HOLIDAY DISASTERS

Datca was the idyllic resort promised in the guidebook, but Julia Bichard wishes she'd been conscious for more of it ...

`If it's an idyllic little resort town you're looking for, take only a brief look at Marmaris, then rush on to Datca." Tired of the crowds in western Turkey, we took the guidebook's advice and found ourselves on a narrow paved road, snaking its way along a peninsula towards Datca.

We had to stop en route so they could widen the road enough for the bus to pass. Looking back, maybe this was an omen. Do not proceed! Turn around and go back to where you came from! But we bumped along towards Datca.

It was a funny little place, deserted, and not quite the idyll we'd expected. We plumped for a small pension, which also seemed empty. The landlady was very friendly though. We threw down our heavy bags with relief and decided to go swimming, instead of having a shower.

We walked to the beach and hobbled over the sun-baked pebbles into the cool Aegean water. My tiredness fell away.

Misfortunes supposedly come in threes. My boyfriend, Barry, cut his foot on a sharp rock and then sat on his beloved sunglasses, breaking them in half. Now rather annoyed and bleeding, he trudged behind me back to the pension.

Sitting on the verandah, we were approached by a fellow guest. A small Moroccan man with chipped teeth and pockmarked skin. He was overly friendly and I mistrusted him. He was trying to arrange a birthday party for his French girlfriend that evening, would we like to go? He was quite insistent so we agreed, and then went out to get away from him.

We had dinner and then sat in a bar, looking out to the harbour and the inky blue sea beyond. Barry felt unsure about the Moroccan, but we were both curious to meet his girlfriend who was supposedly mute.

Back at the pension, the cheerful Moroccan introduced us to the rest of the birthday party - a German couple who fell upon the biscuits we'd brought with us, a French girl travelling alone, and a French-Canadian man with his Hungarian girlfriend. The Moroccan showed off by translating the conversation into English, French and German and constantly toasted everyone with his beer can. His girlfriend looked embarrassed and said nothing. Around midnight, we were offered some "birthday cake" - small squares of baklava, a sweet Turkish dessert.

The persistent banging in my head became a banging on the door. I came to and realised that something was wrong. "They drugged us and took our money," said Barry, matter of factly. "And our passports, travellers cheques, credit cards, jewellery and sandals."

The distraught pension owner fed us lamb and pea stew. Neither of us ate meat, but it tasted delicious. I asked the time; we'd been asleep for over 21 hours.

The police station was next door, so we sleepily made a police report, signed it, not understanding a word, and went back to bed.

The next morning, the police paid our bus fare to Marmaris and we bid farewell to Datca, staring blankly out of the bus window.

With only a stray five-pfennig coin to our names, we found strangers to be generous beyond belief, pressing money, beer, breakfast, lunch and dinner on to us. No one offered us baklava.

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