We anchored in the small protected harbor near Ekincik, Turkey, just west of Dalyan. Dalyan and the ruins of the imposing Fort, Acropolis and city of ancient Caunos were our primary objectives. They sit on pine sloops along the Dalyan river. The boat that we hired to take us on our tour was over-sized for just four people. It was built to hold forty.
We sat along the twenty foot long benches on the port and the starboard sides but when John and Coralia needed to get out of the wind and took to the Turkish carpets on the floor, our handsome, Turkish captain looked like he was carrying only two very important people, Bill and me.
We sailed a few miles along the rugged pine coast and entered a shallow, shoaling bay.
We waited our turn to cross the now narrow channel into a breeding ground for loggerhead turtles. We stopped to see the attractions before continuing up the reeded paths of the Dalyan River, which twisted and turned in an unidentifiable pattern.
Dalyan means fish trap. The actual trap stretches across the river with a guard opening and closing a gate for boats to pass through. Mullet, sea breen and bass travel up river to spawn in Kaycegiz Lake, the traps remains open for their upriver swim then close and the trapped fish are scooped up by local fishermen.
We stopped at the river’s edge to tour the Caunos Archeological Park. The walk to the famous ruins under the startling hot sun and dry heat, bought us past trees ripe with lemons, olives, figs, pomegranates, and the beautifully scented bougainvilleas, which were all rooted, deep in hard cracked soil. We hadn’t walked half way to the fort and were as parched as the ground and the air that sucked every droplet of moisture the trees gave back.
The ancient grounds show signs of Roman, Greek and Lycian influence. The theater first built in the Hellenic Period, was later renovated and enlarged by the Romans. Special events are still held there and can be enjoyed by up to 5,000 seated spectators.
The theater looks over the large reeded river past the sand dunes where the turtles breed and then to where it is believed the harbor of Caunos once opened into the Adriatic before it silted into the now swampy river.
The elaborate Roman bathing pools and Palaestra (wrestling ring) attest to the leisurely life of the upper class who dealt in slaves and salt fish.
The fortunes of this region began to decline by the first century BC but not before the Lycians built fabulous tombs further up river. Faced on a mountain that overlooks the river the tombs façade resembles temples carved with windows, columns and pediments. The imposing city is only a few feet deep and the tombs are nothing more than caves in the cliffside. Still it is an amazing feat considering they were carved at such a dangerous height in 400 BC.
We continued on our tour to the lovely town of Dalyan or Kaycegiz. The waterway is lined with beautiful restaurants open to the fresh air with views of the Lycian ruins and busy river traffic. The Turkish people were all friendly, the town was immaculate and the food very good.
The lovely Aktas restaurant would have been a perfect end to the day but we still had to return to John and Coralia’s boat. The return trip was not as much fun. The winds had picked up offshore and the passage from the ancient bay to nice, protected Ekincik Harbor was rough. John and Coralia huddled on the floor in the warming sun on the bow. The high gunwale protected them from the wind and the spray, but our handsome boat captain never had his phone from ear and failed to detect then direct the ship’s bow away from a mighty oncoming wave. It broke high over the forward port side, and then crashed on our friends, soaking them and nearly capsizing the ship. Not a nice way to end our beautiful day.