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Green Canyon (Turkey)

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Country: Turkey / World Region: Europe

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      17.07.2010 18:26
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      Green Canyon tour

      I've got many photos of Mediterranean beaches, from Majorca, Sardinia, Crete, Cyprus, the south coast of Turkey and Israel. If there isn't a striking landmark, you won't be able to find out where I took them. A beach is a beach - more or less. To get a feeling for the country you're visiting you have to see the hinterland. Of course, if you like visiting ancient sites, you can encounter the same problem, what with the Romans' building craze round the Mediterranean.

      The hinterland of Side on the south coast of Turkey (~ 75 km east of Antalya) offers an idiosyncratic destination for a day trip, namely an artificial lake, The Oymapinar Dam, also called the Green Canyon. East of Side and a bit inland is the town of Manavgat, from there it's 23 km upstream the Manavgat river towards the Taurus mountain range.

      Tourists can go there on their own, the entrance fee to the dam area and the lake is 0, 50 Euro, but it's advisable to join an organised group tour because if you don't, you have to concentrate on the traffic all the time and can't enjoy the landscape. Tourists should know that there's a specialty in Turkey, all organised tours are sponsored by local enterprises. That means that on the way to the destinations in question, the coaches stop at either a jewellery or a leather/fur factory or a clothes outlet shop for about an hour. This is OK as long as the tourists are informed, sadly, some reps 'forget' to tell them when they book the tour. If you're lucky, the shop-assistants leave you alone, if you're not, they don't and you have to give them a piece of your mind. The coach from Side to the Green Canyon stops at a clothes and shoes outlet, you can walk through unmolested and wait outside until the coach moves on. The tourists who were with me on that day, bought a lot and were rather content.

      On the way to the entrance of the dam area the coach passes remains of a Roman (!) bridge and aqueduct, the Romans built it to take potable water from the Taurus mountain range to the town of Side on the coast (so the idea isn't new). Next comes the power station, four underground turbines with a capacity of 540 megawatts produce 3% of the Turkish electricity. There's more water in the dammed up lake (300 million cubic metres) than is needed in the power plant and in the coastal area so that a certain amount is sold to Israel and Syria. It's led through pipelines into the sea where it is pumped into ships.

      The coach moves up a twisting road to the top of the dam, the tourists get off, look left at a small lake down below and right at the large lake and admire the dam. It's a so-called double curvature arch dam. Because of the arch design, the force of water pushing against the dam compacts and strengthens it and the weight of the dam - it's 185 m high from the river bed, 30 m thick at the bottom and 5 m at the top - pushes it firmly into the underlying rock. It was planned by a French engineering office, built by a German firm (from 1977 to 1984) and paid for by the Turkish state. When it was completed it was the third largest dam in Turkey, meanwhile other dams have been built and it has moved down to fifth place.

      Then the coach moves on through a tunnel and, after 5 km, stops at a jetty where catamarans are waiting for the tourists. A local firm with the exclusive right to organise tours on the lake offers three types of tours: 1) the Green Canyon tour which lasts about five hours. The catamarans (powered by electricity) glide slowly across the lake, they enter the Small Canyon (3 km long) and the Great Canyon (7 km), which is beautiful and very impressive. The water is clear, the rugged slopes of the high mountains to the left and to the right are covered with scrubby bush and trees, occasionally wild goats can be seen clambering up and down. In the Small Canyon dead tree trunks stand in the water, victims of the flooding, an owl sits in a hole ogling the passing spectacle.

      After about an hour there's a stop at a pontoon moored in the lake where the tourists can go for a swim. It's advisable to have one's swimsuit on already, if one hasn't, one has to change somehow with the help of a towel in front of the other tourists, there are no cabins on board, only one toilet (for 160 passengers). The temperature of the water is much lower than in the sea, but after the first gasps everyone is swimming or splashing happily around in the fresh water. An enjoyable experience! The break lasts for about 30 minutes, then a hoot tells the swimmers to come back.

      Lunch is waiting. It's included in the price for the trip, already on the coach the tourists are asked what they want to have as their main course, beef or fish, they get a coloured plastic coin according to their answer. Soft drinks, beer and wine are included - also during the boat tour - spirits and ice-cream must be bought extra. The restaurant is a short distance away from the pontoon, from the jetty about 50 crooked steps lead up to a terrace high up over the lake where long laid tables await the hungry tourists. The starters are self-service, about fifteen different salads. The fish is a fried trout, the dessert is water melon as much as you can eat.

      On the way back from the restaurant the catamaran stops another time at a pontoon for a second swim. It's hard to say if it's a different one or the same as in the morning, they look alike and the slope of the mountain behind it, too. Of course, there's no real bank or beach as the lake is a flooded valley. When the lake is full, it's 200 m deep at some spots.

      The tour is advertised as romantic and relaxing and it could be all this if the owners of the boat tour didn't think they had to 'delight' the passengers with Turkish and English pop music *all the time*. Why do we have to listen to music in public places at all? In lifts, supermarkets, even at the dentist's? Nowadays everybody wanting to listen to music has buttons in their ears and listens to music of their own choice. (Some years forward and the buttons won't be connected to music producing devices but to hearing aids, but that's a different story). Why not assume that people without buttons in their ears don't want to listen to music? And then, Turkish music is not every Central European's No 1 choice of entertainment and Lady Gaga in peaceful nature is also a bit off if you ask me. When the boat went into the Great Canyon the guide's voice informed us over the loudspeaker that that would be especially romantic, then some kind of new age music was put on. It was bearable but unfortunately didn't last long, Lady Gag was waiting in the wings.

      The other tours on offer are 2) a Fishing Tour. I only saw photos on the net and have no direct experience. Everything is identical to the tour described above but instead of swimming the anglers stand on the pontoons side by side with fishing rods in their hands. Fishing equipment is supplied by the tour operator. So far so ridiculous but what if someone on an all inclusive holiday catches a fish? Do they take it to the cook of their hotel and ask them to prepare a special meal for them?

      No 3 are private tours for people with too much money.

      The day out to the Oymapinar Dam started at 8.30 am and lasted until 4.30 pm, it cost 48 Euro. If I knew how to block out the music, I could imagine doing it again.

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