Gulf of Gokova (Mediterranean Sea)
By Heidi and Peter Hutton
Tues 2nd July: Atakoy Village is where our hosts, Vedat and Julie live and where they operate their business from. Alternatif Outdoor specialises in sea kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and canyoning. They offer fully guided tours but they are also more than happy to try and accommodate the individual. We wanted to “freedom hire” and go on our own. Vedat spent time with us in the evening helping us to plan our trip while plying us with Chai tea and treats. He patiently answered my many, and often stupid questions. We wanted a paddle that would give us an insight into the local lives, but that would also offer some of life’s little pleasures, like nice cafes and this is what we got! The only thing we didn’t get was our own lightweight paddles and Mirage 730 kayak. In our experience hire boats tend to be heavy, mainly watertight and designed for the recreational paddler. The benefits are they are hardy, can be dragged over beach pebbles and have quite a bit of storage. They are usually craft designed for a slower pace so that you can look around and enjoy the surrounds – just what we were after.
Wed 3rd July: Our paddle today started sublimely. We put in on the Azmak stream and the first 3km were meandering down to the river mouth. The stream is fed from underground mineral springs that bubble up from below, creating the clearest water we have ever seen, and the coldest we have felt for a long time. Vegetation underwater was prolific and we enjoyed paddling over this underwater oasis.
Once out into the Mediterranean at Akyaka Beach we kept the bank on our left and made our way towards Gelibolu Adasi, a small island. Tour boats congregated here for their guests to swim and snorkel in the clear waters. This same island was where we set up camp later in the day under some shady olive trees. In the meantime we paddled into a small village called Camli. A lovely restaurant lined the creek we paddled up and after doing the “Superman” change into more suitable restaurant attire, we were soon drinking Turkish coffee overlooking the water. I think that I will have to give up on drinking Turkish coffee and stick to Chai tea. The coffee is thick and syrupy and way too strong for me. Pete ends up drinking mine and then gets head spins for the next couple of hours from all the caffeine! As we sat we were mesmerised by the many turtles and fish swimming by. We were also visited upon by the regular mangy cats hopeful for a feed. After coffee, another “Superman” change back into paddling clothes and then we returned to the island we passed earlier, albeit into quite a strong headwind. The island shoreline was rocky so it was not the easiest place to get to but definitely worth it once there. There were drums of water under one of the trees. We were not sure if they had been left by past visitors and it was very tempting to use the water for a shower. But we refrained and were very glad we did. They had not been dumped but were there for a small goat herd that lived on the island. These goats made themselves known just as we were cooking our dinner. At first we did not know if they were wild or tame.
The big ‘ol patriarch of the family was neither wild, nor tame, just hungry and was determined to have some of our dinner. We kept them, and the numerous rabbits at bay with some determined yelling and waving of our arms. Luckily, the owners of the herd soon arrived from the mainland in their little dinghy with grain and more water. We were soon settled in our little tent loving the serenity…until the early hours of the morning. At that time we heard the voices of 2 men out in the water, then flashlights probing the shoreline. Were they headed for us? Were we known to be alone, camping on the island? Were we in danger? The mind plays all sorts of tricks when in a strange country for the first time. The men kept approaching and were soon coming out of the water straight for us. I think they got just as much of a fright when they saw us as we did when we first heard them. They were merely spear fishing and after a “Salem” they went on their way, leaving behind two very relieved Aussies.
Thurs 4th July: Time seems irrelevant when paddling and we tend to be guided throughout the day by the sun and by our “tummies”.
After our standard breakfast of muesli and powdered milk we paddled around a little island boasting its own “Golden Beach”. By Australian standards a little disappointing, more so when we learned you have to pay if you want to land on it as it is privately owned. So, we admired the clear waters from afar and continued on to the next village. After a brief stop we paddled on, finding a lovely beach for lunch. There were quite a few people on the shore and we soon learned, by way of hand gestures and “charades” that it was a privately owned beach and we had inadvertently crashed a family gathering. The families didn’t mind us finishing our lunch before setting off once again. By this time the breeze had picked up and kicked up a chop that splashed up on us, keeping us cool and salty. We soon found a deserted pebbly beach to camp on. Being as compact as we are enables us to camp where others may not be able to. On our narrow stretch of beach, we enjoyed million-dollar views overlooking the Mediterranean. We kept our views looking forward though as behind us was the detritus of humanity. Rubbish of all description lined the edges of the beach. We explored through this and the most common things were plastic water bottles, single thongs (Pete managed to find 4 x right foot thongs. Where are all the lefts?), plastic bags and ropes. Being in a sea kayak offers so many advantages and one of the best is finding these amazing private places to camp, accessible only by water. With no people around we could “act like natives”. Very quickly clothes became an optional extra! BEWARE though that surf shoes are probably a good idea in the water as sea urchins abound. They do hurt when you tread on one!
Fri 5th July: A heat wave had hit Turkey so we could not be in a better place right now. Leaving early, we found a lagoon to explore. At the end of this, surprisingly, we came across a little café of sorts. Ali, the owner and fisherman was quite the entrepreneurial fellow. Being so remote though the coffee was the “3-in-1” instant sachet you buy from the supermarket (coffee, sugar and powdered milk all in one) with hot water. We didn’t mind as we got to chat to Ali as he and his mates removed their morning catch from the nets. This took some skill as the fish had spikes along their back and were commonly called “Shotgun”. They only run for a short time so everyone was spending a lot of time on the water. Ali’s English was terrific and we enjoyed chatting. He also filled up our water bladders for us (something that everyone we met was happy to do). As we chatted another fishing boat returned to the jetty and hauled in their nets by hand before beginning the laborious process of disentangling their catch. All hands were on deck, from the very young to the very old. It was a lovely scene to watch families and friends all working together, regardless of age. Time did not seem to matter and conversations were enjoyed, cups of tea were poured and the steady stream of fish filled buckets. More exploring of some of the arms of the inlet followed before settling on a small beach as our campsite. It was so small we had to dig out a spot flat enough to fit our tent. Once set up though it was perfect. We are grateful that the Mediterranean summer is a season of stableness and no high and low tides. We may have been under water otherwise!
Sat 6th July: What tourists we were today. An early start so that we could cross the 15km channel before the wind came up. We arrived in the beach resort town of Oren in time for a second breakfast. And what a breakfast it was…coffee/tea, cold meats, cheeses, tomato, olives, cheese filled pastries, bread and homemade jam and fried eggs of which we consumed the majority.
It was a hot day so we took advantage of all that the town had to offer. Where we had breakfast also had beach umbrellas and sun beds, the perfect place to hole up with a good book. There was a little pontoon and the water was crystal clear. Oren is a resort village so we explored the town, bought ice cream and generally enjoyed the time off the water. The wind was picking up throughout the day but was to abate later in the afternoon. So, we waited before heading off. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was wrong. The wind did not abate and it was “hairy” enough paddling that the “Go Pro” did not come out to capture the tumultuous, confused and lumpy seas as we passed the cliff-lined shores and rocky outcrops. It also made us realise that we had not thought enough about the afternoons paddle before heading off. Spoilt with calm conditions to that point we did not have the paddles secured to the deck by their paddle cords. Not an easy thing to secure once in the thick of it all! With nowhere to land we had to keep going. The sun began to lower in the sky and still we could find no place to land. We finally came across one spot but due to road accessibility there were lots of others already there. We opted to keep going and that is when the weather really did turn it on. A system came through, the wind changed 180 degrees in a matter of seconds and we were soon battling into a head wind with peaky waves. My glasses were soon encrusted with salt, Pete’s hat blew off (we retrieved it) and just as we began to despair, another small beach appeared. There was already a group there but we had no choice but to “crash their party”. We were welcomed enthusiastically by these Ukrainian sailors, travelling by their inflatable catamarans. They shoved cups of tea in our hands, helped us with our boat and soon after, they had replaced the tea with homemade ginger beer, very alcoholic ginger beer. We were invited to join them for dinner, a delicious stew and more ginger beer before the musical instruments came out and the singing started. They were awesome.
The singing was short lived though as their other boat with 3 of their group arrived back from the town, being towed by a marine rescue boat. The seas and winds were still fierce and the disabled boat, once released from the rescue boat was quickly getting washed onto the rocks. All hands were required to save it from further damage. The saga of the boat then came out. They were returning from town when the wind changed. The sudden squalls flipped their boat. The 3 crew were unprepared so phones and wallets also got flipped out. 2 of the 3 crew did not have on PFD’s so testing times for all. The motor on the catamaran was flooded so the evening was cut short as the crew attended to the boat and themselves. It was a restless night, with the waves lapping close to our tents. Finally, in the early hours of the morning the wind abated and we could all rest easily.
Sun 7th July: It is hard to believe that we were looking at the same waters. Last night the waters weighed and crashed, today the water slumbers. The dramas of the night before had not dampened the mood of our young sailors who frolicked in the water and chatted and laughed. We left your new friends begrudgingly and continued along the rocky coast towards Akyaka. We eventually crossed the inlet (at its narrowest point) and made our way to our original café for breakfast. The shipping channel was pleasantly smooth to cross, but with a bit of rubbish and debris clustered in floating Islands. A nice paddle to our last campsite and an afternoon reading, swimming and relaxing followed.
Mon 8th July: A beaut sleep in as the sun slumbered behind the mountains. Then a short paddle back to Akyaka beach. We then paddled against the current up the mineral spring fed river. We were feeling salty and sticky after a night of moist salt spray filled air. The paddle up the stream was again lovely but as it was a bit later in the morning, tour boats were plying their trade up and down the stream. They did not particularly like sharing the channel with us as the stream was fast flowing and narrow in parts. Luckliy we knew to stay right and were fortunate not to come across any boats coming in both directions at the same time. We were soon sitting and cuddling cold beers in Orfoz Restaurant where Vedat was to meet us. We felt very satisfied and had already begun to fall in love with Turkey.
SUMMARY: A fabulous experience and one we would recommend without hesitation. Vedat and Julie provided us with just the experience we were looking for. Have a look at their website: http://www.alternatifoutdoor.comThey offer everything from fully guided tours to freedom tours as well as transport and route options.