We’ve changed our itinerary here several times, but we finally put the rest of the trip together this morning. What did we do before Airbnb, trip advisor, iphones, amex travel, chase rewards, and google? On our way to meet the Gulet we’ll be on for the next 2 days, I went to take out some Turkish Lira from the ATM, but I couldn’t find my debit card. Damn. But no worries, American Express comes through once again. Our Amex cards are linked with SwimVacation’s checking account, so they are basically a duplicate debit card when stuck into an ATM. Problem solved.
We hopped aboard The Bolero, a 14-meter Gulet, and were met by Captain Mustafa, his wife Hanum, their 9-year old son, and a deckhand whose name I can’t pronounce or spell yet. We motored out of Bodrum Harbor, passing lots of day boats. These are heavy, sturdy, stable boats. They’re made to mostly travel by motor, but they do occasionally sail. Bolero’s two masts look properly rigged, though many day boats I saw had only decorative masts. Everything is made of wood: the hull from local hard pine, the rails and deck mahogany, and a teak-like wood on the gunwales.
The water is a deep blue here in the Aegean Sea, an offshoot of the Mediterranean. Near shore, in the shallow areas, a bright turquoise appears, and the whole scene is vaguely reminiscent of the British Virgin Islands, especially at night. We ate a lunch of pasta with Turkish meatballs and a nice salad as we pondered and compared this place.
We’ve traveled a long way to swim here, and were anxious to jump in. As we anchored off an island just offshore, we explained to Captain Mustafa that we were looking for anything of interest underwater, as many of our guests are escaping the dreaded black line in the bottom of the pool. We jumped in with mask, snorkel, and fins to have a look. We immediately began seeing fragments of Amphorae, the chosen vessel of many ancient civilizations. They were used to store and transport wine, olive oil, fish, basically anything.
I’ve read that the marine life in the Mediterranean was very limited, so I was surprised to see several schools of fish as we swam along. The water is very clear, we never got to a depth where we couldn’t see the bottom easily. At our second stop, our anchorage for the night, Mustafa jumped in with us again, this time with a fishing spear. He’s a true waterman, and often dives to 30 meters for fish. This time we followed him down to 10 meters, where he spied a fish under a ledge, and he quickly speared it. Not much later, he cooked it and we ate it for dinner.
Heather and I broke off and continued swimming around the corner of the island, and found an area packed with amphorae fragments, including some necks and handles. There’s lots of other stuff to see underwater here, cool rock formations, turtle grasses, shiny little fish.As we swam back to the boat, the wind shifted and picked up, the stern line snapped, we climbed aboard as Mustafa anchored once again out of the wind, stern-to like we do in Little Harbor on Peter Island in the BVIs.
Back aboard the Bolero, we were served tea and pastries as the crew began to prepare dinner. Eggplant and red peppers were placed directly on the gas burner, then chopped up and combined with each other and mixed with olive oil. Whole fish cooked in a pan. Yogurt was combined with olive oil and rocket greens. An octopus salad appeared. When asked how he got it so tender, Mustafa said that he pounds each octopus on the rocks 40 times. The method is effective, if not pleasant to watch.
One of the things I’ve noticed about Turkish food is that it’s all fresh. I haven’t seen a single can or package of anything opened by anyone who has cooked for us. The food isn’t particularly heavy or spicy, but never bland. They tend to serve many different dishes in one sitting, equal parts vegetables, fish or meat, bread. Back home we call this the Mediterranean Diet. Turkish people call it “aksam yemegi”, or “dinner”.
More swimming and exploring tomorrow morning, then a 5 hour trip by car to Kas, where we’ll hop on another boat to check out a different part of the Turkish Coast.