Onwards and Upwards
From my camp in Cirali, I only had 650km to ride until I reached Çeşme and the ferry that would carry me over to Greece (Chios Island). Therefore, I took my time and enjoyed the twisty, scenic road that ran right along the coastline; I thought I would meander for a couple of days. The Tiger was running well, despite the ongoing starting problem when hot; she did love those Turkish roads.
It was another gorgeous, sunny day, and I was again spoilt by incredible views at every corner, so much so I had to be careful to pay attention to the road to avoid over-shooting off another cliff. As I rounded one bend I came across a stunning birds-eye view of Kas, a beautiful town dominated by a large yachting marina.
There were a lot of expensive yachts floating around, accompanied by expensive looking hotels, but the whole place was beautiful; I put it on my ‘must visit again’ list.
Further along the coast I came across the small but perfect Kaputas Beach. It made a change to actually see quite a few people milling around, enjoying the sun under their beach umbrellas.
One of the best beaches in Turkey is supposed to be the turtle sanctuary of Patara Beach. I pushed on and arrived around 6pm, and hadn’t realised the beach closed at 7pm to allow the nesting turtles to lay in peace. But that was fine, as one hour was enough to soak up the remaining sun and watch it set over the horizon.
The 12 km-long Patara Beach is indeed beautiful, and it was actually voted one of the top beaches in the world by Times Online ‘Best of 2005’; strange how it could be ‘one of the best beaches in the world’ in 2005, but not since then. Did it sink into a black hole from 2006-14?
Next to the beach are the ruins of ancient Patara, the old major naval and trading port of Lycia over 2,500 years ago. I had a quick wander around but the light was fading, so I headed on up into the nearby village to look for somewhere to camp (unfortunately I couldn’t camp on or near the beach as it is a National Park and forbidden).
I spotted a camping sign and homed in to take a closer look. Strangely, but not altogether disappointingly, it ended at a bar. The friendly ‘Camel Bar’ manager came out to meet me and explained how he offered free camping in the small lot opposite his bar in a bid to boost custom. Well, being a budget long-term traveller, I couldn’t really turn down a free camping spot with hot showers, so I happily took him up on his kind offer, even though I was slightly concerned I might be letting myself in for a sleepless, noisy night.
As it turned out, the bar wasn’t noisy at all, and as I was also the last one left in there, falling asleep was no problem at all.
In the morning I stopped by another old Lycian city called Xanthos. Once the largest of all Lycian cities, the Persian Army invaded the city around 540BC. Before the city was captured, the Lycians famously destroyed their own acropolis, killed their wives, children, and slaves, and then proceeded on a suicidal attack against the superior Persian troops.
I had lunch while I was there and was immediately befriended by 2 stray dogs. Of course I couldn’t resist feeding them a little, and wished I could do more for them. I hate it when they looked at me ‘like that’!
Ölüdeniz was a place I was really looking forward to visiting. I’d seen pictures of the Blue Lagoon there, and it looked like the most beautiful place in the world! Unfortunately, when I arrived, I was 50 years too late, as it is now an endless conveyor belt of sun loungers and packed with tourists. Shame!
However, the surrounding coastline was pretty much devoid of tourists, which suited me better, particularly the ride down to the beach adjacent to Gemiler Island.
Ölüdeniz is famous for paragliding, and if I did another one (I’ve already crossed a parachute jump off My List), then here would be a great place. The views of the lagoon from above must be just amazing.
With the whole place rammed, there was no chance of remote, secluded camping, so I wandered into a beach resort to ask if I could camp there, only to be told there was ‘no camping anywhere along this coast’. Oh well, I thought, but gave one last resort a try next door.
Bingo! The friendly manager of The Paradise Beach Club offered me a quiet place for a fiver (including breakfast), tucked under a fig tree just in front of the beach, so I jumped at it.
I’d arrived early, and so took a wander down the road into the small tourist beach town. There was almost an endless stream of paragliders landing on the beach, which was fun to watch.
The club is a great little place to spend a day on the lagoon side of the beach, with a great bar, restaurant and fun, friendly staff. Even better, before sunset all the tourists go back to their hotels leaving the beach empty and all mine!
I went for a run in the hills and afterwards enjoyed a quiet swim with the whole Blue Lagoon to myself.
Planning (for a change)
I’d had to book a cheap (Ryan Air) flight back to my home in England (Norwich) from Athens for the 25th September in order to attend my older brother Paul’s ‘Adventure Stag Weekend’, or else he’d kill me. That only left me a few days to get to Athens and drop my bike off at the local Triumph dealer (to fix the starting problem), so I thought I’d better take no chances and arrive earlier rather than later.
So I rode the 400km from Ölüdeniz to Çeşme in one day, missing out a lot of beautiful coastline that needed exploring. But I was quite happy with that, because now I have another reason to come back to Turkey in the future; I’m only a young whippersnapper after all!
On the way to Çeşme I did my usual routine and stopped for lunch at a fuel station restaurant while my bike cooled down, and this one had excellent lamb kebabs. Along the way, the coastline views had remained breathtaking.
Just as I was getting ready to go, a Turkish biker from Istanbul called Umit turned up on his KTM 1190.
Umit was a friendly chap, so I decided to stay for another tea and have a chat. And good for him, as he’d just packed it all in to ride his bike around the world as well, next stop Australia. We swapped info & and a few stories, and then I followed him on the toll motorway (toll road) to Izmir, where he turned off and I carried on to Çeşme.
I hadn’t used the motorway up until then as there was a ‘no motorcycles’ sign at the entrance. Apparently this was there to be ignored.
The toll booths weren’t manned, which meant (according to Umit) that I didn’t need to pay, and instead we just rode through the automated booths together. It was funny though when the last toll booth alarmed with a racket and flashing lights as I exited to Çeşme! I had visions of a police roadblock being formed ahead to stop me, but was somewhat relieved when nothing happened. Phew!
Çeşme is a maze of tiny medieval cobbled back streets through which most locals ride their mopeds at breakneck speed. I didn’t have a clue where I could or couldn’t ride, as some of the streets weren’t even wide enough for my Tiger!
After riding around in circles for a good while, I was totally lost, and so stopped to ask a couple of policemen if they knew where my hotel was. As it happened, they did, and the nice policemen started directing me down a tiny lane. However, even better, a local on a moped overheard us and told me to follow him; that’s how friendly the Turks are!
So off we sped through Çeşme’s crowded, tiny streets (me being very careful not to knee-cap anyone with my panniers) until we came to my hotel. I thanked the guy profusely, who just waved and shot off, for had it not been for him I’d probably still be there looking.
Çeşme is lovely; really lovely. It really is a place I would have no hesitation in returning to one day.
Full of yachts and swanky wine bars on the end of a scenic peninsula, there is certainly a lot of money around this city. I had a quick look around for a rich wife, but couldn’t find anyone under 60, so I joined the normal people in a sports bar watching football.
Sometimes my poor (or non-existent) planning makes things difficult, as you might expect. Entering Greece was one of those times, because I suddenly realised the day before arriving that I needed to get minimum 3rd party insurance for Europe, called a Green Card.
I called Umit and asked him if he knew where I could get one. There was nowhere in tiny, touristy Cesme, but Umit found a place for me to try in the large city of Izmir, one hour away.
I hate riding into the centre of busy cities, but it had to be done. The traffic was horrible. To save anyone else the hassle of trying, a foreigner cannot get Green Card Insurance in Izmir.
I tried 2 different places and each said they could not issue Green Cards for non-Turkish drivers. The second place also tried 10 other places for me, and the answer was the same. So, I had lunch by the seafront and then fought my way back through the heavy city traffic to lovely, sleepy Çeşme.
To cut a long story short, I eventually found Green Card Insurance online from an Italian company called Mototouring for a good price. The nice guy at my hotel printed and scanned some docs for me, and I got it all sorted with minutes to spare before the ferry left. Phew! I won’t leave things like that to the last minute again – honest! 😉