The next day Diane from the lodge drove us into the little town of Xpujil. There are ruins of some mostly domestic Maya buildings opposite the school and we started out there. We then walked up to the main site at Xpujil which we had almost to ourselves. We spent some time exploring the ruins and watching the wildlife. The area is a bit low on wildlife as, however, we did see the very impressive bat falcon at the main site at Xpujil which was probably why the plaza was devoid of other birds, and we had frequent sightings of small green parrots flitting in and out of the bushes beside the road.
We then walked back to the town and caught a taxi to Becan. That saved us about 10 km walk. Becan is a wonderful site with many structures and a moat. It was certainly Hilary’s favourite site to date (and one of the best overall). Again, we had it almost to ourselves – there were two other people there and they were not obtrusive.
We walked along to Chicanná which is on the way back to the lodge. Another wonderful site including some monstrous doorways where you step into the maw of the house of the serpent mouth. Regrettably we didn’t get a really good picture showing the teeth!
That was a very full day with lots of walking between and within the sites. We got back to Rio Bec Dreams very ready for a shower, a sit by the bamboo to watch the jays and a few cold beers.
Next day we made our way to Palenque – a big favourite of ours…
Our next stop was Methoni. We visited there, briefly, in 2013. This time we went the pretty way, over Mount Taygetos which must be one of the best bike rides in the world. Scenery is spectacular but we were a bit concerned by the darkening skies. Which opened. Fortunately whilst we were fairly near to a village where we took a rain break for a Freddo Espresso. We managed to get to Methoni without getting seriously wet and checked into the hotel on the beach. This meant we could use the sun loungers and umbrellas without incurring extra costs but, sadly, it wasn’t really beach weather whilst we were there. The storm broke as we reached our room.
Methoni is a quiet, seaside village – which gains much (but not all) its income from tourism. It also has a spectacular Venetian castle which, this time, we managed to visit. In fact we spent an entire morning in there. Apart from the castle we spent our time making friends with the local wildlife in a pleasant bar and eating some excellent meals.
Our next stop was Mystra. We rode there the pretty way, via Leonido, stopping off in Cosmas for lunch with a spectacular view… Some Italian bikers had the same idea so there was quite a crowd enjoying mountain sausage, chips and village bread.
Mystra did not disappoint. It’s an almost intact Byzantine city with many churches containing frescoes, a palace, a working monastery and plenty of interesting wildlife. The village itself is small and friendly, containing a number of small hotels and a sprinkling of restaurants. I think a lot of people just visit for the day from larger tourist centres.
After we arrived we walked up to the entrance to the site (there are two entrances because, if you only use the lower entrance, there is quite a lot of walking involved) where we saw some lattice brown butterflies on a tree stump.
Next day we explored the site itself. It took all day. Like many sites in Greece, the information boards scattered around give you a very good idea of what life must have been like when Byzantine Mystra was a living city. We were lucky to avoid the rainstorm that happened in the evening as the surfaces inside the Byzantine city are very, very slippery when wet!
Apart from the lattice browns, I think I shall save the wildlife for a separate post as Mystra is very, very photogenic.
We took a trip to Greece for Ashley’s birthday. This time we went on the bike. Ferry from Çeşme to Chios (Sakız) where we enjoyed a few beers with friends and nearly missed the ferry to Piraeus. It is probably worth adding that we did not see many refugees on Chios and those we did see seemed well settled with small businesses. Our friend, however, told us that the tourist industry is not doing well. Bookings down by 80%. Tourists, it seems, are fickle beasts.
We did better in Piraeus this time – we only went the wrong way once and when we did we quickly realised we were going the wrong way. Our excuse is that it was very, very early in the morning. We were in Nafplio far too early and our hotel room was not ready. The management could not have been more apologetic (even though it was not their fault – it was barely ten in the morning) so we took ourselves off for an excellent breakfast.
We really did not do a great deal that day, other than wander around and eat delicious ice cream. It really is very much a tourist town (it gets cruise ships) and we did buy a hat.
The next day we indulged in some serious sight seeing. We didn’t manage to get to the museum on our previous visit and this omission needed to be corrected. The area has been inhabited since the iron age and there were the usual prehistoric pots plus some very fine Attic red figure ware. And the only entire suit of Mycenaean armour that has survived to the present day. In the afternoon we headed up the 1000 (actual number disputed but it’s an awful lot) steps to the fortress. This is huge. It was originally Venetian but was taken over by the Ottomans and then the Greeks. Once you get to the top the climbing is not over as there are a number of different bastions, linked by passageways. There are doors that seem to lead to nothing except thin air, but often there are steps leading down from them quite safely. And interesting though the history is, the major attraction here just has to be the wonderful views.
The evenings were spent in a large square in town where vendors found a ready market for various toys including giant bubble blowing machines and luminous twirly parachuting things. The square was full of children, and people generally strolling. After two lovely nights we headed off to Mystra, but that’s for another post…
We returned to Akyaka for our third visit. It seems to be becoming an annual event. The picture above, by the way is not Akyaka but Akbük (there are at least two places called Akbük but this one is between Akyaka and Oren).
Akyaka is one of Turkey’s official slow cities. It’s a place we go to relax so we can’t report any frenetic activity. We ate a great deal of kalamari and other seafood, all of which was fantastic. Akyaka really is a good place for seafood. Oh, and hand made organic goat milk ice cream.
We took the bike for a ride along the coast. We went down into Akbük pictured. At ground level there is a narrow, stony beach packed with chaise longues and parasols, so close together that everyone could hold hands. Not really as attractive as it looks from a distance, though there were plenty of cafes and restaurants that looked pleasant enough. We rode as far as Oren which we liked. It’s a ‘real’ place (obviously has year round activity) and we ate gözleme and more kalamari.
Next day we attempted a circular walk that should have been about 12 Km. Our intended route was interrupted at the last moment by an unfordable inlet so we had to turn around and go back the way we came. This made it a much longer walk but very worthwhile as we were able to sit in a ploughed field and watch a colony of bee eaters.
We left Eğidir after breakfast and headed South past Lake Kovada. This road has now been made (we’ve got covered in tar on it in previous years) and is quite spectacular. It must be one of the best bike rides in the world though it is quite technical in places.
After winding above crevasses and through wonderful gorges full of pines, it comes out on the main road to Antalya. Which is not quite so interesting. Having passed through Antalya we broke our journey in Çıralı, which was enough riding for the day. We’ve written about Çıralı before. There was nothing much there the first time we visited but it’s become quite ‘developed’. Still beautiful, but packed with hotels and restaurants.
We stayed in a pleasant hotel with love birds and grey parrots in cages in the garden. We had an evening meal and left after breakfast the next morning.
We rode on to Patara, or, rather the village of Gelemiş. We have stayed there quite a few times before and have our favourite Pansyion where we are recognised, welcomed and given our usual room. We walked down through the dunes and back along the beach. All of which we have done before. All of which is spectacular.
Next day we headed for Saklikent Gorge… That’s for walking. Or wading. Depending on the time of year. This time we got the time of year right and were able to walk all the way. It was crowded, but still mindblowingly beautiful.
And, finally, the archaeological site at Pattara. This was not our first visit but the archaelogists and restoration people have been working very hard.
We stood and watched this lintel being lowered carefully into its proper place.
Finally came the long ride home…. But this was a trip worth repeating!
In mid-September we set out on what was to be our last ‘big’ roadtrip of the year. Well, the last on our own (we did go to a biker party on Lesvos which involved quite a bit of riding).
We set off from Selçuk and got to Eğidir in one day. It’s a longish trip – a good six hours riding. The weather was fine and we stayed in the same hotel we’ve stayed in previously. The owners seemed pleased to see us and every year we are able to talk to the more and more as our Turkish improves.
We always enjoy Eğidir – we’ve been every September since we moved to Turkey. It’s a lovely, relaxing little town with beautiful scenery and very little European tourism (and what there is, is mostly just passing through).
This year we decided to return to Sagalassos – one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Turkey (in our opinion). I think we have written about it in this blog before. It is described as a ‘tourist site’ but we think it is too far off the beaten track to attract many tourists. We had the huge site almost to ourselves.
Occupation of the area dates back to Hittite times. Sagalassos was one of the richest cities in Pisidia when conquered by Alexander the Great. It subsequently came under Roman rule and the Emporer Hadrian took it as a Centre of his personal Cult.
The setting is spectacular but we did notice a few changes since our first visit (in 2012). The building work that we thought might be for a cable car turned out to be for a smart new visitors centre (empty and largely shut during our visit). The rock tombs are now accessible and interesting. The archaeologists on site seem to be doing a really good job, but then they are fortunate, Sagalassos is up the side of a mountain, too remote for the stone to have been plundered or recycled, so most remains present. Also remarkable is that two of the fountains still work, in September after the dry of the long hot summer water was flowing from natural springs.
The setting is wonderful with views of mountains to the south, and we saw quite a few bee eaters just past the carpark on the way out.
It’s impossible to choose just a few pictures so we shall leave you with a gallery.