I fell into a deep sleep during the long bus ride from Göreme to Bodrum – only to be awakened abruptly at 5 a.m. by the steward who motioned me off the bus. I knew we weren’t in Bodrum yet. It was dark and cold outside.
Disheveled and half asleep I stumbled off the bus. The steward pointed to my luggage – the only piece left in the hold. I nodded and he hauled it out on the cobblestone pavement and got back into the bus. The bus sped off leaving me standing alone on the street wondering if I was having the dreaded Turkish-bus-stop nightmare again! Watching the movie Zero Dark Thirty on my iPhone just before falling asleep didn’t make the experience any less creepy….
As the bus tail lights disappeared into the night, two Turkish men with attitudes approached me out of the dark and I felt a big lump in my throat. One of them said “Bodrum”, held out his weathered hand which was holding a 20 Turkish lira (TL) note, pointed at it, and said “money”.
I asked, “Who are you?” Of course neither man spoke English. They looked at each other and one said “problem”. After “money,” “problem” must have been the second English word they spoke – about the same as my Turkish. I pulled out my bus ticket which clearly said Göreme to Bodrum and indicted paid in full.
I wasn’t going to give them money until I understood what was happening. I followed as they lugged my bag across a rough cobbled street to a bus stop where they again insisted I pay them 20 TL. I was beginning to think maybe there really were two separate buses involved in the trip – one from Göreme to wherever we were (Aydin) and a second to Bodrum. I was still uncomfortable paying these two rough-looking characters and they knew it. They looked at each other and again one of them muttered “problem”.
One of the men walked over to a young merchant preparing for the day by setting up his souk and arranging boxes of Turkish Delight, figs, and loaves of fresh bread. They brought him over to the bus stall. He spoke some English and I communicated my predicament. He listened to me with an expressionless face and then said a connecting bus from Aydin to Bodrum was arriving in about 30 minutes and if I wanted a seat on it to pay the two Turkish men for a ticket. I gave them 20 Turkish lira – no more questions or paper exchanged hands.
One of the men went inside the bus stall and made a point of looking “official”. He came out with a cup of Turkish Cay and handed it to me. I accepted the tea and thanked him. The two looked at me, then at each other, and said “OK” – their third word in English….
Later that day, I contacted the Cappadocia travel agency that booked my Göreme to Bodrum bus ride. They told me I should not have paid the two men the extra 20 TL – easy for them to say. They said some dishonest people in the two bus companies involved – Neveshir Turizm and Aydin Turizm – were known for cheating tourists in the same way they cheated me.
The travel agency said they believed my story and were sorry but there wasn’t anything they could do about it. They apologized for not clarifying the bus change in Aydin and offered me a discount and 20 TL credit on any other tours or bus trips booked with them…. I contacted a few Internet travel sites and wrote up both the travel agency and the two bus companies. The write-ups were not complimentary.
It’s not losing the 20 lira ($10) that matters but more the creepy feeling the experience left. When you’re traveling alone in a foreign country you have to be on your toes and never let your guard down – I fell asleep this time – literally.
It will take a few days to digest the experience and then let it go. It could have been worse. The two men could have robbed me and just taken my handbag and luggage – at least they had to work a little for their Turkish lira. I will be more cautious during the rest of the trip.
The climate in Bodrum is heavenly and there is lots to do in the area. Some nearby historical attractions include:
I’m trying to plan my time wisely with hiking, group tours, and hanging out at the beach. Looking forward to being active and exploring the area. I connected with a hiking guide via email but don’t know his fee yet.
Hiking guides in popular tourist areas command a high rate for their services. Solo back country hikes in a foreign country are difficult and dangerous. The guide is Erkan Şehirli. He has an office at one of the large hotels in Bodrum and kindly offered to lend his GPS and plan some hikes for me. He routinely leads group hikes and mentioned that I can join the other hikers. Two hikes Erkan recommends are Heraclia Kings Trail and Bafa Lake in Heraclia.
I’m comfortable with my accommodation in Bodrum’s Bardakçı neighborhood off the main drag near the marina. The rate is reasonable and it has a beautiful pool and is only minutes from the beach. It’s a small new hotel in a renovated building and the exterior looks like the snow-white buildings you see in advertisements for Greece.
The rooms have panoramic views of the Aegean Sea. It’s quiet and full of the beautiful white marble which is so abundant here. The manager lived in LA for 8 years while working for a cruise ship line. He communicates well and likes Americans. There aren’t many guests yet although the busy summer season begins soon.
Bodrum has many fantastic beaches and hundreds of gulets and other sailboats moored in the harbor. I pondered a gulet cruise but they’re expensive. Unless I pay a double booking fee, I would be paired with a stranger in a tiny cabin – not sure that would be comfortable. I did that once in the Galápagos Islands.
There are interesting day trips and ferries to the Greek Islands. The sea is an important part of any trip to Bodrum.