After twenty hours of dodging thunderstorms from Alanya we found our way through the channel, islands and peninsulas north west of Kekova Adası, to our next anchorage. We had been told by every yottie from Bodrum to Fethiye that we mustn’t miss Kekova Roads. We would love it. It’s got everything. It’s stunning. Even the guide book said don’t go unless by boat – it’s remote but worth the effort. With the rustic fishing village of Uçağiz perched on the side of the inner bay and the pretty hamlet of Kaleköy outside it all boded well for our visit… so why were we so unimpressed?
Was it because we have been sailing in southern Turkey for quite some time now, so scenic villages, lush green vegetation, picturesque hill-sides and a preponderance of ancient ruins have ceased to have the charm they once held? That would make us sound like spoilt, ungrateful cynics though, wouldn’t it? I don’t think we are, in fact I’m sure we ain’t; we’re still entranced by the views around Skopea Limanı, an equally prized yottie venue and we can’t wait to get back to Hisarönü next summer, even though it’s another popular place. A further perusal of Lonely Planet yields a clue: “Nowadays it’s becoming an upmarket ‘undiscovered hideaway’, with prices to match”. But it wasn’t just that.
Upon arrival in Uçağiz Limanı we were surprised to see quite so many jetties extending a fair way out into the bay. One of them even hailed us on Ch 16 as we were looking for the perfect spot to anchor. A bit forward, we thought. Once settled we took the dinghy ashore to explore and to check our emails. We headed for Hassan’s which, we had been told, was the place to go. On the way we passed Ibrahim’s and were asked if we’d like to have breakfast. During a friendly chat it was explained that their wifi was not working but that Tree House Café up the hill would be our best bet. We decided to head next door to Hassan’s, where we were looking forward to meeting the owner. Oh boy, did we meet the owner. I’m not sure if he had got out of bed the wrong side, if he’d just had some terrible news, or if he’d taken an instant dislike to us but he was the most unpleasant man we have met in Turkey. The exchange went something like this:
How did you get here, by boat or by car?
– By boat.
Wifi is only for restaurant guests.
– We’d like to be restaurant guests, with breakfast now and a meal later.
You can’t use my wifi unless you eat here.
– We’d like to have a coffee and breakfast now then dinner later.
You can’t use my wifi.
– But many of our yottie friends have recommended this place.
You can’t use my wifi.
– OK, we’ll go somewhere else.
Where is your boat?
(Menacingly) I’ll pay you a visit…
– Are you threatening us?
What’s your boat called?
– We’re going to tell everyone about you and put you on our website.
Unlike us you will not confuse Hassan with Hasan, a completely different kind of fellow. His restaurant, ‘Roma’, is in Kaleköy and a most welcoming and friendly place it is. He and his wife go out of their way to make you feel at home; everything’s done with a smile and nothing’s too much trouble. This was the Hasan recommended to us by our friends. Phew, we’d thought there must be something wrong with us, or even worse, with our friends!
There’s no denying that the area is enchanting. The crusader fortress is splendid. It contains a mini amphitheater hewn into the rock and the battlements look impressive. The sarcophagi, scattered around the hillside and beneath the water, were the most memorable sight for me.
The villages are pleasing to the eye, but full of overpriced restaurants, bars and the usual tourist shops, staffed by jaded locals there to take your money. The wifi at the Tree House Café was free but then a small bottle of beer was 5 ytl, exorbitant. The castle might be beautiful when lit up at night but closer inspection reveals little depth; a charge is made by a man who chases you around issuing tickets for a small fortune. Most locals are friendly enough but you get the feeling that they’re just going through the motions.
Like most of these summer tourist destinations businesses have to make as much money as possible during the short season to get them through the rest of the year. You can’t blame ’em. Having said that, there are other well-frequented places that are more welcoming and actively friendly, less manicured and with more character. I prefer the more bohemian Gümüşlük or the lazy charm of Kaş.
Maybe our expectations were too high. Maybe we were unlucky. Maybe it is already the ‘upmarket hideaway’, over-done and sanitised, that Lonely Planet suggests it is becoming.