"So Maria" I enquire "what's the plan?". "Well", comes the response, "I thought we'd leave around nine on Tuesday morning, head towards Datça, explore a bit, find somewhere to stay and get back sometime on Wednesday evening". This, from a woman whose penchant for meticulous planning is legendary, was not at all what I expected! "Relax, it will be fun", she continued, "just think of it as an adventure Hughie!" (Incidentally she's the only person in the world who's allowed to call me that).
So it was that four of us - Maria, Sue, Glen and I - embarked on our "Datça Adventure". We were aiming not for the town of Datça itself but for the villages beyond. Until recently, I believed that life beyond Datça ended when the Greeks abandoned Knidos about two centuries ago. Seems not. Our Turkish friends and a few yachties have been keeping a secret: there are some delightful small villages and beautiful stretches of coastline to the west of Datça: we were determined to find these! Armed with little more than a sketch map, the names of a few places where we might spend the night in the village of Mesudiye (turned out to be more of an area than a real village!) - and heaps of enthusiasm we headed out of Turunç and on to the long, westward-pointing finger of the Datça peninsula.
The first group decision is unanimous! We forsake breakfast at the outdoor restaurant of Asparan ("boring - everybody stops there") confident we'll find somewhere on the road to Datça. Now - the Datça peninsula is long! - almost 60km from Marmaris to Datça itself. The road is a marvel of engineering and the views are spectacular with the Gulf of Gökova to the north and the Gulf of Hisarönü to the south. At one point you can actually see the sea on both sides at the same time! However, after the turn-off onto the Bozburun peninsula near the village of Hisarönu, for the next 30km or so it is very bleak: not a village in sight! We turn off into a little hamlet called Emecik - it's completely deserted! No people, no animals - as if they knew we were coming and hid!
Back on the main road, it's 11am, we've had no breakfast so we'll stop anywhere. We overshoot a little shack, reverse back and go inside with little expectation. How wrong we were! We have stumbled upon a real gem - Adile Restaurant. A warm welcome from the hostess, pashminas and shawls hastily provided for the girls (it's windy) - and probably the best Turkish breakfast I've ever had. Cheeses, olives, tomatoes, eggs, fresh bread, potatoes, dried fruit, fig jam, honey - and a first for all of us - tomato jam!
Refreshed we set off with Maria at the wheel. We come to the outskirts of Datça and make a spontaneous decision (one of many we're to make over the next two days) to do a side trip to the only village on the north side of the peninsula. There's not much in Körmen itself, but we drive on through and come to a harbour - and I mean JUST a harbour and nothing else but one portacabin. This is the terminus of the rather grandly-named Bodrum Express - a twice daily car and passenger ferry service between nearby Datça and Bodrum: the ferry itself looks a little weary as if it's seen better days, and I can't believe there's much demand for this service - but it's another piece of information to file away.
We head off again, turn right on a road through mountains rising up to over 1000m and soon get our first breathtaking view of our destination - Mesudiye! A fertile area, olive groves and lots of very expensive-looking property. The road drops steeply and we come to a junction: "Right?" I suggest; Maria is driving and decides to try left and we soon hit the beach. Another junction, another decision - we turn right into the tiny resort of Ovabükü - really just an unspoilt beach backed by trees and a few small pansiyons (guest houses). Sue & Glen decide that Ada Pansiyon looks good, we're shown the rooms, negotiate 100TL per room B&B - and we're sorted!
A quick pause for coffee and we're off on the coast road to Palamutbükü - which we've been told is a 'must visit'. Now "road" is a somewhat optimistic description of what we find - essentially a narrow track hung on the side of the mountain with a few stretches of tarmac. Thank goodness I'm not driving - but the views of crystal clear sea and sheltered beaches and coves are just spectacular: shame we didn't have a 4WD! Palamutbükü itself is not what I expected - it's larger and less picturesque - really just one road along the sea with shops and restaurants along the land side. Judging by the stares we got walking around (me and three blondes) they obviously don't get many non Turkish visitors! The small harbour is full of fancy yachts and the prices in the restaurants reflect this. We spend ages sitting and relaxing at "Le Jardin de Semra", watching the world go by, eating delicious hot figs with almonds and ice-cream and talking to the delightful owner Semra Uzum. Expensive but worth it!
Back at our home for the night in Ovabükü we chill out on the deserted beach in the late afternoon sun and enjoy a lazy dinner with the restaurant all to ourselves. Just the sound of the cicadas (not crickets Maria informs us) and the waves breaking on the shore. Perfect - even if dinner leaves a little to be desired: the grilled fish was gorgeous but we should have ordered some rice or chips!
The next morning we have a late start: Maria has been troubled with toothache (more on that later) and did not get a good night's sleep. Fortified with another Turkish breakfast and waved off by our hosts, we head for a recommended small village nearby called Hayitbükü. Now - THIS is the place. A gorgeous little harbour, some restaurants and pansiyons and a real village feel. We agree that - if we ever revisit the area - this is where we're going to stay.
Back through the mountains we go heading for Datça town. We hit at midday just as schools are tipping out for lunch - it's mad! hordes of orange-clad kids everywhere. I have to say that Datça does not impress me (this is my third visit) - a tiny beach, very attractive promenade backed by a pretty scruffy town. A coffee, stroll around and some quick shopping and we're ready to head off.
After a wasted side-trip to the 'beach' at Kargι (recommended but a dump) we start the long journey back towards Marmaris. By now it's past lunch-time and we're all hungry. Maria suggests that - instead of stopping in Marmaris itself - we head through towards Adakoy. This is the marina area you can see in the distance looking south-east from Marmaris harbour. Once again, a spontaneous decision sees us late-lunching at Uçurtma Restaurant - right on the beach - on the largest club sandwich I have ever seen! Back in Marmaris, we cajole Maria into going to her dentist (a good move - if not for her wallet!), a quick stop for shopping at Migros supermarket and - to plan (!) - we return the car in Turunç "sometime on Wednesday evening".
This - as Maria said - was 'fun' and an 'adventure'. It's a very do-able excursion. Driving was not that difficult: sharing was great though and I learned a new Turkish word when Maria grabbed my leg and shouted "Stop" at a sign saying "Dur"! The trip we did to Mesudiye/Palamutbükü can be done in a (long) day - although staying over was really enjoyable and pretty inexpensive. Do give it a try!