Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Gloucester Cheese Run 2009

Date: Monday 25th May 2009
Location: Cooper's Hill near Brockworth, is four miles southeast of Gloucester
Event: Gloucester Cheese Run

The distance from Start to Finish is approximately 90 metres. Described as a hill, the term is loosely used. The better description is a cliff with the odd protruding clump of dirt and grass that gives the illusion of a slope.

We make the three hour journey down from Leeds and join the procession of bodies making the long hike through the fields and up the hill. A treacherous path is cut through the fields filled with knee high wild buttercups; lashing at bear legs... wire fences are tamed as the masses march on (exception being the by the women in mini skirts) ... nothing will stand in the way of the desire to reach the summit in time for the 12.00 first race! My Jandel tread is tested, as I lump my way up the vertical slope... grimacing as I pass the poor soles who’s Jandels have failed them and they slip back down the muddy embankments, arms flailing wildly. Mine stand me in good steed... no slippage at all!

The bottom of Coopers’s hill is a heaving mass of damp sweaty bodies, jostling to get a view, with many hundreds more, fighting through to get up Cooper, to stand in line awaiting the chance to fling themselves down in pursuit of the cheese!

Luke disappears... joining the pilgrimage up Cooper! The wait for his demise begins...
Tradition has it that the event is at least 200 years old, but in true Pom form as with their weird and wonderful traditions (others include nettle eating, and wearing hardly any clothes in freezing temperatures!) They really don’t have any idea why they do it. Like the dog that continues to chew the shoe... they just do!

Our struggle up the cliff is rewarded... soon a cylindrical block of Double Gloucester cheese is flung down the hill. The cheese is given a one second head start, and considering it reaches speeds of up to 112km/h seems hardly fair! Then the beasts are released! Much like the Spanish let bulls run madly down the streets once a year, the Poms let the crazed fling themselves down the ‘hill’ in hot pursuit of the rolling cheese!

Many an attempt is made to stay on feet as the contestants bolt, summersault, and contort down the hill. Gravity has the final say... and for those who by some miracle have managed to get back to their feet before the bottom, are faced with the local rugby team ready to tackle them at full force... (in order to stop them bottling it into the fence of course, not as practise for the up and coming season... at least that’s what the rumours). It looked to me that the better option was to surrender to the ‘hill’, than face the boys at the bottom!

Four hours later and many an ambulance less (probably not the best time), Luke’s body makes it to the bottom of the hill. However by this time we had seen enough broken bones, got board of waiting and were at the pub ‘The Cheese Rollers’, three miles down at the bottom of the hill enjoying the pints out of plastic glasses.

As he limps towards us from the distance, and the last ambulance screeches off, sirens blazing... this marked the end of our day at the Gloucester Cheese roll 2009.

Sunday, 17 May 2009


10th May
Taj hotel with scaffolding to cover the barley visible scars from the
Gateway to India, ironically built by the brits to celebrate their arrival and used by the Indians to boot them out.
Art deco buildings amongst tree shrouded streets giving the city a western feel.
Jumping on open doored trains to ride with the locals
Touts selling balloons the same size as me for 10rps… not quite sure why anybody would want one but you have to admire the
touts persistence all the same!

We stayed in Bentleys Hotel which is a great old art deco building just behind the Taj hotel. The area itself was spot on and I have to say Luke got this one right with this area being his decision! (It happens occasionally)

Leopold Café: like every traveller in India Luke and I have read Shantaram and Leopold café was on our list. However the closer to Leopolds we got the less enthusiastic we were as every traveller it would appear had the same idea… in particular it would seem the winy nasally American type!

So… I bought the t-shirt and headed off in pursuit of our own Leopolds…

Due to outstanding exuberance and stunning good looks were approached by a talent spotter to be an extra in Bollywood advertisement. We turned up on set the following morning at 6am which allowed us to see the sunrise by the gateway to India all set to get 500rps for a day of supreme acting and surely be the first extras in line for a Grammy… at 8.30am we ran away.

After the 20th cut, we decided to skip the set to spend our last day on Chowpatty beach, so we slinked off into the crowd and scarpered in a fit of giggles in the anonymity of the crowded streets.

Must do Indian experience: Jumping on the open doored trains as they shunt off from the station full with locals on their daily travels… a true Mumbai experience!

Kajuraho - Bandhavgarh National Park

5th May

Radmon comment: What happens when you grab a Geko by the tail? It drops off and wiggles around the floor. Yes it really is true!

Three hours after departing from Orchha we arrive in Kajuraho. The journey took us seemingly into the wilderness. No matter how far back and beyond in India we go there are people or evidence of them. Shacks set up on the sites of hot dusty desert roads selling their wares… farmers shacks with children playing outside under the water pumbs. The landscape far and wide bears the scars of the human inhabitancy, pocket marked with fields, scars from the floods where the jungle used to stand before hacked down to make way for the crops and grazing land…

Three hours later we arrived in Kajuarho. Home of Karma Sutra… the attraction to Kajuarho is the Temples, built in 900 ad are covered in meter high sculptures of people in varying somewhat unimaginable positions… with the odd animal thrown in just to mix it up! Historians have varying opinions as to why these temples are covered in the sand stone creations. But at the end of the day it would appear that apart from going to war these people like to shag a lot and spend there time recording the new positions they could come up with!

Spent an interesting afternoon watching monkeys, fending off random Indian men who seemed to be loitering around the temples and laughing at the pom tourist with his socks pulled up to his knees, staring for a bit to long at the temples!

6th May

Up early for a spot of Yoga with an old Indian bloke who had me preying to the gods before we stared, walking around on my hands, and then finishing the hour long session off with more preying to the gods. Ha ha ha! Enjoyed the yoga but did spend a lot of the hour trying not to crack up a the old Indian bloke.

3600 rps (£25 each) gets us an air conditioned mini van Bandhavgarh National Park, and was the most expensive part of our travels. But as time was not a luxury we had, a one day five hour car journey vs a 12 hour bus trip spread over two days, was an easy decision to make.

Kum Kum hostel… reclaimed by the jungle? At 350 rps per night we got a very basic room and a bathroom with either no water or brown rusty goop oozing out of the taps. These complete with the ants the size of my little finger running like mad around the floor obviously pissed off at us intruding on their home! Still a nice porch and the fact that we really were in the jungle made up for the fact that we wouldn’t be having showers for the next three days…
Walked down the dusty road into the village (a few buildings along the side of the road) found a good lodge where the kaki clad American tourists must stay, which was at the time deserted but turned out to have an excellent restaurant (really just a patch of lawn on the edge of the jungle with BBQ tables and a shed which passed as the kitchen. Still armed with our beer purchased from the ‘government liquor shop’, it was a great spot to wait for Luke’s chicken to be killed before he tucked into his first meat dish of the trip! Yes really, it was that fresh!

7th May: 5.30am… Tiger Safari.

Arrived at the main gates of Bandhavgah National Park to join the armada of jeeps carrying camera happy tourists. There was plenty of Kakhi cracked out complete with knee high socks and seven foot long SLR cameras!

Drove past an elephant and her calf as soon as the procession entered the gates. The jeeps split off into separate groups separating us from the Kakhi clan, and we were off on the search of the tigers.

Driving through the heaving busy jungle seeing varying breeds of deer, screeching monkeys, wild boar, jackals on the prowl, peacocks calling like cats with tails out on full glorious display, hairy necked stalks, it was a good start, and the signs were positive with paw prints fresh on the ground. But for over an hour the tiger alluded us. Then suddenly the word was out… there was a mad rush which reunited all the jeeps in one formation heading to the water hole, and sure enough, there he was… Boca. The dominant male tiger of the national park was wallowing about in the mud. For the next hour we quietly perused him along his morning route, as he stalked back to the mountain to lay low in the heat of the day.

It was brilliant to delve into the national park and see a wild tiger. India was once overrun with tigers and now there are less than 100 dispersed through the country. Even with conservation efforts the numbers continue to dwindle as the poachers continue on the path of destruction.

In summary… the thrill to see a wild tiger was not one to be taken lightly. But it was also melancholy and somewhat tarnished by the convoy of revving jeeps tearing up the tracks in hot pursuit of the animal that has become so accustomed to these obscenities he merely glances in our direction with the batter of an eyelid. He carries on with his day as though we are not there.

Another jungle delight apart from Khaki and tigers… ‘HASE’ The real jungle juice… These jungle flowers are boiled down and the result is a drink ‘Ganga’. The stuff sinks but is ultimately effective, with a slight swirl of the glass, ignore the bitter taste and the palette will pick up a slightly nutty flavour, and educes an excellent feel good factor! I like the Indian philosophy which sees the locals giving this stuff to the kids with colds… if it doesn’t sooth the throat at least it will keep them quiet for a while!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Jodhpur - Kajuraho

Moana and I left Udaipur behind and headed to Jodhpur for a stop over before Jaisalmer. Jodhpur was a bit of a filthy shite hole, with no Jodhpurs in site even thought this is were they were invented! We stayed at a great guest house, where the chef was super friendly and ended up hanging out with him drinking Kingfisher and eating his traditional Rajasthani curries. Was great! The weather was hitting around 46 degrees by this point.

The bus to Jodhpur was an experience and a half! There are road rules over here but no one follows them. Basically the roads are a free for all with the biggest vehicle getting right of way. Was a bit of a rock and roll journey with us getting flung around the place. The Indians on the bus were loving it and spent most of the time snatching glances at me or just blatantly staring!

Jaisalmer was in the middle of a heat wave when we arrived and the temp was hitting nearly 50 degrees. We splashed out on a room with a/c for 650 rps (about 9 pound) in order to prevent melting! The next morning we headed off on a two day camel safari.

It was bloody brilliant! My camel was called Kadu. The beasts are truly built for the dessert. Before we set off they had each drunken 20lts of water and that would be it for them for the two days. The camels were all ready to go when Moana and I arrived. They were laying on the sand waiting for us to clamber aboard and set off. Getting thrust into the air while the camel below you lurches itself up first from the hind quarters and then the front is an experience and a half! One minute you sitting there with you feet on the ground and then the next your seven foot up in the air with nothing to hold apart from a pair of rope reins which are attached to the nose of the camels head which is much like a slinky out in front of you!

As to be expected I was the far superior camel rider out of Moana and I. And for two days I outshone him.

We had a couple with us on the safari from Leeds of all places! Hannah and Andrew who had packed everything up and were on a year long adventure, destination Australia. Was a great laugh with them.

Upon arriving at the dunes we had each consumed around ten liters of water. It was amazingly hot. In the distance a hazy figure emerged of a camel with a man atop as he got closer we realized it wasn’t a mirage, but in fact a local with cold beers and soft drinks stacked on the back of his camel! My god! I can’t describe to you how good those beers tasted and just how thirst quenching they really were!

Slept out under the stars and then set off the next morning after saddling and re-loading the camels. Again proving that I was in fact a far superior camel rider to Moana. (Whether or not he agrees is a whole other story, and there isn’t time for that in this blog.)

3th March: Overnight Train via Jaipur to Agra. This is where we said goodbye to our newfound friends Hannah and Andrew and set off for Agra…

Agra: Keyrings with snow globes of the Taj attached! The ultimate in tat! There was a lot of hassle from the touts here. To go into the Taj was 750rps and then 250 rps for a camera. To climb to the roof top of the hotel next to it and look over it was free, and we had the pleasure of drinking Gin whilst doing so (gin was two pound for a bottle!!!)

Got the photos, bought the post cards…

4th March
Train to Jhansi then tuk tuk to Orcha…

Tuk Tuk driver tried to rip us off when we got to Orchha by demanding more rupees than we agreed. Yeah right! After nearly three weeks Moana and I have toughened up considerably to these antics!
Orchha like all the places the Lonely Planet hardly gives mention to was brilliant!
Orchha means ‘Hidden Place’ in Hindi. There was no hassle from the touts, it was chilled out and the locals very friendly. Luke has fond memories leaving this place with a cracking tash! He got a cut thoat shave in the morning… while this was happening I was secconded by a local chap and made to sit in his stall out side while they had great fun chatting away to me, and giving me the home made fudge from their stalls to sample (which happened to be covered in flies, eek!). So I left with a flower and Moana left with a tash!

Hired a car to take us to Kajuraho…

Saturday, 25 April 2009

India: Delhi- Udaipur

Departing for Delhi from Manchester, reclining in the spacious fabricated chairs of Air France makes a change from the plastic fantastic Ryaniar. French Rugby player Sebastian Chabel is sitting six rows in front of us… so far a good start to the trip.
Delhi: Awoke the following morning and walked downstairs to the reception of our hotel. Asked for a map and left the hotel four hours later with a full travel itinerary and trains booked for various parts of the journey at the insistence of Mr ‘Mantic’ the travel advisor at the hotel.
Stepped out the door and were instantly thrusted into the 40 degree Celsius ciaos called Delhi. Population 12.8 million, and a density that remains the same no matter where you are. 12.8million cars, trucks and auto rickshaws in various states of disrepair fight honking and ramming their way through the carnage! Between in and around, bullocks and horses pull various goods, bicycles weave in and around and the odd random elephant strolls through with the rider perched atop behind the ears of the massive beast!
Ate what is reputed to be India’s finest ‘Jalebis’ literally batter fried in sugar syrup at a famous road side stall called ‘Jakebinsala’. Owner of this stall tried to offer his son to me… hmmmm
As the sun set on our first day in Delhi we walked over the dogs that randomly scatter the streets and to the Red Fort for a show whilst mozzies feasted on every part of our exposed bodies!
Sat back and drank from 650ml bottles, kingfisher beer… end to a great day! (total spend 1400rps: nine pound each)

Snuck out of the hotel early before Mr Manic could apprehend us… visited the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. Just another Mosque. Had to cover up with a stunning curtain type dress patterned from the 70’s… flattering I think not! Over all not very impressed, lots of beggars on the way up to the Mosque, obvious tourist spot so I guess good money is to be made!
Jumped in a car (somehow I managed to hire one for the day with driver?) did the sights of Delhi
1. Indian Gate
2. Qutb Minar (found ourselves with a guide for 200 rps after he stuck on!)
3. Houses of Parliment
4. Ghandis final hang out/where he was assasinated
5. Connaught Place
At a few of the places it seemed that more of the locals were taking photos of us than we were of the attractions!

With the day drawing to a close we were dropped off at the train station for out over night train to Udaipur. The temp has dropped to 30 degrees cels, Luke is moaning about the state of his Mozzie bites (he does look like leper to be fair!) All I can do is laugh at him!

Jump off the train at Udaipur after an uncomfortable night sleeping on my backpack so it wouldn’t get nicked. The only thing we left out was Lukes book, which was by his head, and gone in the morning!
Found our own ‘Prabaker’… jumped in his auto rickshaw and set off for a guest house owned by his mates. Potentially could be dodgy but this guy seemed ok and a bit of a laugh.
The guest house is on the other side of the river, but as it is dry at the moment can walk across it to town. Its brilliant! Great views, parts of Octopussy were filmed from the roof top terrace. At 400rps (about 4 and bit quid) it’s a bargain!
Walk around Udaipur. The town is filled with cattle… sacred and hence very well fed with brightly painted horns which lay carelessly where ever they like, even the middle of the road with the motorbikes and auto rickshaws zooming around them without so much as a flinch on the break. An elephant ambles down the middle of the road, this one I get to pat, as the traverses down the side and introduces me to the beast. Brilliant! Her head and trunk are painted in bright paints with flowered patterns, her truck reaches out for me, and I tickle her nose… I can’t believe this!
We went horse trekking on the native Maharaj horses around farmers villages and through the mountains for the entire after noon right up to sun set! This Arab type horse has curly ears that join together in a halo when pricked. They have a fast walk which makes them ideal for endurance. For 9000rps (about 10 or so quid) we are picked up from our hotel in an auto rickshaw taken to the farm up in the mountains, have a great potato curry and chai made with buffalo milk for lunch, mount our horses and are off! My grey mare was right little feisty one, which was an excellent ride and very speedy, Luke… well he just struggled to stay on! Ha ha ha! Luke and I were defiantly the attraction of the day as we were lead through rural villages on display to the delight of the children!
Brilliant day! This place is a zoo! As well as cows, elephants, and native horses, we saw water buffalo, wild monkeys, honey bee hives, chipmunks, various birds, went to a lake with croc’s and trekked through mountains with leopards!

Enough of this now, a new day becons, it's already reaching 40... untill next time x

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Northumberland Camping/Kayaking

Another great weekend at the British seaside... windy, freezing, warning signs on the beach for explosives and quick sand! Good god and all I bought was sunblock!

The weekend was spent camping in Northumberland at Beachcomber Campsite.

This great little rugged spot was about 5 miles from Berwick-upon-Tweed which in my opinion with place names in between like ‘Pot-a-doodle-do’ (ha ha ha) surely meant our toes where almost over the Scottish boarders, and therefore we should have seen Scottish men flinging themselves around in kilts? The closest that we got to this over the weekend was the boys walking around with the kayaking skirts on... not quite the same, though had to contain Scottish Jen all the same!

The feature of the weekend was Kayaking... the cars were loaded and weighed down with an assortment of Kayaking goods but wind gusts that lay the tents on their sides ensured that more time was spent sitting on the Kayaks around a sheltered fire than actually sitting in them surfing the waves!

However the beer and gin was well stocked, and flowing nicely all weekend... so if ya can't get out there, get on it instead... (got to keep warm somehow ;))

So now we are looking for destination Easter... if anyone can recommend any good British camping spots for this up and coming long weekend I would love to hear!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Tripping in Turkey (via Bulgaria)

Spent four days wrapped up like Eskimos traipsing around Sofia, dodging the rain and exploring the relatively sparse sites in a heavily communist country (which from my previous writings you will know are not amongst my favourite places)

Sofia Plotiv Great Parking!

20th December 08 Plovtiv-Istanbul

Have you ever been anywhere and really felt like you stuck out like a sore thumb? Times this by ten! We jump onto the bus to Plovtiv from Sofia, spend two hours sitting behind a young couple copulating in the seats in front of us... forcing me to stare embarrassed out the window for the entire journey resulting in server neck cramp!
The bus stops two hours later. We have just driven into a town in the typical communist style of crumbling multi-storey apartment blocks in various states of disrepair... poverty stricken slums, mangy nags dragging equally mangy carts behind them with various assortments of the peasant owners worldly goods on the back of them... trotting past a billboard displaying the latest Gucci fashions, while filthy kids in rags scrabble on the bare earth for something that may once have resembled a football...
There are no signs, we can only assume that we have arrived at our destination when every single passenger gathers their belongings and disembarks from the bus.

Bags slung over shoulders we jump from the bus, dust rising from the dirt around our feet, stop and stare... I know that Bulgaria is a relatively new tourist destination but considering that Plovtiv markets itself on the fact that the city is superior to Sophia in terms of looks and ambiance... let’s hope that first impressions are wrong!
First port of call: Find the train station and purchase our overnight train ticket to Istanbul. No one in this town speaks English. I mean no one! Not even hello! Over an hour later and many an arm flung and finger pointed we are finally triumphant and have in our hot hands the tickets for the overnight train to Istnbul. We are let lose in Plovtiv to explore until our train departs later that night at 9pm.
Sunday in Plovtiv= not a lot really. There is literally nothing to do... we are forced to hang out at the few pubs we could find keeping warm and counting down the hours till our train leaves at 9pm!
Bouns: Plovtiv has Henekin... At last a decent beer!

Arrive at the train station at 8.30pm leaving plenty of time to decipher Bulgarian and find our train. Bit of a sweaty touch and go moment, when there is no one in the luggage storage room, where we have stored our luggage for the day (horrible visions of having to stay overnight in Plovitiv!) After manic banging on the old wooden door a grumpy dishevelled looking woman heaves opened the door. We must have pulled her from slumber from a room deep within and she wasn’t too happy about this!

The next hurdle that we faced was finding our platform. Bulgarian language is in the
Cyrillic alphabet. No resemblance at all to the English alphabet we are familiar with. So we played a game of pairs and matched up the symbols on our tickets with what was written on the train timetable!

This proved effective...

A graffitied old cattle train rattles into the station and pulls up on or platform. Disgusted Daz looks at me ‘This is our train”, “don’t be so stupid, no its not” is my reply (I have sold this whole overnight train idea to the boys, according the trains throughout Europe which are luxury coaches complete with own bathrooms inside sleeping quarters, and a coach dedicated to the bar i.e. party 5* hotel party train!)
Turns out the cattle train is our train
The room is big enough to stand in. There are three stretchers bolted to the wall with a lint ball infested blanked covering each one. A ladder accesses the top and middle stretcher and once the metal bars have been clamoured over (presumably to stop the occupants being flung out during the night) it’s actually not un-comfortable.
2am we cross the first boarder and are woken with a bang on the door, which requires us to present passports to heavily weapon soldiers.
2.30am we arrive at the second boarder where we are required to leave the train and get our visas. This is the first time I have used my Kiwi passport in Europe. But it gets me in for free as opposed to the Poms who are required to pay £10 each!

21st December 2008

Istabul – Ecebat

The train chugs into Istanbul at 10am. Two hours late, but not surprising considering the rock and roll ride around the mountains (according to Luke and Daz, as I slept like a baby for the entire journey)
Happy Birthday to me! Who would have thought that on my 26th birthday I would have been clamouring off a train at Istanbul. Brilliant!

Happy Birthday in Istanbul!

In an organised fashion, we have hired a rental car which we were to pick up from ‘the middle of town’ according to the instructions. Many a minute spend fumbling over the map later, it turns out that in the third largest city in the world the middle of town means one ferry ride two bus trips and 2.5 hours later we will arrive in the general area... not be able to decipher any of the signs and then may stumble upon the rental car company... not such good odds!
Option two... get ripped off by a taxi (80 Lera: £40 ) but get dropped off at the door 50mins later.

As the taxi puts pedal to the metal and burns the rubber outta there, leaving us standing with luggage at our feet surveying our surroundings. We appear to have been dumped in some industrial estate. And there is no one in the building. Hmm...Shit.

A few head scratches later, a security guard arrives and proceeds to speak no English at us. Many an arm flung later and bits of paper pointed at, we were magically morphed into the
rental car company, presented with the keys to our faithful stead the Hyundai’ and sent on our merry way negotiating the manic Turkish traffic as we fight our way over the famous bridge and out of the city... destination Gallipoli, with Jenna at the wheel of the left hand drive!


Attempt to find a pub to celebrate my birthday, but as we are in a small Muslim town, off season this proves to be near impossible, I say ‘near’... we did find one, but upon entering the pub, fifty odd Turkish men went quiet, with every one leering at me, I decided that it might be a good idea to back track outta there.
So I spent a very nice birthday night drinking cans back in the hotel room ;)

27th December 2008
Gallipoli – Cannakkel – Troy – Ayvalik


Spent a good part of the morning dragging Luke and Daz around ANZAC cove. This place meant nothing the poms, but one heck of a lot to me.
Going there was something else, and is something I would recommend any Kiwi travelling to this side of the world. I think that the fact that I was there in the off season may have been even more moving as there was not a single person around in an area from which I understand is very packed out in the summer months.
Sitting on the beach where the ANZACs made the fateful landing and staring at the mountains behind from where they were slaughtered... the day Kiwi and Auzzy patriotism was born. It’s something else.

Back in Ecebat we drove the car up onto the ferry and took the short trip across the water to Cannakkel.


I searched for Brad in the distance, hoping in vain that he would appear over the horizon ...
My mind wandered to Brad when at one of the world heritage sites says it all really. Disappointing. The one thing that was becoming apparent was that the Turks no how to charge. After paying 20Lvt to get in (£10) we got a few photos on the very touristy wooden horse... fought against the wind for 40 mins, gawked at a few bricks then fought the wild cats off back to the car...

Where’s Brad? In the legend this is where Achilles arrived at the gates of Troy
Drive though to Ayvalik, and manage to barter my way into a very nice hotel for us for the night (£40 for the three of us including breaky) Very clean, big, nice bathroom... defo five Turkish stars!

Beautiful little seaside town, off the beaten track, not a sky scraper or apartment block in site. This town is a main point for catching a boat ride to the Greek islands, so I imagine is very popular in the summer months. The sun is shining, the locals are friendly, and there is a non -leering bar... Great spot!

23rd December
Ayvalik – Bergama - Pergama - Acrpolis – Izmir
After exploring the ancient ruins of Acrpolis, we head for the third largest city in Turkey... Izmir. ‘A concrete metropolis’.

Leave the smelliest hostel in the world with a shower in the corner of the room separated by a single flimsy curtain really quickly, for a hotel with a mini bar.
Turkish bath: Getting scrubbed down by an old Turkish guy, in what I am sure was a bath house that had never seen a woman... quite funny, the whole experience was like being in a car wash... without the car!

Christmas dinner: Daz insists we have English food. We end up in a restaurant on the waterfront. All was going well until as I put down my fork I spy a cockroach running up the wall behind us. Then we get the bill... 80Lvt!!! For some cold chips and shite fish, we could have fed ourselves for a week on that!!! The pain of it!!!

That night Daz and I are violently ill...
Leave Izmir feeling empty... not only from the salmonella, but the pillaged wallets. A little worse for wear, the feeling of high tailing it out of there is a good one!

26th – 27th December

Izmir Selcuk Mudanya
Selcuk Buying Turkish Delight!

28th December

Mudanya – Gemlick – Yalova – Izmit – Istanbul

The decision is made to get off the beaten track and take the long way to Istanbul by driving around the east coast of the Marama sea. We cannot find any information on this coastal journey so can only assume that it is not hit by travellers at all... or at least very little...
The dirt road with sheer drops and random goats and cows standing in the middle, peasant farmers bathing by the side of the road and mangy skinny horses pulling carts with equally skinny owners flogging them from behind.

We passed through whole suburbs of such haphazard and impetuously constructed sprawls – dormitory suburbs thrown up to cope with the headlong rush of immigrants from villages to the various towns passed through.

The views were striking and it was almost a shame to when we left the dirt roads and hit the tar sealed concrete mass for the last leg of the journey into Istanbul.

It was certainly a very interesting car journey and has definitely imprinted itself on the mind.

After driving for hours in the third biggest city in the world trying to negotiate our way around the urban sprawl, with the crude structures extending all the way to the horizon of sight, we managed to find our into the old town. Tensions were running high by this point
Beyond the window the streets grew less ordered and the buildings grew more shabby and unkept.

It was decided that we would stop at the first hotel. Hotel Antik Kugu... The women in the thigh high red plastic boots with a cigarette hanging casually from her red painted mouth draped in the reception area should have been a sign really... but late at night when you don’t know where you are, sometimes you surrender.

The room was dirt brown. The two beds had springs protruding angrily through the mattress, and thin strands of dirty material were grappling with a tired looking window frame in an attempt to stay closed.

Needless to say we hightailed it quick smart out of there in the morning.

29th December

The weather really had packed it in. We spent most of the day trying to keep warm and dry
The action heated up that night with a trip to a local traditional bar/restaurant to see a Whirling Dervish doing his thing complete with live ‘Sufi Music’ (I appreciate this is a very traditional religious performance and understand the significance of it, but it was basically a man in a skirt twirling around on the spot for an hour or so...) No, I do not recommend a special trip to the other side of Turkey to Konya where they perform the ceremonies in for thousands of tourists annually.

We headed downstairs to sit amongst the brightly coloured cushions, drinking ‘Raki’ (an aniseed flavoured spirit), and having a good laugh while a belly dancer worked her way around the room with eager men pushing money down her bar, as she performed energetically in their faces... very much like a very public glamorous lap dance. The boys loved it.

Spent our time in Turkey wandering around the Grand Bazzar, bartering down the stall holders, wanding through crowds of locals and tourists alike, drinking Chai smoking water pipes and kicking back in traditional drinking venues laying on the massive cushions spread around the room. And when the rain and snow did relent we managed to take in the mighty sites of the Blue Mosque and Topaki palace.