Turkish Delight – 1st – 28th Jan

Sunday 1st January 2017

Makry Gialos to Sitia

Distance:  33.71 km
Average Speed: 10.56 kmh
Fastest Speed:  52.27 kmh
Total Distance: 10525.17 km.

It’s a new day, a new year!! We slept really well last night (our last sleep in Villea Village, Makry Gialos) and it’s actually a good day weatherwise.  The sun is shining and the wind is not blowing a gale.  

Yesterday there was a huge deluge of rain and hail in Sitea and we’re praying there’s nothing like that today whilst we’re on our trikes.  It’s time to get up and sort out the last few bits and pieces before leaving.  Clean out our room, feed the cats and then we are on our bikes ready to go.  Nobody is there to see us off (apart from the 3 cats, ohhh we’re going to miss them) not that we were expecting anyone and after 6 weeks it’s good to be moving again.  

The sun is soon obscured by cloud, and an occasional spot of rain that fortunately leads to nothing.  And it’s warm. Well it’s warm for the first 14 km as it’s all uphill. But then it’s bitingly cold as we descend the rest of the 16 km into Sitia and we have to stop to don coats, hats and Daz borrows my mittens as he only has fingerless gloves.

We arrive at the firestation and they have an empty Iso container for our bikes that’ll keep them dry in the night… brilliant!   We walk back into town commenting on the big black clouds overhead and before we know it there’s a huge downpour fortunately we’ve just ducked into our favourite coffee and cake shop, timing is everything!

Christine is coming to pick us up and once she arrives we have a quick drink with her then head home to her house and Dionysis Village for the night.

We spend the evening with her, enjoy a lovely meal then roast some chestnuts on her roaring fire, bliss.

Monday 2nd January

Sitea to Athens via Heraklion

In the morning we enjoy a lie in whilst Christine takes the dog for a walk.  Then Daz phones the travel agency to see if there are any delays with the ferry and it’s bad news again… another cancelled ferry!!! What is it with trying to get off Crete!  OK, so plan C hastily hatched is to try and get the coach to Heraklion in time to catch the 9pm ferry to Athens tonight.  It’s a 3 hour bus journey but better than waiting for another unreliable ferry.  This one was cancelled due to mechanical problems so it might well be fixed in the next day or so!  The only problem is whether they will let us take the trikes on the coach and all our luggage.  We leave Christine’s house and today the sun is shining and everything looks pretty.

Christine takes us into Sitia and we speak to the bus company and they say it’s not a problem, but it costs us 32 euros for our tickets and a further 20 euros to put the bikes on!  We’ve got a couple of hours until the bus leaves so we pop up to the fire station to collect our bikes and baggage.  Pavlos is on duty today so it’s good to see him and thank him for helping us out and allowing us to dump our gear at the firestation.  We pose for pictures and he and another fireman even have a go on the bikes. They’re hugely entertained by our trikes and seem impressed by the design and comfort.

 Then it’s just a matter of waiting for our bus. We say goodbye to Christine and thank her for coming to our rescue, she’s by far the most generous and welcoming Expat we have met in Crete!  

Fortunately even though the bus is quite full the driver seems unfazed with us putting the bikes in the luggage hold and they are soon crammed in with all the other luggage.   It’s a tight fit, but we breath a sigh of relief as we set off for Heraklion.

Thank God once this phase is done the rest should be plain sailing.  We arrive in plenty of time in Heraklion and after a quick coffee in town we cycle to the harbour and board the ferry early and camp ourselves on some comfortable seats for the night.  Tickets were 76€.  Total travelling cost so far 128€.  

Even though we’ve found some nice seats where we’ve kept enough room to lie out there’s still the staff here who seem determined that no- one should sleep.  They keep coming round telling us we can’t lie on the seats, that we shouldn’t sleep until later and generally being a complete pain.  We do manage a few hours of snoozing before finally at 6 am we arrive back in Pireaus.

Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th January

Athens to Bodrum via Kos

We disembark from our ferry (having just spotted a most unusual bike) and cycle round the port and then spot a Blue Star ferry office.  

There’s a ferry at 3.30pm to Kos but it costs 105€.  Total bill now stands at 233€.  This puts us well ahead of our original schedule but it arrives in Kos at 2am.  So we have about 8 hours in Pireaus, so after a quick early morning recce of the departure port we settle down in a nice cosy patisserie/coffee shop and wile away the hours.

Loading onto Kos ferry

Sunset at sea.


The Kos ferry is much smarter than our Piraeus ferry and the staff are OK about people trying to sleep.  It stops at quite a few of the Greek Islands so there are lots of announcements interrupting our attempts at sleep!  After 2 overnight ferries we are getting tired and know how awful it is to be in a town in the early hours with no where to go so we pre booked a cheap hotel room in Kos for our late arrival.   We’re actually a little late and don’t disembark until 2.30 am and we cycle along the  impressive castle walls to our hotel and sleep.

 After a lovely sleep we get up about 12am and have a wander around Kos town. It’s very pretty and quite busy compared to our village in Crete.  The castle is magnificent in the daylight.

​The castle of Kos, better known as the castle of Nerantzia (castle of the sour orange tree), is the most important part of the fortifications constructed on the island by the Knights Templar at the end of the 14th century A.D. It ows its name to the many sour orange trees that were planted in Kos during the late years of the 14th century and the early years of the 15th century, when the whole city came to be called by this name.

The castle consists of two fortified curtain walls. The inner curtain wall is the oldest. It is rectangular shaped and on its corners boasts 4 high towers. A wide moat (ditch) seperates the two curtain walls which are connected only by a single inclined road on the eastern side of the castle.

The castle of Nerantzia along with the castle of Saint Peter on the opposite coast of Ancient Alicarnasus (today’s Bodrum Castle) controlled the sea way towards the holly lands during the period of the crusades.

There’s also the plane tree of Hippocrates in Kos, Dodecanese: In the centre of Kos island in front of the Castle of Knights stands a huge old plane tree, known as the Hippocrates plane tree. It is claimed that Hippocrates used to sit under this plane tree and teach his students.

As the tree is 500 years old, it is obviously not the one that Hippocrates planted, since he lived around the 5th century BC. This plane tree has a perimeter of twelve metres, which gave it the reputation of being the largest in Europe. The island’s authorities have taken some measures in order to preserve it. A short surrounding wall with a metal railing prevents it from extending excessively and keeps people in proper distance. The wall has Turkish ornaments on one side of this wall, while on the other there is a historic white engraved tap in Arabic language, put by a Turkish governor. Water can be taken from it, even in our days.

After looking round Kos and having breakfast it’s time for our Bodrum ferry. It only take 4 cars and about 100 foot passengers, but today we are the only vehicles on it. It’s a bit of a queue though as we have to pass through customs before leaving Greece. Tickets –  38€.  Total cost €271 + overnight hotel.  291€ Total cost to escape Crete.  

We’ve been following the weather and working out our plan to get from Bodrum to Göcek.  The next few days are supposed to be 100% chance of rain, thunderstorms and high winds. So we aren’t sure if we will be cycling for the next couple of days. However today the weather is fine and the crossing to Turkey rather picturesque.

We’ve managed to contact a few cyclists from Bodrum, and one of them has very kindly agreed to host us for the night.  As it turns out one of her friends is on the ferry too and says hi and gives us directions to her house.  At last we arrive in Turkey, another queue for customs and visa checks and we are in.  As we sailed into the harbour we could see a large castle overlooking the harbour and many beautiful wooden sailing ships moored up.  It’s all very pretty with lots of Turkish flags flapping in the wind.


It’s getting dark but fortunately Bahar’s house is just around the corner from the harbour and after some navigation errors we find her lovely home. Her house used to be a bar but now it’s a cozy 2 bedroom cottage with a lovely log fire and across her courtyard is the kitchen, bathroom and toilet.  All the floors have the most beautiful tiles and the bathrooms have incredible fittings.

She is so friendly and welcoming and we have soon got our bikes tucked away in her courtyard and bags unloaded for the night.  Later we pop out to her friend’s restaurant, he’s another cyclist and we enjoy a meal and drinks whilst chatting and finding out about each other.  Bahar belongs to the Bodrum Bisiklet Kulubu, she’s actually the Co-President. They have over 4800 followers on Facebook and about 500 have ridden on their social rides or multi day tours.  Whilst we are out we mention that we cycled the Camino Santiago in Spain, Levent, the restaurant owner has just walked it too with a friend.

There and then Bahar and Levent decide to organise a tour for their group to the Camino to coincide with the Easter celebrations in Spain. We can only imagine how fab that will be!

Thursday 5th January

Today we have some admin to sort out, and Bahar has kindly offered to put us up for another night and help us out.  We’ve realised that we made a mistake with our Turkish visa.  We thought it was granted for 90 days out of 180 days but that we could just extend after 90 days.  WRONG!  We have 90 days and after that we should leave Turkey for 90 days before returning or apply for a short term resident’s visa but it’ll be difficult to fulfill the residency criteria.  So after our first ever Turkish breakfast Bahar takes us to the harbour to question the customs police about extending our visa beyond the 90 days.

He actually tells us just to overstay our visa and then pay the fine when we leave.  Interesting advice from the police?!  Then we introduce Bahar to geocaching and we all walk around Bodrum’s castle.  

There are splendid views from the battlements of Bodrum’s magnificent castle, built by the Knights Hospitaller in the early 15th century and dedicated to St Peter. Today it houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology (Sualtı Arkeoloji Müzesi), arguably the most important museum of its type in the world and a veritable lesson in how to bring ancient exhibits to life. Items are creatively displayed and well lit, and information panels, maps, models, drawings, murals, dioramas and videos all help to animate them.


Based on Rhodes, the Knights Hospitaller built the castle during Tamerlane’s Mongol invasion of Anatolia in 1402, which weakened the Ottomans and gave the order an opportunity to establish a foothold here. They used marble and stones from Mausolus’ famed Mausoleum, which had collapsed in an earthquake, and changed the city’s name from Halicarnassus to Petronium, recalling St Peter. By 1437 they had finished building, although they added new defensive features (moats, walls, cisterns etc) right up until 1522, when Süleyman the Magnificent captured Rhodes. The Knights were forced to cede the castle, and the victorious Muslim sultan promptly turned the chapel into a mosque, complete with new minaret. For centuries, the castle was never tested, but French shelling in WWI toppled the minaret (re-erected in 1997).  Bahar is totally in love with geocaching so we go to Myndos Gate to find another one (sadly there aren’t many caches in Bodrum).  The only surviving gate of the 7km long ancient wall that surrounded the city of Halikarnassos, was built by Kind Mausolus in the 4th Century BC.

The tower’s original height is not known, but they were built out of andesite stone blocks.  The moat was dug for defensive purposes in the 4th Century BC. It measured 56 metres long, 7 metres wide and 2.5 metres deep, and surrounds the southern tower from west to south. The moas defended the gate protecting the towers and walls against attack by catapults, chariots and battering rams. According to historian Ariannos, during the siege of Halikarnassos laid by Alexander the Great in 334 BC.  Bahar soon finds her second geocache!  Then it’s a visit to the immigration office to explore any possibilities of extending our visa.  Of course Bahar does all the talking but he tells her that when our visa is almost expired – say 83 days, visit an immigration office and ask for an extension.   So in response I say so we’ll come back to you in mid March and you’ll extend it??? “No, not me, you need to go to Izmir or Istanbul where they’ll do it!!! “.  

Finally a visit to the bus station because we really don’t want to cycle when so much rain and thunderstorms are forecast.  We had hoped to get half way to Fethiye by bus and then cycle.  After lots of back and forth between bus companies it looks like either the buses are too small to take our bikes or the big buses are too full.  So we decide to leave our trikes here with Bahar, as we wouldn’t be using them on our workaway in Göcek anyway.  Bahar is a real star!  In the evening we go to another restaurant, run by another cyclist.  Eray and Mine join us for some Turkish Raki and we are also joined by Bahadir.  They all make us feel so welcome.


We hatch a plan for the next day to all meet at Bahar’s house for breakfast and then let everyone have a cycle on our trikes before geocaching.  Eray also offers us the use of a lock up he owns to store the trikes whilst we are in Göcek.  

Friday 6th January

This morning Daz gets up early and pops to the bakers for some lovely treats for our group breakfast.  I’m feeling the effects of last nights Raki so enjoy a little more time in bed!  It’s another windy day and we are glad not to be cycling in it.  Eray,  Mine and Bahadir all come around with more breakfast treats and we all sit by the log fire and have a fun breakfast trying out a traditional Turkish breakfast.   

Then we let them loose on the trikes!! They all love them and are soon whizzing around the pedestrian area in the centre of town.  We cycle over to Eray’s lock up and store our trikes.  We probably won’t see them again until March.

After dropping off our trikes we wander around the huge market in the town’s covered market area.  The smells and colours are amazing.

Bahar is flying to Istanbul tonight, weather permitting.  But again has generously offered to let us stay.   We are really thankful for her hospitality.   We agree to come back after our Göcek stay and go cycling and geocaching together.

Saturday 7th January

Last night we were woken at 1.30am by someone knocking on our window.  It was Bahar.  Her flight to Istanbul was cancelled due to heavy snowfall there.   As a result we all have a long lie in this morning but eventually go into town for more sightseeing.

Sunday 8th January

This morning we head to the bus station to buy bus tickets for tomorrow to Fethiye.   There are so many town dogs in Bodrum, many lying in the sun.  They’re all well fed and friendly and clean.


After coffee and breakfast we head to Windmill hill and Gumbet peninsula in search of 2 geocaches.

It’s very cold and windy especially up on the hillside but we manage to find both geocaches and head back to town.   Bahar has gone off to a town further down the coast to play ping pong, so we pop to Eray’s restaurant for lunch then retire to the warmth of the log fire back at Bahar’s. In the evening when she returns we sit chatting and putting the world to rights!


Monday 9th January

Today we are catching the bus to Fethiye.  We pack up, but leave the tent and camping gear at Bahar’s.   

She has been so generous and we hope we can repay her with a guided tour of London one day!  We all go for breakfast and then to the bus terminal to catch our ride. Bodrum is unlike many other Turkish towns in that its bus terminal is in the centre of town so we don’t have far to go.  We are the only passengers on the bus and after saying farewell to Bahar we are off.  The bus should take about 4 hours to reach Fethiye, with a stop off in Mugla for a 15 minute break.  We pick up more passengers here and soon the bus is full.  Dave, who we will be meeting in Fethiye,  has given us instructions to get off the bus at Calis Beach Road, about 15 minutes outside of Fethiye.  Daz has marked where he thinks it is on the map and has told the bus driver where we want to get off in Turkish, as he speaks no English. We soon pass the turning where Daz thinks the bus driver should stop.  But OMG the driver keeps going and Daz is building to full scale panic!  The bus driver keeps nodding and saying further, further! After a couple more km we see Dave at a bus stop waiting for us, so manage to get the driver to pull over, Daz can stop having kittens now!  We greet Dave and catch another bus to Calis Beach.  We stop about a kilometre shy of the beach by Dave’s house.  Dave’s partner Bev is in the UK and won’t be back for a couple of weeks.  They have lived in Turkey for 8 years and love it.  We pop out to a beachfront bar and have a drink and watch a powered paraglider strafe the beach as the sun sets.

Tuesday 10th January

It’s another rainy day but we decide to brave a visit to Fethiye.   We wait until there’s a break in the cloud and catch a bus with Dave into Fethiye.  We want to buy a Turkish Sim card so we will have data and internet when we get to our workaway.  But when we get to the shop it turns out we need our passport to buy a Sim card! Doh!   Never mind, we’ll be able to pick one up in Göcek hopefully.  After a lovely lunch of Turkish Pide (Pide is like a pizza/calzone),   we go for a walk along the harbour in search of sea turtles.   

Apparently it’s not unusual for them to be lurking round the fishing boats, but sadly we have no luck. There’s another torrential downpour so we decide there’s really no point trying to see Fethiye (which is a real shame) and instead head back to Dave’s.  

 We’ve spoken with Deborah, our workaway host, and she has asked us to come over to Göcek today, so we need to catch a bus this afternoon .  We thank Dave and promise to come and see him when Bev is back.  Once we arrive in Göcek there’s another horrendous downpour but fortunately the bus driver takes pity on us and drops us near our meeting point, otherwise we would have been soaked walking from the bus station.  Very kind.  

Having found Deborah and introduced ourselves we sit and have coffee. Deborah is married to Tayip, a local Turk, who has parents, siblings, uncles, cousins all in Göcek or up in the mountain.  Sadly Tayip’s brother died last weekend after complications from a heart operation.   He was only 53.  As a result Tayip, who had already started his winter break in Thailand, is coming home.  He should be here in the next few days.  Meanwhile Deborah is preparing for her winter trip, 3 weeks in India and then 3 in the UK.  We’re not sure how Tayip’s return will impact on our stay because he may decide to stay at home for the rest of the winter.  The original plan was that we stay and look after the house and animals until Deborah and Tayip return in early March.  After a chat we head to the Göcek Turkcell mobile shop, this time armed with passport so we can buy a Sim card.  Then Daz drives us up into the mountains to Deborah’s house. The drive, about 30 minutes, is mainly on gravel road with many switchbacks as we gain height rapidly.  By the time we arrive it’s dark, so we will have to wait until tomorrow to see the lie of the land.

 Over dinner and a glass of wine we get to know each other some more and talk about what’s required during our stay.


Wednesday 11th January

Today we get up to glorious clear blue skies and sunshine.  The views are incredible, we can see for miles around and down to the sea.  It’s very beautiful.   Deborah and Tayip have lived here for 3 years, having moved up from Göcek, on the coast.  Originally they lived in a 2 room stone house, which is currently our home.  It has a large bedroom with a wood burner, a large kitchen and a bathroom.  

At the beginning of December Deborah and Tayip finished building their new home.  It has 3 large bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and a large kitchen.  It has huge picture windows giving it stunning views out over the mountains.   It’s taken 2 years to build with the help of workawayers and local skilled tradesmen but Tayip has been the main protagonist.  

 He’s incredibly talented both with woodworking and with his orchard husbandry.  He’s planted nearly a 1000 trees up here; fig, olives and mulberry.   Deborah provides the design ideas and turns their produce into something delicious to eat.  Her orange marmalade and sour cherry jam are delicious.   They have 4 dogs (2 from puppies, Aussie and Lena, and 2 recently acquired strays, Pixie and Basil), 8 cats, 2 peacocks and a hen, lots of chickens, one turkey and a guineafowl!  Our job is to feed them twice a day.  After going through the feeding routine we take the dogs for a walk ( our other main chore).   Deborah takes us on her usual walk further up into the hills.  When we crest the top, there’s a firemen’s lookout post and we can see over to the snow capped mountains on one side and down to the sunny coast on the other.  

On a sunny day it’s going to be fabulous exploring all the trails around these hills.  On the way back we stop at Deborah’s neighbour.  Deborah often pops in to say ‘hello’ because this elderly couple are so isolated and the husband is poorly,  suffering from depression, diabetes and high blood pressure.   

He won’t get out of bed and his wife won’t leave him unattended in case he falls out of bed.  It’s very sad to see.  Apparently a few years ago this man was the most outgoing, sociable person you could hope to meet.  We’re all welcomed into their bedroom where there’s a wood burner kicking out some heat.  We’re soon given ‘chai’  and then out comes a Turkish breakfast for us all to share.  Such generosity!  The old man is here too, lying fully dressed in bed and with his cap on.  Best dressed patient I’ve ever seen.  We sit and eat and chat.   They don’t speak any English, but fortunately Deborah is a fluent Turkish speaker! After thanking her for breakfast we head off again but stop short of the road up to the house as we need to wait for the mobile shop that comes once a week.  He soon arrives and opens up the back of his van to show off all his wares .  

He has pretty much everything ; bread, milk, vegetables,  snacks and cigarettes.  We buy 5 litres of fresh unpasteurised milk, some bread and local butter.  

Back at the house Deborah shows us how to pasteurise the milk.  We just need to bring it to the boil.  We keep half for drinking milk and the rest is made into yogurt! We wait for the boiled milk to fall to about 30 degrees. Then we added 3 tablespoons of live yoghurt, wrapped in towels and then left it in a warm room for 8 hours.  Result – yoghurt.  It’s like something from ‘the good life’ up here!  Since the sun has been shining today there’ll be hot water to shower from the solar panels.  Up here, no sun = no hot water unless we want to heat it on the wood burning stoves.  In the afternoon Deborah deserts us, heading down to Göcek.  We’ll have to fend for ourselves as she needs to return to Göcek to meet Tayip from his flight.  She’ll be back up tomorrow.  In the evening we manage to get the feeding done and then the rain starts again, but by this time we are freshly showered, fed and safely ensconced in our accommodation with a hot fire to keep us warm.

Thursday 12th January

It’s still raining this morning so I have to brave the wet and mud to feed all the animals whilst Daz gets the fire going and puts the kettle on.  With nothing else to do we sit in bed reading until the rain stops at about 11 o’clock.   We then jump to it and get out for a long dog walk before the rain starts again.  Today we pick a route Deborah pointed out but end up on someone’s land with our dogs upsetting their sheep.

 The lady there isn’t too happy with us (not surprising really) so we put the dogs on leads and make a hasty withdrawal, passed her husband and back onto the road.  It’s days later when we discover we inadvertently strayed into the one place we’d be told to avoid, – “dog haters territory!”.  Apparently the man here has shot a dog for straying onto his land.  Fortunately he doesn’t shoot our 4 dogs – imagine how crap we’d look if we lost all the dogs on day 1. Fortuitously the rain holds off and we get home without further mishap.  Having walked the dogs we have a late brunch and then spend a few hours reading, writing the blog and doing some admin on the internet.  But soon the black clouds return and the rains and thunderstorms turn the day miserable.  We really were expecting better weather this far south, and normally it would be, but a weather system from Siberia has changed all that, not only here but in most of Eastern Europe.   Although it’s not as bad as central Europe where there have been numerous deaths.  We go indoors and light the fire… at least we aren’t cycling!

In the late afternoon Deborah and Tayip come home with company.  Tayip has brought his cousins and brothers up to the house to share a whiskey and show them around. But they don’t stay long and we are soon left alone again.


Friday 13th January

 Today is another beautiful day, so after feeding the animals we are straight out on a walk.  We head up the hill and then try pathfinding through the woods. Sadly the tracks that looked so enticing lead nowhere so finally we end up back on the road.  Sometimes the dogs disappear for long periods.

 The main micreant is Pixie, a terrier cross, who spends the entire walk racing through the undergrowth whilst the other 3 are generally content to walk with us along the road.  Occasionally a new scent or Pixie’s yipping tempts the other dogs and off they all go,  trotting through the forest around us, having great fun.  After an hour and a half we finally get back to the house. Time for our breafast and a lovely cup of tea! The rest of the day is occupied by tidying up, reading and showering.  On sunny days we hang out in the new house because the sun warms the big bedroom so there’s no need for a fire.  We only return to our place in the evening when we’ve had dinner.  It’s OK! Friday the thirteenth has passed. Nothing bad happened on this ominous day. And we didn’t meet a single Jason!


Saturday 14th January

It’s another nice day so we follow our usual timetable.  Up at 0830hrs to feed the anmals (it’s still dark up until this time). Then back to bed with a cuppa to read for a while and then out for a walk.  We try another track up in the hills but again it doesn’t go anywhere.   We’re hoping to find some good circular routes.  In the early afternoon Deborah and Tayip come back and we finally get to sit down with Tayip and chat. Well we would chat but he’s busy unpacking his suitcase from his Thailand trip. There’s no sign of clothes, it’s just hundreds of cuttings he’s brought back from Thailand, to grow in his orchards.    Going out to Thailand this suitcase was full of cuttings and seeds for the Thais.  He sells enough to cover the cost of his flight.  Deborah is a trained chef and she has made marmalades, jams and sweet jellies from all harvests; sour morello cherries, Seville oranges and quince to name a few. Daz particularly likes her Quince syrup flavoured with rosemary and chilli.  She uses it on roasts but Daz likes it neat on toast!  In the evening Daz makes falafal burgers from chickpeas he soaked the night before, served with a fresh salad and Deborah makes a lovely tahini sauce to go with it.


Sunday 15th January

Today it’s market day in Göcek. So after we share a Turkish breakfast (no plates, just bread to pinch bits of cheese and egg or honey and jam to scoop into your mouth) we jump into the car and head down the mountain. On the way Tayip points out where his parent’s  and uncle’s farms are.  He stops by one neighbour who are harvesting Carob pods and lets us try some.  They are very sweet.  We eat the pod and would discard the seeds but of course we have to save the seeds so that Tayip can plant them later!  He also tries to show us a Kangol sheep herders dog, but it is not in its normal sheep paddock.  These huge Turkish dogs grow as big as a Shetland pony and are fiercely defensive of their herd and owner.  The shepherd raises the dog so that it only knows him and the sheep, but Tayip says if they are brought up in normal surroundings they are a loyal and placid dog.  Daz has shown me a cyclist blog about a couple who were cycling through Turkey and came across a pack of dogs up in the mountains including a Kangol. Suffice it to say that they aren’t cycling now and the man needed alot of stitches. Not worth thinking about!  At the market there is lots of local produce from the fields as well as cheeses, olives, chickens, eggs, pickles and other homemade goods.

 We get our shopping and taste locally made cheeses (they all taste rather similar and are very salty).  We stop and sit down at a small stall selling cooked Turkish pancakes stuffed with potato or ‘greens’. We also have a cold yogurt drink flavoured with salt.  All very tasty.  

In addition to our shopping there’s meat to make homemade dog food and two 50kg bags of chicken feed.  There is a local football match playing next door and Daz watches for a while.  The pitch is waterlogged and the players look cold and bedraggled, another reminder that the weather is not as good as it should be!  After the shopping we head to the Göcek apartment.   This was Deborah and Tayip’s home before they moved up the mountain and if we want civilization we can come down from the mountains and use the internet.  Tayip heads off to run some errands and whilst he is doing that Daz and I head to the Marina to find a geocache.  

It’s very pretty here, and even in the summer it’s not too busy with tourists.  Back at the apartment they show us the washing machine (there isn’t one in the mountains) and we try downloading some films from Plex to watch in the mountain house but it takes hours to download.   Finally we decide it’s time to go.  We’re leaving Deborah and Tayip here.  Tomorrow they’ll fly to Istanbul and then Deborah will fly off to her yoga retreat in India.  So we won’t see Deborah again until she returns from India and London on the 7th March.  Tayip will go to Istanbul for a few days then return to the house for a week and then he has decided to return to Thailand.  This is good news for us, we’ll have the run of the place in the mountains.   We drive back up into the hills, stopping occasionally to take in the scenery.   We unload all the provisions, including the 50 kilo sacks of grain (Daz huffs and puffs alot!!) and feed the animals.  It’s late now and getting dark but we want to move our gear and bedding into the new house, as it’s much warmer than the old stone house we’ve been using.  I attempt to cook a tea brack loaf, but the oven is too hot and it doesn’t turn out great.  Mind you, with enough butter slathered on it goes down a treat!


Monday 16th January

The room we are sleeping in has huge picture windows on 2 sides and we are woken by the flash of lightning and the rumble of thunder.  Another rainy day!!  There won’t be any dog walking today!  We have to brave the weather to feed the animals and then to prepare our ‘home made’ dog food.  In between chores we sit in our big bedroom watching the rain fall outside.  Even without a fire this room is far warmer than the other house.

In the late afternoon we make Thai red paste for our Tom Yum soup this evening.   We’re extremely pleased with the results – very tasty.  

I also make a dog bed. All the dogs are fond of a sack that contains some sawdust.  There’s always one of them using it as a bed.  Unfortunately by the time they ‘paw’ it and push it around most of the sawdust comes out because one end is still open.  

So I put in a bit more filling and just do 5 anchoring stitches along the hem to secure it.  We’ll see how long that lasts!


Tuesday 17th January

More rain.  Sadly another day without a dog walk.  In the early afternoon we’re in the midst of yet another thunderstorm and this time it seems something important is struck by lightning because immediately after the strike theres a power cut.  We have gas for cooking and candles for light but then realise there’s no water from the taps.  Ah there’s an electric pump that pushes the water through the system.   Fortunately there’s an emergency bowser outside the other house.   The electricity returns about 8pm, thankfully.  During the night there’s continuous thunderstorms, setting the dogs off into a barking frenzy when the clap of thunder is too close.


Wednesday 18th January

At last, a day of sunshine.  We find a new circular route with the dogs and our only misfortune is to meet ‘dog hater’ en route.  We think he’s telling us off about walking the dogs without leads (although he could be talking about the weather – it’s all Turkish to us!).  Even though he knows Lena and Aussie, they make him nervous.

The Turks are generally scared of big dogs but actually Lena and Aussie don’t like him very much and so keep barking at him! Shame they don’t bite him too.  We also meet Tayip’s uncle on this route.  Back near the house we wait for the milkman and his mobile shop.  We all sit / lie in the sun and Tiger Lily (my favourite cat) and another of our tabbies come to join us.  

Lina is the Alpha dog and hates it when the other dogs or the cats get our attention.  Especially Baz – he’s always getting chased off at mealtimes and if we try to pet him!

We collect our milk and head home.  Breakfast at last!  Then it’s time to pasteurise the milk and have a clean up.  

Tayip is coming home tomorrow and we’re heading off to see some of the relatively local sights of Turkey.  


Thursday 19th January

We’re up and about by 0830hrs only because we don’t know what time Tayip will be here and also because we need to prepare the house for his return.  

We’re just finishing breakfast when he phones.  He’s down in the next village, Inlice.  Can we come and get him.  Daz goes and I finish my chores.  For the next few hours we chat, drink coffee, and complete some chores.  We measure 2 of the window units that should be a sealed double glazed units but are not; instead there’s condensation between the double glazing.  

These need replacing.  We also chat to Tayip about his fig interest which is bordering on an obsession.

 He will collect more fig,mulberry and cacti cuttings (apparently the fruit of the cactus is very tasty) and buy young olive trees for the Thais.  He also gathers various seeds for them to grow.  In return, because Thais have been ordering fig cuttings from other countries including Australia,  Tayip will bring these back to his Turkish mountain.  Once we’ve learnt a little more about figs we take a walk around his land; we’ve suggested that we get some work done whilst Deborah and Tayip are away.  He suggests we clear the pathways that criss-cross his land. Whilst he’s showing us what needs doing, he also points out the fruits of his labour.  Young olive, fig and mulberry trees;  young sage, lilies and other young plants all planted by Tayip.  Some are barely visible but Tayip seems to remember everything he’s ever planted and where.   

Finally we’re done at the house but Tayip needs to visit Fethiye to register the car.  On the way we stop at a nursery where he buys about 25 young olive trees.  We remove the soil, wash the roots and wrap in newspaper.

 We also stop by some huge cacti plants and take a bag full of cuttings.

 Then we head into Fethiye where Tayip shows us his car mechanic and then heads to the car registration office.  He bought this car from his brother and it needs a change of registration plates but it seems he’s failed to complete this task in the alotted time; what the implications of this are we have no idea.   It’s time to say our farewells.   Hopefully we’ll see Tayip again in March, when he returns from Thailand.  We head off to Denizli.  We have to drive up through the mountains where there’s been a lot of snowfall and the temperatures are down near freezing.  On the way we stop at Kibyra stadium.

The ancient city of Kibyra is located in the township of Gölhisar on the southwestern part of the province of Burdur.  The settlement is situated on hills just to the west of the modern town. To the west of the city are broad pasturages and Akdağ mountains while the fertile plain of Gölhisar extends to the east, with the stream Dalaman running through it. The Lake Gölhisar and the Mount Koçaş to the east of the plain presents a wonderful sight from the ancient city. The surroundings of the city was located on the crossroads of the ancient Phrygian, Carian, Lycian and Pisidian cultures and of commercial routes running east-west and north-south directions. The modern Gölhisar town is similarly located on the crossroads of southwestern Anatolia.

We have a wander around the ancient Roman stadium which is incredibly well preserved.  We also look for a geocache but we can’t find it in the snow.   The views from on top of the hill are stunning.  We then head of to Denizli where we are staying with a warmshower host.  This guy is incredible; he’s a traveller’s saviour.  If Murat sees hitchhikers, backpackers or cyclists he immediately heads over to see if they need help or a bed for the night!  Whilst this sounds incredibly generous we can’t help feeling that if we were approached by this man initially we might feel a little freaked out.  

We go out to dinner with him and his son and chat away.  Murat is keen to share with us the improvements wrought by the current Turkish president (not something we are used to hearing) and his various interests.   He’s a keen traveller, an avid follower of politics who frequently writes articles under the byline ‘Political heart’.  He’s also has a social conscience so if he sees areas that need improvement ie poor road junctions, poorly maintained roads, ineffective water systems he writes to his local MP (or his Turkish equivalent)  with his suggested improvements.  Interestingly all his letters are taken very seriously and the changes he suggests are actually made.  We’re impressed by this!  After dinner he takes us for a drive around town and he wants to show us a park where we meet his Iranian friend.  This is most odd especially since it’s raining and about 1030pm at night.  

Finally we head back to his apartment and he shows us some of his articles and photos of traffic ‘hotspots’ that he’s thought to improve.  In the end we have to beg off as it’s very late now and we are tired, but I am sure he could have carried on talking into the wee hours!

Friday 20th January

In the morning we get up and head out. Murat doesn’t get up until about 10am because he spends much of his night policing a nearby family owned apartment block occupied by students. He said his goodbyes last night.  He has been a fabulous host who wants travellers to see only the best of the Turkish.  We head to Pamukkale – one of Turkey’s most famous landmarks. Pamukkale is a marvelously surreal natural wonder with a series of semi-circular travertine that ripple out from the natural hot water source.   This pure-white mountain, set among the green farming fields, makes for some bizarrely beautiful photographic opportunities.  Also up on the summit lie the remains of the Roman spa town of Hierapolis, with the renowned hot spring pool, where you can do as the Roman’s did and bathe away your aches and pains.

The dazzling white calcite cliff of Pamukkale are created by calcium deposits from the area’s hot springs. In the same way that stalactites form within limestone caves, the deposits grow on the steep slopes, gradually fanning out to form natural terraces. Pamukkale means “cotton castle,” and the blinding white color of these travertines do look like a bizarre natural fortress of sorts. The best way to do your sightseeing here is to walk (barefoot only) from the base of the calcite mountain up the entire cliff ridge. The terraces at the upper levels hold pools of water, which you can sit in and there is a long channel of rushing hot water running along the ridge.  

We sit and dip our feet in the warming waters before heading over to look around the Hierapolis City Ruins.  First founded by King Eumenes II of Pergamon soon after 190 BC, Hierapolis was originally a fortified military colony. The original city was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 60, and it was after the rebuilding that its glory days began. The city enjoyed its greatest prosperity during the 2nd and 3rd century when, with its on-tap natural hot springs, it became an important spa center.   There’s still a thermal bathing pool today.

The remains of a grand colonnaded street runs parallel to the travertines below for just over one kilometer, extending between the necropolis to the north and a Byzantine church at the southern end. From the church, if you take the eastern path, you come to the Temple of Apollo and its famed Plutonium (a cave beneath the temple that was a source of poisonous gas). Here, the priests would consult the oracle, bringing in birds and small animals killed by the rising gas. Today, nothing much survives of either. East from the remnants of the Agora is the octagonal Martyrium of the Apostle Philip, built on the spot where the saint and his children were supposedly martyred after he remonstrated with the pagan-worshippers of Hierapolis.

On a slope above the rest of the Hierapolis ruins is the mighty theater, with its facade over 100 meters long and two tiers of seating, each with 26 rows. Built during the reigns of the Roman Emperors Hadrian and Septimius Severus, the theater is incredibly well-preserved. It has retained much of its original detail, with the imperial boxes (where VIP guests would have watched the entertainment) and some decorative panels along the stage still surviving. There are fine views from the top seating tiers.

It’s amazing walking around this huge area taking in the massive building blocks and ruins that were built before the advent of modern machinery.   The Romans sure did know how to build!  

Having spent a few hours here we search for a few geocaches before heading out towards Laodikeia.

Lovely Laodikeia was once home to Cicero. This Roman commercial center was a bustling city of industry, medicine, and trade. As Christianity began to take over from the earlier pagan religions, a large population of Christians and Jews lived here. The ruins, though sparse, are highly photogenic, and there’s an interesting mix of remnants from the temples and theaters of early Roman settlement to the later Christian early-Byzantine era. It’s a bit off the normal Pamukkale area itinerary (which usually just visits the terraces and Hierapolis), so if you have this on your things to do list, you’re likely to get the entire site to yourself.  Whilst we were there we also picked up a nice geocache on one of the aqueducts.

Finally we head to our final Denizli destination,  Kaklik Cave. It’s about 25km away and is one of the lesser known places among visitors in the Denizli region. Kaklik Cave is usually referred as the Underground Pamukkale and it’s easy to understand why. The cave has the same travertine structure as Pamukkale. The difference, however, it’s smaller in size and it’s inside a cave. The cave is formed by an underground river and came to light after the collapse of its roof. After opening to tourists in 2002, Kaklik Cave started to earn visitor traction.

The water that comes out in the cave contains sulphur and high amounts of sodium bicarbonate. This water is used for health purposes as well as agricultural irrigation in the area. Because the water contains sulphur, there’s a smell in the cave which explains the name that locals gave for this location, Kokarhamam Pinari (which can be translated as Smelling Bath Foundation).  Basically it smells of rotten eggs.  The deepest point of the cave is 14 meters from the entrance point and the total length of the cave is about 190 meters.  We’re the only visitors here to admire this cave and this underground river which is swollen after the recent heavy rains.

Sightseeing done for the day all we need is food and a hotel for the night.  We get a late lunch in a local truckstop and find a hotel near our next destination, Lake Salda.  

Whilst eating Daz realises there is a shortcut to our overnight stop.  Rather than going back around to Denizli and down the main road we can take a mountain road saving us about 50 km. Brilliant!  Our hotel is on the shores of Lake Salda where there is also a geocache trail of 19 caches around the southern edge of the lake.  So we leave our late lunch location and head out on Daz’s shortcut.  Initially all is well and we’re still on tarmac roads but soon we’re heading into the hills and passing through farming communities and small isolated villages where the roads are awash with deep mud or are just mud.

We’re driving a 3 year old, Suburu XV automatic which laughs in the face of a little mud.  But soon this road gives way to a track through the hills, a track upon which there’s been a considerable (in my opinion and I’m driving!) amount of snowfall.  Initially it’s some snow but still one set of muddy tyre tracks (clearly even the locals know not to use this route) and so there’s still plenty of traction.  But as the climb continues the snow increases until there’s just a set of snowy tracks.  I cope OK initially but as the incline increases I seriously begin to doubt the car’s ability to make the top with me behind the wheel.  However when I raise my doubts Daz says we will be fine.  The road is deathly quiet, as we wind up into the hill.  We are the only buggers stupid enough to be out in these conditions.

Finally we reach the top and I breathe a huge sigh of relief and start to relax – it’s all downhill from here!!! Sadly my relief is premature.   The snow is much deeper on this side of the hill and whilst I am trying to stick to the 2 deep tyre ruts the car is grounding on the untouched snow in between.  The car has a mind of its own, ignoring the accelerator and my steering attempts.  On more than a few occasions we think we’re going to get stuck but each time the car rights itself and we push on. Another concern is our lack of fuel.  We had sufficient for this route but hadn’t bargained on this high octane off road experience (and neither had my blood pressure).   Finally the snow gives way to mud and we reach the village at the bottom of the hill.  Now it’s safe for Daz to admit how worried he was since he picked this ‘shortcut’!

We’re soon on the road around the lake and I suggest we do the geocaches this side of our hotel.  So we park the car and walk down to the lakeside.  The coordinates suggest the cache is in / by a lone tree.  We search and search, check the spoiler picture and search some more.  

No luck.  This is so annoying.  We decide to give up and we start to walk back to the car and I pat my pockets looking for the car key.  Bugger,  it’s gone.  We both search my pockets – yup no car key.  OMG this is a disaster and I start to panic.  We walk back to the car, another pocket check and get out our headtorches.  Yup fortunately I didn’t actually lock the car otherwise we’d have no light for the inevitable search.  It’s getting dark now so Daz searches from the car and I search from the lone tree.  I’m searching whilst creating various unpleasant scenarios whereby we have to phone Tayip and somehow get the spare key.  OMG I’m really starting to feel sick.   Daz arrives at the lone tree but within about 10 seconds he’s found the key.    OMG the relief is immense!  It’s cold, dark and we are still about 6km from the main road.  It would have been a long cold walk in the dark, but thankfully we are good to go again!!  What a day – living on the edge.

We just need to get to our hotel, shower and get an early night.  No more excitement today thank you.

Saturday 21st January

After breakfast we pack up and head out.  Initially we follow the main road round the lake, stopping every kilometre or so to find a cache. Then we realise we can drive to the remainder along the dirt road that runs close to the lake.  More off roading, how fabulous.  This car is brill but now very filthy.    It’s great fun and we are soon at the final one which takes us up a scree slope onto a rocky outcrop looking out across the crystal blue waters of the lake… fab!!

Lake Salda is a crater formed lake that is said to be the second clearest lake in the world and the cleanest lake in Turkey and also the deepest at 196 metres. This claim is not exaggerated, hopefully in some of the photos below you can see just how crystal clear the water is.

The white hydromagnesite mineral found along its shoreline form a claylike substance ( which looks harmless but is like quicksand and prevents us paddling) and the distinctive white sand is said to be very beneficial for treating dermatological complaints.  The lake is surrounded by Black pine forest that is popular with hunters.   

Geocaching over it’s time to head to Antalya.   

Antalya, is the Turkish capital of international tourism.  Situated by the Gulf of Antalya, the city of Antalya can be traced back in history as early as the 1st century BC when, as the legend has it, upon discovering this land, king Attalos II told his men that “this must be Heaven”. Today, the tourist blurb states that tourists who come here from all the corners of the world say that only after seeing a sunset at Antalya can one say they have seen everything a man is allowed to see in a lifetime.

Apart from its cuisine (which we didn’t experience) Antalya also boasts golden beaches (Konyaalti and Lara) and foaming milky waterfalls (Düden, Manavgat).  We head to the waterfall at Düden.  Sadly this means driving across Antalya on a busy Saturday afternoon but it’s worth it.  But it’s a spectacular sight.  30 meters high the waters of the Duden River surging down the huge Taurus rocks in a foamy embrace with the Mediterranean.  The sunlight creates a beautiful rainbow in the watery mist.  There’s also a beautiful walk along these clifftops and many Turks lying in the sun relaxing or enjoying a picnic.  

We head back into the city centre and the old town, Kaleiçi, and our hotel.  

The historical part of the city, Kaleiçi, is also the tourist centre of Antalya: hotels and clubs, restaurants and bars are the edifices that the modern tourist world has raised next to the Yivli Minare, a symbol of the restored historical city centre and to the Kesik Minare, a former Byzantine Pangalia church, later converted into a mosque.  Our hotel is in the middle of a maze of narrow streets, many blocked by parked cars.  If there’s something I enjoy more than a deep snow off roading experience, it’s reversing 100m down a very narrow lane while other road users barrel pass me, disregarding the fact that there’s no way through, thanks to some inconsiderate car parking!  Arghhhhhhh.

Finally we find our hotel, unpack, get some advice and head into town.  We head to the harbour and walk along the harbour walls watching people fish or just sit about enjoying a chat and a bottle of beer before the sun sets.  The harbour is full of old wooden ‘pirate’ ships, apparently the pirate tour is very popular here.

 From the harbour we take the lift and take a leisurely stroll to the clocktower and to Hadrian’s gate.  The old walls of the city are very impressive and there’s a lovely feel to the city.  We find a lovely bar with a roaring fire,  good music and enjoy a glass or two of wine.


Sunday 22nd January

Another early start today as we are off camel wrestling, well spectating anyway!

Camel wrestling (Turkish: deve güreşi) is a sport in which two male Tülü camels wrestle, typically in response to a female camel in heat being led before them. It is most common in the Aegean region of Turkey, but is also practiced in other parts of the Middle East and South Asia.

We’d heard about camel wrestling before arriving in Turkey and had been eager to find a Camel wrestling venue.   We need to drive out of Antalya, down the coast about 100km to Kumluca.  We’ve been told the coastal route between Antalya and Fethiye is very beautiful and it’s certainly very mountainous.  We debate going up the cable car to Mt Olympus on route but decide it will take too long. We’ve even driven the 7km up the mountain to the cablecar station and bought our 25€ each tickets.  But there’s a large Russian?  walking group in front if us and with only one cable car every 30minutes, it’s going to takes ages to get up and back down.  

Fortunately we get a refund on our tickets and head back to the road.  We do stop for a couple of caches though.  We arrive in Kumluca where the wrestling is taking place and stop at a little garage to ask directions…  the lad looks at us with a smile and points over the road to the stadium opposite!! Well that was easy!  We park in a building site opposite the stadium, beside a mosque that is being renovated and wander over to the stadium.  

We are immediately assaulted by the sight and smell of the camels! My God they really do stink. We pay our entrance fee and wander into the ‘paddock’ where all the camels are tethered.   They are decoratively fitted out with ornate saddles and all have woven baskets over their muzzles but this doesn’t disguise the foam and spit that’s issuing from their mouths – pretty disgusting and here, the smell is eyewatering.  We wander through into the stadium in search of food and soon spot the cooking smoke.    Ummmmmmmm lovely barbecues everywhere.  

There’s spicy camel sausage, beef koftes, chicken kebabs.  We haven’t has breakfast yet so we would happily eat it all!  We settle for beef Kofte in bread with salad, grilled onion and chillies and a fiercely hot pickled chilli condiment.  Delicious.   People are eating, drinking and taking in this fine spectacle – it’s certainly a big social event.  Whilst we’re eating, the natives suddenly go quiet and stand up.  Daz said it was the ‘last post’, followed by the Turkish anthem.  Well it certainly wasn’t a last post I recognised and as for the Turkish anthem, it clearly has more complex lyrics than ours because all the crowd could produce was a strangled, tuneless murmur!  We wander back into the stadium and take a couple of seats up in the shade. We seem to be the only tourists here, and stick out in our bright clothes against the drab browns and blacks of the indigenous tribes people (well they are just the local Turks really!!).  

The camel wrestling could be charged under the trades description.   To be honest the owners put more effort in than the camels.  In some cases instead of ‘wrestling’ the camels are content to just nuzzle whilst on other occasions the best option seems to be to run away. In all cases the owners, judges and safety staff are covered in the massive quantities of camel spit flying through the air.  

We see only one good ‘wrestling’ match which receives the support from the audience.  We sit and watch the entertainment.   At one point there’s an interval and a group of dancers come into the arena with drums and swords and start their routine.  They clearly preparing for their finale when they’re thrown out of the ring, making way for more stinky, dribbling camels.  

There’s a guy selling ‘rock’ to the audience.   It looks pretty popular even amongst the adults so I ask for a piece.  It’s only a bit of hardened sugar, after all.  But the vendor has been dipping the end into a bottle of liquid.  We’re guessing it’s some sort of peppermint essence.  Whatever it is, one sniff of the vapour burns all my nasal hairs away and clears away 50 years of sinus muck and makes my eyes water.  Daz thinks this is hilarious.

We decide we’ve seen enough camel wrestling so we continue our coast road exploration.  Our next stop is Myra, Demre.  The main attractions at Myra are the large theatre which used to sit 13000 people and the necropolis Lycian rock tombs. Even though we were not allowed to walk around the rock tombs, you can still get a feel for the ancient Lycian culture and their beliefs.  Lycian tombs were always placed at the top of hills or on the cliffs as there was a belief that the dead would be transported to another world by a wing liked creature.  

We’re tired and decide to head to Kas for our last night away.  According to the Internet, Kas is:  With its postcard-perfect harbor, Kaş is a favored yacht mooring destination in the Antalya Province of Turkey and one of the best places for you to head out onto the sea for some laid-back sightseeing of the many secret coves and islands along the coastline. The town itself is crammed with cute boutiques and lovely cafés, where landlubber tourists can chill out and shop ’til they drop.  

Sadly in January they appear to have decided to dig up all the streets and everything seems to be undergoing a winter renovation.  But we found a bar in the main square, overlooking the harbour, with a lovely log fire burning in a brazier outside.  

We also met Leah, originally from Cornwall, who has been living in Turkey for about 13 years, is married to a Turkish architect and loves it.  


Monday 23rd January

Our last day and we had planned a walk up Saklikent Gorge but Tayip thinks it might be dangerous after all the rainfall or completely unnavigable.  Instead we head to the peninsula to find another geocache.

 Then we head home.  Our last stop is the UNESCO site of Xanthos.  Made up of two neighboring settlements located in the southwestern part of Anatolia, respectively within the boundaries of Antalya and Muğla Provinces, Xanthos-Letoon is a remarkable archaeological complex. It represents the most unique extant architectural example of the ancient Lycian Civilization, which was one of the most important cultures of the Iron Age in Anatolia.

The two sites strikingly illustrate the continuity and unique combination of the Anatolian, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine civilizations. It is also in Xanthos-Letoon that the most important texts in Lycian language were found. The inscriptions engraved in rock or on huge stone pillars on the site are crucial for a better understanding of the history of the Lycian people and their Indo-European language.

Finally we’re back in Göcek,  with just enough time to do a bit of shopping, get a wash done and get home before it gets dark.  Tayip left the mountain last night so we reckon the ‘gang’ will be pretty pleased to see us.   And they’re all ready, waiting for their dinner.  Sadly there’s also a dead chicken.  

Fortunately it’s been a sunny day so after seeing to our chores, unpacking we  can have a lovely hot shower.  A great ending to a fabulous road trip.  Tuesday 24th January

Today the sunny weather comes to an end and the rains return.  Actually we’re glad of the bad weather as it gives us an excuse to do nothing.  So that’s pretty much what we do although we do attempt to make a coffee and walnut cake (not a resounding success)

and watch ‘Girl on a train’ which seems to have mysteriously moved from London to ‘somewhere’ in the States (weird).  

Wednesday 25th January

Another wet day but it’s also milkman day so Daz has to venture forth to fetch our milk quota ( he takes the car) and then pasteurises the milk and makes his yoghurt.  Then I prepare a red lentil Thai influenced dish for dinner.  Hopefully it’ll be more appetising than our cake efforts!  

Thursday 26th January

This morning Lina and Aussie don’t even hang around for breakfast.  I don’t know where they’ve gone but they’re away for a few hours.  Murat,  a neighbour, turns up on his motorcycle looking for his dogs.   I imagine they’re all together somewhere, playing hopefully.  We’re expecting Lina to come into season shortly so we really do need to be a bit careful.  

This morning we tidy away the wood that was delivered whilst we were away and clean and tidy the house.  Then we clear a path by the chicken pen.  We also scrape the paint stains off our bathroom floor.

Once that’s done we decide we’ve done enough.  For lunch we have the Thai red lentils blitzed into a soup and for dinner sag aloo with a fried egg.

Friday 27th January

Today all are energetic plans are cancelled because there’s a bitterly cold wind blowing down from the mountains.  All the pipes are frozen and we have another power cut.  Another reading day methinks.  Daz is happy, he’s reading the Universe according to Alex Woods, and often has a little chuckle.  Me, I’m struggling through a Terry Goodkind.  It elicits no chuckles and I’m lucky if I can stay awake!

Culinary masterpiece today – roasted tomato and red pepper soup.  Very tasty.


Saturday 28th January

More frozen pipes this morning and were lucky to get one cup of tea for breakfast.  We need to start storing some water for this eventuality.  At least the wind has died down today so we take the dogs up the mountain for a walk.  Today’s culinary experiment – mixed bean chilli.





Gav’s flying visit and a very quiet Xmas in Crete – 12th Dec to New Years Eve

Monday 12th December to Sunday 18th

Monday we’re both so tired this morning after our walk yesterday and Jac’s visit that neither of us want to get up.  But finally we manage it and after fighting heavy Monday morning commuter traffic and long queues I return to the basement to finish painting.  Daz returns to block one;  patch painting, caulking and removing mold on pipes.  

Tuesday we’re shattered again.  The wind has really picked up and the shutters and windows were rattling so much it was tough to sleep.  Today we both work in block one cleaning aircon vents, electrical sockets, sweeping the patio of leaves and our last job in the block – to ensure the crockery, glasses and silverware in each room match.  We stupidly thought this would be straightforward but it’s anything but.  We move from room to room and then on to new blocks trying to find matching glasses etc.  Finally block one is complete and we check blocks 2, 3 and 4 are all OK after the heavy rain.  Tuesday evening I visit the dentist – teeth cleaning time.  Fortunately he doesn’t spot anything else that needs doing.

Wednesday Daz starts on block 5 whilst I check blocks 6, 7 and 8.  Then I start matching crockery etc in block 5.  In the evening it’s quiz and bingo night.  Our team mates are John and Glynnis.  He turns out to be the infamous cat man.  They have 28 house cats!  OMG we find our 4 a handful enough.

Thursday it’s more work on block 5 and matching crockery in 4.  Yes our days are routine with no excursions; we’re recouping after Jac’s stay, trying to save our pennies and preparing for Gav’s flying visit.   Remember the incredible Ha Canyon and our hope to go canyoning?  Well after several enquiries, including asking our incredibly knowledgeable host Vassilis, we thought we had no chance of achieving this adrenaline adventure but finally one company that I emailed has come back with a positive result, so fingers crossed.

Friday, normal jogging.  Saturday we popped out in the evening for food at a local kebab joint then to the Cavern for a beer.  We were expecting a quiz too but missed it by a week, it was last Saturday!!

Sunday we’re at work as Gav is arriving tonight and we need to pick him up in Heraklion and then we’ll some time off whilst he is here. As an added bonus we definitely have some guides that will take us to Ha Canyon including Gav!!  We get a message that his flight is delayed, so decide to make dinner before heading to the airport, but just as Daz is starting to cook he says he has been put on an earlier flight and will be at Heraklion at 9pm!! We chuck everything in the fridge, and head out as it’s a 2 hour drive to the airport. We arrive just as he’s walking out of the airport!!  On the way back we pop into a kebab joint for a late dinner and then have a few drinks into the small hours down in a beachfront bar as we catch up on all the gossip!

Monday 19th to Wednesday 21st December

Monday morning we have scrambled eggs for breakfast then head to Sitia with Gav to show him around.  We also want to pick up some ferry tickets for our journey to Rhodes at the end of the month.  So once in Sitia we head to the harbour in search of a ticket office and get an amazing sighting of a kingfisher.

  It’s a lovely sunny day, if a tad windy, and as we walk along the harbour we stop to watch a fishing boat being manoeuvred onto a trailer to bring it out of the water.  They try several approaches and there’s a lot of shouting but unfortunately the wind keeps pushing it away from the trailer and in the end they give up!! Bizarre!

 We speak to the harbour master’s office and they say that the ferry has got some problems and is laid up in Rhodes.  We should go to the agent in town for more information.  Fortunately the agent reckons the ferry should be OK by the end of the month, but even then he cannot guarantee it will arrive as there may be more problems, bad weather, strikes, mechanical problems etc etc!!! Well we buy tickets anyway and we will have to cross our fingers.  We then decide to take a trip to Vai beach where there is the only palm forest in Europe.  On the way we stop for a geocache up the side of a hill, but after much scrambling we realise we have approached from the wrong side of the hill and only Daz is able to climb the last section to find the cache…  he can’t find it and we can’t get up without a long detour so we give it up.  It’s actually been quite an extreme ascent (see the photos) and both Daz and Gav are covered in scratches and scrapes.  Another time maybe!!

As we were searching, Christine who we met on the cave walk, rings us.  We had planned to meet her but had missed comms, however she had finally got our message and so we agree to pop over to see her, luckily we are right across the road from her village, Dionysou!  She shows us around her village, which was specifically built as a tourist resort funded by EU money.  With hotels and 365 apartments/ houses it was designed to attract foreign interest in Crete.   With a communal pool and shops it was supposed to be a paradise holiday resort. Unfortunately the management company ran off with all the money and now, in winter, it looks rather forlorn and dilapidated and only 3 or 4 apartments are occupied year around.  Alot of the houses on the seafront are falling apart from the sea air and neglect.  The pool was half full of green water and the area was abandoned.  Christine did say that in the summer months it’s a very different place and the previous summer some work had been done and the pool was open and everything is tidied up and cared for and it’s a delightful place to be.  It’s just hard to imagine now the village is closed for winter but this has been the story for all of Crete for us!  We need to visit again but in the spring or summer.  

After a cup of tea we all head off to Vai; Christine is our expert tour guide and in exchange we introduce her to geocaching.  Vai, or more specifically the palm forest of Vai, is one of the most popular sights in Crete and one of the most beautiful and special places in the whole Mediterranean.  Vai draws thousands of visitors each year. They come not only for its wonderful palm forest, but also for the large sandy beach spread out at its foot.

Vai was “discovered” by hippies who were turned out of Matala in the early 70s and sought a new refuge in the area. By the early 80s, Vai had become a permanent campsite and been transformed into vast rubbish tip.

It’s deserted and we can imagine how packed it will be in the summer, Christine says they arrive by the bus load from Heraklion.   Apparently the palm forest came from when ancient pirates discarded date stones after meals, either way the resultant forest is very impressive.  

We climb the hill overlooking the beach in search of a geocache.

Chrstine then takes us to an ancient minoan settlement where we can still see the walls and street layout from 3000 years ago.  

Our final stop is at Topoli monastery and we are fortunate that a monk lets us into the church to marvel at the artwork. And there’s another geocache opposite.

It’s been a fab visit to the north east side of Crete and thanks to Christine we saw so much more!!  We bid farewell, but she has suggested we join her for Xmas dinner at a taverna in Kato Zacros.   We’re back in time for a beautiful sunset before heading to our favourite taverna, Paradise.  Unfortunately we decide to visit the Cavern and many beers and ‘killer’ pool games leads to a messy ending to the day.  Oh why do we never learn?

Tuesday morning we are up very early as we have a date with Ha gorge.  We’re all feeling a little fragile and manage to forget to take most of the things we were told we’d need.  

We’ve arranged to meet our guides, Simon and Manos, at the bottom of the gorge by a small church.  Once dressed to impress we can leave our dry gear and car at the bottom and all drive up to the top in Manos’ pickup.   Manos and Simon are experienced canyoneers and climbers and soon have us kitted out.  Unfortunately due to a lack of wetsuit sizes Gavs is too small tight and Daz’s is too big.  Mine is fine!

 Gav getting ready with Ha gorge in the background. 

The suits have all seen better days with rips and repaired tears all over!  Oh well, adds to the fun.  We arrive at the top and after a short walk start descending a very steep grassy and muddy slope to get to the gorge proper.  It’s quite treacherous and a sign of things to come.

Finally in the gorge proper we don our harnesses and helmets and Gav gets a lesson in abseiling and for us a refresher.

And so we begin…Ha gorge here we come!

The entrance to Ha gorge is very narrow, about 3m. Its width in many parts is only 30cm and in others no more than 3m. To the left and right stand huge stone walls 200m to 400m high. The length is about 1km.  Ha is one of the most demanding and technical gorges on Crete.  We’ll have 27 abseils to complete, the highest 35m, so this would be impossible without all the climbing gear brought by Manos and Simon.  In the last third of the gorge, a waterfall of 215 meters height comes in from the left which increases the amount of water in the gorge. This is often the problem point for canyoning because up to this  point the Ha is dry, but from here it can have large amounts of water. The waterfall is the highest in Greece and is located at the end of Mastoras sub-gorge. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for us there has been no real rain on Crete this year so Mastoras waterfall isn’t running.  Unfortunately this means the slides and jumps won’t be possible.  There’s no running water on the slides just slippery algae and the jumps into deep, clear pools have insufficient water depth to be safe and the water is a stagnant, fetid,  frigid foul pool of murky stinking water. (Apologies now, lots of photos!) 

Initially all the abseils are dry and in the lower half of the gorge we’re abseiling into fetid,  frigid foul pool of murky water.  The smell is disgusting and we even see bones floating in the water and hate to think what is in the water with us.  For those of us feeling slightly the worse for wear after last night’s excesses (me and Gav), this proves to be our undoing, much to Daz’s entertainment!

It’s still quite slippery, especially on some of the damp mossy areas and we all end up sliding down the rock on our arses at one point or another.  Gav does so well.  This is his first experience of abseiling and canyoning and this is extreme.  By the end of the day we are all weary, cold and wondering if it will ever end.  By the time we descend into the final pool it’s gone 5pm and the light is fading. Just in time!  7 hours of abseiling and walking down the gorge. An amazing experience for us all so huge thanks to Manos and Simon for their patience and coaching and a huge well done to Gav who,  whilst often out of his comfort zone, still kept us laughing!   We start to get changed, but then have to wait whilst Daz drives Manos back to the top of the gorge.  Apparently this drive in the dark, on some very steep windy roads, was more scary than the canyoning! By the time they get back it’s 7pm and we load up the kit and say farewell.  We stop off in Irepetra on the way home, too tired to cook so we enjoy 3 large pizzas with garlic bread and Greek salad!

Wednesday: The next day we all ache from the yesterday’s exertions and I’ve got a really itchy skin rash.  I think it’s from the foul water.  Fortunately no one else has it.   But it’s time for Gav to leave Crete, so it’s back in the car and off to Heraklion and the airport.  We go up early so that we can do some sightseeing seeing with Gav around the historic fortress walls of Heraklion.

By the time we do drop Gav at the airport (including having a laugh at his expense by swapping his boarding card whilst he visits the loo!) and get back to Makry Gialos we are ready to drop.  No quiz and bingo for us tonight!

Thursday 22nd to Friday 30th December.

Despite being absolutely shattered we didn’t sleep well last night.  There was a huge thunderstorm over Makry Gialos.  It was so close we thought the windows were going to smash.  The storm front finally moved on but another followed in its wake this morning.  With the high winds came hail.  We’re going to have to check all the rooms for damage and clear the hail and standing water on the patios and corridors.  

We also manage to fit in some vaccinations we had ordered at the pharmacy; Hepatitis A for both of us and Daz also gets a Polio, Tetanus and Diphtheria booster.  The young assistant has downloaded and printed a massive document about which countries require which vaccinations.   Initially when we tell her where we going she says ” can I come?”.  Then Daz adds “on bikes” and she says ” forget it!”.  She confirms the need for Typhoid but this is only available for purchase in huge batches so it’s only held by hospitals.  And Rabies?  Well it’s still a ‘no’ for rabies.  We will have to check in Turkey.  These 3 vaccinations have cost us 76€.  Daz also visits the dentist again for some remedial work on 2 old fillings (80€).  He still has another tooth that needs work.

Christmas Eve we had planned a sightseeing trip but the rain is persistent and heavy.  Instead we find ourselves in a taverna in Ierapetra recommended by Vassilis enjoying some food and some rather bizarre Greek Xmas carol singing.

Christmas day.  We’ve arranged to go to Kato Zacros on the east coast for Christmas dinner, so after a little lie in and a lovely breakfast cooked by Daz we drive over the mountains early so that we can do some geocaching and walk some of Deads Gorge before lunch.  

The gorge is so called because the caves along the gorge walls were used as burial chambers during the Minoan period.  It’s a lovely day if a tad windy and we enjoy a lovely walk up the gorge for a couple of kilometres to find a geocache.

Back in the village we arrive at the taverna to meet Christine, a German couple – Gerhart and Brunni,  and Stavros for Christmas dinner.  We are a little late, but soon settle down and enjoy a lovely meal whilst chatting to the German couple about our travels and theirs. Christine has even bought us a Xmas present, our only one!  She’s given us a travel adapter suitable for 120 countries and some mini toiletries.  Such a thoughtful and useful gift!  After the meal a quick visit to the minoan palace ruins, (3000 years old) stalked by a dozen ‘bruiser’ cats rounds off the day.

 Zakros Palace in Crete is one of the last vestiges of the ancient Minoan civilization that was unearthed in our time. Zakros Palace is the last of the Minoan Palaces that has come into light as a whole.   The palace itself covered an extension of 4,500 square meters and crowned a flourishing urban centre with an area of over 8,000 square metres as a whole. However Zakros Palace is only a fifth of the size of Knossos, the latter being the largest of the Minoan palaces in Crete and the centre of the Minoan civilization in general.  After admiring the ruins and enjoying the narrative by Christine and Stavros (both very knowledgeable)  we bid farewell and make the lengthy drive back up over the mountains in the settling dark.  We are soon tucked up in bed, a glass of wine to celebrate the day and watch some TV… bliss.  Whilst the cats come for a cuddle.  Their not interested in the vast expanse of bed……….only Darren.

It’s Boxing Day but we are up and back at work.   Daz is still cleaning door and window handles in block 5 and whilst I do some paint stippling on the tile floors (to disguise all the chips in the tiles)  and cleaning electric sockets with earbuds in block 5!! Oh the joy!! Tuesday more handle cleaning and stippling.  Wednesday we start sorting out our kit and looking at our onward journey.  We’re planning to catch the overnight ferry from Sitia to Rhodes and then we hope the Rhodes Catamaran will take us to Marmaris.   But we’re really not confident; the first weak link is the Rhodes ferry which is often delayed or cancelled; the Marmaris catamaran is a passenger ferry.  In a phone call they said no bikes but in an email they said yes to bikes.  Of course our use of the term ‘bikes’ is probably disingenuous.  If the catamaran plan fails then there’s a vehicle ferry to Kos and then another to Bodrum.  We did think these ferries ran daily but now the website suggests otherwise.  So to cover all bases I’ve contacted all the warmshower hosts between here and Rhodes – Marmaris – Fethiye and all those between Rhodes – Kos – Bodrum – Fethiye.  To be fair there aren’t that many.  We’ve also been checking out places of interest to visit along the way!  Whilst we’re both looking forward to a change of scenery, we’re both feeling trepidatious about Saturday and cycling to Sitia.   It’s only 32km but after 6 weeks off I’m pretty sure it’s going to hurt.  Thursday we finish block 5, stipple in blocks 3, 4, 6 and 7.  Move all our work gear and basically prepare to handover.  

Friday 30th December

Daz and I always laugh and say a plan never survives first contact with me.   Well today, supposedly our last day in Makry Gialos, our carefully crafted plan has collapsed around our ears.  The ferry company rang to tell us that tomorrow’s ferry from Sitia to Rhodes has been cancelled.   We have no idea why.  It won’t run until next Saturday,  6th January.  This is a complete disaster!   We need to be at our workaway in Turkey for 11th January.   Our host has booked her flights for her holiday.  And perhaps if we leave Crete on 6th January we might well make it to our host by 11th but there’s no margin for error so if next Saturday we get a phone call to say the ferry is delayed due to bad weather, we’ll be well and truly up shit creek without a paddle!  Our stress levels go through the roof and the bickering increases exponentially.   How do we get off Crete before next Saturday???   The obvious answer is get back to Haraklion (a 3 day bike ride) and take the ferry back to Piraeus, Athens and then take a ferry to Kos and then to Bodrum.  The downside to this is the 3 day bike ride; the weather is horrendous ( extremely cold, windy and either raining or hailing), and the expense because there’s no way I’m camping in this weather!  And then we spot a decent alternative.   The internet suggests there’s a ferry from Sitia to Pireaus on 2nd January.   Finally after several hours on the internet and numerous phone calls we think we’ve cobbled together a new plan that gives us the wriggle room we need and puts us in Bodrum on 7th January.

New Year’s Eve

This morning we catch the bus into Sitia with 90% of our gear.  We are so fortunate that Pavlos, the Aussie/Greek fireman who we met on the group walk to the cave, has said it’s  OK to leave our bags and tomorrow our trikes at his firestation.   We  also exchange our Rhodes ferry tickets for Piraeus tickets.   Fingers crossed that this ferry isn’t cancelled too! The last cancellation was due to the weather.  We head back to Makry Gailos,  we planned to have a quiet New Year, maybe popping out for a couple of celebratory drinks just before midnight, but by the time we are tucked up warm and fed we don’t feel like going out again, so celebrate together with a few glasses of wine.  It’s our 2nd New Year since we’ve been travelling and also 2 days shy of 2 full years of travels.  It’s been an amazing time and we are looking forward to what 2017 brings and especially to travelling out of Europe towards Asia. Happy new year everyone!!