I love being in Cappadocia. I am spoiled on a daily basis with incredible hospitality from the local people here, and by the many gorgeous sunny days of blue skies and amazing scenery – like the picture above. And below.
And like this.
Admittedly, we had some unbearably hot days back in July and August, and more recently in October, the temperatures dropped dramatically for some incredibly cold, near-freezing days, and below 0 nights. But always, it’s stunningly beautiful here and I have yet to tire of the views around me.
The snow-covered Mt Erciyes explains why it’s been so cold lately!
Rain, rain, go away!
But alas, it’s not always so perfect Over the last few days I have witnessed Cappadocia without all its glory. Three days of rain here is as bad as three days of rain anywhere -it’s depressing. It’s not the heavy monsoon style downpour – just the constant, miserable steady drizzle of rain that leaves you soaked within minutes if you get caught outside. It’s just too wet and cold to do anything.
To be fair, I did venture into Goreme, the main tourist village to meet up with an Aussie friend for coffee. The town was dead. I’ve never seen it so quiet. Everyone is staying indoors where it is warm and dry. (Who can blame them?)
But at least the coffee was good!
So aside from popping out for coffee, I’m stuck indoors with not much to do except maybe consider future plans and contemplate another post in my poor neglected travel blog. The question is – what to write about? Of course, I could fill you in on the more mundane side of my life lately: daily work at the hotel and the drudgery of domestic chores in my apartment.
But no, I won’t do that to you, my poor, adventure-starved blog readers. Instead, I shall take great delight in sharing with you my recent holiday. Yes, after 2 months of working at the hotel, I was READY for a holiday. You understand, right? I can hear the collective sighs of sympathy already….
So… it’s off to Greece I went! Back to Tilos, to be more specific – the island that I was so besotted with during my travels there back in May. The English couples that befriended me during my last visit (and with whom I stayed with briefly during my subsequent visit to England) were heading back for a few weeks so it was the perfect time for me to go.
Watch out Greece – here I come! Maybe. If I can only get there.
I had it all planned out. Clean out the apartment in the afternoon, drop some stuff off at friend’s shop to leave behind for my return, and catch the overnight 12-hour bus to Fetihye on the Turkish coast. I had one hour from the time the bus pulled in to the time the ferry to Rhodes Island (Greece) departed. It was going to be tight – but I’m the eternal optimist. I’d arrive in Rhodes in time for a late breakfast, stay the night, and catch the early ferry to Tilos the next day. It was all sorted – or so I thought.
First, I need to fill you in on a back story. My visa in Turkey was running out on 1 September. I had decided that I wanted to remain in Cappadocia for another few months, so I applied for a short-term residency’s permit. That turned out more difficult than expected due to recent rule changes regarding medical insurance. My travel insurance wasn’t going to cut it. I spent 2 weeks going back and forth to the Tourist Police (who process the applications) trying to find a work- around for this, with the help of various friends, insurance agents, etc.
On the last l day before I became an official over-stayer, I finally relented and bought a 1 year Turkish medical insurance policy, at some significant cost. In the 11th hour, I became an official (albeit short-term) resident of Turkey. Wahoo! They gave me a temporary certificate to hold in the interim, while waiting for the official residents permit to be posted to me. Two weeks, they said it would take.
Three weeks later, I still had not received it – and I was due to head to Greece. With the temporary certificate I was only allowed to be out of Turkey for 2 weeks with the temporary certificate, not the 3 that I had planned on. After making inquiries, it turns out there was a backlog of residency applications thanks to the recent influx of Syrian refugees. I was told it could take months before my official permit was posted to me.
I decided to head off to Greece as planned, but I would have to cut it short by a week. I was disappointed, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I was going to GREECE for goodness sakes – of course I was happy.
Leaving Turkey ain’t as easy as you think
After a much interrupted journey on the night-bus, I arrived at the Fetihye bus station at 8am as planned. I jumped straight into a taxi and was taken to the Ferry terminal. I had a short wait in the queue only to told that they had no more seats available!
I hadn’t anticipated this – the ferries are large and it wasn’t exactly peak season anymore. I was told to step aside and join the waitlist: one couple ahead of me, and one couple came along after me. The couple in front scored seats. We were then told they had one more seat. For me – yay! Except the couple behind me took exception to this as they had technically been in front of me in the original queue but walked away. So we had a bit of argy-bargy (“But you both got out of line and walked away. And there is only ONE seat: there are TWO of you, and one of ME. And I had a hotel booking that night (they were only day-tripping).” That kind of thing. (Don’t forget, I was not only sleep deprived at this point but also coffee-deprived). The other couple relented and ‘gave up’ the seat. I tried to be gracious.
I quickly paid for the ticket and smugly walked to the customs counter where I handed over my passport and my temporary residents permit. There was a bit of head-scratching, whispering and phone calling going on behind the counter before I was finally asked for the receipt to prove that I had paid for the resident’s permit. Receipt? I was never given one. I know this as I had held on to every scrap of paper that was passed back and forth during my application. What bloody receipt?!?!
No receipt, no exit from Turkey. I couldn’t believe it – a few weeks ago I was in danger of being an over-stayer, and now I wasn’t able to leave. Or more specifically, I wouldn’t be allowed back in.
With tail behind my legs, I returned to the ticket counter, handed my ticker over for a refund, and turned to the other couple and just said ”It’s your lucky day”. Bah humbug!
So now, tired, grumpy and hungry and I had to find somewhere to stay and sort out my little mess. After several calls to friends back in Goreme who contacted the local Tourist Police and the Insurance Agent, I eventually got a copy of the receipt faxed to the local customs people. It turns out the Tourist Police in Cappadocia had kept the receipt in my file. Nice one, guys!
Making the most of an afternoon in Fetihye
Administrative matters sorted, a shower, a coffee or three and I was ready to spend the afternoon exploring Fetihye. (Yes, I know, coffee seems to feature a bit more than normal in this post!) After months in the dusty dry heat of Cappadocia, I was itching to see the ocean. Ölüdeniz was supposed to be a beautiful beach about 20-30 minute away so I hired a scooter and headed out.
The water was gorgeous – crystal clear and surprisingly warm.
I wasted no time in jumping in, the first swim I had in many months. But like many beaches in Europe, it was incredibly crowded with people, and there were a dozen hang gliders circling in the air above me.
I found what I thought was a quiet spot further down the pebbly beach only to discover this was where all the day tripping boats pulled in. And guess what – they were all due about now. Bah! Next, a Thai girl walk over to me and ask me if I wanted a massage. What? I had a moment of confusion as I had to remember where I was.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We are incredibly lucky in NZ with our gorgeous white sandy beaches. ‘nuff said.
Boat to Rhodes – a rather rough ride
Before going to the beach, I made sure I bought my ticket to Rhodes Island. The following morning, I showed up with plenty of time to spare – there was no way I was missing this boat.
The trip should have taken an hour and a half – just a nice enjoyable ride. The waves were big and choppy, but the large ferry cut through them OK. That is, until the engines suddenly stopped half way across and we were left bobbing around like a cork in the ocean. Yes, we had malfunctioning engines.
Within 10 minutes of this happening, and with the boat being relentlessly tossed around, people around me starting grabbing plastic bags. At this point, I was glad that I decided to leave my hotel without waiting for breakfast. The family sitting behind me, including two young children, weren’t so fortunate. It wasn’t pleasant. They ran out of clean clothes for the poor baby. Suddenly my window seat wasn’t so appealing and I made my way to the centre of the boat where there was less rocking motion.
They got one of the engines kick-started and we limped into port only an hour and half late. With all the dodgy boats I’ve been on in Indonesia, sometimes convinced that ride was going to be my last ride ever, I was taken by surprise to have this happen here. But never mind, we made it. And I was just that much closer to Tilos – my Greek happy place!
Next post: Back on Tilos!