Thinking back, a road trip was a great way to start Michael’s parents Colleen and Ted’s stay with us. Extended time on the road and evening sitting around a dinner table at various seaside cafes gave us lots of time to catch up and get to know each other better. Thanks to the modern technology like Skype and whatsapp that let us keep in touch almost daily, I felt very close to Colleen and Ted, despite the fact that we had only met in person once before – when they came to Siberia for our wedding. Still, it was good to see them up close and be able to talk without interruptions and time difference (which is currently 8 hours).
Having left Side and Phaselis behind, we drove on to Çıralı. Just as we started descending down to the coast, following a snaking road, we spotted a small cafe selling gözleme – sometimes called Turkish pancake, it’s a kind of pastry with savory filling, usually potatoes, spinach and cheese. Seeing as how the place was full of Turks, we didn’t think we were falling into a tourist trap – until we saw that we were charged around 100 lira (50$) for the lunch, which seemed like a rip-off, although we did get a huge amount of food.
Our favorite place in Turkey, Orange Motel didn’t have rooms available, so I was tasked with finding another place to stay. I have to say, it’s a huge undertaking, even armed with reviews from booking.com – they can be conflicting and it’s especially confusing when a place with great rating gets conflicting reviews. So I used my own criteria – that is, as soon as I saw a place that had dogs, I stopped searching and booked our rooms. Esralina Pension didn’t disappoint. There were indeed two dogs – an adorable cocker spaniel puppy called Cookie and a black mutt called Vena. There were also some neighboring dogs wondering in and out of the place, and almost every time we went to the beach, a dog would accompany us. It was actually the first time I saw dogs walking to the beach without their owners and going for a swim by themselves!
The second thing I looked for were hammocks, but unlike in Orange Motel where every hammock was perfectly shaded by palms or orange trees, here they were out in the blazing sun. There were also some chickens and ducks wondering around the property, which definitely added to the relaxed rustic feel of the place.
The hotel was a bit away from the village so we were glad we had a car, as walking along a dusty, busy road with no sidewalk and dodging cars, bikes and motorbikes seems a dangerous undertaking and not a great way to spend time on holiday.
The beach though was a short walk away and it was the least crowded beach we`d ever been on, perhaps because it was away from the main cluster of hotels and pensions. As soon as we brought the bags up to our room, I dug around in my backpack until I found my bikini, water shoes (eek, so hot and clumsy but so necessary) and brand new snorkeling gear and I raced to the beach, pulling everyone else behind me. In the following few days I spent many happy hours swimming in the warm clear water, playing fetch with Cookie who for some weird reason preferred to fetch rocks instead of sticks and snorkelling. This was our first time and I loved it – not just because of what you could see underwater, but because you could be immersed almost completely and float there for as long as you wanted, feeling the warm sun on your back and the coolness of seawater all around you. A couple of times though I swallowed a bunch of aforementioned seawater when I forgot where I was and tried to talk/scream/laugh at the tiny flounders, fast stripy fish and awkward crabs.
We also went back to explore the ruins of the ancient Olympos and the Olympos beach was an amazing snorkeling experience! I will never forget seeing schools of fish dart around submerged columns and crabs peeking out shyly from under ancient building blocks. The whole experience. If Michael hadn’t pulled me out (he literally had to tow me to the shore), I think I would still be there, pointing out yet new wonders with my pruned hands.
We also made a second trip to the eternal flame called Chimaera. A myth about the mythical beats, Chimaera is said to have originated here. It was afire-breathing monster made up of a lion, a snake and a goat. The place is now called Yanartaş (flaming rock), and seeing bright orange flames burning on bare rock I could see how the legend could have come about.
It was hard to leave Çıralı behind. On the morning we were leaving, I set my alarm for 7 am, so that I could go swim one last time. Although last time is a relative term – I`m sure we`ll be back!