LUTMAN'S THREE-WEEK FALL 2000 TRIP TO TURKEY
Report No. 7. Day 10 and 11.
Day 10 of 22. Tuesday, September 26, 2000. Isparta to Alanya on the Mediterranean Coast, with Akseki Mountainous Region side trip.
I just realized that our trip will be 22 days, not 21. And that's not counting Monday, October 9, our return day. It's 6:20 AM and we are waving goodbye to Kemal and Aysel, in the gray light of early morning in Isparta. It is quiet and we are looking forward to driving in the light traffic.
Last night we watched the Olympics again. They are live here from midnight till noon or 1 PM on a channel called EuroSport. The other 12 hours of the day they have something called re-live and "best of live." One is a summary and the other is the best replays. Four years from now, when the Olympics are on again, I'm coming to Turkey. I'll rent a room and camp in, just to watch the Olympics. They show all the medal awards, perfectly neutral programming. All the facts and none of the hype or heavy advertisements of American coverage.
We retrace the route we took from Antalya to Isparta, and are back on the Mediterranean coast road, heading east. By about 10 AM, we are in a parking lot below the Red Tower, near Alanya. We decide not to tour it, but take some photos of this peninsula. There is a great story of the Red Tower. Somebody (Sharon is too busy to review this, so you have to go with my lame "somebody") was attacking, and in the cover of night, lit and tied candles to both horns of each of their goats. They ran the goats up the hill, the defenders thought they were overmatched, and they surrendered. In the last 20 or 30 centuries, if you wanted to attack the powers that ruled in Turkey, you could just have a sentry hidden in the country. When an earthquake came along, it would heavily damage the defenses. Then your sentry would come back and say, "OK, now." Then you'd put candles on your goat horns and go.
We locate the turnoff to Akseki, and head up-mountain. Our bird-locating book describes two or three spots around the town of Akseki, so we check out the first one Š an isolated forest surrounded by a stone wall. It's about a hundred yards long and fifty yards wide. Sort of like a football field with rounded corners. We step out of the car, and the ground is covered with goat droppings in such concentrations that you cannot put one foot on the ground without stepping on at least two or three. The good news is that they are mostly so old that they don't stick to your shoes, and they are covered with dust. We can hear and see birds in the walled forest as we approach, the loudest being some kind of woodpecker.
Sharon spots it first, as usual, and it's the most common one, as you might expect. The MIDDLE SPOTTED WOODPECKER. The impression is of black and white with red. Similar to the black and white woodpeckers of California, but this one has red on his vent (undertail coverts). What a handsome bird. Next, we see some kind of nuthatch working the underside of a big oak branch, and it's name is (you're not going to believe this) NUTHATCH. We continue around the forest, and get glimpses of a pair of Jays, but they are very wary, ducking behind cover as soon as they spot us. Lots of movement, but no new birds.
We complete the forest circumnavigation when I spot a hawk of some kind. Gliding, gliding, then landing in the top of a tree. I get Sharon on the bird, and we see lots of rust and tan, and especially a rusty tail, when it flies again. In Europe and here, many hawks are called buzzards, not to be confused with the buzzards, or vultures, of America. This one is the LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD, and we will see these birds many times, soaring over Turkey in the next days.
We finish birding and head into town, because we spotted a Peh Teh Teh on the way through. Sharon wants to buy some post card stamps, and she has enough confidence now such that, with her dictionary, she is going to try it all by herself. I wait outside to take some video of the town, the people, but especially of Sharon when she comes back out. Two men exit the PTT, and talk with great animation. I ask if I may take a picture of them, and they say yes, then strike very confident, proud poses. When I finish, the older man comes over, and writes down his address on a piece of paper, gives it to me, and says he wants me to send him a copy. And I will.
We begin the drive down the village's main street. It points straight downhill and the uphill direction is divided from the downhill direction by a neat row of conifer trees. As I am going slowly, with my window down, I see bird movement in the trees. There are spaces in between the trees of the street divider just wide enough to parallel park a car, so I do that. Then we jump out and chase our birds. They are cute little birds, all sticking together, moving through the trees. In America, we would call them chickadees, but here they are called tits. This is a flock of wonderful LONG-TAILED TITS. There are variations in the color patterns of these birds, depending on where in Europe and western Asia you are, and the ones we are seeing match the patterns expected here. The fun part of the description of these birds is that they don't like to span large spaces from one tree to the next, and they will gather the whole group together in one tree, flying from one perch to the next, calling excitedly until one individual will start. Then the rest all follow, one at a time.
We retrace our path back down to the coast highway, and turn east again. Bananas are grown in this area, and we buy a bunch at a fruit stand. The operator has the crudest of shacks next to his fruit stand, but there is a television in it. He must have run an electrical cord up from his house below.
Continuing on down, we encounter one of the many goat-herders, and pull over to watch the contest between him and his biggest Billy. The boy is trying to keep the male from crossing, but the goat sprints away, crossing the highway, but not before stopping a while in the middle of the road, to show his keeper who is the boss. The boy comes over and we talk to him a little in Turkish before he moves on with his herd. Before we take off, we see a sparrow-like bird in a bush on the other side of the highway. Actually there are two or three, and we ID them as CORN BUNTINGS. The bill shape and color, and the streaks on the body match our picture. The habitat also matches.
At about 5 PM, we pull into the Pascha Bay Hotel. It is a huge complex, self-contained. It has its own restaurant, shops, swimming pool (beautifully turquoise and of salt water, we later find out), and is right on the Mediterranean. You can ride behind a boat in a parachute, or go on a boat cruise to all the interesting spots on the nearby coast. This is all in and around the city of Alanya, and is very famous among Turks and especially Germans, who apparently come here because it's fairly inexpensive. It reminds me of Disneyland.
The reception fellow says yes they have a room, and another bellboy shows us to a third floor (American), which is called second floor here. There are no elevators, and the room is not to our liking. It's too far away from the car, and has no lift. We tell the boy that we don't want it because of our minor handicaps, and he says, "OK, I will show you one on the ground floor then." He does, and it's great. The upper one was $80, the ground floor one $75, dinner and breakfast included. There's also an internet cafˇ on the premises. After a couple of false starts (one time all the terminals were taken, another time they were closed for dinner for the attendant), I get onto the internet and can check football scores. Football in Turkey?
I return to the room, and Sharon and I go to dinner. It's a buffet style, with I'd estimate about ten MILLION German family members. There is a little show on a stage. It's done in a combination of English and German, with a blonde girl playing Cinderella or Alice or somebody. We eat to our hearts' content, then I go back to get the video camera for some pictures. We walk out to the Mediterranean, past the swimming pool. Sharon tastes the pool water and to our surprise, it's salty. We dip our hands into the Med in the dark of night now. It's peaceful and quiet, but during the day, it must be bustling with beachers. We go back to the room and watch the Olympics till we both fall asleep, dreaming of beaches and birds. We have learned that this Mediterranean area of Turkey is becoming filled with such "all-inclusive" hotel complexes, and there is mixed reaction to their presence.
New Life Birds: Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Long-legged Buzzard, Long-tailed Tit, Corn Bunting.
Life Bird Totals: Today 5. Trip 61
Impressions of the Day: The contrast between driving the snaking coastal road, with temperatures about 85 or 90 degrees, and driving up into the mountains, with temperatures about 70 or 75 degrees is completely satisfying. Especially with all the cool birds we're finding in the mountains.
It is SO much fun to interact with the Turkish people in the villages and countryside, where they don't speak English. We agree that right up there with birding and visiting friends, this is among the most enjoyable things we are doing in Turkey.
The fruits and vegetables from the Aegean and Mediterranean coast regions are overall, among the tastiest I've ever had. Cihan told me that this would be true when we were back in the U.S. The tomatoes are extremely tasty (I have cold sliced tomatoes and cucumbers every time I can), the small green grapes a LITTLE better than even the best grapes I've bought in California. The peaches are delicious and perfect and the melons wonderful.
Day 11 of 22. Wednesday, September 27, 2000. Alanya to the Goksu Delta on the Med Coast
Along this coast, also called the Turquoise Coast I believe, because of the water color, most hotels are on the inland side of the highway, with only beach on the sea side. What you do, while staying in your land-side hotel, is grab all your beach gear, race across the highway while darting between traffic, and spend the day at the beach. Each hotel has provided recliners, umbrellas, drinks to buy and so forth, on the beach side.
As we drive along, we enjoy something that lots of the houses have. A typical house is perhaps two stories, with a half or partial veranda on top. A single grapevine is planted next to the house, and it grows up the side of the house, up the two stories, and then spreads out on a covering above the roof veranda to make shade. There are many houses like this, and even our hotel last night had flowers on the roof that began as thick plants growing from the earth, trained up the three stories, and climbing on a holding structure on the roof.
Sharon spots another banana terrace and wants me to take a photo, so I pull over and do so. But as I'm snapping, I hear a cry above us and up the mountain, so I check it out. It's four birds, hovering in place at times, whose tails are not deeply forked. The birds are brown, and so are BLACK KITES. You should ignore that the name is different from the color. That's the way it is sometimes.
We resume our trek along the coast, and pick up a shrike on our left. It has a black and white wing pattern, but we can't ID it. We're not sure if the Great Gray Shrike is here or not. Nothing makes sense from a bird map geographic point of view, so we let it go. A little after noon, we come upon our first four-minaretted mosque in Anamur. All up till now have had either one or two.
We fill up at a BP petrol station and park next to Anamur Castle for lunch. It is so spectacular that we take a walk along the moat between the castle and the sea. While in the back, we find paths that climb a fairly steep slope up to the castle. I tell Sharon I'm going to climb up and check it out. I go and it's pretty cool. There are huge holes and gaps in the walls where enemies have pounded their way in. Time and earthquakes have played their particular parts too, but the remaining structure sets off images unaffected by the current state. I work my way back to the top of the path, and Sharon calls out, "What's up there?" "Not much, I say," making my way down. "I want to go up," she says. "You've been inside a castle and I haven't. I want to go up." "I came down to get my camera. Wait, and we'll go up together." We help each other up the climb, and get wonderful photos of each other, peering out holes and portals. When Sharon is finally satisfied, we climb back down to the car and head out. I can't imagine any castle being more complete that this one. We'll see completely different ones in Great Britain next spring.
As we continue along the coast, we begin to notice that men are wearing pantaloons. Long pants, but with the crotch at about knee level. Cihan later tells us that they are like this because they are comfortable in the heat, riding horses and camels, and so forth. I'd say more than half of the men are wearing this style, while the rest are wearing regular western pants.
It's about 4:30 PM and we are about 15 km from our destination. We see a bird in the water, some type of cormorant it appears. Neither Pygmy Cormorant nor regular Cormorant are here in the sea, so it must be a SHAG. Our ID book shows that they are here in winter. Cormorants generally like fresh water and Shags like salt
I try to walk around to get a closer look, but she was likely scared by my movement and is gone.
The Shag that spied me...
Around another bend, and Sharon spots six of them on an overturned boat, whose keel is the only part above water. The next day, we see a large fishing boat tied up to this upside down boat boat dock.
It's now about 6 PM and we just went to the VakifBank and tried the ATM to get a cash withdrawal. Daughter Tara wants to know if the ATMs will work here so she can decide how much cash and travelers checks she will bring. I try our Comerica card, and it rejects it, saying our bank is not set up to do this. Then I try the Wells Fargo card, and it works just like it does in the U.S. I withdraw 40 Million TL, but it doesn't say what the exchange rate is, nor whether there is any commission. I guess I'll find those things out later, after I get back home.
The POLIS stopped us twice today, but I knew I wasn't speeding either time. Just now, the officer was in the middle of the street. He stopped us, looked in, said "Tamam (OK)," and that we could go. He made a diagonal stripe movement across the front of his chest. He was telling us that either he was doing a seat belt check, which we passed of course, or was making sure I wasn't wearing a bandoleer. Earlier, at another stop, they asked to see the car papers, and where we were going, so I said Silifke, our destination tonight in the Goksu Delta. He proudly responded that he was from there. He gave back our papers, said thank you, and we took off.
Actually, we stop before Silifke, in Tasucu (TOSH-uh-joo), and ask if they have a room in the Best Hotel Resort. It is built to resemble a cruise ship, and we get a room on the ground level. There is a serious slope down to the sea, so if you are at the shore and looking back at the hotel, we are near the top. We plan to stay here three nights, and this feels wonderful, to be in one spot for three nights running.
The Goksu Delta, juts out into the Mediterranean, and from my "Where To Find Birds in Turkey" book, I expect that this will be the birding highlight of our trip. Can't wait. This is also the closest geographic spot to Cyprus, and lots of ships run back and forth.
We ask if they have television, can get the Olympics, and have air conditioning. Yes to all. Seventy dollars U.S. for the room, breakfast and dinner, and a fantastic view of the Mediterranean. We have dinner in the hotel's elegant restaurant, one floor below. There are only a half-dozen people or so, and we get first class service. I have lamb shish-ka-bob with french fries, and a diet coke. It is the best lamb of the trip so far, and makes me wonder why we never have it in San Jose. Apologies to all our vegetarian friends. Dessert is Turkish desserts and fruit. The melon here may be the best I've ever had. It is a dark green color on the outside, about the size of a large cantaloupe. The Turkish desserts are little cakes, soaked in and dripping with a sort of runny honey. We each have some of each.
I try and try to use the phone system to check email, but can't get through. I think I try about fifty times. I call Cihan, and the phone keeps cutting out. I hear Cihan say, "Bob, I can't hear you." I start wiggling the cord connection at the back of the phone: "Can you hear me NOW? Can you hear me NOW?" Then suddenly we're back in contact. That happens about six times and is why a two minute call takes ten minutes.
Off we go to sleep, and all I can think of is tomorrow's birds. Well, that and the Olympics. OK, that's what I'm thinking of. No, wait. The Mediterranean, tomorrow's birds and the Olympics. Yeah, that's what I'm thinking of. Oh. Plus our great car. OK, our great car, the Mediterranean, the Olympics and tomorrow's birds. That's all I'm thinking of. Well, I'm thinking of you too. OK. You, our great car, the Mediterranean, the Olympics and tomorrow's birds. That's all I'm thinking of. No wait...
New Life Birds: Black Kite, Shag.
Life Bird Totals: Today 2. Trip 63.
Impressions of the Day: Anamur Castle was first built on this spot around the first century. It was destroyed, rebuilt, expanded, destroyed and rebuilt several times. So the structure we climbed up into was from about the 12th century, the way we are looking at it now.
Daughter Tara will be here in a couple of days, then we will connect in Istanbul and run around together. There is a wonderful generational thing going on here that's too cool for school, as our friend Nancy Burlingame has been saying lately. I used to have a picture of me running around Europe with Mom and some of her brothers and sisters. Checking out the homes of forefathers in England, Germany and Switzerland. This was a great dream, but alas, it never happened. And now here I am, about to be running around Istanbul with Tara and Sharon. Ah, Life.
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