Our next port of call was Kusadasi, Turkey. This is a popular destination due to its proximity to the ancient city of Ephesus. Initially we decided we would join a tour group in Ephesus for the day, however, when we saw the 4x4 Adventure to the Dilek national park which took in some ancient sights and breath-taking views of the Samson mountain range, we knew it was the one for us. We would still like to visit Ephesus, so that is on the wanderlust list for another occasion.
As we were going to be off road and jostled around on the side of a mountain, I didn’t want to bring the camera, so Nathan took all of these photos on his iPhone (his is newer, therefore far superior than mine!).
We left the ship and hopped onto a coach, which dropped us off at a petrol station a few miles away, where our Land Rover Defenders were waiting for our adventure to begin. In our Land Rover we met a lovely family from Los Angeles, and we enjoyed chatting about our respective hometowns and our travels across the world. After the day in Turkey, we bumped into them multiple times, which is quite amazing considering there were approximately 3,000 people on board! So if you happen to reading this, hello, Joe, Eva, Olivia and Xander!
After twenty minutes or so, we left the smooth road surrounded by olive groves for the dirt track and started our ascent into the Samson Mountains.
We stopped for a few minutes halfway up, where we could take in the views; spot some goats herded by nomads and test the echo reverberations through the valley.
This was our driver, Erkol and his Land Rover :)
When we neared the summit, we left the 4x4's to walk through a forest that would lead us to the ruins of the 11th century Kursunlu Monastery.Before we reached the monastery, we passed by the the cemetery where the monks are buried.
To protect the Byzantine monastery from potential threats, it was (and still is ) hidden in the forest and the complex of buildings had everything that the monks could ever need.
Our tour guide told us that once upon a time, it had been resplendent with a copper roof and vibrant frescoes on the ceiling. Unfortunately the roof was pilfered many years ago, but some of the special frescoes can still be seen.
Just beyond the monastery was a small outcrop on the side of the mountain with stunning views over Kusadasi.The body of land one mile in the distance (top right hand corner) is the Greek island of Samos and it is the birthplace of Pythagoras and Epicurus.
Then it was time to head back down the mountain to visit a cave where the legend of Zeus lives on. It is believed that Zeus would come here when he had provoked his brother Poseidon and he would meet with fellow gods to plan and scheme in the secret hideaway. There were some local families swimming in the water and jumping off the rocks. We, however, were content with just dipping our hands into the very cold water :)
Our final stop on the tour was to a beach. We have certainly been to prettier beaches, but we were happy, because we were on holiday!
It was still very hot, but the sky was overcast and the sun was nowhere to be seen, so after a brief paddle, we went in search of treasure.
The beach was dotted with lots of pretty quartz-like pebbles.
After an hour or so, it was time to go back to port. We had a look at the shops, saw lots of beautiful handmade rugs and some amusing fake handbags!After a great day, we headed back to the ship for a glorious shower (we were beyond filthy!) and then it was time to get dressed up for the Captain’s party.
I’ll be back soon with our next destination, Mykonos.