Looking for an interesting holiday, something a little different to the norm, my husband came up with the idea of a gulet cruise. A gulet is a traditional wooden sailing boat with two or three masts. This was the first I’d heard of one, but my husband was really keen and we both enjoy being on the water so I went with the idea. We booked one week on a gulet cruise from Marmaris in Turkey, and then one week in a hotel in Marmaris afterwards.
Brace yourselves for this one. So, we flew out to Dalaman, the closest airport to the Marmaris area, but it is still 90km away and more than an hour’s drive. Anyway, we arrive in Dalaman, go outside and look for our transfer. My husband goes off in search and I man the suitcases. He comes back about 10 minutes later shaking his head. He can’t find it. I wander off and also come back empty-handed. We finally find the paperwork with the company on it, and find the stand for them. By this time, the 300 people all milling around for their transfers are long gone and there’s just a few waifs and strays left, ourselves included. My husband speaks to the transfer company who have no record of our booking. Chris calls the travel company we booked through (a small independent) and amazingly, someone answers the phone despite it being late at night. He checks the records and they accidentally forgot to confirm our booking with the transfer company! He apologises profusely but this still doesn’t actually give us any way to get the 90km to Marmaris at around 11:30pm local time. We spoke to the transfer company who agree to take us, but we have to pay upfront 40 Euros. Stuck with no other options, we managed to get on the last mini bus, but as it was full we had to sit in the front with the driver!
This was no ordinary mini bus. Have you ever heard of the urban legend of disco taxi? I first heard about this when I moved to Glasgow aged 18 and used to get black cabs into town and back to the halls of residence on a regular basis. A friend of mine had mentioned that if we were lucky we’d inadvertently jump into ‘disco taxi’ where the inside of the cab has flashing lights and music – hence, Disco Taxi. (P.s. I never did find disco taxi, sob)
Well this mini van made up for it. We got in the front and had music blaring out and strings of lights throughout the whole van that flashed and made for an interesting and entertaining drive. Bear in mind that the journey from Dalaman to Marmaris is a good two hours so this entertained us on our way.
Fast forward two hours and the driver drops us off. At a port. A shipping port. Approximately four miles outside of Marmaris. In the middle of the night. With our luggage. And no way of getting back to the town, let alone locating and boarding our gulet.
We managed to find a security guard for the shipping port who we gesticulated to, and who gesticulated back and she called us a taxi to take us into the town. Remember that – as is often the case with pre-booked transfers – you have no idea where it is that you’re actually meant to go, and that’s when its a static hotel with an address, not a small wooden boat that could be docked anywhere along miles of coastline!
Whilst in the taxi, after asking a confused driver if he knew ‘where the gulet boats were’, my husband called the travel agents in the UK – which thankfully had its number diverted to the owner’s mobile (remember, its around midnight in Turkey at this point, so 9pm in the UK). The (very apologetic) owner was trying to track down where our boat might be, to no avail, and was giving us ideas of locations to pass onto our taxi driver to take us on the off-chance.
Basically, it didn’t work. We were lost, it was nearly 1am at this point, there was no-one around and we had nowhere to go. My husband (as we take it in turns to meltdown in these kind of situations) had his meltdown at this point. I realised that while we were on the gulet for one week of our holiday, our second week was in a hotel in Marmaris. I gave the taxi driver its name and he dropped us off there, with my husband on the phone to the travel agent who agreed to reimburse us for the cost of the night in the hotel while we found our where our boat would be. Luckily, we knew that our first night on the boat was to be docked, and it wouldn’t actually set sail for its coastal week-long trip until the following morning.
We checked into the hotel and they allowed us to have some cold meats and bread to eat (we hadn’t eaten for hours and had missed dinner). We sat in the lobby (where there was free wifi and tried to locate someone who could advise us of where this boat would be and how we could get to it). We found a couple of numbers but it was too late to call so we finally gave up at 2am and went to bed.
We awoke around 5am to torrential rain and lightning. Now it was my turn. I kid you not, I sat on the edge of the bed, looking out the window, and cried my heart out. I will say, in my defense, that my brother had died six months earlier and I was still struggling to control my emotions at times. I had also been in a car accident four days before our holiday where my car had been written off and I had injured my neck. I NEEDED this holiday and it was slipping away. I sat and cried and felt really sorry for myself while my husband went back down to the lobby to make some calls. I wandered down after having a word with myself to find that he had called a woman in the UK, who had given him the number of a woman in Turkey to call, who said she would find the exact location of the boat, contact them to tell them to wait for us and would call us back with directions of where to go! Success! And this poor woman had done all this at 6:30am Turkish-time, bless her heart!
She called back with a location and we raced upstairs, repacked our bags, ran downstairs to pay our bill and jumped in a passing taxi. It dropped us off at a sad looking pub, obviously mobbed every night, but there is nothing worse that seeing a night club or bar first thing in the morning. We sat on a wet bench and started worrying if we’d got the wrong place when I man walked up to us and asked our names. YAY! It was the captain! He led us round the corner to the boat (which was one of at least 15 identical boats – we’d never have found it) and we went below deck and found our room and dumped our bags. We got changed (we were still in the same clothes we travelled in) and went above deck to find our fellow gulet companions who we’d be spending the next week with.
An hour or so later we set off from Marmaris harbour and the clouds burned away and we were left with the most brilliant sunny day. Before leaving we’d been visited by a rep who had mentioned various tours and trips we could go on when we got to different locations. Day one’s trip was to a natural mud bath which we didn’t bother with. We were so tired and worn out that we just wanted to stay on the boat and relax. Funnily enough, later that afternoon while lying on the sunbeds at the back of the boat we saw a small boat approaching. Two women climbed up the steps to our boat and it turned out that the same thing happened to them! They had got lost and had missed the boat (literally) and had managed to get someone to track down the boat in a bay and sailed out to drop them off!
The boat was a good size for what it was, the rooms below deck were rather small, basically a tiny amount of floor space and a bed, but they did all have en suites. We were so lucky – particularly as we had last choice almost – to get a room at the back of the boat with a window that was at bed height. When you opened it up it was on the curve of the hull and we had the crystal water about a foot beneath us. This gave us a constant breeze to keep us cool all through the night.