A Turkish Gulet Sailing Trip with MDFV – Health and Fitness on the Mediterranean:
It’s ‘goolet’ not ‘gullet’ said Ali, our guide for a week-long health and fitness cruise around the Mediterranean. However it should be pronounced, cruising in a traditional Turkish sailing vessel seemed like a particularly appealing way to spend the first week of October. It’s the time of year when the weather is still warm enough to sunbathe but not so scorchingly hot that you can’t stay outside for more than half an hour. And, it’s not so hot that the idea of hiking and yoga seem unreasonable.
Despite loving my well appointed spa hotel for the luxurious bedroom, quiet pool and generally relaxing ambience, three days in Rhodes was enough to make me keen to be leaving the tour-packed streets of the Old Town for the tranquility of the gulet. Torrential rain on the night before our embarkation and then more storms on the following day did leave me feeling a little uncertain. In fact our departure was delayed to avoid any issues with the weather and, by the next morning the skies had cleared and the winds subsided.
MDFV is a relatively new business, set up by American Cynthia Paulauskas and Turkish tour guide Ali Yalcin. The idea came when Cynthia herself went on a similar trip and realised that to make for a happy cruise of this type, every element needed to be good quality. From the accommodation through to the guiding and the fitness activities. And, by working with Ali, the team had the local knowledge to make that happen.
Our gulet, Muhtesem A, was a pristine, gleaming home from home. The cabins were quite big enough to swing a cat had you wished to do so. Each had an en-suite shower-room with a full size walk-in shower. Each had portholes that opened and ultra-comfortable beds. There was a sun-deck where those brave enough could also sleep under the stars (I tried one night but found myself looking up at the sky so much I couldn’t sleep). There was space at the rear of the gulet to chill-out in the shade, read, drink wine and then to sit and eat and there was space at the front of the gulet for morning and evening yoga sessions.
A never ending supply of (mostly) healthy Mediterranean food was served up throughout the day. Pre-breakfast of Turkish tea, coffee and biscuits before yoga, a Turkish style breakfast with cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, eggs and bread, together with all sorts of jams and honey and the occasional plate of sausages, a vegetarian lunch with salad and some kind of hot vegetable stew, afternoon tea or coffee with more biscuits and then dinner with fish caught from the side of the gulet, meat, salads and vegetables.
There was a lot to eat, for the most part conforming to the ‘Mediterranean Diet’ recommendations. The food was very filling and, with anything that was fried being cooked in olive oil, very healthy. Unless of course, you opted to pig out on the rather delicious bread or ate too much of the cheese….
For the most part the trip was relaxed. Yoga on the deck was optional – for the most part we all had a go. My only challenge was that our fitness instructor, while gentle with the beginners (me included) during yoga, seemed to take on an almost marine-like attitude when hiking, striding out well ahead of the rest of the group. The only person who could keep up was Ali himself. While the hikes were lead by Ali, we did all attempt to keep up with her, I suspect because she was there, in theory, to help us get fit.
At 5’1″ and in my mid fifties, I really couldn’t walk that fast and started to regret not being able to pause for long enough to take the odd photograph without being left behind. In the end I just stopped when I wanted to and finished the hike by myself at my own pace. While I may not be super fit, I’m a seasoned hiker and used to walking for full days. For the most part our walks were quite short and rather intense which seemed slightly at odds with the relaxed approach to the rest of the cruise.
By the final hike things went at a more manageable pace, rewarding those of us who went with a stunning view across to the gulet from Bozukkale castle.
I loved the quiet coves, where we could snorkel, swim and kayak safely. I’m a little sad I didn’t try the kayak sooner, it was such a pleasant way to get fit.
And I could have spent a good few more hours snorkeling and watching the underwater world, though my attempts at capturing the magic through a borrowed go-pro had limited success.
Sunsets were magnificent events. We were at sea for the recent eclipse and though we managed to miss the main event, we DID get some stunning sightings of the burning orange moon. Though it hardly seems possible, sunrises were even more spectacular.
In Bozburun we were invited to lunch with a local family and feasted on aubergine stew and rice stuffed courgette flowers.
In Simi we drank far too much wine, bought herbs and climbed the hill to see the ancient monastery at sunset.
And, in Marmaris, where our trip finished, we were indulged with a turkish steam bath and scrub that left my skin squeaky clean.
There are plenty of moments that will stay with me for ever and plenty I’d like to repeat. In general it was very well organised, friendly and flexible – Ali made sure everyone was really well looked after – from collecting us at Rhodes through to arranging transfers for everyone to the airport at the end. And, the gulet was far more comfortable and luxurious than I’d imagined.
If you are tempted and would like to find out more, head over to the MDFV website