We set out on an expidition to explore Saklikent Gorge today. Situated just 50km from Fethiye, this canyon is 300m deep and about 18km long. It was formed over millions of years by the Saklikent River, as the flowing waters of the river gradually eroded a channel through the surrounding rock. The river is fed by underground springs and meltwater from the surrounding Taurus Mountains; at this time of year its pretty low, but in spring when all the snows are melting, can become a raging torrent.
We got to the gorge this morning only to find the place pretty much closed up for the year – that’s definitely one of the downsides of travelling out of peak season! We still got to go into the gorge and walk up the first 2km or so, but the rest of it was closed off for winter and spring. Ah well, what we did get to see was pretty spectacular, with the sheer walls of the canyon rising up sharply beside us and the roaring of the river echoing around us.
During the peak summer months they take tourists down the river, through the canyon, in inflatable tubes – it must be a fantastic way to see Saklikent Gorge. No doubt in the heat of a Turkish summer, when temperatures are up around 40C, the canyon makes a welcome, cool place to spend a few hours. Being November it was just damn cold in there, so we quickly made our way back out and continued on our way to Antalya – tonight’s home away from home.
Antalya is one of Turkey’s largest cities with a population of over 2 million. It’s the largest centre on the Turkish Riviera and has its own international airport. The city itself is just one resort hotel after another – in the summer this place swells to twice its size as tourists from Russia, Germany and England flock here to have their “week in the sun”. At the moment its blissfully quiet however and we had a great afternoon just strolling around town, enjoying the sunshine and views across the Mediterranean. Our strolling took us all the way to the Düden Waterfall. This is where the Düden River (one of the major rivers in southern Turkey) drops off a rocky cliff directly into the Mediterranean Sea. It’s pretty dramatic and makes for a rather scenic spot to watch the sun set…
We’re only here for one night – this is our last seaside stop before heading inland tomorrow towards Konya and then Capadoccia. Which also means this is our last day of balmy weather – inland Turkey is pretty cold! It will be interesting to see how the roads are further inland too, because up until now they have been amazing. We’ve been driving on smooth, brand new, 4-lane highways that put some of our country roads in Australia to shame. Apparently the current Turkish government, which came into power in 2009, has invested heavily in upgraded much of the local infrastrcuture and improving services out into the rural areas of Turkey. A couple of Turkish people we’ve spoken to have said this government is great in that they have done a lot for the country’s infrastructure, have pushed through some much needed reforms and have very publically put an end to (or at least curtailed) the corruption that was rampant throughout the Turkish government. They have also managed to come to some agreements with the leaders of the Kurdish community here in Turkey (which account for some 25% of the country’s 80 million strong population), bringing a welcomed relief to the years of ongoing separatist fighting.
All sounds very positive, except it seems this government is also very conservative and pro-Islamic. Alongside all the other changes they have made, there have also been some interesting changes made to Turkey’s secular laws. This subtle movement towards a more pro-Islamic and openly Muslim Turkey has some of the people we’ve spoken to concerned. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens to the political situation here in Turkey over the next few years, and what the ramifications of any changes might be for the whole region – especially since Turkey has often been held up as an example of how a mostly Muslim nation (98% of the population here is Muslim) can successfully be democratic, capitalist and have a secular government. From our perspective we’ve certainly appreciated the freedom we have as foriegn tourists visiting Turkey and the openness with which people will discuss their religion, politics and culture. Hopefully this openness and friendliness won’t change, even if the politics do.