Monday, 14 September 2015

Mike Boger's Turkish Swim Trek

This swimming holiday is based in Kas, a small town of 7000 people located on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey. The closest city is Antalya with a population of 1 million and 4 hours away by public transport. I had flown from Munich to Antalya but a closer airport to Kas is Dalaman, about 2.5 hours away by public transport. The group stayed at the Linda hotel in Kas and I chose a single room. I had prepaid for the trip in New Zealand and the total cost was approximately NZ$2000 exclusive of evening meals. SwimTrek is advertised as a 7 day adventure but in fact it was 5 days of swimming only. The first day started at 7.30pm with an introduction to the guides, a meeting of the swimming group followed by dinner at a local hotel. The group consisted of 13 swimmers (an American family of 4, one Swede, an Irish couple, 4 English, one Swiss and a Kiwi). After breakfast on the second morning we assembled at 9am at the marina to board a gulet, traditionally a two masted sail boat but ours was modified; the mast replaced with another upper covered deck with mattresses for sleeping or resting.

During the next 5 days we travelled from ½ hour up to two hours in the morning to our start points for each of our first swims. En route on the first day we talked about health and safety and then we were split into 3 groups depending on “ability”. In our application forms we had to include our proposed swimming time over 1km and I ended up with 3 swimmers in the fastest pack. This meant we started further behind on each swim or at a later time on each swim so that the 13 swimmers would reach the destination in a pack. The morning swim was 3-4km and as swimmers exited the water we were showered with fresh water, then we dried off for a substantial morning tea. The next hour was spent lying in the sun or out of the sun, reading or chatting, sleeping or some casual
swimming by the gulet.

Our crew consisted of a couple, he was the skipper and she was a “deckhand” and the cook. Lunch was fantastic, a variety of Turkish vegetarian dishes and barbecued fish or chicken or pork. In Turkey the food is plentiful; a large variety of vegetables and fruit and meat; sometimes I found the portions bigger than I required and bread is served with every meal. I decided that being a vegetarian was a possibility but daily kebabs kept changing my mind.
Following another hour of “rest” we motored to the next start point and swam 2-3km in the afternoon followed by the same routine of shower and afternoon tea. Then it was a restful journey back to Kas marina and arriving at 4.30-5pm. Usually a venue for dinner had been organised by the head guide but there was no obligation to dine as a group. I had been in Kas for a week previously and enjoyed meeting the local restaurant owners. On the first day after lunch we did some stroke analysis with underwater cameras. The swimmer ability and speed of swimmers varied considerably and some of the slower swimmers wore short fins. Swimming conditions for the 5 days were ideal and we were obliged to swim relatively close to the shoreline while each group was accompanied by a guide in and IRB. Our group had the gulet alongside. I personally found the organisation a little regimented, it was my idea to swim but have fun on the way. A major disappointed was the lack of sea life, fauna and flora. You swim over bare rocks and for all the swims here it was an unchanging “landscape”, unlike the South Pacific Islands and New Zealand. Occasionally sea turtles appeared and on the last day during lunch break I spent about an hour swimming and photographing sea turtles, incredibly graceful swimmers.

On the 4th day of swimming we crossed the Greece-Turkey border which lies between Kas and the Greek island of Meis, 6km offshore. That was our longest swim of 5km. The Mediterranean has higher than average salinity, good flotation, clear water and the sea temperature was 24C. Most days the fast pack managed to catch and pass the other two groups and on the morning swim of the last day, having now 23km of swimming behind us, the fast pack decided to “race” the 4km and we finished about 400metres ahead of the other two groups. I finally felt in race mode after sluggish weeks in Munich and Kas preparing for the swim trek.

On the last evening we dined together, spoke about our highlights and drank beer. What is called the 7th day in my opinion is a” fizzer”. A morning dip in the sea for anyone, I chose not to, and people leaving for their homelands and me spending an unnecessary day and extra night in Kas. Our pack swam 30km in 5 days and I felt great. Two swimmers were doing the same Swimtrek for a second time and one swimmer for a third time. That does not interest me. Fiji is serving up a “Swimtrek” now in the Yasawa Islands and that’s what interests me for 2016.
Mike Bodger

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