Monday, 29 October 2012

Please I want to know...

Merhaba. Nasilsiniz? Bir kilo limone lutfen.

I'm never going to speak Turkish. Not properly. But the novelty of pointing and miming wears off - scratches away at your dignity too - so I'm committed to covering a few basics. Counting is good, up to 10 for sure, and on the way to 100. The niceties are coming along too - hello (merhaba), how are you (nasilsiniz?), I'm fine, and you? (iyiyim, ya siz?), very sorry (cok afedersin),  please (lutfen). If that sounds a bit pathetic after nearly three months in the country, try saying thank you a few times in a row - tesekkur ederim (pronounced teshuhkewr edereem). I still can't make it run off the tongue, and it's one of my oldest words. I learned an easier word for thanks this morning at my first Turkish class - sagol (pronounced sowel, like towel). I'll wait to see how it goes down the first time I say it. Sometimes people seem confused when I bring out a new word - goodbye- hosca kal (pronounced hoshcha kal), for example, still occasionally draws startled looks though I know I'm pronouncing it ok. Perhaps its literal meaning is something like 'go well with Allah', or 'I'm missing you already'. Turkish can be like that, I believe. Very flowery.

Speaking of flowers, aren't these tiny wild cyclamens beautiful? They've pushed their way through cracks in the stone seating of Pinara's theatre (seen below through the pines).

We spent the best part of yesterday at Pinara, pretty much on our own. Pinara is the last and most haunting of our ruined Lycian cities.  Perhaps I should leave it at that. I'm not much good at descriptive writing. But it's probably useful to know that while Pinara was once of the Big Six in the Lycian league, there's hardly anything left there besides the theatre - and graves.  I've always loved cemeteries, but Pinara is in a class of its own.

Like Arykanda, this city was built on a series of terraces below a soaring cliff face. Pinara's cliff faces north east up the Xanthos valley. You approach it from below. The road is rough and winding, and we met goats and an old couple herding them,  dressed as if Ataturk's modernisation of Turkey had never happened.  At first you see only mass, a lump of solid red rock soaring into the eagle layer. And then you see the holes pecked in the cliff. Tombs,  hundreds of them, pigeonholes for the dead, scattered over the rock face. Empty, of course. How did they make them? Why did they put them way up there? I don't know. There's scant information at the site. Pinara is a place which doesn't supply answers. It forces questions,  the same ones the Lycians were asking two thousand or more years ago. What comes next, and how should we get ready for it?

At Pinara, where there are fewer remnants of its citizens' temporal life than elsewhere in ancient Lycia, you think constantly of the effort and time that the Lycians spent preparing for life after death. That they hoped the afterlife would be comfortable, I have no doubt. I love the domestic detail on lintel of this tomb. A man sits at a table, his child stands near.

The previous day we were a little further up the Xanthos valley at Tlos, another Lycian city which attracts comparatively few visitors. It's very difficult to convey the scale of these places. The top photo (below) is taken from the agora (marketplace) looking towards the Tlos citadel; the second is taken on top of the citadel; the third from the citadel, and looks beyond the the remains of the agora and towards the theatre in the distance. The lower photo is taken from below the citadel looking down the Xanthos valley.

To wander in such a place with no limit on our time except that which we have imposed on ourselves, to feed our curiosity and to be delighted and awed by what we come across, to accumulate a smidgeon more understanding of the mysterious human condition is, I think, the essence of travel as we want to experience it. We won't, and can't see everything - neither of us are very interested in ticking the boxes. But this summer and autumn in Turkey we've had the joy of meeting a genius civilisation. What's left of it is as beguiling in fragments as it is in more magnificent, complete structures - almost always theatres, as Alex pointed out to me, because they were built in a semi-circle and withstood the upheaval of the earth better than rectangular buildings.

Tlos and Pinara are two or three hours south of Marmaris, so we booked a couple of nights at a Villa Rhapsody, a small hotel/pension in Kayakoy, a strange place just out of Fethiye. Kayakoy is a place tourists come to gawp. I don't know what they see behind the sad eyes and faded blue paint around long gone doors. I overheard the word "eery" a few times. Yes, it's eery, but more than that, Kayakoy (as the Turks called it) is a monument to political stupidity. It's an embarrassment, surely.

Kayakoy used to be called Levissi, and before that, Karmylassos. In other words, it was Greek. In 1923,  after the Turkish War of Independence, the Turks hung up their shingle - This is Turkey, keep out or suffer the consequences - coincidentally, today is Turkey's national flag-waving day, and things are no longer as black and white. But back in 1923, the Turks wanted to be Turkish, not multicultural (i.e. so yesterday, so Ottoman) and the Greeks, even though they'd been building towns and cities along  the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts forever (ask the Lycians) were considered the ugliest thorn in Turkish flesh and vice versa.

Young Turks on the chapel roof  - tone deaf? 
So one of the first things that happened in modern Turkey was the expulsion of all Christians - and to keep things even, the Greeks agreed to do the same to their Muslims. The little people didn't get a say in any of this.  It didn't matter who called what home. If you were a Christian and lived inside the borders of what was now agreed to be Turkey, you were told to go "home" to Greece. And vice versa. From Levissi, supposedly 2000 people were extradited "home" to Greece (that's what was on the flyer we were given at the entrance). But someone is fudging the numbers. There are at least 4000 abandoned and pillaged dwellings (a lot of them two or three-storey houses) plus two very large churches left in this town - and a lot has been carted away. The streets were paved. There was running water. This was not a village. It was a big town with decent services. I'd say 20,000 people is more like it. Gone. Packed their bags and told to bugger off to where they came from. Sound familiar?

Turkey is so full of other people. The living and the dead. Right now, the Russians and the Germans, participants in Marmaris International Race Week, jammed against our hull, their cockpit level with ours. We have to rub along with them for the next few days. We have no choice. People in this part of the world accept that - until they don't.

I leave you with a picture of the happy couple. We haven't practised much with the self-timer, so get out your zoom feature if you need more detail - but I assure you we are disintegrating nicely.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

On staying alert in the rain

Down in Hobart, Tasmania, at 42. 8 degrees south, our good friends on Galactic are removing the plastic insulation from the inside of their hatches and letting in the spring air.  Here in Marmaris, Turkey, at 36.8 degrees north, it's all about the rain. By all means open the hatches, but make sure you're around to batten them down when need be. For if summer was blisteringly hot, the next six months will be wet. That's the forecast - same every year apparently.

Here's Enki tied up at her new home on M pontoon at Netsel marina with a little showerproof something thrown over the boom - kind of like grabbing the first parka you find from the hook behind the laundry door. It's awkward to climb around, being tied to the lifelines, but it'll do for the moment.

By the time the first big storm from the south hits, she'll be kitted out in some serious protective gear. This morning we unfolded a new waterproof shelter which completely encases the cockpit, zipping onto the bimini. We need some help from a professional canvas-maker to attach it to the boat - our excellent electrical man Ramazan sent his excellent canvasmaker mate Rashit over this morning to look at that job, and a few others on the list. But he, like everyone, is winding down for the Feast of the Sacrifice, Turkey's longest public holiday, which starts this evening. So it'll be a week till things get moving....

The Russians moved in this afternoon, on both sides and behind us. There goes the neighbourhood, at least temporarily. Marmaris International Race Week begins on Saturday, and the word is there'll be 170 extra boats, and 600 crew, mostly Russian, squeezed into the marina over that time. A huge open-sided shed was built overnight in the hard-stand area. There'll be a bit of vodka going down, perhaps?  Nothing against bare-chested boy racers per se, but we were just getting used to our relative solitude on the fringes of the marina. I was curious to know if Alex, former boy racer that he is, felt any temptation to get out there again (cruising boats are invited to enter the regatta). "None," he said.

He's been laid low with a cold, so we postponed the ruins trip north to Ephesus and Pergamum.  A couple of days ago, while I was going through the hoops of buying a new 3G sim card, he nipped off for a haircut in the bazaar. It's become a habit, something he never did at home, but barbers in Turkey are cheap and plentiful. He enjoys the pampering. This haircut however got out of control.

Beyond the usual buzz cut, eyebrow trim and flaming of ear hair, he was subjected, without any questions being asked, to a brutal waxing of his nose and nose hairs, a facial peel, and, he admits, "the best shave I've ever had". I'm sorry I missed the shot of the cutthroat razor at his gullet because with hindsight he might have feared a wrong move by this particular barber of Marmaris.

I arrived when the nose was being waxed. What the.....? He shrugged. He was in the hands of a pro. While his facial peel was setting, I found myself led into a chair and, again without a question being asked, my face lathered with peel, my eyebrows, jowls and moustache (me, a moustache??) waxed!!  I protested feebly, then told myself, "just relax", it can't be that bad". I can't explain now why it was impossible to resist, except that this guy was.... a pro. It was a slow day. He was playing with us, he and his offsiders, pretty hustlers all of them. Reeling us in.

When it was all done, and he'd admired his work - "it's a good job, isn't it? Ten years younger, I make you ten years younger" - our man pulled out his calculator to show us what we owed him. 185 TL.  I felt Alex tense up. He'd never paid more than 20TL for a haircut in Turkey, with the usual trimmings. You don't take Alex for a ride. Me, yes, but not Alex. The boss appeared. Alex held his ground, and then went on the offensive, with some very imaginative footwork. It might have been funny watching him dismantle their pathetic defence, but it wasn't - it was creepy. We got out of there for 70 TL (I'd paid 60 TL for a haircut, a half-leg wax and a pedicure a couple of days earlier, so I knew roughly what "pampering" services were worth), and walked home the short way, knowing we'd been taken for fools and had behaved like fools. Still stuff to learn, even when you've been out of home as long as we have.

On safer ground buying fresh herbs and vegetables

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Coming in

Enki turns north towards Marmaris
First thing this morning, as I walked past the electrics panel on my way through to the galley to boil the kettle,  I reached to flick off the anchor light switch. That's when it hit me. We've "come in". We won't need to be turning off - or on - the anchor light for at least six months. A lot of other things I've learned to do as a matter of routine are now redundant - like checking on our charge status and rationing my shower time (both power and water are piped onto the boat from the utility post on the dock), listening - and I mean really listening - for the noises the engine makes, being aware of how the boat is swinging on its anchor, and what that means, knowing what the barometer is doing, and....well, all the usual boating things.

She's called Marina

And the outlook's different. Here (above) is what I saw as I stepped up into the cockpit yesterday morning. This morning there was another one just as big to take its place. They do somewhat overwhelm the view.

She's leaving town

Morning blues
There's always an ending, isn't there? We left Gocek Bay on a day to cry for, under a bright sun which had forgotten it was sliding towards November and with not much promise of sailing the 38 miles to Marmaris.  We've had some exhilarating sails in Turkey over the past couple of months, but only a handful. More times than we'd have liked we've motored or motor sailed to get to where we're heading. But who's complaining? We've got oceans ahead of us, and sliding across flat Mediterranean waters might, I suspect, seem quite attractive at some point during an ocean crossing.  For an hour or so, shortly before we entered the grand shelter of Marmaris bay, the wind veered and picked up a few knots, and there went the season - Enki scooting along under full main and genoa, heading in the right direction, at a gentle 5 to 6 knots. A good ending, in other words.

In town yesterday, as we went back and forth between the port police and the tax department, going through the steps of residency application, the temperature reached 33 degrees, making it that much harder to come to terms with our new status as "winter" liveaboards in Netsel Marmaris Marina. It seems we are one of the last to come in. The marina is pretty full, though most boats are not occupied.

Here's one that we recognised. In Fethiye we'd looked for Lazy Jacques at Ece marina in the place where we'd last seen her, but she wasn't there. Gone sailing, it turns out.  Chay Blyth and his lady (she's Lady Blyth, to his Sir) were tidying up alongside at Netsel yesterday. No time for small talk. They'd been out for 10 days, he said. Oh. I vaguely remember meeting him many years ago, very briefly, when I went to Southhampton to "cover" one of those round-the-world-the-wrong-way races he organised. He's many other things, but gracious is not one of them. We don't expect to see any more of the Blyths, but we hope they cruise well. "It'll keep us out of mischief," he said.

Things are quieter on the boulevard in Marmaris

Three competing muzzeins are singing the loyal to prayer as night falls. Alex has pickled the watermaker. Regularly making water and flushing the watermaker have been among his many routine tasks over the past six months. In the next day or two I'll empty and defrost the fridge and freezer. We're planning another road trip, something to keep our spirits from collapsing. We want to take another look at Ephesus, in comparative solitude (who am I kidding?), and swing by Turkey's other star ruin, Pergamum. Alex has always wanted to go there. Then we'll come back to settle properly into our temporary home. Buy a pushbike. Join the Turkish conversation class. Meet the neighbours.  Learn new habits.

Marmaris old town - her best angle

Monday, 15 October 2012

Autumn pleasures

No need to kick - so much salt in the water
We're floating indolently towards the finish line, an unexpected run of impossibly beautiful autumn weather keeping us tethered to a mooring buoy in Fathom Cove, at the southern end of Gocek bay.

We had considered leaving for Marmaris today, tugged back to town and marina by the need to apply for permanent residency before our tourist visas expire. But as the day revealed its loveliness, we hesitated. Tomorrow, we said. We'll leave early, hope for a bit more wind than is forecast (from the southwest please), and deal with the visa first thing on Wednesday.

So today we stayed still, listening to the hollow knocking of goat bells, the lapping of water against my kayak trailing from Enki's stern, the sweet chatter of birds in the pines and olive trees which coat the steep hills. In the cracks of the rocks, there are autumn crocuses. Irresistible. Standing on top of the high cliff behind our anchorage, we picked out the distinctive shape of a Lycian sarcophugus amongst what at first glance was just rubble. An unmarked tomb. These things don't happen to you  in marinas.

For the past few evenings, a couple of fishermen have set their nets un-nervingly close to Fathom Cove's deep water moorings under the cliffs, perhaps reclaiming their traditional grounds, willing we stragglers to move on. Who knows.

But we'll all be gone soon. There are some last-minute charterers but fewer and fewer. Today the bay seemed to empty out. By the second half of October many longer-term American and European cruisers are calling it quits and going back to their other lives - or at least to solid ground - for the cold months. Our Nordhaven friends, Suzanne and Brian, hauled out in Gocek last week and headed for an apartment in Nice (they had dinner aboard Enki but wouldn't you know it, we all forgot about the backgammon board). Also in Gocek we finally caught up with Sea Cloud, another HR48 owned by a couple of affable Aussies who we've been in email contact with since last year.  Ian Cook is a medical specialist back home in Sydney, and his wife Cathy manages his practice. We gather they're pruning the practice back to give them more time to cruise, but last week they put Sea Cloud up on the hard until next spring. In many ways I envy them going home (I don't need to say how much we miss our kids - or do I?), but perhaps the reverse is true too. With luck we'll see more of the Cooks and Sea Cloud on the water in 2013. I hope so. 

First light in Fathom Cove
"Serious" cruising yachts (i.e. the ones with structures supporting wind generators and solar panels) have been all but invisible over summer, obscured by the armadas of gulets and charter fleets, but now they're more conspicuous. Like us they're sucking back on the last of the season. Will we meet some of these people in port over the winter? I'm curious to know other people who live aboard their boats. But we have wondered if perhaps there are fewer of us around...

Enki likes her space
People say it's been a quieter year in Turkey. Has the effective closure of the Red Sea route (because of Somalian piracy) combined with the aftershocks of the GFC and the chronic sickness of the eurozone taken the shine off the Mediterranean cruising dream? Then there's the unknown of Syria...What triggers a regional war is always more obvious after the event, but it's difficult to see what Turkey stands to gain from getting embroiled in Syria's civil war. But as you can tell, we're not exactly in the middle of things - thankfully (the Syrian border is about 600 km from here).

In these last sweet days, we have been walking a bit (we overtook the tortoise on the way down the hill from the tomb), admiring the olive crop, watching the sky, loving the gentleness of the temperature and committing to memory the colour and silkiness of the water.

Baths at Ruin Bay - Cleopatra's, they say

Looking north over Gocek bay (Skopea Limani)
The nightly thunderstorms which made us so twitchy all last week seem to have drawn back into the interior. The relief. It seems hardly believable that a month ago we were enthusing about "our first clouds". There are clouds in the sky every day now, and we're back in familiar territory, trying to read their intentions.