Tag Archives: Ölüdeniz

It’s Harder Than You Think To Do Favours For Sailors …

On more than one occasion since we moved to Turkey there have been occasions when we would have been totally lost without the intervention of our neighbours, Tommy and Mehmet, so when I heard there was a lot of work to do on their family boat over the winter, I was quick to offer my assistance and collection of power tools in return.

Used for tourist trips in the summer months, the Deniz Bey sails daily from the beach at Ölüdeniz, taking up to 30 people on trips along the spectacular Anatolian coast. However, every winter, the effects of wind, sun and sea need to be redressed – which means several weeks in dry dock for sanding, varnishing and painting.

Volunteering, I imagined a few afternoons plugged into iTunes, brandishing familiar equipment acquired from my dad or – often on impulse – from DIY superstores in the UK.  But despite admitted recent failings as a “proper man” in the eyes of the average Turk (Time To Man Up …) I’ll admit I was still a bit disappointed by the questioning looks that my offer inspired.

“Can you paint?” asked Mehmet.

“I think so,” I replied. “I have my own sanders and I did decorate quite a bit of our house in England myself.”

Perhaps it was the small smile from Bec – who has never quite forgotten the “Incident Of The Flooded Bathroom” back in 1995 – or maybe it was the absence of experience on boats, but Mehmet still looked doubtful.

Nevertheless, a few days ago, the call came: “Stiv? Is Mehmet. I work on boat while the weather is nice today. Can you help?”

“Of course,” I said. “I’ll get my tools out of the shed….”

“No need. I have tools. I come to get you.”

Half an hour later another new experience began. Unexpectedly, I found myself on the back of a scooter (without a helmet) being bounced savagely along a narrow mountain road en route to the boatyard in nearby Fethiye.

I’m a balding man of 53 but, nevertheless, on arrival what hair I have resembled a clown on a bad day. I also had to surreptitiously shake the cramp out of a leg before I could even begin to make my way to the dry docks.

Once there, I realised that, far from spending the day on nice, safe decks, I’d have to get used to the idea of working 20ft up on rickety planks, suspended between makeshift scaffolding mostly made up of elderly stepladders.

In short, it was hell. It takes a certain skill to wield a heavy-duty sander above your head when you have no handholds, a yawning drop beneath sucks at your heels and dust cakes the inside of your mouth and nose. I missed bits, which Mehmet had to point out before he could add a layer of varnish, and I must have been slow because there were plenty of times when he seemed to be watching and waiting.

Other boatyard workers passed beneath. There were shouted conversations with Mehmet, which seemed to end with looks in my direction and a little laughter. But, after what seemed like hours of torture which left my fingers tingling and shoulder muscles aching, it was time for a lunch-break.

It turned out even that was a challenge. If you’ve tried kokoreç then you’ll know what’s in it. If not, let’s just say I discovered sheep intestines are probably an acquired taste. Then it was back to several more hours of back-breaking work in the midst of a forest of masts and rigging, the shrill sounds of drills and sanders – and more Turkish banter.

The thing is, I loved it. I have spent most of my professional life in an office or at least in front of a keyboard, typing – but this was something completely different.

It was hard, yes. I was also aware of being a stranger in a tight-knit community which gathers in the boatyard every winter. But it was an experience – and one I have repeated more than once since.

A couple of weeks later, and now I get nods and handshakes. Indeed, the boatyard boss has shown me around and given me his card. It’s not like I’m ever going to be a professional – Turkish laws prevent that anyway – but it’s been fun helping out and should the Deniz Bey ever need me, I’d be happy to step up to the mark again.

Just don’t ask me to eat kokoreç though…

Mehmet on the boat

Mehmet ready to start work on board the Deniz Bey


Riding the Wave – a Mediterranean Adventure



With the Mediterranean surf hurling itself against vertical cliffs towering thousands of feet upwards into an achingly blue sky, it was hard to judge from which direction the next wave would come.

Driven by a brisk south-easterly wind, the surface of the sea was being whipped into white horses as wave crests hurried towards the shoreline. Meeting unrelenting rock, they were repelled with equal force, opposing forces creating peaks and troughs metres high.

Three kayaks bobbed between them, propelled upwards one moment and then dipping, the prow of a tiny craft sometimes spearing into the next wave, shrugging off torrents of blue water before gathering gamely for the next assault.

Blow holes gouged into the cliffs over hundreds of years boomed challenges at interlopers in this marine wilderness, venting spray high into the air. A grey heron watched dispassionately from its rocky perch fifty feet above, launching into distinctive lazy flight as the kayaks passed beneath.

Exhilarating, awe-inspiring, and physically demanding, this was nothing like the experience I expected when I signed up for a three-day 50km paddle from Oludeniz to Patara.

Of course, I knew the sea could be lumpy. Yes, I was aware the only thing propelling me and about 20kg of kit the prescribed distance would be the muscles in my arms, shoulders, back and legs. I was even expecting a basic diet and the occasional attention of wildlife with a propensity to bite or sting.

Nevertheless I was unprepared for the sheer power of the sea and the demands which hours of paddling place on a body more used to sitting behind a keyboard.

If you can imagine going down to the gym, strapping yourself to a rowing machine and using it for  hours in 30C heat while someone else tries to push you off, you might be there or thereabouts.

But, on the other hand, protesting muscles can be easily forgotten when breath-taking scenery almost untouched by human endeavour unravels around each headland – forests of green pine tumbling down crevices to touch the sea while cliffs, tortured and riven with the scars of long-forgotten earthquakes, rear thousands of feet into the sky.

When shimmering flying fish dart from wave to wave, a turtle drifts beneath your hull, or a kingfisher flits along the shoreline, a flash of iridescent blue against the sandy-coloured rocks, suddenly the effort involved in paddling becomes a secondary concern.

Indeed, after a while, I found it becomes almost mechanical, a steady rhythm rather than brute force enough to keep the kayak moving forward – at least until a the maw between two rocks looms, spitting spray and foam, daring you to shoot the gap and ignore the risk of snagging against teeth honed razor sharp by erosion.

I’ll admit I bottled the first few on day one but, once I had more confidence and strength, I followed our expedition leader through, even allowing myself a small “whoop” of achievement after emerging unscathed on the other side.

And, once hips have developed that instinctive balance, you also find it’s easier to flirt with the blow holes, using their spray as an impromptu and refreshing shower, or to explore dark caves out of the sun where it’s easy to pretend no human has ventured for generations.

I thought I’d miss luxuries we take for granted; a chair and a table to eat from, a comfortable bed, beer … But, instead, I discovered once again that other things take their place.

A rocky perch where I could dangle my legs over breaking surf was perhaps the most satisfying place for a simple cup of tea brewed on a Primus stove while curried potatoes eaten while watching moonlight play on the surface of the sea has to be among the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever had.

Physical exercise meant sleep wasn’t difficult either while, for me, the splendour of our environment provided a deep sense of peace and contentment.

It’s true that good advice would be to avoid the height of summer if possible; both the heat and the indigenous insect life can be more aggressive in late July and in August.

But I would challenge anyone not to find the scale and majesty of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast an antidote for modern living. Even after a day or two, the sea and the cliffs exude such a sense of longevity that it’s hard not to see our daily struggles as something petty or transient, perhaps helping to reset perspectives or to better understand the things which really ought to be important to us.

If you’d like to experience a similar trip yourself, why not contact Dean at http://www.sevencapes.com/

SPSunset on Paradise Beach

Do I Dare to Dream…..?

It seems incredible but, just a week ago, I was perched in the prow of a single-masted sailing boat, legs dangling either side of the bowsprit as I watched the blue Aegean sea skim beneath my bare feet.

With the warm sun on my back I watched for dolphins which I hoped might join us as we cruised to our next mooring, where I knew we could look forward to a barbecued lunch of fish or chicken washed down with cold beer from the ship’s ample refrigerator.

Some lazy chat and a bit of snorkelling would probably follow before we’d weigh anchor and sail on, heading for another secluded bay miles from the crowded tourist beaches and a lifetime away from the deadlines and ringing phones which have been part of our lives since … well, forever.

I know I ought to have been ecstatically happy, relaxed, completely at ease… but instead, all I could really feel was panic and guilt.

If you’re a fan of the BBC television series Red Dwarf, you’ll know what I mean when I say I have confirmed yet again that my default settings are similar to Rimmer’s in the Better Than Life virtual reality game. In other words, I struggle to believe that good things happen without paying a high price later.

I’ve had the good bit; now, inevitably, something is going to sneak up behind me and bite me on the bum – hard.

So, while I should have been savouring good food, an azure blue sky and the simple pleasure of watching brightly-coloured fish dart for breadcrumbs dropped from the table, my mind was chasing thoughts about what work I really should be doing instead.

The daft thing is, there wasn’t any. We’ve deliberately planned a few slack weeks between now and the Big Move to allow us time to adjust and complete the multitude of tasks involved in relocating to a foreign country.

But that doesn’t stop the words of the naysayers and doom-mongers creeping up on you in quiet moments or in the middle of the night, rotating on an endless loop, demanding to know just what makes you think you deserve to live in paradise.

The antidote, of course, is to get to work; to do something – anything  – rather than laze around. Fire up the laptop, scour the internet, fiddle about with files, tinker with pictures, even stalk the house looking for things to rearrange, tidy away or clean.

Such behaviour, I know, defeats the object of moving in the first place. One of the main motivations for doing all this was a desire to slow down, to have time for something other than work.

But it seems that’s going to be harder than I thought. It’s going to take time to adjust and to trust to the fact that 12-hour days are not strictly necessary.

In the meantime,  I’d better get on with cataloguing all the pictures on my hard drive in alphabetical order….


The Soundtrack of Our New Life

Sometimes you can’t sleep – or wake early – for no apparent reason. This morning was one of those times, and at 4.30am I decided to get up for a glass of water….just as the call to prayer began.
For me, this is possibly the most evocative sound of life in Turkey, particularly at sunrise or sunset when it signals the start or end of another busy day.
There are some people who complain about the early calls, claiming it wakes them. Everyone is different, I guess, but I can honestly say that the ezan has never disturbed my sleep, even with two mosques in the village that don’t exactly correspond on timings! (The thought also occurs that if you don’t like it, why live in or visit a Muslim country?)
So, as I sat there listening to the muezzin, I reflected on the other sounds that are the backdrop to our new life.
Most seem to be animal-related – dogs barking, of course; the cows mooing in the neighbours’ field; the cockerel that belongs to the family at the other side. And, unfailingly, the backdrop of crickets chirruping in the orchard, the garden and indeed pretty much everywhere.
I’m not so aware of the traffic, though of course it is there. But we are fairly remote so it’s not a constant presence – or doesn’t feel like one.
In Fethiye or the more touristy areas, it’s a different matter. Coaches, dolmus, scooters, quad bikes – they provide a constant backdrop. (Driving is an entirely different subject that I’ll no doubt cover in a separate post!)
Then there are the traders and restaurant owners with their cheerful sales patter. You can’t walk down the strip in places such as Hisarönü or Ölüdeniz without hearing their entreaties to either eat or buy: “Yes please, we have sunglasses – cheap as chips!” “You want Prada handbag? Better than Primark!”
You’ll be offered a good deal on shoes – buy one, get one free – but that is actual shoes, not pairs. Canny, eh? Or the perfume sellers will attempt to draw you in by asking your advice on the popular men’s and women’s fragrances of the moment back in the UK – and of course, they’ll have it right there for you at a fraction of the price.
Anyone who knows and loves Turkey is familiar with the “genuine fake” culture. Again, there are those who complain about it – but it’s part of life here. It’s friendly banter with no animosity – if you’re not interested, smile and say so, or tell them you’ve already made your purchases. It amuses me how many people pretend they haven’t heard, put their heads down and scurry past!
The threads that join together all these sounds, for me, are peace and/or cheerfulness. So far there is no stress, no anger, nothing negative associated with what I hear in my new life.
That may not always be the case, I realise – but, for now, I’ll just enjoy it.