Saturday, July 31, 2010

Flames from A Mountain

Olympos was not quite what I expected. I expected a few hippi treehouse places out in the middle of nowhere, near the sea and the ruins with no cars, birds singing, and lots of flowers. Maybe that's how Olympos used to be, but it's not anymore. Turning off the main Fethiye-Antalya road, it's another 11km twisty and narrow road with mini buses going far too fast. Past the first few camps/pensions/tree house places the road is paved, but then it becomes a red clay mess with too many cars, and parked cars and pedestrians. It looks like a one road tourist town mess, and that's what it turns out to be. Our driver insisted on driving us all the way through to the tiny V-Go hut, where we told the guy there we had arrived and then walked back up the road to the place we were staying - Şaban. To be fair, Şaban is awesome. It has lots of places to sit in the shade and read books and have cold drinks. It has hammocks. It has free internet in a hut with airconditioning, and it has little wooden huts on stilts - tree houses in the olympos sense. We had a tree house to ourselves, with matreses on the floor and breakfast and dinner included for 30 lira each.

Dropping our stuff in the hut, we went back to the main area to have a drink and the manager Meril came over to chat. I had apparently gotten very dehydrated and was fairly out of it until I had drunk 1.5 liters of water. We used the internet and waited for dinner. Everyone lines up to get their food - it was very remenicent of summer camp as kid. The food, however, was much better. We had salad, an eggplant salad, mucver (fried zucchini patties), pilav, and fried fish, with enough for seconds. After dinner we went for a walk, found the Canadians from the boat, discovered the tatoo place only did Henna tatoos, and I got some very exciting earrings. We then collapesed into bed, discovering that the way to keep the place cool was to leave the door open.

The next day we did almost nothing. I say almost because Mark and I seem incapable of actually doing nothing for an entire day. In the morning we read, wrote, used the internet, had lots of beverages, ate breakfast, wandered around a bit and read some more. Around 4 we decided we ought to go see the beach and the ruins, and so joined a crowd of people going in that direction. The beach was packed, and it seemed packed only with Turks. The water was lovely, but the beach, like most Turkish beaches was very rocky. We swam a bit, not that swimming is necessary. The water is so salty that you can float in a standing up position without moving arms or legs. After floating around we decided to climb up to the ruins of a tower or castle thing. The views were amazing, but Mark's hat blew off, and landed at the edge of a sheer drop, and so we had to leave it there, in that beautiful place, and hopefully it is resting happily.

Down from the tower thing we walked back along the very empty river, through very cold springs and pools, on a trail through the woods under an arch to see some sarcophogi and broken mosaics and then back to Şaban for another lovely dinner. We then boarded a very full minibus, and took the narrow twisty road back up to the main road and after less than 50m on the main road turned down another narrow twisty road, went through a little town, and stopped. We were at the enterance to the Chimera, a site where gas comes out of cracks on the side of Mt. Olympos and burns upon contact with the oxygen in the air. As it's best viewed at night, that's when we went. It was a steep uphill walk for 15 minutes in the dark, by the light of Mark's very bright head torch. And then we were there. There really aren't words to describe how cool it is to see fire just emerging from the earth. A few guys were cooking sausages over one of the fires. And everyone else was just wandering around and staring. We couldn't stay too long though because the bus was leaving, and soon we were headed back down and gulping water, then back on the slightly scary journey and to our home sweet tree house.

The time had come to leave major tourist areas, and so the next morning we caught a bus after breakfast up to the main road, another very crowded bus (people sitting on stools in the aisle) to Antalya, and from there booked our 15 hour overnight bus to Antakya in the province of Hatay, which is still considered part of Syria on some maps. For more information read my mother's book which will be in print in February. With a few hours to spend in Antalya we took a bus into the center, got a map, and walked back out to the museum slurping blue slushies. The museum was amazing. They have more statues and sarcophogi than they really know what to do with. And they are all in amazing incredible condition. At the end of two hours looking at things from the paleolithic period to the present, my eyes were a bit glazed over.

We had a picnic of crackers and sardines on the grass nearby, took a look at the crowded beach and decided we had no desire to go there, and took a tram back in the center to look at the old town. It was nice, although perhaps a bit too nice to be real. We found a lovely cafe with a view of the harbor and sat for a bit to escape the heat, and then had some pasta before returning to the otogar and boarding our bus. It was a surreal ride. I listened to hours of Harry Potter 6, and then when that messed up Harry Potter 4 on Mark's Ipod. Mark read my Harry Potter 3 book. It soon got dark, and we started to doze off. I would wake periodically to road construction on the very very windy coast road with views of the full moon, sea, fog, and mountains. It was very eery and surreal. We stopped twice, the second of which was at a place on the sea, where we could see the yakamoz (the light of the full moon on the sea - 9 words in English, 1 in Turkish). We were very glad to arrive in Antakya the next morning. 15 hours is too long on a bus.


Sarah Shields said...

I love reading about your journeys! Thanks.

Marie said...

Sounds fascinating - it's great to follow your adventures.