There are a number of benefits to being a solo traveller. It can be easier to meet new people. You don’t have to consult with anyone before making last minute changes to your travel plans. In fact, you don’t even have to have plans – and when you’re travelling solo without plans, there’s no negotiating with anyone to figure out where to next: you just pick a bus and get on it. All of these combined to give me probably my most enjoyable experience in Turkey…
Having completed my hot air ballooning mission in Cappadocia, I asked around for suggestions on where I should go next. The hostel owner seemed pretty emphatic in his opinion, so in not too long I found myself on an overnight bus to Olympos. Three days there on the beach and exploring the old city ruins were days well spent: Olympos is a great backpackers’ spot to relax and do bugger all. It’s a tourist-only little village of tree house-style accommodation (permanent buildings are verboten, apparently), but tourist-only isn’t always bad. It’s a fun and easy place, and if that isn’t high-brow enough for your travel tastes, well, go read somebody else’s blog.
But as enjoyable as Olympos was, the first thing I did there was the best: I walked next door from my hostel (Bayrams) to V-Go cruises, and booked myself on a four day (three night) gulet cruise from Olympos to Fethiye – again, on the recommendation of people I’d run into earlier on in Turkey.
I don’t know what I enjoyed most about the four days on the boat. Maybe it was just being reminded how much I love the water. Maybe it was having a little longer than a typical hostel stay to get to know a new bunch of great people. Maybe jumping in for a swim every time the boat so much as paused. (Even there I’m not sure whether I enjoyed that more for the sake of swimming, or just as an excuse not to shower for four days.) Or maybe the beautiful scenery, or not being responsible for my own travel decisions (the flip side of solo travel!). Maybe sleeping out on deck under the stars.
It was all good. From the romantic midnight swim in a bioluminescent pirate cave to the minor swell a couple of mornings later which had others feeling seasick but me bouncing around on the bowsprit like a twelve year old with a sugar high. The company really made the trip, but with no offence intended to anyone on our particular cruise, I suspect it’s the sort of trip which would make most people pretty good company.
Oh, and the sunrises and sunsets were pretty good, too. Not that anyone but me saw the sunrises. (The girls wanted to see them, or so they claimed, so I woke them up for one or two. But for my own safety I wasn’t going to insist once the realities of the time of morning changed their minds. So I showed them some nice photos in the relative comfort of midday had set in.)
An extended description of the cruise would make a great thing sound boring and ordinary, so I’ll just say that each of our four days basically involved excellent food prepared by our captain and his helper (breakfast, lunch and dinner, all included), a couple of sessions of a few hours of motoring from one bay or anchorage to another as we all whiled away the time lying in the sun or (on the last day) dancing the Macarena on the foredeck, plenty of swimming, and a comfortable evening of a few quiet beers on deck.
Actually, the evenings were a little more varied than the above implies. The first night we spent at a bar only accessible from the water, mingling with the inhabitants of another cruise just like ours, discovering along with them the prodigious and hitherto unforeshadowed talents of one of our party on the dance floor (no, it was most certainly not me!). The second we were presented with the highly entertaining spectacle of watching and hearing the Spaniard on our cruise listen with almost religious fervour to her iPhone stream (Spanish) commentary of the Spain v Portugal Euro 2012 semi-final (especially as it dragged through a goalless extra time to be decided on penalty shootouts); listening with an intensity and excitability matched only by the ferocity of her insistence that actually she wasn’t really that involved, and she wouldn’t be that upset if they lost. The third night was again in a bay with a bar (albeit a much quieter one, minus dance floor), and this one came with TV reception, so we could actually watch the second semi-final, rather than interpreting the match mainly via the alternating ecstasy and pain of our friend’s facial expressions. (Well, we could watch it so long as the bar owner kept most of the lights off, so that the generator had enough grunt left to power the TV.)
And in fairness the days were plenty varied, too. (Except for the snorkelling. There’s only so much excitement you can muster when the best outcome of any of our many snorkelling expeditions was the one swim where we managed to find not one but two sea slugs. Two!) They became especially varied towards the end, when our swims started to turn into giant maritime dodgeball competitions with constantly changing rules, as we pelted around a small inflatable ball that one enterprising passenger had managed to acquire.
As I’m sure you can gather, the whole experience was a ton of fun (and, in case you’re in the area, everyone else I’ve spoken to who’s done the same cruise at other times had the same to report). But all good things blah blah blah. When it did come to an end, it was so very tempting to see if it wasn’t possible to jump on tomorrow’s cruise going back the other way. But better to move on, I suppose, and see what else Turkey had to offer…