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Friday, 5 December 2014

Poppy Fields and a Cotton Castle

(Forgive me peeps,  Although this blog was written back in May 2014, it and the final blog ramblings for Turkey weren't 'posted' until December 2014.... lots of reasons, lots of excuses, all of which are puffy and irrelevant.)    
Date of stay: 20th May 2014

After two days of laying about in the beautiful little village of  Cirali we make headway up towards Antayla, then on to Pamukkale.  I saw nothing more of  Cirali during those two days,  M did however - wandering the laneways, ambling along the beach and visiting some of the café/bars. 
I instead spent the two days lying flat out with my left leg sticking upwards and draped in ice-bags.  Dr Ali wouldn't give the all clear for us to leave the very next day after my accident. He wanted to ensure the swelling had gone down somewhat before letting us go. Not that I am complaining about being 'stuck in Cirali' mind you. For Cirali is the most perfect idyllic little piece of paradise. 
Lounging under a dapple sunlit orange grove in the company of  butterflies and dragonflies, armed with  a good mystery-thriller novel (which I've been meaning to read for some time - "Red Bird Summer" by my dear friend Jan Pearson) and an endless supply of apple tea, it was the ideal holiday chill-out time.    And then there were all the 'knights in shinning armour' who've appeared to my 'damsel in distress' possie;  Like the café owner across the road who popped over to see how I was, bringing with him delicious bowls of soup and freshly made bread,  the lovely young lad who served in the tea garden who insisted in carrying my items back to the room and even at one stage offering his arm in a gentlemanly gesture to take me to the café table when I wanted to sit up to eat and the chap who attended The Orange's gardens who constantly checked on me to ensure I had everything I needed and even insisted on putting my Moon Boot on for me.   Yes, Moon Boot.  For the next two weeks, I am to sport a not-so-stylish, won't-go-with-anything, weighs-a-tonne black, foot to knee Moon Boot. And then complete the look with a set of crutches that will constantly fall over, get caught in cobblestones, slip on smooth marble, catch on the lips of stairs and seem to have a mind of their own walloping others in the shins no matter how careful I am in trying to wrangle them into the polite submission of just walking in a straight line.   


Waking early, (but not in the anticipation of getting an early start on the road, but because of the 'ostentation' of peacocks that have taken a liking to the roof next to our bedroom balcony and have decided to serenade us with their 'song' which sounds more like blood-curdling screams for help!) we leave Cirali and hug the winding mountainous road, heading for Antayla, bypassing all the enticing sights along the way.  We zip past the turn off to the ancient city of Phaselis with it's three harbours and colonnaded street.  We zoom past the Tahtali cable car (which we'd been looking forward to) as it goes to the top of Tahtali in Taurus Mountains and blows your mind with the views! (here's a blog that originally wet my appetite to go to Tahtali, unfortunately I'm going to have to just keep salivating about it. ).   And it is with much regret we whizz by the turn off that would have taken us to the rarely visited but supposedly incredible ruins of Sagalassos.  Besides the Sultan Ahmet (Blue) Mosque this site was high on my list of must sees. We do however enjoy the thrill of driving the Southern Med for one last time and being "flashed" by a jaw dropping Bentley convertible which  in turn, is chased by two other equally shiny, mouth drooling convertibles.  Not long after that our mouths drop open again, this time with peels of laughter, when we zip past two chaps trundling along the highway on Segways.  "Why would you bother?"  I say in wonder.  "Forget why!  More like where the hell have they come from?" exclaims M. and yes it is a question of where in world had they came from, for there was nothing but the sea on one side and an enormous mountain on the other,  with the nearest town miles and miles away. 

Once past Antalya we leave the twisting sea hugging highway for another twisting, mountainous hair-pin road that is peppered with roadworks.  The highway is heavily trafficked by massive lorries labouring up the steep inclines whilst cars whiz about overtaking in the most dangerous manoeuvres that leave us breathless with fear and amazement. The countryside surrounding us is wide open expanses of sparsely vegetated mountains and fields, every now and then dotted with ancient ruins. The occasional township looms up and then disappears into the space, we bypass them all.
There are numerous roadside cafes offering comfortable lounging under big canvas tarps and we stop at one for a bite to eat.  It all looks very 'mobile', yet judging by the enormous fire pit where the shishs are cooked, it's very permanent. It's also obvious that not many "English-speaking' foreigners stop here, for  we participate in a game of charades upon ordering our meal.  Unfortunately my pantomimed gestures don't match what I think I've ordered, and for the first time ever in Turkey I get a meal that is beyond being palatable for me.  M on the other hand absolutely loves his. 
 As we get closer to Pamukkale the fields become more dense with vegetation and we pass paddocks of what looks like wheat and acres and acres of poppies - great swathes of white, flecked with the occasional purple.  They are beautiful. I'm surprised to see so many fields and later learn that Turkey allows the cultivation of the poppy for various reasons, including fuel, fodder and of course Opium and of the six countries legally allowed under the United Nations to grow the opium poppy, Turkey is the largest with their 'share size' being 54percent of the six nations. 
Another great swath of white looms up before us as we get closer to Pamukkale.  It's so large we can see it from miles away and it looks like a mountain of cottonballs.  As we drive into the village of Pamukkale I'm shocked to see buildings and structures made out of cement but looking like petrified wood and faux-castles.  I feel like I've stepped (or I should say, driven) into a theme park.  It's all so garish and fake looking! I keep my eye on the prime focal point for coming here - the beautiful crystal mountain that looms up over the village and glitters in the afternoon sunlight. The bleached white travertines known as the Cotton Castle.
M and I book into our guesthouse which on the outside looks like a Swiss chalet but inside is beautifully traditional in Turkish décor with vibrant rugs and cushions, and endless Turkish lanterns. That is, until we open the door to our room and we nearly fall over laughing - it's so far from traditional or quaint, it's downright OTT "PimpVille"; a hideous cross between tacky boudoir meets disco décor with  wrap-around blue neon ceiling lights and a plastic covered padded bed head. We can't get out of the room quick enough.  
It's coming up to dusk and the setting sun is casting a glorious hue across the face of the travertines.  The Cotton Castel is in full glow and reflects back onto the lake that lies at the bottom of it.  Groups of evening picnic'ers gather around the grassy knolls of the lake and families paddle large swans-boats across its waters. On the travertines hundreds of tourists trail down the slope reminding me of ants on a mound of white sugar.  As it gets darker spotlights flick on, turning the white mountain into a kaleidoscope of blue, pink and green.  Music drifts across the parkland. We raise our glasses to the immense beauty of it all and the joy of life, no matter how awkwardly we stumble through it.

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