Meis to Kaş swim: battling sun sea and bureaucracy
Dean Livesley describes his awe inspiring swim from the Greek island of Meis to the Turkish town of Kaş3 ay önce 466
My silver silicone swim cap was not giving me
much protection against the ferocious sun. I, together with more than 200 other
competitors, was left waiting in a makeshift enclosure guarded by police at the
jetty on the Greek Island of Meis. Sweating profusely, tempers were starting to
fray and with dehydration starting to take effect, we began to wonder what
crime we had committed to deserve such harsh punishment…
The klaxon finally let
out a shrill blast and we jumped like lemmings from the sea wall into the
cooling turquoise. After swallowing a few mouthfuls of salty seawater, and as
flaying arms and legs jostled for position, I finally found some space and began
to focus on my rhythm. The XIII annual
swimming race from Meis to Kaş had finally begun…
Preparation had started two months earlier. While out with friends, Ayşe had been boasting that I could swim from Greece to Turkey. With the tourism industry quiet this year, I’ve found more spare time to get some training under my belt. The first swim was a test to see if the old shoulder injury amongst other war wounds would allow me to cover any distance. Baggy swim shorts and no goggles, I managed to cover 1.5km with energy to spare. Discomfort only became apparent after a shower - sore bloodshot eyes and red raw skin in the most sensitive areas. Hametan cream and Vaseline became new essential items to my training kit, along with a trip to Decathlon for some not so sexy speedos and alien goggles.
Training progressed fluidly with times getting faster and distances longer. By mid June I was feeling fit and healthy and ready to take on the world. We also had a pod of Kaş swimmers, who would meet once a week for an early morning swim to Limanağzı and back. Most of us would complain of the boredom of swimming long distances but I found it very meditative and as long as the mind didn’t wander off to the darker recesses, I could remain pretty focused. I also mixed my training, by biking to and from swims from different locations in and around Kaş. Arriving early and completing a good stretch and a yoga session before swimming all helped to build endurance.
When everything is going so well why does something happen to spoil everything? Thrashing through some tough weeds with my newly sharpened tahra (machete) I managed to slice my leg open. Blood started oozing through the sock just above my boot and swearing, not at the pain but the stupidity, did not stop the blood flow. Washed and cleaned, I put some Batticon (antiseptic) on the wound but the foot and ankle had already swollen with infection spreading internally. Of course it took days to learn my lesson and sheepishly I arrived at the hospital for a tetanus jab and a prescription for antibiotics. A week before the race and I had to keep my foot up and take it easy in order for the swelling to subside. I still managed to get some swimming in and even bumped into a turtle, who was minding her own business, taking in oxygen at the surface.
Leaving ones swim goggles out in the sun is not a good idea, especially one day before the race! They fogged up the transparent plastic and both worlds above and below the surface became very hazy. Too late for a new pair, as adjusting the tightness takes patience and finesse both traits I lacked, as I raced down to the Kaş municipality offices for the pre race briefing. Dodgy microphone and passport/ kimlik misinformation from the organization side were not a good omen but we were all happy when the meeting for the ferry was set at the earlier time of 06:30…
Everything was finely tuned for the next morning; early breakfast, toilet etc., and then racing down to the harbour for 06:30. Then hanging about while people were still strolling up at 07:00, do they know something I don’t? The real fiasco starts afterwards; competitors having to race home, or to their hotel, for the paperwork they had previously been told was not required. One ferry left, the second departed then was called back by the coastguard’s speedboat. The first ferry dropped the competitors off and they were left with just swimming attire. They waited for over an hour for the second ferry with no shade or water. Its only the hottest weekend on record with temps in excess of 45 degrees centigrade and its now 09:45!
Back in the water my breathing and stroke had settled down after the manic start, caused by overheating on the jetty. It’s a long haul to the end of the Island and out of the island’s idyllic natural harbour and now clear vision became an important issue, as undercurrents sent some swimmers way off course. I focused on the sleeping giant, the ridgeline behind Kaş, as that was all I could make out through my foggy goggles Thanks to a couple of the safety kayakers, I changed direction twice as I was drifting towards the peninsula that reaches towards Meis. As the crow flies its 7.3 km but most swimmers averaged 9km tracked by electronic tags velcroed to our ankles.
I didn’t see another swimmer for the rest of the race and wondered if perhaps I was last and had drifted miles off course. Sighting the finish, with heavy arms it then seemed to take forever to reach the steps and a welcomıng round of applause. My daughter Nilsu greeted me with a wreath of bougainvillea and her “DADDY is the best swimmer” T-shirt and all this, together with kisses and hugs from Ayşe, was what made it all worthwhile.
The swim race is an annual event that is held as part of the Kaş Summer Festival. It could be such a fantastic event but this year’s organization was a disgrace so next year let’s hope those in charge understand that it is the competitors that make the event special and they should be treated accordingly.
Last but not least, congratulations to everyone who finished, especially the Kaş pod - Wyn (78) and Bariş – who were first in their age groups, Dean and Selin 3rd in their age groups and Deniz, Alex, Tolga and Çağtay for finishing.
Many thanks to Bora Ömüroğulları for the headline photograph
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