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1230x0x Voyage of exploration Ayvalik's Islands

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  • TRH
    Jun 6, 2005
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      [See http://www.cundaadasi.com/cunda_adasi.html and http://www.cundam.com/fotograflar.htm ]

      x0x Voyage of exploration Ayvalik's Islands

      By Yildirim Gungor

      Some of the best experiences require effort to achieve, and this is no
      less true on holiday when it is most tempting to let the days pass
      lazily and pleasantly by. But if the desire to explore overcomes
      inertia, a pleasant holiday can easily be raised to the sublime.
      Thinking along these lines we got up early one morning during our stay
      in Ayvalik. Down in the harbour at that early hour there was a bustle
      and commotion of holidaymakers choosing boats, bargaining, boarding
      and then changing their minds at the last moment. For some reason
      there was a sense of urgency, as if some people might be left stranded
      without a seat. But soon everyone was happily settled. We had bought
      out tickets the previous evening, and finding our boat climbed on
      board. Music had been playing on most of them but ours was music-free.
      We were the last to leave the harbour and sail out into the cool
      waters of the Aegean.


      We passed close to Alibey (alias Cunda) Island, where the old stone
      houses and stone paved streets were still half asleep. That day we
      would pass by all the islands around Ayvalik, swim at several
      different places, and after a long stop at Maden Island, again return
      past Alibey. There are nearly two thousand islands in the Aegean, and
      this extraordinary number is due to the geological structure of this
      sea. Facing Ayvalik, strung out like a necklace, are 22 islands of
      various sizes, some of which are visited by hundreds of people every
      day during the summer. Alibey and the Yund Islands are the most
      important of these, the latter consisting of Kiz, Maden, Poyraz,
      Pinar, Gunes and Ciplak islands, known in antiquity as the
      Hekatonnesoi. They were named after Hekatos, the patron god of the
      ancient city of Nesos on Alibey.

      Kydonia (Ayvalik) and Nesos were important cities in antiquity. Alibey
      is the only one of the islands that is still inhabited today, and
      nothing but derelict fisherm'sda huts and the ruins of a church bear
      witness to past human occupation on the other islands. Our boat leaves
      Pinar Island (Island of the Spring) behind, and passes several small
      ones to either side before stopping in the channel between Maden and
      Alibey for a swim. We plunge eagerly into the cool blue waters, and
      with goggles in place gaze down into the colourful aquarium beneath
      us. In the hollows and spaces amongst the rocks are scores of
      different marine creatures and plants. I dive down towards them, and a
      crab scrambles swiftly into its hideaway. A small shoal of fish
      appears beside me and we swim together until I run out of breath and
      ascend back to the surface. I can hear the sound of music from far
      off.

      No, it is not the enchanting songs of sirens, but comes from the other
      boats that are arriving. Ten minutes later there are seven or eight
      boats in the channel, and soon the music ceases and is replaced by
      joyful shouts and splashes as people leap into the sea. A delicious
      aroma of frying fish reminds us that we are hungry, and clambering up
      the ladder we find that the tables are already laid and waiting for
      us. The plates of golden crisp fish arrive, accompanied by delicious
      salad. I havn'ti enjoyed a meal so much for years. The whisper of
      Aegean breezes accompanies faint music, and seems to carry us back to
      the time of Homer's heroes. It is as if we are breathing the same air
      as the Trojans and the people of Assos. Soon we are off again, letting
      the breeze fan our daydreams.

      This must be Ayvalik's imbat breeze, scented almost imperceptibly with
      olives. The Aegean is not only celebrated for its beauty, but for its
      fragrant and intoxicating air. It is midafternoon, and the sea, wind
      and sun have us so under their spell that reading a book is
      impossible. We let this magical atmosphere dissolve all other
      thoughts. Half an hour later we circle to approach the western shore
      of Maden Island, and using the rocks as a makeshift jetty climb on
      shore. As soon as we set foot on the island I realise where it got its
      name. Maden means mineral, and the rocks here are all kinds of
      different colours. This is a volcanic island, thrown up from the
      seabed by an eruption. Once formed, hot water containing dissolved
      minerals emitted by the magma soaked into the volcanic rock, staining
      them with their own colours.

      Putting on my shoes I set out to explore. After climbing a little way
      I look back at the cove where the boat is moored, and realise that the
      sea is so clear the seabed is visible. I can see my companions as they
      dive down to the bottom. Unable to resist the siren call of the sea, I
      abandon my journey of exploration and turn back to join them. I dive
      down to the seabed, images of Homer flitting through my mind.


      * Yildirim Gungor is a geologist