It was extra hot today, with a forecasted top of 38˚C. When we were in Kyrgyzstan and freezing at night in the tents, we were dreaming of baking in the sun in Turkey. Funny how things you think you want aren’t what you really want when you finally get them.
We said our farewells to Alper at Keskin Pension, and navigated our way out of the maze of one-way streets in Antalya’s old town (Kaleiçi). Antalaya sprawled for a long time, and with that sprawl came the stop/start traffic and pushy drivers. Driving is fine once we get outside of cities, but having people tailgating and flashing their lights so they can get a few metres further forward grates on me. I guess I like equality and fairness (and queuing) and so I’m probably not really suited to Turkey (and not just because of the driving). It’s not to say we’re not enjoying ourselves, because we certainly are.
We took a mini-detour to see a waterfall at Manavgat. I’m a sucker for a good waterfall, so I couldn’t resist. After paying a 5TL entry fee (which I still can’t believe they charge) we found ourselves in the middle of dozens of markets selling fake Ray-Bans and other assorted clothing. Pushing our way past them, we joined the crowds of Turks who were standing on a special platform by the waterfalls that had ankle deep water running across it. The water was freezing, which was a miracle considering how hot it was here today (the information on the car said 36˚C, which I realise isn’t that hot, but it’s not a pleasant temperature to be a tourist).
Sadly, the waterfalls were a little bit of a disappointment… No, I’m going to say the way I really felt – they were a massive disappointment. Sure, there was a large volume of water that was flowing over them, but for me the drama and spectacle comes from a large and violent drop down beautiful cliffs. It wouldn’t have been so bad had the entry been free, but having paid money to come here was a joke.
Making the most of the (mostly Turkish) crowd, there was a man offering photos with two beautiful parrots. Risa is a sucker for birds, so we took him up on his 10TL ($5) offer. I tried explaining to him that we weren’t interested in his photos, just his birds and he seemed to understand and agree. But, when I pulled my camera out and started taking photos he got upset and told me that he was the photographer. So, we walked away with our 10TL and a partly censored photograph. Still, Risa got to hold and play with the birds for a while for free, which is what really mattered to her.
We stopped for a quick lunch in Manavgat, and the choices were Burger King, Pizza or dozens of Turkish fast food restaurants. It has to be said that there isn’t much in the way of multi-cultural food options in Turkey. We went for a cheap kebab, however the English/German menu that was brought out to us wasn’t in Turkish Lira, but rather Euros – which means everything was actually three times the price! As we got up to leave, he brought out a Turkish menu with more competitive pricing – he said we were his friends because his cousin lives in Australia – lucky us. It was too hot to really have an appetite, so lunch was (to the visible sadness of the owner) just a simple rolled döner kebab (6TL each) and a cup of ayran (salty yoghurt drink).
Driving today was a struggle, so even though I wanted to drive further than Alanya, I had to stop for a swim and a rest on the beach. Long before we arrived in Alanya the sprawl of giant hotels began. We couldn’t understand how they can exist, as there surely can’t be that many people coming here and they can’t ever need to be so large… I’m convinced that they are probably full of empty and uncompleted rooms behind a giant flashy façade… But, I was jealous of the hotels with their waterslides.
We passed through a couple of tunnels and finally got our first glimpse of the enormous castle on the rocky peninsular dominating views in Alanya. The giant ‘all-in-holiday’ hotels were replaced with much smaller ones, reminding me of the Gold Coast. However one difference – we were able to park right beside the beach, and we also managed to find a set of sunbeds with an umbrella (and didn’t have to pay a single Lira for that privilege).
But the biggest difference came when I actually looked closer at the beach. It was crowded like Bondi Beach on a summer weekend. But, the worst part was the water. It wasn’t cool or refreshing, and about 10m out there was a 1m wide zone of garbage floating on the surface of the water that seemed to stretch as far as I could see up and down the beach. So, I could either stay in shallow waters by the shore, or swim through the floating debris to the clear deeper waters (I swam through it, and it felt and looked horrible).
I came to wonder how this stretch of beach could be some of the most popular and crowded beaches that we’ve been to so far in Turkey… I believe it is a marketing success, offering a combination of cheap flights, and cheap accommodation to Europeans chasing an escape to the sunshine.
Like most days before, when it came time to find a place to stay for the night, we jumped on Booking.com and found the best cheap hotel available. We were in luck tonight, we found the cheapest hotel so far ($25) and it was nice, clean and it even had a pool – Kleopatra Neray Hotel. Unlucky for us, we were hot and sweaty (again) and keen for a swim, but the pool shuts just before dinner time, so we had to settle for a cold shower…
Alanya is (in)famous for a hedonistic nightlife, so we thought we’d check it out. Because of this, I didn’t want to carry around my camera for risk of getting it damaged/stolen/confiscated, so unfortunately there are only photos from our mobile phones from here on.
Walking towards the centre of town, we passed a small bar with a big TV out the front that was showing the Australia vs. Holland World Cup match. They also had happy hour two-for-one pizzas and cheap beers, so how could we not? It usually feels that wherever I go, there are other Australian tourists, but here it full of Europeans. So, sadly the match was being show for the sake of the Dutch, not for us Aussies. They won anyway, but that was no surprise. And, not being a soccer fan anyway, I didn’t much mind.
Leaving dinner, it took me a while to notice that there was a blackout going on. We were walking past markets with candles and torches for light, and restaurants and bars with much the same. There must have been generators running, because lots of the bigger bars still had lights, but it was minimal, and there was no music blasting out. It was surreal, and not what we were expecting for a night out in Alanya, party capital of Turkey.
The one things that were still brightly lit and with music pumping out were the dozens of Viking (and a couple of Pirate) boats moored in the marina. People were moving towards the light and noise – us included. Risa managed to negotiate a trip on one ridiculous Viking boat for 5TL each (down from up to 20TL). I guess they hope to make up the price with alcohol sales…
True to their word, the boat departed a few minutes after we hopped on. They also did a little game to try and get more people on board by starting to pull away, only to return briefly and collect a few more punters. We found it a strange choice to play Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” as we left shore – I guess they don’t see the connection to maritime tragedy…
But the Canadian songstress was soon (thankfully) replaced with pumping Turkish music, which was of course accompanied by lasers, smoke, fog and foam on a makeshift dance floor in the middle of the boat. The rough waves made it interesting watching the people downstairs trying to dance on a floor that was moving from underneath their feet.
The boat journey lasted an hour, travelling a little out of the shelter of the harbour past the peninsular with the beautifully illuminated castle walls before returning back to where we came from to pick up more tourists and to do it all over again.
We noticed while we were out at ‘sea’ that the power must have come back on in town, as the area by the water was now glowing with neon light, instead of being shrouded in darkness.
We went inside one of the megaclubs, Robin Hood, which is said to be one of the biggest, but it was nearly empty apart from top floor. Even though it was nearly 1AM, people were only just starting to make their way towards the clubs. Groups of platinum blonde Scandinavians girls with mega tans and tiny clothes and the pumped up men they were hanging off. Once again, it felt like the Gold Coast.