— CNP

Faralya

Faralya

After a week with John on that special hunk of Mediterranean rock known as Symi, i bid my short, hairy father adieu and crossed a border that is undemanding in distance but perilous in political terms — the waters between Greece and Turkey.

But before i regale you with startling stories featuring fezzed, monobrowed men flattening entire Cappadocian villages with giant boreks, let me give you a brief synopsis of my time in Symi.

Sleep. Wake. Think better of it and go back to sleep. Wake. Eat yoghurt, honey and fruit. “It’s so fucking hot”. Walk down to the rocks and jump in the water. Sit in the sun to get that Malden Sea Salt look around the eyebrows. “It’s so fucking hot”. Back in the water. Sit in the shade and read Patrick White’s “The Eye of the Storm”. Go home and make enormous horiatiki. Wash down with retsina. Nap. Watch the World Cup at a local bar with a beer. Indulge in dinner of mezes. Watch the World Cup at a local bar with ouzo. Feel overwhelmed by refereeing injustices, heat, alcohol and gluttony. Sleep.

Now for Turkey!

The wine-dark waters of the Mediterranean were swelled and white=capped as i set off for Fethiye. The hydrofoil i was on, The Flying Poseidon (sometimes spelt “Flaying Poseidon” to attract the S&M crowd, i suppose), initially tried to do its name justice but the choppy waters forced the captain to pull back the tricks and plough through the water like any regular boat. The cabin was filled with generously-proportioned Yorkshire couples (“me friends Mike and Doreen have just moved into one of those fixed caravan numbers, you know, to get away from the grandkiddies”) who could have been cast as bawdy innkeepers in an episode of Blackadder. Not being in the mood to chat about Sven-Goran and the tortures of penalties with members of a nation that has the same conversation every 4 years, i escaped to the back of the boat. As Greece slipped into the pale haze of distance, i watched the hypnotic plumes of broiling white water that flushed out from under the boat. Each wave we came to was invited in, considered by the propeller and then rejected until finally the Poseidon, grown weary with toil, came to a point of satisfaction in the calm marina of Fethiye. The sun, low on the horizon, brought out every wrinkle in the tiers of mountains that rose above the small town. And the mountains, in their vanity, blushed pink.

Reclaiming my land-legs, i waited with quiet anxiety in the passport line, hoping firstly that the 20 euros i had on me would indeed be enough for a visa and, secondly, that a cheery Dutch boy, my erstwhile VCA comrade Sander, would be waiting for me on the other side of the cyclone fencing. Poseidon was obviously smiling on me: i got my visa and Sander was waiting at an al fresco bar across the street with a cold beer for me. An auspicious beginning no?

After a pint, two silly boys walked into the Pamukkale office to book bus tickets. The very sweet and undoubtedly cute girl behind the desk spoke a “liddul” English and with Sander and having picked up a few Turkish words on his way to meet me, there proceeded a very endearing, very smiley exchange of flirtatious looks and a rudimentary mutual language lesson between all three of us. The success of this exchange is debatable — we got the right tickets, but i still left the office with Sander as my companion … “maybe she drives the bus as well” … “shut up”.

Nightfall was setting in as we took a pricier than expected (thanks Lonely Planet) taxi ride out to the mountainside village of Faralya. The lilac light of a warm Mediterranean night poked its way out from behind mountains big enough to create their own weather systems. Our little taxi putted its way up the slopes and around the bends, above the tourist centres on the coast and past the dull bells of goats teetering on the edge of a precipice. We’d organised to stay at George House, a family pension set on terraced farmland that clings with spectacular tenacity to the cliffs above Butterfly Valley.

On arrival, Hasan, the gently-voiced anglophone of the family, greeted us and took us for a quick tour. Apart from a few rooms in the house, there were two-mattress log huts and treehouses. We chose a treehouse. Nothing more than a plank floor, three cotton-sheet walls for privacy, an open view onto the valley and a grape vine laden with near-ripe fruit as a ceiling. Perfect.

After watching the World Cup with our hosts, we tucked ourselves in. Between the weighty grape clusters, the inky sky was dotted by stars. And sleep …………….. it’s still dark but somewhere in the valley a rooster hallucinates a sunrise and either the echo is astonishing or every other rooster in earshot just told him he got it wrong … back to sleep ………….. The sun’s actually up and, apart from the roosters who know a sunrise when they see it, the air is full of the whirr and rasp of a million crickets and cicadas warning that the cool mountain air is about to be burnt by the sun.

The slanting light of morning revealed the full extent of the hanging gardens we were amidst — oranges, pomegranates, melons, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, olives, apricots) — all irrigated by the natural spring water that flows from the mountain and which provides us with the best free drinking water imaginable. The extended family, over a dozen siblings and partners, own around 14sqkm in this valley and adjoining ones, providing our breakfast and dinner with everything from goat’s milk yoghurt and fetta, to wild honey, to fresh bread, to wine from the grapes we slept under and so on. Absolute fucking heaven.

Having filled our bellies, Sander and i packed our bathers and began the the steep descent to Butterfly Valley along craggy paths and down rope ladders. On the even steeper cliff face opposite us, we could see the black shapes of goats finding their own hazardous way down. Sander’s Lonely Planet didn’t recommend the path because an Australian died after he “took a wrong turn” — we tried to work out where this could’ve been but the only way to take a wrong turn on a cliff path is to step off the edge, but when i lost my footing on a glass-smooth stone and arrested my fall in an elegant breakdance pose, the thought of looking down wasn’t appetising. Nevertheless, the trek was more exciting than scary and the bird’s-eye views of the valley were remarkable.

Down on the flat valley floor, the eponymous butterflies splashed red wings onto a green canvas of cultivated fields highlighted by sunflowers. Apart from a small local farming population, Butterfly Valley is home to an earnestly alternative clique of young Turks and tanned ex-pats who sleep in tents, doze in the shade, strum guitars, swim at the beach and hang out playing backgammon and picking the lice out of each other’s dreadlocks at a treehouse called the “loveshack”. The only thing to spoil this indolent Eden is the midday influx of day-trippers from the package hotels to the north. Not quite being earnest enough to join the clique, Sander and I satisfied ourselves with a lazy day in the water and in the sun, with a bit of Arundhati Roy and Patrick White thrown in for good literary measure. Though i’m sure the loveshack is the place to be at sunset, we had a cliff to climb.

So, bathed in sweat from the exertion and the shimmering heat, the soothing chill of of a shower and mountain air eased us into sunset. And what a sunset! Triteness is inevitable but sitting in landscape as emphatic as this with a red-faced sun slipping into distant water while paragliders are silhouetted against the sky is great stuff no matter what. The muezzin’s call to prayer was followed subtly, though certainly secularly, by the bell for dinner — and having not eaten since breakfast, i answered the right calling.

Dinner was served in the communal area — a shoeless domain of soft carpets and floor cushions that opened out onto a similarly padded balcony through large open windows. With our fellow guests (two Israeli families, a Belgian family, a Turkish couple and a pair of Dutch backpackers) we sat in a grand rectangle on the floor — our plates and forks hungry for food. And there it came, on enormous silver trays: a vegetarian feast of home-cooked, home-grown delights. Ocra, aubergine, potato, capsicum, ricotta, lentils and variations thereof cooked in tomato spiced with garlic, paprika, parsley, cummin and chilli. Salad and brown rice to go with it, dense spongy bread to mop it up and the spry home-made white wine to wash it down. Followed by rice porridge with apple, cinnamon semolina cake, yoghurt with honey for dessert. Oh God! One of the advantages of eating on the floor is that with an effortless pivot one can be prostrate and allow the metabolism to catch up with one’s Bacchanalian instincts.