Turkey is in turmoil, entering a third week of protests against a backdrop of tear gas, rubber bullets and excessive police repression – this is not a happy country right now! It’s hard to know what to do, especially as a foreign resident without a vote. We have a voice via the internet but if we are too strident we risk censure – foreign criticism is a sensitive issue in this intensely proud nation.
I often pontificate that we should ‘put our money where our mouth is’ rather than grumble or mutter over a beer in some bar. Move the mountain one stone at a time – put our own drops in the bucket and all that sort of stuff. Easy to say, less easy to do.
That said, J and I are luckier than most. Thanks to the Okçular Book Project and all of our supporters at home and around the world we have funds available that may not cure all that ails this beautiful country but can, at least, brighten the day for some of our fellow villagers. This is the story, with pictures, about our village primary school’s end of year outing . .
Following a chat with the teachers, who had to overcome a load of bureaucratic crap for permission, we decided to take the whole school for a visit to the DEKAMER Marine Turtle Rehabilitation Centre at İztuzu Beach near Dalyan. Although only 10 kms away we had been amazed to learn that most of the children knew nothing about the place and what it tries to achieve. We arranged for all the children and staff to be fed an early lunch of pide (Turkish pizza) and ayran, a deliciously healthy yogurt drink. Then it was on to the buses and off to the beach . .
ayran and pide
ducks in a row
There our group was met by one of the volunteers who did a terrific job of explaining everything and introducing the children to some of the deeply traumatised ‘patients’. Perhaps the most poignant was a 65 year old Caretta that had suffered severe head and back injuries from an unguarded boat propeller. Another had lost a front limb after becoming entangled in fishing line.
65 years old and in care
Our volunteer ‘teacher’ did an amazing job and it was a delight to see how much the children were engaged with her and the subject at hand.
After some excellent educational films a series of questions and the enthusiastically correct responses from the children and our teachers convinced J and I that this had been a really worthwhile effort.
The volunteers were thanked and the Book Project gave the children a 100 lira note to donate to the centre. A perfect ending to a perfect day – another little drop in the ocean so to speak!
This post was going to be the one that brought the ‘Mystical Tour’ to a fitting climax, but then a beautiful Spring day, the gorgeous Kösten Dağ, the mountain behind our house, and my dear J with two sets of walking boots in her hands conspired to bring about what, back in the 50’s, the ‘Beeb’ tv used to call ‘time for a short interlude’. You remember, they showed fish wandering about aimlessly in a tank or a pair of potter’s hands turning a pot accompanied by soothing music? Incredible to think that we sat there mesmerised!
Anyway, back to this interlude. J and I went up Kösten Dağ and around to the eastern facing side and we went for a very good reason apart from the walk and fresh air. Kösten is made of limestone and this corner of Turkey gets some torrential rains so the whole mountain is carved out by valleys. Some are narrow and deep and others are more broad and gentle which means that all sorts of habitats are available to be colonised and exploited by a wide variety of flora and fauna. Some are common or garden and some, as regular readers know, are anything but! Today’s photo interlude is about the common or garden on our walk today – are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin . .
first among equals – Barlia robertiana – Giant Orchid
Romulea tempskyana – Sand Crocus
Asphodelus aestivus – Asphodel
goats forecasting the weather
the inevitable Anemone coronaria – Crown Anemone
nest and caterpillars of Thaumetopoea pityocampa – Pine Processionary
Gagea villosa – Gagea
view east to Çal Dağ and the western Tauros Mountains
Old Man’s Beard – clematis seed-heads
Anagyris foetida – Bean Trefoil
new life – a few minutes old
J and I have been trying to identify this for years – any ideas?
. . and here is the main reason for visiting this area at this time. There are scattered pockets of this plant all around Kösten Dağ, but on the eastern flank on the north-facing side of one valley can be seen countless numbers carpeting the hillside. Come back a week from now and you will have missed them – Iris unguicularis v. carica – Algerian Iris
. . that what you say I cannot hear! A variation on ‘Deeds speak louder than words!’
Here in Turkey I am lucky enough to live in a country that is so enthusiastic about protecting its natural environment that it has probably signed up to more treaties, conventions, agreements and memorandums of understanding than any other on the planet. Turkey ‘Talks the Talk’ like few others. The obverse of the coin, ‘Walking the Walk’ leaves something to be desired!
It would be more accurate to say that ‘Money Talks and Walks the Walk’ – in 16 years of living here I have seen example after example. I want to stress that Turkey is no better and no worse than most other countries around the world – greed, ‘primitive accumulation’ lies at the heart of the economic system; a system that commodifies everything – including the environment! If tiresome protection laws get in the way of the ‘fast buck’ then they are to be ignored, rescinded or bribed away.
The small town of Dalyan is a case in point; it sits at the heart of Turkey’s very first Specially Protected Area – the setting is stunning! Carian tombs, mountain views, amazing beach and Loggerhead Turtles, the potential for exploitation was enormous and so exploited it was!
These days the attractive old houses have been demolished and replaced by concrete.
the last of its kind, Omer’s ‘Old Turkish House’ bar in Dalyan – demolished and replaced by a row of concrete shops
Great swathes of once beautiful countryside are covered in villas that stand empty much of the year. Unregulated development means an excess of hotels, pansions, restaurants, fashion shops, boats on the river, etc., all chasing too few customers to make a decent living. The once magnificent reed beds of the Dalyan canal and delta are gone, replaced by sedge due to salination because of excessive fresh water extraction. Inadequate infrastructure means some parts of the town stink of raw sewage in the summer.
all that remains of old Dalyan’s charm
Tourists are now guaranteed to see endangered Caretta caretta turtles as the captains have taken to baiting them with kitchen scraps on fishing lines so they hang around instead of going off and living a natural life. Many are injured or killed by boat propellers, some have bitten tourists and had to go for ‘rehabilitation’. Much of what once drew visitors to the town has now gone – exploited away, and no amount of fancy floodlight illumination of the Carian Tombs or plastic turtles in the park will bring it back.
baiting endangered Caretta with endangered Blue Crab at Dalyan (travbuddy.com) and below the consequences
. . and one of the consequences (igougo.com)
Another case in point is the Lycian Way – Turkey’s first long distance walking route.
my copies of Clow’s books
Pioneered by Kate Clow, the route begins at Hisarönü near Fethiye in the west and ends, 500kms later, at Hisarçandır 25kms short of Antalya in the east. In between lies some of the most beautiful, rugged and unspoilt countryside to be found anywhere along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast – but, for how long? Truth be told, Turkey gets a lot of prestige but very little money out of the Lycian Way. The Lycian Way will never really be an income generating asset – unless that is it can be turned into a commodity!
Lycian Way above Ölüdeniz (anadolujet.com)
Lycian Way near Mt Olympus (lycianadventures.com)
‘Tadaaaa!’ Welcome to the future as Ölüdeniz Belediyesi (local council) blithely drives the thin end of a very big wedge under its end of this world famous, world class walk. How? By granting permission, admittedly together with the Environmental Agency for hotel development on the first few hundred metres of the route, and then allowing the bulldozing of the ancient path to make way for the standard, 7mt wide, access road.
getting it wrong – the future for the Lycian Way
. . is that the rustle of leaves or banknotes I hear?
It won’t stop there of course, it never does. There will be others anxious to give tourists access to this most beautiful, rugged and unspoilt path by building hotels, swimming pools and restaurants (whilst making a little honest income, of course). And they’ll be ready to grease the odd palm to do so! Just as has happened at Hasankeyf and so many other places money will trump ÇET (environmental impact) reports and the earth-moving machines will be in before you can organise a protest group. The damage will be done, shoulders will be shrugged and the wedge will get another surreptitious tap or two from the bulldozer.
One day those who jumped on the bandwagon will wake up and realise that the very things that drew visitors to the area have disappeared along with the visitors. There will be much wringing of hands and midnight flits; the once snazzy ‘butik’ hotels will become sleezy flop-houses as overheads outstrip income. I predict that the ‘patient’ will straight-line within a few years. The Lycian Way, one of Turkey’s genuine, long-term assets will have been ‘Dalyanised’ and no amount of green fluorescent strip lighting or plastic palm trees will bring it back.
Mass tourism, that ‘pile-it-high flog-it-cheap’ commodity has had its day and is declining rapidly. Unless the politicos, local and national, wake up to the real worth of this beautiful, historic country that they have inherited, and start to protect and defend that worth then sustainable tourism is finished. Not in my lifetime, it’s too late for people my age, but what about your grandchildren Başkan – don’t they deserve something better than the ‘fast buck’ you are offering now?
‘From whence arrived the praying mantis?
From outer space, or lost Atlantis?
Glimpse the grim, green metal mug
that masks the pseudo-saintly bug.
And faintly whisper, Lord deliver us!’
‘Martian’ from BBC’s 1958 Quatermass and the Pit
Sphodromantis viridis African or Bush Mantis (the Star and Best Supporting Actor)
. . with over 2400 species spread around the world’s temperate and tropical regions these creatures have to be regarded as pretty successful having shown up in fossils from as long ago as the Cretaceous Period (145 million years ago). Their closest relatives (believe it or not) are termites and cockroaches! Good company to be in if you want to survive into an uncertain future. They have featured as the ‘baddies’ in one form or another in all sorts of B Movies and Horror Films (my personal favorite BBC’s Quatermass and the Pit) and it’s hard to understand why.
J and I are off to Tuscany for a week in a few days and who knows if there will be an e-lifeline, so, to keep you entertained I proudly present . . .
Filmed on location in our garden a couple of days ago.
. . or Getting Up Close And Personal With Some Of The Oiks Of Okçular!
J and I often have close encounters with some very strange looking characters; it’s a hazard of living where we do away from a lot of the disturbance created by human activity. Generally, we are delighted to get chummy with them and only occasionally will discretion dictate some serious caution about getting involved too closely; a decision usually dictated by an aggressive, NIMBY-ish attitude on their part.
What follows is a photo intro to just a few of our local characters; (in the main taken in and around our garden) the pictures are not necessarily of the finest quality and not everyone has a name. In some cases you might not want to know them anyway . . let’s make a gentle start . .
Convolvulus Hawk Moth
J makes the acquaintance of a male Predatory Bush Cricket (Saga pedo)
Barrel Spider or Wind Scorpion – these guys have an attitude problem!
Syrian Squirrel – the family give us hours of entertainment
voyeurism – a very intimate and sticky moment!
young Leopard Snake
Fire Salamander – Lyciasalamandra fazliae (critically endangered endemic)
Viennese Emperor Moth (largest European moth)
J with an Ostrich of Okçular (true)
‘Don’t shoot guv!’
young Cone-head Mantis
the famous Carl Frogarty and some of his concubines
Brown Bush Cricket (female)
eyeball to eyeball with newly emerged Emperor Moth
head shape says ‘viper’ – eyes and nose-plates say Rat Snake – any ideas?