Wanderings

Is There Life On Mars?

The lake that lies just below our mountain hide-away is almost unique. ‘Almost’ because there is one other like it on Earth in Canada. These lakes have one other attribute that adds to their uniqueness – they are believed to have many similarities with the surface of the planet Mars!

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NASA image

Really, I kid you not! You can read the reports online from such organisations as Glasgow University. Looking out from our cabin I can’t see what they see, but they are the scientists after all!

Anyway, J and I will grab any window of opportunity to take ourselves off to our hidey-hole. The air feels fresh and clean and the peace and quiet is so good for the inner and outer being. This time around we agreed to take a couple of friends and lodge them at the new hotel on the other side of the lake. They could join us during the day as we did our thing and then, in the evening, we could relax and enjoy the quiet we love and they could relax in centrally heated luxury instead of dossing on the cabin floor!

Our time together was spent gazing, spellbound, at the amazing views, eating spicy rabbit casserole and non-stop talking.

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view from the top

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view turned around 180*

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It was a short stay and on the way back to Okçular we stopped off in the village of Yazı Köy which has one of the most beautiful small mosques to be found anywhere. S,  J’s long-time friend who is on a longish visit from the UK, had never been inside a mosque. What better introduction than this:

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part of the beautiful, hand-painted ceiling

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from the women’s gallery

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J in ‘conversation’ with the delightful imam – he remembered us from our visit three years earlier. The other guy is a local who insisted on translating from Turkish to ‘Dutchlish’ – hard to know who was the most confused!

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Three years ago many of these beautiful alabaster window frames were damaged. What a delight to see that they had been restored to perfection. The mosque is in everyday use, it is cherished and really cared for. You can read about this and other amazing village mosques by following the link to earlier posts. There are also a lot more photos. You will also read about J and me being deep inside some local caves when the lights went out! Having been thwarted back then we took our friends off for another go – this time the force was with us!

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Not the greatest photos for an attraction well worth a visit. The Keloğlu Caves are close to Acıpayam in Denizli Province. Legend has it that entering the caves is a cure for baldness – didn’t do anything for me, and the guardian is a bald as a coot!

Finally, is there life on Mars? Yes, and here’s the evidence!

Crocus chrysanthus

Crocus chrysanthus

Colchicum burttii

Colchicum burttii

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Wanderings

The Camels Are Coming Oho,Oho!

I remember being taught that song at primary school – it never made much sense but then not a lot does at that age as we soak stuff up like blotting paper (the link is for those under 25 years of age). And like blotting paper our memories may be blurred but the marks and the lyrics are permanent. Which is why I still hum the ditty whenever J and I go to camel wrestling!

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the camels coming – or possibly going

So, together with a couple of camel wrestling virgin friends, we headed for the village of Sinirtepe near Aydın for their annual, much advertised, Camelus dromedarius festival. The place was suspiciously quiet when we arrived and with good reason – they’d had their tourney on the 3rd of January! Ho-hum!

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different venue, right idea

J and I prefer local, non-touristic venues and the price we pay is that information is sometimes lacking. The locals in Sinirtepe were sympathetic and in very short order they sent us on our way to a match being staged about 50 kms away at Bağarası. It could not have been a better introduction to the spectacle for our friends, It had everything – staged on a football pitch set in the middle of the shambolic industrial area, the parking was chaotic, the sights, smells and sounds exotic and the people wonderfully welcoming and friendly. Just our sort of place!

I know some of you might feel concerned that what we were supporting is some form of blood sport. It is not! The events are a continuation of a tradition from the days when camel trains and caravans criss-crossed Turkey and much of the Middle East and Asia. Traders would encourage the bull camels to do what they do naturally during the four month breeding season. The events brought camel owners together where old and new friendships were cemented, information and breeding stock were exchanged and a lot of feasting, drinking and wagering took place. Camel owners are easy to spot due to their distinctive dress: cornered caps, traditional scarves around the neck, jackets, special trousers and accordion-like boots.

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old time camel owner

I love these boots

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his job is to secure the camel’s jaw to prevent biting and injury

These days the camels are bred for strength and fed and trained to build them up. Like football and much else it is no longer a poor man’s sport. J made some enquiries and a young animal will set you back around six thousand lira. A mature 12 year-old bull with much of its wrestling and breeding career ahead would cost between eighty and one hundred and fifty thousand lira. Bulls begin wrestling at about seven years of age and continue for about ten years some up to the age of twenty. When you add in the cost of food, veterinary care, transport and pre-festival partying you are talking a pretty penny!

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that said, there was one very vocal lady owner

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bull camel in all his finery and glory

With these magnificent creatures being so valuable great care is taken to ensure that no harm comes to them apart from a bruised ego if they go out in the first round! If an animal is reluctant or afraid to engage then the referee calls a halt. A win is signalled when one animal succeeds in pinning, tripping or totally dominating his opponent and two teams rush in to drag the beasts apart. Some contests can be like watching paint dry whilst others, especially in the later rounds with the best bulls, can be very lively.

Of great value is a good cazgır. He is the person who announces wrestlers or the wrestling camels – calls out the camels’ names. The cazgır reads poems praising each camel, adding colour to the contest. The cazgır, just as in two-legged wrestling contests, is the most important and colourful person in the competition. He treats a camel wrestling match just like a sport commentator at a soccer match.

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Perhaps the most entertaining sights are when one camel has had enough and makes a bid to escape pursued by the victor. With bulls weighing in at between seven hundred and fifty and fifteen hundred kilos there are a couple of tons of tunnel vision thundering about. When pursued and pursuer head for the hills behind the spectators with their tables, chairs and barbecues the chaos and antics are like something from a Buster Keaton film. Do people get hurt? Rarely.

Whilst the stars are, without question, the magnificent bulls decked out in all their splendour and slobbering at the scent of battle (or is it female pheromones?) they are not the only attraction. The sight of thousands of Turks eating, drinking, socialising and dancing whilst wandering folk bands compete with each other for the rolled up bank notes that get stuffed into their instruments is something to experience. Add in the smells from countless barbecues and vendors selling camel sausage sandwiches and köfte with the aroma of rutting camels and your experience is complete!

camel burgers

camel sausage in a bun

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our virgins getting the musical works whilst J is masticating again!

camels decorated saddle

pack saddle

camel muzzle and bridle

muzzle and bridle

camel pheromones

The name of the competing camel is written on a piece of embroidered cloth called a peş hung behind the saddle, which is called the “havut.” Beneath the camel’s name is written the word Maşallah (May God protect him). ‘Arza’ in heroic pose and spraying pheromones all over the place!

Is it worth going to camel wrestling? Absolutely! For the spectacle, the colour, the noise, the smells, tastes and the welcome for a visitor. The camels love to have their ears scratched!

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Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps Here’re the real Cam(pb)e(l)ls Coming Oho, Oho!

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'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Economic Migrants

So, after being totally traumatised when Muğla central police station lost our original application for long-term residency during the change-over from the old ways of doing stuff, the new staff and system have completely redeemed themselves.

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I do understand that police stations can’t actually lose anything and anyway, I doubt the paperwork is lost – I bet it is still in the bottom of some filing cabinet drawer along with a whole bunch of other applications from people we know!

Six months, almost to the day, since the applications were re-submitted, an SMS arrived – they were on the way from Ankara! The tracking system functioned fine and on the first working day after they arrived in Ortaca the delivery guy rang to get our location. We’ve even had an SMS to tell us they’d been delivered to us in case we hadn’t noticed!

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These days the permit arrives in a white wallet sponsored by Turkish Airlines ‘Miles & Smiles’ – you can’t keep the world’s favourite airline down!

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look carefully at this photo and you’ll see that Ortaca police are also kind to street animals

Thanks go to the delightful and very helpful police lady in Ortaca who got all the duplicates together and then rang and pleaded with Murat at the Migration Directorate in Muğla to see us and get everything sorted asap. He did! Forty minutes after we walked through his office door we were on our way home – job jobbed!

Unless the elixir of life turns up in the form of a wine bottle we’ll never have to go through this stuff again. These long-term permits are valid until 31st December 2099 – gawd help us if we forget or don’t last long enough to renew – trust me, you really don’t want to fall foul of the bureaucracy here!

Alan Fenn, a legal, long-term economic migrant in Turkey.

Stuff

Bottled Out!

It was back in the halcyon days of my youth, when I was misguided (or misled) enough to believe that ‘serving Queen and country’ was actually a beneficial thing for the majority of the world’s population, that I first heard the word ‘bottle’ used in a different context from that of a glass thing with alcohol inside.

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‘Trooper’ – Iron Maiden

In my old regiment, being tagged as someone who had ‘bottled it’, or ‘bottled out’, or ‘lost his bottle’ was on a par with admitting at an Iron Maiden concert that you preferred Cliff Richard. You would carry the scars for the rest of your life!

The ‘lost bottle’ in question is thought to derive from Cockney rhyming slang – ‘bottle and glass – arse’, an organ which is generally reckoned to ‘twitch’ when under extreme pressure!  It is one of those weirdly British terms and refers to a person who has undertaken to do something and then ‘chickens-out’ – loses their courage at the last moment. This was not considered a very useful character trait in the Paras.

As a 71 year-old ex-para I can cheerfully admit that last Thursday, when J and I looked at the weather forecast for the mountain area where our cabin is situated, our collective ‘bottles’ were most definitely dropped! Ice, snow, sleet and temperatures predicted to drop to -16C (that’s 3.2f for the un-reconstructed)! It was time to bail out and take to our heels and aren’t we glad we did.

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when this . .

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changes to this . .

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 . . and this, we knew we’d made the right call. Mind you, it can be very beautiful once the skies clear. This from last winter when we were photographing crocus in the snow up there.

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Alan Fenn, snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug in Okçular Köyü

Stuff

So Here Is Dawning

J and I packed the car full of tools and ‘stuff’ yesterday and fled down the rabbit hole. Yesterday evening we sipped a glass or two and watched the full moon rise over the mountains.

moonrise

Today, J spent a few hours of her time on her hands and knees scrubbing the last traces of the workers’ boots and tools from the shower-toilet room – no easy task but the results are pretty, damn good!

My time was spent cluttering up the place by turning scrap wood into a divan that is suited to lounging about on and useful for sleeping should we ever have family/friends stay over. It too looks pretty damn good!

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solar powered!

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divan

finished product

Finally, to make getting this far worthwhile, this was our dawn (not Photoshopped) this morning, 25th December 2015 – worth getting up for?

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Alan Fenn, Crimbo down the rabbit hole