Thursday, April 23, 2015

Turkish Delight

We’re sitting in a campsite in the foothills near Sumela Monastery in NE Turkey – and looking at snow. Yes, it seems that every blog post must start with a weather report. We really thought we’d finished with snow but here it is April 23 and it’s snowing.

Snow has now turned to sleet, this is the worst of both worlds. Colder than rain and wetter than snow - yuk. 3 degrees outside.

Last night we caught up with Odyssey Overland again - a large 4WD truck full of intrepid campers. Last night the Aussies were so miserably cold we donated our cooking wine for them to drink - they were so grateful!!
Odyssey Overland

We drove up to the Sumela Monastery today, but snow closed last section of the road and the footpath was just too treacherous, for me. Remember the broken ankle thing? So, I’m cautious.

Despite this whinge, it was a very beautiful drive through a veritable Christmas card. We drove back to the campsite, made some soup and went to lunch – again. It’s all you can do in this weather.

Clancy of the Overflow


I last left you in Amasra and the promised sun appeared next day so we managed the spectacular drive along the Black Sea Coast. One day of sun was promised and that’s what we got. The road was terrible, so it took all day, but day 2 in the terrible weather, the road was brilliant. We ended up in Samsun where we met an Australian woman who been living there for almost a year. She was desperately homesick, so we had a coffee (Starbucks!!) and a chat, and exchanged travel stories. Hi there, Dee.
Black Sea Coast

Black Sea Coast

The rest of coastal drive was a bit dreary through dull towns and dismal weather.

We had planned to head into the mountains from here, but there’s too much snow. So we’ll head back to the coast and into Georgia. Should be OK by Saturday, Insh’Allah.

Oh and we have a new toy! We can now bore you to death with video footage of Boris’s nose driving through parts unknown and as well as subjecting you to blog posts and photos.

Yes, we have a GoPro!

Don’t forget to follow us

Password: Boris.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Middle Earth

We’ve just spent a few marvellous days in Cappadocia in central Turkey and were blown away by this extraordinary landscape.

We found a wonderful campsite with fab views and hot showers. The guide books describe the terrain in various ways – fairy chimneys, phallic outcrops, pinnacles etc etc, but to me it looks like Middle Earth, or what Middle Earth should look like. It’s quite surreal.


The “Open Air Museum” is walking distance from Kaya Camping and we made a good decision to get there very early. We arrived at 8.15am to avoid the masses of Tour Coaches which disgorge hundreds of tourists all over the place. The Museum is actually an ancient monastery/village with each church, room, refractory etc carved out of the rock pinnacles.
Where are the Goblins?
One of the churches had a jaunty fresco of the two dudes on horses slaying a dragon, but to me they looked they were on a Merry-Go-Round (Carousel). The 1000 year old frescoes in these remarkable cave churches were really something to see.

I developed a nasty head cold which I generously shared with Lawrence, so we were both feeling poorly and couldn’t manage the wonderful walking paths here, even so we had a grand time touring about.

‘Hot Air Ballooning’ is quite the thing here, but I just couldn’t see myself getting out of bed in pre-dawn sub-zero temperatures to waft about in a landscape I could see very clearly from the comfort of my warm bed. Plus it’s hugely expensive and I’m scared of heights! We prefer to spend our money on tasting what they do with the local grapes.
Up, up and away - taken from our campsite
We’re finding Turkey interesting and loving the food. The wine is very good, but the coffee is dire. Turkish coffee tastes like mud and is unspeakably awful. Next is the nasty Nescafe machines that produce something indescribable, and then there is the occasional authentic espresso machines that no-one knows how to use. So, imagine our delight when we saw a sign in Goreme stating “No Bullshit, the best coffee in town, Aussie trained”. “Eureka” we cried! Now imagine our dismay when a vile cup of bitter, over-extracted coffee arrived. The Aussie barista was obviously long gone.
Vineyard at sunset from our campsite
Handmade leather shoes - how can a girl resist??
We’ve found ourselves seeking out Starbucks (sshhh – don’t tell anyone), for a reasonable espresso. This option doesn’t exist in rural Turkey.

Anyway, from the wonders of Cappadocia we headed back to Ankara to collect our Kazakh visa. We had previously spent 3 days in Ankara, mainly to get visas sorted. I’ll outline this process below for those that are interested – or who have trouble sleeping.*

Ankara is a large modern city with an old heart that we explored, but not much else to it. We stayed in a hotel, as there really isn’t much option.

Yesterday we spent in Safranbolu, a UNESCO world heritage listed Ottoman town. The Ottoman architecture is wonderful and the restored houses are a feast for the eyes. I just adore them, so a whole town full of them was a brilliant way to spend a day. PLUS the sun was shining, and the temp reached about 25 degrees – sheer bliss.
We woke this morning to a warm sunny day, that put a spring in our step as we headed for the Black Sea coast and the allegedly pretty port town of Amasra.

Sadly it is 8 degrees, foggy and raining. We are NOT HAPPY. We hadn’t planned to stay here, but from here to Sinop is slated to be the most spectacular drive of the entire Black Sea Coast and we didn’t want to do it in thick sea fog.

So we went to lunch instead.

For those who might wish to undertake the getting of visas for Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in Ankara.

We did this on a Monday morning.

Despite what the websites say, the Kazakh Embassy opens at 9am and the Uzbek at 10am. Both close at 12 midday. They are both easy to drive to with GPS and there is easy parking on the street.

So here’s how we played it. We went to the Kazakh embassy first and handed in our completed forms and passports. They duly noted all this. We then took our passports back from them. We then had to go to the bank to pay the fee. There is a Garanti Bank a short drive down the hill at the Panora Centre, parking is easy. The catch is that if you don’t have a Turkish ID number you can’t make a deposit at a Turkish Bank. So you need to accost someone in the queue and ask to use their ID. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. The tellers are used to this procedure.

One must, of course, keep the receipt.

Next we went to the Uzbek Embassy with passports, completed forms and letter of invitation. We now know that you need a photocopy of your passport for this. Do this ahead of time as they won’t do it the embassy. Now you need to pay. Same procedure, go to the nearest AKbank, which is a 5 minute walk, ask someone if you can use their ID, make the payment and go back to the embassy.

With all your ducks are lined up, the visa is issued on the spot.

We then went back to the Kazakh Embassy with passports (you need to leave them there) and receipt from the bank. The visa takes 5 days.

Our advice is to now go to Cappadocia to spend a few fab days until you can pick it up!! Stay at Kaya Camping - it's really good.

Pick-up time is after 3pm on any day. We picked ours up on the Friday – they were waiting for us.

Make sure you have US dollars for the payments to the banks.

If you want more info, you can email us at

Friday, April 10, 2015

Winter of our Discontent

I’m sitting in a lovely hotel room in the Ottoman town of Eskisehir in central (sort of) Turkey. As I write I’m watching snow falling and the outside temperature is about 1 degree!! So yes, we are discontent. I know, I know, we lead the life of Riley but the weather is really getting us down.

Anyhoo, we decided to splash out of this lovely hotel built from a collection of beautifully renovated Ottoman houses with original wooden floors and ceilings and HOT SHOWERS. Didn’t fancy camping in carpark in Ankara in the snow.

Since Dubrovnik we’ve been plagued with poor karma for hot showers. Reasons include; burst pipes (Dubrovnik), death in the family so not open (Albania), campsite closed (Macedonia), no hot water for no good reason (Kavala) frozen pipes (Edirne). So that, combined with lots of ‘wild camping’ and bad weather led us to some luxury in Eskisehir.

Our last points of call in Greece saw us in the Evros Delta where we saw some interesting raptors, but not much in the way of water birds. They seemed to be over near the Turkish border where you need a guide, a permit, and 2 weeks notice (us, not the birds).

Next stop was the Dadia forest where the Visitor’s Centre kindly let us camp in their carpark. Next morning they took us up to the bird hide and we saw lots of vultures and other interesting birds*. It was really worth while. The vultures get fed once a week, so hang around sometimes in hope of a feed. I love vultures, so graceful in the air and so ungainly on the ground, preying on the sick and the lame.

We then crossed the border into Turkey and camped near Edirne. We didn’t know much about this town but it sounded interesting and we were not disappointed. Once an Ottoman capital, it was heaving with beautiful 15th century mosques, covered markets, caravansaries and loads of character. Plus we had a sunny day! Day one was so cold we gave up about 3pm but the next day was lovely and we made the most of it.

Mosque - Edirne

One of the mosques still had the entire complex intact, consisting of hospital, medical school, insane asylum and so on. They treated the insane with water therapy, music and aromatherapy – wonderful. The Medical school had brilliant, if rather amusing, displays.
Medical School - don't you  love the hats?

Physiotherapy - Ottoman style

Scientific Experiment involving a rooster and a snake.

Next stop Istanbul and all the major tourist sites, we did most of them but it was so cold that we really didn’t do Istanbul justice. It was heaving with tourists and queues were ludicrous. We paid a guide 40 lira to just get us in the door at Aya Sofia to avoid an hour long queue (at 9am). This is a real show-stopper, built in the 6th century. It has ongoing renovations, as you can imagine, so scaffolding man was there, but we could still how amazing it is.
Aya Sofia

Grand Bazaar - Istanbul

The Blue Mosque was also fabulous but full of tourists, so it really loses something. We were spoilt in Edirne with stunning mosques and no crowds, allowing us to absorb the peaceful and serene atmosphere these building exude. The Muezzin at the Blue Mosque must have had a REALLY big loud speaker as he outdid them all, and woke us up each morning at 5.30am.

So that leads us to Eskisehir, town we hadn’t heard of until 3 days ago. The charming old Ottoman quarter has been renovated and a joy to wander around, even in the snow.

We have now officially left Europe and have crossed in to Asia. After 3 years, 8 months, 15 days and approximately 42,00 kms, we have finally left Europe and are really starting on our trek home. Looks like we are really going to do it this time!!

Next stop Ankara and the getting of Uzbek and Kazakh visas.

Update: We are now just outside Ankara, it’s so cold my nose almost fell off and it’s going to be MINUS 7 tonight!

If you’re interested we saw.

Evros Delta
2 Long legged buzzard
2 Rough legged buzzard
2 Marsh Harrier

Dadia Forest
13 Black vultures
10 Griffon vultures
3 Black storks
2 Egyptian vultures
2 white tailed eagles
lots of black kites

and a partridge in a pear tree!!