A surprise package.
02.05.2013 - 02.05.2013 34 °C
Today has been our "branch off" day. Six of the 29 tour members have left the group (including Red and I) and we are heading off in a different direction. Our tour is 18 days long and the other tour is 10 days.
We've formed quite a bond with quite a few of the group, even though we've only known them for 6 days. We had a group photo taken outside the hotel, said our goodbyes and off they went - leaving us with a new guide and driver, and a 12 seater bus. Our guide is called Yigit (pronounced Eegit - I think!).
Our first stop was the ruins of Hierapolis - founded in around 100BC. The thermal springs in the city made it a popular destination for those in need of a spa. We started on a walking tour - trekking along what was the main street - an ancient cobblestoned road - that is lined with sarcophagi. This is the largest ancient graveyard in Anatolia - with 1200 tombs here. Wild poppies are everywhere - beautiful - and we're allowed to pick them! We made our way along the road to what was the central part of the city - admiring the view along the way. A huge plateau - a green patch work quilt in the foreground with snow capped mountains in the distance. Stunning view on a perfect day.
Right along side the ancient city are the calcium cascades of Pamukkale - the white travertine terraces. This is an awesome place, with reality every bit as good as the photos. Pamukkale means "Cotton Castle". The terraces form when water from the hot springs loses carbon dioxide as it flows down the slopes, leaving deposits of limestone. The layers of white calcium carbonate have been built up in steps on the plateau.
Visitors are allowed to paddle or swim in this therapeutic water - and that's exactly what we did. An unusual feeling and a great experience. We had a fruit juice alongside Cleopatra's Pool which is open to the public for swimming. This pool still has remnants of ancient marble columns on the floor of the pool.
From here we walked way up to the top of the Theatre which was built in 200BC and housed 20,000 people. It is beautifully preserved.
Then a walk back to our bus and a quick trip to a little family restaurant on the side of the road where the wife of the family made us a home cooked meal. We had this in a little wooden hut with hessian for walls - very traditional and quite charming. Afterwards we visited the family's textile shop and made some purchases - one of them is a hand embroidered cushion cover for my lovely Mum!
We are now travelling in a southerly direction through the mountains towards Antalya - on the Meditteranean Sea - our stop for tonight.
The mountains surrounding Antalya are nothing short of astounding. Rugged peaks and sheer drops - these mountains are right on the coastline so they are visible from anywhere in the city.
I had in my mind a picture of Antalya - a quiet little fishing village nestled on the Meditteranean. How wrong was I? There are 1.5 million people living here - a thoroughly modern city. We stopped off at a supermarket for some essentials (laundry powder one of them) and then checked in to the Crowne Plaza. This is a beautiful hotel, right on the beach. I placed all of our washing in to the deep bath - filled it up and added washing powder. Instant washing machine! After a shower and an unsuccessful attempt to connect to the Wifi here - we went down to the hotel's restaurant and had a really nice buffet dinner. We sat outside on what was a beautiful balmy night and shared some stories with our travelling companions. We are travelling with two school teachers from Cairns - Jacquie and Leslie, a school teacher and musician from Melbourne - Paul and Fleur. We are roughly the same age give or take 5 years or so - and we all have a similar interest in travelling.
Came back to the hotel room and proceeded to rinse, wring and hang out clothes - and placed them wherever we could in our hotel room. Costs for laundry here are high - we would have been up for around 80 euros to have it done by the hotel. Nup!