My October visit to Fethiye in Turkey had originally been planned so I could attend my long-time (since we were 10 actually) friend Jess’s wedding to her fiancé. Unfortunately this event was then postponed due to the complexities of inter-continental marriage laws; but since I already had my plane ticket I came out to visit them anyway for four days. While I was in Fethiye, I bought a beautiful book to use as a diary. It is directly from this diary that I take the story of how I crossed ‘Ride a Camel’ off my list.
05/10/12 – Cuma (Friday)
This morning the first thing that happened was that I discovered a rather large mosquito bite on my elbow. Thankfully it isn’t itching. I went for breakfast at around 9:30 and actually met another guest of the hotel (I was beginning to think I was the only one!) He is from Holland (we didn’t exchange names) and is here on business. We had a rather nice conversation over breakfast, although I suspect I did the majority of the talking.
Breakfast consisted of melon, cucumber, olives (none of which I like) tomatoes, boiled egg, bread, cheese, butter, jam and tea (English, black) all of which I do. Then I went to find Jess, who wasn’t quite awake yet, so I took her dog Sosis (Sausage) for his morning walk while she sorted herself out. Once she was ready we went to get some more money out and exchange it as most of the cash I had on me went on the hotel (£60 for five nights is very reasonable though).
Jess bought some chicken and we made a chicken curry for Jess’s fiancé, who was staying behind to work (he sells tours and excursions and does jeep safari with the tourists, who all call him Captain Jack Sparrow, to whom he bears some resemblance). Lunch was dolma (stuffed cabbage leaves) with yogurt, made by Jess’s fiancé’s mum, very nice. Then we caught the Dolmuş (bus) up to Kaya village where the ghost town and camels can be found. The camels were lying down at first so I didn’t actually realise how big they are compared to me. Jess mounted her camel first and it seemed quite bad-tempered about it, so I was mildly apprehensive about mounting mine. Fortunately mine was much more docile.
I have to say being on a camel when it stands up is a very strange experience, it lurches up at the back end first and then the front and when standing they are very tall, at least from the perspective of a person such as myself who has never ridden an animal of any sort before. The camel man told us that Jess’s camel is called Linda and mine is Molly, although why they don’t have Turkish names is a mystery to me. He hitched Molly to the back of Linda’s saddle so she could follow and put a pink beaded muzzle on her so she wouldn’t bite Linda.
Once we were all ready the camel man led Linda off at a sedate pace, through the winding paths of Kaya village (the inhabited parts and some of the ruins) and the surrounding farms. There seemed to be an awful lot of goats. Passing through some of the narrower paths, a problem became immediately apparent in that being high up on a camel puts you in the way of overhanging tree branches which you then have to dodge or move so as not to get smacked in the face, and also bushes and brambles which the camel happily ploughs through without the slightest regard for the fact that your legs and bare feet (I was wearing flip-flops) are trailing through them.
I kept wondering how people manage to ride such long distances on them in the desert, for while it was a pleasurable and very entertaining experience after a while I imagine it would be rather uncomfortable. The thought also crossed my mind that it would be quite easy for the camel to throw me if it really wanted to, a thought reinforced when it came time to dismount. Again, Jess went first. Then camel man instructed her to hold on and lean back, at which point, Linda dropped to her knees so forcefully that Jess was nearly hurled from the saddle and only the camel man catching her saved her from faceplanting in the dirt.
Having learned from Jess, I leaned well back and was therefore able to dismount with some measure of grace. We paid the camel man, then afterwards Jess and I bought Çay (Turkish tea) and pancakes at the village, seating ourselves on one of the raised wooden platforms strewn with cushions that are dotted around the restaurant. Jess did tell me what the Turkish word for them is but I forgot it. We also shared a drink called Ayran which is a frothy, watery salted yogurt (I think). It sounds disgusting but tastes ok; I imagine it’s an acquired taste.
There ends the extract; the diary entry does continue for the remainder of the day but none of that is relevant to the camel-riding experience. I had a thoroughly enjoyable adventure and I got to share it with one of my best friends, which is always better.