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Cruising Turkey’s Turquoise Coast

Cruising Turkey’s Turquoise Coast
by Candyce H. Stapen

One morning on our "gulet" (yacht)cruise of Turkey's turquoise coast, we awoke to the tinkling of bells and the touch of soft breezes that wafted across Karaloz Cove. A colony of goats was making their descent of a nearby hillside.

On several nights my daughter and I enjoyed sleeping on the yacht’s cushioned stern instead of in our cabin. Our week-long cruise was part of a two week, guided land and sea trip offered by Wildland Adventures.

We sailed 100 nautical miles along Turkey’s jagged southern coast from Marmaris to Olympos. During this week-long cruise aboard our 6-cabin yacht, we swam, kayaked, windsurfed and lazed on deck. From port we drove to nearby ruins--some dating to the 7th century-- to explore thousands of years old stadiums, main streets and bathhouses. We also hiked and visited beaches and seaside villages.

By sailing instead of spending all our time on well-traveled routes, we gained an expansive vision of the land, one closer to that enjoyed by the Lycians, the native Anatolian people, who occupied this area 3000 years ago. From our gulet we experienced a mostly less-crowded Mediterranean, one without high-priced hotels and overrated shopping ops.

After docking in Kas, a simple seaside town, our gulet took us to Aperlae, an ancient Lycian city where tiered ridges of uneven stone walls are now mostly submerged beneath the sea. Despite the strong current we snorkeled, looking down at the rubbled foundations, cracked urns and rows of tumbled pillars, all part of this once bustling city.

The once-grand Lycian town Olympos is best known for its nearby mountain which burns with eternal fires. The path to the ruins cuts through one of Turkey’s longest and often uncrowded sandy shores, Cirali beach. Although the widely scattered ruins are not all that impressive, the location is.

We liked the fairytale setting at the end of the brown sand beach where the fluted green mountains meet a stream. When we followed this winding brook through the woods, we came to a cluster of centuries-old houses with much of their walls intact. We imagined the women cooking over the open-hearth and the children playing the equivalent of marbles on the mosaic tiled floors of the antechamber.

To reach the famous flames, we hiked uphill through a pine forest that thinned to scrub brush, sage and rocks. Fires burn from crevices near the pinnacle-- most likely a result of gases released from this volcanic site. But it’s easy to understand how these flares would mystify ancient peoples. Legend has it that on this site Bellepheron, mounted on Pegasus, killed the monster Chimaera.

Back on the gulet, my daughter and I enjoyed a dinner of lamb stew. We listened as Ali, the cook, read our fortunes, deduced from the thick coffee grinds remaining in our cups. Then we fell asleep on the stern, blanketed by a spray of twinkling stars.

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