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Fire & Water - Pammukale, Oludeniz & Olympos, Turkey

Greetings from a treetop cyber safe, deep in the treehouse town of Olympus. 

When we last left off, we had fled Selcuk for Pammukale. Some of you may have seen pictures of the white, calcified, terraced waterfall pools.  Over thousands of years the calcium flowed over the hills forming an amazing natural wonder.  People used to walk and crawl and swim in the pools until the late seventies when the Turkish government finally realized that all those smelly feet may not be too good for the pools and banned swimming in them. The most incredible ones are completely cordoned off and now you can only walk around the pools, and wade into few marked ones. It was a bit underwhelming, that time of year, the pools were running dry and many at low flow, not revealing the full effect. It all looks far more glamorous in the cheesy tourist brochures which showcase grainy pics of people swimming in the pools and lounging about. If you look closely, they are all wearing really bad seventies swimsuits and tiny speedos and matching seventies hair and large sunglasses. 

The area has many natural mineral springs which feed the pools and also a number of thermal baths. We visited one large outdoor thermal pool set in some ruins.  In was a natural pool and twisted and turned it's way through a secluded garden setting. Years ago, the ruins of a temple had collapsed into the pool during an earthquake so we swam among columns and stones and marble sculpture.  Many found high perches on the columns and lounged half in and half out of the water. The water itself was actually mineral. We know because we drank some. The spring source was at one end of the pool and fenced off because a number of people had swam down into it and got stuck and drowned. Highly recommended and located above the terraced hills at the top of the ridge.

After Pammukale we headed south to the Mediterrean coast, the Turkish Riveria, which boasts most beautiful beaches in the world. First to Oludeniz, home of the original Blue lagoon and the start of the Turkish Riveria. We were up for some days of lounging and fun in the sun. From Oludeniz we visited the Butterfly Valley, an intensely populated natural Butterfly habitat and hiked to a nearby waterfall.

Ruins on the island of St. Nick

There are many day trips sailing along the coast, stopping in coves for swimming and exploring natural sites. There are many boats and it's easy to arrive in the morning on the shore and head out for a day of fun in the sun. Food and alcohol is plentiful and cheap and the paced relaxed. Some of the sites include the original church ruins of St. Nicholas, a natural cold spring where the water gushes out bone-chillingly cold, and caverns and caves to swim and explore. 

Another excellent day trip is Saklikent Gorge. It was created by an earthquake that split a mountain in two and left a very narrow gorge that floods with ice cold spring water and very slippery amazing rock formations.  We hiked in (swam in) as far as we could til we were blocked by a waterfall we could not seem to penetrate.  

Once back at the entrance to the gorge, we relaxed in comfy platforms over the water, sitting on cushions, dipping our feet in the water and sipping tasty Turkish smoothies. The trip also included a stop at a trout farm for lunch, and it was some fresh and tasty grub. 

All in all, Oludeniz is about as low-key and easy a vacation as you can get. The big resorts have yet to hit town and infrastructure remains delightfully primitive. There are a lot of touristy beach front restaurants right in the center. For more authentic and delicious food, head further east along the beach and crowds thin.  It is a backpacker resort, full of adventure sports, cheap and convenient day trips and fruit smoothies. Bars party into the night, and Raki is the drink of choice.

Our next destination was another backpacker haven, otherwise known as the tree house town of Olympos, home of Mt Olympos and the eternal Chimera. Olympos is nestled in a very remote valley also on the southern coast of Turkey. After taking numerous buses and shuttles off the main road, we managed to get down into the valley.  The entire area has been declared an archelogical site and that basically translates to no concrete.  Normally the kiss of death to tourism, enterprising Turks have built numerous treehouses to lure the weary travelers.  

Our home sweet home

We stayed in our own two person digs high in the treetops.  The place we stayed at was a mini metropolis complete with treehouse restaurants, bars, showers, bathrooms, lounging areas, and even laundry (yeah- clean clothes).  The camp was full of small, elevated platforms where travelers rested, read, wrote, chatted and played board games. Meals were served camp style, at the same time, in the large dining tree. It was a serve yourself buffet and those near the end lost out. We quickly realized the game when we saw people nonchalantly standing in small clusters that that quickly gave way to lines at the stroke of six. 

One night, we hiked up to the Chimera flames high on Mt. Olympos.  What a hike!  One note here about liability in Turkey.  There does not appear to be any. In America that sort of hike would have to be guided, fenced off with handrails, and the path flooded with light. But in Turkey, we were told to wear good shoes and bring a light.  Little did we know how difficult the climb would be.  We were dropped off at the base of the mountain in the middle of the night (the best time to see the Chimera) and were told to go that way (UP) With no real idea where to go and no real path to really follow, we began climbing.  The trail would occasionally appear and disappear in large piles of rocks over which we did our best to maneuver. It was absolutely pitch black and our flashlight cut just a small path for us to follow.  At one point, I shined the light to one side and discovered that we were on the edge of a cliff.  OK, no more doing that. Just stick to the path and not think about the headlines (two Americans plunge off cliff) After a good hour climb up, we finally made it to the top and found the Chimera.  

An ancient wonder, modern scientists still have no explanation for the phenomena. Atop the mountain, numerous flames spring from beneath the rock and have been lit continuously since ancient times.  They were so bright that ancient writings talk of boats navigating by them. Scientists agree that they burn because of some natural gas emissions, but the ignition is the x-file.  You cover them up or douse them with water but they always re-ignite. One young Turk was boiling water over a flame and making herbal tea with herbs he had gathered from the mountain.  He handed us a glass of tea with what appeared to be huge weeds sticking out, but it was absolutely delicious. We sat around the flames and bemoaned the lack of marshmellows.

Up on these mountains, we noticed the sky. In such a remote place there was absolutely no light pollution. We noticed millions of stars among the bright ones that we normally see back at home.  The big dipper is chock-a-block full of stars and you could even see the milky way stretch across the sky. It was magical.

Movie Corner (we are just gonna throw this in) Back at the treehouse, we watched 'The Game' with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn and we give it two thumbs up. Two hours of pure entertainment and suspense in a tree. 

After Olympos, we took an overnight bus across Turkey and up to Istanbul to meet up with Emma, our fabu elle-macpherson look-alike traveling buddy.  She was flying into Istanbul and we rearranged our plans to catch up with her and travel together a bit.

Over and out good buddies

ann and doug

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