Kas was another small, walkable town, our favorite kind. We realized on this trip that if we can't walk wherever we need to go, we don't want to be there. Right from the start we loved Kas. It almost looked like a restored UNESCO city with its cobblestone streets built up from the harbor with it's very well kept French colonial style buildings. The shopping was fabulous, they had working internet cafes, amazing restaurants (some of the best food to date), cheaper than anywhere else so far and lots to do but at the same time maintaining a very quiet, chill charm.
As we walked around day one, we were offered something from a street vendor that we'd never seen before "almonds on ice". Basically almonds are laid on top of a block of ice so they get soft and soggy and the skin peels off leaving this perfect for a texture lover texture white almond inside...and they're sold with cost being determined by weight. Charmed by the novelty, we bought a little baggie and walked away peeling and chomping on our new favorite snack "almonds on ice" when we started to realize that this is probably one of the best tourist scams in history haha. Think about it. You take something totally consumable in normal form but you sponge as much water (i.e. weight!) in as possible and then you sell them on a cost for weight basis knowing you've just doubled each one's weight and therefore price, and then you make up a story about how amazing they are and sell to stupid tourists like us. It's brilliant really! To date, Kas was the only place we saw these for sale. I tried to google "almonds on ice" to see if it was really a thing but only came up with a few blog posts or something about people eating almonds on ice in Turkey so still not sure if it is a real thing or if it's a wonderfully intelligent scam. Either way, we'll be making "almonds on ice" when we get back to Canada.
We decided to take a kayak trip out to see the "sunken city", basically ruins from an ancient civilization that was toppled into the water by earthquakes many years ago. This tour is also offered by boat but because there is no swimming/snorkeling at the site, apparently kayaking was better because you could pretty well glide right over top. The drive from Kas through the mountains to the port was so lovely, almost a highlight of the day. Don't get me wrong, you can't really go too wrong with being in a kayak and the actual paddling was great as was the crystal clear water and sunshine, but my gosh there wasn't much of paddling and as per so many of the things we pay decent money for, it was pretty well a massive tourist trap. Most of the 8 to 3 tour was a sit around! We paddled from the port across the bay for about 30 minutes and then stopped for an hour for swimming. And then we paddled around/over the "sunken city" for about 45 minutes and let me tell you, what a joke. In our heads we visualised this, like, underwater Atlantis with castles and roads and grocery stores or whatever (Ok I admit, perhaps we are partly to blame for our own disappointment!). What we saw was a few piles of rocks on shore (i.e. "ruins") and the guide kept pointing things out like "do you see this/look at that/see, it's right there beside that blah blah blah" and even still, I had no idea what I was looking at...it was that unremarkable. Regardless, we kept wondering when he was going to start pointing to the underwater railway system of the sunken city below. It never came. So we just started peeking over the side of our kayak to see what we could see ourselves and it wasn't much. When we did see something, it was unclear whether it was "sunken city" or just a random ocean rock...riveting. At one point we thought we must be missing something so in desperation we just dunked the GoPro underwater and started snapping away hoping maybe the GoPro could see something we didn't. Turns out the GoPro saw much the same as we did...nothing.
After this, we paddled a short distance like 20 minutes over to Simena to "hike" up to the Simena castle. The best part of this was when Bridger, I swear to goodness the clumsiest person in the world who is constantly tripping everywhere, tripped up the stairs and flattened hard in the most epic fall of the trip to date. We got to the castle in about 7 minutes and took a picture and went back down because they tried to charge $5 admission. No thanks, we can see it from the outside.
Then we sat and had lunch for 1.5 hours and then paddled 30 min back to the port where we were led through town and plopped in, not even joking, someone's backyard where we were served Turkish tea while they washed the kayaks. Sat here for about half hour and headed back to Kas. The best part of the day were the two Swedish girls who were on our tour with us and amazing and hilarious people so all the sit around time was filled with chatting and laughing. And my gosh, they thought Bridger was so funny and my gosh when Bridger is dryly joking and people "get him", he's right in his element and totally on fire. It's funny because we speak with so many people along the way who speak English fabulously but still as a second language, both locals and tourists, so obviously subtleties in language go unnoticed and with it, Bridger's sense of humor, much to his disappointment. Haha these girls were so "on" and Bridger was so happy that he actually complimented them on their English because they understood all his jokes. Haha I didn't realize how much he had been craving a non-ELL audience! We also went out for dinner that night with the girls and somehow Bridger ended up in a non-verbal from afar friendly hot pepper eating competition with a staff guy. I think it started because he asked a staff if the pepper was hot, staff said yes, Bridger tried the tip and scoffed that it was fine and then ate the rest. We were outside on the patio and a young staff guy was in the restaurant (different than the one Bridger had the pepper convo with), caught Bridger's eye and aggressively chomped down a pepper while maintaining that man-challenge eye contact. So Bridger man-challenge eye contact him back and raised him one pepper by chomping the full thing. And on it went. Other staff came out and kept telling Bridger how many the inside staff guy had eaten, stoking the fire, until Bridger tapped out. By the end this guy had eaten 10 and was continually and calmly alternating eating pepper, bread, pepper, bread. We also tried the Turkish desert kunefe for the first time. At first we ordered it and much to my disappointment (I'd been trying to find it on a menu forever), they said they didn't have any to which I fake cried. Guy came back in 5 minutes and told us that actually don't worry, he'll get it. And sure enough half an hour later, a motorbike drove up and delivered kunefe from who knows where! Best desert in the world. It's like mini wheats doused in sugar syrup mixed with perfect melted mozza cheese. It's the stuff dreams are made of. It was a hilarious night full of good company and unexpected highlights...only regret to this day that we never ended up getting the Swedish girls' contact information :(
After so many botched scuba dives on this trip, once again, I was still not sold on diving again but also not quite ready to give it up completely. The scales tipped towards the latter when I came across a really wonderful, professional company, BT Diving. Having been warned that diving in Turkey is nothing compared to Asia, we decided to do it anyway if nothing else but to get some positive dives under my belt again and start re-building confidence. When we showed up (I'm nervous as hell) on the boat in the am we were immediately welcomed and fitted with equipment and assisted to set it up by a super competent staff member. Not only that, as we set it up, he heard some sort of leaking and didn't like it and immediately dealt with it...so as you can imagine, I'm over the moon about this top notch company already. Over the course of the two dives, the divemaster was incredible. He was very slow paced, never frenzied, always checking back and checking our air, pointing everything out, providing a solid level of support under water, everything that our last divemasters sucked at. Though once again, important to note, he wasn't just a divemaster, he was an instructor. Again, the calibre between the two is not even comparable.
Our first dive was pretty unremarkable...as the lady predicted. Ok visibility but not much to look at, no coral, limited fish and alot of solid rock. We did see one huge grouper which was somewhat exciting. And Bridger did a wonderful job of being an attentive buddy to me underwater as requested. But let's be honest, the big thing we actually wanted to see here was a sunken World War II plane, albeit slightly disappointed learning that it came to be there by deliberate sinking to be a "playground" for divers. We dove this one on the second dive. Before we even got to the plane we moved across a flat, sandy, sea grassy bottom where there were sea turtles everywhere, like 8 of them! It was the first time that I had ever seen sea turtles on a dive so I was beyond excited and it was the highlight for me. We continued forward and slowly the dark form of an intact plane started to emerge from the blackness until we got close enough to see the entire thing clearly. It really was amazing to see the ocean literally claiming this plane, corroding it and creatures/plants growing all over it. The plane was the definite highlight for Bridger and the purposeful sinking was immediately forgiven after experiencing just how unique and eerie of a dive it was. As we crossed from one side of the plane to the other, you could see that the door was missing so you could actually peek inside. I just about shit myself when the divemaster asked us if we wanted to actually GO inside...are you freaking kidding me, confined spaces?!?! Isn't that like, for advanced divers or something?! It wasn't but again the divemaster was incredibly good, literally taking myself and another girls hand, adjusting our BCD and leading us in and around separately and safely. Not gonna lie, it was SO cool in there and we even got to peek in the cockpit, but I was more than eager to get out! Bridger went in totally alone while the dm waited out with the girls and of course I freaked out because if something were to happen to him, nobody could even SEE him but like a champ he came out and I breathed a big sigh of relief. Though I never would have predicted it from his initial trial dive in Panama with all his surface thrashing and boogering, Bridger is actually quite a good and confident diver these days. Anyways, now remember how I commended him on his attentive dive buddyness, well, this all changes as soon as he gets a freaking GoPro in his hand like he did on this dive. Seriously, he's gone! He just goes and does his own thing chasing after everything with that stupid stick and camera and occasionally remembers to find me! But seeing the amazing pictures he was able to take of that dive, all was forgiven...later.
Let me go off about Turkey for a moment. Turkey is a country of great everything and extremely great value for your dollar. Transportation is fabulous, so cheap, frequent and going everywhere. Accommodation is out of this world-all include a free breakfast which saves a ton of money, wifi is solid and usually consistent even in budget places and everything is clean, comfortable and in relatively good working order (a contrast to the rock bottom, never been maintained EVER that you can get in Asia). And computers are a decent standard and they work! We were so excited because we actually found computers that could open the blog so we could work on it. Enter one small glitch though, Turkish uses most of the same characters as English but with a few additions SO that means their keyboard is a tiny bit different. Just enough to screw you up and make every website you search invalid, every password you enter incorrect and writing anything with substantial text infuriating! Needless to say, even when the blog worked, it didn't freaking work like home. Oh and also one more thing about awesome Turkey, Turkish local food is soooo delicious. We ate so much that we felt sick (usually you're so stuffed by the time you finish the bread/mezes and then MORE food comes!) but I still dream of it because it's so good and also great value. On one particular "I ate so much I feel sick" evening we were dying to go home asap. The waiter came by and I thought he said "cheque?" so I enthusiastically nodded and said "ya!". Then Bridger said "you know you just ordered tea right??!". I guess the waiter said "cay" and not "cheque" so sure enough we had to wait around for longer now to get/finish our tea. But it was free tea, perfect! Oh and I forgot, the Turkish climate is also perfect. It's beautiful and sunny and warm but not really humid. Along with that, seriously, no bugs! You never have to worry about moving something and finding a giant spider underneath. Well maybe you do in some places but none that we've been to so far. Aaaaand outside Istanbul and other package tourism, Turks and tourists kind of have that same nice co-existing rather than ATM relationship which makes the vibe overall really pleasant for the most part.
Gosh there was so much to do in/around Kas that we just kept staying for longer and longer. Another day we took the bus (called dolmus in Turkey) just outside of Kas to a beach club where we played a solid, sweaty game of tennis, the first since leaving Canada. At one point we had an audience of four local kids siting on the bench watching us.
Immediately after tennis we walked 20 feet and jumped in the Mediterranean to cool off. Bridger was in his glory. Another day we took a dolmus 20 minutes away to Kaputas beach, by far our favorite beach in Turkey. It still had that pebbly beach but had the most magnificent clear turquoise water and it was still very down to earth and modest and uncrowded. It was pretty well the best of Oludeniz without the crowds and resort crowd. The only "infrastrucutre" at Kaputas was some guys renting sun loungers and some lady and her husband selling Turkish pancakes, cooked who knows when, all kept very unfresh in a cooler. I was an old cold pancake sucker.
It is also really interesting because though Turkey is a Muslim country, it really doesn't feel so much that way as you travel through it. When we started this trip we definitely classified Turkey as part of the Middle East though now that we are here, it feels much more what I would imagine eastern Europe to be like. Totally different feel. Turks seem to have a much more liberal attitude towards their faith, almost akin to how Christians are in the West. Where in the traditionally Arab countries like UAE and Jordan you could literally see people flocking to mosques at the call to prayer or praying anywhere they could where they were, where outside of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, I didn't witness this so much in Turkey (not to say it didn't happen, just wasn't as overt). Along with a seemingly more liberal interpretation of being Muslim, there also seemed to be a much more liberal dress code (Turkish women did not wear a hijab but just a head scarf) for both locals and tourists (beachwear was the norm on the beach and shorts/tanks in the streets) as well as much more liberal attitudes towards socially acceptable behavior. Where in Dubai and Jordan culture and religion seem inextricably tied, this didn't seem to be as much so in Turkey. It was actually quite nice, especially because Turkey is a such a holiday/beach destination!
We (I) also spent some time shopping as Kas had some really cute shops. Bought a beautiful silver ring from a silver shop for far too much money because of course it was sold by weight as silver would be. Though silver also wouldn't turn my finger green like this fine piece of rip-off (yet still beautiful) jewelry did! In the evenings we sometimes watched episodes of Orange is the New Black and sometimes went out. One evening we went to the local amphitheater where Bridger once again, tolerated sitting around for just one more sunset. One night I gave in to the super overpriced drinks (seriously beer is 10 Lira, wine is 14 and rum and coke was 20 freaking 5...I settled on wine and I eagerly await the day that I'll be able to afford to drink rum and cokes again when I get home) and we sat at a pub all night and wrote updates. I once wrote in my journal "Bridger has a really hard time occupying himself without drinking...I try to be patient...but I just wish he could sit and read or write more...". Turns out I got half my wish because he is getting into writing now, finally 5 months in, just mostly, while drinking. At night we also pigged out on delicious Turkish food and I swear one night it tried really hard to give me food poisoning because I felt nauseous all night and had two really shitty shits and then...nothing came of it. I dare say my guts are getting far better at self-correcting themselves?!
Kas, unbeknown to us, is actually really close to Greece so we took a day trip on a ferry to the island of Meis in Greece. Of course because you're crossing borders, passports are involved and because our hotel guy was organizing it he literally had our passports all day and then the am of, he drove us to the ferry terminal and gave our passports back until we once again surrendered them to the boat people for the entire day. In any other country there is NO way I would have trusted to hand off my passport, unseen by me for days on end, but somehow in Turkey is just seemed ok. So that day we were stamped out of Turkey, into Greece, out of Greece, in to Turkey all in a span of like 10 hours.
Meis is a tiny little island with a teeny tiny little town at the end of the harbour. Even though it is so close, it still has a totally different feel from Turkey. Where Turkish houses in Kas were pretty well white with that classic orange clay-like roof, buildings and boats in Greece were so colorful. There were blues, greens, yellows, oranges everywhere.
We grabbed a quick drink right on the boardwalk and while we sipped our drinks, sea turtles popped their heads up right beside us. So lovely.
There is not much to do on Meis besides take a visit to the Blue Cave so we boarded the boat of an absolute Greek nutjob man, an equally nutty Greek woman and a really lovely Turkish man and his son. Sidenote, Turkish people actually travel within their own country and it's actually so nice when people are able to do that! We motored out of the harbour and I thought all hell was going to break loose when we passed a sailboat that was flying a Turkish flag. You would have thought that the sailboat people pissed in the eye of the Greeks the way they were screaming at them "You are in Greece not Turkey! Take that flag down! This is Greek waters! You cannot have that flag here! You are in Greece!!!". Man oh man there must still be a little bit of bad blood between Greece and Turkey because it was very visceral. We bumped through rough waters in a little boat until Captain Kostas ordered us to lay down. Wtf, lay down?!?! But when a gruff Greek captain barks at you to lay down on the floor of the boat, you just do. Lucky we did because the entrance to the cave was literally a 3-4 feet high hole which we cruised under, the rock roof feet above our faces. The hole opened up into a huge cavern which was dark inside but the way the light filtered through the entrance and reflected in the water made the entire cave light up a glowing blue. It was pretty shocking and amazing! Bridger and the Turks jumped in for a swim while I snapped away some pictures. I was a little miffed because I would have liked to sit and enjoy the experience quietly for a minute but Kostas had to keep moving so we had maybe 5 minutes inside, a piss off considering the price (Greece was using the Euro so everything was much more expensive than Turkey).
After he dropped us off, i.e. stranded us, at a beach club where you had to pay another several Euros to rent beach chairs/buy drinks. Once we escaped from that tourist trap we climbed up the top of the Meis Castle which, though pretty beat up itself, gave incredible views of the incredible water/town below. And it was free!
Once again, my travels continue to give my SLP brain all sorts of insights. I realized that there have been several times this trip where I have tried to compliment or give praise to someone who doesn't speak so much English so the purpose is entirely lost and they are not benefiting from the positive feedback because they do not understand it at all. And then I thought, hmmmm this is probably how all my low language kids feel when I say things like "oh wow, I love how you...", "it was so great to see you..", ya knoooow. Not to say, I'll stop, but just a thought I had.
Ultimately, we decided that we needed to buy a computer so we could both have something to write/research with and so we could hopefully try to do the blog. So after we finally peeled ourselves away from Kas, our next stop was to the big Mediterranean city of Antalya, almost solely to see if we could pick up a computer. As always, big cities are not our thing but Antalya apparently had a big brand new mall so we thought for suuuuuure we could find something there...