Beware - very long read.
My wife (SWMBO) and I are currently undertaking a five week roadtrip around Turkey.
I intend doing an ongoing trip report as we go when time and internet service are available.
On a couple of previous roadtrips when I've gone to the trouble of doing this, the trips are somehow much more memorable. On those when I've planned ongoing something on my return home, either nothing has been done, or the memories have become too hazy too soon to be able to give any worthwhile feedback.
When researching this trip I had a lot of difficulty finding much information about road tripping Turkey. The roadtrip forums were generally silent about this part of the world, and the English language sections of the Turkey forums dealt almost exclusively with full room and board packages at fancy resorts or about the price of beer and cigarettes or the availability of English style meals.
I do intend doing a report on the Turkey forums at a later date dealing with specific places, foods, accommodation, and other experiences, but I will start here concentrating on the driving and more general aspects as they happen.
I made my car bookings through rentalcars.com long in advance. Keeping watch on prices after that I was seeing that I got a very good deal, so became worried that maybe my booking wouldn't be honoured. Two weeks before leaving home I emailed the rental company, Garenta, direct to confirm the details of my booking and got an immediate response confirming all details.
We picked up our car at Antalya airport after a journey of over 50 hours hoping that all was well. And so it was. The car was ready and we'd been upgraded to a higher class and diesel instead of perol. I was a bit wary of the price of fuel and the poor economy that I would get from a petrol car. They did offer extra insurance ( no hard sell - just an offer ) and at the price I figured windscreen and tyre protection which was now included was well worth it. My contract didn't have unlimited mileage but they gave me an extra allowance at no charge.
We found after renting several times in the US that American companies seem very blasé about minor (and not so minor) damage to your car and accept it as being nothing to worry about. Aussie rental companies are the opposite and in my experience want to charge extra for every bug that sticks to your car and call it damage at the renter expense. Here in Turkey, the car I received even though it had less than 10000 kilometres on the clock, id have a few very tiny marks and they had already been noted and photographed. Now the pressure is on me to get it back the same way.
Our hire started at 5pm on a Friday afternoon and we had to get ourselves to Kaleici (Old Town) in the centre of Antalya - an area very reminiscent of the tiny cramped one way streets in parts of other European cities. And 5pm Friday was hell. We couldn't get google maps working as e left the airport so planned to pull up somewhere close by. Well, how do you do that in Turkey.
Everyone seemed to ignore line markings, speed limits seemed to be ignored, even traffic signals seemed at times to be suggestions. We eventually found our way to
Kaleici but then the real fun began. Only 1.1 kilometres to our hotel but 45 minutes later we were no closer. The streets are closed to all but permitted (residents) cars. Many streets are not wide enough for a car. Most two way streets are not wide enough for two cars. The streets are also the walkways, showrooms for shops, sitting areas for restaurants and anything else you want. To top it off our hotel had 2 separate buildings and we did not know which to go to. After much reversing very slowly we found our way to the main building (facing the wrong way) in a one way street too narrow for us to open a door to get out. The Pensyion eventually had his son get in the car with us to direct us to the right location. If you are staying in the old part of a Turkish town, beware. Surprisingly SWMBO stayed calm and we remain married.
Having got our car parked we decided the next day we would get around on foot because we really had no idea how to get our car backout, or then back in to town.
The next day - day 1 - we went carless and had an awesome time around the city.
And then on Sunday, the fun began again. This was planned because I thought traffic would be lighter on a Sunday and would give me a chance to get myself oriented with local conditions. And so that morning did go well.
Google maps has in general been good, but with so much constant construction going on, there were a few wrong turns. We also had issue with directions telling us which lane to use. It seems here, that line markings are optional. if your car can fit in a gap, just make another lane. Everyone does it. If you want to turn left, don't bother using the left lane, simply pushing across from the right lane will get you there. Seems crazy, but it seems to work. If someone wants to stop, they seem to just put ontheir hazard lights and stop wherever they want. There doesn't seem to be any aggressive backlash.
Speed limits are ignored. If the person in front is going too slow, flash your headlights and they will move. Most people seem quite happy to let the faster cars go. But don't leave more than a hairs width between you and the car in front or else someone will put their car in the gap.Crazy, but it works.
Our first day out on the roads went well. Visited Koprulu Canyon for some white water rafting and spent time looking through the ancient ruins at Perge. But we weren't prepared for the crowds in
Kaleici when we got back that night and somehow, we couldn't find our hotel again. Eventually found the main building and again had to ask the owners son to lead us back to our rooms - a bit embarrassing.
On Monday we again made an early start to avoid the tourist traffic and headed out of the city to see Termessos and the Karain cave. The highways in this part of Turkey are in great condition and there seems to be plenty more road construction going on, but once on minor roads you need to watch out for tractors carrying the whole family and a massive trailer, motorbikes carrying up to four people and a dog, cars stopped seemingly anywhere (but usually showing their hazard lights), sheep (including a herd being lead along the centre median strip of a highway).
On return to Kaleici we again had trouble finding our hotel. The roads are really that confusing. You know its bad when at onetime that evening a cabbie asked us for directions as we were walking to dinner.
The traffic lights have been a bit of change for us. Many have a time showing how long before they are going to change so everyone can be ready to floor it on the green or floor it to get through before or maybe just a bit after they go red. Before going green they flash yellow a couple of times so you are ready to drop the clutch and get those wheels spinning, and if you aren't mobile within a second someone will be blowing a horn or flashing headlights at you to get out of the way.
On Monday night we went to the ballet at Aspendoss in a 2000 year old theatre. Magical stuff. Our tickets included hotel pickup and return. There we were waiting for a bus, and a private car service turns up. Bargain deal. It was interesting now being a passenger in a car and seeing how a local handles the conditions. Made me understand the system a little better.
Today we again got away early partly to avoid traffic in the city.
Made a stop at Beldibi for brunch - felt like a seaside town in Russia. Signage was mostly in Russian. Most voices were Russian. Most stores displayed prices in US dollars and when we wanted to pay in the local lira we were generally made to feel quite unwelcome.
Drove up to Goyuk Canyon to go canyoning, but after slipping on the slippery rocks walking in, my now very sore knee told us to give the whole deal a miss. Was interesting to watch water bombing airplanes and helicopters fighting a large fire further up the canyon.
Next stop along the way was at Phaselis - an ancient city with many ruins right on the beach. Wonderful to take a break and have a swim in the Med. A beautiful spot.
Had nothing booked for tonight and in no particular rush to find something we saw the sign for the Chimera. Only 7kms. But switchbacks, narrow, incredibly steep, but then suddenly flat, narrow, crowded with people and animals, and the 7 kilometres took half an hour. The ticket seller at the gates at Chimera told us it was just a 10 minute 1 kilometre walk, so with now dodgy knee, off we go. Straight up another rocky mountain. The fitbit tells us it was 1.2 kilometres and 42 storeys up.
Fantastic views but a hell of a long walk up, and then down.
Aside from driving, we have managed over 20,000 steps each day, so we will both be fit before we get home.
Tonight we are in Gelidonyka at a tiny pensyion taking a bit of time to rest and catch up our homework - contacting people, repacking travel bags, writing trip reports.
We are driving a Peugot 301 diesel 5 speed, and the car has been fantastic. Handled everything I've thrown it in to. Seems very economical.
Please be warned - if you are not a very confident driver, do not go trying city traffic in Turkey. The highways so far seem great, but from what we've seen, many people I know would not be able to handle the rush and push of the city traffic. Unless you are confident around somewhere that's a cross between Manhattan and Rome, try the bus instead.
If you've gotten this far, and have any questions, please ask away.
Only to happy to respond when we have the time, and the internet service.