Ok back to chronological order. We've made it to beginning/mid June. Our next stop after Oludeniz was a short ways along the Mediterranean coast, Patara/Patara beach. We arrived at the bus station packing all our stuff as always. Turkish bus stations are different than any other bus stations we've been to because the bus station is actually a bunch of offices of independent bus companies so in theory you know which company you're after and you go to their office to book tickets directly. Problem here was that we had no idea what bus company went from where to where or to where we wanted to go. So we picked one nice looking one, total shot in the dark, and went in and asked if they have tickets to Patara. We did understand that they said no but did not understand what/who they said did. So we nodded our heads pretending we understood (bad SLP, I know but you can only ask people to repeat themselves so many times before you are just offensive), left and walked in another office two doors down where we also didn't understand what company they said could help us. This guy took us out the door and pointed in the right direction at least. We went...another few doors down and on this went until we eventually found the right bus and we were on our way. And thank goodness for Google maps so we could sort of track where we were and sort of know ish where to get off and even more thank goodness for the locals who clearly tell us when we are there. Luckily as soon as we got off the bus a smaller local bus was at the stop waiting to take us the rest of the way...did I mention how seamless Turkish transportation is?! Amazing! Patara town was the tiniest, quietest most lovely little village. Not much happening here besides having a prime location just outside of both Patara ruins and Patara beach in addition to its other claim to fame--being the birthplace of St. Nicholas. Ya that's right, we visited the home town of Santa Claus. The village itself and all the surroundings are literally one giant valley garden full of orchards, crop fields, flowers, fruit trees and wetlands. It was so beautiful, colorful and peaceful and as small town travel lovers, we were more than content. Not sure what happened to poor little Patara though. Obviously once upon a time it was a popular stopping spot but has since seen a dramatic drop in tourists as evidenced by the ton of entirely abandoned businesses, restaurants and hotels around. Quite sad actually. For as long as I can remember I have always been fascinated by abandoned buildings. I remember driving through the plains of Saskatchewan and being eerily enchanted by all these abandoned, overgrown, dilapidated farmhouses and farm buildings and I always remember wondering what circumstances would make someone leave their homes to nobody and nothing, in many cases with what seems like half their stuff still inside?!
Right beside our hotel was a completely abandoned, rather large hotel, slowly being engulfed by nature. It was a little eerie actually but I felt totally compelled to check it out, especially because it stood there unapologetically wide open for exploration. We walked around the outside, its boarded or smashed out windows, locked up doors and chipped exterior slowly being invaded by plants. We walked around to the other side and eerily enough, the entrance was wide open so of course I had to go in. It was creepy! As you walk in the door you see a rickety staircase that I wouldn't trust with my life, a floor scattered with glass and debris and to the right, an open door inviting you in to the "reception", made clear by the sign that still hangs on the wall. The reception still had posters, water bottles, a phone etc., literally like one day someone just walked out to get the mail and never came back. Eeeeeerie! A little further in you hit the corridor full of doors, still complete with numbers, leading into the hotel rooms. Not being so brave anymore, I only peeked my head in the corridor long enough to get some pics and then called it quits.
Patara really was quiet, from the hotels to the restaurants to the streets. There was no tourism office, most all restaurants were totally empty and even the businesses that were still operating didn't seem to be staffed. We saw a few travel agencies but they were always without staff and locked up. We really couldn't figure out why there were no people in the middle of high season because it was a perfect, charming little base to explore the ruins/beach nearby! Part of the fun for us was just wandering town for no reason other than to just "be". We wandered by the tiny empty bus stop. We found a lone horse in the middle of a grass patch beside the bus stop. We found a real lemon tree. A puppy ran out of a local restaurant and playfully nipped at our heels until someone came and brought it home. Patara is so quiet on our walk we heard rustling in the grass beside the road and found a tortoise trying to climb a steep dirty/twig hill. Cute! Not a minute after we found it, it tumbled backwards, rolling down the slope and landing flat on its back. We watched for awhile while it fruitlessly thrashed it's legs back and forth at a speed you would never imagine a turtle could move and tried bending it's head backwards biting at grass or whatever it could to flip itself over to no avail. I grabbed a stick and climbed down the hill to heroically save this tortoise by flipping it over with the stick. Not gonna lie, I expected the thing to withdraw so fast into its shell but instead it went into aggressive mode and the dumb shit started hissing viciously at me as I got closer! Let me tell you, you would never guess how heavy a turtle is. My stick barely could flip it over and there was no way I was touching this angry thing. Once I eventually succeeded in flipping it, the dump thing went right back and started climbing the same hill! Made us think that maybe we should have let it be and let Darwin do his thing. Later on in Patara, Bridger went into a little local hole in the wall open shop to buy some fruit. He picked it out and we waited for awhile for someone to show up to pay but they never did... until a local lady in a restaurant across the street started shouting at us in Turkish, gesturing what looked like brushing teeth. So I said "he's brushing his teeth?!" even though as soon as I said it, it seemed highly implausible. It turns out the owner was in the barber shop next door, in the chair getting his hair cut...until he left the chair and popped in next door so we could pay him. That's the kind of place that Patara town is.
The next day we headed down a cobblestone road to Patara ruins on the way to the beach. The ruins themselves were pretty modest and casually strewn across open fields between farmers fields. Much like Kayakoy, they were pretty "raw" with only one building being restored, others in various states of restoration with wooden scaffolding around them (though in typical Patara style, no people working on them) and other pieces like the amphitheater, a crumbling heap of chipped and loose rock. My favorite kind of ruins! The other thing that was amazing about this site was that again, there were no visitors. You pretty well felt like you had the entire site to yourself. Not even the bathrooms (much to Bridger's devastation) were operating. In addition to the "main" labeled structures, the entire road between Patara and the beach was full of random little buildings and rock structures. At one point in the middle of nothing, there was this single abandoned home. It looked like once upon a time it would have been a beautiful little home with a lovely little gated veranda and a garden surrounding it. Now it was being taken over by the garden and instead of people, spiders had made their home in the grates of the gate, the only thing preventing me from getting inside that one too. Another stark reminder of the temporality of all things but nature. Oh how philosophical. Anyways, Bridger had long since abandoned exploration in the midday heat and I found him where I usually do, having found the only patch of shade for miles.
We continued on our walk to Patara beach, Turkey's only sand (vs. pebble) beach and 18 some km long of it. Right at the entrance there was a small cafe and beach chairs set up and that was about it for civilization for the rest of the km's. Nothing but a vast, endless stretch of beach made out of sand like we had not seen since the Dubai sand dunes. Perfect!
So here we were, packing in a solid days worth of supplies for our relaxing chill out day at the only sand beach in Turkey...glorious isn't it?! We're hauling two huge bottles of water in a plastic bag and a backpack stuffed full of sarongs, extra clothes, snacks and beach to-dos like books, journals and iPad, ready to find our our blissful piece of empty sand. Oh ho ho, how utterly stupid we were. I guess Patara beach has a reputation for being windy...it was. Waves were furiously and continually crashing in to shore churning up so much sand that the entire 20 meters from the beach was just brown waves. Fine, if we had kids we wouldn't let them swim there but we'll be fine. So wrong again. We finally found our perfect isolated patch of sand and started to set up camp, fighting torrential wind to even get our sarongs down on the ground. In a fine display of our personalities, there was Bridger fighting wind but meticulously spreading out out his sarong, systematically weighing each corner down one by one creating a perfect square and gingerly laying sand on/along the perimeter to keep it perfectly in place. And there was me, flailing my sarong around blowing in the wind until it was decently enough spread out by wind, slamming it down, jumping on it to pin it down with my bum and then spreading all limbs out to hold it down and then laying down, impatiently helping Bridger finish his stupid sand trimmed masterpiece.
Ahhhh, time to relax. Could it be possible that we were wrong again?! Sure. We laid for 5 minutes in our bathings suits in sand-storm conditions, being mercilessly pelted on all exposed skin and open eyeballs with little tiny sand bullets, like thousands of little tiny needles embedding in your skin. After 5 minutes our sarong's looked like this:
Ok clearly this day was not going to be the tranquil relaxing day we had planned so like any good traveler, we recalibrated our plan. We decided to just explore the beach by walking the length of it and see if we could find the river emptying to the sea. That lasted about 10 minutes and a naked man wandering with his son (you'd think that with 18 km of empty beach you could find a more empty spot than within one km from the entrance...) before we realized that we wouldn't get that far because the sand is so loose that it was really hard to walk in.
We thought of a brilliant plan to abandon the water, go a little farther back of the water's edge and hide behind/at the bottom of a sand dune that would block us from the wind and obligatory sand missiles so at least we could relax there. I'm not even sure how this happened but the wind literally blew, you could almost hear the whispered "Screw you", around a corner, over the hill and directly down onto us still! Bridger thought maybe digging a hole and sitting in it would help. It didn't. After a day trying to avoid the blowing sand, we were covered everywhere. I would literally be scraping fine sand pieces out of my hair for a week. I thought I found it all and each day I would find enough to fill a sandbag under my fingernail after scratching my head.
Ok Patara beach, you win, we decided to casually walk back towards the entrance and get out of there, which we did. And realized that on the very end of the beach there was this giant rock outcrop covered in tiny, little, stabby shrubbery. And we decided to climb it to get a bird-eye view over the ocean. It was incredible and turned out to be the best part of our day...once again, unexpected and free winning over planned and paid. We slogged up the sandy rocky shrubby rock, the only people doing so. We wondered how, even though you could see this rock from all the beach chairs, that nobody thought "hmmm, that might be cool to explore"! But then again, these were the same people that didn't want to bother walking more than 20 feet down the beach to find their own slice of sand. Anyways, we climbed to the top and the view of the long stretch of sandy beach contrasting with the churning whitecap waters made an exceptional sight.
But we weren't prepared for the other side of the rock that we could not see from Patara Beach. It was seriously like a different ocean. Calm, brilliantly turquoise with a cloud of sand moving slowly towards shore creating an incredible color divide. We wanted to climb down and swim but by all angles were met with a sheer cliff. But we kept exploring and finally found a really rocky, dropping section but it looked kind of do-able. We carefully scrambled down, down, down. Sidenote on proper footwear: we never have it. We have done so many things in the wrong footwear this trip that it all seems totally normal until you're halfway down a rocky "not path" and you suddenly click in and realize just how completely ludicrous it is that you are wearing flimsy little flip-flops to do this but you have a choice to not do it or do it wearing shitty shoes so shitty shoes wins. Anyways, we climbed down until we found a little rocky inlet at the bottom where clearly people have had a firepit before. And from here the water was almost touchable, washing in in rolling waves to the little inlet we were in. The water looked so fresh and enticing and we probably could have swam there buuuuuut I got a little nervous because even though the waves looked "rolling", I was starkly aware that the entire power of the ocean was hurdling towards this one small inlet and not sure what the downward current would have been like so didn't want to risk it, especially since getting any sort of immediate help from where we were would have proven challenging. Though he took a bit more convincing than me, I was shocked when Bridger did not get in...subconsciously I think he's a little bit more safety conscious than he thinks he is! We spent about an hour down here before headed back to the exit, the lovely setting sun in the background.
We've chatted about this several times since but even though Patara Beach was not at all what we expected and not at all relaxing, defying all reason, we were in unanimous agreement about absolutely loving it. It was kind of surreal how empty and peaceful it was and how completely unique. And unlike all discovered awesome places, this one actually seems to have a positive prognosis to stay that way. The beach itself is a protected nesting ground for sea turtles (sadly didn't see any). This in combination with being backed by a protected ruins site ensures that, so long as this continues, resort and development will be barred from Patara's coast. The entire development as it stands consists of Patara town, a few km road from there making its way through a grassy valley floor strewn with ruins making its way, through a layer of trees/vegetation where it ends in a dusty parking lot with a single sign, a small boardwalk flanked by trees and the beach. The entire scene is just so natural and serene which can be a hard thing to find in our globetrotting kind of world. Actually I think that's one of the things that we love so much about Turkey. Even though it is such a heavily touristed country, in so many places it still feels empty and you can still find your own little spot in so many of the places we go.
We waited for the bus in the parking lot, watching with envy, the infinite tourists and locals passing by and getting directly in their own private vehicles. We considered hitching a ride for the first time on this trip and we would have if not for both of us refusing, not wanting to be the cheap ass who asks to bum a ride because we didn't want to wait for the bus. So we waited for the bus.
That evening we totally splurged on a $12.5 meal (Africa would later be a smack in the face in that regard) going to a little local place for a meze BBQ. As soon as we sat down an entire table full of local guys up and left...coincidence, not sure but we stayed nonetheless. Our meal started, like all meals in Turkey, with heaping piles of fresh white delicious bread followed by endless servings of grilled vegetables, chicken and meatballs. It was absolutely delicious and we realized how little we've actually tried true local food because in the middle east so far we have lived so much off cheap kebabs and falafels. Also on a related note, the freaking bread consumption has been off the hook since we arrived in this part of the world. From Dubai, to Jordan to Turkey, every included breakfast and all dinner begins with a heaping pile of bread and butter and sometimes even Nutella. This is fine and delicious except that after 2 months of it every day I've totally started to lose my slightly trimmer Asian rice waistline and have packed on a lower belly straight up white bread gut. It's not good but it's also not liable to end anytime soon because pretty well free breakfast in this part of the world equals a pile of bread/butter, a boiled egg, fruit/vegetables i.e. tomato and cucumber...seriously this is what we have eaten for breakfast almost exclusively for 2 months. And it's free because it's usually included in the price of the room. Except I don't eat fruit and cucumbers are like the one veggie I don't eat. And then after this, we usually skip lunch and don't eat again until supper. So if I want to have any hope of breakfast lasting me until supper, I stuff all the bread I can get in. Once again, nobody ever said budget was healthy. If we had more time we would have stayed in Patara but given how much time we spent in Oludeniz, we had to keep moving. In another fine showing of Turkish transportation perfection, we hopped a short bus directly to our next destination on the Mediterranean coast, Kas. The way snaked along the never-ending turquoise coastline so views were pretty lovely. And for Bridger too because he saw a tennis court along the way...a perfect view.