Sunday, 17 May 2009

Jeep Safari, Hisarönü

I have already posted about our stay in Hisarönü, and have reluctantly admitted that we enjoyed it far more than we thought we would, given first impressions. However, there was one day during our two-week stay in the resort which lived up to our worst expectations – that was the day we joined a jeep safari!

Whenever we stay anywhere, we like to get out and about and see the local area, whether by hiring a car, or by booking ourselves on to one or two organised tours. Hisarönü was no exception, so, on our second day in town, before really talking to any of our fellow guests about available trips, we went around most of the numerous agents and chose some tours to go on. Many of the agents (in fact, probably all of them) were offering a jeep safari, promising a ‘wet ‘n’ wild’ day of water fights and other pre-arranged soakings at intervals whilst being driven around the countryside and taken to one or two places of interest. These agents promoted the ‘fun’ aspect of these trips, and advised guests to arm themselves with plenty of water, and something to deliver it with, before departure. Absolutely not our thing at all!! Nevertheless, we really wanted to see some of the local history and culture, so we were really pleased when we found the one agent in town who was offering ‘a different jeep safari’ – no loud music, no water, no organised jollity – just a pleasant drive through stunning scenery, with visits to the ancient site of Tlos, the natural wonder which is Saklikent Gorge, and a lunch on a platform over the river included. It sounded perfect, so, having obtained assurances from the agent that the blurb on his boards was indeed true, we booked it.

Later that night at the hotel, we mentioned the tours that we had booked to a regular visitor to Hisarönü, who told us that there was no such thing as a jeep safari without water and that we would, after all, spend the day soaking wet and loving every minute of it!! We were slightly unsettled by this news, but put it to the back of our minds. After all, the agent had promised us, hadn’t he?

Well, it turned out that our fellow hotel guest was right, and our agent was guilty of the most blatant case of misrepresentation ever! On the morning of the safari, we were collected from our hotel early in an open Landrover which already had six passengers occupying most of the available space. We were then driven the short distance into town, where we parked up at the roadside and waited for the rest of our ‘convoy’ to arrive. Despite the early hour, the sun was already hot, and we applied more sunscreen while we waited. When our convoy numbered approximately 20 vehicles, we left town, passing several other equally large convoys which were still parked up and waiting, filled with mainly sunburned British holidaymakers grinning inanely or being raucous with no regard for still-sleeping residents.

Once out of town, we whizzed through the Fethiye area, with no time or opportunity to photograph the rock tombs which we glimpsed as we sped past them at breakneck speed. About 15km on the other side of Fethiye, we turned off the main road and our speed slowed somewhat as we began to climb into the hills. We barely had time to register the beauty of the surrounding countryside, however, before we were surprised (understatement of the year!) by our first drenching of the day. A teenager with a large and powerful hosepipe was standing in the entrance to a garden and caught us full force in the back as we passed (we were side on to the road). We weren’t just a little damp – we were absolutely soaked and not best pleased! We were both holding cameras at the time which we quickly put away, but then the question was what to do with our bag as the floor of the Landrover was awash. And so the pattern was set for a horrible day where we were incessantly bombarded from the verges, driven under strategically placed, purpose-built dowsing devices, or attacked by fellow holiday-makers with water pistols, pump-action water machine guns, or improvised water bombs. It was a truly grim experience! We were barely allowed to dry off all day, and spent the entire time squelching around in wet clothes feeling miserable and uncomfortable.

We did pass Tlos, but didn’t stop, and could hardly enjoy the view as we were being sprayed with water at the time. Subsequent stops at a trout farm and at Saklikent Gorge were equally unsatisfactory, as was lunch which, rather than being a pleasant relaxed affair by the river, was actually taken army-catering style at long tables under a makeshift canvas awning. The absolute low-light of the day was a visit to ‘therapeutic mud baths’ – in reality, a shallow stretch of river where most of our convoy were persuaded to strip off and cover themselves from head to foot in foul smelling mud from the river bank. They were then encouraged to let the mud dry on their bodies so that it could be washed away by yet more high pressure hoses conveniently supplied by locals as we drove through rural villages!

As daylight faded and the temperature dropped, we pulled in to a service station where the jeeps were washed, and where we were forced to wait around for over an hour fending off offers to buy photographs taken during the day as a memento of our trip.

The entire tour was aimed at the lowest common denominator of Brits abroad – lots of swearing, water fights, and throwing mud around. I’m well aware that many people would find the whole experience a great deal of fun, and would probably consider us to be a pair of old misery guts, but it is just not our idea of a good day out! What’s more, I hate the idea that this is the only impression that many Turks have of British holidaymakers, and so assume that we all behave in the same way!

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