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Cappadocia is about as far removed from Turkey’s idyllic Mediterranean coast as you can imagine. It’s a crazy, rocky, dusty moonscape dotted with craggy rock formations called fairy chimneys. Many of these have been fashioned into houses by locals over the last couple thousand years or so. It’s all quite bizarre and strangely beautiful.

Landscape

At some point, someone must have been inspired to check it all out from the lofty viewpoint of a hot air balloon. And so it began.

Balloons

That’s a fraction of the 100 balloons going up every morning at about 6am for a spectacular sunrise ride across the rocky plateau. Catching this ride required a 4.30am start; which required Kate to explain to Mike there was such a thing as a 4.30am.

Pre-balloon
It didn’t go well.

That’s part early-morning, part Xanax. You see, the balloon ride was to expose one of Kate’s favourite paradoxes about Mike; a mild fear of heights in a man who lives life at a reasonable height (6″5′, in shoes that is).

Things were already looking up by the time we climbed into our 18-man basket.

Ready to go
Just out of shot; the crap in Mike’s pants.

It was the first time in a hot air balloon for both of us, and what a way to break our cherry. Our pilot was a super laconic guy spouting well-practiced lines. “This balloon we’re in is named … Titanic” being one of the best/worst.

Skipper
Part time skip; full time comedian.

His walkie-talkie was constantly squawking; after a while another passenger piped up and asked him what the other pilots were saying. “They’re saying there is a particularly good looking Japanese girl in thier balloon,” was the response. Safety first.

All up we only floated about for an hour or so, but it was truly unforgettable.

Balloons

Balloons

Silhouette

Balloons

Balloons

Until…

All over
*Trombone sound-effect*

What a ride. And that is but a taste of the pics we got. If you have something of a hot air balloon photo fetish, find a quiet place and click here. Then – go get yourself some professional help. Please.

To round out our time in Goreme we caught up with ex-shipmates Mel and Chris for a brilliant farewell dinner, and enjoyed a day hike through the surrounding valleys and hills. Meaning: more bloody pictures of rocks, rocks and more rocks.

Pigeon valley

Uchisar

Love valley

That last one is from a place called ‘Love Valley’, supposedly because the rock formations look like… well.

All class
You stay classy, Goreme.

Cappadocia rounded out a sensational few weeks in Turkey. Always surprising, always engaging; easily one of the highlights of this caper so far. Little did we know our next stop – the Balkans – would equally bowl us over. That’s next time on *cue theme music* Cool Runnings. Roll credits!

Olympos Sit In

Hello there! Long time no blog. Now, where were we…?

Ah yes, we were on a boat (mutha f*cka’s)! So after a hectic and strenuous four says at sea, we were ready for a few days of well-deserved R&R. Fortunately our sailing trip ended in relaxation capital Olympos, so we didn’t have to venture too far.

The beach

Olympos is famous for its beautiful beach, ancient ruins and, naturally, treehouses.

Treehouses

More like cubby houses on stilts, there are about 20 different complexes of these things in Olympos, something to do with hippes settling in the area in the 70s, and concrete being banned as a building material. If at first it all seems a little contrived, it’s not long before you are well and truly in the swing.

Our spot

We did a lot of sitting in Olympos. In that hut. So much so that, if we did briefly sneak away, the lady at our treehouses would save the spot for us so we could sit some more when we returned. Another life goal achieved.

Occasionally, to mix things up, we did lie down for a while.

Relaxing

It was tough.

Once we could sit/lie no more, we managed to venture to the ruins and the beach, which did not disappoint.

Not-so-ancient bridge

exploring       Creek

Beach view

Taking the plunge

Our full set of pics from Olympos is here.

Eventually, and with great sadness, we tore ourselves away from our treehouse; our next stop was the beautifully restored Ottoman city of Antalya, just an hour or so up the coast. It was here that Kate survived the hammam (with no Prince sightings, sadly), and Mike was continually assumed to be German – waiters and other locals would hold whole conversations with us in German despite our English interjections. Wunderbar! Our photos from Antalya are here.

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Raki

O hard and rugged life ‘pon ocean’s tide; O fickle and dangerous sea! Have mercy, gentle Neptune!

Tough life

Maybe not.

A couple of weeks back we had an utterly brilliant time sailing in Turkey. For four glorious days we strapped on the ol’ sea legs and cruised our traditional Turkish gullet – no two the same! – around the treacherous Turkish coast from Fethiye to Olympos. Though to be fair, the only treacherous moment came when we briefly ran out of beer. The HORROR.

Here be the good ship Alaturka Luxury Blue Cruises Inc.

Our boat

Aboard this fine sea-farin’ craft: eighteen hardy souls all told, flung together from all corners of the globe. Argentinians, Americans, Canadians, Germans and as is mandatory when travelling anywhere anytime, more bloody Australians. This sort of caper can live or die with the people you get thrown in with. With this gang, we ab-so-lute-ly nailed it.

Crew
This boat is reeeaaalllll. In joke.

Charged with steering us safely through the storm; skipper and great bloke Sirkhan, shown here earning his tip.

Skipper love
He worked for it.

Rounding out the crew of two was Sirkhan’s dad, who we took to calling ‘Baba’ (Turkish for father). Baba proved an amazing chef and the meals whipped up in the tiny galley were some of the best we’d had in Turkey. Also, he was perpetually grinning; the happiest man ever seen aboard a gullet.

Baba - best cook ever

From here on out, I’ll defer to the journal I painstakingly maintained on board:

Clarke’s Log, Day 1: Boarded and inspected vessel. Impressed with cut of jib. First indications of raucous nature of fellow passengers; immediate demands for beer by the Canucks, seconded by Aussies. Ship’s glass indicates 11am. Could be squalls ahead.

2pm: Smooth sailing so far.

3pm: Lame blogging device tired already; Clarke’s Log abandoned.

The days unfolded in delightfully lazy fashion. In between cruising along the rugged, rocky coast we undertook activities of varying effort. Down the lower end of that scale: patronising enterprising locals in small boats selling ice-cream or even better, freshly made Gozleme – a delicious Turkish pancakey thing. Twas so good, Kate nearly swapped boats.

Home delivery gozleme
Prepare to be boarded – er, I mean, one please.

A beautiful hike in ‘Butterfly Valley’ to a picturesque, if slightly underwhelming, waterfall.

Butterfly Valley       The waterfall

Teamwork

Exploring local towns including Kas and the fantastic Simena Castle.

Kas       Top of the world

Simena

View from Simena fort       View

Otherwise it was mostly a case of swimming, lounging and relaxing. We ain’t no sailors, but knocking back beers on the deck of a boat has to be one of life’s great pleasures. This ultimately led to various games and shenanigans – including primitive contests of strength between yours truly and the other Mike of Costco Arizona.

On your marks...
No I don’t remember who won. Arm-wrestling was the real winner.

Lots of card games, drinking games and drinking card games also ensued – sometimes, with humiliation-based stakes.

The losers
Pick the losers

Probably the best was saved for the last night, when we were ferried to the ‘secret island disco’ of Smugglers Inn. And yes, it offered exactly the cheesy, kitschy goodness that the name suggests. More beers, fire dancing, poi twirling, fending off crazy other travellers and downing shots of (naturally) Captain Morgan.

On day 4 we de-boarded with a swag of new mates, great memories and one fucking epic three-days-deferred hangover. That last one, probably just me.

But most importantly of all, we proved once and for all that the very best ship… is friendship. A few more photos here.

* Several pics photocredit Mel Z!

Hats off (and shirts too, apparently) to Ephesus

After spending our first week in Turkey roaming Ottoman sites and ANZAC memorials, it was time to mix it up a little with some Roman ruins; and the most complete Roman ruins in Europe at that.

The ancient city of Ephesus was built by the Greeks in the 10th century BC, but really became the place to be when it was part of the Roman Empire from 129BC.

Ephesus town

These days the site, on Turkey’s western coast, is awash with tourists from all over the world. And it’s not hard to see why with highlights like the impressive Library of Celsus (below). Disturbingly, some Brits Abroad appeared to choose to display their admiration by taking their shirts off as they wandered around. Really? At an ancient ruins site?? I don’t think this is appropriate. Discuss.

Library close up
“Look at that amazing ancient library. I might take off my shirt”, said no non-Brit ever

But I digress. It seems the ancients were pretty advanced, the plumbers in particular.

Old pipes
So many pipes

They also might have started a crazy little thing called marketing. This is thought to be the world’s very first advertisement:

Brothel advertisement

Archaeologists believe that love heart can mean only one thing; the ad was for the brothel down the road. Nawwww.

Nearby town of Selcuk is also home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Artemis Temple. At least it was – these days it’s no more than a pillar in a swamp, home to local birds nesting and girls posing for selfies.

Artemis temple ruin
You’ll just have to imagine the birds and the selfies

A bit of a fixer-upper, but it’s a good start.

Selcuk itself is a laid back town, and our time there reinforced just friendly locals are. Bus station touts helping us to our booked hotel without expectation or agenda? Nary a hawker in sight? Still the final proof came as we were walking to the bus station on our last day, when even a passing garbage man waved us goodbye and wished us a nice day from the back of his truck. We’ve crunched the numbers; Turkish people are genuinely lovely.

The rest of our pics from Selcuk and Ephesus are here.