19/8/15 – 24/8/15
Our last day in Romania, returning to Bucharest, was terrible, for reasons I don’t want to get too deep into but I’ll give you a short list –8am train was two hours delayed, walked in the rain and arrived a the dodgiest hostel (The Green Frog), the café we’d been looking forward to returning to all day had run out of its famous éclairs, then we went to dinner where my order was taken incorrectly, and when it arrived was pretty bad food. These may seem like trivial things, but when they happen one after the other in the same day, we couldn’t get to bed fast enough and were looking forward to starting the day afresh –even more so because we were travelling to a new country.
So we leave one of the more bizarre hostel experiences we’ve had (nice family running a messy hostel, highlights include paying for our beds to the 13 year-old son), and catch a bus to the airport, take a flight to Istanbul, catch a connecting flight to Bodrum, and then after wandering the outskirts of the airport for a while, find the bus which takes us into the Bodrum centre. Aaaaand finally we can relax. Almost.
We’re actually only staying in Bodrum for one night, at the Pudra Boutique Hotel. It’s nice enough, but quite a bit above our budget because of a mistake with booking through Air BnB that turned out to be our own fault but was still frustrating.
Bodrum is intense. It reminds of Sunny Beach, but with definitely a lot more culture. Nonetheless, it seems a very tourist driven town with staff from every restaurant pounding the pavement to throw flyers at you or promise the cheapest cocktails or ‘full English breakfast’. After suffering through the intense heat of Bulgaria and Romania for over a month, it’s great to be back on the coast. By the time we check into the hotel it’s after 6pm, so we quickly change and head out for a walk along the promenade to watch the sunset and grab some dinner –Turkish food of course
The next morning we’re on the move again, we take two ‘Dolmus’ –most common form of transport in Turkey, a mini bus, which is always an experience. They’re usually cramped, so getting on with all our bags is difficult, if not near impossible. The driver is sometimes on his phone, he hands out your change while taking narrow corners, and you pretty much just yell out when you want to bus to stop. It’s all anxiety inducing but laughably exciting at the same time.
Anyway, as I was saying, we take two of these mini buses to the next town of Turgutreis, where we’ll be staying at Bodrum Eco-Farm for the next five days. It’s a very low-key place, with a couple of dorms, some tents, and one double ‘room’ where we’ll be staying. It’s not really a room, rather a double bed that’s been plonked in the landing in between the stairs and entrance to the four-bed dorm –but that’s a technicality I suppose.
There’s not a heap to do here at Eco Farm, but that’s most of the appeal. The day starts with your included breakfast, a traditional Turkish brekkie of tomatoes, cucumber, feta, olives and a fried egg on some bread. Plus there’s some home-made jam too. The owner, Cem, prepares each meal individually and it’s a good way to get to know everyone as you sit around the breakfast table. The rest of the day is up to you; walk to the beach was usually the favoured option. Other days we were happy just to relax at the Eco Farm, sitting under the citrus trees or in the giant kitchen/alfresco area. There were chickens endlessly running around, even baby chicks too! Plus two gorgeous dogs who loved to follow you around and sit at your feet.
It only takes 20-25 minutes or so to walk to nearby town Turgutreis, where it’s again quite touristic, but nowhere near as bad as Bodrum. As we approached the beach, we notice a lavish resort to our right. We decide to have a look, and subsequently realise that La Blanche resort is one of the most luxurious things we’ve ever seen. Private pools, ocean pools, private beaches with ocean pools, you get the idea. Plus staff running around waiting hand and foot on you, plus you can hire segways to get you from one end of the resort to the other. We looked up the prices and just one night at La Blanche would cost more than our entire stay at Eco Farm. Crazy. Anyway, I like Eco Farm, it’s rustic and homely.
As we were leaving La Blanche, we walked passed a stray dog who we stopped and said hello to –if you’re not someone who says hello and goodbye to dogs then there’s truly no hope of friendship between us- but then before we knew it, he was following us all the way down to the beach. When we set up our towels at the beach, he sat next to us. When Daniel went in the water, he followed and went for a dip too, but then came back and trod all over Daniel’s towel as he sat next to me. If I didn’t pay attention to him for a few minutes, he would nuzzle his head into my hands, seeking some affection. It was all really sweet but sad at the same time. Eventually he wandered off, because some stupid kids scared him, but I’m glad he got a little bit of love and attention, at least for a little while. I’m so glad we don’t have this much of a problem with stray dogs and cats in Perth, it’s so heart breaking.
Lazy evenings and dinners at Eco Farm were always fun. Cem and his volunteer worker Ahmed prepared all of us an array of delicious dishes, usually vegetarian. Anywhere between 9-10pm Cem would announce that dinner was ready and everyone would meander down to the alfresco area to plate up, and then sit down altogether as we all exchanged stories of what we had done that day. It really felt like family dinnertime, and we didn’t even have to do the dishes –bonus! From then we’d usually all play some kind of game, whether it was charades or our rudimentary form of Pictionary (with an easel and black paint), plus one night after several hours of beers and chats, we all headed down to the beach, Cem bought us all some drinks, and we sat on the sand until about 3am. The life.
On Saturday the two of us, plus Murat (a Turkish guy), plus two German girls Franci and Terasa walked back into Turgutreis to check out the weekly market. This was our first experience in a proper Turkish market, and we were so happy to have Murat along with us. It’s basically an open secret that the vendors give one price to tourists and another to locals, so it was fun to have Murat with us to translate and help us haggle. Aside from the clothes/trinkets, there was also the fruit and veg market happening just up the road, and I think I actually preferred this. Yes, it’s always fun to shop for clothes and the like, but walking around the fruit and veg stalls was something quite different. The smells were overwhelming, there were piles of nuts, dried fruits, spices, anything you could think of –plus things you could have never have thought of, because they were things you’ve never seen before. Again, Murat was our guide, talking to sellers, explaining where we were from. They’d happily offer us a taste of whatever delicious thing they were selling. There weren’t many tourists around here; it was filled with locals doing their weekly shop, and it was something to behold.
Our time at Eco Farm very abruptly came to an end, one moment we were eating dinner and relaxing outside, then the next morning awoke and realised we had to check out today…
We perhaps would have liked an extra day here, but then, something wonderfully unexpected happened. As we were saying our goodbyes and unhappily planning our difficult route to Dalyan (required several different buses), we bumped into two Aussie guys who we thought had already left Eco Farm. Their plans had changed and now they were back at Eco Farm, waiting to pick up the car they had now hired for five days. Next thing you know, they’ve offered to drive us to Dalyan, along with Murat who is also heading that way.
Let the Turkish road trip begin…