Feel the need for speed?
Enjoy exploring places off the beaten path?
Yeah, me too!
So I recommend cruising the Kızıl Irmak (Red River) in Avanos on a jet boat from Kapadokya Jet Boat and Gondola. But wait, I am getting ahead of myself. As Paul Harvey would say, “Now, here’s the rest of the story…”
I knew about jet boating in Avanos because when I saw it I wondered what in the world it was doing on the river. You see, I thought there was, at most, a kilometer of river that this boat would be able to navigate. The river is too narrow. The boat is too big. Not really my idea of a cool “jet boat” ride. However, my false impressions were about to be blown out of the water (pun very much intended).
I had gone to Kapadokya Jet Boat and Gondola to see if I could help them with their need for an English teacher. The employee who summoned me introduced me to a New Zealander from whom he was already learning English. As I talked with my fellow foreigner, Paul Vernel, I learned he was a jet boat pilot and was here for a month instructing the crew on how to be master and commander of the high-speed vessel.
He told me about his involvement in getting the company up and running. Not only did he agree to train the drivers but he also tried to get two boats here from New Zealand. The company was trying to test the waters (enough with the puns already!) to see if this jet boating idea would work so without sinking millions of dollars into equipment, they brought over second-hand boats. Customs had a rule against importing used boats that might undercut the domestic market and the boats were rejected! But they persevered and found a suitable boat in Antalya and had it shipped to Avanos.
Having seen the boat and the river, I did not hide my cynicism as I asked him “so you just go up and down the river a few times?” He told me he goes seven or eight kilometers up the river to a town that is a half an hour drive by car! Shocked, I started to wonder if this “jet boat” thing had potential.
We continued talking, “So, how fast you going, like 25-30 miles an hour?” Paul answered in a beautiful Kiwi accent “We’re clipping along at 46-47 miles an hour.”
I thought to myself, “Seriously? On this narrow river? With the trees and rocks, you can go that fast?” All of a sudden I am thinking I want to try this.
Then Paul says, “You should come along with us on a ‘wifamil’.” Being the mono-lingual American that I am, I embarrassingly asked him, “What’s a wifamil?” thinking he was talking about the Nintendo Wii. And he replied, “Oh, it’s a little familiarizing trip, a ‘wee famil’.” Ah-ha, not Wii, but wee…got it.
The boats hold up to 18 people and approach speeds of 50 mph (80 km/h) throwing in 360 degree turns for fun!
The boat was almost full as fifteen of us piled into the craft (this boat is 18 passenger, but the boats arriving soon will be 22 seaters). The driver, Engin, was on a training run with Paul, logging hours towards his certification, and all the passengers were locals, employees of the Jet Boat and Gondola’s parent company, Dorak Holding. Unfortunately, I lived up to my “loud, obnoxious, American” billing as I hooted and hollered, and whistled and clapped while my more reserved and respectful Turkish counterparts quietly enjoyed their ride.
How they could sit on their hands I had no idea. Here we were zooming up the river at close to 50mph, Engin shoots his hand into the air, pointing to the sky and drawing a circle, signaling fun is coming, and the next second our jet boat is full-on into a 360 degree counter-clockwise spin that refreshingly doused us on this hot afternoon. “Yeah baby,” I shouted (or something similar – I was delirious from the spin – who knows what really came out of my mouth), and several glances shot my way to see who was making the ruckus.
The next minute a fork in the river appeared up ahead. To the left, the nice, spacious, SAFE, way up the river; to the right, the narrow, perilous, WHO-KNOWS-WHAT-LIES-AHEAD, part of the river. As we approached, I said to myself, “He’s not going in there. No, he IS NOT going in there. He’s…GOING IN THERE” And Engin, taking the Road Less Traveled, shoots the gap not much wider than the boat, with this sweeping turn that sprays our ‘rooster-tail’ behind us into the low hanging branches. Again, I break into thunderous applause to which all heads turn to look at the rowdy foreigner in the back!
Even if you’re not one who feels the need for speed, don’t worry. You may still find this trip extraordinary. Your tour includes a stop at an abandoned village. Be sure to ask your pilot what happened (no spoilers here). You also may spot some beautiful water fowl you would not have otherwise seen. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the shadow-casting cliffs with their history-telling caves all along the way. There is plenty of enjoyment to be had by all on this excursion.
So when you come to Cappadocia and visit Avanos, make sure you stop by the Kapadokya Jet Boat and Gondola office and get a look at the river from a different perspective!
Does this sound/look like something you would like to do?
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