Tonight I am writing from a boat anchored in a bay on the coast of Turkey next to the ruins of Aperlai, an ancient Lycian city. What’s even better is that a portion of the city is sunken, likely due to some massive earthquakes over the last 2,000 years. So Heather and I got to swim over them. This is one of those signature SwimVacation locations. It’s special. Out of the way. Unique. If we can put together a trip to Turkey next year, we will definitely hit this spot.
Going backwards, we checked out of our Hotel in Kas this morning and hit the wharf to look for the Gulet we had booked. The Captain, his wife, and their 2 boys all work the boat, and we motored out to a chain of small islands just off the coast. This is our first swim in the larger Mediterranean, as Bodrum was technically in the Aegean Sea. The water is warmer here, bluer. This feels right. We immediately see a turtle, then the remains of WWII era ship that was sunk here. We circumnavigate a small island and come across a deep , narrow canyon. It must go down 100 feet and is clear blue to the bottom. I mug for a few pics.
A vegetarian lunch is typical here, today was pasta, salad, roasted green beans, yogurt, hummus, bread, one of the obligatory tomatoes. Our vegetarian guests will not have any trouble with any meals, in fact. They always put out more food than we can eat, and often seem surprised when we don’t finish everything. We motored past another island where our captain keeps a herd of 50 goats, then to the inlet of a long bay at Aperlai.
The Lycians built an outpost here at Aperlai sometime around 400 B.C., likely to process an extremely valuable purple dye made from a very rare snail. Even to this day, purple is a color that’s linked with wealth and royalty. Our captain had us jump off at the mouth and swim toward the head of the bay, where the ruins of this city lie, about a 2K swim. The swimming here is fantastic: lots of rock formations, super clear water, deep blue colors, light winds, lots of undulation in the coastline.
Wind at our backs, we swam upon the sunken city. You can easily make out the outlines of walls. Right on shore, mausoleums and building stones spill into the water. The place is dripping with ancient history. We climb out, eat some fresh figs, and get a dinghy ride to shore, where we follow the captains wife along a rough trail through beautiful fields to her parent’s seaside restaurant. No roads lead to this spot, it’s only hikers who have travelled 14 miles to get here and boaters who can reach the place. Chickens, cows, picnic tables, a hand dug well, more a home than a business, welcoming faces. We hike back to the ruins for a look.
Walking around in the ruins of a 2,400 year old town that hasn’t been signed or roped off is an amazing experience. We’d had enough history lessons over the past 7 days to be able to tell what was Byzantine vs. Roman vs. Lycian, to an extent. As the sun set, we picked our way down the steep hillside to the shore, where our Captain was only a whistle away by dingy.
Dinner was cooked on wood coals on a grill attached to the side of the boat. A perfect sliver Turkish moon rose. The Lycians look down at us tonight, perhaps wondering why the hell we would jump off such a nice boat to swim here.