Paddlers: Geoff, Ken, Hugh
Weather: Sunny with some haze (max 28C). Windy at times.
Route: Fethiye- Oludeniz-Patara-Kalkan
After much discussion about Greek Islands we decided that perhaps our best option was to retrace sections of our first trip (the Seven Capes) adding in sections at the start and finish we did not do and stopping to see other attractions we had not had time for in 2010.
A mid morning plane from Glasgow saw us at Dalaman airport at 3.30pm waiting for arranged transport that never came. Refreshments at the airport can only be described as a rip off with 85 lire (£22) for 3 beers compared to the normal cafe price of 30 lire. Eventually the taxi/people carrier turned up and by 5pm we were in an excellent and cheap little hotel in Fethiye, a lovely little town with a huge hinterland of hotels and self catered accommodation. Dean then met us and took us to the Fish Market where we had an excellent meal (of fish!).
The next day we purchased water, bread, cheese, wine and fruit and were the transported to our launch spot for a week’s kayaking.
The coast here is stunning, with massive limestone cliffs surrounding perfect little beaches. On occasions these are accompanied by expensive holiday complexes .
The cliff scenery is magnificent with soaring verticals, caves and, on this section, two perfect arches.
The kayaking in warm sea, sun and a breeze to prevent overheating, was superb. Every so often a turtle poked out its head, only to disappear as soon as the camera was turned on it.
Our first camp was on a beach along a fairly exposed piece of coast with some extremely noisy breakers. The beaches are very steep and the rough sea throughout the week, meant there was invariably surf. Not for the only time on this trip our landings were very wet with capsized boats and wet occupants. Experimentation with different landing methods never gave a “best” method.
After a sticky, noisy, sleepless night we headed for Gemile Island. This was a place we had missed last time because of time pressures and wished to visit.
In the 8th century Gemile Island was an important and thriving religious centre dedicated to St. Nicholas (Santa Claus). Eastern Christianity (Orthodox) was completely dominant until the 13th century, and continued on until the ethnic cleansing of the Greek people of this part of the world in the 1920s. There are ancient ruins everywhere (e.g we had passed ruins of a monastery high up the cliff the previous day) and none more so than here where there were three churches, a large cistern (for water) and, most impressively, a long covered walkway.
As is usual, preservation and explanation is minimal. It appears that the Turks cannot cope with the number of wonderful historical sites they have and everywhere they appear under threat. The island itself gives superb views, all for 5 lire entrance fee(£1.25)
After Gemile we headed for Oldenitz, an attractive beach resort with a long sandy beach, for beer, lunch, water and supplies. All the landings were spectacularly unsuccessful to the amusement of the adjacent sunbathers. Post lunch we paddled on in increasingly lumpy seas towards a deep cut known as Butterfly Valley. It is still unclear why it was so rough. The wind was fresh in our faces F3/4 but the sea felt as if was the legacy of a big storm (F7/8) elsewhere. As we rounded the corner into Butterfly Valley, the last gulet (ferry) was leaving. As it hit the water we were paddling the passengers were whooping and hollering as if on a big dipper. The sea was rough.
The valley is a co-operative which also operates a camp site and camping huts. For 50lire we got camping, dinner and breakfast. The dinner was very Turkish, with a collection of vegetable mixes and bread. Not to everybody’s taste. Breakfast, however, was good, with boiled eggs, cheese, bread, as well as the normal cucumber, tomato and so on.
After breakfast we travelled on to Yakkuk, where we had camped in some squalor last time out. It had been transformed with a brand new cafe/restaurant with a small pool and a number of self catering chalets. The track in had apparently been upgraded but the access was still mainly by sea. Afer coffee we embarked on the next section of the trip, which was the most committing with no road/track access for two days and limited landing.
Occasional ruins could be seen. We think the larger complexes were monastic; the land is too poor to sustain large-scale farming of any sort.
Our camp site was on old terracing just above a small shingle beach. As with all our wild sites we had an excellent fire.
The next day took us along some outstanding scenery with a number of caves. The biggest and best of these we have called cathedral cave because of its size and light.
Eventually the mountains finish and an alluvial marshy plain becomes dominant. At the extreme western end a small river flows into the sea and we followed that up a few hundred metres before stopping by a restaurant/camp site where we ate and spent the night.
Patara Beach is an 11 mile long stretch of sand with surf the whole way along. At the far end there is a small area where, due to currents, the water is deeper and the surf minimal. Inland is the ruined city of Patara and our plan was to kayak the beach in the morning and explore the city in the afternoon.
Everything went to plan. About 400m from the end the local authority have beach facilities; cafe, showers, toilets, loungers and a life guard, and inland from these is the ruined city.
As with all things Turkish, only a fraction of the work justified by the size and importance of the city has been done.It has, for example, the oldest lighthouse in the world, but this is chiefly in numbered blocks scattered around the base.
Although the public are not allowed on the beach overnight in order to protect the turtles, because of the paucity of potential camp sites further on, we decided to camp where we had landed. We delayed until the sun set and then confidently assumed we would be left alone. This proved eminently satisfactory with any light from the fire hidden by the rocks.
THe next morning we were just on the point of launching when it was noted that the already strong wind was actually increasing. It was decided that it might be wise to wait so we trekked down to the cafe to have coffee. When there we had discussions with the Beach supervisor who informed us that, far from going down in the afternoon , it was going up to a Force 6 and staying there until the early hours. We thereupon decided that we would spend the day surfing and sunbathing, with the wind hurtling about us keeping us cool.
For the night we simply re-erected the tents (not quite as easy as it sounds because of the wind), lit a fire and lived the life. However we needed get to the next village/town by 11.30 to get back to the airport in time for our plane. So, for the first time, we were away before 8am. The final paddle was again a lovely trip with cliffs, caves and rock gardens.
Dean met us on schedule and took us back to the airport in plenty of time for the plane and home to Helensburgh by 8pm.
This was another fabulous trip and even the dodgy surf landings now seem like simply fun. Next year we will be going somewhere different but it is questionable if it can be as good.
Cost: Always of interest our fares, with hold luggage, booked seats and something to eat came to about £330 each. Kayak hire, transfers and hotel was £190 each. Other costs came to under £200. So, as with last year, the total cost (including the all important beeer) was just over £700