Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Turkey 6 - It's All Fun and Games Until...

We have two weeks left on our trip. How time flies by... The last couple of weeks we have enjoyed the company of our friends from Vancouver, Geoff and Josie. Geoff is a guide and we roomed with him while Pam was finishing her teaching degree at UBC. Elise has really taken to Geoff because he's funny and he entertains her crazy comments/ideas. I told her, "Geoff is full of baloney", and she's run with this comment, reminding him of it constantly. We've had some nice day trips with them where we all cram into one car and go sightseeing.

My climbing was going fairly well on this trip until two weeks ago. I was attempting (successfully) a project climb that I'd been trying for many days, and tore my left rotator cuff (shoulder). This was in injury to my good shoulder, not the one I'd been nursing for the last two years. Without going into full detail, suffice to say this put an abrupt stop to my climbing and I've been off it ever since. This was not the trip outcome I was looking for and I'm very disappointed, to say the least. It's feeling somewhat better after a 10-day break and I may try some light climbing again soon. Other than that little set-back, everyone is doing well and we are enjoying exploring the area and doing lots and lots of hiking to burn off my excess energy. The weather is still (!) warm and we are doing our best to revel in it before our return to the worst winter weather I've seen in BC in over a decade.

We did a day trip to Side with Geoff and Josie. It's a beautiful coastal town and we enjoyed windy weather on the beach, shell collecting, touring ruins and strolling the narrow streets. Elise was overjoyed - there were cats everywhere!

We returned to the Saklikent ski area to hike to the summit on a gorgeous day. The skies were crystal clear and it was cold in the alpine. We tried to go to an observatory at the very top, but guards turned us back. It's a government/military facility.

Pam hiking down the observatory access road.

We've snorkelled some more at Phaselis beach. There were ducks around one of the beach bungalow areas, which had some very odd red facial features. I saw a very large iridescent blue crab, which was a highlight for me. Elise did some more snorkelling with us, but got cold fast. The sea is cooling off and it's hard to stay in for long. She loves collecting shells, though, and this keeps her busy for some time. Hawaii should be lots of fun this year.

We hiked to ruins above the climbing area. It was a 45-minute uphill hike through a beautiful pine forest. We really enjoyed it and the walk was great exercise (especially with Elise on my back). The ruins were amazing, as always, and not often explored. We found many sarchophagi (sp?) scattered throughout the forest, explored caves and alcoves on a hilltop castle and found ancient lettering on a basillica's walls. Here, Elise shoulders the kid pack.

We did another hike to the shoulder of Mount Olympos. To access the trail, we had to hike through an active logging block and it was very interesting. The loggers are essentially Turkish families that set up camp in plastic "tents". I watched entire families stripping the bark from the pine trees - by hand! Pam's comment was, "labour might be cheaper than machinery". Could be true. We had a vicious dog rush us and I had to threaten it with Pam's ski pole to get it to back off. This left quite an impression on Elise (and us).

On the way up the mountain, it started to rain and got quite cold. We huddled under this huge juniper tree and lit a small fire, which was the highlight of the outing for Elise for some odd reason. She just seemed really excited. The sun eventually returned and we continued our hike until we tired.

View of Mount Olympos from the village below. We went nowhere near the summit. We just walked through the forest toward the alpine. I think we were on the "Lycian Way", an ancient route of travel through this part of Turkey.

Elise and I want to "Mini City", an odd tourist attraction in Antalya. It's comprised of dozens of miniature replicas of famous sites in Turkey. The highlight for Elise was playing in the park afterward, of course.

Most recently, we drove to a gorgeous mountain gorge with Geoff and Josie. It was a semi-alpine area that reminded me of the hills in northern Spain. We enjoyed relaxing by a narrow gorge and then drove up to a 2,000-year-old city, Selge. When we arrived, the villagers swarmed the car - I thought one lady was literally going to through herself under the front of the vehicle. It turns out, they make their entire living from tourism in this remote place and wanted us to buy their crafts. Women followed us on the hike with bundles of goods they tried to push on us. It was somewhat annoying, but also part of the cultural experience I guess. We did learn a fair amount about their way of life through Josie, who speaks German and translated stories from a villager who spoke German as well.

Can you imagine having this in your backyard?

Elise was obsessed with trying to reconstruct portions of the ruin. Here she is with Geoff fitting chunks of marble together.

Lunch by the river.

Josie wearing a scarf that Geoff bought from the villagers.

Family portrait at the ruins.

Elise petting goats at the beach.

We had a nice dinner out in Antalya with Geoff and Josie. The meal was good, but we are slowly becoming somewhat cynical about how we are treated as tourists. Everyone wants to sell us something, and they can be very aggressive. In restaurants, food is often brought to the table without us asking, and then we are charged for it afterward. We've found we have to be extremely careful communicating what we do or do not want in order to get a bill that matches our expectations. For example, if one person at the table orders a salad, suddenly a giant bowl of salad may appear and we'll all get charged for salad instead of the one person that ordered it. You could chalk this up to a language barrier, but after numerous variations on this kind of situation, we've decided it's not an innocent error. Time will tell... Here's Elise, fading to black around 9:00 pm.

We return on December 16th. We look forward to connecting with friends and family. I'll try to make another post before we come home. Until then, enjoy the winter.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Turkey 5 - The Second Half

We have passed the midway point in our trip and are now starting to think of home. The weather continues to be sunny and warm with the occasional cloudy day. We've had only one day of significant rain and no cold weather to speak of. This is great for sightseeing, but the climbing conditions remain difficult and it doesn't look they'll change anytime soon. Going to the beach remains feasible and we've enjoyed a variety of other activities.

The old part of Antalya (Kaleci) is very quaint and interesting. There's lots of prominent examples of the Ottoman architecture and many narrow, shop-lined streets. It has a more "European" flavour than the vast tracts of apartments blocks that dominate the outlying areas. We enjoyed an evening around the harbour and strolling the streets.

Cats are everywhere in Turkey and definitely outnumber dogs. We believe they tolerate the cats because they keep the rodent population at bay. I don't know if many are kept as pets, but the street-wise strays are in very good shape, for the most part. We see them loitering around the shoreline where many fisherman (Turkey's national pastime!) through them the odd small fish.

The shops in the streets were very quaint and interesting. Restaurant owners tried to lure us inside constantly.

We saw many, many rug stores and watched some craftsmen weaving them in the streets outside.

This is the coastline to the south of the city. The mountains are large and plentiful. In nice evening light, it's quite a dramatic vista.

We did an afternoon trip to an old port city, Phaselis. Here, Elise poses on the rim of the stadium and again underneath the arches that surrounded the structure. Our best guess was that the multiple "alcoves" were built to minimize building material in the stadium itself. These arches surrounded the entire structure and were located underneath the elevated seating.

We had a very adventurous day trying to find the local ski area, which I was fascinated to see. We drove up the wrong valley and ended up taking a semi-horrifying mountain dirt track over to the next valley. Talk about escalating commitment. We got 3/4 of the way there, could see the village, but weren't sure of the terrain ahead. It got a tad "rough", but we made it. Phew...

Here's Elise studying the map before we started onto the gravel/dirt roads. She is quite interested in maps and often wants to know where we are. Maybe she'll become a cartographer???

It was cold up there. Too bad that's not where the climbing is!!!!

Desert-like vegetation was all around, including various kinds of cacti and what I believe were very large juniper trees.

The ski area. The area is above tree line and completely barren. Apparently the season only lasts for 1-2 months per year. It is a very pretty area, but the town seemed completely deserted. There were Whistler-type ski condos with the doors off and wind howling through the hallways. Weird... The lodge (red in the picture below) was only half built. The outside looked finished, but the inside was a concrete shell that looked like it may have been abandoned.

Looking toward the sea from the village. Note the significance of the surrounding peaks.

Beautiful light on the local mosque with storm clouds in the distance.

Elise on the chairlift. I think she's looking forward to skiing this winter!

Back down in Antalya. This is Elise posing with a collection of dried plants she'd assembled at one of the climbing crags.

Here she is hiding in a large tree trunk down by the river, which runs adjacent to Trebenna, the cliff we've spent most of our time at.

Most recently, we visited Termesos, another incredible city ruin near Antalya. This one is in the mountains and rests in a saddle between large limestone peaks. We toured this area with Geoff and Josie, friends of ours from Vancouver that arrived last week.

Here we are, preparing in the parking lot.

There were some incredible tombs carved into the cliffs that lined the valley.

This is Geoff, rising from the dead...

Elise wanted in on the action of course. Here she is posing in a sarcophagus (and yes, she knows what they are used for).

After an hour or two of hiking, we stumbled upon their water collection system, which consisted of massive underground cisterns.

It was incredible to see the size and complexity of these "rooms'. But what was even more impressive was the theatre! We walked over a rise and looked down at the most incredible ancient ruin I've ever seen (I'm afraid my pictures don't do it justice). This very large outdoor theatre was perched in a saddle between two steep valleys and had a dramatic limestone peak rising to the south. The location was utterly spectacular and it was really something to imagine hoards of people lining the seats 2,000 years ago to watch various forms of entertainment.

It was a memorable day...

Back in Antalya - These are giant blocks of marble, a common building material in Turkey. They are mined from the local peaks and stored in yards we pass on our way to the climbing. We see 1-2 of these blocks resting on flatbed trucks that rumble up and down our street during the day. Nice stone!

Finally, we have a resident cat that visits us from time to time (we seem to always find cats on our trips). We've named her Jasmine and Elise loves to let her into our apartment. We have not fed her - we know what this could lead to - but we enjoy her company in the evenings.

It looks like winter is starting on the coast at home and Blackcomb is opening in a few days. We are bracing ourselves for a big change in December! Until next time...


PS - For more climbing pics and informatoin about the cliff conditions, visit my latest Mammut blog post at: http://www.mammutathleteteam.blogspot.com/.