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On Tour 26 – Istanbul

On Tour 26 – Istanbul

Greetings from Turkey,

From Cappadioca to Instanbul, a mammoth drive on Turkish roads around 750 Kms and Turkish drivers are by far the worst  we have come across. They scare the beejeebies out of us, looking back they had nothing on the Romanians.

Road rules, stoplights and marked roads are merely guides not to be followed. Four lanes can become 2 or 5 depends on the drivers. They overtake on blind corners on narrow mountain passes, drive down the middle of the road and would happily drive you of the side of a mountain and not think twice of it.

We have seen more bingles, overturned cars, trucks across the road and cars in ditches than the rest of our travels combined. We are just grateful that not to many of them seem to own cars and stick to the traditional mode of transport, mules, donkeys and ponies. Diving though Istanbul was crazy and stressful particularly after about 10 hours on the road.

We were hot, bothered and had had enough of being in the car, any Turkish driver who was silly enough to give us a hard time, coped it back double, behaviour probably not recommended in the guide books.

Instanbul – Task number 1, the Romanian Consulate, yep here we go again. So we get organised in the morning, get our passports, pack a lunch and water and head towards the bus stop. We get on the right bus and five minutes into the journey David asks ‘”Did you grab the book with the consulate address?” I say “Aaah no, I though you did.” Not a good start.

 

We remembered that it was in the vicinity of Taskim Square and we also knew that Taskim square was a pretty major landmark in Instabul, so how hard could it be? After learning our lesson in other major cities on the fact that being cheap and not spending money on a map doesn’t work if you want to get around efficiently, we buy one.

After a close study, Taskim square doesn’t look that far, but then we can’t find a scale, but it really doesn’t look that far, so we head off. Fortunately for us, a nice Turkish guy had noticed us closely studying our newly acquired map and checked in to see if we new where we were going and kindly pointed us in the direction of the the tram, a far better option than walking.  We get of at the appropriate stop, well thats what we thought.

After again closely studying our map, we head off up a mountain, well thats what it felt like. We arrived at the top of the hill in a lather of sweat, even our clothes had started dripping, wondering if we really wanted to go to Romania. W e had a choice, left or right, we choose right. After walking a short distance, I’ve had enough and pick the flashiest hotel, knowing they would have AC, to ask directions.

We go in looking totally wrecked and despondent, the guy behind the desk takes one look at us and turns his nose up, we ask anyway. After a discussion with his colleague he tells us the consulate is 50 m in the direction we just walked from. We both stare at him unbelieving. I mean fair dinkum, if the guy is going bull dust to us, you would think at least he would be smart enough to send us further away then 50m from his hotel.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, we head back in the direction we had come from. After a short distance I look up and say “Hey David thats the Romanian Flag”, David says, “no you goose thats the Turkish flag”, “Aaagh not that one the other one”. Sure enough had we turned left we would have tripped over the front door!

Only thing is there is  a map on the front door giving directions to the back door. O man, it’s back down the mountain we just hiked up, we can’t believe it, we practically walked past it. David jokes it will probably close as we arrive, would you believe it, we arrive as it closes. With sweat dripping down our foreheads into our eyes, we stand there blankly looking at the door.

W hat next? We must have looked pathetic, we can’t even figure out when it will be open again. Someone comes to the door and we start pleading. “This is our 6th time at a consulate we just want to know if our Visas are approved pleeease help, pleeese.” The guy reneges and says sternly, “O.K. give me your passports I will photocopy them, and come back at 4pm.” Well we figure thats about as good as its going to get.

Time to go tourist. We get back at 3.40, we had a better handle on the Istanbul public Transport system by this stage so managed to avoid the mountain climb. We wait around for a while to find out nothings been done, we get a little grumpy at the guy behind the counter, explain our situation. He finally phones Rome, where we applied for the Visa.

Then tells us to wait 15mins. 40mins goes by, and he explains that he has not heard back from Rome, it’s our choice if we want to wait until 5pm or come back Monday. Man, its Friday and we want to leave on Sunday morning we opt to wait. Yee ha, Rome phones we can get our Visas, yep we are doing a little song and dance!!!!!

Only 7 times back and forth to consulate and embassies in three different countries. The guy behind the counter then looks at us and says that  will be 40US$ each. HUH, we just look at each other?? We try explain that we are in Instabul, Turkey therefore have YTL not Florida USA, he just looks at us like we are complete idiots and says “You want VISA here you pay US$.” Crikey, what next.

It’s Friday, almost 5pm and there’s no time to even run to a money exchange, they’ve already told us they close at 5pm sharp, no exceptions. The guy behind the counter,  makes another phone call and another dodgy guy turns up and takes David into another building to do a money exchange. David comes back, with US$ and informs me that the dodgy guy got cheesed when he found out that we didn’t have Euros, I mean we are in Turkey!

The amusing thing to all this is we are meant to have travel insurance, we don’t. For all you people who are going to give us a lecture on the reasons why we should, don’t worry my mum already has. Anyway we photocopied our medicare cards, seems to have worked.

Time to go do more tourist things. We jump on a tram to head to the famous Grand Bazar, just so happens, prayer time at the Mosque has just finished. The  tram is packed we are sharing it with a group of sweaty, smelly Turkish blokes. At this point the nasal passages are getting a full work load and definitely not of the exotic type.

David is in his element, trying to sell carpets to the carpet sellers, bantering with every other shop worker. We go into every store selling water pipes, or nargiles traditional pipes for smoking flavoured tobaccos. I swear we go into every shop in the Grand Bazar and Egyptian bazar that has a shisha in the window. In half of them there is great discussion and debate on the finer details of nargiles.

If anyone is interested I’m sure David can give you the information so that as consumers you can confidently buy a shisha that suits your exact needs. Meanwhile I sit or stand patiently waiting. At the end of the day David informs me that he likes the nargile he saw in the first shop we went into. Aaaagh.

It’s nearing 6pm so we head to the Blue Mosque, I’m rejoicing to be out of the bazar, but David decides more shopping is in order, maybe the shops on the streets might have something different to the vendors at the bazar. We finally make it, by foot to the parks outside the Blue Mosque, to be joined by a carpet seller. It getting close to 7pm by now, I whisper “David get rid of him or we’ll have to go look at more carpets,” David cheerfully responds, “O thats no problem, he can show us around and we can have a quick look at his carpets”.

Aaaagh, after 10 years I finally come to terms with the fact that I’ve been living with a  crazed, shopping maniac. The carpet seller walks  us to the entrance of the Blue Mosque and gives us a brief history, we take our shoes off and at this point I’m feeling discriminated against. Why I ask do I have to wear a cloth over my head and not David?

I’m less than impressed with the Muslim religion and traveling through Turkey has left me with many more questions than answers. Earlier in the day, we saw a 30 ish very sleazy looking guy with a girl no more than 10 – 12 years old. The child was in the dress of a married women and their embrace left us with no question as to the nature of the relationship. The kid still had the lanky body of a child and would have most likely not been older enough to start her regular cycles. We were both repulsed, the guy would be in jail at home. David’s niece would not have not been much younger than this child.

We entered the sanctuary of the Blue Mosque, no shop vendors. It was beautiful and impressive. I plonk onto the silk carpets amongst the small crowd and promptly tell David, we can’t leave as the carpet seller will be waiting outside. Sure enough when we leave the carpet seller is waiting. David is happy about being led towards another Bazar, I’ve had it. We eventually make it to the carpet shop, to be descended upon buy another 3 carpet sellers and led up 3 flights of stairs.

They must have been terribly confused by our expensive looking cameras, actually thinking that we might have money to spend. I’ve really had it and start leaving, they cheerfully follow, including David, I start wondering, hasn’t he figured out by now I’m sick of shopping. I turn on them,  ” I own a Australian house not a Turkish house, I don’t want a Turkish carpet not even a big one, would you buy something you didn’t want?”

They cheerfully respond “Sure thats what you do on vacation, spend money on things you don’t need.” Aaaagh get me out of here. I’m sick of shopping, my nasal passages have well and truly been overloaded, my feet are sore, I’v stepped in chewing gum, I’ve got a layer of dust and sweat so thick it looks like I’m having a therapeutic mud bath,  it’s 7.30 at night, we still need to get on a bus to get back to the Van and the traffic is chaos.

It’s after nine by the time we get back to the Van, David pulls the Banjo and starts happily plucking away, honestly I will never shop with this man again. We eventually collapse into bed after having a top day and finally getting our Romanian Visas.

Day 2, first stop for the morning is the Topkarpi Palace, 10YTL each for entrance, it was nice, but we didn’t feel the need to linger very long. The best part of the Palace is meant to be the Harem, but to see this we would have to put our hands in our pockets yet again, another 10YTL each, we decided to pass.

Next stop was to locate the first shop we went into yesterday in the Grand Bazar and buy the first nargile, that we looked at yesterday. We located it without to much trauma and would you believe it, the nargile was sold, man, you should of seen the look on David’s face, disappointment. Man, you should have read my mind, here we go again.

After much more great debate and discussion and traipsing back and forth between the guys shops we finally end up in the bowels of the bazar at the factory, that we guess all the vendors get there nargile from, there were shelves lined with nargile, hundreds of them. At this point I’m thinking why didn’t we just come here first thing yesterday and save all the drama. I take a seat, get given a cup of tea and wait patiently, while the virtues of almost every nargile in the room are debated, crikey is this ever going to end.

Finally David finds a combination of pipe, hose and base that he is satisfied with so we head back to the guys shop to discuss price. The shop vendor really has the upper hand and David really wants that nargile, so we probably don’t get the best deal, but at this point who cares! We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping for other bits and pieces.

David is astounded by my bargaining and ability to simply walk away to see if I have the best price and move to the next shop. I tell him it’s there game not mine and I’m sick of feeling like I’m been ripped of so I’m going to give as good as I get. If they give an outrageous price for a product I give them and equally outrageous price back. I’m actually starting to enjoy this shopping caper, but I think David’s starting to get a little weary.

We shop for a few more hours and exhausted and layered in sweat and dust again, with our hands full make our way back to the Van to try to squeeze all the stuff into spaces that don’t exist in the trusty Renault.

Aaaagh an Italian van has parked next to the Renault, I mean the park is practically empty and as you know we are not the biggest fans of Italians. Turns out they are really nice, from the north of Italy and the guy has travelled extensively around the world so we invited  them over for drinks. They regaled us with stories of their travels through Bulgaria, not good, corruption, bribery, bad roads, being attacked by rabies crazed dogs, well thats a small exaggeration, we were pretty nervous already about Bulgaria and Romania now we were truly nervous.

Tomorrow we were heading for the border.

The caravan park, we were in wins to date as the worst. It was run down, no info or tourist brochures whatsoever of Istanbul, no other facilities, the bathrooms were average at best. It stank due to a creek not far away. To our amusement it was practically a farm with a collection of chickens, ducks, sheep, turkeys and cats. To top it off we paid 36YTL for the privilege of staying here!

Traveling through Turkey was never mundane, we were constantly on our toes, it surprised us and let us down. We were never quite sure what to expect next. It was definitely more expensive than we had of hoped, which was a real bummer and it was dry and dusty with the Van constantly covered in a thick layer dust. Turkey also so has an enormous military. It always amazed to when we would be driving through small towns looking for gas or bread to see new stands with pornographic magazines with images of mostly naked women on the front, how can this work in a country where the women are expected to be covered from head to toe?

We have enjoyed our time here but it has been pretty exhausting and we are happy to be moving on.

All for now, more shortly.

On Tour 25 – Datcha to Cappadocia

On Tour 25 – Datcha to Cappadocia

Hello to everybody,

We left Datcha heading towards Fethiya. On the way, we called in at Marmmaris, which was the largest center for yachting on the Turkish coast. We also got out and stretched our legs at another smaller harbour called Goceck.

We hit Fethiya and it was another English seaside resort destination. Looking remarkably similar to Bodrum and Kusadasi. Although quite nice, we decided to push onto a beach we had seen pictures of, not far away, Oludeniz. We arrived to find the government had turned the peninsular into a National Park and were going to charge us 15YTYL to park and then boot us out at 8pm. (The YTL is about 1 to 1 with the Aus$).

It was getting late in the day so we settled on a campground at a whopping price of 21 YTL without power, ouch, big ouch, in the dust average facilities. Again the English throwing around their pounds pushing prices up. Turkey has been way more expensive than we ever imagined. We almost gag on the price every time we do a grocery shop and we have only eaten out once, due to the cost (which is something we were really looking forward to) and the cost of petrol is out of control about 2.50 – 3.00 Aus$ per litre.

We also constantly feeling like we are in a ‘rip the tourist’ off situation. The English plates on the Van don’t do us any favours either. In many of the smaller towns, the little coffee shops have car showers, basically a running hose that you can drive under to rinse the dust off. We have driven through these a few times, always asking permission first, with no problem.

We went through one in a small town, when we were under the shower, a guy and his daughter starting washing the van, we figured the Van needed a wash so it wash no problem. When he tried to charge 10YTL for less then about 3 mins work it became a problem. After a heated debate we gave him a 20YTL note not having anything smaller. We drove off to count the change to find he had short changed us over 5YTL and had to go back and insist on the correct change – ‘rip the tourist off.’ It’s wearing thin.

We’ve ordered basic take away meals at roadside cafes agreed on a price, had it written down to avoid confusion and then when we go to pick the food up, they’ve tried to charge more than double. From Oludeniz we headed to Kas, which was still a relatively small seaside town, lacking the big resorts and much more to our liking.

We checked out the local campground again they wanted to charge 20YTL to park in the dust, so we settled on a spot in the lovely little marina, about a 1 minute walk to the centre of town. Before parking up for the night we headed to the a fantastic bar perched over the rocks and sat back in the lounge chairs to soak up some sun and drink a few beers.

We smuggled the odd one down from the Van as they were 5YTL a hit. We then took turns practicing our height, distance and style off a nearby dive platform into the crystal clear water. It was a great afternoon all round. We moved onto the marina for the night as we sitting out on our chairs enjoying dinner and a glass of wine David noticed we had reversed up to an electricity box, after a quick inspection we discovered power points.

Perfect free camping with power. In our attempt to hook up David managed to flick the main power to the marina on and off a few times before we realised what was going on! Oops. After a few more attempts we achieved successful hookup!!! The locals here were actually friendly, stopping for chat while we were having dinner, one guy gave us a bag full of cocoa beans, we think.

Although we now avoid restaurants and most shops. The drive from Oludeniz to Kas was beautiful especially between Kalkan and Kas, Turkey has some amazing coastline. Matt & Kelly, had told us about Olympos, a town where a couple of hippies decided to build a few tree houses, it has now grown into a hangout for a funky, younger, international crowd, with most of the available accommodation still in basic tree houses.

After taking two wrong turns and driving on the worst roads we had been on yet we arrived and headed straight to the beach to cool off, to find we had to pay to use the beach, whats happened to Turkey? We paid our dues and walked the 500m to the pebble beach and hung out for a couple of hours to make sure we got our moneys worth.

Olympus was actually a pretty cool place. It was located in Valley with steep mountains on either side and river running down through the valley which was dry and we guess flows in late winter and spring as the snow melts. The tree houses lined the river bank down the length towards the beach. At one point you cross the river over the river bed, which is also used for parking. Late in the afternoon we headed towards Kadir’s as we had heard this is where most of the Aussies hang out, and we weren’t disappointed.

We had a great night sitting around swapping travel stories drinking beer and sharing a Shisha, a traditional Turkish water pipe, for smoking weak flavoured tobaccos, such as apple and mint. Leon a Aussie manager of Kadir’s even let us join the line for a free feed, which we were enormously grateful for.

We would have loved to stay in a tree house, except they were 30YTL each so we opted to free camp in the van in the beach car park. After a lazy start to the day and a hangover threatening we headed towards Side, our last coastal stop and most eastern point in our travels before heading back towards England and home.

Side wins hands down as having some of the best ruins, mostly for the fact that they were quiet extensive and you could drive through them. We’ve decided the only way to see ruins is out the car window. After driving down a goat track (through the ruins) we found a small bit of elevated, level cement overlooking the beach to park the van up for the night and a short walk (through the ruins) to the marina and shopping area of Side.

Not more than 5 minutes after arriving a traditional dressed Turkish guy, with a heavy odor, only one gold tooth, turned up for a curious look at the van. He then left returning 5 minutes later with a huge bunch of branches of clove leaves for us. He then disappeared again returning with another bunch of herbs picked from the ground. He then much to our surprise climbed into the Van making himself right at home around the settee.

We discovered that he owned five camels that you could pay to tour around the ruins on. He was pretty harmless, but with almost no English not the best conversationalist. The dilemma was how do we get him out of the car, without appearing rude, so we could check out Side. Eventually he did leave, but checked in on us at a regular basis.

Kind of amusing, kind of disconcerting, he later invited us to join him for a feed, not wanting to impose we declined. Side was again lovely, but similar to a lot of other coastal towns we had been to, also like many of the other resort towns, struggling with desperate restauranteurs offering free drinks just to get people sitting in there establishment.

Having already been burnt once we declined all offers. We left Side with a long dive ahead to the Cappadocia region, but not before camel man, parked in the Van for a while and then asked for sunburn cream for his boys. approximately 480 km, which doesn’t seem far unless you are driving on Turkish roads. Fortunately to our surprise most of the roads were pretty good.

We drove over a spectacular mountain pass around 1800m high onto a huge plateau that was about 1000m high, it was amazing for its vastness. The land was flat and very barren looking, but able to sustain wheat and potato crops. The tiny little towns, consisted of communities living in permanent tents or the more luxury quarters, of a small home built out of local stone and then mud rendered and many people still relied on their pony and cart as transport.

The other surprising aspect of this area was that both men and women were out working in the fields, not just the women. It was, dry and dusty with the amazing natural phenomenon of whirly winds picking up the dust and forming columns only to disappear in a puff a few minutes later. It was a surprisingly captivating area.

Traveling inland was also taking us away from the seaside tourist resorts and through more traditional, conservative towns without all the advertising billboards and trinket shops. The Renault has been a constant source of amazement to most Turks, particularly with the wheel on the ‘wrong side’ or is it us???

The further inland we go the more amazing it gets, its now almost impossible to get fuel without gathering a small crowd peering in the window often a little disconcerting, but I’m sure they are just curious. Since arriving in Turkey we have only seen 2 or 3 other ‘camping cars’ all German. The Cappadocia region is truly amazing, quite difficult to put put into words.

We arrived here late in the afternoon and after getting lost trying to find a town called Uschisar, we found a spot over looking a valley with volcanic formations, we paid our 2 YTL each asked if we could stay overnight and found ourselves a prime spot to watch the sun go down. A few tourist buses turned up for sunset, again we felt like part of the sideshow.

Especially as we had pulled our BBQ out and were cooking ourselves up a feast. A lovely Kenyan couple joined for a chat, highly amused that they had run into a couple of Aussies, having a BBQ with a beer in hand. They kindly gave us a couple of oranges. As soon us the sun dipped over the horizon all the tourists left and the 3-4 stands selling tea and souvenirs packed up and left. We had this amazing place to ourselves, that is until David started playing the banjo and Crazy Ali turned up.

Yep thats how he introduced himself – ‘Crazy Ali’. Truth is he wasn’t so crazy, but actually pretty interesting, with great conversational English, something we have found pretty rare. Crazy Ali grew up in the area, owns an antique shop, writes poetry and gets a mention in most of the know guide books. We guessed he was pretty wealthy and influential in his town and most likely owned the land where we were staying.

He kindly recited some of his poetry, in English, complete with movement, it was pretty captivating. We have been invited to his shop for a Turkish coffee, which we will probably take him up on. Crazy Ali left us to ourselves and I don’t think I’ve slept so well in a while, no heat, no bugs, no techo music, peace and quite all round.

We woke up to an amazing view of a spectacular valley and we had it all to ourselves. We had another lazy start, enjoying the view. We headed of on foot down the valley to explore and come across a quaint little coffee shop built into the land formations, we stopped for tea and dressed up for photo opportunities and payed a small fortune for a scarf.

We spend the next couple of hours walking around in the searing heat, from one valley to the next. It is truly spectacular and impressive. We finally make it back to the Van, cool of and head to Ortahasier to Crazy Ali’s shop. He is a kind and gentle man, with a twinkle in his eye, a ready joke and a hearty laugh.

After Ali buys us lunch and gives Melanie a necklace to bring good luck, he sends us on our way to explore the Ortahasier Castle and underground city of Kaymakli. At Kaymakli the underground city is amazingly intact. It was carved out of the rock or volcanic tuff, as they call it. You enter a low mound through what looks like a small cave which opens up into an extensive maze of tunnels and rooms.

This city had about 10 levels below the ground and apparently up to 10,000 people could live in it. It is believed they were originally built for a refuge for when enemies would rampage through the region. At the entrance point and at various place s throughout the city there were large stone disks that could be rolled into place to seal of the city from the surface.

There was evidence of communal cooking areas, food storage areas and barn type areas for animals to live. There were amazingly deep wells for water and they are currently trying to clear a tunnel that they believe goes to another underground city 7 km away.

People are believed to have existed in these cities sealed of from the surface for up to 9 months at a time while there enemy waited above and tried to find ways to force them to the surface. Fascinating! The following day we explored the valley of the Fairy Chimneys, amazing rock formations in the shape of a cone with a large darker coloured rock perched on top.

These are a result of the softer volcanic rock being eroded by the elements and the con is formed due to being protected by the harder rock on top. We spent the afternoon on free wireless internet in the village of Goreme, probably our favorite village in the region. It has not as yet caved in completely to the lust for the tourist dollar and still retains some of its original charm.

We were however still exposed to the sprucing restauranteurs try to entice us into there restaurants. We did eat out in a Restaurant that was decorated in a very traditional manor and it was disappointingly very poor.

All for now, tomorrow we head for Istanbul.

Regards

 

On Tour 24 – Drama in Turkey

On Tour 24 – Drama in Turkey

After spending a good part of the day wondering around Gallipoli we headed to Eceabat to catch a short ferry ride across the Dardanelles to Cannakkale a town of around 60 000 to do some grocery shopping, often a highlight, sometimes just hard work.

We lashed out and bought a tiny little BBQ, complete with kindling, charcoal, tongs and a fan for 13.50 YTL, a bargain. Then asked the helpful guy in the deli for his best selection to throw on it and he sold us some great cuts of lamb for 4.50 YTL, yep cheap, and they were very tasty, makes us very happy.

Next stop Assos (Behramkale), this tiny town was every bit as good as the glossy brochure suggested if not better. It is a friendly, lively, bohemian fishing town. The cafe lined, paved streets were barely wide enough for the trusty Renault to squeeze through and the main (pebble) beach was lined with laid back, casual, bar / cafe / dinning / basic accommodation all on the water front.

With the addition of colourful deck chairs, hammocks and big soft cushions to laze around, free internet and cold beer. Free camping was out of the question as this was a tiny town with not much spare space. We ran into an English chap on the way in and he sent us about 200m out of town to a campground called Oz Camp. Despite all our best efforts the Renault refused to make it up the gravel driveway, so we paid the guy 10YTL to park out the front of his house, it was the end of the road so there were no problems and included the use of his deck chairs on his little pebble beach.

We avoided the bathroom facilities and stuck to the solar shower and van potty, definatley cleaner. It was so enjoyable here we spent two nights, we highly recommend it for a laid back Turkish getaway and the more we travel the more we think it is a gem. While we were there they were digging a big hole in the side of the hill to create more parking, unfortunately for them they hit a wall, that they believe to be from the Roman era, they managed to dump a fair hunk of it into the ocean before it got the better of them.

Last we heard they were in a quandary as to wether to tell archeologists or to try to knock it down, despite the fact that it was probably an amazing piece of history particularly as it was waterfront crazy stuff. Poor blokes are just trying to make a living and come across yet another bunch of ruins.

We were having trouble finding a road map of Turkey, they couldn’t even sell us one at the tourist information on the border crossing. After asking at every possible opportunity we came across a service station and after communicating our needs, with some difficulty.

The guy at the servo got all his mates who were sitting around having tea to check in there cars, when this failed, he was going to rip a page out of the back of one of there diaries that had a map of Turkey. We insisted that although a kind gesture, it wasn’t exactly want we wanted. Yendi Foca and Foca (unfortunate names really) were our next destination, you may well ask where the foc is that?

Foca was a quaint reasonable sized fishing village with dining and shops around the protected harbour. The coastline between the two towns was stunning. We came across a designated free camp site, but like many public places in Turkey it was fairly run down and not very clean, so we opted for a deserted bay, which looked like it had once been a campground.

Again it was full of litter but with not many options, this place was looking pretty good as we could find grass instead of dirt to park the van on. From Foca to Pammaukkle to see the Travertine Pools. Driving into town we were flagged down, by people trying to get us to stay in there campgrounds and chased by scooters, then people camped by our Van while we were checking out the sites and accosted as in the car park of the pools.

We opted not to stay with any of them, but rather just camped in the car park, with a stunning night view of the travertine pools and the township of Pammakkule. I took it upon myself to feed the stray dogs David’s breakfast, in return they took it upon themselves to guard the van sleeping under it, which was fine except that if any one came into the car park or near the van there was a frenzy of barking as they chased the offenders away and diligently protected us.

By the end of the night we could identify each dog by its bark, needless to say we’ve had better nights sleep. The following morning we sadly fare welled our protecters, but not before I’d fed them David’s lunch. The Travertine Pools were quite amazing and unique, I don’t believe there is anything quite like them in the world. Natural springs of water full of minerals cascades down the side of the mountain and forms pools, as it dries it leaves a layer of stark white mineral calcification over the terrain resulting in a spectacular site.

Unfortunately the Turks have diverted most of he water into (we guess) the pools of the hotels in the valley below, at night they divert all of the water. They are potentially destroying something very special, it was completely different then when David was here a number of years ago when none of the water was diverted. While at the Travertine Pools we met a couple of students studying in Texas, Kelly & Matt who were traveling around Turkey using the local bus system, which sounded like and experience in itself.

They were heading to Ephesos and Kusadasi the following day as we were so we offered them a lift, they pitched in to the fuel costs, which was fantastic as surprisingly petrol is pretty expensive here, in fact its on a par with the U.K. We had a great time with them wondering around Ephesos and then meeting up with them for a beer in Kusadasi. The English speaking company was a welcome break and we sadly said goodbye as they were heading to Germany the next day.

Kusadasi itself was pretty awful. It was impossible to walk the streets without being accosted by every restaurant and shop, it was a nightmare. Kelly and Matt said Istanbul didn’t have anything on this town. Restaurants were full of promises and as we found out didn’t deliver. It was a pretty negative experience, but we were grateful for Kelly and Matts company. Although with some heavy bargaining

David did manage to negotiate a pair of genuine fake Oakleys from 65 YTL to 15YTL,, The pushy shop guy not satisfied with one sale, practically had David by the arm, trying to get him to buy a watch. We parked just out of town in the grounds of a beach bar / cafe for 10YTL, they guy took our money up front, which was pretty unusual.

We found out why in the middle of the night, when the beach club next door cranked up its party around midnight and kept it up until about 6-am we had a lousy nights sleep and couldn’t get out of Kusadasi quick enough. Kusadasi to Bodrum. Bodrum was like being in a English seaside town, they were everywhere, which was actually quite nice as we enjoy the English speaking company.

Bodrum was quite a nice harbour full of traditional Turkish boats – Gullets and it lacked the pushiness of Kusadasi. Although all the shops and restaurants were looking remarkably similar to Kusadasi. After spending the afternoon driving around the Bodrum peninsular looking for somewhere to free camp and finding nowhere satisfactory, we decided on a campground in a place called Gumbet a seaside Resort town only a 10 min Dolmuch, Turkish mini bus ride to Bodrum.

There are two types of beaches in most of these towns. Crap ones that have been cleaned up as best as they can been by the restaurants / hotels / bars that front onto them and then every inch is covered in deckchair, because there is no way you would what to lie in the dirty sand. The other beaches are just us crap, usually next to a drain and have no hotel / restaurant / bar fronting onto them and therefore not groomed and covered and I mean covered in litter. In a lot of Turkey that we have seen so far is covered in litter (except the groomed beaches) even the trenches at Gallopoli seconded as rubbish dumps.

We were lucky enough to get into Bodrum on Market day, we really enjoyed wondering around taking in the sites and chatting to any English person that was happy enough to stop and have a yarn. We meet a nice English couple over for the day from the Greek Island of Kos, only about 20 mins by ferry. We learnt that they were paying full prices in the market and not bargaining at all. Ouch no wonder the prices were going up. At around 2 pm we headed back to campsite to get out of the searing heat and enjoy the beach.

David left me for no more than 5 mins and I was cornered by some sleazy old Turkish guy. David came to my rescue, the guy still insisted on buying us three beers each. Although generous, we didn’t really want to spent the afternoon talking broken, busted English to a 65+ Turkish guy in budgie smugglers (speedos) telling us how much he enjoyed perving on English women. He offered us more drinks and even to buy us dinner, but we extracted ourselves from the situation as politely as possible and went back to the Van for a BBQ.

England was playing ….. in the soccer world cup, so the English were out in full force, unfortunately they were more interested in watching the game rather then talking to us! Every bar had there Tvs tuned to the game and you could walk down the beach getting it in stereo and not missing a moment of the game.

We plonked ourselves on a comfy couch where we could get wireless for the cost of beers and also plug in a charge the Mac and have another attempt at loading the website and catch up on some news from home. The couch just happened to be under a large screen TV, so we also got a front row view of the English watching the soccer.

The couch was so comfy I feel asleep on Davids shoulder. The campground was located directly behind the beach bars which played loud techo music all night, combined with the heat and mosquitos we had another two nights of lousy sleep.

We were driving over a mountain pass to Datcha, there was car traveling in the same direction as ours but on the wrong side of the road on a straight stretch, downhill, when a women we guess in her mid 20’s bailed out the back door. She was rolling down the road directly in front of the Van, fortunately David was able pull the Van up.

As you can imagine she was pretty messed up. The other people in the car tried to put her back in their car. We tried to stop them and tell them to call an ambulance, but with no Turkish there was little we could communicate. Fortunately other cars had stopped by now and a well dressed Turk, called an ambulance and took control of the situation.

All we really felt we could do was provide some shade and privacy with blankets out of the Van and the use of the first aid kit out of the Van. The ambulance arrived in 15 mins basically picked her up and put her in the back, no fluid, painkillers, stabilisation. We got back into to the Van quite shaken only to cop abuse from the Turks for not moving on quick enough.

Selfishly we were glad no police turned up, as we didn’t want to get involved in anything we didn’t understand, we were also surprised the police didn’t show up. We were both pretty distressed and when we arrived in Datcha we had a drive around then found a reasonably clean pebble beach in Karakoy, not to far away and had some quiet time. We went to bed, pretty homesick, travel weary, melancholy and with a whole lot of unanswered questions about the incident and the Muslim religion in general.

While we were at the beach (pebble) in Karaykoy and interesting group of Turkish women were having a picnic in the shade. They finished there afternoon meal, got up and left all there rubbish lying on the beach, to lazy to walk to the dumpster no more than 50 m away. I guess they will be content to sit in there own rubbish next time they use the beach. It really is pretty disgusting and seems to be normal behaviour.

All for now, more soon.

On Tour 23 – Greece to Turkey

On Tour 23 – Greece to Turkey

G’day to Everyone

After an entertaining evening with the French and Germans in the beach side carpark, drinking ouzo, the next days task was to buy a new camera lens in Athens and get more camping gas, so we could have cold beers at the end of the day.

Quite achievable really, well after being directed buy the locals from shop to shop for most of the morning and still no camping gas, it was decided to have a rest from the gas and head into Athens to buy a new lens. We parked our van in the very special spot in the heart of Athens and went looking for directions to the camera shops.

Everyone is very helpful and wants to do their best, ,evan if they have no clue, and we spent some time getting sent again in many different directions, finally finding the area where the camera shops are only to find them shut. No problem, we figured they were probably closed for a late lunch and would be back later, not so. They all close at lunch on Mondays, so still camera lens and still no gas and still in Athens!

We decided to push onto Delphi hoping that we would find gas along the way and also keeping our fingers crossed we could find a lens in  Greeces second largest town – Thessalonaki.

On the way to Delphi we were following a truck that had our gas, but it didn’t stop, by this stage we were resigning ourselves to a campground to plug into power to cool the beer, we were hoping that our back up stove didn’t run out of gas either!

We were merrily driving along when David skidded on the brakes did a u-turn, pulling up at some random run down shop which looked to me to be a junk shop, but low and behold, it had gas! Cheap to, yeah hah. Onwards to Delphi.

In the words of ‘Lets Go Europe’ “…this stunning mountain top sanctuary of the Oracle of Delphi’ and it was. Perched at around 700m on the edge of mountain, the town although geared towards tourists, had a relaxed and charming feel to it. Free camping was out of the question quite simply because of the geography and lack of space.

So we camped in a neat little place about 2 km out of town on the cliff face and with stunning views and took the opportunity to catch up on chores like washing, cleaning the van and cleaning ourselves, with something other than the solar shower. Pulling up at beaches jumping into the cold water and then taking turns under the solar shower has proven to be an entertaining affair for the locals.

The Greeks love the beach and so finding somewhere not crowded has proven to be a little difficult, but they are great people. They seem to find David a little entertaining as well, shopping ventures often turning into comedy shows, while David trys to order olives, feta and other delicacies from the deli section. The language has been difficult , simple words are not so simple in Greece, our poor attempt not seeming to bother anyone, but rather causing more amusement.

From Delphi to Platamonas, via a quaint seaside town called Itea. Platamonas was a sleepy little town with some of the most ultra trendy cafes that would rival the best in Australia, far to trendy, for the likes of David and I.

We settled for a Gelati and a stroll down the main street, parking the van in the quaint little marina for the night. The next day we headed inland to Mt Olympus. To quote Lets Go Europe again “Erupting out of the Thermic Gulf, Mt Olympus, Greece’s highest peak, so mesmerized the ancients believed it to be the dwelling place of the pantheon. It was definitely stunning and well worth the trip, and I’m sure the views would have been spectacular, if it wasn’t for the rain.

From Mt Olympus to Thessalonika. Two goals in Thessalonika, get to the Romanian Embassy again, to see our Visas had been approved and buy a camera lens! After parking the van in a fairly random spot in this bustling, trendy town we headed to the Tourist Police, yep thats what they are called and there job is not to arrest us, but rather help us.

They pointed us in the general direction of the camera shops and told us not to bother with the Romanian Embassy as it was some Greek guy, in a nice house out of town, with a nice title, not to helpful and too hard to find, we took there advice, given our past experiences with Romanian Embassy. Not understanding a word of there directions to the camera shops we just headed into the busiest part of town to see what we could find.

Luck was on our side!!!

We chanced across a tiny little office on the second floor of a run down building, where they fixed cameras and gladly agreed to look at our broken lens and if possible fix it, all in less than 24 hours. Big yea-ha the next day when we went back the following day and for a mere 60 euros, they had fixed it for us, compared to a new one at around 400 euros.

They did point out that whoever looked at in Italy had put it back together wrong – David!!!  We think we got a parking ticket as well, but aren’t sure as it looks like a bunch of worms have crawled across the page, maybe it was just a warning o’well, nice free souvenir. We free camped one night just out of Thessalonki in a place called Epanomi.

Next stop Sarti on the Sithonia peninsular, another great beach side town, and another night free camping by the beach. We woke up on Saturday morning only to realise it was actually Friday morning. David made the executive decisions to race to Alexandrouplis to try to reach the post office by five and pick up our required special car insurance for Turkey, some 400kms, the first 100kms took 2 hours, through mountains winding roads. we made it in time only to find out that the post office closes at 2pm and wouldn’t be open again until Tuesday as Monday was a public holiday. Ouch.

Not finding any where we were comfortable free camping we bit the bullet and headed to a nice beach side campground within walking distance to town and resigned ourselves to 4 nights there. Alexandropulis was nice enough, but probably not a place we would have chosen to spend 4 nights, but luckily our German nieghbours at the campground had a great little white schnauzer.

By Tuesday morning we were well rested and a little antsy to get moving, after great debate we decided to get some TLC for our trusty van before heading into Turkey, as well try for our Insurance. No luck with the insurance, to stay we were a little cheesed with the insurance company is a fair understatment. We had explained to them in detail before leaving the UK our situation and they had promised all the help we needed.

By now it had been two weeks since letting them know our dates for being in Turkey and we had already burnt up one of our four weeks insurance, waiting for our insurance. We had told the we were happy to pay extra for registered mail as well and they still sent it through the normal system. the post office in Alexandrouplis had told it should only take 4-5 days from the UK.

Not wanting to waste any more time we decided to head for the Turkish border, hearing that we may be able to buy insurance there, but not before getting the van some TLC.

The wonderful Greek people came through again, a young guy at the service station changing our oil for the cost of the oil on the spot, then a bloke repaired and refitted our muffler for 40 euros, its lost that sporty, throaty sound, but now purrs like a kitten and the guy at the Renault service place greasing the universal joint on the front wheel that the busted rubber boot covers  for a mere 2.50 euros.

To the border. Turns out we can buy insurance, ouch 4 days in Alexandrouplis!!! A mere 38 euros for 30 days, compared to 105 pounds for 4 weeks from the insurance company, very cheesed at the insurance company.

Besides all the paper work and having to show our passports for what felt like a thousand times the border crossing was smooth and easy, we were excited to finally be in Turkey a destination high on both our lists. Border crossing wasn’t as easy for the Greeks, given the history and bad blood between the two countries, they were being made to empty out there entire vehicles, we we were basically being waved through.

As soon as we were through the border, it started raining torrentially, but onwards we pushed to our first stop, Gallipoli. We free camped out of the main area at a spot overlooking ANZAC Cove and spent most of the next day wondering around the area.

It was a moving experience for both of us and far outweighed anything we had experienced in our travels. The Turks are great people, and we feel very welcome here. While at a memorial site in Gallipoli, about a dozen school boys surrounded the car, excited to meet us and welcoming us to there country, it was a little overwhelming but very sweet, they gave us a gift of a full bag of plums to welcome us to their country.

We have only been hear two nights but have already had many wonderful experiences. Being waved at, old guys randomly coming up to the car, while we’ve been stopped at lights to tell us they have children in Australia, the list of kindness is already extensive.

More to come soon.

Take it easy,

Mel & David

On Tour 4

On Tour 4

David 21/2/05

Well we have had some fun over the last week or so. We managed to score about 4 nights free accommodation on a 35 ft Halberg Rassey, with a guy named Bill. It turns out Bill is a retired Nuclear Engineer. Still haven’t been able to figure out why he wanted to hang out with us.

Last Saturday we scored a days work with the eccentric cinematographer. Unfortunately we did not get paid but we did get to go diving for the day. There is a bloke out here named Mauricio Handler who is a world famous underwater photographer, he was conducting a 5 day intense course on underwater digital photography. He was charging about US$1700. The nature of the work was really interesting. Melanie was an underwater model for the day and I had to hold the underwater light for all of the dives. Now this was no ordinary light, it was a US$16000. HMI (halogen something Incandescent) that was connected to a generator on the back of the dive boat( Alby was a bit nervous given as a rule electricity and water don’t tend to mix).

There were 8 photographers and approximately US$100,000. worth of cameras housings & strobes. we did 3 dives on a wreck called The Rhone. For its age even though it is broken in to 2 pieces it is quite well preserved. We did not get to see a lot though, as Melanie had to hold the model pose and I had to shine the US$16000 light on her.

We did however see enough to know it is worth going back to dive properly. The next day Sunday we were invited out on a 26ft centre console with a 140 hp 4 stroke Johnson. with Ed, the bloke that owns the Virgin Queen, a local bar & restaurant.

We left from a place called Sopers Hole, apparently a famous pirate lair, on the West end of Tortola and headed for a place called Coral Bay on the Island of St John, part of the US Virgin Islands. We went to the US on the sly as the other guy with us Jerry was kinda on the run from his recently divorced wife, I can only guess that he was avoiding some sort of payout and if we checked in USVI he might get flagged. Coral bay is a bit of a hippy hang out and we had lunch at a bar named skinny legs. After lunch at skinny legs we headed for Norman Island and a bay called the bight. Norman Island is believed to be the island that Treasure Island was written about. The locals still believe there is a lot of treasure buried there!

The Bight at Norman Island is also the home of the Famous (out here) Willie T’s floating bar and restaurant. It is kind of wild and has a reputation for encouraging young girls to strip naked and jump from the top deck in exchange for a Willie T’s T shirt. While this did not actually happen while we were there, we only stayed for 2 drinks, I kind of have the feeling it probably happens fairly regularly. We didn’t stay there long I think mainly because Ed our intrepid host fell off his boat and got soaked. It was not a particularly warm day and we retreated to another land based bar in the same bay named Pirates. This place was magic, right on a beach that matches exactly what I imagined a classic Caribbean Beach to look like, complete with palm trees leaning out over the water and only accessible by water.

After another couple of drinks there it was back to Sopers and home to the sleazy Sea View Hotel for an early night. We have a job interview tomorrow at Moorings (the biggest charter Co. in the region) for a job down at St Lucia. Sound promising Rocket says she has a good feeling.

22/2/05 PM

Well we had the first interview at 10.00 am and got invited back for the 2nd interview at 3.00pm. It turns out there are 2 jobs going down island as the locals say.

Mel – Laura who conducted the interviews told David that he would have to get a hair cut to fit in with the Moorings ‘image’, but given we are going to be down island I have a plan!! They are on boats based in a place called Canouan which is part of the Windward Island Group.

Apparently it is a bit of a Moorings outpost and fairly remote. One job is on a boat that stays in that region and the other is on a boat that spends 6 months down there and 4 months at he Abocos in the Bahamas. We have indicated interest in the job that is split between the Bahamas and the Windward Island mainly because it has an earlier start date.

The boat we would be working on is a 47 ft Cat (not sure what type yet) less than a year old apparently well maintained with air conditioning, Gen set and all the bells and whistles. We would have approx. 2 months in Canouan before taking the boat to the Bahamas, a trip of approx. 1500 miles that we would have 3 weeks to do, mainly reaching in 15 to 20 Knot NE trades, should be fun. Anyway we find out for sure if we have got it on Friday. Keep your fingers crossed!

Just an observation boats are generally cheap here. Good place to buy then sail home. Talking of buying it looks like we wont be following up on the Pearson 28 even though it has checked out is being pretty sound as if we get the job we wont need a boat of our own.

More soon

David & Mel

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