I've arrived in Hydra on the day they celebrate thrashing the Turks. Named after Admiral Andreas Miaoulis, a Hydriot naval commander during the War of Greek Independence, Miaoulia commemorates his victory at the Battle of Elder where he destroyed a massive 130 strong joint Turkish/Egyptian fleet with only 75 Greek ships.
The town is full of visitors and the taxi boats are still bringing more people from the mainland. A navy frigate is anchored outside the harbour and the dashing officers in their formal whites are mingling with the crowd. I've missed the folk dancing, boat races and concerts but the evening concludes with stirring speeches, rousing music, fireworks and a reenactment of the sinking of the Turkish Flagship. Should I be keeping a low profile tonight? I won't be advertising the fact that I arrived from Istanbul today.
On Sunday we decided to swap one bit of rural bliss for another and headed off along the old Bodrum road for a spot of brunch. We didn't have far to go, but a stretch of the road was widened about a year ago in preparation for resurfacing which, as is often the case, never happened, so an irregular raised ridge of crumbling tarmac remains in the middle of a gravel strewn track. We were taking the trip slowly, trying not to fall down the pot holes on the edge of the tarmac when we came almost bumper to bumper with a convoy of jeeps flying around a blind corner. As we were only going about 30 kmph, we stopped and the jeeps swerved by. Some of the passengers were seated, but several were on their feet holding on to the roll bars one handedly and waving. As they whizzed by, the phrase "accident waiting to happen" was unspoken but understood.
When I got home yesterday and turned on the computer, I was sad but not surprised to read that an accident on a jeep safari in Fethiye had claimed the lives of two British women.
I've written about theses safaris before and I include the posts below. If you are tempted to try this kind of tour when you visit Turkey, please check that the vehicle you are travelling in is equipped with seat belts and is not overcrowded. If you've paid your money and are not happy with the safety aspects and can't get your money back, you can always contact the zabita in local council offices who will take your complaint to the office you bought your ticket from. This usually results in an immediate reimbursement. In fact, just the threat of calling in the zabita is a useful tool against all kinds of shady dealings.
Friday, 14 September 2012
Jeep Safari - At your own risk
Thank you for all the comments on my last post. You unanimously approve of a plaster giraffe in my garden; now I'll have to sell the idea to my (aesthetically sensitive) husband. Alan's comments on jeep accidents prompted me to check the safety record of these tours. I've found reports of 4 really bad crashes in 4 years. Par for the course I suppose with 3 or 4 groups of jeeps going out every day from each resort, BUT, reading the feedback on forums from customers who have been on these trips, I can only think that Allah is looking after these safari companies. Common practice seems to be to overcrowd the jeeps by 2 or 3 passsengers. The small Suzuki 4x4s which are registered for 5, often have 6 or 7 passengers. Seat belts are either unavailable or not used. I know this is true as the tourists who pass my garden wall are often standing up. Clients are provided with water pistols so when the jeeps race side by side, they can "shoot" the occupants of the passing jeep. A fatal accident in 2008 was attributed to the jeep driver being blinded by water as he overtook a tractor. One accident was caused by the driver jumping out of his seat and running alongside the vehicle, showing off that he could control the jeep as he ran beside. He couldn't - it crashed. If you are still contemplating booking, UK travel insurance doesn't usually cover off-road trips so you should pay for extra cover. My worry has always been the danger of one careless punter throwing a lighted cigarette out of the jeep as it rushes through the forest. A selfish concern I know, but they will be long gone as hectares of pine and olive trees burn to the ground.
Yesterday I joined a group of protestors outside the Town Council building in Bodrum. Our number was small but forty thousand people have signed a petition demanding the closure of Dolphin Parks in Turkey. Earlier in the year, hopes had been raised as a draft amendment to the animal protection law promised to make these parks (and circuses using animals) illegal but in an abrupt about-face, this amendment has been dropped. The reason given is that these parks introduce youngsters to nature. Thirty years ago I was saddened to see dancing bears in the streets of Bodrum, I wonder if the ministers who dropped this bill, think that dancing bears too encourage children to appreciate wildlife. The dolphins in these parks look just as forlorn as the bears in their chains. The only way to see dolphins is in the wild. Don't visit these parks. Take a boat trip instead and you might be rewarded with the sight of these magnificent creatures in all their exuberant glory as they race alongside. It is a crime to imprison these naturally vivacious and animated creatures to make money. And big money it must be. Money is talking. Our mayor, initially sympathetic to the cause was "unavailable" to accept the petition yesterday.
After almost three weeks with only sheep, goats, deer, and rabbits for company, I am sitting in front of my desk-top marvelling at how good internet access is in a small backwater in South West Turkey. My mobile phone is by my side and apart from a glitch that has deleted my whole contacts list, it has a full signal. A couple of days after I arrived in Scotland, my blog disappeared and all attempts to access it were met with a message telling me that BacktoBodrum had been deleted and the name was available for reassignment. I'd been a bit suspicious the day before I left Turkey; I usually average 200 to 300 views a day, so a couple of days of 1000 plus views from the Ukraine were very out of character. My only internet access in The Highlands is via a satellite dish which is as speedy as the dial up modems we were so excited about late last century. The only way I knew to recover my blog was to ask for a text to be sent to the number I'd specified when I set it up. A mobile number! The nearest mobile signal was an hour's drive away. The mobile was Turkish and I'd never used it in the UK, so even if I set off in the Land Rover to find a signal, there was no guarantee it would work. I went to bed that night pretty sure that my blogging days were over and cursing myself for not copying the last year's worth of posts.
When I next got a chance to check my emails, I found that my gmail account had also been suspended so I had to resort to putting a plea for help on Facebook. I tried to post a couple of times but despite the post appearing on my timeline, it disappeared a few minutes later. I had been well and truly hacked. Luckily FaceTime was still working on my iPad and I got my husband to post my plea for help on his page. To cut a long story short, with lots of help from friends, I managed to prove who I was by luckily remembering the answer to those seemingly pointless questions I answered two and a half years ago (first best friend and first pet's name and most common 4 email addresses). After a fretful 24 hours, my blog and email account reappeared and I changed all my passwords, something we should all do on a regular basis.
On a lighter note, at the end of my trip, I spent an hour trying to develop a taste for whisky in the Tomatin distillery. I tried my best but could manage only the tiniest sip of the three single malts on offer. The smell of scotch has always made me feel sick. I felt extremely guilty leaving this expensive brew in the glass. The tour was fascinating but my tastebuds failed to appreciate the finished product. I think I'll stick to the grape and give barley a miss.
I am not a great traveller, but since I gave up the day job and embraced the life of the very temporary employee, I have spent quite a lot of my year getting from A to B and back again. Last year, I clocked up over 20 flights and this year I've already handed over 14 boarding passes. I can't say that this type of travel is enjoyable as I always seem to end up next to the passenger who needs the seatbelt extention or a nappy and dummy, or diaper and pacifier for my US readers. My one flight on a private jet excepted, I don't enjoy being stuck in a metal tube. Most of my trips involve connections with trains, ferries and buses and inevitably, delays, strikes and bad weather can upset itineraries. I cope with this by accepting my fate. I allow enough time and a bit extra, but don't stress if it looks like I'm not going to make my connection. This inner zen was strenuously tested on my trip to Scotland. After spending a couple of days with my folks in Dorset, I arrived at Gillingham station in good time to catch the train to Gatwick via Clapham Junction and was pleased to see it was on time, but the train didn't appear. After half an hour a muffled noise came over the tannoy, the only part of which I understood was "broken down". The train wouldn't be coming until a replacement was found. My " bit of extra time" had already evaporated and I was eating into my "enough time" allowance. I went back to the ticket desk and asked if there was any other way to get to Gatwick and was astounded to be hurried into a taxi and whisked across Dorset, at South West trains expense, to Salisbury station. The fare was ten quid more than my train ticket. At Salisbury, I was on the train to Clapham junction in minutes and back on track only 50 minutes delayed. I was just thanking any omniscient being who may be listening when yet another tannoy announcement ruined my day. Due to the long delay, the train wouldn't be stopping at Clapham Junction, which is why I found myself at Basingstoke staton, waiting for yet another delayed train. I eventually got to Gatwick seconds before the bagdrop closed and just made my flight. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the return trip next week is less eventful and I can get back to blogging.