I skipped the Marmaris peninsula in favour of Fethiye, not sure why to be honest. I decided I couldn’t do both so I opted for Fethiye instead. It’s supposed to be a scenic area and a popular spot with hippie tourists. I did my usual local sightseeing around Fethiye, swam at the beach and found a pretty freshwater stream nearby. But actually, the highlight of my stay in Fethiye was meeting a lovely American cycle touring couple. They were in a popular cycle touring WhatsApp group I was a part of and we happened to be crossing paths in Fethiye, so we agreed to meet up one afternoon. I had met the occasional cycle tourer along my route, but rarely were we staying in the same place. They had come from the direction I was planning to go in, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to get some tips for my future plans as well. I ended up spending a hilarious afternoon and evening listening to their tales of cycling in different parts of the world. It was concluded that India is the most challenging, but highly fascinating country to cycle in (if you have a mild death wish).
I was stopped on the side of a busy road on the outskirts of Fethiye, having a drink of water, when a car pulled up beside me with two men inside. They first said something which I didn’t really hear but being wary of men I dismissed them, when I suddenly hear the word ‘passport’. This sparks my attention, but why are these random men in an unmarked car, with no uniforms asking to see my passport?!? They get out of the car and approach me, quickly presenting badges for my inspection. I don’t actually know what Police ID looks like in Turkey, so they could have been fake but they had a certain vibe of authority about them so I cautiously followed their request. This kind of tense stand-off ensued, where they didn’t trust me and I didn’t trust them and it was all a bit uncomfortable. They asked me questions about when and where I entered Turkey and my purpose there, took photos of my documents and were frequently stopping to speak to someone on a radio. Eventually they received an all clear that all my details were in order and I was allowed to carry on. As it turns out they were Terrorism Police responsible for random checks on people moving about Turkey, even though I was still a long way from the Syrian border they were pretty serious about things (around the same time Turkey launched an invasion on Northern Syria and there were fears of members of ISIS may have slipped across the border). They quickly reverted to their usual friendly Turkish manner and it was all happy days, we chatted about my trip, travelling alone and they insisted that I write a book and send them a copy. I continued cycling on.
One little detour before cycling up into the mountains was to visit Saklikent Gorge for the night. I’d seen pictures and thought it looked like an interesting spot to visit and camp nearby. I had experienced overhyped tourist sites in Turkey and elsewhere before, and unfortunately Saklikent Gorge was one of them. The village roads on the way were quiet and pleasant, but when I arrived at the gorge there were the customary hordes of roadside tourist shops. To top it off, you have to pay an entrance fee to walk into the gorge. I understand the notion that the entrance fees go towards maintaining and protecting the site, but I feel nature should be free for everyone to experience. Plus, they really weren’t doing much to enhance the natural beauty of the gorge. I also couldn’t find a suitable free camping site and a local campground wanted to charge 80 lira to camp on a rather uninspiring patch of ground. So I asked about camping at a market in town. The lady pointed to a picnic spot across from the market and indicated I could use the toilets and shower behind the market, and she just wanted 30 lira. Bargain, I ended up having a great night’s sleep there.
It was time to take a sharp left-hand turn and leave the coastline, venturing inland towards the Turkish ‘lakes district’.
(I realised that actually I have missed out a couple of days between Akyaka and Fethiye, some great stories – I’ll have to save it for the book)
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