Two months in the desert made me beyond pleased to get to the beach. Every cramped uncomfortable second on the overnight bus was worth it to be within walking distance of the water. I arrived at my hostel at 8.45am dumped my things and walked to the beach past hostels, cafes selling Gozleme (local pancakes) and the ancient city of Olympos and was looking at the water by 9.10am.
When I go to the beach in Gippsland there are memories at every turn. The beach remembers inviting me into its big crashing blue as soon as I could crawl. It remembers the first sunrise of the new millennium over the ripples of Bastian Point, absurdly elaborate sandcastles for Carnival in Coota, watching John dive for Abalone and eating the spoils at the Conran cabins and the rejuvenation that awaited once I eased myself into the water at the Prom lighthouse. Probably the beach remembers more than I do, and some that I would rather forget.
The beach in Turkey is a blank slate, I don’t know the beach and it does not know me. Every sight, sound and sensation is new. I walk shakily across sharp rocks already hot at nine am, wade through the refreshing cool of the stream that runs into the bay and at long last take that first plunge and say: ‘Hello Turkey blue, it’s very nice to meet you’.
On my second day despite ruin fatigue I put on my boots and took some time away from the beach to explore Olympos. I found myself happily wandering about on obscure shady pathways that often petered out into nothing, but sometimes lead to a stone doorway, a sarcophagus that might have housed the remains of Marcus Aurelius, a crumbling mosaic floor, a vine entwined archway or some lonely pillars.
The remains of the once great Lycian city are nestled at the base of great green mountains and they stand on either side of the river that flows out to the bay. Walking around the overgrown ruins makes me feel like I’m exploring the fantasy castle of Cair Paraval from Narnia. But the reality is as fascinating as the fantasy; the city has a history of riches, lives big and small, pirate invasions, crusaders using it as a stopover and finally abandonment.
Although the beaches of Turkey don’t know me yet their memories are full of other peoples stories.
I continued the happy process of introducing myself to the waters around Turkey on my boat cruise. By day we passed by beautiful bays, villages only accessible by water, busy beaches cluttered with beach umbrellas, quiet rocky coves and ancient cities sinking into the sea.
We stop in picturesque locations and plunge off the edge of our yacht, plummeting deep into the cool blue and washing away the heat of the day. At night waiting for the waves to rock me to sleep I look up from my spot on the deck and watch for shooting stars with a big smile on my face.
After a few days swimming, fishing, turtle spotting and paddling we arrived at St Nicholas Island late one afternoon and moored for the night under Byzantine ruins. Feeling thoroughly acquainted with the waters about me I set out to see what was around the corner of the island. Greeted by another sheltered bay I swam on keeping one eye on the ruins and one eye ahead of me.
I swam ‘just around the next corner’ for a few corners and found myself peering down at roots of the island as it plunged into the darkest coldest blue and up at rocky ledges that no longer invited the weary swimmer to clamber ashore.
With my freestyle puttering out I switched to side stroke, anxious to avoid simply floating on my back as I was pretty sure that would send me backwards. I was getting tired, but since going back ‘had’ to be further than going forward I ploughed on to the next corner.
Greeted with another outward edge and another piece of dark water I decided to go with the shorter swim and moved into the open water. No longer hugging the island I made slow, rather sloppy progress, swallowing a lot of salt water and stopping often to gauge my lack of progress. Struggling to get nowhere my limbs got shaky and I had my first moment of panic.
I was alone in the open water and panic was not practical. I got myself together and gave up my attempt to make it to the distant corner. Cutting back toward the island meant losing my short cut, but keeping my head above water.
I made it back to the island, aimed at an inviting looking rock and let a wave lift me ashore. On shaky legs I clambered up the rocky edge and at the top of the outcrop I discovered I was at tip of the islands nose; the point I had been trying for would have brought me back into calmer water.
|On land again, the view towards the nose of St Nicholas Island.
With my body reverberating with fatigue and my moment of panic I was not so much disappointed to have nearly made it- as pleased to know that I could make it. I climbed down the opposite side and dropped back into the water- not exactly keen to continue my swim, but trusting my tired legs more in the water than on steep rock.
With the low sun in my eyes and boat masts ahead I paddled home accompanied by jet skies rather than lonely ruins. My water lust was satiated for the day, but I was finally confident that Turkey blue would remember the foolish floatsum who had made her way around St Nicholas Island.
|Sunset view from the Island towards my floating home.