Tuesday, June 8, 2010

12 Islands

Before we get to Istanbul, let's back up a bit. A few days before my fail-trip to Aphrodisias, I went on the so-called 12 Islands Tour. You start off in Dalyan. A bus takes you to pretty little Göçek and then you take a boat around the aforementioned islands. It does no good to keep count, because the way they go, you end up counting the same island two or three times. Besides, this outing was not about island-counting. It was about sunning yourself on the deck of a ship and swimming in the Med. Did I mention how much I like the Mediterranean? Oh, it's a quality sea! It's not quite as warm as, say, the Pacific around Hawaii, but it's a drastic improvement on Puget Sound, which, as I liked to dramatically tell anyone around, would kill you with hypothermia after a mere 20 minutes or so. The Med is like a tepid swimming pool. It's invigorating and bracing, but it's far from cold. The swimming was the biggest selling point of the whole trip. The sunbathing was a negligible benefit. But hey, everything was pleasant. We even had a guide. Her name was Shukran. That means "thank you" in Arabic.

My fellow passengers were mostly British. There were a few older couples and this group of youngsters with bad tattoos and premature chubbiness who began drinking as soon as we pushed away from the dock at around 10:00am. In addition, there were two pretty Turkish girls along. And me; I couldn't write about this unless I was there, right? OK, so you know, funny thing, I didn't actually take any pictures of the 12 islands or the boat or my fellow passengers. I regret that now. To the casual viewer, it would all look the same: little rocky islands with tenacious shrubs and wild olive trees. So I'll spare you. For me, the simple memory is sufficient. But I do have to say that it was very beautiful. There were four swimming stops. I was the only one to take advantage of all four. At the last one, I stayed in the drink nearly an hour. You know, Brits are terribly funny. The waters around their fair island are even colder than Puget Sound (meaning that you die in 15 minutes, instead of 20), but they're always complaining about how cold the water is. For Pete's sake, people, it's refreshing! Plus you get used to it in half a minute. And then it's so very nice. The Turks, however, also keep their distance. They're used to everything being warmer and the water to them is freezing. My point is that the British have no excuse. They're not going to find warmer water anywhere in the country. The Aegean? It's colder. The Black Sea? Much colder. Love the Med. It may be the toilet of southern Europe/north Africa/Asia Minor, but it sure is nice to swim in.

During one of these swim breaks, we anchored so close to shore that I managed to get on dry land and hike around. It was steep and rather treacherous. The news report kept flashing through my head: "American tourist missing, presumed dead." After failing to find some rock tombs I went back to the boat. I rejoined my fellow tourists as I had fled from them - by tossing my shirt and shoes across and swimming the rest of the way. When I got back, everybody was having lunch. I declined as I was still full from breakfast, but I did try to wish the two pretty Turkish girls the Turkish equivalent bon appetit. I mispronounced one of the words, and for some reason, they thought I wanted their rice. I eventually de-mangled the phrase, but it was way too late. The net of confusion had already been cast. It was greeted with not a little eye-rolling. Most of the time, Turks appreciate the effort. These gals did not. So I've still got that goin' on!

I whiled away the rest of the day either on deck or in the water. I also had several beers that ended up being fairly expensive, but they tasted really good. The young Brits began to burn. I was way past that point. My burning days were behind me. I was in killer tan territory. One of the older guys was also in that same zone. He actually kept a tanning schedule (pronounced it shed-jule for the complete effect) so that no particular region would get too dark. Well, good for him. Not every British person burns to a crisp.

The tour concluded around 4:00. The boat rounded a point and there was pretty little Göçek awaiting us. We loaded into the bus and headed back to Dalyan. But wait! Things weren't quite finished. For unknown reasons, we stopped at the Ley Ley, which is a large restaurant in the middle of nowhere (outside of Dalyan and neighboring Kemaliye) that does phenomenal business. One of the reasons is that they invite people returning from tours in for tea and home-baked bread. They also have animals around. For instance, geese:

And ducks:

And smaller, blurrier geese:

And ostriches (who were trying very hard to escape the entire time):

There were also storks and partridges, but the storks were too far away and the partridges didn't look very happy. Incidentally, their home-baked bread was really good. They just throw it into the fire and it bakes just like that. If I'd actually been with somebody else, I totally would have gone to the Ley Ley - all of the older Brits on the tour had gone and really enjoyed themselves - but that kind of Turkish showbiz (super-friendliness, live music, folk dancing, God knows what else) seemed a little excessive for just one guy. Heck, I feel kind of weird going to restaurants by myself. But hey, that's the way it's got to be when you travel alone. For me, it's never lonely, but it can be just a little odd. Going to a restaurant alone is like being up on stage; I never know what to do with my hands. That's why I quickly order a beer. Anyhow, I didn't get to the Ley Ley this time around. Next time for sure.

And so that was the 12 Islands Tour. I'd like to thank Ramazan at Akhan Travel for selling it to me cheap. Few souls anywhere are jollier than Ramazan.

1 comment:

Al, Bill and David said...

We were wondering why you had such a nice tan at the game. Nice post, but honestly, if you have the choice of taking pictures of ostriches or pretty turkish girls, and you end up with the ostriches, you may want to rethink your decision-making process...