35. Blue Cruise // Turkey

Desperate to relive our amazing week on Sail Croatia, we booked the Blue Cruise. They say this is a must do if visiting Turkey and involves three nights sleeping up on deck under the stars and sailing by the South West beaches. Sleeping, swimming and sailing are three of our favourite S’s. We started off pretty relaxed, resting on our Turkish lounge at Saban Tree Houses until the pick-up bus (just 20 metres down the road) decided to come and collect us so that we didn’t have to strain ourselves too much. A two hour bus ride later, we arrived in Demre, a small town 5 minutes from the port where we could switch with the group before us and who were on their way to Olympos. What do you know? Alex and Sal whom we had met in Cappadocia were getting off that very bus! They gave us a few quick pointers, such as smuggle water on there if you can and to tally one wine on the board whenever you have two. Clearly they were travelling a little tighter than us but shame on me to say it didn’t take long before I too was employing this tactic.

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The Blue Cruise was a lot smaller than our Sail Croatia experience, a lot quieter and a lot more relaxed. The clientele was more level-headed and there to chill and not so much to party. So that worked quite well for us. Apart from the Captain, the chef and his deck hand, we spent the next three nights travelling with our new group of friends. So let’s meet the gang:

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Dean and Ruth are from Darwin and are possibly two of the nicest people we have ever met. Dean seemed to have previously done a H&M shop prior to the trip as well and so it was often difficult to tell us apart in our matching singlets. Their travel route was also not too different from ours and if you go through their photos, they’ll probably look almost identical to ours. You’ll also probably be accused of being a creep if you go through their photos because that’s just weird if you don’t know someone.

Dan and Fiona are two top notch Kiwis and are now living in London. So it’s imperative I speak highly of them here to win brownie points. Like me, Dan gets to experience the joys of working for an insurance company. But unlike me, he gets to use his university qualification as he does so, using his expertise on geography to conduct risk analysis. He also has one of the worst playlists I’ve ever heard and savaged us with this one tranquil (formerly) afternoon on the boat. Fiona is a practicing journalist. As someone who has completed their degree but done nothing with it, I always love meeting people who are actually pursuing the vicious world of media and hearing what life could have been.

We had the luxury of experiencing the trip with three lovable Irish girls who had literally travelled everywhere in the world and could not be understood when they got stuck in their million-words-a-minute leprachaun style conversation amongst themselves. They had crazy names like Collette (not so weird), Breed and Eafer. Except they spelt them in even crazier fashions like Collette (still not so weird) Brid and Aoife. Spin out. They reminded us again of the meaning of the phrase “Good Craic.”

We had a few Turks on there too, which was great. Olly and his mum (whom I’ve unfortunately forgetten the name of) were priceless value. Both live in Istanbul. She works in medicine from memory and was fantastic to discuss Turkish lifestyle with. Olly is the most charming 21 year old you’ve ever met. With a long ponytail and a Justin-Bieber like body, we’d often not be able to un-anchor in the morning until he returned from a 2 hour swim. When someone spotted him on the horizon, we’d patiently wait while he swam with fatigue towards us, often getting off course because he failed to look up, until his flailing arms eventually dragged him back to the boat.

Whereas they both spoke English, the other couple of Turks didn’t. There was a guy (who we got to know as Baba) and his son (who we got to know as the kid who was always saying Baba) who seemed to be on there for a father-son fishing trip. This was always amusing as they’d kind of just throw some hooks and line over the side of the boat with no bait and, surprisingly, never caught anything. I felt a bit sorry for them. To speak Turkish in your own country, to catch a Turkish boat in your own country and then to be ostracised as the odd one out because you speak Turkish just seems fundamentally wrong. But he was good value and seemed particularly excited when I had a Raki with him and he shared a plate of melon with me (as was the custom) on the last evening.

Lastly, we were joined by Celia and her daughter Tabitha. Celia was from Brisbane but owned property out near Dalby and was telling us how after 3 years she had finally won a settlement through the Ombudsman for a claim back during the floods. Tabitha was currently living in Istanbul but had previously lived in Paris and we got to hear of her experiences living in both.

The captain was the only member of the crew who spoke English and there was no hiding the fact he was having a fair crack (different sort of craic) at Collette on the last night after quite a few wines. The chef was a remarkable cook and clearly took a lot of pride with his dishes. He was also a vastly superior fisherman to the other two on board, albeit via questionable methods. His tactic seemed to be to drop a line through a school of fish and then aggressively rip it back up through the water to latch a fish that way. Baba’s son seemed to be particularly enthralled by this though – I guess as a result that his Baba hadn’t caught anything at all up until then.

So it was with these people our trip began. Sometimes on these tours, chefs sell out and serve a poor example of western cuisine to keep people happy. However, these guys were Turkish through and through and served some of the best food we had eaten in the country. Albeit, I will say the Turks love to drown everything in oil which contributes to both the amazing flavour and the “Oh I feel so sick” feelings. After an amazing lunch to begin the tour, we commenced the stitches by going for a swim way to early, and followed this up with a cruise past and OVER a sunken city, known as Kekova. This had once stretched across the mile or two width of the channel but now, all that remained was the jagged remnants on the coastline. We also spotted a few turtles swimming by around these parts (think Crush from Finding Nemo size) but, despite Dean and Dan’s eager swimming, they could not get themselves to catch and ride one.

Another chilled afternoon followed, and then another amazing meal before we pulled up and anchored in a still and quiet harbour. Some genius has set up a bar near here to capitalise on all the boats and so we spent that night dancing in this dusty wooden hut to some of the worst tunes I’ve ever heard. The drinks were beautifully marked up to welcome the dollars in our wallets and it was the DJ who looked as though he was having the most fun. The best part was the water taxi which came to collect us from our boat. As we all piled on, we then drifted off into pitch black waters with no light and no sound, slowly going around from boat to boat to pick up other Bar-goers. The bar was dead quiet as we pulled up and it wasn’t until the moment they realised a taxi had pulled up that all these lights and music suddenly turned on. I suspect the moment we all left at once several hours later that the complete opposite happened. My absolute favourite moment was when Olly was at the bar. There was a South African girl serving drinks that night and as she was grabbing Olly’s, I told him that “Footsak” means “Thank You” in Africance (except that it doesn’t – it means “Eff Off” and is quite offensive) and he should say it to her when she returned. So full of confidence and with these big, brown puppy dog eyes, he looks at her with an infectious smile and says “Footsak” when she hands him his drinks. It was no surprise when she looked at him horridly and he was completely speechless as I watched on and pissed myself laughing. From then on, I called him Footsak.

The allocated rooms below deck were insanely hot and too uncomfortable to sleep in. Although Dean and Ruth tried, the rest of us seeked solace above deck and slept beneath the stars that first night. I know. It sounds a little bit like a giant orgy when I say that but it was nothing of the sort. And apart from Baba snoring all through the night, it wasn’t so bad. That was, until the sun came up in the morning and everyone was trying to find shelter from the heat on limited sleep.

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Our Sultan’s Curse had not yet left us and I don’t think the big oily meals were helping. Whilst Elisha and I generally played tag team with the bathroom so as not to dirty the waters, the rest of the group spent the morning swimming the hangovers off. Elisha failed to mention in the last blog that I had, for the very first time in my life, managed to learn how to float in Olympos! There is so much salt in the Mediteranean that even a hopeless swimmer like me was able to find child-like success in the water. And for hours on end (but probably more likely minutes – afterall I was still an amateur and was probably still sinking a little) I would float around on my back and whisper to myself “How’s the serenity?” Needless to say that in front of all these people I was eager to show off my new talents. So whilst Dan repeatedly did backflips off the side of the boat, I tried my best to ingratiate myself with everyone by floating around in the sea on my back (and sinking just a little.)

Our cruise took us to the town of Kas later that day where we were free to walk around for several hours and explore the township. We’d already stocked up on Shit Stopper tablets but we needed some Panadol and sea sickness pils for the rest of the trip so we mumbled some English to another guy mumbling some English who was able to point us to a pharmacist. Apart from that, we stopped at several bars and cafes so as to destroy as many toilets as we could in Kas. I believe that town has now also become a sunken city. We had a pretty quiet night that night and played some cards before calling it a night.

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I couldn’t help but laugh the next morning when, at breakfast, Elisha came up to me to say “I think I might be getting a little better. Yeah, I’ve only had to go to the bathroom 7 times so far this morning.” Such was the severity of Sultan’s Curse. We were glad we had bought the sea sickness tablets for the next several hours we bounced up and down through rough seas towards Butterfly Valley. You can just imagine how much fun this must have been for Elisha in the cramped confines of a toilet on a violently rocking boat. We were all pretty relieved to finally pull up in the calm waters of Butterfly Valley. Whilst most of us were content to just be sitting on land again, a couple of the group made the treck to the valley. You’ll need to ask them for the photos but, again, that will probably imply you’re a creep for looking at a stranger’s photos. There was still some more rocky waters ahead though and we then set sail for the Blue Lagoon. No. No. This is not the location for the movie of the same name that was released in 1980 with a 14 year old Brooke Shields and of which my parents told me to watch when I asked where babies came from. This was just a lagoon. That was blue. Hence the name – Blue Lagoon. Our boat docked a fair way from the lagoon due to traffic. I was still only just coming to grips with my newly acquired floating skills and so, when the majority of the group left for the mammoth swim and took all the remaining pool noodles, I felt pretty helpless and was abandoned back on deck. Again, you’ll need to do the creep thing and ask them for photos. However, I doubt there’d be too many of them for who would swim with a camera . . . especially when your arms are full with pool noodles.

Our final destination that evening was St Nicholas Island. An old ruined town sat high up on the hill here and we were able to trek up to the top for some amazing views of the area and the sunset. We ran into several Busabout groups up here too which was a nice reminder of just how chilled and relaxed our group was. A bit disgusting to see fellow Australians leave empty beer cans up on a beautiful spot like that. However, when that rowdy lot had moved on (how quickly I change teams) our small group was able to sit peacefully with our beer tins and admire the setting sun that would also act as a timely metaphor for our tour.

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We had one final night on the boat and so Dean and I attempted to teach everyone the card game Arseholes. This was all going well but takes a few hands to get the hang off. After finally getting everyone to understand the rules an hour or two later, we were ready to play properly. And to my utter frustration, that seemed to be when everyone felt it was time to go to bed!!

There was little to be done on the very last day but slowly make our way to Fethiye where we would disembark. However, it would be foolish not to stop one last time for another swim (this time I did snare a pool noodle) and one last helping to the amazing lunches provided by the chef. But with our bellies full and our arms tired from all the glorious swimming in the pristine waters of the Mediterranean Sea, we eventually docked and parted ways with everyone aboard. We hope to keep in touch with those we can – the Irish girls in less than a week and Dan and Fi several weeks after that in the foreseeable future. The one thing for certain is oceans can no longer keep us apart. For I can now float my away around the world . . . provided a pool noodle is nearby.

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