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Gokova Gulf of dreams
2003 / August

Even on the hottest July night it was refreshingly cool beneath the oriental sweet-gum trees. We had set out to explore the Gulf of Gökova, an azure blue fiord piercing deep into the mainland, its shores a labyrinth of bays, themselves interwoven with coves and inlets. Cevat Sakir, the Turkish novelist and short story writer who was exiled to Bodrum in the 1930s and loved it so much that he stayed for the rest of his life, counted 66 bays in the gulf, not to mention the coves within them. It was he who began the tradition of the Blue Voyage along this spectacular stretch of coast. Diving into the glittering blue water at every opportunity made my head spin, and the pine perfumed air was heady. I had no idea there were so many shades of green and blue. I gazed, breathed and swam insatiably. Our time was only too short and we were determined to visit as many of the lovely coves as possible. So we took the short but possibly most spectacular route.

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Gokova Gulf of dreams
2003 / August

Our first port of call was Bördübet. What did that strange name mean? I thought there might be some connection with börtü or insects, although local people have devised their own amusing etymology, claiming that English people who came there had been so amazed at the variety of birds here that they had declared 'bird to bed,' and this became corrupted to Bördübet in Turkish! Here I went canoeing for the first time, and it turned out to be the most enjoyable way of reaching the sea. Paddling along the stream between the reedbeds, I confused instructions and plunged into the reeds, but apart from that I didn't do badly. The stretch of water, widening to 200 metres in places, took us to the beach of Küçükgünlük, alias Amazon Bay. Swimming in this blue bay encircled by greenery was another unforgettable experience. We watched the windsurfers and wished good luck to people fishing on the shore. Then we gathered sea urchins. The brown female ones contain the only edible part, the tiny orange ovaries. These delicious morsels contained all the flavour of the sea.

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Gokova Gulf of dreams
2003 / August
In the camp we slept to the companionable chatter of the cicadas, and a woodpecker woke us up early in the morning while the air was still chilly. Other wild friends we made here were a family of squirrels who ran off with our bread, and frogs who sat as still as statues contemplating their surroundings. Bördübet was alive with creatures of all shapes and sizes. It was here that I first became acquainted with oriental sweet-gum trees, an endemic species that grows naturally nowhere but Turkey. The Latin name, Liquidambar orientalis, means 'fragrant liquid of the orient.' With glossy leaves resembling those of a plane tree, it has a dense crown of spreading branches beneath which the air is for some strange reason always cool. It is named after the fragrant resin known as liquid storax, which is milked by making cuts in the bark. Liquid storax was formerly used to make incense, and is used today in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.
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Gokova Gulf of dreams
2003 / August

That evening, from a hilltop overlooking the Seven Islands, we watched an awesome sunset, as if attending an ancient rite. The islands lie between two headlands, three clustered to the north near Teke Point and four to the south stretching in an arc from Taneli Point. As we were returning from watching the sunset, we saw the moon rise from behind the mountain, a huge yellow orb suspended in the dark blue sky. The next day we drove along the coast in search of Löngöz Bay. A spiralling road carried us over two high hills and back down to the seashore in a cloud of dust. 'Is this Löngöz?' we asked the curious onlookers. Ali Dede's son Ali said that this was indeed Löngöz, alias Kargili. Here there is a tiny jetty, paths wandering into the pine forest, and beds of tall reeds. At once I decided that this was the most picturesque bay I had ever seen. Three streams of ice cold water flowed amongst reeds to mingle with the sea. I was amazed at the number of yachts anchored at the mouth of this hook-shaped bay.

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Gokova Gulf of dreams
2003 / August

Our journey of exploration constantly revealed new scenes of green and blue. Behind every hill was a cove or inlet waiting to win a place in our hearts. The so-called English Harbour is a narrow inlet snaking its way into the promontory at the mouth of Degirmenbükü, the largest of Gökova's bays. Our captain Kadir took the boat around this beautiful convoluted cove, while we waved to people gathering wild sage on the hills. The name English Harbour commemorates the fact that some British ships concealed themselves here to throw off their German pursuers during World War II. On the other side of the bay is the natural harbour of Okluk, famous for the statue of a mermaid by Tankut Öktem and Sadun Boro. This inlet is a place where you feel you could spend the rest of your life looking at the clouds, lazing in the sun and smelling the salt. Our last stop was Sedir Island, to which there are daytrips by boat from Akyaka or Çamli. But we decided to spend the night in a motel with a view of the island and hire a private boat to take us there the next day. I had already fallen in love with the island years before.

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Gokova Gulf of dreams
2003 / August
Known in antiquity as Cedrai, Sedir has a legend larger than the island itself. It is said that Cleopatra came here with her lover Antonius, and to please him had ships bring sand from Egypt. The sand which inspired this legend is composed of spherical grains in a myriad colours that Sabahattin Eyüboglu described as 'the eggs of a fabulous insect.' More prosaically it is what geologists call oolithic sand. Marbled in everchanging patterns of turquoise, azure, sapphire and emerald, the sea at Sedir matches the sand in beauty. On the other side of the island are the ruins of a temple of Apollo, on whose site a church was later built, the remains of an ancient theatre amidst olive groves, an agora, and city walls. But on this occasion the seas spell of enchantment did not release me to wander in search of these. I would have liked to know the names of all the birds whose song I heard on this voyage, and of all the trees that gave us shade. Would I have felt closer to them if I knew their names? Perhaps.

* By BAHAR KALKAN Photos SERVET DILBER
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