11 to 25 March 2018
Rhodes, Greece to Finike, Turkey, N36° 17.69’ E30°09.11’, 110nm, 18 hours
We planned a night passage for getting to Finike in Turkey so after dealing with clearing out in Rhodes, having lunch and doing a bit of cleaning we were itching to go by 1pm. Leaving Mandraki Harbour was much easier than arriving and we were on our way.
We were so excited about finally leaving the EU (not in the Brexit sense!) and heading for Turkey, that we barely waited for Rhodes to be out of sight before taking down our battered Greek courtesy flag and hoisting our bright red Turkish one. For the first time we also raised our yellow Q flag indicating that Pintail and her crew needed to be cleared into a new country with customs and immigration. No more effortless freedom of movement across EU borders.
We watched the sun set over Rhodes and prepared for our night watches. It was a very dark and cloudless night which gave us the best display of stars we have had yet. There is nothing like bobbing about on the vast ocean looking up at infinite stars and planets to make you aware of your place in space and time. We kept about 5 miles off the coast of Turkey, following it all the way to Finike. With very little light from a tiny moon all we could see were great dark masses looming closer than they were in reality. There was very little evidence of areas of habitation. Just occasionally some twinkly lights tucked behind the land masses. It seemed a very strange topography and one we were looking forward to exploring in daylight on our journeys back along the Turkish coast.
We were making too good progress through the night and estimating to arrive before daylight so we had to slow down and planned to arrive around 7am hoping that the marina would be waking up by then. Although then we didn’t know it then 7am Greek time is 8am Turkish time – a time difference that confused us for a couple of days until we found out! But as the sun rose on our time in Turkey and a very helpful marinero jumped on board to help us into our berth, a stunning view of snow capped mountains and the heady scent of orange blossom in the air gave a very good first impression of this new country. We just knew we were going to love the place.
Whilst Stefan napped after his last watch I set about dealing with clearing us in. Randomly selecting an agent from a number outside the marina I enjoyed my first taste of Turkish hospitality. Whilst waiting for the agent who was queuing at the bank, his sister served me my first çay (tea) and my first Finike orange. Her limited English allowed the important first questions asked of strangers: “where are you from?” (London always gets a positive response); “are you married?” (I lied, sometimes its just easier!); “children?” (the answer to which induces a sad face); “what do you do?” (“bum around on our boat” is not the answer she wants so lawyer is looked up on Google translate!). For the remainder of the half hour wait we sat in companionable silence watching a Turkish soap opera on TV. The over acting ensured that I needed no Turkish to understand what is going on!
Once arrived from the bank her efficient brother deals with all the paperwork for us and visits customs and immigration on our behalf, returning our freshly stamped passports about half an hour later. We are good to take down the Q flag and start exploring Turkey.
Finike is a small town dominated by its main export, oranges. They are everywhere; in trees lining the streets; in the town logo; on roadside stalls. And they are delicious. When you buy them you are asked if you want them for eating or juicing. We did a lot of both, ensuring our vitamin C levels are thoroughly topped up!
Like around Almerimar in Southern Spain, the area is also covered in poly tunnels growing tomatoes and peppers all year round. In the nearby town of Demre it seemed that there were more poly tunnels than houses.
Agriculture aside, this area was to give us our first introduction to a new people, the Lycians. Having left the Greeks and Romans behind us for a while we set about learning more about their contemporaries living along this coastline. Literally tucked behind the poly tunnels of modern Demre is the ancient site of Myra. For the theologians, Paul changed boats at Myra’s port on his way to Rome in 60AD (Acts 27: 4-6). It is also home to an amphitheatre as impressive as Cartegena‘s, if not more so. Theatrical masks were carved into stone around it.
It was, however, Myra’s rock tombs that we had come to see. Beautifully carved seemingly impossibly high into the cliffs this city of the dead must have given the town’s inhabitants a constant reminder of their own mortality. These were the first of many such tombs we would see.
Demre is also on the Christian map as the last resting place of St Nicholas.
Having had his fill of Byzantine churches in Greece, Stefan opted to sit and watch Demre life go by in the square while I went inside. St Nicholas had long been stolen by the Italians but the church was cool and airy
with some bright frescos on its ceilings and walls.
High up above Finike into the mountains, on a series of terraces we found the ruins of another Lycian city, Arykanda. The ticket office was empty so we just wandered in. We heeded the warning about snakes and scorpions playing football but were disappointed not to see any!
Arykanda was apparently a party town, most of its inhabitants spending their time hanging out in its impressive two storey bath complex and gymnasium.
At the bottom of the dirt road leading to the site we stopped at a freshwater spring with ice cold water coming direct from the mountains. We enjoyed a cup of çay and realised that we were not likely to go short of tahini whilst in Turkey. There was a stall selling it in enormous jars!
Halfway between Finike and Antalya we went in search of a natural phenomenon that had the Lycians believing in a fire breathing monster. We climbed the lush green slopes of Mount Olympos to find the Chimarea.
Out of the rocks, a gas combusts on contact with the air so that flames burn from the fissures. It was a very strange sight. Walkers on the Lycian Way were camping nearby and using the flames to boil their kettle and cook their breakfast!
The exact make up of the gas is a bit of a mystery. We were a bit bemused by an explanation nearby. We were even more bemused to see that the explanation was provided by the Santa Claus Foundation. Perhaps it was all made up after all!
Finike was the perfect base to introduce us to Turkey. There we got used to the early morning wake up call to prayer from the mosque and started to understand the importance of Turkey’s first leader, Atatürk.
There were no shortage of fantastic fruit and vegetables, very neatly displayed at the market, and not least the biggest radishes we had ever seen – bigger than most tomatoes!
Before we left the town we enjoyed a meal in a restaurant in an Ottoman mansion. Finike is not really on the tourist trail and so out of season we had the restaurant to ourselves. Whilst we ate we watched the owner carry logs up into a side room. I assumed it was for the kitchen but after dinner we were invited into the room where a fire had been lit for us and we could lounge on the low chairs and enjoy our after dinner çay.
Finike marina was also a perfectly safe and secure place for us to leave the boat to go on our longest road trip yet, to Konya and Cappadoccia …