Dragon Cave Diving Exploration of Taurus Mountains Turkey
August & September 1998
Martin Farr (Diver)
Pat Cronin (Diver)
Pete Fowler (Diver)
Alan Steans (Porter)
Martin Bishop (Porter)
Eric Hoole (Porter)
Pegasus C C
Pegasus C C
Pegasus C C
Wednesday 26th August
After all the preparation, the struggle to obtain permissions, and the never ending task of obtaining all the necessary equipment, we are ready to leave. I sit at the top of the hill looking down at the row of houses that will be my homecoming in three weeks time, and contemplate the adventure ahead. My thoughts of a smooth ride from here on were to be shattered by the arrival of the other four sixth's of the team. "We have to go to the Turkish Embassy in London" announced Pat. The final permission was yet to be granted, and without this none of the equipment would be allowed to leave the country. We arrive at Guildford 1.50 pm and despatch Martyn and Eric to London by train. Phone calls made earlier arranged that Al (en-route from Nottingham), would meet with them at the Embassy. We kill time and eventually arrive at Gatwick 4.30 pm. Pat negotiated with the Police and Traffic Wardens at the departures entrance, and we are given permission to park right at the entrance. A call to Serviceair and a buggy with four cages in tow arrives to meet us. The twelve barrels, compressor and personal baggage are duly transported to the departure hall. Here we sit. Time drags by and at just turned 7.00 pm the missing threesome arrive. Deep grief at the Embassy, it and the Consulate where both closed. After banging on doors, making of phone calls and general persistent pestering the visa's issued at 5.00 pm at the cost of £60 a head! Serviceair deal with the gear (about one metric ton), and we thankfully board Pegasus Airline's flight PGT 478 at 10.30 pm.
Thursday 27th August
We arrive at Dalaman Airport 4.30 am local time. We clear immigration and walk to the baggage carousel to await the arrival of our rucksacks etc. It all appears on the carousel barrels, bags the compressor, the lot! We start to load everything on to trolleys. The other passengers have best part disappeared by now, and there is no sign of the customs men. As we start to move the gear towards the exit the customs and police appear from everywhere. They give us hell, all the barrels had to be opened and unpacked, and they are really not happy about the compressor. After nearly an hour the main customs officer lists the compressor (and we think the bottles as well), in the back of Martyn's passport and we are allowed to leave the airport. The reason for the listings was to make sure that what entered Turkey also left Turkey, it would appear that the compressor is worth around five times its U.K. value over there. Rozz Lunn is waiting outside to pick up the bits and pieces I have bought in for her (the lengths some folk will go to for tea bags, Branston Pickle, Blackcurrent Jam and Vitamin Pills). We exchange greetings and she starts to chat about this and that, I am tired and I must admit remember precious little of the conversation. The car and van are waiting outside, so we complete the formalities, load all the gear and set off for Fethiye. We have arranged to meet a chap named Alf Chapple who runs the European Dive Centre based in Fethiye, and arrive at the business address at around 8.00 am. We find a locanta drink coke eat cheese bread and wait for the centre to open. At 9.00 am we meet Alf and a chap called Rowl, who turns out to be a really useful asset to the trip. They tell us to wait until their morning rush is over, and they have their days divers on board the boats. At 10.15 am (still no sleep), we meet again and were told that Rowl will give us whatever we need, and assist us with anything we have to buy. We drive out to the industrial area where the dive centre's workshops are to be found. All of the cylinders (19 of them) are filled, and a small engineering works across the road turned up an adapter to decant 02 into the re-breather tanks. The task was carried out freehand on an ancient looking lathe for just a few pounds. The re-breather tanks are filled to 74 bar with 02, then topped with air to obtain a 50% Air/02 mix. Pat was spot on with his calculations and I swear I saw his head swell! There was also a gas distribution centre nearby, and from here we purchase our carbide (about £40 for a large drum). Rowl bought us lunch at the locanta round the corner, this was much appreciated. After lunch we repack the van and set off on the 400k + drive to our destination, Urunlu in the province of Antalya (still no sleep). Al drives through some fantastic countryside to the city of Antalya (about half way), then it's over to me. We carry on through Manavgat and turn off the main coastal highway towards the town of Geris. By now it's nearly 10.00 pm and I am knackered, sleep is badly needed. I flashed the lads in the car and pulled off the road, hung my hammock in some trees and crashed. Lorries trundle past all night, but some sleep is attained.
Friday 28th August
We rise early and continue our journey, I am glad we stopped not only for the rest but in daylight the scenery is becoming definitely interesting. We stop for breakfast on the roadside and then continue the journey. Just before reaching the town of Akseki we take a left turn towards Ibradi. This is around 40 km of single track road descending a good 1000 metres into the Handos and Manavgat Gorges, and then climbing the same kind of height to Ibradi. A mere 20 km beyond Ibradi journeys end, Urunlu. We had stopped in the Handos gorge to sort out Pete and Eric's gear plus ropes. The idea behind this was that as soon as we arrived in Urunlu, and before we attracted to much attention they would disappear. Their mission was to climb and rig the pitches at the end of the entrance lake. So we enter the village, drop the lads and the remainder head for the locanta for a cold coke. Our luck still held, at the locanta we met a guy called Zafer Ozcivan who spoke reasonable English. He was in the village visiting family, and was to prove a help with what was left to be organised. Within the next hour we have, with Zafer's help arranged a mule train. Six men and six animals to make two trips down and two more to retrieve the kit at a later date. We then travelled to the next village Ormana, and here we are treated to lunch by Zafer. We then returned to Urunlu and spent the rest of the day topping up cylinders and sorting and packing the kit for its journey, and oh yes sweating like hell. By the time we had finished I had consumed more water in a day than I would in a week at home (41ºC). Al and I returned to Ormana for bread (Ek Meg). Al vanishes whilst I am purchasing the bread. I sit and wait and he eventually returns having found a shop with a phone, and yes another guy who speaks English. So after a short delay due to using the wrong international code, we both phone home. We return to base drink chi and then crash, the first decent kip since leaving home. The only shock to come out of the day was the price of the mules 160,000,000 lira (£400). It sounds a lot but when you break it down it worked out at roughly £16.50 per man and beast per trip. This is for an 8 km trip descending around 600 metres into the gorge on each trip, not bad.
Saturday 29th August
We wake at 5.30 am with an alarm call given by our local Mosque! The donkey's, mule's and horses six in all arrive at 8.00 am on the dot. By 8.30 am they are loaded and on their way with Martyn and Pat in tow. Al and I then started sorting our personal gear, and having done this we started on the food. This turned out to be a nightmare, we are so overstocked with food it's untrue. We sort out and waterproof all the rations for use beyond the first sump, and split same into daily requirements. It's around 10.00 am by now and we take a break to accept Zafers offer of breakfast. We are taken to the ground at the rear of the house to be treated to the sight of four women in traditional dress preparing our food. They were sat on the floor with two scrubbed pine tables beside an open fire, making and rolling out an unleven bread dough. Over the fire a convex metal sheet about a metre in diameter served as the griddle on which the food was cooked. The meal consisted of a form of chapati filled with goat cheese, onion and fresh parsley. They were excellent, the only problem was that they were about 0.75 of a metre in diameter and after three I was terribly full! This was followed by the obligatory chi, and we then returned to sort the rest of the food mountain. By around 2.00 pm we were finished. We now know how many bags each beast of burden will carry, and that limit had been reached. We had provided food for five days at the camp, a longer stay would mean a walk out to obtain more. The task complete Al gets his head down, and I take myself for a walk round the village. I return to the locanta and continue to write this log, Al joins me at about 4.00 pm we drink coke, chat and wait for the pack animals to arrive at 5.00 pm. By 5.15 pm the animals are loaded, and with the temperature still in the high thirty's we prepare to leave Urunlu. So here we go I can't believe we had only arrived three days ago, everything was going really well. I hang back for a moment to say farewell to Zafer as he leaves for Istanbul on Sunday. The goodbye's said I turned to follow, the donkeys and Al where gone, these guys don't hang about! I catch up with the train at the edge of the village, but no Al. Some waving of hands and attempted vocal contact led me to believe that Al was out in front, so I settle down at a steady pace behind the well loaded beasts and start to take in the incredible karst scenery. After the best part of an hour's walk the edge of the Manavgat Gorge is reached. You climb slightly to pass over a col, and the view from this point is magnificent. The height of the gorge taken from the peaks that surround it to the valley bottom must be 1000 metres. From this point to the entrance of Alten Besak the donkeys mules and horses certainly showed that they are sure of foot, the path descends at quite an angle! From the col you can't see much of the scenery due to tree cover, but what you do see makes the walk well worthwhile. After 45 minutes the entrance of the system is reached, stunning, but my euphoria is tempered by the fact that Al has not arrived. Luckily as Pete and Pat set off in search employing the use of whistles etc, he is very quickly found. He had taken an entirely different route, but had somehow ended up in the right direction. We set camp and Al and I set about preparing a meal, cheese and ham pasta washed down with tea. After the brew as we were the last arrivals we set about the task of finding a spot to sleep. Not a difficult job, and with hammocks duly slung we crash.
Sunday 30th August
We woke at 7.00 am, breakfast eaten we started the task of sorting the kit for transportation into the cave. This was finished fairly quickly as packing for the carry to the cave had mostly sorted the problem. The steel cylinders, dinghy's and Martyn's dive gear combine to make the first carry in. Al and myself were informed that our task would be to help ferry the gear across the entrance lake, and up the pitches to the second lake. To carry out this task we would need only to wear an over suit and SRT kit. After getting the kit to the second lake Al and I were to return to camp to sort out our sleeping arrangements and the cooking facilities. I feel that age must have dulled my memory regarding caving expeditions because after an hour or so clad in bathers, cotton boiler and wellies I am still humping kit towards the penultimate lake, there's no fool like an old fool! The object behind this was to poke Martyn through the first sump on this trip, thus saving a day in time. As we progress into the system and the second lake is left behind the cave begins to grow somewhat in stature (for the less literate it gets f****"'g big). The passage is torturous in places and the rock sharp. A reasonable description would be polished marble with razor blades embedded into it, this coupled with chert nodules which break as soon as you put weight on them sums up the terrain quite well. A fall would (and from personal experience does), result in severe laceration or broken limbs. We make good progress however and after many soakings arrive at the last lake before the sump. I was frozen, so having dumped the gear Al, Eric and myself set off back to the entrance. With no kit to carry we make good time, and within one and a half hours we are back at the entrance lake. Al had a few problems getting from the pitch bottom into the boat, but this problem solved we paddle towards daylight after nine hours in the cave. A brew followed by a good wash, and three of us set about creating dinner. The trio arrived back at 9.45 pm after a 14 hr trip. The news is not good, it would seem the Czechs have been slightly economical with the truth! The meal was devoured rather than eaten, and after some discussions and a brew we retire. I had re-hung my hammock under a small roof in the cave entrance, a much better position and safe from falling rocks (several had crashed down through the trees the previous night)
The news from yesterdays trip is not encouraging the Czech survey is, it would appear, not exactly accurate. Martyn passed the first sump and it turned out to be nearer two hundred metres than the one hundred given. It also proved to be much wider and deeper than we thought, 21 metres deep and so wide that Martyn found his way through by compass bearings. Poor visibility on the way out also dulled his enthusiasm I felt. During the morning a plan was put together to continue the exploration, but all ideas of a camp beyond the sump had been scrapped. Pete, Al and me took the last of the bags to the end of the second lake. I tried a few snaps and we made our way out. On the way across the entrance lake Pete dropped me of at what looked like a dry alcove, further inspection however revealed a low passage with a cold draught. I followed the passage for around 30 metres before my carbide packed up, I will return.
Tuesday 1st September
We rise about 7.30 am, a tad late this morning. Alpen again! We set of into the cave at 10.30 am it's nice to leave the heat for a while. The object of the trip was to get all the diving gear etc. to the sump in one hit. The journey to the second lake is uneventful, the haul from there to the end is grim. We have twelve bags of kit. We staged the carry, each man would carry his load so far drop it at the stage point and return for the next. I reach my previous limit at Tony's lake and progress beyond this took a great deal of care. The passage starts to descend beyond an aven and some small side passages, it is steep, sharp and muddy. The passage is huge 30 metre tube strewn with boulders and culminating in 15 metre high shingle banks at the bottom. Here a small stream flows across the shale's to disappear into a 20 metre canal leading to the final chamber and the sump. The whole passage as you make your way down is covered in slippery clay deposits, and I for one ended up on my arse more than once. We leave Martyn, Pete and Pat to carry their gear to the last chamber via the canal. They are to assemble and test the kit in preparation for the dive. Al, Eric and me leave them to it and make our exit. The trip out was uneventful apart from me twisting my left knee badly, and barking a chunk out of my right shin in the process. At the top of the third entrance pitch I spotted a three inch millipede, another edition to the wildlife. We exit at 7.15 pm, I am sweating buckets but the gut doesn't seem to be decreasing! The trio return at 9.30 pm, French Onion soup and a Curry for dinner, a dose of Grouse and bed. I must have been tired I wrote this on the wrong page.
Wednesday 2nd September
7.30 am we rise. A lazy morning was spent around the camp. About 1.00 pm Al and I set off down the dry boulder strewn valley leading from Alten Besak down to the Manavgat valley. One hour later we meet the river: At the confluence the river is some 10 metres wide and 1.5 metres deep, fast flowing with some good white water rapids. We met Martyn and Pete who had been doing a bit of prospecting downstream. The two of them had climbed the sides of the valley to a few entrances they had spotted but to no avail. After some discussion Al and I take the upstream route. This exercise started by having to cross the river. The first dip felt a little on the cool side, but after a couple of crossings it became fun. After the third crossing we seemed to be leaving the more broken limestone behind and entering the realms of the mountain limestone proper. At this point Al climbed up away from the river and found a small cave behind tufa formations. A little further into the gorge we found phreatic tubes about 15 metres above the river. Studying these and like features on the opposite side of the gorge leads to the idea that this gorge, like many, has cut through cave systems. 200 metres beyond this point the gorge can be seen to narrow so we press on towards this constriction. We are rewarded by the finding of a very large resurgence. Before crossing to this I carried on upstream to see what lay beyond. Around the corner of a large limestone promontory I find another smaller resurgence with a small cave entrance above. I return to the main rising and Al, above the rising a scree slope of about 80 metres in height rises to the base of the main cliff face, which is some 200 metres in height. A scoop in the rock above the rising may contain an entrance. A short distance downstream we note an entrance around the same level as the scoop. This would appear to be about 10 / 15 metres in diameter, and certainly worth a look. We are hampered by not having a rope and the river at this point is fast and narrow with rapids. So discretion being the better part of valour, we wait for the next trip. We got back to camp at 6.45 pm and get dinner. The boys are to dive the end of Alten Besak tomorrow. Al, Eric and I will probably walk back to Urunlu for more supplies.
Thursday 3rd September
Al, Eric and myself walked back to Urunlu, an early start to beat the sun. We sorted out what food had to be taken back to the camp, and then set off to Ormana to buy bread. The bread is ordered for collection at 4.00 pm I phoned Sue at work this morning, that gave her a shock judging by the reaction given. Once again the word had gone out and we are treated to a visit from a pretty young girl, who of course spoke English. She joined us for lunch over which she informed us that she had a friend in Ramsgate, and would be attending a language school there for four months of next year. My left knee had been giving me grief since I took a tumble in the cave two days ago. I did myself no favours when after missing my step on a kerbstone, it really started to hurt , I was not looking forward to the return journey to the cave. We travel from Ormana to Ibradi and stop here for a beer, the first in nine days! We then travelled on to the Handos Gorge and venture about 12 km into same before our return to Ormana. We found a possible resurgence site, but it closed known after 6 metres in a sand choke. This may repay digging as it obviously issues water during higher water conditions. We also make the observation that wherever the gorges narrow that is where we found entrances, worth remembering. After picking up the bread we returned to Urunlu, pick up the rest of the supplies and begin our descent to the camp. Disaster, we stopped to wait for Al to remove a stone from his shoe, and I took the opportunity to remove my shirt. I took off my pack put down my camera removed the shirt picked up the pack, but left my camera behind. I notice my loss after about five minutes return to the spot but the camera had gone. I could only hope that someone had taken it to the village centre and would be there on my return. During the walk down my knee gave me hell, by the time we reached the cave it was throbbing like mad. Al had some neoprene joint supports so I fitted one and after a while it felt easier. The boys returned from the dive at around 8 pm . The news was not good regarding the passage beyond the sump. Pete had lost a fin during the dive ,and found great difficulty getting through. Pat had passed him to take hold of the line to stop him from hauling on it, as the belay the far side was not to good. Once they all reached dry land the cave got bigger and bigger. It still maintained its slippery muddy nature and after about half a kilometre they find a static sump that is not marked on the survey. This is only 20 metres in length and can be bypassed by a nasty climb, the descent from this point looked bad and not attempted. So that's the end in Alten Besak, Martyn thinks that the Czechs must have used siege tactics and put many people beyond the sump. I think that I shall get the email address off Pete and try to get an expedition report from the Czechs. Dinner was prepared and eaten then bed, my knee still hurts I can't see me caving tomorrow.
Friday 4th September
The team minus me leave camp at 9.00 am to drag out the gear in one hit, I feel useless. My task is to clear up the camp and collect firewood and make dinner. I felt so guilty about not being on the trip, but felt that I would be more of a liability than a help. I was still tired due to the pain in my knee keeping me awake last night. So about twelve noon I climbed back into the hammock to try and catch up on some kip. The sun has gone from the camp by now so I soon drop off to sleep. I was awoken at about 1.30 pm by voices. I peered out of my hammock tent to see eight or so anglers pushing what from a distance looked like bits of diving gear into our spare rucksacks. I didn't know what to do, but after some thought I made noises as if waking up, swung my legs out of the hammock and walked down to the beach area where the gear was stored. Several of the men make off, but six or seven stay. Two spoke English and by the accents I think they where German and Dutch. They asked me what was going on. I explained who we were and what we were doing, and that the rest of the team were just inside de-tackling. I sat sharpening my large kitchen knife whilst talking, shiting myself in case they tried anything. After about five minutes they left, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Further investigation revealed that I had been correct in my observations, they had been stuffing demand valves, torches and gauges into our spare rucksacks. The lads returned about 6.30 pm, I was glad to hear them. I had made soup and a curry for dinner, over which we talked of the day's events. I felt guilty but not now, apart from the inconvenience the theft would have prevented diving the sites we were yet to visit. Al and I are to look at the inlet passage, just inside tomorrow providing the knee holds up. During the afternoon I saw the red squirrels again, and I was treated to a display by some superb butterflies, some with wingspans of around 6 inches. Whilst lounging on the beach area I was visited by some vivid blue lizards not very big but very inquisitive. During the evening we got to see what we had heard most nights, a very large owl. Of variety I am not sure, but when caught in flight in the torch beams its wingspan must have been 1.5 metres.
Saturday 5th September
Lazy days, nothing much happened during the morning. Pete is knackered both mentally and physically I think, so he went to his pit at about 1.00 pm. At the time of writing this, 7.30 pm he was still there. We spent some time taking snaps on the climbs at the end of the entrance lake., and during the afternoon we returned to take snaps of me descending the last pitch. Evening saw Al and I creating dinner and Martyn, Pat and Eric are just inside the cave photographing the diving kit to satisfy the sponsors. Tomorrow Al and I are to return to the resurgence we found in the Manavgat Valley. This time we intend to take a rope for the river crossing, a mask, and some dive lights to see if can be dived. We may also climb the scree to see if an entrance exists.
Sunday 6th September
Al and I set off at 9.15 am down the dry river bed to the confluence with the Manavagat valley. We travelled upstream to the resurgence that we found two days ago, and spent an hour or so pulling boulders out of the entrance. The attempt to make it passable involved standing waist deep in really cold water heaving out the afore said boulders. Al managed to kick the final obstacle on, into the sump, and by corkscrewing myself in between the rocks I could see the passage continuing. This piece of underwater aerobics was made possible by Al hanging on to my ankles to drag me back out. After this find we traversed round to the smaller resurgence. This too was found to be dividable, as was the lake found in the small cave above. We then travelled on up the gorge as far as possible without more rope to aid the crossings. The final compass bearing towards Handos was N.E., this hopefully would give some idea of direction and distance when coupled with a back bearing from Handos. We returned to the big resurgence and we decided to climb the scree to the gully about 100 metres above. A slow accent over very loose rubble and boulders was to be rewarded with whoop's of joy from Al as he reached the top. I fair scampered up the last 10 metres to join him, and was greeted by the sight of an entrance some 30 metres wide by 20 metres high. It descended at this size for some 70 metres to a boulder constriction. We descend the slope very carefully as the scree and boulder floor is just as loose as our scree accent. Al waits at the constriction as I have the torches, and as I approach the temperature fell and I became aware of a sort of mist in the air. I was some 15 metres from Al when he yelled to be still, and after a few seconds he announced at some volume "I can hear a bloody river". I join him and with exploration heads firmly screwed on we set out to explore. So it was that clad in boots, bathers and carrying a torch each we ventured into the unknown. We went too far to the right to start with and found a lake but no way on. At this point we were some 15 metres below the boulder constriction and everything was covered in mud. We traversed left over the boulder pile until we reached a rock spur stretching out into the lake. The temperature had fallen and the draught had increased, and across the lake we could see a low arch about 4 metres across, and this was the source of our draught. Not so much a draught more of a gale, it raises small waves on the lake surface and had the power to extinguish a Nife Cell. We contemplated swimming across, but experience took over from boyish enthusiasm and we decide to wait until we are better equipped. During the exit we check for signs of previous visits, there were none. At this point we were convinced that we had something new and I come up with the name MartAl ,.(pun pun). We made our way happily back to camp. We met Pete and Martyn at the confluence and told of our discovery. They are off downstream, and inform us that the donkey train arrives Tuesday morning, that meant that tomorrow (Monday) will be the last chance at the MartAl. The trip was planned, Eric had de-rigged Alten Besak and Pat had started to pack the kit. It had been a long day, so it was dinner and bed. We plan an early start in the morning with survey and photo gear.
Monday 7th September
We left camp for the MartAl at around 7.30 am. Pat stayed at camp to start the pack up. Just past the confluence Eric had to turn back due to a stomach upset. So the four remaining participants continued up river to the resurgence, and after about two hours we reach the cave. We all carefully descend the entrance slope to the lake reached by Al and I yesterday, the gale is just as strong. We inflate the dinghy and Al and I set off paddling like mad against both current and wind. We make the constriction dump the paddles and bodily haul ourselves through, the wind ceases and the pair of us have entered the biggest river passage I have seen. We paddled across to a sand bank on the right, sand bank! there's an understatement these are 10 metres high. The passage at this point must be 20 metres wide, with colossal sand banks on both sides, every 100mm they have a water mark, these continue almost to the top. We beached the dinghy and set off upstream. After travelling up the right side for a while we crossed the river via a rock bridge, the water at this point is around 3 metres wide and around 2 metres deep. We continued on upstream for around 100 metres at which point we were in a huge breakdown area. The boulders are huge, the bottom 2 to 2.5 metres are clean washed, above this level a layer of mud covers the remainder. This tied up a few theories as the water would under normal water conditions close access, slow the flow and the mud will start to settle. From the start of the breakdown the river passage continues to the left, and to the right you enter a sort of huge alcove. This leads to a large flowstone bank a good 10 metres in height and very sparkly. To the right of this a small phreatic tube was noticed. Martyn and Pete joined us at the point where the river becomes a lake and the passage is blocked by a near vertical 10 metre climb on mud and boulders. The Welsh duo were in wetsuits and swam the lake and climbed the obstacle. We can see their lights for some time but no verbal contact to tell us what was happening. After we lost their lights Al and I returned to the stal flow to investigate the small tube, but this closed down. We wait in the cave for one and a half hours, Al ran out of carbide, we were both getting cold and still no sign of the Welshmen. At this point we left the cave, the flog up the entrance slope warmed us a little, the temperature outside (38º) baked us. Al attempted to reach the other entrance that we had spotted from the opposite side of the valley. He returned after about 40 minutes to report that the climb was quite exposed and rather loose. After grabbing at one hold 10 metres below the entrance and it coming off in his hand, he decided that with no rope or backup it was time to retire. The sun was full on us at this time, and having run out of water we descended back to the resurgence. A short period was spent here, the others did not arrive so we trudge back to camp. Martyn and Pete arrive one and a half hours later and told of passage climbing to a height of 70 metres above the river level. They had continued until stopped by a pitch about 18 metres in height. At this point they said it appeared to be a tee junction into a large river gorge, and that the light from their dive torches failed to reach the far wall or the river. After they had wound us up by saying they had found foot prints and spent carbide at the end, they admitted that no evidence of previous exploration existed. So it would seem that Al and I have discovered one huge new system. As to the hydrology of the area who knows how far and from where the water has traveled, further investigation will be needed on this matter. Martyn had started a grade 2/3 survey and had taken a few snaps.
Tuesday 8th September
We break camp the first donkey train arrived at 8.30 am. Al, Eric and myself pack the rest of the gear and wait for the donkeys to return at 4.30 pm A lazy day was spent. The donkeys arrived on time and we plod the 8 km back to Urunlu.
Wednesday 9th September
Lazy day, the team apart from Eric and I are to have one last crack at the MartAl. We decided to pack the kit during the day and move on after the push. I cracked a large chunk out of my right shin two days ago, and unless it feels better I had decided not to go down. We eat early drive back to Urunlu and the four lads set off for the cave. I was idly packing my personal kit when Eric came running down through the village. A phone call had arrived, the Governor of Ibradi wants us all in his office with our passports in the morning. Eric ran after the team. They all return by 7.45 pm. We sat in the locanta drank chi and went to bed, this did not sound good.
Thursday 10th September
We breakfast between Urunlu and Onnana and then on to Ibradi. We reported to the Military Police, and after a short wait Martyn was summoned to the Governor's office in the town centre. Time passed we drank chi, and then we were all summoned by the Governor. We sat in the anti-room along with his secretary, and sat and sat until eventually Martyn reappears. In the discussion that followed it transpired that we had two options. 1). Cut and run. 2). Make a two hundred mile round trip to the Civic Office's in Antalya to obtain a permit. If, and I stress if this is granted the Governor informs us it will cover the whole of Antalya Province. A personal thought at this time led me to believe the Governor of Ibradi did not want us in his domain. We drove to Antalya car and van, I was not sure this action was correct, I smelt another fob off. We arrived in Antalya at 1.30 pm and found the correct office after some buggering around. We were shown into an office where guess what, we sit and sit. Antalya is a hot sticky sweaty dump and big, how my fellow man can treat this as a holiday spot is beyond my comprehension. We were shunted on to another office and surprise, surprise after a few hours we are given the permit, but we now have to go to the Museum to get them to rubber stamp same. We dispatch Martyn and Pete with the passports by taxi and the rest walked back to the vehicles. Eric had shown Martyn a street plan and identified the parking spot. We sit and wait and wait and wait, three hours later they arrive. The permit had received the stamp within half an hour and they had been sat waiting to be picked up!!!!. Patience was running very thin by now and my temper was rising fast, I could not believe the juvenile attitude of two grown men and teachers to boot. I ushered Pat and Al into the van and set off back to Urunlu. The drive back I did not enjoy and I was glad when at 10.00.pm we reached Ormana. I phone Sue, Al and I had an ice cream, which was gorgeous, a fag and then on to base. Our glorious leader decides that we would sleep in a field between Ormana and Urunlu. I don't remember the last time I slept on stones out of choice. Not much kip, getting pissed off big time.
Friday 11th September
I awoke stiff and still not too happy. We ate breakfast and set off back to Ibradi and the Governor's office to obtain his final seal of approval or not, as the case may be. We arrived in Ibradi at 10.00 am, let's see what happens now. 11.15 am Martyn is still with boss, I still had doubt in my mind. 11.40 am we are still sat in the locanta, doubt became stronger. The permission (if given), I was and still am sure would only be for Alten Besak only. Martyn returned, things are ok but we may have to take someone with us, problem. Well the team (Martyn, AI, Pat and Pete) have left for the MartAl with no guide in tow, I don't believe it. I need sleep (1.00 pm), if I feel better after a kip I will join the team at the Manavgat Gorge. One last look at our find would be good, as I felt more cave would be found. I woke at 4.00 pm and start to pack my kit, if I decide to go I will leave at around six as it gets cooler then (temperature today is 41ºc). I felt that I should go as who knows this could be my last expedition. Sue informed me last night that the weather at home was foul, raining and 10 degrees, it's going to feel cool on my return! The clouds were building over the Taurus and getting thicker by the hour, rain maybe? I started my walk down at 5.30 pm, there were a few rumbles of thunder but no rain. I reached the col in around 25 minutes, I must be getting fit. I started the descent into the gorge and after about ten minutes I was caught up by two guys and their sons off into the gorge to go fishing. I share some water, and then trudge on down the path reaching the camp after one and a half hours. The lads are camped in a makeshift hut arrangement used by fishermen. I informed them of our expected company, and Martyn, Pat and Pete decide to move camp (anti social buggers ). Al and I stay put and later that evening we were invited to join them for a fresh fish supper, accompanied by Bread, Capsicums, Green Chillies, Tomatoes and Onion followed by chi. After supper although there was a language barrier, we found out they were up from Antalya for the weekend. They also taught us to beware of the five inch centipedes as they give you a really bad bite. We were also given some red berries that where a cross between a sloe and an olive, and so it was that two happy men with full bellies went to bed.
Saturday 12th September
We were woken by Pat around 7.00 am. We got up, packed the gear and started a fire to prepare breakfast. Martyn arrived at around 7.30 am and announced their departure for the cave. Al and I follow about 15/20 minutes later, and after all the river crossings and the 100 metre scree climb we arrived at the entrance of the MartAl. No sign of the others, obscenities were hurled down the entrance as we kitted up. As we started our descent we saw a light at the bottom, this turned out to be Pat returning. We awaited his arrival on safety grounds. It transpired that the ear infection that had been troubling him for a few days had got worse. The problem had spread to both ears and he had lost his sense of balance. Pat set off on his return journey to the camp, shunning all offers of assistance. He had informed us that the Welshmen were taking snaps at the first lake, so Al and I start our descent to join them. Fat chance, their gone. We had no dinghy and we are both in dry kit, Martyn and Pete (both in wet suits), we had foolishly thought they would leave a rope through the constriction! Al made the first attempt at swimming through, he got to the arch and came back. I tied a dive line round my waist and made my attempt, I passed the low section and made 3 metres progress beyond. I am a strong swimmer but after 20/30 strokes with no progress, I started to sink and Al pulled me back. I was furious certain people should remember that they were on more than a two man glory trip. So two very disgruntled men returned to camp, here we met up with Pat, expressed our disgust and set off on our last accent back to Urunlu. Al and I went by van to Ormana to eat and meet with Eric, he then drove us to Ibradi to buy beer. We returned to the Pension in Urunlu, drank same and went to bed.
Sunday 13th September
We woke at about 7.45 am (after the usual 5.00 am call from the Mosque), and started to wash out some clothes. The trio arrive back at 8.30 am. The cave did not go, they had descended the final pitch to find they had gone in a big loop (sweet retribution, but I find difficulty in believing their story, certain things don't gel). We pack up, say our goodbyes to Urunlu and set of north. From Ibradi we were on fresh ground and amongst some stunning scenery. We headed towards the town of Derebucak to find a place called Pinarbasi, We see a sign for Pinarbasi but Martyn says this is not the one so we travel on. We are following a vast Poly, it was very fertile and fed by artesian wells. We continue along this feature to the town of Ustunler, and then left and on to the shores of Lake Beysehir. We travel north for quite a while before our leader decides that the Pinarbasi we saw earlier was the right one after all! However the lake was well worth seeing, it is some 40 km long and 20 km wide. After taking in the views we turn back so far and then turn right over a new mountain road to the town of Aksu and the caves of Zinden and Sorgon. We arrived late afternoon and after a drink and watching Al and Eric eat fresh trout we drive to the Zinden entrance. All of us take a look at this 700 metre long system which terminated in a small sump. Martyn had a pop at this one but no go, he's not having much luck really. On our exit we are met by the local police, they are ok but 16 year olds with M16's over their shoulders is a bit scary. We set camp in the gorge outside Zinden, and we planned the trip up gorge to Sorgon tomorrow, this will be our last cave.
Monday 14th September
Woke at 6.00 am Pat was up already and sorting the vast quantity of food still left in the barrels. I joined him in the task, and slowly the rest of the team awoke. After a somewhat spartan breakfast we drove on up the gorge towards Sorgon Cave. The Turks are building a large earth dam, this will flood the valley above but not the cave. It will probably look ok when finished, but I feel it will become a popular local recreation spot. There was a Nomad camp below the cave, and our arrival caused but little interest. Sorgon was an interesting trip into a mainly phreatic system about 300 metres in length to a sump. There are no significant side passages, just a pleasant little stream cave. Martyn dived the sump entering the water at 10.40 am, and after a look around I left the cave. 11.50 am all return to the vehicles, a 15 metre sump had been passed leading to a 70 metre canal and sump 2. This did not go, it ends in a rift getting tight with chert nodules. So hear endth the saga, we stopped down valley by the river, sort and pack the gear then drive towards Isparta in search of a bank. The journey was pleasant across yet more mountains (all limestone of course), and on towards Lake Egrider. We reached Egrider town at 3.00 pm, it is obviously a popular tourist spot for the Turks. Some shopping done and banking successfully completed we set course for Fethiye. A few deviations were made looking for some where to stop for the night. The occupants of one small village were quite amazed at our invasion. This served one purpose though Al had never seen tobacco growing or being dried, this was rectified. So driving through houses festooned with drying chillies we regained the main road and continued south. After stopping to buy bread and beer we pulled of the road and into the middle of a field, this was to be our camp for the night. Supper was eaten whilst mosquitoes ate us, a couple of beers and with Al and I slung on each side of the van we sleep. Not a bad night.
Tuesday 15th September
Some of the lads are now on holiday. We drive on towards Fethiye and meet at the Saklikent Gorge, a bit of a tourist trap but well worth a visit. The gorge is 300 metres deep just a few metres wide and around 7 km in length. We followed the small stream that flows through the gorge for about 3 km, but were halted by a rope climb. Pat had a go at climbing same and got a good soaking for his trouble, what a way to get your clothes washed (but they did need it!). The gorge is a classic example of rock sculpture. The white limestone is formed into some superb shapes, but the polished rock is very slippery and we did comment on the number of broken limbs during a season. At the mouth of the gorge there are two very large resurgence's more or less opposite each other. As to their flow rate I have no idea, but between them they turn very quickly into a river 5 metres wide and running about 1.5 metres deep. As to whether diving would be allowed was not established, but I feel that a surreptitious night exercise would probably be the way. We had some lunch in the car park and then on to Fethiye and the European Dive Centre. Alf and Rowl are not there, so we drive to Olu Deniz for a swim. I am gobsmacked, Hisaronu where Sue and I stayed Ten years ago is unrecognisable. What was a few small hotels half a dozen locantas and a Mosque, is now a tourist city Rovers Return bar the lot. What a damned shame it used to be so nice there, the locanta we stayed in (Sara Gul) is now buried beneath a roundabout. We enjoy a swim and lounge around for a while then back to the dive centre. We park in the car park opposite the centre and that's the end of my driving 1736 km of it. With the van parked the lads hit the beer, how terribly English! We booked into a Pension Hotel (£3.80 for B/B), and then back to the divers bar. We met with Alf and Rowl. Alf bought most of the drink that night, we managed to squeeze in a meal and then more beer. When conversation died and enough beer had been supped, it was back to the hotel, shower then BED a real one, wow!!
Wednesday 16th September
Wake at 7.45 am shower, what luxury. Down for breakfast at 8 15 am and then a stroll back along the waterfront of Fethiye to the dive centre. Fresh orange juice to startle the taste buds, then Al and I went shopping. We then drove to the dive centre's workshops met with Rowl and started the final sort out. We break for lunch at the wonderful locanta we ate in on the day our arrival. Well fed we say our goodbye's and head for the garage to dump the trucks. From there we were driven to Dalaman Airport. The rest went well, no trouble with Customs and tour round the duty free shops, and at 6.55 pm take off. 4 hours and thirty minutes later we land at Gatwick. No problems, Serviceair were great, Customs were not interested, and at 2.00 am I arrived home.