Hey, remember Sean and McKinze? We may have mentioned them once in passing. Here are the four of us back in Georgia:
Well, they were headed back to the States, but first they were traveling around Turkey for a few weeks. We met up with them in Istanbul and they invited us to go with them to Olympos, a.k.a. backpacker’s paradise. We had considered going there ourselves, but decided to skip it and head straight to Istanbul from Eğirdir (but not before a brief stop in Pamukkale).
But we had such a good time with Sean and McKinze in Istanbul, that the day after they left, we booked tickets for Olympos on the wonderfully cheap Pegasus Air and reserved a bungalow at the same pension. But we didn’t tell them, and they just assumed that it wasn’t possible for us to join them. We got there the day before they were scheduled to arrive and used the extra time to listen to the cicadas and teach ourselves how to play backgammon. Then we positioned ourself at a table near reception to casually say hello to them when they arrived on the afternoon dolmuş.
Olympos is not a real town. It’s a series of dozens of backpacker pensions — sprawling compounds of wooden bungalows, “tree houses” (sounds better than shacks-on-stilts), hammocks and gazebos — built along a gravel road about an hour south of Antalya. If you walk a little further down the road, it passes through some Roman ruins, and then deposits you on the beach. Since there’s no actual town, all of the pensions include breakfast and all-you-can-eat dinner in the price of accommodation. We had some of the best meals ever there, and dinner itself was a highlight of each day.
As usual, our friends had great ideas (and initiative!) to get us off our hammocks and we had some incredible days together.
We went sea kayaking one afternoon and saw a sea turtle on the way to the cove, and then snorkeled off the beach before returning. The water in this part of the Mediterranean is really warm and clean. The area we were in isn’t really known for underwater beauty, in fact, it probably looks pretty barren compared to tropical reefs, but it was still so much fun diving after the little fish and looking for shrimp and barnacles on the rocks. Is there a more fun and relaxing way to enjoy the outdoors than snorkeling? I submit that there is not.
As a life-long Midwesterner who hadn’t done much traveling before, Olympos was the very first time that I swam in salt water (not counting wading in the Black Sea). I thought the vastness of the sea would be terrifying, but I was completely at ease floating in the crystal clear waters, letting the little fish nibble my feet, and gazing at the bottom far below.
The night after we kayaked, I didn’t sleep well because it felt like I had micro-shattered every millimeter of bone in my arms. But the pain was gone by morning and we embarked on what the four of us called “The Pleasure Cruise.” For a stunningly cheap price, we spent a whole day on a boat that took us out to an uninhabited island. A big local family had reserved the rest of the spots and took control of the sound system, which cranked out Turkish party music all day. (Go load that link on another tab if you want a soundtrack to the rest of this blog post.) The ladies would spontaneously break out into dance circles.
The captain would take the boat from beach to beach, drop anchor, and we would all jump off the boat and swim until it was time to move along to the next place. We had freshly caught fish for lunch, and tea and watermelon in the afternoon, all included in the price. We saw dolphins and another sea turtle. The Pleasure Cruise was a difficult ordeal, but we drew from an inner strength and managed to soldier on.
On our final day, we rented some cushy beach chairs and paid way too much money for a waiter to bring us Diet Coke. It was a little bit of a sad day, because we were about to part ways and we didn’t know when we’d be together again.