31 Aug – 2 Sept 2015. Bodrum is near the end of a finger of land that juts out into the Aegean Sea. It could be argued that Bodrum is on the Mediterranean Sea since it is on the south side of the peninsula. Marmaris has been described variously as either on the Mediterranean or the Aegean. How can you possibly draw a line to indicate where one sea ends and the other begins? No matter. It’s all sunshine, clear skies, and blue water whatever we call it. We are steeped in a seaside summer holiday.
To get from Bodrum to Marmaris, the next stop on our road trip, we take a ferry across the water to a peninsula to the south. It’s an uneventful, but pleasant two-hour cruise on an ordinary car ferry, much the same as those seen anywhere from Patagonia to British Columbia. We arrive to nowhere. There are no buses to take walk-on passengers, nor stalls selling food or trinkets, nor a town, nor anything to entice people to linger. There is a small café and a bit further up the road a small town, but at the ferry dock the only thing to be seen is a row of fishing boats and a couple of fishermen, probably because everyone simply drives off the ferry and away to Datça or Marmaris.
The road to Marmaris is narrow, winding, mountainous. The scenery is spectacular: ragged peninsulas of land jutting out into the infinite royal-blue sea. The sea is forever present below us and stretches out to the distant horizon where it meets the sky with hardly a change of colour. This is not a road regularly travelled by tourists so there are none of those convenient pullouts where it is possible to sit and simply absorb the beauty of the landscape. So we travel on, arriving in the early afternoon.
Like Bodrum, Marmaris is another seaside vacation town, and one of Turkey’s premier resorts. Its population of 30,000 swells to ten times that in the summer. Much of it is a modern Mediterranean city, but with a little exploring we find the lovely old town,
and the Grand Bazaar, complete with speeding motorcycles. Although modernized it feels much less pretentious and more interesting than clinical, sterile western malls so calculated to induce spending.
The next day we take a trip to the Dalyan River. It begins with a two-hour boat ride over open water along the coast. It’s a big boat. There must be over one hundred people on board. They are from Russia, Lebanon, Denmark, Britain. All are on holiday, relaxed, happy, sun-soaking. Most are in their swimsuits surrendered to the heat.
We stop for a while to swim in warm soothing water,
and then we’re on our way again.
The sea is so blue, deep blue, endless blue sea, blue sky. Blue is the favourite colour of all people throughout the world, by a wide margin. Is it any wonder? Blue is the colour of peace, serenity, tranquility. It is the colour that reduces stress and increases confidence.
I go inside for a while to be out of the sun. There is relentless insistent loud techno dance-party music. Why? It’s not a party it’s a boat cruise. If the purpose was to dance I could understand, and even join in. But the purpose is to laze in the sun and sea breeze. I find it grating, unnerving. It shatters the serenity of all that blue that surrounds us outside. There is a small boy engrossed by an orange popsicle. The man at the bar sits smoking for want of customers. I go outside again and watch the water rushing by, a Lebanese woman with a pink hat and bee-stung lips, a pale overweight and soon-to-be-red-roasted Brit, kids at play, parents at play.
Lunch is served inside with everyone crowded in. The noise of the engine, the music, and the people is deafening. We must shout to be heard. It is energetic mayhem. We are sitting with a young Lebanese couple on their honeymoon. They speak English but conversation is impossible. The engines vibrate from my feet up through the whole of my body. It’s like sitting in one of those electric massage chairs you find at airports, only not nearly as comfortable since I’m sitting on a hard bench at a table.
We arrive at Turtle Beach where it is announced that we will not see any turtles because they only come ashore at night. We are not disappointed. We had read that this would be the case, despite advertising that features a large turtle.
We swim again, shower off the salt, and take a walk along the beach. Then we sit and eat one of the mouth-watering fresh-cooked crabs that we had ordered on the boat.
From Turtle Beach we board smaller boats to travel for more than an hour up the Dalyan River to a mud pool. On the small boat there is music so loud and so disturbing that eventually I ask for it to be turned off. We are in a beautiful serene natural environment and there is blaring raging relentless music so loud it is distorted. I don’t understand. With such noise how are we to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us? How are we supposed to hear the landscape? The guide agrees that for one hour we can go without music. It is turned off. A sigh escapes me and my shoulders drop about two inches.
We all plunge into the mud pool. Why not? It’s fun, if a little surreal. Why are we doing this again? Oh right. It’s supposed to be medicinal. Well laughter is medicinal and there is plenty of that.
There’s a man with a hose to wash us off as we emerge. The stream of warm water is so strong it almost knocks me over. There is mud everywhere, but the next station is a sulphur hot pool so the mud must be eliminated. The jet of water makes me scream with surprise and excitement. The sulphur pool relaxes me. I sink into it with quiet joy.
I feel well watered! First a swim followed by a shower on the boat to wash off the salt, then another swim at Turtle Beach and another shower, then the mud pool, the hose, and another shower, then the hot pool and being hosed off again afterwards. It is turning out to be a very watery day.
On the small boat back to Turtle Beach once again the torture-music is blaring. I ask again for it to be turned off. When it is, at least half the people on board indicate, either with body language or verbally, that they too had wanted the music stopped.
On the big boat heading back to Marmaris in choppy seas people are sitting all along the bow of the ship squealing each time the spray of a big wave hits them.
Later I sit on the side bench with my back to them and the wind, leaning over the railing, watching the white foam and spray made by the movement of the boat, the wind thundering in my ears, the dangling camera lens cap clattering against the railing. Now and then I see rainbows in the spray.
We arrive back in Marmaris for sunset, weary and sun-soaked, have ice cream on the seaside walkway, and then head home.
The next day we rest. We venture out briefly for a not very exciting lunch. For dinner, using the plastic sandwich tubs we always carry with us, we make salads at home – tomato, two cheeses, stuffed olives, chicken, cucumber, olive oil, lemon juice. It is much nicer than lunch. But first we sit together on the bed, spread out a pristine white hand towel, open the foil wrapping, and as an appetizer, eat the second crab we’d bought on the boat. Pulling it apart with our fingers, slurping it out of all its nooks and crannies. Crabs don’t like to give up their succulent goodness easily. You have to work for it, fingers dripping juice, breaking off small bits of shell, sucking out a tiny bit more flesh. Perseverance is needed. Oh it is good. And at the end, a testament to our neatness and our determination not to miss a single minute morsel, there is not a drop of it on the towel.
Pirate boats are a thing in the blue Mediterranean and Aegean resort towns of Turkey. We see one in Bodrum. We see many in Marmaris. They are party boats. We would never venture out on one. Perhaps we have become a pair of old curmudgeons. But they sure are fun to look at.
From Marmaris we drive Fethiye, another drive over a winding mountain road. This time there is a place to stop and look.
Next post: The beauty of Çalis Plaji near Fethiye, Lycian cliff tombs, another blue-water boat trip, and Antalya.
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2016.