Monday, November 12, 2001

Here's a little mind-teaser for you. It is Monday at noon, in the off-season. You are in Marmaris and you have booked a ferry ticket from Rhodes to Haifi, which departs 5pm on Tuesday. You speak to five Turkish men:

The first Turkish man says boats leave from Marmaris to Rhodes at 9am Tuesday.
The second Turkish man says the first Turkish man is wrong, and that boats leave from Kos to Rhodes at 5am Tuesday, and from Bodrum (near Marmaris) to Kos at 3.30pm on Monday.
The third Turkish man says the first and second Turkish men are wrong, and that boats leave from Marmaris to Rhodes at 9am Tuesday, but that it isn't guaranteed and depends on the weather and number of passangers.
The fourth Turkish man says that boats leave from Marmaris to Rhodes on Monday at 3pm and cost just 22 million Turkish lira (about 9 pounds) if you pay him now. However, he is manning a food stall outside the travel agents.
The fifth Turkish man says that boats leave from Marmaris to Rhodes 9am Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The first Turkish man then changes his mind and says that it's 90% that boats leave from Marmaris to Rhodes at 9am Tuesday. You ask him ten more times and he then says no boats leave on Tuesday, just Wednesday.

Question: What do you do?

Answer: Ignore all Turkish men and go with your tail between your legs back to Istanbul for a flight to Tel-Aviv.

Yeah, so we're still in Marmaris, but not for much longer. Due to entirely unreliable ferry runs from Marmaris to Rhodes (only a 2 hour trip) and in fact anywhere in Turkey to the very nearby Greek islands, and the even more unreliable and changeable information, we've had to call it quits. Every option was gone through, but short of swimming 50km with our backpacks or hijacking a boat, there's no way whatsoever we could get to Rhodes before 5pm Tuesday. Not even hitching a ride with a fisherman as it's international water. So instead, we've had to get a flight from Istanbul to Tel-Aviv, on Wednesday. Cancelling our Rhodes ferry ticket (losing us 50%, or about 40 quid), but the flight's pretty cheap, thank God. We've had more than our fair share of good luck in the last three months, so in the end were probably due a little bad luck.

One small bonus is that, despite the humiliation of having to crawl back to Istanbul, we will make Melissa's 21st tomorrow. Hopefully she won't read this before that so we can make up some story of why we've returned. At the moment we're going to pretend we met some Glaswegians at the bus station, got drunk, missed our bus and went with them to Izmir for a day or so, before returning to Istanbul for our flight. That sounds believable enough, although we did have some slightly more outlandish stories. Returning to get Simon's custom-built toothbrush for example.

Back to Istanbul later on then. Oh well. I'm not massively looking forward to it. I have top admit I found the entire Istanbul experience a little shallow. The hostels were a big part of that - huge complexes that had everything you needed so you didn't ever have to leave them. Bars, cafes, restaurants - even a damn travel agency that kept trying to push packagae tours at you. And for all the friendliness of the Turkish, there was always a catch. Whether it be "Eat at my restaurant", "Visit my shop", "But my carpets", even "Give me your address so I can use you to get myself a visa to enter your home country" (I'm serious, though it wasn't me this was directed to specifically). I'm making a big generalisation of course, but of the many Turks who approached you, it's a generalisation that does stand on the most part.

I also felt far more cynical after Istanbul. The (mainly Australian) backpackers were all herded into these giant hostels so I'd be finding myself speaking to new people every half hour it seemed. And it's the first time I've stopped wanting to meet people. It just got too much. I feel so cynical saying I couldn't be bothered making the effort, but it's true. I got fatigued from having to ask where people were from, where they'd been, where they were going to.

I'd still recommend Istanbul as it's got fabulous sights and it's a fascinating place, but I can't say I'm in a hurry to return. I think it's just too geared for backpackers, to the degree that you no longer have the independence that's half the reason you're backpacking in the first place.

As for Marmaris, well. It's alright. By the sea and a very attractive view, being in a bay surrounded by mountains. But it's apparently a big resort for Brits, and it's off-season, so has very much the feel of being a bit of a ghost town. Like Budva in Montenegro, if not quite that extreme. It's pleasant, but feels lacklustre. Even the waiter of a restaurant we ate at seemed confused as to why we were visiting in November. Great weather mind you.

So that's the deal then. Overnight (again) to Istanbul, Melissa's birthday, then a plane Wednesday morning to Tel-Aviv.

I also saw a bus from here to a city called Batman in the east of Turkey. I was tempted...

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