The Stars Below

September 12, 2010

Upon reaching the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, two things had become clear: 1. It's hotter than Hades here. 2. Paradoxically, I've come down with a cold. The rotation of sweltering suns and air-conditioned rooms had proved too much for my confused immune system. But, I resolved to take it in stride. By now, I've been sick enough times on the road that I've come to appreciate the positive aspects of falling under the weather while traveling. I can stay in bed as long as I want without feeling like I need to go see a tourist site or plan the next leg of my journey. I can lose myself in a book. And I can give myself a mental break from absorbing the culture of the place in which I currently find myself. Today, I've decided to allow myself the luxury of ordering take-out pizza from my hostel. That's right: delicious, Domino's pizza. It's not Papa John's, but I'll take it.

Eventually I tired of holing myself away and determined to sweat this cold out. This proved a simple task in 100 degree plus weather with high humidity. Covered in perspiration, I hiked up to marvel at the 2300 year old Lycian rock-carved tombs that overlook the modern town of Fethiye.

Lycian Tombs, Fethiye

From Fethiye, I caught a minibus to the surreal ghost town of Kayaköy. Despite the fact that this village was inhabited as recently as ninety years ago, I found its ruins to be more provocative than any of the more ancient sites that I've visited in Turkey. A population exchange between Greece and Turkey after WWI resulted in Kayaköy being abandoned overnight. What remains is an eerie and timeless monument to a bygone society.

Ruins of Church, Kayaköy

Apart from its Lycian tombs and proximity to Kayaköy, Fethiye is also known as the launching point for the imaginatively named "Blue Cruise". Normally, I shy away from organized cruises. I prefer to have greater independence and to have the opportunity to mix with the local culture more than such experiences typically allow. However, this time I decided to make an exception. The reasons for booking a four-day boat trip were numerous. The price was reasonable. The tour would allow me to see many interesting places on the coastline without having to arrange the transport myself. I'd get to go swimming in crystal blue waters and snorkel to my heart's content. Finally, on land it was so hot during the day that I didn't want to move a muscle before 5pm. So, why not be lazy on the deck of a wooden yacht instead?

In addition to myself, the Turkish captain and first mate, the boat ferried a group of friendly Aussies and Italians. All of our meals were served on deck, including the occasional fresh fish whenever the crew happened to make a catch.

Bon Appetit

By day, we would cruise up the coast and stop at interesting sites or anchor down to go for a swim. At night, it was too hot in the cabin to fall asleep, so we slumbered on mattresses that had been laid out on deck. Waking up in the morning to a hot sun and immediately diving into the cool blue sea was an extremely refreshing way to start the day.

Of all the interesting places we visited in the Mediterranean, Simena stands out as the most memorable. This ancient city is dotted with enormous sarcophagi and topped by a well preserved castle with stunning views. Fortunate the Roman soldier must have considered himself if he was stationed here.

Sarcophagi of Simena

As so often happens when traveling, the highlight of the trip turned out to be something that was not written on any itinerary. On our third and final night at sea, a group of us jumped overboard to go for a midnight swim. The milky way galaxy magnificently illuminated the night sky above. I floated on my back and scanned the heavens for shooting stars. As I drifted farther from the floodlights of our boat, the darker and quieter my immediate surroundings became. I've never seen the movie "Jaws" and harbor little fear for what lurks in open water, but nevertheless it was a bit spooky to be wading in a deep and pitch black sea. Suddenly, I looked down at my hands and noticed something shining. Incredibly, with every movement of my arms, hundreds of specks of light would briefly appear just under the surface. At first I thought that this was just a reflection of the stars overhead. But no, I soon realized that the light source was most definitely in the water. As if by magic, the mere motion of my arms underwater was feeding light to hundreds of glowing phosphors. I excitedly called out to the others and soon everyone was giggling like children, frantically waving their limbs in the sea, and observing with astonishment the shimmering sparks that were seemingly being created from nothing. For the next half hour I indulged myself in this little miracle, before finally compelling myself to return to ship. I laid down on deck to sleep under the stars with a sense of wonderment that I'd not had since I was a little boy, once again convinced that little separates the world of reality from that of dreams.


  1. Fabulous photos - I'd love to visit!

  2. nice experience!
    a question:what did you smoke before the swim???haahah
    besos Lujan