Overlanding Episode I - Southwest Turkey

Its early April and its a little before 6 am in the morning and still dark outside.  We are waiting in line to board the ferry from Istanbul to Yalova. Driving the Landy into the ship, its looked minuscule in comparison to the huge hull of the ferry. We upgraded Milas for this trip; new General Grabber AT2 tires, installed a brand new 4,000lb synthetic rope winch (just in case), steering guard, diff guard and a new battery!

This is Milas, 1987 Land Rover Defender 110, our second Land Rover in family.
It’s a fast crossing and pretty soon we are on the road driving towards Manyas. Surrounded by open green pastures, our thoughts drifting to off-roading adventures! We are heading towards our first stop, Manyas Bird Sanctuary National Park (Kus Cenneti Milli Parki). Shortly thereafter, we arrive and we are realize we are the only people visiting this serene bird Sanctuary.  We collect our binoculars from the visitors center where we advised on where to see the Pelicans and Herons. We climb the tower to view the winter views, spotting birds in this calm, silent and peaceful marshland. It was a good start already!

Adatepe. Not your everyday village!
We move on to Adatepe, a very quaint Greek village in Turkey built on the Rocky Terrain hillside of amazing Mt. Ida (Kazdaglari). This village was recently restored.  Although there are still a few houses left that need restoration, this is a stop I recommend highly. In the town, the roads are cobblestone like a English Cotswold village.  You can even take a path that leads to the top of the hill  and find a rock marks the point where Zeus "apparently" stood, watching the battle of Troy. The view encompasses the Gulf of Edremit towards Assos. We spent the night here at an Airbnb and awoke to those same, breath taking views.

Assos. During Pliny the Elder's time, the city also bore the name Apollonia. Assos also know as Behram or Behramkale – is our next destination. The city was founded from 1000 to 900 BC by Aeolian colonists from Lesbos, who specifically are said to have come from Methymna. The natural cleavage of the rock into joint planes had already scarped out shelves which it was comparatively easy for human labour to shape. The settlers built a Doric Temple to Athena on top of the crag in 530 BC. From this temple Hermias of Atarneus, a student of Plato, ruled Assos, the Troad and Lesbos for a period of time, under which the city experienced its greatest prosperity. It took as thru a coastal route that headed a little inland opening up to green plains with boulders inhabited by the occasional herd of goats or sheep. We arrived at our overnight lodging and the host was apprehensive of us driving the Defender down the steep curvy road into the sleepy coastal port.  We did not feel there were any issues but we heeded his advice and let him drive us down. To our delight, he took us to a very quaint restaurant called Yildiz, that served us fish meze and the best fresh squid caught that morning! It’s a lovely port and we recommend you spend a night down in one of the small boutique hotels on the water.

Bozcaada aka Tenedos is the third largest Turkish island after Imbros. 
Up and out early, we are off to Bozcaada (pronounced Bozjada)! On our drive here, we drive thru an abandoned town of newly constructed homes in the middle of nowhere. Then, we head towards the coast and come across Alexandria Troas Ruins. Casually laying by the side of the road, we spot two areas of old ruins. Corinthian columns, a roman road (where the snake that scared the life out of me was), catacombs, huge stone heads, and other amazing ruins. It was all spread out in this over grown area with views of the Aegean sea. With a local guide, this could be an amazing tour, as apparently there are also ancient Greek baths there.  However it was getting late, so we headed straight to the Geyikli Ferry to figure out ferry times to Bozcaada. FYI – the ferry time travel is 30 – 40 mins, it is a very calm and relaxing sail.  However, during the winter months, the seas here can be rough and the ferry may be cancelled. We soon arrive in Bozcaada and awake the next morning to a very rainy day. The architecture here is of a Greek old town with light colored buildings. Though, today would be an off roading day for us as we are heading out to the back of the island, where now we can get the car very wet and muddy. After our amazing off roading adventure we head back to the town to explore and search for some hot drinks and a recommendation for a great evening seafood meal. We happen upon Gumus Coffee (@gumuscoffee) where the owner was there and spent the late afternoon chatting to us while serving us his thorough knowledge of coffee and of course his amazing lattes to warm us up. We came across the Hotel Kaikias (highly recommend), it is beautifully designed but more impressive was his Land Rover Defenders parked outside.
Canakkale (pronounced Chanakali). 
The next day, we are up early for the return ferry.  Today we are hitting the Trojan horse in the ancient city of Troia in Tevfikiye. On the way here we decided to take an off roading route vs. the freeway but we unexpectedly encountered the road towards Troia being now covered by a river of fast moving rain water, which detoured us on another extended off roading tour.
Finally, we arrived at the city of Troy, this site was excavated in the 1870’s and you get to see seven levels of archaeological excavations.  It’s a lot to absorb but  there is a fun replica of the Troy Horse, for excellent photography, plus you get to climb up into it!  But, I mostly enjoyed all the puppies that they let live on the property. Leaving Troia, we found out that they had finished construction on the Museum of Troy. I would highly recommend stopping for this, if not for the history but for the new architecture and interactive exhibits.  Here is the link. As the evening came, we ended up spending the night in a little modern boutique hotel and walked about Canakkale, a town full of young people. Above you can see a picture of a food here called Pishi which is like the desert, Elephant Ears (fried dough). The following morning, we are off on another ferry to Gestas Eceabat.  Here we visited ANZAC and Canakkale Sehitler Monuments in Gallipoli (historical war related sites) and end the day taking the ferry to Gokceada (Imros).

Gökçeada – (pronounced Gochada) Greek name Imbros.
This very windy ferry ride takes a couple of hours and only runs certain days and times (check schedule ahead of time). Yet, Gokceada is a beautiful island very close to Greece. In fact, the locals will be a mix of Greeks and Turks. The island is known for organic farming, fishing and tourism. Despite the recent history being not the greatest, we encountered people who were warm, hospitable and liberal. We checked into the wonderful Petrino Hotel (@petrinogokceada) and met the owners and then from their advice took off with Milas for some more amazing off roading. We spent a couple of days on this island exploring its back areas and then returned to Canakkale for our drive home.

1300km Wet+Muddy overlanding.
As we head back to Istanbul, we are reminded of the comradely when passing by a few Defenders who beeps at us and thumbs up. A Defender is never alone when traveling. But we are humbled, while being passed by a tractor, reminding us that our beloved Milas is more of snail than a whippet. Being back to the crowded city of Istanbul, we crave our next adventure even more, but grateful for the memories and experience we now have.  We hope to share many more off roading adventures with you real soon. Don't forget to follow us on Instagram @tailroeddefender!

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