Thank you Turkey! (Teşekkür ederim Türkiye!)

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.

“Sunday” tied up at Finike marina

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.

The online application form we filled in unsuccessfully

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!

View from the harbour wall
Finike from the marina

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.

Tarik’s details

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.

The hardstanding at Finike marina

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 drive to Kemer was very pleasant

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.

Lovely mountain views on the way to Kemer
In the very comfortable mini bus on the way to the Immigration Office in Kemer

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.

There was loads of room!

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.

Waiting to be seen at Immigration

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.

The tax office where we had to pay the visa fees

It is so comforting knowing that we have the certainty of having somewhere we can stay in our floating home for the immediate future.

The resident cat at the tax office

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!

That isn’t snow in the distance, the blanket of white is from the hundreds of plastic roofs of green houses – ubiquitous in Antalya

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.

Enjoying a Covid safe pot luck dinner
Time to go home, it was getting chilly!

A visit from the beautiful (and massive) resident turtle in the marina was also exciting . What a magnificent creature!

A big old Loggerhead Turtle lives at the marina
Such a beautiful 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.

Lots of snow on the mountains in the distance
The snow is gradually disappearing
Pas Pas (Mop) the most elderly canine marina resident
This handsome doggie loves lying in the sun
In the meantime, young Emma is always on the move

Cemal (Jamal), the technical manager at the marina and the hydraulic engineer came to look at our passarelle (gangplank) which is leaking hydraulic fluid.

Looking into our leak
Luckily despite the leak it still works

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.

The massive covered market
So much wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables (even the bananas are grown in Turkey)
Lots of wonderful nuts and dried fruits
Nuts anyone?
Buying some gorgeous dried apricots

Thank you Turkey for making us so welcome!

Ducks paddling furiously upstream

Drama as our anchor gets stuck and other stories

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.

Strolling along the beach front in Kaleköy
There were of course, lots of steps in the village

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!

We had a lovely wander round the village which clings to the hillside below the fortress

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.

Wasn’t sure if these berries were edible or not

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.

We had an unexpected “flying” visit from David and Jaynee aboard Adventurous

The next morning dawned still and warm and we had our first outside breakfast of the season which was really wonderful.

We woke up to this peaceful scene
Our first breakfast outside this season

At around 9 am we decided to haul the anchor and start our three hour trip to Finike marina.

Time to haul anchor

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?

The village of Üçağız and the gulets perfectly reflected in the still water

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!

On no! Our anchor was snagged!

How were we going to get it off? Drastic action was needed or we would be stuck in Kekova Roads for ever!

Drastic action was required to get this incredibly heavy chain off our anchor

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!

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
As soon as we loosened it he anchor 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.

Soon we were gliding along towards Finike
The remains of earthquake-ruined ancient buildings
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!

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.

The three-hour trip passed quickly
Finike in the distance
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.

We were guided into the marina by two staff members in a dinghy.
Heading for our berth on “B dock”

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.

Ready to tie us up

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!

Sunday nicely settled

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).

Meet Emma
She is the friendliest little dog
Paspas (Turkish for Mop) is deaf but very perky

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”.

No guessing needed with Paspas
A welcome cup of çay

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!

Liberte (third from left) who we had last seen in the Andamans

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.

We really liked the old fashioned shops
Underwear anyone?
Everything neatly stacked in this shop which was reminiscent of my childhood
The mosque near “hardware street”

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.

You can just see the glow of the wood fired oven – the smell was amazing!
Heather from S/V Amorgos Blue buying bread supplies
Fresh out of the oven and still warm

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”.

The roof of the covered laneway
The fishmongers opposite the cafe/restaurant
Jonathan keeping his hands warm
Coffee time!

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!

The machine installed by a pet food company on the dock

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.

Huey and Louie
Donna getting a cuddle

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!

Good work happening in the galley
It looks much neater now
The old taps were quite tarnished
One of the shiny new 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.

View from the marina. The white in the centre top of the photo is snow not clouds!

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.

Meeting some of the longer term marina residents at a dock party

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.

Roland going up our mast
His eldest son Florian helps with the safety line

When he got up there he found a loose connection and was able to fix it straight away which was absolutely fantastic!

When Roland got up to the top he found a loose connection
View from the top of the mast
Letting Roland down slowly
The rest of the family watch and wait

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.

Can you spot the Mediterranean Monk Seal basking in the sun?

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.

The seal came right to our boat but I only have video of it. Here it is next door

What a fantastic welcome to Finike Marina!

The seal eventually swam sedately out of the marina
What a fantastic welcome to Finike Marina!

Hauling anchor – freedom! But wait. Stopped by Coastguards – twice!

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.

Luca “posing” at the ancient theatre in Kas
Such a lovely place to meet

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.

S/V Sunday in Kas anchorage (right of photo). The Hellenistic Theatre is just over the hill to the left. Photo courtesy of Yvette Jiang
Not much left of the picnic!

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!

S/V Sunday from the road
There are Lycian tombs everywhere in Kas
The wild flowers are just beautiful
The first poppy we have come across this year
There were so many wild flowers that Nina made some fabulous headdresses
Silke with her headdress

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.

We met Yvette (in middle) and Martin (not pictured) from S/V Pisces 2 at the picnic (photo courtesy of Tim and Silke)

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.

Watching the almost full moon rise
Our artist manikin – dressed in crochet work by Nina
A rare photo of Tim (he’s usually the one behind the lens)
A last cuddle with Ship’s Dog Lucy. And look – I got a headdress too!
A group shot before the Whittakers left (photo credit Tim Whittaker)

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.

Departure morning – the reflections show how still it was

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.

The yachts in the marina and the hills behind were perfectly reflected in the water
It was a stunningly beautiful morning

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.

Getting the anchor up on Polykandros
Luca’s cap at the ready for handover

It was really sad to say goodbye again so quickly but we will catch up again for sure.

Luca preparing to grab his hat
Yep, he got it!
Bye bye lovely Lucy
Farewell to the Whittakers

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.

And we’re off

We hadn’t been out on the water for more than 15 minutes before we were stopped by the Coastguard (border control) boat.

The Coastguards ask us to stop

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!

Jonathan receiving the man overboard victim

“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.

A typical scene in Kekova Roads

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.

Not another boat in sight

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!

Until we met this solitary fishing boat

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!

Under a leaden sky we pass rocky islets with ruins on them
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!

The port and starboard markers indicating the way in

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.

Here we go again!

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!

Some time later the Coastguards depart
Our rather tatty and faded flag!

That night we enjoyed a long sundowner while we watched the full moon rise in all its glory.

What a gorgeous moon!
Moonbeams sparking on the water

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.

One of the main streets of Üçağız

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.

Nothing has been built to spoil the charming rustic character of the place
Lemon season is here!
Spring is here!
Üçağız is still a fishing village at heart
More fishing boats

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.

Ancient tombs were dotted all around the village
Some of the tombs were used by chickens for shelter
These tombs were right next to people’s homes

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.

Sunday at anchor in front of the ruins of Teimiussa
Little is known about these ruins

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.

Could these be fortifications?
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 made from local limestone
Me – amongst the tombs of Teimiussa

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!

Many of the tomb inscriptions are apparently curses against desecrators
Jonathan examining some of the tombs
Wondering if the compass carved into this one means it was built for a sailor

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 hole bashed in the tomb wall in order to steal its valuables is just visible in this (not very good) photo
The lid removed just enough to reach in to steal its contents
Definitely no body in this one!
One of the tomb lids just cast away to the ground

The day was still young so we made our way back through the village and hopped aboard our dinghy for a little ride around.

A beautiful green lizard sunning itself on the rock
On the dinghy and getting closer to the rocky islets

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.

The fortress at Kaleköy
The village of Kaleköy under the shadow of the castle

There was only one restaurant open so that’s where we went!

The restaurant had been patronised by sailors from many different countries
Our dinghy tied up at the pier

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.

We so enjoyed sitting in the sun with cold beers
Mmm delicious hand cut chips

Calamari, hand cut chips and a beautiful salad never tasted so good!

It tasted so good
We decided to forgo the dessert, not sure that “sweat” sounds that appealing!

Near gale force winds and red rain!

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!

Lovely to get out Jonathan’s Christmas gift from our daughter and son-in-law (the decanter) and give it a work out!
It felt very strange entertaining after months of no shared meals.

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.

Lucy was enjoying her cuddles but the nibbles looked more exciting!

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.

The delicious lemon drizzle cake made by Silke and decorated by Luca and Nina
It was a very cosy dinner

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!

Checking the wind speed, anchor placement etc as dawn breaks

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.

Storm? What storm?!

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.

The sky turned a very threatening colour

Having just cleaned the decks from the last red dust rainfall we weren’t looking forward to seeing what was about to eventuate.

You could see those clouds contained something more than rain!

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!

And down it came – dirty red rain

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!

Nasty red sand stains everywhere
The red sand apparently also carried
various poisonous substances we didn’t like
the sound of

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 sand had been carried on the wind all the way from the Sahara Desert
Ugh what a mess

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.

Photograph of Polykandros courtesy of Tim Whittaker showing the wild weather – even in the marina!

Later that day we started the clean up from the “red rain”. Arghh what a mess!

Before and after phot!
Our cockpit table was filthy!
Cleaning up the dinghy after the red rain

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.

Lovely to have helpers at the market – choosing eggs in this photo
So many wild herbs and greenery
Big wheels of butter on sale
Getting to know a friendly dog at the market
The range of nuts was exceptional
One stall even had nettles for sale

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!)

Love these Turkish cotton dressing gowns!
The Levant-Tamini soup – delicious
Despite the wild weather there were moments of calm – Polykandros back on the water after a few days in the marina (taken from Sunday)

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.

Nina’s excellent sketch of our grand duck Affy

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.

Never mind the weather, there was a lovely pasta sauce to enjoy with fresh vegetables from the market

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!

Sunday in the moonlight (courtesy of Tim Whittaker)

At anchor and a joyous reunion

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.

Getting those sails back on

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.

The threatening sky on our first night aboard
Hmm that’s what was in that big black cloud
But there’s always a rainbow to cheer you up
And then the sunshine and blue skies are back for a while

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 supermarket at the end of our “arm”
Dumping our bottles in the recycling bins on arm “C”

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.

Hard to photograph the conditions but believe me it was wild !

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!

It sure was rough on Arm “C”

We had to rearrange our lines and add a couple more to provide more stability and stop Sunday moving around quite so strenuously.

Bad weather coming from the other way now!

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.

Captain there’s a leek, and it’s a big one!
Learning to blanche almonds as we couldn’t find them here in Kas

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.

Aubergine and Cauliflower Balti coming up (recipe courtesy of my sister Sarah’s cook book part II)

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!

Half of this gozleme had disappeared before I remembered to take a photo!

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.

The tallest mast in the marina
Some of the beautiful wooden gulets (tourist boats) on the hard being refurbished
We loved walking past this boat builders every day on our way into town
Every day we discover another ancient tomb
The centre of Kas – so quiet without the tourists
The locals reclaim the space for themselves in the winter months
Many of the gulets are pulled out of the water in winter
I love finding the old parts of town. This stairway is reminiscent of Greece – of course Kas was Greek until the population exchange in 1923
Walking past this site each day, we were curious to see what lay behind the wall.
We knew it was a temple but what would it look like?
Wow! The remains of the temple from the 1st Century AD
Surrounded by houses it’s hidden from the gaze of passers by

We also wandered along the waterfront where industrious workers were preparing restaurants and cafes for the forthcoming season (Covid permitting).

Hard at work with preparations for a (hopefully) busy tourist season
Couldn’t actually see a beach as such but it all looks lovely anyway

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 staff were so efficient at taking us off the mooring.

The marina deck staff were very helpful untying us and our departure went extremely smoothly.

Such a luxury to have someone untie your lines for you
Bye bye marina

Fortunately the weather had settled down for the time being and it felt great to be at anchor again.

Settled at anchor
A beautiful calm anchorage
The end of a busy day

We were excited to hear from Silke and Tim Whittaker from S/V Polykandros that they were arriving in Kas on Saturday 20th March.

Sunday at anchor from the shore

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.

Polykandros arrives in Kas!

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.

We could hear Lucy barking joyously from here!

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!

Such a wonderful reunion

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!

The Polykandros crew heading our way

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.

Aww Lucy
So many beautiful flowers on the way to the temple
Arriving at the temple
Lucy is all ears
A lovely view of Kas from the temple

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.

If the entertainment was boring the audience could always gaze out to sea!
Nina “performing”
Such a delightful theatre

Back on board – now you’re talking Turkey!

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).

Anticipating that first bite of his tavuk şiş when rudely interrupted for a photo call

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.

We felt so grateful that Turkey had allowed us in

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.

A sunset view from our apartment
A view of the mosque from our balcony
Time for a gin and tonic!

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.

Jonathan putting the seat on at the steering position
Our deflated dinghy with the main sail in it – stored in the cabin

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.

Our new passarelle cover
The winch covers are new too
Sunday in the boatyard at Kas

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.)

The decks looked nice and clean

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!

It took days to get rid of the Sahara dust

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.

We loved our walks to the marina – always something new to appreciate like lemons ready for picking and…
Theses weird contraptions – what are they?….
Butter churns of course!
Kas is full of Lycian tombs dating back to at least the 5th Century BC. We realised that parts of a sarcophagus tomb was holding up this garden wall!
At the other end of the wall the lid to the tomb was propped up on its side
We liked this cute little house in the trees
Just casually walking past an Hellenistic temple!
Look closely and you’ll see that this house is built on a tomb

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.

The Friday market

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 scores of stores like this, brimming with freshly picked fruit and vegetables.
Avocados anyone?
The wonderful kitchen implements stall
Colourful rugs, cushion covers and throws
All kinds of local cheese and fantastic olives
Spices, seeds and leaves in abundance
The fragrance was amazing
You can even buy liquorice!

There were also clothes and shoes on sale as well as hardware, tools and various household items. Our favourite was the goat bell stall!

Lots of household goods on sale
Goat bell anyone?

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.

Mmm those gözleme – delicious!
Time for snack in the market

Back at the boatyard, the last bits of work were underway on Sunday before we “splashed” her.

Another Lycian tomb – this time in the market place! Seems a good spot to have a lemon stall!

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!

Sunday looking very smart with primer on
Our propellers look in good shape
A through hull fitting was removed and the hole sealed
Anti fouled and ready to go
Sunday before being “splashed “
The Captain doing his final inspection

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!

Our first balcony
Then we went up in the world
Our view – the island in the centre is the Greek island of Kastellorizo – 20 minutes by boat but to get there we would have to sail all the way to Italy and back to Greece as the Turkish/Greek borders are closed

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.

The Eyrie
The mosque from our first apartment
Our mosque view from the Eyrie
There was a cute fireplace

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.

Preparing Sunday to be lifted

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 straps are fixed underneath
There she goes

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.

It’s a bit of a tight squeeze
Happily in the water
Look at the size of those wheels!

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.

Tied up at the marina and the dinghy ready for inflation
The dinghy inflated and being fixed onto the davits
Gangplank down

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.

Celebrating Christmas in February and a bit of Turkey

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!

Decorating in preparation for a gourmet Valentines Day meal

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.

The snow had almost completely melted

The snow and ice that had brought such joy and excitement to one and all over the past couple of weeks had melted away and the weather became a lot milder again. (See https://saltytalesfrombalihai.com/2021/03/06/floods-snow-and-ice/ for photos and video)

The snow and iced-up canals had brought much joy and excitement
The weather was much milder again
This was the canal Hannah skated on a week previously

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.

Hannah and Pieter off on an adventure of their own
While we look after this princess

In between our preparations we found some more places to explore, including an amazing water reserve called the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen.

The Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen – an amazing water reserve

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.

The hundreds of sand dunes filter rain water for Amsterdam’s water supply

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.

These swans flew right over our heads

There were also heaps of deer – some of which were very shy but others were much bolder.

Spot the deer!
These ones were less shy
Great pair of antlers!

We managed to get pretty lost at one point – the park is vast!

This stag crossed the road first, then two other smaller ones followed
Then they calmly walked up the hill

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.

So lovely to see Spring on the way
These narcissi popped up in Hannah and Pieter’s garden
More crocuses
Down the road in the evening sun

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!

Christmas gifts from Australia. Better late than never!
So many gifts to open!

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.

Everything was so beautifully wrapped
It really was like a second Christmas Day!
Happy Christmas everyone – cheers!

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!

We had such a good time opening our gifts
We even sat outside like an Aussie Christmas!
The fire was very welcome!

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!)

Next morning Pieter was tackling his favourite gift “the impossible jigsaw”
Sushi and gin tasting – what a combination!
The gin tasting was a great success!
This one was our favourite – Fossey’s Shiraz Grape Gin Elixir

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.

Lovely mountain views on our drive to Kaş
It was great to see the Mediterranean once more
A gorgeous glimpse of the 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.

Our apartment block

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.

The view from our balcony was lovely
Looking away from the sea from our balcony
The mosque was right next door

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!

The call to prayer was very loud!

It was great to be back in Turkey at the start of another new sailing adventure!

Floods, Snow and Ice

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.

Entering the beautiful town of Metz
We had been looking forward to
revisiting Metz

Sadly the river was badly swollen and running extremely fast so the camper parking area on its banks had been completely closed off.

The river was badly swollen
The camper parking area was cordoned off
Driving over the river we could see it had burst its banks in places

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.

Crossing the border from France to Luxembourg
The site at Heiderscheid was quite snowy

The following afternoon we were back in the Netherlands to another joyful reunion with our daughter Hannah and son-in-law Pieter.

Back in The Netherlands

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.

Snow predicted and minus 12 night temperature!
The first thin white layer of snow!

When we woke up the next morning the whole world was completely white. What a glorious sight!

When we woke up the whole world was white!
It was an exciting moment

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!

The snow was really welcome

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.

A thick blanket of snow had fallen
The world looked so beautiful

We decided to go for a walk just to see everyone out and about enjoying this wonderful distraction.

We decided to go out to walk in the snow
At this point the canals weren’t frozen

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.

Kids were being pulled along on toboggans

We stopped to watch one family sledging who very kindly gave our daughter Hannah her first toboggan ride.

Everyone was having such fun!
Hannah’s first toboggan ride!
Our snowman

The local woods looked stunning with snowy Christmas card scenes at every turn.

Walking in the woods
A great setting for the swans
All rugged up for the snow
A classic snow scene
So many pretty scenes

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!

A very cute “Little Duck”
Proud Mamma teaching her baby to swim
Little duck follows its Mumma everywhere

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!)

Out walking in the snow again
A picturesque corner of Pijnacker
Jonathan posing for Hannah
Chilly graves
Jonathan enjoying his hot chocolate

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.

The canals started to freeze
In shady areas the ice was quite thick

By the weekend anyone who owned a pair of skates was out enjoying skating – either on nearby canals or on local lakes.

Hannah trying out the ice on a canal near her home
She was the only brave soul skating on this day
The poor ducks were very cold but had made a little pool in the ice by constantly paddling

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.

Another day, another canal
More canal skating
The ice on the lake was so clear

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.

Hannah skates off
There was such a feeling of joy in the air
It was a sparkling day
Pieter and Jonathan join Hannah on the ice but without skates!

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.

These snow crystals were so beautiful
Walking home after skating
A stunning sunset at the end of a great day
What a wonderful day it had been
The last rays of the day
Whoops a little spike after all that socialising on the ice!

Moments that make you feel glad to be alive!

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!

On the road to St Tropez!
The golden Mimosa exudes a delicious delicate perfume
Jagged glimpses of the turquoise sea flash in your eyes
The road sure was winding
What joy to see and smell the Mimosas
Sparkling glimpses of the sea in the distance

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 encountered many touring bikes along the way
Glimpses of the ocean through the trees

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.

Dramatic scenes from our trip earlier in the day
We see the Mediterranean for the first time
This view had it all – snow covered peaks, blue blue sea and acres of grape vines

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.

Palm trees – must be in the South of France!
I just saw the sign for Chez Marcel in time!
Following our host on his quad bike to our camping spot

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.

Sea view – very nice
Watching families enjoying the late afternoon sun.
We liked the little coves
…and enjoyed finding a path to the rocks
Great to have the place to ourselves
Steps leading down to the rocks from a stunning villa
Jonathan enjoying the beginnings of sunset
The first signs that Spring was coming

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.

The pain au chocolat were utterly delicious

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.

Our route back to Pijnacker

The first leg was very winding, scenic and took us through “Les Alpes” once again.

It was definitely the scenic route – a long and winding road.
Our last view of the Med before turning inland
The route was very scenic
With some amazing rock formations
….including this rock arch on a bend in the road
There were some spectacular views

The snowy scenes were beautiful and in such contrast to the balmy weather we had experienced on the Mediterranean coast.

Strange to be in the snow again after the spring like weather on the Mediterranean coast
Snow is always beautiful as long as there isn’t too much of it!
Snowy peaks ahead
Another dramatic view

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 camper van park was in the outskirts of Grenoble and was surrounded by mountains
We had a very peaceful night there

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.

Low clouds on our route
Low clouds hiding the mountains
At least there was a rainbow
We found the end of the rainbow!

It was astonishing to see how flooded everywhere was. How long had it been raining for?!

It was astonishing to see the extent of the flooding
Trees in the flood waters
How long had it been raining?

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.

We had the lake to ourselves
Complete serenity and only the water birds for company

Taking the low points with the high

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.

Our route to Cap Cerbère
We passed acres of vineyards
Vineyards everywhere
Lovely glimpses of snow capped mountains
Spring is on its way! Beautiful Mimosa on the roadside

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.

There were lovely views on the winding coast road
Wonderful to see the ocean again

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!

The poor truck driver – this road was very challenging

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.

Only four kilometres to the Spanish border
Looking towards Cerbère from the twisting coast road
Cerbère is a colourful little town

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.

The views from Cap Cerbère were magnificent

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!

France is definitely the best country to tour in a camper van!
Looking back towards Perpignan
The light on Cap Cerbère
We loved these rugged cliffs

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!)

We were so fortunate to be able to park in this fabulous spot
View of Cerbère on our cliff top walk
Wine time!

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!

How fortunate to see this beautiful full moon-rise
The moon’s reflection in the ocean made it look like there were two moons

The following day we retraced our steps along the winding coastal road heading for a paid site where we could replenish our water etc.

Driving back along the winding cliff road

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.

The camper park at Marseillan-Plage

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!

The machine we had to use for entry to the car park.

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!

The barrier at the entrance refused to let us in

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.

Driving in grim weather
The train was beating us as we had to drive carefully on the flooded roads

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.

Driving past the Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône