Archives for May 2014

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Bosnia

30th May 2014 Bosnia is a pretty country from what we saw of it, which was only the hundred and fifty or so K’s it took to get us to Dubrovnik in Croatia. We did pass a still active mine field near Foca, the scene of some atrocities. My language skills in Russian are gradually being reawakened, never great at the best of times, I became excited when I read a sign at a fast food outlet proclaiming piroshky, a kind of Russian pasty with various fillings of, say, savoury mince, or sauerkraut, that I love. Alas in Bosnia it means chicken roll. A total of five hours was spent in Bosnia. As we crossed the Bosnian border the officer let us pass without any formalities whatsoever. I asked do we need a stamp in the passport? His reply do you want one? My reply do I need one his no!

 

 

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Montenegro

23rd May 2014 Our first day in Montenegro gave us even more beauty as we circumnavigated Lake Shkodra. Our route took us through Podgorica, the capital where we saw King Nicola’s summer palace and then on via an ancient village (can’t remember the name and it isn’t on a map) as we headed for the coast. This village wasn’t a tourist attraction, in fact it was pretty much deserted except for ourselves as we explored the nooks and cranneys of the age-old houses and basilica. Then a mountainous road rollercoastering from lakeside to mountaintop. Now camped on the shore of the Adriatic at Ulcinj.

25th May 2014 Yesterday afternoon arrived at Vesla camping ground on the north western shore of Montenegro. The gate was closed but did open when I tried it and we went in. There was a Polish couple already camped there and they were most welcoming even though we had invaded their privacy. This camping area is almost operational with clean toilets, power and water but no shower, our solar douche at the ready. This campsite is a peninsula with a rocky coastline but accessible for swimming and we will do some R&R here as sunny weather is in plentiful supply.

26th May 2014 Breakfast and Peter the Pole brings us some sheep milk and cheese that was given to him by his local friend. I couldn’t believe it was from a sheep and upon further interrogation determined it to be goat and very good it is, the milk tasting like full cows milk and the cheese a mild, slightly lemony flavour. Later in the morning an elderly fellow we met yesterday, known as the American Pirate (He lived in America and has an eye patch, aka Milan) came over for a chat and stayed all morning just as the owner of the camp, Mladin, arrived with grappa or raki for all. This was just before lunch and now we are all very happy. The beauty of raki is, so I’m told, that it can be made out of just about anything. To give you an idea of what raki tastes like: I offered The Pirate a smell of my methylated spirits canister and I immediately detected a glimmer of recognition in his eyes and a developing smile before telling him he could not drink it as it is a poison. Later we will have a swim and then go and visit The Pirate at his house.

If you are a builder read the following paragraph. Mladin has built an apartment/development, still incomplete but aesthetically quite pleasing, just down the road. The entire building is concrete i.e. pitched roof, balustrades and even what would be the timber crossmembers of the pergolas. This thing will still be here in a thousand years time. A young lady has just wandered up from the water in an itsy bitsy tiny weeny white no polkadot bikini and stiletto’s. The scenery here is easy on the eye. I think we have ended up in millionaires row or the French Riviera. The Pirate has entertained us and showed us around the neighbourhood and very agreeable it is as the coast provides secluded coves which double as private swimming pools that we can also use. One house belongs to someone from L.A. another a Russian and another belongs to a Montenegrin government minister. We have the campsite and two beaches to ourselves now. I think we’ll stay another day. Judy has just badgered me into trying our solar shower, which she has taken down to the rock pools, by telling me It will be the best shower you will ever have. Well the water was nice and hot and the scenery satisfactory to someone showering in the nutty. As Judy photographed she intimated that some of the photos might have to be cropped. She was right, as usual, about the shower and the photos. The campfire is now lit.

28th May 2014 Yesterday visited Perast, the Venice of Montenegro, a beautiful and historic village on the shore of the Adriatic (It is actually a huge inlet, with no name that I can find) before settling in for the night at Autocamp Naluka, right beside a small river, feeding the ducks and geese.DSC09868 DSC09864 In the morning, after a heavy deluge I was up at the camp office trying to download a map when Dushan, the proprietor arrived with a, yep you guessed it, a grappa/raki, it must be a Montenegrin custom, and then another when Jude arrived. Jude was given a lemon raki. Drove east up to the mountain area, at about 1500 metres above sea level hoping to see the most spectacular gorge in Europe tomorrow.We had just found a camping area when eight bikers arrived looking for lodging. The proprietor, Misha, invited us all down for a present. Yep you guessed it, grappa/raki and also coffee. So we all sat out in the very cool open and got acquainted. After a while it wasn’t so cool after all. We are all regrouping later for an evening meal that Misha’s Mother is preparing.

29th May 2014 I wasn’t given a raki till 4pm, what’s this place coming to? We started today by visiting the most spectacular gorge in Europe, The Tara gorge, named after our daughter. This gorge is gorgeous and along the way found Archangel Michael’s Monastery, named after me.

We then proceeded high into the mountains above the snow line at times on a 4×4 road which presented only one challenge for our Troopy in the form of a rock fall that we had been told about back in Zabljak. Troopy passed the test. Montenegro is a boutique country, so compact and striking. We are fast running out of Methylated spirits (denatured alcohol), which we use for our stove, and can’t find any for sale. In desperation I lit some raki to see if it could be used as a substitute but to my surprise it would not ignite.

30th May 2014 Three countries in one day. Started the day in Montenegro after a cold, rainy night in freezing conditions (we were snug with bacon and eggs for breako at the camp restaurant), and drove way up into the snow country in the morning before pushing along the Tara gorge carrying the Piva River toward Bosnia-Hercegovina. From Pluzine we went through sixty-eight tunnels over a distance of twenty-seven kilometres, that’s 2.5 tunnels /kilometre, it was spectacular, entering Bosnia at about 12.30pm.

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Albania

18th May 2014 Entered Albania believing it to be a poor and backward place but so far it isn’t at all. Our camping area welcomed us with coffee and a floral arrangement. The amenities among the best we have seen, and at a reasonable price. Albanians are very friendly, surprisingly, I haven’t seen anyone with white hair and pink eyes, supermarkets well stocked, ATM’s with both Euros and Lek’s (local currency). Lek is also the nickname of our middle daughter so we had to come here.

 

19h May 2014 We visited the ruins today. Not the ancient ones but the modern ones. In fact so modern that they haven’t even been completed yet. They are illegal buildings that the police have demolished or at least half demolished, with slabs left remaining at eccentric angles, steel reinforcement jutting up and demented staircases just like an Escher sketch (not Etch A Sketch), all left unfenced for the children to play in.

 

Motored inland to see a natural spring bubbling up out of a mountain along with four bus loads of high school students complete with western “attitude”. The scale of it is what makes it worth seeing, it is huge, and it issues crystal water that makes the river hues, a blue the colour of Zanzibar’s beaches. We then motored further inland to see some more conventional ruins at Gjirokastra and if you can pronounce that you must be an Albanian.

Now camped at Kranea near Himara at a beach camping area along with twenty or so Germans with their mobile homes (tag along tour). They are a happy bunch and know how to produce a barrel of beer when necessary.

20th May 2014 Albanian campgrounds are a cut above, with ultrasonic guided soap dispensers, electronic hand driers and marblesque tiling that appears to be sterilised. The back roads are a little dodgy but supermarkets do take Visa card and no toll on their motorway.

Apparently Albania is the biggest exporter of cannabis in Europe. I do see a hell of a lot of black Mercs and BMW’s on the roads.

Throughout Albania there are many mushroom like structures of varying sizes. These bunkers were built by their President, Hoxha, during their fifty years as a closed Communist country, to repel an imaginary threat and they are indestructible and unremoveable. No other use for them has been thought of as yet.

 

22nd May 2014 Over the last couple of days we have visited the old towns of Berat and Kruje both of which have a castle at the top of the hill, cobble stone streets, three hundred year old houses and a bazaar. These old castles are still inhabited, having village sized populations, so you can walk around and see life in progress more or less as it were two or three hundred years ago, they could be called ethnological museums.

Now camped at Lake Shkodra Resort Camping area, which is to be recommended, right on Lake Shkodra.

Drove into town (Shkodra) in the morning to look around. The lovely old section of the town found us at an exhibition of old photographs dating from the 1850’s (the Marubi family) showing Albanian traditional clothing and customs, images such as chieftains armed to the teeth with curved swords and daggers or tribal wedding ceremonies. The quality of these photo’s rival anything we can take on our schmick digital job. See analogue ain’t so bad!

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Greece

8th May 2014 Entered Greece with no problems. Got a stamp in the passport, which is illegible, no charge.

We have been free camping for the last two nights on beaches and will reach Athens tomorrow.

9th May 2014 Arrived at Marathon on the outskirts of Athens looking for suitable camping when Judy spotted a waterfront café area suitable for lunch. At the yeros shop we got to talking to the proprietor, Takis, who was very appreciative when I recommended the restaurant to some passing tourists ten per cent off. I enquired about the surrounding islands and he suggested Andros booking office a few shops down, just mention my name and here we are at 4pm with our car loaded on sailing to the Greek Isles. Throughout the afternoon we kept on bumping into Takis at the waterfront and in town, quite by chance. We are best mates now. Isn’t it funny how things work out sometimes?

Athens will have to wait.

Berthed at Andros at 7.30pm and on disembarkation stopped to study our map. A local fellow on a bicycle stopped to ask if we needed help, camping? we asked. I am the camping man he answered and directed us to his campsite where on arrival we chose a suitable area. As I reversed into one of the spots the car suddenly went down at the back, as if in a pothole, that I hadn’t noticed. I checked to find that the earth had swallowed my rear, driver’s-side wheel, down to the axle with the wheel hanging in mid air and, looking down into the void, it was very deep. I thought perhaps it was an old ruin that had suddenly given way. With the help of the winch we were able to easily pull it out to find that what we had fallen into was indeed a well some four metres deep to the water level, well, well, well !

11th May 2012 Happy Mother’s Day!

12th May 2014 For the last two days we have been drifting around the island stopping for lunch at small villages and free camping on deserted beaches in the evenings. Greece has been the easiest place so far to be able to free camp but yesterday afternoon we really had to work to get to our spot. A very steep and winding 4k descent to find our beach, but worth it. There was a house down there that we thought was unoccupied but later turned out to be lived in by an old man to whom we spoke later, and although he didn’t speak any English, was friendly and welcoming.

Andros is everything you imagine in a Greek isle, turquoise waters, white pebble beaches, little white churches propped up on hillsides, little white villages propped up on hillsides and little white farmhouses propped up on hillsides.

The Mediterranean is only slightly more wild than a lake, has minimal tides and only 0.4 of a shark attack per year so its good for gentle swimming and snorkelling.

Met a British expat who lives on the island and tells me the Mediterranean can get really wild.

Acropolis

Acropolis

Papadopolis

Papadopolis

16th May 2014 Athens is quite a pleasant city the Acropolis and changing of the Greek guard a must see. Spent one day more than we meant to organise our third                                                                                                                  party green card                                                                                                                      “Travel notes”

17TH May 2014 The motorway tolls here are exorbitant and there are many of them. Today I paid AUD $20 to cross a bridge, all be it a very nice one but the Sydney Harbour Bridge it ain’t which is only $4.00 max. Signs are non existent and you end up on a motor way that you can’t get off for 30Ks and then have to turn back on the same motorway and pay another toll to get back to square one. Also the tollgates are spaced so that you have to pay your toll and are then committed to the next stretch of motorway before you can exit to an alternative road, which sometimes does not exist. Some of the tollways are just one lane secondary roads anyway, so what am I paying for?

The very first tollgate in Greece had an encamped protest next to it but we didn’t understand. Now we do. I’m funding the Greek financial recovery.

So, now that I’ve had my primal scream, we are camped in Ooranos, this is literally, Greek for “heaven”, Judy say’s I’m repeating myself.

A spot by the sea, indescribable beach, water, sky, clouds, everything. Best place yet, Judy say’s I’m repeating myself.

It is worth every penny of the motorways and we will mosey on up along the coast through Albania and Croatia because of this beauty.

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Turkey

 9-15th April 2014 Got out of Hatay airport, 40k from Iskenderun, our destination, at 10.30 pm with no booking for a hotel room. What to do? Well catch a bus into town and find a luxury hotel room for the price of a regular one, and discounted at that. I love Turkey already. People most friendly, helpful and not asking for a tip the whole time and the following is an example. The bus driver knew we didn’t have accommodation so he asked the passengers to help. An English speaking fellow translated, the bus driver rang ahead, we were met at the bus stop by a hotel employee, ATM’s galore (unguarded), got some money, short walk to the hotel.

16th April 2014 In the light of day Iskenderun is a delightful and modern seaside city surrounded by mountains, comparable at the very least to anything at home. Our car arrives tomorrow.

So far everything has worked out well for us considering the doubts about travelling any further north than Kenya. Some travellers did turn back but we have certainly been rewarded in persevering with our original plan. But, I had better not speak too soon as our car isn’t off the RO-RO yet.

17th April 2014 The formalities were completed with no problems but it took 8 ½ hours as our car was the last vehicle off the ferry. Got back to the hotel at 11pm.

Some items missing from the car. A springbok skin, Judy’s glasses, my sunnies and a roll of tape, reported to the police as a matter of record. Our Hotel Manager, Bilsay Gundogan could not have been more helpful, coming with us to the Police station to act as interpreter.

The detectives took it seriously enough to serve us numerous cups of sweet, Turkish tea and then driving us to the correct crime section.

18th April 2014 Drove most of the day on excellent motorways through pretty countryside. Turkey is a modern country with plenty of petrol stations, service centres, good internet and spotlessly clean.

19th April 2014 Woke up in Goreme, Cappadocia the land of Fairy Chimneys. These are volcanic (according to pamphlet. Looks like sedimentary to me) needles that have been burrowed out, in which people live. These structures surround the village and a unique scene it is. I have never seen anything like it and we will explore later, possibly by balloon.

Apparently the chimneys are both volcanic and sedimentary.

We are ensconced at the Panorama camp that, as the name suggests, looks over the entire valley.

Very windy today, no balloon flights.

20th April 2014 Balloons booked out due to the previous flight cancellations and took a tour instead.

They did look spectacular from our camp sight in the early morning, all two hundred of them.

21st April 2014 Turkey is Turiffic. Drove south toward the coast and warmer climes over large plains, most of which are cultivated. With imposing snow covered mountain ranges in the distance we descended to the coast through some very spectacular country to arrive at Akcakil Camp right on the Mediterranean coast, where we camp on a white pebble beach (they are really just big grains of sand), ready to look at the many old castles on this piece of coastline. It is early morning and already it is swimming weather here as I write this blog so I will write no more.

Later in the morning, as we left the campsite, we almost noticed some quizzical looks that the gardener and some other people along the road were giving us, and upon entering the motorway a strange flapping noise notified us that we had forgotten to pull the roof down, which made us look like an over-the-top speedway racer with the airfoil on top. Talk about a red face. I did notice, though, that it did improve the car’s roadholding abilities. Might leave it up.

24th April 2014 We are camped under the walls of Mamure Castle amongst not only gum trees but also wattle and bottlebrush. Just waiting for the wallaby to pop up.

There were already a Portuguese couple at the camp, who are cycling around the world, when the German couple from Cappadocia arrived and then another Portuguese couple, walking to Jerusalem, arrived pulling buggies complete with pet dog, not walking but sitting on the box. There are many ways to skin a cat.

A walk around the immediate locality led us around this formidable castle (largest on the Mediterranean) that originated in Roman times and then on through market gardens, one of which had a stall with very large punnets of mulberries and strawberries on offer. We took one of each but the stallholder would not accept any money.    I love Turkey.                     Gozleme for lunch.

25th April 2014 Anzac Day Lest we forget.

Tara emailed to us, as she called them, a plate of virtual Anzac biscuits. When I saw them I could taste them. Now what about the Anzac breakfast i.e. mashed potato and sausage?

We only motored for about 130 K’s today through winding, sea cliff roads with brunch at an eagle’s nest of a restaurant, ending at the very large tourist resort, Alanya. It is A1 as these places go and we have found a spot to stay overnight right by the Mediterranean shore in a nature reserve, overlooking the grand hotels and marinas. Camping is permitted.

We notice that there are a lot of signs here in Russian and when you look at the map you see it could well be a Russian tourist destination.

26th April 2014 Kind of stumbled upon Cirali. We are wild camped on the coast, a beach, which promises a geological freak in the form of flames issuing from the side of a mountain and to our left mount and village of Olympos (not Greece), complete with many archaeological offers such as necropoli, sarcophagi, Roman bath, theatre, crypt etc.

Tonight listening to a wedding across the road with live Turkish music, and these guy’s are good, complete with fireworks.

I love Turkey.

27th April 2014 Not disappointed with either of the above and ended up at the seaside town of Kas. The camping ground we were looking for was not open and we were directed to a horseshoe shaped cove with high cliffs all around on the edge of town. Several small shanty type of restaurants here and so I went into one to enquire about the camping. No problem and no charge the proprietor of one of the shanties, told me, but not only is the shower cold but it is also alfresco in full view of the beach. Oh well the price is right.

28th April 2014 Fantastic calcium deposits and pools at Pamukkale. Met a Dutch and Ukrainian couple at Tepes camp, a spectacular, mountain high, sleepover. We also re-met the next day, by chance, on the Med coast so we had to call ourselves Club Med.

2nd May 2014 I’ve been ruined.   No more ruins we said but just had to see Troy and yes the wooden horse is still there in amazingly good shape. The history and feature of every building there are presented in great detail but the legend of the Trojan horse is not even mentioned. We are getting so scrambled with knowledge e.g. Judy suggested we go and see a place we already saw two days ago.

Last night we stayed at Bates’s Motel (Psycho) meets the Hound of the Baskervilles     creeeeeeeepy     complete with run down amusement park next door, dogs howling, footsteps in the night etc.

Today drove up toward Gallipoli or Gelibolu, as it is called here, right along the Dardanelles, quite a narrow channel maybe 6k’s wide, very nice, wondering if there were a car ferry across to Gallipoli from Lapseki. I could not believe it. Arrived, turned left to the gate, paid AUD$15, on to the ferry, ½ hour, Gallipoli.

Couldn’t find Anzac Cove. That’s because it’s 40k south.

Now free camped on a beach 1k south of Anzac cove, looking into the sunset.

We found out the next day that camping is not permitted but nobody said anything to us.

I love Turkey.

3rd May 2014 Visited the places we have heard about every Anzac Day such as Lone Pine, The Nek, Chunuk Bair and saw the daunting terrain to give us both a new insight into this baptism of fire for Australia. A huge amount of Turks also visit this site, as it was a matter of survival for their country. They are magnanimous people.

4th May 2014 Took the long way along the Gallipoli Peninsula coast to Istanbul, through small villages with narrow lanes, as the main road, all a very pleasant drive. Istanbul is a city of fourteen million (metro) and how different to Cairo. Beautiful, well-planned city with civilised traffic and this is just the first impression.

We are now camped on the waterfront in the middle of town enjoying some aperitifs after walking around some of the cobbled lanes in this immediate locale. Not quite sure if we are in Europe or Asia Minor. Explore tomorrow.

Just checked, Europe.

5th May 2014 Car service and looked around the old city, huge Medina type of market, followed by a tram ride to a terminus and back to get a feel for the place, ending with dinner at a kitcheny, hole in the wall kind of restaurant playing blues music. Istanbul is a gem.

6th May 2014 At the Turkish border exit booth the officer greeted me as Michelle even before the car stopped, this was a change from the Marko I had been called throughout Africa but still I wondered how he knew my name. I guess the plate number was entered in their computer. I had read a similar story in a traveller’s blog and I think it may be one of their clever little jokes. Later on I also thought about how the tollway cameras are NOT linked to their computer system as I had gone through quite a few electronic tolls with no Etag.

I had tried to get one, too hard.

We loved Turkey

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