In September '98 we flew to the Bodrum peninsula of Turkey on a package trip with Thomson Holidays, & stayed at The Club Flora Hotel in Gumbet. This was our third trip to Turkey in the last ten years so you can tell we like it. The sun is warm, the people usually helpful, & prices not too bad. We went for two weeks, & whilst there we hired two old Yamaha DT125s for a few days to do some easy trail riding.
Bodrum town is a mixed resort/working place with a castle museum, Roman amphitheater, the Halicarnas open air night club, shopping, restaurants... It has a busy attractive marina where you can take a gulet, ferry, or hydrofoil to various places including the Greek islands of Kos, & Rhodes (You might need a visa for this?), or just relax with a drink. Bodrum town even has an Internet cafe if you must check your e-mail, & MacDonalds. You can take a minibus to many of the other local resorts such as Torba, Yalikavak, Gumusluk, Karaincir, Bites ( pronounced Bitez ) some of which have good beaches. Gumbet is 5 minutes drive away, & a party town with loads of bars, watersports, & a sandy beach all set in a small bay. The other resorts are popular with wind surfers, & smaller in size.
We haggled for the price of the bikes as you do for many things in Turkey, & in the end paid about 11 UK pounds per bike/day. I've no idea if this is a good price, or what, but the guy who did the paperwork checked it with his boss around three times, & said we paid less than the scooter price, but then perhaps they do this 'show' for the tourists? We haggled in pounds rather than Turkish Lire (TL), which made it easier to work out the cost. All those noughts on the end of the local prices can be confusing at first. I.E. 1,000,000 TL was under 2 UK pounds then. The last three zeros are often omitted on price tags, & menus.
Riding in Turkey appears to be free format, & many rural junctions have no signs, or white lines to give you a clue where you are going, or who has right of way. That said we found it easy, if we were not sure we would pull over to the side, & watch what locals did? If nobody was around we did whatever appeared 'sensible' to us. We found some easy trails, & did some feet up stuff. It was coolish plugging along in our gear, but the moment you stopped it suddenly became obvious how hot it was. Ride's end tended to be a shady part of the beach, or a cafe where we could cool off. We always took some bottled water with us just in case we got stuck somewhere. Also, having two bikes we could always leave one if it broke down although this never happened to us.
Insurance in Turkey is third party only so try not to hit anybody. Petrol/gas was about 45 pence per litre as far as I can remember. I.E. cheaper than most of Europe, but more than in North America. They still pump it for you, & you pay cash at the pump. Petrol/gas stations were plentiful on main roads, & in Bodrum town. It is easy to get lost, but you eventually come to either a dead end, or back to a main road. It is difficult to be lost for too long on a peninsular that is about 10 miles high, & 20 across. If you are on a trail for the first time take it easy as they sometimes have chains across, or just stop dead. I'm not going to tell you exactly where we went as there was a lot of building going on. So, some some trails will probably get black top, & elsewhere new ones open up. We could often see a promising trail ahead, but then could not find the start of it, or it had a gate. Most of the building work is done in the winter. Villages are marked French style. I.E. on entering you have a sign with the name, & as you leave there is a sign with the same name crossed out. Main roads have reasonable signage elsewhere you are on your own , & I never found a decent map.
When not riding the best way to get around is by dolmus. These are mini buses that run every few minutes to the local towns, & are cheap, but often packed. Dolmus means "stuffed." You pay the driver, or his lad often when the bus is moving. Inside the bus at the front somewhere the price will be posted. Short trips are usually flat rate , & longer journeys have a schedule of fares. The dolmus has the destination on the front, & you just stick your hand out to stop one. Travel between large towns is by regular scheduled bus. If you use taxis make certain the driver either puts the meter on, or more likely you agree the price in advance, & you can share to reduce the price further. Your hotel can get you a taxi, or there are stands in the resorts. The blue eye decorations you see are called Boncuk, & they are supposed to ward off the 'evil eye.' We bought a few, & have them around the house.
You can usually exchange money at your hotel reception, or at Bureau De Change, but check both the rate, & any charges carefully. Banks, & 24 hour bank machines are plentiful in Bodrum town. If you want to pay for things by credit card best to check that they take it first. The TL falls in value daily so don't get all your currency before you go. E.G. We were getting around 445,000 TL to the pound, & last time I checked (August '01) it was over 2 million, & changing by the second. It went down 3% in one day recently. The first time we went to Turkey, which must have been in the late '80s we were only getting about 180,000 to the pound.
There are no shortage of places to eat, drink, shop... Turkey is the land of the 'genuine' fake. I.E. you might pay 5 pounds for a shirt that would be 40 in my local sports shop, & don't forget to haggle. The quality can vary so check the stuff over before you buy after all it is a long way to take anything back. Ask the locals what day the market is, & where? Try to visit in the morning when the food is fresh, & it is not too hot. If you are buying food you will often be invited to try a sample, & if you are considering a major purchase such as a rug will often be offered apple, or regular tea.
In large resorts the waiters usually speak English/American, German, & a little French. Sometimes you will be invited into the kitchen to see what they are cooking especially if there English is not too good. Competition for punters is keen, & take the menu as a rough guide rather than a bible. You may find they don't have some items, but on the other hand if you want something not on the menu it is often worth asking. I asked for a beer in a restaurant on a previous trip, & they explained that they did not have a license, but that I could still have a beer. So I ordered one to see what would happen, & it arrived from the restaurant next door. In Bodrum town we went past a place where the 'Special of the Day' never changed. I've heard fish can be expensive so best to check on the price before they cook it. If you order fish they are likely to bring it out on a tray for you to choose, or you can go to the chill, & decide. A good starter is meze (cold starters), which are often brought out on a tray for you to pick. The main course could be pide (Turkish pizza), seafood, kebab , or something more international like a good old steak & chips. Baklava is a traditional dessert that contains nuts, & honey, plus the local ice cream is very nice. They often ring a bell when you buy an ice cream, but I don't know why? If you are a veggie you may find the choice limited especially in the smaller resorts.
Turkish coffee is Arab style in a small cup, strong, & gritty. If you want something more western ask for a Nescafe. The local tea, which we often had, comes in a glass with sugar, but no milk. It is usually cheap sometimes free. Don't drink the tap water, buy bottled water instead, & check the seal on the bottle is not broken. Be a bit careful with raw food as well such as fruit, & salads.
Don't take photo's of military bases, or activity if you are wondering why just look up Turkey in the atlas . If I had those neighbors I would move (joke)! Don't forget Turkey is still in dispute with Greece over Cyprus, & the Kurds want independence. Also, don't smuggle drugs, or carry home anything for somebody else. Not sure why? Rent, or read Midnight Express. Take plenty of sun screen, hat, & use them. Stay out of the noon sun even if your nickname is mad dog, or Englishman.
Turkey is about 97% Muslim, & you will hear the call to prayer 5 times per day from the local minaret. The larger temples are often worth a visit, but you must cover up (especially ladies), & leave your shoes outside. You might find a local to guide you around, but don't take photo's. Keep the noise down, & try not to upset anybody. In the resorts dress is very casual, but away from the coast you will find things more restrained. Rural Turkey is mainly still a place where the lady stays at home, & covers up when she goes out. The Turkish people are usually friendly, helpful, & honest, but as anywhere keep an eye on your stuff when in crowds, & always haggle. Single ladies may get allot of attention. Turkey is very family minded, & they love children. If you ask about anything in the hotel, or a cafe you will probably find that the owner's brother/cousin/father/son... can get you that, & of course at the best price/quality!
The walking, & wildlife is good in Turkey. We didn't see that much wildlife this time, although we did see swallowtail butterflies, & many lizards. In previous visits we have seen storks, pelicans, tortoise, snake, bee-eaters, dolphins, & much more without trying too hard.
When you land in Turkey they want a ten pound entry fee from British tourists in cash so have it ready. I don't know what the deal is for other nationals?
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