart in mouth as they appeared to swoop perilously close to the sails of the windmill. 

Hang gliders perilously close to the windmill

Sightseers and local teenagers arrive on motor bikes to marvel at the view or seize the opportunity for a kiss and a cuddle away from the prying eyes of parents. 

Down the other side is a small beach much favoured by families for its soft sand, fewer crowds and safe swimming. There are a handful of cafes here where we enjoyed a few good value and tasty meals – notably with the Yantaras and Smarties on a couple of occasions. 

Photo opp! Yantara and Smart Choice taking a photo of…..
….this vehicle – a strange sight for Phuket

Plan B didn’t quite work out and our departure was delayed once again but we didn’t mind. We sailed back to Ao Chalong and did a little more shopping and bought fuel from the barge in the middle of the bay. 

Lovely sunset at Ao Chalong

We checked out of Thailand on Wednesday and went back to Nai Harn Bay. It wasn’t a hard place to be – at all!

At this bar you can keep cool while you drink

Or sit out on a deck with fabulous views

As well as enjoying meals at some of the local restaurants we were able to rest and recuperate after the busy-ness of our trip to India. 

Watching the sunset from the deck bar

There were gorgeous sunsets to enjoy and we even saw the “green flash” – a phenomenon only seen under particular conditions when the sun sets. This was my second time, the first being in Hoga Island, Indonesia in 2015. 

Another chocolate box sunset

By Friday 24 February all three boats were ready and raring to head for the Andaman Islands. Final repairs done and medical issues resolved we convened a little way out to sea outside Nai Harn Bay around midday and started the first of what was to be a passage taking three days and nights. 

Andamans here we come!

Andaman Islands here we come!

For more about our trip to the beautiful and fascinating Andaman Islands go to:

https://dotsailing.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/getting-into-the-cruising-groove/

The “Joy” of giving

Our friends had left but we had so enjoyed our time on Koh Yao Noi with them that we decided to stay on for another couple of days. 

A beautiful view of karsts, a long tail and Bali Hai
To get around the island you really need to hire motor bikes which was what we did. I was almost feeling like a natural by this time!

Hardly an Easy Rider

Our first point of call (in the pouring rain) was Joy’s boutique and then on to call in at a few other shops to do some Christmas shopping .

The Joy of giving!
Joy had some lovely gifts for sale and we bought quite a few Christmas presents plus some clothes for me! Joy makes shopping at her little store a real pleasure. I was so surprised when she very sweetly presented me a dressing gown as a free gift- how’s that for great sales technique? The “Joy” of giving!

My gift from Joy
We spent some time exploring parts of the island we hadn’t managed to visit before, driving passed emerald green paddy fields stretching as far as the eye could see, with water buffalo wading and wallowing through the watery paddies. 

Paddy fields stretching into the distance

After a while we arrived at a traditional fishing village where all the houses were built on stilts.

Traditional fishing village in Koh Yao Noi


Very young kittens. You can certainly see how Siamese cats have been bred from the forebears of these beauties
We stopped at a tiny little cafe and had marvellous meal of coconut soup with fresh prawns, greens and of course lovely spices.

Our lunch stop – we were the only guests!
After an enjoyable day riding we dropped the bikes back and looked for somewhere to have dinner. 
Evening light on Bali Hai
It was getting dark, and as we walked along the road we wondered why everything seemed closed. Then we realised that not only was it a Monday night but also the night before the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Adha when it is traditional for people to eat dinner with their extended family.

Darkness is about to fall
It started to become really dark and then it started to pour with rain. The only place open was a beach restaurant where we had enjoyed a cold drink earlier and which had just two tables under cover – both full! So we headed for the one and only  bar that was open and waited for the rain to stop. 

The beach cafe during the day

After a time we decided to wander back to find our dinghy and as we went passed the beach restaurant found that there was a table free. We weren’t going to starve after all!

The cafe’s cat advises me what to order
The food was delicious and we noticed for future reference that all cocktails at the beach restaurant were 400 baht (Aus$7.50 or £4.70 each!)

This is the place to buy a cocktail! The have a woodfired pizza oven too

Six go exploring in Koh Yao Noi and discover the secrets of Sabai Corner

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Six in a tuk tuk

It was a grey and rainy day on the first day of our friends’ visit to spend time with us on the good ship Bali Hai so we decided that wheeled transport on land was the way to go to allow the six of us to explore the island of Kao Yao Noi. We hired a tuk tuk to have a look round and at the skipper’s insistence, to the delight of some of the crew members and the trepidation of others went to hire motor bikes.

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Serious negotiations with Joy to hire motorbikes
First though, there was something more important to accomplish, massages all round to soothe the travellers’ weary bodies. Although quite a small island – and when we there, really quiet – we were spoiled for choice and between us managed to sample a good variety of establishments from the most basic (and great value) to the most luxurious and rather more expensive ones (but still less than half the price of other countries such as Australia and the UK).

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Capt’n BirdsEye shows us how it’s done
We followed the skipper’s advice to hire our bikes from Joy, who owns a boutique where she sells lovely clothes and exquisite fabrics, quite unlike the things sold at other shops that are virtually all the same (and probably imported from India). Most of her clothes are handmade by Joy and a band of local ladies and she also has some interesting trinkets and gifts on sale.

A couple of items we bought at Joy’s shop
With two bikes to take then and the rest to follow the next day we took off to see some of the island on bike and tuk tuk.

The skipper following the tuk tuk on his newly acquired motorbike
First stop was the Sabai Corner Bungalows which had a very interesting restaurant and bar – the remarkable thing being that none of us observed the obvious until we had visited several times. Can you see what we failed to notice?

Maybe we are too busy to see what is right in front of our eyes?!
Maybe it was the light?
I think you should see it now
Gradually the secrets of Sabai Bungalows were revealed to us – once we saw one phallus we started to see them everywhere – carved in wood I hasten to add.

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How did we miss that?!
All of a sudden we were careful where we put our supporting hand if we were having a lazy lean against something!

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But wait  –  there’s more!
After predinner drinks at one of the resort bungalows, we went for dinner at the Rice Paddies restaurant, run by voluble host Frank.

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The view of rice paddies from the restaurant
The food was authentic Thai and quite hot – even the milder dishes had a decent bite to them. Tiny little bats flew in and out of the restaurant to nibble at a banana left for them. Frank’s two dogs, looking far too lean and healthy for restaurant dogs, kept us company as we ate.

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The tiny little bat eating a banana
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One of Frank’s dogs
Six went to bed happy after a their first day exploring Koh Yao Noi. For the visitors the lure of massive beds and outdoor bathrooms with rainforest showers was too much so it was just the two of us who retired to the boat. Despite the squally conditions, it was as always, good to be back on board.

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Bali Hai awaiting our return