Trip Reports

The Finicky Traveller (25-May-2002-09-00):
9:00 AM local time, Saturday, May 25 (0600 May 25 UTC) 36 17 N 030 09 E. Temp. 73, Humidity 67%, Cloud Cover 0%. At a marina in Finike, Turkey.

Warm greetings from the crew of Maverick.

After departing Port Said and clearing ourselves from the heavy traffic approaching the Suez Canal, the wind was at first calm, but soon freshened as a nor'westerly, force 3, allowed us to sail with Finike, our destination, broad on the starboard bow. After a few hours of coasting along northern Egypt and dodging more shipping, we got a header and port tack became favored. We cast off the jibsheet, steered Maverick through the eye of the wind, fell off to the other board and sheeted in smartly. The wind freshened again to force 4 and I went forward to harden the outhaul and cunningham. We were close-hauled for the entire trip, but eventually got lifted and were able to fetch our mark.

Don't you love all that salty lingo? The reason we use it is that there are no landlubber terms to describe the things we do, and all crew must know the name and function of all onboard equipment, as communication is paramount on a well-run ship. Or at least that's the story we tell, but really we use it to show we're part of a secret cult that only certain special people have permission to join, and to show our superiority to those not privy to the meanings of our manly talk. The British are the best at this, or if you'd rather, the worst. They'd never say it's blowing 25 from the southwest if they could say, "we have a sou'westerly, force 6." They won't let you use UTC or zulu, either. It's always GMT to them.

At any event, the weather was just dandy for our passage to Finike, with bright skies and Pacific blue water. We had twelve knots until the night before we got here when it blew twenty and got a bit rough. We've been six weeks in Egypt, with one little passage, and our stomachs are a little tender. But for the next four or five months we'll have very short hops and we'll see how we take to that.

Nature has not been ungenerous to Finike in either beauty or fertility. It sits at the head of a bay formed by a pocket in a spur of the Taurus Mountains, which have shed a bit of their cover to provide the alluvium that's farmed by the tiny humans below. We can see snow-capped peaks from the marina, yet the temperature is very pleasant and spring is in the air, and in the air as well is the sound of birdsong. The crew of Maverick has not seen a spring since we left home because by the time it had come in the northern hemisphere, we were in the southern; and by the time it had come in the southern, we were back in the northern, or so close to it that spring was a non-event.

As for its debut in history, this area was settled, or the indigenous peoples conquered, by Ionian Greeks who had just visited their ten-year vengeance on those naughty Trojans for Paris' making away with that strumpet, Helen; although I'm thinking Helen's virtue was not so unblemished as to be much worth defending, and I'm thinking the Greeks had realpolitik in view. The Greeks continued to humiliate the poor Trojans far into the twentieth century, when they became a school mascot and a prophylactic, although safe sex was something Helen may have been well advised to practice.

But southern Turkey is also Alexander country. He came through here in 334 BC, kicking some serious ass. There are not a few respectable scholars who believe that Alexander, student of Aristotle, who was a student of Plato, who was a student of Socrates, who was a student of life, was bi-sexual, although I don't know if his sexual preference made much of a difference to the people he sliced and diced along his merry way. Gen. George Patton, who was a passionate admirer of Alexander, was probably in denial about this, and you've got to wonder about Hank Williams, Jr., who is nicknamed after Alexander's horse. Alexander was 33 when he fell victim to a lethal level of ennui, since had had no more worlds to conquer and nothing left to do, poor dear, and so became the first young person of note to actually die of boredom, though it's a rare one that doesn't make the threat. Would that more could emulate Alexander's courage in this respect.

As the Maverick boys pillage and plunder our way through the world of Alexander, using our looks and charm to conquer instead of those dangerous weapons our mothers warned us about, we hum a threnody to the man and his dreams. One he did not see through to fruition was the defeat of Termessos, a mountain fortress not far from Maverick's berth, and legend has it that it was the only stronghold Alexander, who either was not a sufferer from low self-esteem or had a really robust case, could not destroy. We visited there along with a few other places of interest here in southern Turkey. Termessos was inhabited by the Termessosaurians, a name I just made up and so it is not mentioned in the Illiad. The warriors called "Solymians" were spoken highly of therein, though, and they are the same folks. Alexander took a look at their fortifications, found them impregnable, and decided discretion was the better part, etc. Yet the crew of Maverick assaulted the summit unopposed. Shows what a little charm will do. You get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, Alexander.

The lair of the Termessosaurians is a mountain aerie at about three thousand feet. It feels like something a commune of hippies would have made for a hideout far from the establishment, except that no hippies I ever knew would have undertaken the insane amount of physical labor it would have taken to quarry the limestone for their buildings, hew it into huge, precise blocks, and then haul these by heaven knows what means to awkward and dangerous precipices to be emplaced. There was also marble, which must have been found close by. Marble is, after all, metamorphosed limestone, i.e., limestone that has been cooked at high pressure and temperature. But there's some granite too, that they had to have gotten somewhere else and carried all the way up there. The amphitheatres that we've seen in this region, from the late Hellenic and early Roman periods, are all dramatically situated, none more so than the one at Termessos, where the audience looks over the performers to a spectacular view of a steep gorge. It's pretty magical up there.

We also visited Perge, which has another amphitheatre and a lot of columns. St. Paul is supposed to have given his first sermon here, but I'm not any more convinced of that than I am that the actual Job is buried at the "Job's Tomb" they took us to in Oman. A considerable amount of time passed between Paul's conversion and his visit here, and are we to believe the loquacious Saint didn't say anything in Damascus and Jerusalem and back at home in Tarsus before he began his career as a ramblin' man? He traveled to Cyprus and then Perge with Barnabas and John Mark, and subsequently got himself into a peck of trouble. Good writer though. Can't beat that 1st Corinthians 13. We also saw ruins at Aspendos, where the theatre is remarkably well-preserved and still hosts theatrical performances, and also Limyra and Arykanda. This area as a whole is in the vicinity of ancient Lycia, and is considerably less inhospitable than I had visualized it. At the ruins we were left totally on our own to contemplate the sweep of history, unharassed by the touts we came to dread in Egypt.

To see all this we had rented a car in Finike and driven through the mountains along the beautiful southern coast, through a mixed conifer forest that was reminiscent of Colorado, yet goes right down to the shores of the Mediterranean. It is as pleasant a place as you'll ever see. We drove to Antalya, the capital of the "Turkish Riviera" and a city of half a million with a thoroughly modern infrastructure but a center with a medieval feel. The whole area supports a standard of living not significantly lower than our own, which came as a surprise to me. I reveled at being in Europe, for despite being across the Bosporus and therefore technically in Asia, that is now what Turkey is, or at least this part. The food, the architecture, the roads, and the freedom to travel that we did not have in Egypt were liberating. The music and language are Turkish, and we did see an aged goatherd with her flock standing right by the ATM in downtown Finike. But in so many ways, it felt like we were getting close to home.

Next report from this location: Rock On

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