Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fall Break, Summer Style

 This is now my second year following the seasons.  I've loved watching leaves change from green to yellow and gently fall.  I've loved cooking seasonal squash and baking pumpkin and apple treats.  However, the days are growing shorter and the sun seems dimmer.  So, for fall break, Nick, Rachel and I headed south to soak up sun.  Our destination: Antalya, Turkey!  We arrived at the pensiyon early Saturday morning.  We ate breakfast, changed out of our warm clothes and set out to see the Mediterranean.  This part of the world is commonly referred to as the Turquoise Coast and you can see why!  The waters are warm, clear and colorful, even in October.

  We decided that looking at the sea was not enough.  The three of us raced back and changed into our bathing suits.  Armed with sunscreen, we set out to find the trolley to take us to the public beach.  We went the wrong direction, but the kind trolley bus driver let us stay on board as he circled back around.  The trolley quickly filled with locals.  I found myself surrounded by a group of retired Turkish gentlemen who engaged me in conversation (actually only one spoke English, but he spoke for all).  One man was a retired teacher, one was a retired doctor and the other (the one speaking with me) was a retired colonel from the Turkish army.  While we were chit-chatting, I happened to look out the window and saw a sea...of red flags.  We were in the middle of a rally.  The colonel explained that it was against the terrorist attacks in northern Turkey, which had resulted in death.  The trolley came to a complete and utter stand-still.   The three of us hopped off and walked with the group to the beach.  Everyone was completely well behaved.  Now I can officially say that I took part in a political rally.  Just not in my home country.
 Can you believe this water?  I want to go back.  Very few places in the world bring me such joy as a sea or an ocean.  The water was much warmer than the Pacific in summer.  Nick and I both hail from Pacific Coast states so we can truly appreciate the warmth of the Mediterranean.  In we went!  I decided that it was safe enough for some marathon swimming, so I swam east toward some large rocks.  This caused some stares and friendly greetings from the locals.   I was almost the catch of the day and quickly learned to avoid the fishing lines.  I thoroughly enjoyed the swim and the freedom it that it brought.

 A trip is not complete without Rachel befriending a stray animal.  This dog was the first of many animals that we both wanted to bring home.

 The following day, Sunday, brought a morning of worship and an afternoon of sunning and swimming.  We went back to a deck beach that we had seen the day before.  There was an entrance into the water and a small cove filled with fish.  We swam west looking for a place to do some rock climbing and cliff jumping.  I found a little area that we could climb up on, but since I'm not much of a rock climber, I stayed pretty low.  Nick climbed up the lava rocks and then climbed down an incredibly steep side to dive into the water.  Three local boys, about 17 years old, were on adjacent cliffs (having climbed down from the cliffs above).  Suddenly, I heard a splash and turned to see one of the boys in the water.  Before long his two friends were also in the water and up the side of the cliff.  I treaded water, happily, and rated the four divers.  I'm much more comfortable in the water than up a side of a cliff.
 Our guest house had a car that we were allowed to rent for a very reasonable rate.  Monday we were able to get out of the city and drive westward.  We stopped at Phaselis, once a Rhodes colony.  We walked around, exploring the wildlife, the ancient ruins and the lovely amphitheater.

 There are three bays around Phaselis, where swimming is welcome.  I chose this beach because it looked deserted and welcoming.
 See, doesn't it look peaceful?  To me, this appeared to be the perfect spot for all three of us to enjoy the water, since it was shallow and calm.  Appearances can be deceiving.  Of the four different beaches we explored, this one was the scariest.  The minute I got in the water, little fish began nibbling my toes.  It sort of tickled.  The three of us were out it the water calmly swimming along when I noticed something on the sea floor.  It was a blue crab; the largest crab that I've ever seen in the wild.  Its eyes were fixed on me as Nick tried to capture it from behind.  Needless to say, we're all thankful that Nick has all ten of his fingers today.  On we swam keeping our eyes out for the sea life (the bottom was completely covered in shells, full of living things!).  We reached the ropes about 200 meters from shore.  I turned my back rather rapidly and felt a sensation like being scraped by barbed wire.  Instantly, my right shoulder began to swell and turned an amazing red color.  While I was bemoaning my fate, some sort of see creature nibbled or stung Rachel and left two little marks on her arm.  With that final adventure, we swam back to shore and hugged the dry land.  It was a wonderful reminder that the sea is a natural habitat and must be respected.

 On we drove, eventually stopping at a fish hatchery for a late lunch.  I wasn't feeling 100%; the algae was working its poison into my bloodstream or something.  Luckily, my two friends recommended that I eat some fish because fish is supposed to help reactions.  I ate some delicious fish from the sea (not from the hatchery) and who knows?  Maybe there is something to the claim because I felt like my chipper self by the end of the meal.

 The next day, Nick set off to the mountains on a dirt bike and Rachel and I hitched a ride, with the proprietors of our guest house, out of the city and into the country.  This was such a fun day.  We rode horses through the countryside, after first warming up in the arena.  I had never been on an English saddle, but found it much more comfortable than a western saddle.  The two horse trainers took us on a trail down to a small river, through a pomegranate field and past a small village.  It was bliss.

 After an hour or so of riding our friends from the guest house took us to the upper Duden waterfalls.  The power of the water was incredible.  We were able to walk through a cave located behind one of the waterfalls.

Rachel and I decided to walk to the public beach following the trolley line.  We saw more that way and had some excellent shopping opportunities along the waterfront.  One police officer stopped us and offered to take us sight seeing.  Uh, no. 

We walked down a set of stairs and were able to get some excellent views of the harbor.  While we were there, we noticed a black dog that looked rather domesticated.  He was friendly, so Rachel and I both pet him.... and then he followed us the rest of the way to the beach.  He even followed us into the ladies restroom!  This was the dog that I wanted to keep.

We walked by this statue of the Ottoman who had conquered Antalya.  Scanderbeg he is NOT.  My allegiance, in this matter, is still Albanian...
We finally arrived at the beach and had 3-4 great hours in the sun.  I swam the other way (west) and didn't hit any fishing lines!

The above looks like animal bones, but what you see is an old Roman pipe.  We spent the following day touring the Roman ruins, east of Antalya.  The tour included a yummy lunch by a river, an old city forum, a temple of Apollos, a 25 kilometer aqueduct,  an enormous well-preserved Roman amphitheater and the lower Duden Falls.

Our final day... Sigh.  Antalya was just the boost of sunshine I was hoping for.  This California girl was home! 

One last beach trip to an awesome, sandy beach.  I decided to swim for about a kilometer.  It gave me a significant amount of time to count my blessings:  Good friends to travel with, interesting people to meet, beautiful seas, adorable animals, fresh delicious food, and an awesome job that allows me to enjoy it all.  And I can't forget about the loyal and loving group of family and friends who have supported me on this crazy, overseas adventure.  You are a blessing.

The sun sets on the Antalya adventure.  There just might be a sequel to this trip.