Kekova and Simena

Today I joined 6 others, plus our guide and the boat family, on a day long boat tour of the Kekova area, the same area in which I’d kayaked two weeks ago. I had been disappointed on that trip not to have been able to see the Simena castle and necropolis. This trip rectified that deficiency! We left Kas around 10:15 or so in a somewhat rickety jeep Ucagiz-bound, brakes squealing at each downhill turn we made. We stopped several times on the way there – Kekova is about 45 minutes east of Kas – twice so that the driver and guide could pick up tortoises, one a baby, trying to cross the highway and place them on the other side; three times for large herds of goats in the middle of the road.

We boarded the wooden boat, crewed by a family of four, complete with handcrafted scarves and jewellery for sale, and set off on a fairly calm sea for Tersane Bay on Kekova Island. “Tersane” means dockyard, and, in addition to the remains of a Byzantine church, there are also the ruins of a dockyard used by pirates seeking hiding places from the open sea.

My companions on this trip were:

Michael, a food sciences professor from Portland, Oregon

Patty, his wife, a teacher of Spanish in a community college, originally from Peru

Anne-Lise, a teacher from Bretagne, France

*French tourists have a reputation as being snobs and Anne-Lise lived up to it; she constantly made comments behind her hand, sotto voce, about us (“us” meaning the Anglophones on the trip).

Jean, her boyfriend, a teacher of math who lived in Izmir for 6 years

Audrey, a graphic designer from Marseilles

Yusuf, her Turkish boyfriend from Istanbul

Our guide Kadir, a very pleasant young man who did not really speak enough English to be able to convey much about the sites to us (luckily, though, since I’d been before I was able to tell the American couple the little I know about the place).

The Captain and his wife (who took the rudder frequently) (Where the hell were Gilligan, Ginger and Mary Ann?)

Mustafa, their young son

Granny, the Captain’s wife’s mother

We anchored in the small bay, just offshore, and several people in the group decided to swim, jumping in off the boat’s rear platform. It was too cold for me and the sky was a bit cloudy at that point so the sun would not have been strong enough to warm me up, had I swum. I lay like a lizard on one of the several lounge pads on the boat’s top deck. (I noticed that our boat was the only one out that had this great feature). After a bit of time there, we cruised leisurely down the coast of the island, examining the ruins of the sunken city, destroyed by an earthquake in 243 ce. Lots of goats were grazing on the island and seemed to me to be clambering on the rocks following the boat – I presume that people had thrown bread to them from boats in the past. Kadir could not explain how the goats came to be on the island; he speculated that they made a run for it and stowed away on a boat.

We crossed the strait and motored into a sheltered bay where we dropped anchor and stopped for swimming once again. Apparently, there were quite a few sea urchins in that area, as well as some tiny fish. The sea was very calm and quiet, with only one or two other boats in the vicinity. We then cruised over to a pirate cave, a legacy from long ago when this coast was a pirate haven and villages were built on the hills rather than on the sea to avoid them. Another quiet bay, overlooked by a hilltop castle ruin, provided our lunch stop. Granny barbequed spicy meat balls and the captain’s wife brought out a buffet of salads and bread – the food was really delicious and lots of it. Lazing around in the sun after eating I got hot, and by then the clouds had burned off, so I changed into my bathing suit and jumped it. It was cold. All I could manage was a few minutes but it was very refreshing and mind-clearing. The three other  women, though, seemed to have a greater tolerance for the cold and happily snorkeled around the bay for quite a while.

About an hour and a half later, we pulled anchor and set off for Simena, called by the Turks Kalekoy (Castle village), the site of a 15th century castle built by Sultan Mehmet I, and a Lycian necropolis. The castle is accessed by a set of steep stone steps through the village and up the hill. There’s not a lot of it left except a small – very small – stone theatre hewn from solid rock facing the sea (it held 80 people), and battlements. The necropolis lies outside the castle walls and holds about 30 stone sarcophagi, some of which are in very good shape, and has a beautiful view out over the islands and ocean. All the Lycian sarcophagi have long since been looted – Lycians, like Egyptians, interred people with their “stuff” so that they would have it available in the next life. Local Turks know nothing about the ruins and care less – to them, they are all simply “ancient city”. Surrounded by these remnants of ancient cultures, they probably can’t understand why anyone would bother to come so far to look at rocks. However, they certainly see the potential in visitors; every hamlet has restaurants and goodies for sale, like nazar boncuk hangings (evil eye protectors), handmade scarves and the ubiquitous woolen socks.

After spending an hour or two wandering around the ruins, we set off back to Ucagiz, hopped back on the jeep, noisy brakes squealing, and arrived back in Kas at 6. A very pleasant day had by all.

See pictures here.

See pictures of Kas and my mannequin hands here.

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