While we were waiting for news of which countries would accept boats from Turkey, we decided to spend a few days in Gocek bay. The first deadline of 1st July had passed and the Greek govt had not granted permission for us to enter and there was to be another 2 week delay before they would make a decision.
We headed to Bodrum first which is a lovely town, extremely old and very geared up for tourists. Forlorn deckchairs laid out in rows on the beaches, empty restaurants and vendors idling by the doorways of their trinket shops – it was a sad sight to see but there was a trickle of Turkish tourists coming through which kept some businesses afloat.
We also spent a couple of days in Fethiye where we caught up with Phil from Paseafique again – our goodbyes were a bit premature! We also caught up with Mal and Brigitte from Eternity and spent a fun afternoon in the marina pool drinking cocktails.
Sami and Azar came up from Kas and we had one of the best fish dinners at the market.
We visited a wooden boatbuilding yard and wandered rounds the markets of Fethiye. Brigitte and I stocked up on all the great Turkish foods in preparation for our upcoming departure, and a couple days later we set off to spend some time at anchor in Gocek bay.
This bay is stunning, the water is crystal clear and the views spectacular. There were the 4 boats from Kas and we spent a lazy few days here. The morning of the 15th arrived and we heard that Greece were still refusing entry to boats from Turkey, which was looking more and more political now.
Gocek bay is huge and there are many boats anchoring all throughout the summer so there are lots of boats selling stuff to the cruisers. Clothes, vegetables, icecreams and even a pancake boat that makes your pancakes while you watch, but our favourite was the Migros Boat that came round every evening. Migros is the national supermarket in Turkey and their floating supermarket was incredible. You take your dinghy over, their boatboy ties it up for you and you go inside to do your shopping- it even has trolleys! Meanwhile the Migros boat keeps moving so when you come out your boat is not exactly where you left it. There can be as many as 10 dinghys rafted up and it’s great fun trying and jiggle your way into a slot.
We spent a day in Gocek and Sami and Azar came down for the day – and then we heard that Malta had opened their borders to boats from Turkey – the only country in Europe to do so. We decided we had to go immediately, we didn’t know how long they were going to remain open and after 8 months we were very ready to go…. We bid farewell to our Kas cruising buddies and set off to get as far north as we could for the best wind angle to take us to Malta. We stopped en route at a little place call Ichmeler where there is a small canal running through the town, so we took the dinghy up and parked it outside a restaurant where we somehow managed to climb over the wall. We met the local restaurateur who told us he had 3 restaurants and they were all shut and that the then was suffering badly due to lack of tourism. We did hear a couple of English voices so tourists are trickling back but it will take a long time for these small towns who rely solely on the tourist dollar to fully recover.
We stopped at Marmaris to get fuel and do one big last provision, as we were not now going to be going back to Greece we wanted to get olive oil, Turkish yoghurt, Turkish coffee, honey, peanuts and their museli as these items are so much more expensive in Malta.
About 5 boats were going on the Malta run, and a fb page was started called Covid-free Oydssey – so we could all keep in touch. Mike and Proud were the first to leave and we left 5 days later.
When it came time to check out, we were told we would be fined for overstaying our visas. We showed the police the websites from the Australian consulate stating that fines would be waived for overstayers due to COVID. The police pointed out that it wasn’t on the official Turkish Govt website therefore it stood. We knew Mike had not been charged so they rang around and eventually decided not to charge us. They told us that there was only a month’s grace from the day people could leave and Greece had opened their borders on 1st July for air travellers, so we had until 31st July. We pointed out Greece still had their borders shut to boats but…. luckily it was 20th July so we fell into their grace period but I pity those boats who leave after 31st July.
Turkey has been a wonderful place to spend our lockdown days – the weather has been lovely, the people are very friendly, we were allowed to go out, shop and socialise except for the lockdown weekends when we were not allowed off our boats. We noticed lots of loaves of bread in plastic bags hanging off posts and discovered that it’s been a Turkish practice for hundreds of years to buy two loaves of bread and hang one up for people who couldn’t afford to buy their own.
Everywhere we went we saw bowls of water and food out for the local dogs and cats and we never saw any homeless people or beggars. We didn’t see much of the East though so it may be different there as there isn’t the European influence.
Malta here we come…..