Darcy Mawson, Jillian Wilson & Marie Cooke

Darcy Mawson, Jillian Wilson & Marie Cooke
Darcy Mawson, Jillian Wilson & Marie Cooke - taken at Boulder Bay, Christchurch NZ

A sarcophagus at the end of our Lycian Way journey - a meaningful place to rest for a while?

A sarcophagus at the end of our Lycian Way journey - a meaningful place to rest for a while?
A sarcophagus at the end of our Lycian Way journey - a meaningful place to rest for a while?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

France: fantastic, fun filled, with too much on our wish lists

Marie & Jillian - at Faucon, on the last day of biking in Provence
We ran out of time in Paris, filling in the time too quickly, leaving for Provence without having visited either the Louvre or the Musee d'Orsay. We chose to start off with a afternoon walking tour of Montmartre, followed by a 4 hour Paris bike tour the next day, round the back street areas from Notre Dame. A walk from our wonderfully sited hotel, the Terminus Logis Lyon, along the bank of the Seine, to Notre Dame cathedral to meet up with the biking group, all set us up for a good feel for the city.

The Eiffel Tower - we finally made it!

 The Photo Tour we did with a professional Parisian photographer was really interesting. Three hours on foot, walking in the Ile de la Cite and le Louvre area, being shown different shots and being told some different photograph tips, all went far too quickly for me; Jillian. Gilles was a very interesting person as well, so we felt we'd stumbled on a unique Paris adventure. It was cold though, bitterly so, just like it was for the Montmartre walk and the bike tour. Hat, scarf, gloves - we needed the lot, plus the wonderful jug of hot chocolate we enjoyed at the Hotel du Louvre Brasserie, before meeting the Photo Tour group.

Marie with Clemence, our Citroen 2CV chauffeur

I (Marie) found Paris a fascinating place. So much to do and so much to see. I particularly enjoyed the evening dinner cruise on the River Seine, where many of the sights lit up at night, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, and many many bridges.  Another highlight was a three hour ride in a chauffeur driven Citroen 2CV, which included a light lunch stop at the very classy Le Place Royale in Place des Vosges. Our chauffeur timed the red lights well on the Champs Elysee, and we were able to stand up - the sunroof folded back - taking photos of the Arc de Triomphe.

Meres $ Filles, a quaint restaurant in a 16th century building near our hotel in rue Saint Paul, was a great find. We've loved the food in France too. Marie experienced snails for the first time and could have eaten twice as much as she ordered! French cuisine is always beautifully prepared and presented. Meals at home in NZ will seem very tame in comparison and we'll have to prepare them ourselves!

 (Marie): After leaving Paris and staying in Avignon and Isle sur la Sorgue, we began the self-guided bike tour organized by Peregrine Adventures.  We experienced Le Mistral on the first day, a very strong wind (thought we would be blown off our bikes), and freezing cold, but the next morning woke up to a brilliant clear blue sky and far less wind. The weather just improved from then on and the last day saw us biking in t-shirts. Provence is certainly a beautiful place to visit and should be on your itinerary if you are planning a trip to France. The countryside was very picturesque, with the grapevines and trees in their autumn glory.

Jillian - Les Dentelles behind, wine for Mark on carrier

Jillian: I loved the French countryside, with its quaint old fortified villages built high on hilltops, ancient lanes, people going about their everyday life - and us being able to join in, buying our daily lunch bread at the boulangerie, tasting and buying wine in some villages, including a Caveau in Gigondas, plus olive oil, goats cheese, saucisson and olives. And Marie had some chocolate for us to finish with.  We mostly rode along narrow country lanes, alongside vast areas of ripened, and ready to be harvested, grapes, and through many fascinating little hamlets with their markets of vegetables and flowers.  There was some riding on the flat, but all too often it seemed there was a hilly stretch thrown in, especially in the villages

Bedoin village, with the dramatic Mt Ventoux background

The last stop on the bike tour was Vaison la Romaine, and after 2 nights staying there in a wonderful old home we traveled by TGV (fast train) to Nice, where we spent three action filled days catching up with Jillian's oldest son Mark. We included a whistle stop trip south down the coast to Monaco, before heading back to Paris , for two more nights before catching the plane back to Christchurch NZ.

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PS from Marie: lunch in Monaco, looking right at the super yachts - wow! And Jillian taking pics of a little turquoise dingy. Some things don't change  :-)

We're back home in New Zealand now - 29th November 2010. Seeing all the earthquake damage has been sobering. Hard for Darcy, with cracks in his house, and needing damage repair. Marie and I only lost some glasses and plant pots. And my darling wee Foxy, nearly-16-year-old Maggy, has had to be put down; very sad. 

Darcy has had his 70th birthday party, celebrating with many friends, just after Marie and I arrived back. It's been a good trip, with amazing memories of all that we packed into the 3 months. Who knows what will be next!!

PS - keep scrolling down to the bottom of the site for more photos

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Marie's Metro Mayhem

17 October, Paris

Marie here:  The Metro - well! what a nightmare for me. Just a mad scramble of people hurrying and scrambling on and off trains, signs pointing everywhere, noisy, and sometimes dark. So glad I wasn't by myself. During the mad scramble the doors of one carriage started closing as I was keeping up with Jillian, but somehow I managed to push and squeeze through the gap - sigh of relief. Changing trains to another route was also a nightmare, trying to make sense of the signs, making sure we got on the right train. Could end up in Timbuktu, who would know! During the 1st time down there I inadvertently dropped my ticket in that mad scramble, and so Jillian and I became separated on either side of the ticket barriers! Panic! A kind Parisienne lent me her ticket so that I could get through. To make matters even worse, No. 14 train has no driver! I secretly called it 'the runaway train'. However, I can see how necessary the trains are and I guess one gets accustomed to them, in time. Towards the end of our stay in Paris we heard talk of track maintenance and strikes. Another problem to overcome. I felt hopeless to start with but towards the end started writing it all down - our destination, the train's final destination, colour and number, and it all started coming together. It really is mayhem down there though.

We're biking in Provence now, but that's another story. A bientot!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hunkering in a Bunker & Other Adventures

Maybe sometime I could write about some of our funny incidents, like how both Marie and I have been stuck in toilets and have had to be released. When it happened in Turkey it meant every male in sight joining in the endeavour! The Turks just love to be involved, and will drop everything to help, most usually with a big smile. Trying to find where you need to go on a map almost leads to a stampede.

Now in Greece, we've spent 5 days in Rhodes, 10 days in Milos and 2 days in Santorini. It's hard to know what to focus on in particular as it's all been noteworthy, fascinating, intriguing, absorbing - and in all, worthwhile!
I'm writing this on a bus heading for Delphi and Meteora, a visit that Marie and I are making without Darcy, as he's planning his trip up north and may even have left by the time we return to Athens.

It's a shame Darcy isn't here to have his say, as Rhodes (Rodos) was a real highlight for him. Marie and I had fun exploring the Old City, walking around the walls, visiting the shops in the narrow cobbled streets, and thoroughly enjoying the food! Although Darcy really hasn't taken to Greek food, he absorbed every site and monument that he possibly could and I'm sure he will have some intriguing and captivating video footage for everyone to see.

Arriving in Milos early in the morning, after a 21 hour ferry journey from Rodos, we settled into accommodation associated with Rod & Petrinela Feldtman's kayaking and B&B business in Triovasalos, an 'up' village (as opposed to a coastal village). Four days of exploring fascinating Milos were followed by our kayaking circumnavigation of the island.

Marie here:  four long wonderful days of caves, arches and tunnels - going through one tunnel would get us through to a small sheltered grotto, with yet more arches and caves to come. We experienced all types of paddling conditions, from very calm to quite big seas, where I could only see the top of someone's hat, and sometimes not even that. The waves created by the backwash from the cliffs around the Capes were very muddled and scary, and I felt like I was in a washing machine! We three were the lucky ones as we had booked boats with rudders, and could control our boats, but as for the other six paddlers, they had to cope as best they could with rudderless boats - and it was very hard for those with little experience.
Jillian again: the rock colours and formations alone were worth the trip. Hopefully we'll be able to post a photo that will show them. We enjoyed sleeping out on the beaches again, but this time had to do our own catering. It mightn't have been up to Vedat's standard in Turkey, but we managed pretty well. (I'd prefer a catered trip in these conditions; too hard when you don't know what's available). Our final day the wind blew up to Force 6, and we had a challenging and rough ride into a narrow sheltered beach, hunkering down in an old WWII German bunker for the night! Better than being out in the open, like some of the others were, listening to your tent flap all night. The fifth day turned out a disaster for an American girl with us. Kathy was trying to avoid a double kayak as it was blown off the top layer of the trailer, tripped and broke her lower leg in two places. We didn't feel like paddling after that, so it was the end of the paddle - we only had two hours to go anyway, and in the event no-one could have done it because of the wind. 

Two full on days in Santorini saw us enjoying a wonderful sunset from Oia, visiting little villages and deserted houses, plus a boat ride to the volcano island and a swim in the hot springs. We're left with memories of blue domed churches and incredible panoramic views. Not to mention the food and the wine!

And now Athens! Marie and I had a great afternoon up on the Acropolis, admiring the Parthenon and other amazing ruins from every possible angle, trying to get photos that were of the actual site, as opposed to a reminder of every Tomasi Ricardo and Harry from who knows where on Planet Earth. 50 years (yes, fifty) years since I was last up there, and I was so excited to be visiting it again. I hadn't remembered how golden the sandstone is, but the sheer grandeur blew me away, just the same as last time. A true marvel. We are now driving back to Athens, after an intriguing and interesting visit to Delphi and Meteora. The monasteries of the latter are built on the top of tall towering rock spires and are inspiring, both to look at, and to visit. There's a wonderful sense of calmness and serenity inside, together with vibrantly beautiful Byzantine type paintings and icons. And! Yesterday it rained; our first rain since 14th August; two calendar months. 

Just for the record, we had a fascinating visit to the new Acropolis Museum, an amazing architectural wonder by itself, even without the wonderful items on display. There's a breathtaking view of the Acropolis from the top floor, and through the glass bottom floor you can see excavations being made below - the floors on all levels are glass. 

It will take us 6 hours to drive back to Athens, including navigating the Friday night rush traffic out of the city. Darcy is now on a bus for a 2 day visit to Delphi and Meteora, and as for Marie and me, well, we're off to Paris in the morning (just had to write that!)       

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Turning up the heat - on the Lycian Way

We all had worries about the Lycian Way, well Marie and I did, Darcy not so much. Marie was worried that it would be so hot that she wouldn't cope with it, and I (Jillian)just didn't know how I'd cope with the terrain, having had problems with my feet this year. Yes the heat has been an issue, but we've all coped well, especially with our guide Vedat's experience, knowing how water helps, and how to use it - even extending to pouring it straight from the well over our heads! Plus keeping our hats wet.
We started by having the practice day that was mentioned in the last post. Yesterday, 20th September, was our first day on the Lycian Way itself, and we walked from the beginning of the Way, near Oluvic, to Faralya, where we stayed in a delightful pension, the Montenegro Motel, where the last post was sent from. Even though it's kilometers away from anywhere there was still wifi connection, as there has been in just about every place we've stayed in Turkey.

We were all pleased with the way that the first day went, or should I say we were pleased with how we coped with the walking and track conditions. Although the track was mostly obvious, and reasonably wide, some of it was unforgivingly slanted uphill, which I struggled with, or over fairly rough terrain downhill, which neither Darcy or Marie enjoy very much. And did I say hot? But the views were wonderful, looking from way up high out to the Mediterranean, and inland to some sheer, steep and magnificent cliffs. Apparently we didn't disgrace ourselves as Vedat was more than happy with our achievements and times, and immediately started talking about today's walk.

On our itinerary it said today was shorter. What it lacked to say was that it was mostly uphill. Gruntingly so. I'm happy to report that my walking pole skills are improving and that I didn't find the uphills as challenging as yesterday. Just hot. Marie hurt her back yesterday, taking photos of ants shifting pieces of onion that had fallen from Darcy's sandwich. I think it's been better today, with the help of Panafen. Darcy's knee is not behaving as well as he would like, and he's saying he's heading for the Voltaren tonight. As for me, my feet gave a few twinges yesterday, but nothing of any concern. However, life would definitely improve for me if the wasps and bees would leave me alone. I've had 3 stings so far! Fortunately no serious reactions, just a few  verbal ones! I must say that I'm getting fairly edgy about them though.

The views have been magnificent. A very old gnarly olive tree caught my eye; probably a good 700 years old. We've all been intrigued by the deep wells and springs. Although some springs have dried up, and we're having to be very careful to carry enough water, the springs and wells that are still useable have clear cold water, that is sweet, and most welcome, for drinking and drenching.

Marie here:  I've been worried about the heat, right from our first day in Istanbul, when I was overcome with heat exhaustion for a day. I've become acclimatized to the heat now though, and have found the heat on the Lycian Way no problem at all. A bonus has been the springs and a couple of wells, where we just pulled up a pail of water. Vedat has great delight in pouring water over our heads, and filling our hats. Each morning before we've starting our walking, Vedat has laid a table with items of food for us to make our lunches. At times I don't think that we need to make any lunch, as there is an abundance of grapes, carob pods to chew (beautiful chocolate flavoured), the odd fig or two, and i'm sure that Vedat could produce even more out of the wild to eat. 

A highlight yesterday was when we visited an elderly Turkish gentleman, who invited us in for traditional cay (pronounced chai, traditional Turkish tea). Darcy and I love it, and we're training the non-tea-drinking Jillian, who is now enjoying the occasional cay. I too have enjoyed the dramatic cliffs, wild looking forests and terrain, all being quite different from New Zealand. We have had stunning panoramic views of the Mediterranean, from great heights.

We're now staying in a 200 year old house, with original beamed ceilings, and I'm sleeping in one of the storage rooms underneath the house. I have to duck when I go through the doorway, as they're so low. There's the 3 of us staying, plus Vedat, plus a friend of Vedat's,called Naim, staying in the house. Naim is checking out this part of the Lycian Way, as he is planning to walk the whole 500km in November! Oh yes! There is a welcome swimming pool here, as we are still experiencing temperatures in the 30s.

Jillian again: We've finished Day 3, which means we've completed our section of the Lycian Way! Woohoo - we've done it. I'm writing this the day after (23rd September), in our hotel in Akyaka, near to Marmaris, from where we'll be catching the ferry to Rhodes tomorrow, which means that our 6 weeks in Turkey is up. I'm sad at the thought of leaving, almost as though our time may be up but I'm far from ready to move on. Turkey has caught me by surprise; I had no idea that I'd love it so much. Vedat visited us this morning and was asking if the kayaking and walking we've done with him met our expectations. We all responded that it far exceeded our expectations, from the beauty of Lake Koycegiz and the Dalyan Delta, to the azure beauty of the Mediterranean coast. And then there's the dramatic and stunning countryside we've been walking and climbing through. We've been three fortunate people to have experienced such a wonderful time.  
That's it for now - our thoughts are very much with the shaken family and friends in Christchurch - hugs and love.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ruined in Turkey

Here we are in Karakoy, a remote little village near Fethiye in southwestern Turkey on the Mediterranean coast. Sipping on a thyme tea, sitting by our delightful boutique hotel's pool, I've been thinking about our recent travels. We've just finished our 7 days' paddling, through Lake Koycegiz, down the Dalyan River to the coast,and taking the following 5 days to paddle around to Gocek, sleeping out on the beaches as we went. With constant fine weather, excellent Turkish food prepared by our interesting and very competent guide Vedat, plus 3 other companionable and stimulating fellow kayakers, we had an excellent trip. Money well spent! (Contact Southern Sea Ventures in Sydney, or Alternatif Sea Kayaking in Marmaris) Today we've had a trial walk, through the appealing but sad abandoned Greek village here, over the hills to Olu Deniz beach. I gasped my way up the hill in everyone's wake - did they have to go so fast! Vedat redeemed himself down by the beach by putting ice on top of my head inside my peaked cap, and pouring ice water over my head. That, plus a couple of dips in the Mediterranean, sorted me out; it was worth it!

Marie here: a couple of highlights from the kayaking - the brilliant blue of the water in a spectacular cave, which we entered into at the bottom of majestic sheer cliffs, out on the Mediterranean coast. The swell made the entrance quite daunting. I found it very peaceful once outside again, after the booming of the swell inside. My second highlight would be a bat cave! The entrance was a slanting narrow aperture, and once inside a few bats appeared, but by the time we got to the end of the cave we certainly had to keep our hats on and our mouths closed, because of the thousands and thousands whirling around above us.

We ditched the car after 3835 kms at Dalaman Airport, having visited Patara, Pamukkale and Selcuk since our last post. We've seen so many ruins - castles, forts, churches, houses, walls, tombs, cisterns, amphitheaters, and bridges, we really do feel we've been thoroughly 'ruined', and were ready for another activity. However, just about every day since there've been more reminders of Turkey's vibrant and fascinating past - thousands of years of it.

For me, Jillian, the highlight of all the ruins has been visiting Ephesus. So much larger than in ever imagined, comprehensive and intricate in all the details that are still evident. We arrived early, leaving about 11.15am, to see our car virtually surrounded by about 100 tour buses! We werebso pleased we'd decided on a plan of arriving early, and returning again later in the day. The 2nd amazing highlight was a totally unplanned catchup and dinner with Sally Mason and Don Kelly at Selcuk, the day of our visit to Ephesus. Dinner all together up on the rooftop of the Bella Hotel was a fun way to finish off the last night of all our driving - followed by a retail assault downstairs in Bella's fabulous carpet and jewellery shop.

Darcy agrees wholeheartedly with Marie's comments regarding the caves. He was particularly taken with the fact that we could blithely go off on a 7 day paddling trip, with no tents, just sleeping under the stars, knowing we could trust the weather. You might succeed in doing that in NZ, but you wouldn't set out with that expectation!
He was also pleased (as we all were) to be able to return an undamaged car back to Avis, and was relieved that a spanner sign that appeared on the dashboard on the last day wasnt anything sinister. Cleaning the windscreen meant that the windscreen wiper fell off yet again, and Darcy had a few anxious moments trying to work out how the flaming thing fitted back together again!

This from Marie - As some of you may be aware, I left my camera sitting in the scanner tray at the xray machine at Istanbul airport, while on the way to Avis to pick up our rental car. After several emails and phone calls to Lost&Found the camera was located, and Avis Rentals kindly took it through to Dalaman Airport, where it was waiting when we returned the car! I'd thoroughly recommend Avis Rentals.

Tomorrow is the beginning of our walk on the Lycian Way. Marie's about to go and get a beer, at the thought of today's heat, and is praying that we don't get another hot hot day - likewise Darcy and Jillian. Vedat is saying to expect 6 or 7 hour's walking tomorrow, but Darcy and Marie think he was joking. I only hope they're right!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Turkey Travels - we're well on our way!


After long flights from Christchurch we arrived into Istanbul's intriguing warm world, ready (well almost) for the adventures to begin. The flu-type bug that Darcy and I had had before leaving NZ hung around for a bit, and wasn't helped by Darcy coming down with a tummy bug, followed closely by Marie and me. Once that was dealt with, we've been fine. Long may it last.

Istanbul was fascinating, and we were captivated by the sights and sounds and smells. Marie was taken with the Bosphorus, especially having a dive off the boat into a sheltered Black Sea bay. I loved having a bath in the 300 year old hamam, but - shock horror - Marie found she had to take all her clothes off :-) Darcy was permanently glued to his video camera, and it seemed he talked more into the camera than to us; at times we weren't sure when he was looking for a response. The magnificence of the Blue Mosque, the immense beauty of the Aya Sofia, and the largesse of the Grand Bazaar had us fascinated, but maybe even more amazing, Marie and I exited from the Bazaar empty handed.!

After picking up the rental car from Ataturk International Airport we drove along the western side of the Sea of Marmaris to Canakkale, where we had a surprisingly moving visit to the Gallipoli Peninsula,including Anzac Cove of course. The heat had been overpowering for cold-blooded Marie in Istanbul, but she found it even more so in Canakkale. Marie says she is now becoming more acclimatized - after 3 weeks in 33C+ temperatures!

Driving on the roads has been manageable, but arriving into the cities and towns has been hugely problematic, but made feasible by a cunning ploy; we hire a taxi to show us the way. It's worked every time bar once, when we found our worst ever hotel all by ourselves, well, almost - the Turks love to help. In Turkish of course!

Darcy is happy to have survived on-the-right Turkish driving, without major incidents (we won't mention the wing mirror Darcy) or (blowing off struck and ending up sideways on a railway line while Jillian was shrieking with laughter, Marie). He's loved seeing the natural scenery, like between Konya and Antalya. His standout memory is the War of Independence museum at Ataturk's Mausoleum in Istanbul, where he was blown away by the most lifelike dioramas, accompanied by soundtracks.

I was immensely relieved the day I first felt properly well, probably the first time for 3 months! I realized in Goreme that I actually felt pleased at last to be in Turkey, and found myself transfixed by all the fairy chimneys - if you don't know what they are, try asking auntie google. Darcy came into his own with many valleys to explore, while Marie and I looked down on the strange geological fairyland below.

Nemrut Dagi, or Mt Nemrut, was our next stupendously mind-blowing destination, with it's huge rock-hewn statues and toppled heads, surrounded by the many sounds of Babel, and the rising smog blanketed sunrise. Darcy was particularly impressed by the two functioning 2nd century Roman bridges we saw, with their efficient aesthetically pleasing design - and there was even a fortress high on the hill behind one if them - a photogrqpher's dream - not to mention the paddle in the river that had Marie's eyes sparkling.

And then to the Beehives in Harran, and Marie's opportunity to enjoy the opportunity of wedded bliss, plus 50 camels and $100,000TL. I felt in my uninvited role as chaperone, to up the ante to 3000 goats and an oil well, while Marie chipped in with flash cars. This all occurred while readying for the night on our sleeping platform under the stars, with fireworks going off, and a noisy drum and whistle wedding party roistering nearby. Meanwhile Darcy was snoring blissfully on in the Turkish beehive rug heaven. People have been intrigued by our relationships, and who belongs to who, to our amusement. We think they find it hard to believe we are just friends, and nothing further. Funny!

We travelled from beautiful Antakya, with it's wonderful St Peters Grotto, 7.5 hours on to Konya, where we were overwhelmed, dismayed and confounded by the news of the shocking earthquake back home in Christchurch. Our feelings were ambivalent, to say the least, wishing we were there with everyone, and yet still being involved in our adventures. I guess we've been a subdued bunch for the past 24 hours.

Now we're in Antalya, writing this under a spreading walnut tree, while a swimming pool beconsinvitingly from the inner courtyard. Yes it's hot again, but not the 42C we experienced in Harran; just as well, says Marie. Our collective purchased water bottles would start a recycling plant.

Just a little more traveling, to Pamukkale and Ephesus, and then in a weeks time we'll be preparing for our kayaking, and walking on the Lycian Way.

Until next time - Goodbye şimdi
Marie, Darcy and Jillian