We were lucky enough to be featured in The Weekend Australian;
published in Sydney it's Australia's top selling weekend newspaper.
Travel writer Peter Needham joined us for a week of hiking and cruising along this beautiful coastline.
Read what he had to say about this fabulous trip.

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THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN

All aboard a traditional gulet for a sailing and
walking holiday on Turkey's southwest coast.


The Lycian coast of Turkey is a region of pomegranates, honey bees,  
sure-footed goats and sheer cliffs plunging into turquoise sea.

The ancient Lycians, mentioned in Homer's
Iliad, sailed into
steep-sided sandy bays that are still only accessible by sea. The ruins
of their cities and tombs, carved into solid rock and resembling the
dwellings at Petra, draw visitors from across the world.

Other lesser-known attractions are equally compelling. There's
swimming in the sunken stone ruins of Cleopatra's bath house, or
having your face (or legs) shaved with a cut-throat razor by a traditional
Turkish barber next to the beach.

There are therapeutic mud baths and vendors in small boats hawking
scrumptious fresh baked gozleme pastries flavoured with lemon and
local honey.

The Lycian Way walking trail, which opened in 1999 has been chosen
by Britain's
The Sunday Times as one of the 10 best walks in the world.
Shepherds have walked tracks in the same area for millennia.

To fully appreciate this Mediterranean paradise for walking and sailing,
you need a boat; preferably a Turkish gulet, the graceful two-masted
traditional wooden sailing vessel synonymous with these waters.

It's sailing that brings me to Marmaris, a former fishing village on
Turkey's southwest coast, now devoted to tourism. Marmaris is gulet
central. I am due to meet my gulet guide, Anne at  Anatolia Cafe, a
well-known pick-up and drop-off point for boat trips.
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Ready to start our walk
Gocek Islands
Following in the footsteps of Romans
Looking down over the bay of Cleopatra's Bath

Anatolia Cafe is a diverting place to wait. Suntanned visitors from Britain
and Germany scoot along the promenade on little battery-powered
tricycles, a cheap version of the Segway. A van bearing the sign "I Prefer
Real Turkish Bath" arrives and disgorges beaming folk who have
obviously just enjoyed one. A labyrinthine covered bazaar leads off to the
left, replete with T-shirts, jewellery , Ottoman rugs and tattoo parlours.

Anne arrives, introduces herself and uses her mobile phone to find our
fellow passengers in the crowded cafe, in fact they are sitting at the table
next to us. Our gulet turns out to be a trim 25m craft with eight en-suite
cabins and a crew of three, under the command of Captain Can Yasar, a
master carpenter who fitted out the vessel himself. Storage space is not
large but more than adequate for walkers travelling light.

On deck you can catch the breeze, watch flying fish scudding alongside
and look out for the region's renowned sea turtles.

My fellow travellers are three Australian couples and we are soon
getting along famously. British and Australian is the usual mix of
nationalities on cruises, Anne says, with most participants of active
middle age. Originally from Yorkshire (Lancashire actually!), Anne fell in
love with Turkey and the Turkish man she married.

Like most gulets, ours carries back-up sail but uses its diesel engine
instead. Our eight-day trip heads from Marmaris, around the Gocek
Islands and on to the town of Fethiye, with plenty of walking on the way.
The concept is simple; breakfast heartily aboard, then set out exploring
on foot, catching up with the gulet again in time for lunch or dinner. If the
walk takes a full day, a picnic lunch is provided.

Meals are full and healthy, and the walking counteracts any potential
weight gain. A typical breakfast onboard consists of eggs, tomatoes,
white and yellow cheeses, marinated black and green olives, sausage,
cucumber, bread, apricot jam and local honey, tea, coffee and squeezed
orange juice.

Anne has devised many of the routes in conjunction with her husband
and discussions with local shepherds. The walks take you to places
other modes of transport cannot reach and while some tracks are
steep, most are reasonably easy; ages in our small group range from
28 to 68, with the oldest definitely one of the fittest.

Views are panoramic and sublime; the sea turns aquamarine around the base of cliffs,
deepening to an inky blue. Tracks are fragrant with the smell of pale green pines, dry
lavender and sage.

On rocky outcrops, the tall stalks of sea squills bend in the breeze. Our tracks take us
past rows of pale blue beehives, their residents buzzing industriously. We encounter
ancient cylindrical gravestones engraved in Arabic script and orchards where
pomegranates dangle like red lanterns from branches.

In a grove of ancient olive trees, another member of the party and I sample a glossy
black olive direct from the tree. It looks exquisite but proves a bitter experience.

All else is sweet. Some experiences are tranquil, like Nimara Caves on Paradise Island,
a cool and serene cavern whee ancients worshipped their gods more than 10,000 years
ago. No signposts indicate this site, you have to know where to turn off the track. Another
walk leads to the ruins of Kaunos, a city founded about 900BC on the border of the
kingdom of Lycia. Gazing down from the amphitheatre. It's easy to visualise how Kaunos
might have looked when ships bearing slaves and spices sailed into its harbour, long
since silted up. Malaria decimated this thriving metropolis.

A similar, but more recently abandoned city, Kayakoy, an eerie village deserted in 1924 as the result of a forced population exchange, when the Ottoman Greeks who lived here were
repatriated to Greece.

This sad human story is told in Louis de Bernieres' novel
Birds Without Wings.

Back onboard after a day's walking, we relax over a cold Efes dark beer, brewed in Istanbul 6.1 percent strength and a creditable drop. Captain Can and his crew prepare a fine
repast of whole grilled sea bass, olives, cheese and other delicacies. A Pamukkale Senfoni 2008 shiraz merlot is a welcome discovery.

On calm nights, passengers and crew can choose to sleep on mattresses on the sun deck beneath the stars, a dreamy haven with light breezes. One rougher evening, when the
breeze blows free and the sea slaps our hull, the captain sets off in a small boat to secure a nearby drifting yacht and prevent it hitting the rocks. He intersperses these maritime
duties with squeezing orange juice and keeping the dining table free of crumbs with a battery-operated hand-held vacuum cleaner. Versatility is the key to sailing a gulet.

As days flow past, camaraderie builds. "There's an oesophagus in there" exclaims one of our group peering inside a tomb. "Sarcophagus" his wife insists. At the Dalyan mud bath
and thermal baths, we coat ourselves in thick mud and are hosed down with a torrent of cold water at fire-hose strength before plunging into a thermal pool. It's good for you,
apparently. We visit the loggerhead sea turtle nesting grounds if Iztuzu beach, saved in 1986 from developers who wanted to build a luxury hotel there. A cruise boat nearby heads
through the reed beds at Dalyan, overlooked by the cliffside Lycian tombs.

Then there's the Turkish barber next to the beach, at an inlet called Bedri Rahmi bay. In anticipation of this experience, the men in our party have gone without shaving for a couple of
days. A skilled barber double lathers faces, pinches cheeks to get the right angle and wields a cut-throat razor with consummate precision.

The shave is followed with a brush past with a flaming taper to singe away out-of-place hairs, then a neck, shoulder and head massage. We emerge glowing. One of our group is so
moved that he instructs the barber to shave off his beard of 36 years. The result astounds his wife.

Waiting at Istanbul airport later for the flight back, I realise the only souvenir I have acquired in Turkey is a jar of Omak Honey Nut, a concoction reputed to have amazing properties.  
"For everyone who wants to be young with a strong mind and nerves," the label says. "For every old man who dreams to have his youth back". Ingredients are listed as honey,
beesmilk, pistachio, almond, hazelnut, caraway, pineseed, walnut, peanut, coconut, radish seed and pollen. When I declare it at customs in Sydney, the officer smiles,  hands it back
and waves me through.  

If you eat a teaspoon a day, some say, it can transport you back to Turkey.

Peter Needham was a guest of UTracks and Singapore Airlines

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