The ground pitches and rolls beneath my foot. I capitulate precariously, grasping a rough knotted rope to maintain my balance. Fortunately it is stretched taught and holds my weight, allowing me to steady myself and clamber onto dry land with an undignified lurch.
A week on the waves has clearly given me sea legs.
Satisfyingly perched on a weather beaten mooring, I watch the others stagger drunkenly across the wharf. The traditional Turkish gulet bobs on the tide, varnished wooden cabins gleaming in the Mediterranean sun.
This is our last port of call for the day, and the heat of the afternoon rises off the ground. Sea breezes have swept our hair from our faces and the sweat from our brows all day, keeping us cool, and on land the air feels less light. A few small rows of houses and shops bask in the afternoon glow, and higher up small goats graze from gnarled, stubby bushes. It’s both literally and figuratively miles away from the overdeveloped tourist complexes strangling Turkey’s northern coast. It feels safe.
A haggard old woman sits under a draped canopy, shading her leathery skin. Her ugly, mannish knuckled fingers flicker with surprising dexterity in her lap, and my curiosity lures me in for a look. She’s making cheap jewellery. She smiles at me, and a tooth is missing.
She says something, and I have no idea what it is. I only know ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ in Turkish, and she clearly doesn’t speak a word of English. I grin stupidly and politely pretend to consider buying one of the small bracelets on the collapsible table.
Bulging blue beads stare unblinkingly into the sun. It’s oddly unsettling, seeing them lined up and glinting reflected rays. They’re shaped like eyes, dark blue circles hanging from sky blue cloth, threaded onto beaded bracelets, pendants on necklaces and fringed with tassels instead of lashes. They look swollen, strange without their sockets.
I turn, and our leader is there; he’s noticed I’ve escaped his watchful eye and he’s wandering across the harbour. What are these beads? I ask.
“They’re evil eyes.” He explains. So far, doesn’t sound good. He smiles. “They protect you from evil glares from witches. Or someone who is jealous of you and curses you.”
But of course.
“They are very traditional.” He adds, as I peer at the good luck charms. They seem less malevolent now, just a bit weird. A bracelet in the varying shades of blue catches my eye. The old lady, grinning toothily, begins holding up fingers and giving a rapid sales push in rich, accented Turkish. I glance to our guide but he’s gone; now he knows I’m safe, he’s left me to my own devices.
There’s little to buy on the Lycian coast, so I decide this is the keepsake for me. Each bracelet is different, and as I pick one up I see it’s of higher quality than I’d first figured. The beads are smooth and bright, hence why they’re so reflective. I pay the old woman, and she shakes my hand warmly, jabbering away in Turkish.
I wonder if she’s wishing me luck.
By Gina Lawrence, Exodus Marketing Executive who travelled on ‘Turkish Gulet Cruise’