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canyoneering with the storm coming in Saklikent Gorge

Day 26 and 27 - Yaniklar, Fethiye to Saklikent Gorge to Kalkan


We fly out of Istanbul early in the morning and land in Dalaman Airport an hour later. We're in the Turquoise Coast of Turkey. After renting a car, I search madly for the Turquoise bit of the title but only get a very small glimpse of the sea, being swallowed by pine forests. We're driving along the D400 highway to Fethiye. 



We're staying out of the centre of town at a place called Yonca Lodge. There's grape vines, a pomegranate, olive, and lime orchard, a vege patch with a scarecrow, many roosters and hens pecking and clucking around, and wooden cabanas swathed with cotton stationed by the sea. I forget about big city life in an instant. We bags a cabana and stay there till sunset, reading, eating lunch, swimming and taking photos.


Next door is a huge resort. I can see their jetty. They're supplying their guests with all sorts of stuff; kayaks, wind sails, little boats, even paragliding. I'm perfectly happy in our 14-room beachside place. For dinner, we leave our camera behind and eat a three-course set meal of mezze, sea bream, and milk and rice pudding under the trees, and wash it all down with a glass of white wine. Perfectly relaxing.


The next morning, I look out the window and see the mother and grandmother of the family who own this lodge picking olives from the trees below. A cloth is laid on the ground and one of them is up on the ladder with what looks like an extra large hand comb, running it along the branches. The olives plop down on the ground. Nearby, the grandmother sits on a chair and supervises. I forget I'm in Turkey. For a second, I think I'm in Italy, maybe somewhere in Tuscany.


We head out to the Saklikent Gorge around lunchtime. We rattle along on a gravel road through tiny villages. The roadsides are littered with streams of pomegranate orchards and crumbling stone outbuildings. There's tractors trundling along the road and a dead dog. An old woman gawks at us as we roll past, long sticks of hay bundled onto her back with a cloth.

The Saklikent Gorge is pretty hard out. We have to buy plastic shoes, swaddle the camera in a plastic bag, and attach the car keys to my trusty lanyard. I shove money into a ziploc bag down my bikini top. I've been reading up on the Gorge and the main tips are prepare to get wet and buy the plastic shoes. We're not the sporty, adventurous type so going for an afternoon of "canyoneering" makes us laugh and laugh quite a bit. I put on earrings, mascara and lipstick for occasion because that's just how I roll.


The water churning through the rapids is the colour of Snifters. Otherwise, the mud is grey and gloppy and when mixed with water, it creates a delightfully off-putting sludge. Add sandflies buzzing on the surface. I think of the other canyon I've been in; the Siq in Petra. The Nabateans found the gorge, plowed through it, made roads, and diverted the water. I am super, super impressed by those guys. I cannot imagine who wades into a place like the Saklikent Gorge and thinks, I might live here. I clambered round in there for about an hour and I thought I've got to get outta here.


It isn't high season so the Gorge is pretty quiet. Pretty soon, everyone is walking past us to get out. We're the only ones going in. I hear clacks of thunder in the distance. One woman tells us, her eyes popping wide, "You guys be careful, huh. The water's rising." We listen and decide that we've had enough canyoneering for the day. The rapids that denote the only way in and out of the gorge has been taped off. They aren't letting anyone else in. The rain is coming.


We drive away from the Gorge after making a pact not to do it again. It was fun while it lasted but canyoneerers we are definitely not. Now, lunch in Kalkan, that's something to get behind! Even with the stormclouds in the rearview mirror. I don't know why I'm so excited about the prospect of rain until I realise that I actually haven't seen rain in 27 days. For someone who lives in Wellington with its notoriously bad weather, this is a feat. I only had to travel across the world to experience it.


Kalkan presents a pretty impressive view. The bay is picture perfect, even in stormy weather. Kalkan town itself is full of Britons working to acquire their tan and real estate offices displaying luxury villas with infinity pools for sale in British pounds (princely sum of 269,000 pounds). One shop's selling point is "Bacon. Pork. All Your Imported Favourites."

For once, we follow a Lonely Planet Turkey recommendation. It's Hunkar Ockabacsi and as we eat our doner with rice, we hear people with British accents saying stuff like "How do you like the camera?" "Great megapixels" "What's a hamam?" and "What are you eating?" We've read the lines in the sand, people. Kalkan is full of expats and only going to get fuller. Perhaps it contributes to the weird feeling that you're not in Turkey; instead, you're in a generic resort town with a disproportionate number of kebab places and perfectly placed bougainvillea.


We start off at a table outside for lunch. Halfway through my meal, I'm being peppered with raindrops. The rain turns into a downpour. It's rattling the awnings, clearing out al fresco diners, and fat drops of water are bouncing off the sidewalk. The waiter points to me. "You. Upstairs."

I grab my plate and five seconds later, the awning a couple of inches from me, breaks and dumps bucketfuls of water onto the ground. I squeal and beat it upstairs. Half the waiters clap and laugh at the spectacle. The other, more responsible half grab our plates and transfer everything to your inside table.We wait out the downpour over Turkish tea and kanafe. Jordan isn't our favourite place in the world, but we still haven't food a kanafe to beat the one in Amman. This one isn't even close.


The drive back to Yonca Lodge is full of drama. The air is charged. Veins of bright white lightning streak through the big blue sky. Sunset comes but it can't break through the storm clouds. The best it can do is colour the world a sooty amber. There's a horrible accident along the highway. A red car has flown into a deep ditch. Rob reports that the car has rolled and he spots an arm poking out the door. People have pulled over on both sides of the road to have a good gawk. It's nighttime when we get back. I'm relieved to be indoors.


beach slumming in oludeniz

to the east in kadikoy and back to the west for my turkish towels