Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pirate Olympics, Kaunos ancient site and Dalyan River

This morning we had a lazy and relaxed swim session with lots of fun for all.  We had water fights, jumping contests, ball toss, and a pirate Olympics where we tries to climb hand over hand up the line tied to shore to see if anyone could make it up onto the boat from the water as you see pirates do in the movies.  We had three successful pirates in our group!  

After a nice lunch featuring lots of salads, green beans, fresh yogurt with cucumbers and garlic, and grilled chicken we set off cruising down the coast 2 hours to the ancient site of Kaunos.  We had good weather and calm seas as we passed tall mountains and deep pine forests along the shore.  We arrived in the late afternoon where we boarded a small local boat at the river mouth and entered into a nature preserve that is dedicated to the rare and endangered loggerhead turtle.  We were lucky to get good views of these giant turtles when we pulled up next to a local fisherman who was feeding the turtles blue crabs.  

Banana Boat is everybody's favorite motorized water sport!
The turtles had beautiful green shells which were as large as 4 feet in diameter.  As we continued up he river we entered into an area of tall reeds and narrow channels.  This area was featured in the film African Queen which starred Humphry Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.  When we reached the town of Dalyan we walked up a small hill to a wonderful ancient site called Kaunos which was the capital of the Carian civilization.  The Carians were a matrilineal society which meant that the Children took their mothers last name and the daughters inherited the family wealth when the parents died.  There was even a Carian Queen who ruled the territory.  
Kids sitting on the 2nd Century BC theatre seats....
As with most ancient sites in Turkey, later civilizations came and built upon the ruins so in this site we witnessed a well preserved Greek theater, Roman baths, and Byzantine defense walls high on the cliff above.  The site represented a span of almost a 1000 years from 600 BCE to 400 AD....eventually the river silted up and malaria drove away the inhabitants which had become known as the "purple faced" due to their high fevers and chills.
Dalyan River and Carian Royal Tombs from 6th Century BC
The late afternoon light was gorgeous as we looked out from our hillside position over the double harbors below and across the large marsh we had travelled to the tall mountains and Mediterranean Sea in the distance.  We then walked back through a grove of pomegranate and fig trees to our boat and cruised up close to some amazing cliff side tombs that were carved into the solid rock cliff face over 2000 years ago.  These tombs were made for the Royal Family and housed the remains of entire families.  Carians and Lycians believed in life after death and buried their dead with their prized possessions so that they could have them in the after life.  The cliff side tombs are some of the most impressive ruins in Turkey and are very similar to the ones in Petra which are featured in the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie. 

 We then made a quick visit to the charming town of Dalyan where we walked through the quaint streets and restocked our boat supplies.  On the boat ride back Jale purchased some fresh pomegranate juice from a local farmer and we all enjoyed the refreshing tart taste as we cruised back through the turtle sanctuary at sunset.