Group tours are not our thing!
12.05.2012 - 12.05.2012 18 °C
Well our run of positive adventures run out a bit recently. Before leaving Oz I had read of a place called Dalyan that was near Fethiye. From Dalyan you can access thermal pools and mud baths, glide past the ancient rock tombs of Kaunos set along the river and flop/ stroll/ swim on a long stretch of beach where turtles nest. I thought this sounded pretty idyllic and a bit different from some of the things we had done to date.
The only way to take this trip is via a tour. Although we are not usually tour people we had had some really good experiences of private tours (i.e. just the 4 of us) recommended by our Istanbul travel agent (Arif) or local tourist offices. Arif recommended the Dalyan tour to us and, without asking too many questions, we decided to go with his recommendation.
We awoke to an overcast day on the day of the tour. Not exactly beach weather but, ever the optimists, we packed swimming gear along with our cameras and waited for our hotel pick-up. A gruff, non-English speaking driver collected us in a small Fiat and off we went. Was this our tour for the day we wondered? Very much hoping it would not be so. We stopped by the roadside, the driver motioned for us to stay in the car as it had begun to rain. “Bus” he said, which we took to mean that a bus would be picking us up from this roadside stop.
The bus duly arrived and upon climbing aboard we universally looked longingly at the Fiat as it drove away. After a few minutes Brian said quietly to me “feels a bit like a pokies trip to Tooleybuc”. Apart from us and a couple of twenty-something Turkish girls we found ourselves on board a tour with about 20, mostly retired English folk who looked like they were on their way to a group holiday in Bognor Regis.
Our extremely effervescent tour guide welcomed us with a “Good morning dear guests.” When only some people reciprocated with “good morning” and their response was a little half-hearted our tour guide decided we all needed a bit of energising. Psycho (as the tour guide encouraged us to call him) then went full flight into trying to engage us all with jokes, quizzes and information. His repartee certainly had the desired effect on the Poms with the resultant cackling and prattling making us feel like we were in an episode of On the Buses.
It was going to be a long day……
The first stop was a ‘surprise’ stop at a gold factory. “Bet you didn’t think you’d be coming here today” exclaimed the effusive English host at the shop, “and what a lovely surprise this must be for you”. Hmmm. The expansive collection of jewellery was displayed in glass cases in what can only be described as a showroom. I’m afraid that this sort of setting and sales pitch doesn’t do it for me but many on board seemed to be appreciative of the bargain diamonds and gold they were able to pick up. As we continued on I wondered how many more ‘surprises’ we would encounter.
We arrived at the river, weather still inclement and cold, and clambered into our boat. Before the boat had even taken off Psycho lit up a cigarette and indicated that, while the rules of the boat said that smoking was not allowed, the group could just ignore the rules. Apart from the Turkish girls and ourselves there was no other party on the boat where at least one person in the couple or group did not smoke. The day was now getting longer…..
Drinks were also available on the boat and although it was only about 10am at this stage the English folk were into their lager immediately and this did not let up for the entire boat trip (until about 5.30pm). I reckon you might be getting the picture now.
On the boat itself we had two choices, have the canvas and plastic awnings that ran the length of the boat down, and have a chance of being dry and a little warmer, or have them up and see the views of the river and sprawling lake but be windswept and cold.
Having painted this bleak picture I should say that the mud baths were interesting. Warm, shallow pools that were watery in the surface and squidgy on the bottom required us to crab or commando crawl our way from one side to the other. With aged bodies of varying shapes and sizes, including my own, this did not always make for the most decorous sight but it was quite a voluptuous sensation. Luckily (tongue in cheek) there was a professional photographer on hand to capture the group’s antics and to encourage each party within the group to play up to the camera acting like zombie mud-monsters etc. Needless to say we did not buy the inevitable photos we were offered for £20 at the end of our tour.
The mud bath was followed by a shower, or dip in the lake, before sliding into a thermal pool which was beautifully relaxing (and warm after our windswept, open air photo shoot). Overall the group found the whole experience was a hoot. On the return boat trip numerous couples chatted about “how looverly” their skin felt and “ow I wouldn’t ‘ave believed it would feel so warm” over and over again to anyone who would listen. Many seemed to be experienced tour group types who had a knack of making sure there was always someone who was listening. I think I had the same man tell me “ow warm he was” half a dozen times on the return trip!
Next stop, lunch - in what can only be described as a cafeteria-like setting along the river. The food itself was quite good, standard Turkish fare of soup, bread, mezes, salad and grilled meat – fish or chicken on this occasion. However, we couldn’t help but compare the mass-consumption riverside setting with our previous riverside dining experience in the Ihlara Valley (see Goreme entry).
Following lunch we again boarded the boat and meandered along the river stopping at the Tombs of Kaunos. These impressive tombs were carved high on the cliff face overlooking the ancient city if Kaunos between the 9th. and 4th. Centuries B.C. Each tomb took a long time to carve with workman beginning at the top of the tomb and chipping their way downwards. Evidently, when a new king ascended the throne the work of carving his tomb commenced. It would be somewhat forboding and perhaps unsettling to see your final resting place taking shape throughout your reign I imagine.
We then headed further along the river to the an area that is protected as a breeding ground of the caretta caretta (loggerhead turtles). The turtles only make land at night to lay eggs but during the day can be enticed to the surface with a feed of blue crabs. We saw one of the turtles and then continued our boat journey to a peninsula where the river and sea meet. The spot was impressive even on a cold, grey, windy day but unfortunately the setting was not enough to lure us in for a swim.
Our journey home then commenced. A little quieter this time, much like the homeward journey following a school camp. Overall the mud baths and rock tombs made the trip a worthwhile exercise but the tour itself left us a little lukewarm.