After a huge day sail we arrived into Kekova through a narrow entrance channel between islands. Kekova Roads is about an 8 nautical mile long waterway that is protected by Kekova Adasi (island) and the complex geography of the coast. It has many bays and indentations and unlike the rest of Turkey the places to anchor are quite shallow. This means that if there is space you can just hang on your anchor and not have to tie lines to the shore. Tying lines to shore means swimming them in from the back of the boat which isn’t always what you want to do at the end of a long day’s sailing. We found an anchorage that was protected from nearly all wind at the head of a bay and dropped the anchor in pristine turquoise water.
Apart from its natural beauty its history is a big part of what draws people here. You really are walking in the footsteps of the ancients…or sailing in their wake. We have been reminded time and again that these ancient sites were accessed by the sea and pretty much all trade came and went via the water. Shipwrecks abound and many are simply marked on the charts by a no diving symbol as they have yet to have archaeologists explore and catalogue them.
This region is known as the Lycean Coast after the people who inhabited this region between about 1200 BC and 400 AD. The Greeks admired them as they managed a federation of cities that gave them the earliest example of democracy. There was unity within their federation and they remained neutral in dealings with the very different cultures and nations around them. They had their own language, art, culture and alphabet and it is likely that they were even a matriarchal society. The Romans allowed them to exist as an independent state until they decided not to pay their taxes after the death of an emperor and were quickly taught a lesson and became a part of Rome.
On our second day here we walked across a small isthmus from where our boat was anchored in Pölemos to the Lycean City of Aperlai. High stone walls and remnants of houses, the stone quays and countless tombs remain. This city was abandoned after piracy increased in this region and as the governance of the region changed as a result of invading forces. Earthquakes in the region have seen parts of the port area sink into the bay and have resulted in the destruction of smaller buildings. Archways with their superior strength have remained. You can snorkel over what remains underwater. This city became wealthy from the production of rare purple dye that was extracted from a local sea snail. Apparently, it would take 12,000 snails to produce just over 1 gram of dye that was used for the purple of royalty or mixed with other colours.
Further to the East is the tiny town of Kaleköy. It is hard to get to via land with no roads into the town itself so again most of the commerce and services come in by boat. For me, Kaleköy which is a protected town, encapsulates what is most amazing about this region. Lycean tombs seem scattered everywhere, (some even sitting in shallow water) with a complex necropolis amongst ancient olive trees just outside of town. The restaurants are built on rickety jetties on top of the ancient quays which can be seen clearly from above. Roman baths are also visible just below the water line in a light turquoise bay bounded by a ruin covered island. Above the town is a crusader castle, its walls intact and even incorporating a Lycean tomb, then inside is the world’s smallest, and perhaps cutest Roman amphitheatre built to hold just 300 people. The mosque is also tiny and is sited just below the castle walls. In its courtyard lie the remains of some mosaics covered with glass bricks to protect them. Across the channel in a tiny cove lie the remains of a Byzantine Church. It’s quite an extraordinary thing to have such free access to aeons of history. You really couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
Directly across from Kaleköy, on Kekova Island are the ruins of the sunken Lycean city of Simena. We snorkelled along the ruins seeing an avalanche of pot shards and roof tiles some still bright coloured, most covered with weed or dust and debris. Since then we have discovered that it was actually forbidden to snorkel there and we were probably lucky that it was at about 8am and were weren’t really seen by anyone apart from one superyacht that decided against sending in swimmers! Given we did no harm and didn’t mean any harm I only felt mildly guilty.
After soaking in the history and taking our rubbish to shore and getting more fresh food aboard we decided to head around the outside of Kekova Island and into a little cove that looked like a seahorse’s snout on the map. It was tiny and had room for only a few boats at the head of the bay although more could anchor around the outer edges. We were lucky to arrive at the perfect moment and thoroughly enjoyed 3 nights here. There was only a trickle of wifi coverage but just enough to get a weather forecast.
On the 3rd night catamaran Noeta arrived and we had a most excellent and social night with new friends Cate and David. It was really lovely sharing such a special place with them. They also did a cleanup of about 50 metres of the shoreline collecting 4 giant garbage bags of rubbish. Doing this is a challenge for us as we can store 2 of our own tiny kitchen bin sized rubbish bags before we run out of space but they did make us feel a little guilty. It’s a constant presence, this rubbish, and as I have mentioned will take a lot more than a few concerned yachties picking up a share to have any impact. The change has to come from the government trickling all the way down to individuals and the responsibility they need to take.
Rather than stay a fourth night after Noeta left to head West we also headed out early to get ourselves into a good new anchorage before the many daytime tripper boats arrived and took them all! More lines tied back and a big swim for me this time! More about this glorious sailing grounds next post.