The Beach


I don't have to jump off a steep cliff into unknown waters to find a secret colony of visionary dropouts. I just walk down a stony path for about half an hour to reach the beautiful beach of Kabak, situated in a small bay surrounded by rocky mountains, and a valley full of camps which try to attract visitors by labelling themselves as "alternative". That works quite well.

The Beach
The camp I am staying and working at was the first one to be founded by Turan Abi about 22 years ago. At that time Kabak valley was widely unknown and a real retreat from civilization. In the beginning there were no electricity or toilets, no wooden houses and bungalows with sea-view. The people who came here tried to create a dreamland without the hardships - and the luxury - of an increasingly consumeristic society. Turan Abi, a sympathetic old man with shoulder-length white hair and big dark eyes, talks about those days in Kabak with a slight twist of nostalgia. He has grown old now, and a lot has changed since then.

The camp is run by a young Turkish couple since Turan rented it out and retired a couple of years ago. He lives quietly in a house overlooking the bay and the site, that is no longer called a "camp" but "Turan Hill Lounge" instead. It has lost its former character and turned inThe Beachto a cosy place for young people from the city in search for an undiluted lifestyle just for the weekend. I can't say that I do not appreciate sitting on white cushions and having a cold beer while watching the sunset over a surrealistic beautiful scenery. It's just not exactly what I would call "alternative".

Arlene and Shakie, a very funny and likeable couple from London, say the place has changed a lot since they had come here for the first time about three years ago. At that time Kabak valley still was an insider's tip, a place where a laid-back and friendly way of life was being preserved. Now, as the number of campsites has risen from three to about ten, the beach is getting signposted with colourful advertisements, one bigger than the other, promising "a spiritual journey into the core of nature". People can stay at camps called "Reflections", "Shanti Garden" or "Shambala". Kabak valley has turned into a business. "Last time we were treated like friends," tells Arlene, as they show me the pictures from their last holiday. "Now we are guests, you know."

While Arleen and Shakie just give a shrug and say they won't come here next year, Zeynep, the chef at "Turan Hill Lounge" is really frustrated by how life in the valley has changed. She is a beautiful but hard woman in her mid-forties, an Old School-alternative who lived in Germany and America, travelled to India and Nepal. We work together in the kitchen and speak a strange mixture of Turkish, English and German. Zeynep confirms that the atmosphere in Kabak was still very different about two or three years ago. "Now I'm just here for the money, like everybody," she says.

What bothers me more than the loss of an alternative lifestyle in Kabak is the deep and profound boredom that I experience here. I'm said to be helping out in the kitchen in return for food and accommodation - which means a small tent in which I have to sleep crosswise to have enough space. In fact I'm hanging out in the restaurant reading books until a tomato needs to be cut. My favourite pastimes are watching cocks chasing chicken and Osman carrying heavy stones in the heat. I compete with Hediye and Özlen, two girls from the nearby village who are considered to be "working" in the kitchen as well, for every dirty plate that needs cleaning. Soon I start getting catatonic from boredom and constant exposure to Reggae music, and I develop a childish-romantic fantasy of escaping from Kabak.

After getting drunk one afternoon with Arlene and Shakie in the nearby tourist ghetto of Ölüdeniz I dramatically announce that I won't be there for breakfast the next day, stagger to my mini-tent, pack my stuff and walk to the beach. There I lie down on a köşk, a wooden platform with Ottoman style-cushions, and try to get some sleep while preventing ants from creeping into my ears. I plan to walk up the hill to the bus stop as soon as dawn breaks. But as I wake up the next day my adventurous attitude has vanished and it feels awkward just to leave like this. So I take my backpack and - feeling disappointed and relieved at the same time - walk back to my tiny tent, the gossipping village girls and another day of terrible boredom.

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