Summer camp for grownups

A few hours after my para-falling incident, the Fez Bus pulled into Kadir’s Tree Houses, the first “tree houses” to open in Olympos, Turkey. There had been a fire earlier in it’s history that devastated the site, but it had since been restored. And, subsequently during this time, other entrepreneurs followed the popular “tree house” theme and opened their own sites dotted with log homes down Olympos’ main road to the Mediterranean.

I walked off of the bus, ready to embrace a more calm and tranquil environment.

“You are going to get dirty here,” Scotty turned to me and said.

A gentle breeze kicked up, swirling red dirt on my skin.

Oh, yeah, I was.

I stopped and looked around at the entrance to Kadir’s. Tree huts painted with whimsical, hippie images on each cabin. A main tree hut with tables and benches on the first floor and upstairs, a bar in the center with views of the entire site.

Reception was hut. Another hut served pizza. And another was a night club.

Wow.

I walked with a few of the girls to our dorm.

“There is no air-con,” they announced.

I stood there, still in immense amounts of pain from plummeting earlier in the day.

No way in hell.

I walked to reception and asked for a private.

“We have one left,” the guy at reception informed me. “It is behind the night club so it is loud, but there is air-con.”

“Fine,” I said. I didn’t care about loud. All I cared about was not being in pain and getting some rest.

I dropped my bag in the room. A tiny wooden room with uneven wooden floorboards,  a single bed against a wooden wall,  a baby bathroom and a hose to shower, and a big, beautiful white air-con unit fastened to the wall above my bed.

One good thing about backpacking is that it makes you care a little less about where you rest your head. Train station. Bus station. Airport. Rickety room behind a night club with barely a shower.

It was perfect.

As soon as I stepped out the door and back into the blaring Turkey sun, I realized Kadir’s is a summer camp for adults.
Everywhere, people sat around, drinking, smoking, chatting on cushions in the middle of the site, in front of a smoldering fire pit.

At 8 p.m. every night, they served a delicious meal, and in the morning, the same, complete with an omlette station.

Once the sun set, the site came alive. Upstairs, the bar served up drinks and had a DJ until 11, when everyone was ushered down to the night club, a large, open air complex with wooden walls surrounding it and a fire pit in the middle.

I didn’t want to go there, but every night, something took over my mind, and as I was ready to crawl into bed, somehow I ended up there.

With Scotty and Arlene, a girl I had met earlier on the Fez Tour and had been reunited with in Olympos, and a few others, we would walk across the dirt to the club.

Each evening, we would become part of this amazing atmosphere, kicking off our flip flops and dancing together around the fire to “Waka” and “We Don’t Speak Americano.”

Bodies everywhere, fire crackling. It was primal. It was sexy. It was pulsing with passion.

Then, I would walk two paces to my room and crawl into bed, music still pumping loudly, permeating the walls.

But, I didn’t mind. It fit with the ambiance of the site. I would pass out quickly and wake up each morning feeling refreshed and alive.

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All aboard …

It was way too early when I woke up to head to the Fez office to catch my bus.

The sun had just risen and the clock hadn’t even pushed 6:15 a.m. when I strapped and hooked my bag to me and headed down those old cement stairs and through the carpet shop to take the tram to Fez.

I stood alone for a few minutes at the office, bags at my side, listening to an animated conversation taking place at the restaurant next to me where a tall, bleached blonde man and an older man with long, dark hair and a beret sat.

Then, Gus arrived, clad in a red Fez T-shirt, and introduced himself to me as the Fez Tour Guide for our Hop-On, Hop-Off experience. He would be my tour guide. We chatted for a few minutes about where we were from (Kangaroo Island) until the blonde interjected himself into our conversation.

I loved him immediately. Boisterous. Bubbly. Hilarious. Total diva queen.

“I’m Scotty, Queen of the Desert,” he said to me.

Love it.

Apparently, he had a late night out in Taksim the evening before, having just arrived home when I met him.

For the 45 minutes we waited before we boarded the bus, Scotty and I chatted away in the early morning Istanbul sun. And, when it was time to go, he loaded my bag, I handed him my business card, and he told me how to find him on Facebook.

I hoped I would see him again. Maybe even as my tour guide a few days down the line.

Seven of us, plus one teenager and Gus, boarded the bus, headed for Cannakale. After a night there, it was on to Kusadasi, where Gus had mentioned I could possibly work.

It sounded good to me.

When we arrived to Otel Panorama just up a little hill from the bazaar, it seemed OK. The rooms didn’t have AC, some of the sheets were soiled-looking and the showers were gross, but it didn’t bother me too much.

I spoke with Murat, the owner of the hotel briefly about working there and gave him my conditions — I wanted my own room and a day off. He told me he would think about it.

When Gus left the next day, I should have gotten on the bus with him but I wanted to see if I could extend my time in Kusadasi by way of hostel work.

If I knew then what I know now …

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Playing tourist in Turkey

The smells … the colors … the people flooding in and out of the ancient Spice Market in Istanbul was overwhelming.

After my decidedly non-tourist day watching a movie the day before, Joe and I planned a perfect tour of Turkey for the following day.

We met early in the morning at Harmony,  planning to make a day of being in Istanbul. I was on a budget, so instructed him to take us on a tour of free things. I was on a budget, so instructed him to take us on a tour of free things.

With his guidebook in hand, he did just that, navigating the streets, the trams, and leading us to the market.

“Wow,” I said, breathing in the smells of the fish, fruit, cheese and veggie vendors outside and the spices and Turkish Delights inside. “This is intense.”

Like other markets I had been to, people called out from both sides, tempting you to their stores with plates of chewy and sweet Turkish Delights, teas and more.

Of course, I had to buy a little brown bag full of the tasty morsels.

Then, it was off to the Grand Bazaar.

“D, are you in a good mood?” Joe asked.

“Yeah, why?”

“Because I know you don’t like crowds … and this … well … there are 4,000 stores here.”

Holy hell.

I smiled.

“Let’s go.”

We stepped in to the enclosed bazaar. Again, people everywhere. People calling to shoppers.

I was in my own shopping paradise/hell.

Scarves. Jewelry. Lanterns. Ceramics. Clothes. Genuine fakes.

Oh. My. God.

My head was spinning with all of the things I wanted to buy. Instead, I settled for one ring (which would later leave green in its place on my finger), and then helped Joe barter for gifts.

We were both nearly exhausted, but I still had to visit the Blue Mosque.

I got in the queue and slowly, in a single-file line, entered into the holy site. The first thing I noticed was the plush flooring. The carpet was thick and felt so good on my sore, bare feet. The next thing I noticed was the sheer monstrosity of the structure. It reached up and up and up in beautiful domes laced with tiny light bulbs. Peace and tranquility spread quickly through me as I wandered around inside.

I exited to Joe, waiting patiently for me, with a smile on his face.

It should be noted, Joe was ALWAYS smiling. Biggest smiler, best mood … always.

We retreated to an outdoor cafe for some shisha and to figure out my plans. I knew I would be in Turkey for awhile, but that was all I knew.

He pulled out his guidebook and read me a little snippet about the Fez Bus Tour.

“It takes you down the coast and up through Cappadocia, and then back to Istanbul. That’s where you want to go … and you can hop on and hop off so you can take your time in each place. I think it is perfect.”

It sounded perfect.

So, instead of going home to rest for a little bit, we went down to the Fez office and I purchased a ticket to get on the bus … leaving the next morning at 7 a.m.

This is going to change your entire trip, D.

I had no idea how much it would change everything.

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