Turkey (all in one)

22 Jul

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We got into Turkey and a man was waiting with a sign with my name on it. He wisked us away to this place called Kiyikoy for 4 nights, we ate this every night at this amazing place set up on a hill looking over the beach. Very local no tourists and just men drinking strong black tea and playing backgammon. As they say in Turkish is was “Super!”

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I dropped a knee at this spot. How could you say no.

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Sarah at Spot X.

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Sunrise from our room.

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We went to a restaurant to celebrate and asked for champagne. I don’t think the man had ever opened a bottle before, he shook it and it spraked erry where. Party. Party.

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We then went to Istanbul to meet the crew we were going to drive around the seaside with. Steff, Red and Casey Jo, what a team. All fresh faced from various little adventures morphng together into one.

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The first night we ate at this guys place. We ate there purely because he had a photo of him with Russell Crowe. He was very proud of it. We were so happy to meet him and get a photo of him holding a photo of him withRussell Crowe.

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This guy was HUGE and used to be a big deal in college football he told us. His name was Mac.

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Revolution was in the air inIstanbul so we headed to the epicentre in Taksim Square. Everyone was having a big party and chanting and stuff. I think we were lucky to be there on a day that the teargas wasn’t flowing!!!

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Early morning at the Blue Mosque there were lots of birds plying about, we bumped into some locals off to morning pray, I don’t think they liked the look of us.

 

Various Istanbul……..

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All these fellas ready for afternoon prayer in a alley way facing Mecca.

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Riot Starter!!!

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Turkish coffee, strong and sweat.

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Istanbul goes on for ever and ever.

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Old boys sit on the bridge all day catching sprats and drinking tea. Everything involves tea. If they could I am sure they would be playing backgammon too.

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I think we all ate 7 times our body weight in ekmec (bread) while in Turkey, it is just so good. Tim put back on all the weight he lost in Turkey and then some in the 4 weeks.

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The sky line is dominated by mosques all over the country, the thin turrets have speakers which blast out the call to prayer 5 times a day resonnating over the whole country.

We then got into our rental car and shot up to Galibolu, as must be down. It is a amazing place. It is so hard to imagine all that went down there. All the Turkish people know what has happened and when you say you are from NZ they say “Ah, ANZAC”, we got the impression they have a lot of respect for all those that have come as we read “from the uttermost ends of the earth”. The museum there is worth the trip alone, it filled us ignorant kiwis in on what our brave forefathers went through.

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At the Turkey memorial we bumped into some Turkish soliders who looked pretty menacing.

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It was then down the coast stopping along the way for 2 ish weeks. To sum up the trip you could say Efes (beer), Ekmek (bread), olives, tomatoe, cucumber and various meats. All mixed together with Raki, tea and coffee.

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Mumma, a lovely lady.

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Campo (the red fox) found his natural environment.

 

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We then flew into Cappadocia which was out of this world. Sarah and I went up in a baloon one morning and some went horse riding and motor bike riding. It is the Queenstown on Turkey……adventures everywhere. And the cultural night is very special too. Lots of Raki and dancing.

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We had e few more nights in Istnbul before flying out. We had a Turkey themed engagement party sorry if you didn’t get your invite in time. But me tried to make enough noise for everyone who couldn’t be there……..oh yeah go to Turkey it is banging.

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Amristar to Mumbai and the last hurrah

14 Jul

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We were planning to catching the local bus to Amristar but the dredded belly caught up with us (…Tim) and public transport wasn’t a good idea. We made it though and were confronted by a HOT town full of men in turbans (more so than usual) and a Golden Temple. Amristar is the “Mecca” of the Sikh religion and full of men wearing turbans and generally orange cotton.

The temple itself is inside a marble building that gets cleaned by volunteers with Ghee (clarified butter) so smells of microwave popcorn which was awesome. We found the people here to be amazingly friendly, this was tipified by the food hall at the Golden Temple which evey day of the year opens its doors three times a day and feeds who ever want to come in for a feed. Sitting on the floor with around 1000 people we got floor service of rice, dhal and pudding. It was also quite possibly the best dhal we had had on the entire trip, we had had a lot of dhal by this time too. Everyone around us was friendly and amused at our struggles to cross our legs on the floor.

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Turbans and saris.

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Some Sikh kids chilling at the waters edge surrounding the Golden Temple.

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What do Indian’s have for breakfast?…….This and it is banging!!! I dream of this and wake up salivating.

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Amristar is on the boarder with Pakistan. India hates Pakistan. So everyday at sundown when the boarder closes Indians in India and Pakis in Pakistan come out to voice how superior they are to the other. What also takes place is a bizaar stomping marching stand of involving the tallest most athletic looking Indian men and women we had seen in our entire trip.

The tall, slender, attractive Indian army personnel authoritarily ushered us into the grandstands (there are about 10,000 people that show up each day everyday of the year) and if you were to step out of line they would run after the culperate and punch them on the back bloody hard, only a few men stepped outta line once they saw the consequences. But once in the compound us being foreigners were treated as royalty and guided into the foreigner area, right at the front!! We felt sort of bad when talking to locals heading out who were unable to get to the local area which was full to the brim.

The Indian officers then stomped the shit out of the ground nearly kicking themselves in the head opposing the Pakistanian officers doing the same thing for about 20 minutes, thenlowered the flags, shook hands briefly and forcefully for a second and then event was over. It was amazing!! For anyone who knows the Monty Python – Ministry of Silly Walks skit, this is a surprisingly accurate parallel.

 

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Stomping in great get ups, does it get better?

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Crowd control in great outfits, it just got better!!

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A man who demands respect (on the left).

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MO!!!!

 

That is really the end of the trip, we shot back to Mumbai for a few days but the Indian belly kept us out of the streets for most of that time. Namaste India it was a blast. 10 weeks and we only got around a quarter, we’ll be back sometime, sooner rather than later.

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Delhi to Dharamasla

10 Jun

Delhi suprised us. Despite the bad press around its over-population and pollution we found that the roads were wide and orgainsed (relatively speaking of course), there was a modern metro and pockets of lush greenery.

However, some may say our view was distorted by the fact we were housed at the NZ High Commision thanks to a friend’s parents. An oasis really. And OUR oasis for 4 nights.

We did have a few outings – below is a few snaps from Old Delhi.

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Downtown old Delhi. These chaps were stoked with their purchase of an old satellite.

 

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Trips in Delhi were short, sharp and too the point…….with temperatures pushing the high 40’s not much was possible and with the large, refreshing pool awaiitng us at the High Commission compound we found ample excuses to return to the compound. The excuses mounted and we ended up not really leaving, hence the lack of pictures.

 

To escape the heat we went decided to head to the village of Dharamasla (more specifically McLeod Ganj), the home of exiled Tibetan and Buddish leader His Holiness the Dali Lama, and many Tibetan refugees. Situated in Himal Pradesh at the base of the Himilayas, it is seen as a place where rich Indians go to escape the heat and also home of “hippies” finding themselves and doing yoga. There was amazing food especially Tibetan, which was a nice change from the usual Indian Thali (not complaining at all, in my last few days in India we were main lining curry all day, erry day). There were awesome walks and visiting the home of the Dali Lama and learning more of the hardships of the Tibetan people, who somehow manage to remain happy given the circumstances they are having to deal with was amazing (the waiter at our restaurant had to walk for more than a week over the Himilayas to get into India, all at night time (to avoid Chinese boarder control) with no equipment and knowing that you will never be able to go home or else risk getting thrown in jail).

 

There was even a river that wasn’t dirty and you could swim in!!!

 

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Make sure.

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Swimming is just great. Me so happy.

Taj Mahal

26 May

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A long time ago a man had a wife and she died, he remarried and then she died, he then remarried and had 14 children with her. He then built the Taj after she too died for he loved her so much. It took 22 years and was finished in 1653, we know this because of all the symmetry in the building that our guide pointed out to us. Oh the symmetry!! Did you know is looks the same from all four sides?

 

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Our guide was also a part time photographer. Or maybe he was one in his previous life as he stole my camera and ran around taking photos and directing us throughout the tour.

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For all you Royal fans out there you should recognise this photo. The Lady Di photo in all it’s glory. Better looking models though.

This is the LAdy Di photo as you can tell we make the whole thing better.

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Taj, we have many more photos if you are interested thanks to Ragu. Cheers mate it was great.

 

Varanasi

26 May

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On first sight of the river Ganga (or Ganges as us western folk call it) we were suprised by how clean and peaceful it looked. Tim even said he would be prepared to swim in it. On closer inspection this would change.

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It was hot here. In the day everyone hid inside drinking chai and listening to reruns of cricket. From dusk to dawn everyone came out for a row on the river and a bath and a social gathering and a brushing of a teeth in the Ganga and a eating of the street food (roasted nuts are a favourite) and a everything else imaginable.

IMG_5648In Varanasi we became the three muskateers as can be seen in this photo L to R Tim, Olivia and Sarah.

Actually that man on the left is not Tim but infact the Son of Mr Frank (Mr Frank was a rich American who had come to India to die and now gave the Son of Mr Frank (I forget his real name) US$60,000 to live at his house he also helps him with US$3,000 per month in pension, this is what we were learned through out the day as he drove us from place to place).

The Son of Mr Frank knew all the best spots including this fine drinking establishment that later in the evening turned into a brothel we were led to understand. It was so homely with the red Betel Nut spit stains on the wall from its respected patrons.

Olivia was actually infact our third muskateer. Not Son of Mr Frank.

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We went out for a sunrise and a sunset on the Ganga in a row boat. Rising at 4 am we made it down just in time to see Mr Sun poke his head up and say hello. Early in the morning there is a calm over the place that was awesome. Everyone is down on the ghates (steps leading into the water) praying and cleaning getting ready for the day ahead.

 

As Varanasi is regarded by the Hindu as an extremely holy place people pilgrim here from everywhere to bathe in the Ganga. So there is a continuous stream of people down to the water especially in the morning and evening times when the temperatures are not so intense and unbearable.

This is some of what we saw from the water.

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As noted earlier the roasted nuts were pretty good. This little sucker tried to steal mine.

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I don’t know what the man in white facing this photo was saying to the man siting cross legged but it was pretty important and all his lads agreed.

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This is some deep shit.

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We left Varanasi bound for Agra and the Taj Mahal on a 12 hour over night sleeper train. Train travel in India is all about patience, tolerance, chai, people of no authority pointing you in random directions, being looked at and potato chips.

 

Chitwan National Park (south Nepal)

26 May

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We’re going on a bear hunt, and we’re not scared!! Well, actually, a rhino, tiger, sloth bear, monkey, deer hunt! Unfortunatly after 10 hour wallk in the jungle the closest we came to the more exciting animals listed above was fresh dung (that our guide assured us was from a tiger). At this time of the year the grass is head hight which made animal spotting particularly difficult.

We later found out that the same day of our walk there had been a tiger attack at a nearby village – in which two people were killed. Front page news in the Kathmandu Times the next day. In retrospect, quite happy we didn’t find those tigers – particulary as our guide was armed only with a bamboo stick!

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Bambi – snapped! We also saw and heard a lot a barking deer, which as the name suggests, bark just like a dog.

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The day started with a canoe trip down the river which boarders the National Park. Plently of bird life down here, as well as elephant and rhino bathing.

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The surronding villages were perfect flat terrian for a spot of bike riding. The bikes cost around $2 each to rent for the whole day, absolute bargain, this even included a bell to greet our fellow riders.

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Quite possibly more elephants than cars in downtown Chitwan!

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Water buffalo grazing, can be mistaken for rhinos from a distance.

 

 

Knocking the bastard off!! The Annapurna Circuit

13 May

Very brief introduction for anyone who has not heard of the Annapurna Circuit – it is one of the world’s classic walks in the Himalayan mountain range in Nepal. It takes 2-3 weeks to complete, and is a very comfortable style of trekking! The trail is dotted with villages every hour or two and crazy fit Nepalise guides/porters are on hand to help.

We had an amazing time in the hills. It was cold. And clean. And the sky was blue every day and the hills were huge and followed us along the way every day.

 

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On our first day were introduced to the stunning Marsyangdi river which we followed for the first half of the trek.

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The start of the walk was very lush and green.

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Sooooo much wild dope along the side of the road! Our map even had a place of interest marked as “Feilds of marijuna”. We were most interested as the photo shows.

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Swing bridges are the business here when you need to make a crossing. No weight limit though – donkeys, yaks and people are all welcome at the same time.

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Our guide and general spirtual leader of life – Bhim. Had some classic quotes, “undue haste make a waste”, “act like a native”, “look at the message not the messanger” and “you cannot change these three things: the people, the places and the things”. He was also great at belting out a Nepalise folk song on the trail to keep us entertained – Nepal’s Got Talent needs to meet this man!

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Dhal Bhat power, 24 hour. This is the staple (or should I say ONLY meal) for Nepalise people. Two of these twice a day and they are happy chappys. The price of a dhal bhat was also a good way to track the altitude inflation on food / drinks every few hundred meters the price would creep up some more. Eco101. This is also a very fancy looking one, usually the amount of rice increased and the thickness of the soup was much less.

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Cuppa tea and a view.

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The family (love the toddler helping out on the right) preparing land for some potatoes to be planted. Potatoes are the key ingredient after rice in the Dhal Bhat (see above).

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Giving the light in a Monestary. I prayed to Budda for blue skies.

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Acting like a native in motion.

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Glaciers carved out this incredible steep rock face. A geologists dream.

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Tibeatan prayer wheels lined the main road in most villages and were a nice tradition to take part in. Also, note the porter carrying a bag twice his size to the right. Wow.

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Yak attack! The alternative to walking over the pass was to ride one of these beasts. Tim reckons a Yak Steak is a tasty alternative to beef.

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Eagle taking in the stunning mountain view.

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Hard core Nepalise kids walking a few kilometers to school.

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Behind us is a typical village. We would usually start walking at 7am and arrive by 2pm at the latest so there was plently of time for pots of tea / hot chocolate and cards by the fire at one of the guesthouses.

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View from one of our rooms, the sun is shining on Annapurna IV.

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Chandra Pandra! This is our porter, he was a great chap. Always happy – especially when he was kicking our ass at cards.

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Hanging out at High Camp the day before the Throng La Pass.

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Ecstatic to reach the pass, first tourists up here at 7am after a 4.45am kick off!

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And then down, down, down we go. For 1,600m. Sorry about that knees.

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The landscape just kept changing everyday, this side of the pass was extremly barren. Except for a dorky trekking tourist – not much other life.

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This village – Kagbeni – appeared like a mirage of green paradise. From here we cheated and got a jeep ride to city of Pokhara, where we were greeted with cold beer and pizza.