I contemplate the description La Perouse gave to Norfolk Island when he first saw it in 1788 - “only fit for Angels and Eagles" - as Flower places my coffee and ‘Norfolk Blue Beef’ kabab in front of me. Flower definitely fits the description of an Angel with her tinkling laugh, striking white hair (albeit spiked) and sweet friendly nature. We’ve been on Norfolk Island for three days now and I’m finding we are surrounded by some of the sweetest, friendliest, if not the happiest people I’ve ever met. And they certainly live up to the possibility of being eagles when we see how versatile, hardy and dare I say, brave when we learn more about the life and culture of Norfolk and her people.Just watching how a boat is put into (and out of) the swell at the pier is an event in itself and then I’m told that because the pier – be it Kingston or Cascade – cannot take container ships, all their goods and chattels that are shipped to the island, including cars and busses, are transferred from the cargo ships to lighters at sea, then to the pier, using only ropes and pulleys and sheer manpower (along with a ute or two). There are photos displayed throughout the village depicting the scenes of unloading. Of course seeing a whole bus or a car strapped to two lighters brings gasps of astonishment and shakings of heads to those of us who are used to a more ‘easier life’ and it certainly makes for regular dinner conversation for all the tourists. I have to say I prefer La Perouse’s saying so much more than the other saying associated with Norfolk, that of being a destination for the ‘newly-wed or the nearly dead’…. Surely whoever coined that particular phase can’t have ever stepped foot on this tiny green piece of absolute paradise. What M and I find when we land (or is that “drop out” of the sky - because the plane doesn’t quite coast in with a gentle descent, more like zips down) is a bustling little hive of activity at the airport with loads of children milling around barely able to contain their excitement, lots of 40’somethings, a few 20somethings and some very spritely 60somethings.
Tuesday, 30 December 2014
Monday, 8 December 2014
My mind shall never erase what my eyes have now seen. I've never seen so much dental floss and cottage cheese together in one location. One failing to curtail and hold the other in place. And the stark whiteness of crystallised landscape illuminated in the midday sun highlights the spectacle even further.
What makes the scene even more disconcerting is that many of these forms are trying to immerse themselves in less than five inches of water, in just two small ponds, whilst there is an ongoing furious burst of shrilled whistle blowing, stopping, reprimanding and directing the forms to remove themselves from other ponds and areas that are out of bounds on the terraces and are being swamped upon by thousands of feet, hands and scantily clad bodies.
I'm kicking myself. For not getting up earlier and hobbling up here at first light. For missing out on seeing the changing dawn colours of the cascading limestone pools, formed over thousands of years as the calcium-carbonated spring waters gently flowed over the edges of the stalactites, and for missing out on soaking up the tranquillity of an ancient landscape.
Instead, M and I have joined the hoards of thousands that have emerged upon the Cotton Fortress and we now all jostle for viewing space, shady seating and peace and quite to contemplate the uniqueness of it all.
I'm also cursing my crutches and the boot for not allowing me to step on the travertines, to feel the contradictory hardness of what looks so intensely soft, and nor am I able to make my way around the incredible ruins of the 'sacred city' - Hierapolis - that butts right up to the travertines.
The ruins of Hierapolis spread out across the top of the hill, and by the appearance of the map depicting what the sacred city once looked like, it would seem that Hierapolis was once a large thriving metropolis. It's also where the Apostle, Philip spent his last years of life,(along with his daughter and son), and was buried after being martyred and crucified by the Romans — he was hung in a tree upside down with irons in his heels and ankles. The tomb of St. Philip was re-discovered in 2011 (although not his grave) when Italian archaeologists were excavating an area called Martyrs’ Hill.
M wanders off to explore the magnificent ruins and the travertines, whilst I fight for space at the top of the terraces and have my eyes and ears accosted by swarms of tourists with blatant disregard for the nature and history that surrounds them. As I sit here and watch the scenes around me unfold, my mind keeps screaming "Please People! Put some clothes on." I totally understand the reason why everyone must take off their shoes before walking on the travertines, but I just can't comprehend why there are so many people in next to nothing, splashing in puddles...and some of the 'bathers' aren't even wearing bathers! I watch one woman (and in her 60's at least!) pull off her top and skirt and wander about in the water wearing just her bra and (thankfully) proper size knickers - the water doesn't even come up close to her knees, nor does she even lower herself into the water, so why in the world she even needed to undress. bemuses me to no-end!
M isn't away for too long and tells me he's found an even more bizarre sight.
We head towards the antique pool - also known as Cleopatra's Pool - and just in front of it is indeed a sight to behold - an enormous 2meter, marble and metal, Rooster. Yes, that's right a large cockerel. And next to it, is long line of people waiting patiently to stand beside and have their photo taken with it. To my astonishment, M joins it.
"It's not every day you have your photo taken with a whopping great cock" he says laughing.
As we return to the village of Pamukkale, I notice that there shops are full of trinkets, statues, and printed images of the rooster and am at a loss as to its significance.
I can find nothing about it in the LP Guide, nor in the Pamukkale/Hieropolis book I buy.
Later, when I look up the importance of this rooster to Pamukkale I find a news article, dated only a few days earlier to our visit to the spot, announcing that the Aydın Preservation Board of Cultural and Natural Heritage has ordered the Rooster (which is only 6months old) to be removed as they deem it illegal because it is in a protected area.
It also turns out this is not the only enormous rooster in the area, and there is another 2.6mt glass Rooster that sits proudly in the centre of a road in Denizli and was unveiled with much fan-fare and ceremony in 2013, in which the whole city turned out for, and carries the proud title of "Turkey's largest glass sculpture exhibited in the open air."
All thoughts of 'big chickens' leave our mind when we drive into the town of Selcuk and find ourselves surrounded by another leggy bird - the beautiful Selcuk Storks and their fluffy chicks.
(Forgive me peeps, Although this blog was written back in May 2014, it and the final blog ramblings for Turkey weren't 'posted' until December 2014.... lots of reasons, lots of excuses, all of which are puffy and irrelevant.) Date of stay: 21st May 2014
Friday, 5 December 2014
(Forgive me peeps, Although this blog was written back in May 2014, it and the final blog ramblings for Turkey weren't 'posted' until December 2014.... lots of reasons, lots of excuses, all of which are puffy and irrelevant.)
Date of stay: 20th May 2014
After two days of laying about in the beautiful little village of Cirali we make headway up towards Antayla, then on to Pamukkale. I saw nothing more of Cirali during those two days, M did however - wandering the laneways, ambling along the beach and visiting some of the café/bars.
I instead spent the two days lying flat out with my left leg sticking upwards and draped in ice-bags. Dr Ali wouldn't give the all clear for us to leave the very next day after my accident. He wanted to ensure the swelling had gone down somewhat before letting us go. Not that I am complaining about being 'stuck in Cirali' mind you. For Cirali is the most perfect idyllic little piece of paradise.
Lounging under a dapple sunlit orange grove in the company of butterflies and dragonflies, armed with a good mystery-thriller novel (which I've been meaning to read for some time - "Red Bird Summer" by my dear friend Jan Pearson) and an endless supply of apple tea, it was the ideal holiday chill-out time. And then there were all the 'knights in shinning armour' who've appeared to my 'damsel in distress' possie; Like the café owner across the road who popped over to see how I was, bringing with him delicious bowls of soup and freshly made bread, the lovely young lad who served in the tea garden who insisted in carrying my items back to the room and even at one stage offering his arm in a gentlemanly gesture to take me to the café table when I wanted to sit up to eat and the chap who attended The Orange's gardens who constantly checked on me to ensure I had everything I needed and even insisted on putting my Moon Boot on for me. Yes, Moon Boot. For the next two weeks, I am to sport a not-so-stylish, won't-go-with-anything, weighs-a-tonne black, foot to knee Moon Boot. And then complete the look with a set of crutches that will constantly fall over, get caught in cobblestones, slip on smooth marble, catch on the lips of stairs and seem to have a mind of their own walloping others in the shins no matter how careful I am in trying to wrangle them into the polite submission of just walking in a straight line.
Waking early, (but not in the anticipation of getting an early start on the road, but because of the 'ostentation' of peacocks that have taken a liking to the roof next to our bedroom balcony and have decided to serenade us with their 'song' which sounds more like blood-curdling screams for help!) we leave Cirali and hug the winding mountainous road, heading for Antayla, bypassing all the enticing sights along the way. We zip past the turn off to the ancient city of Phaselis with it's three harbours and colonnaded street. We zoom past the Tahtali cable car (which we'd been looking forward to) as it goes to the top of Tahtali in Taurus Mountains and blows your mind with the views! (here's a blog that originally wet my appetite to go to Tahtali, unfortunately I'm going to have to just keep salivating about it. http://turkishtravelblog.com/mount-tahtali-cable-car/ ). And it is with much regret we whizz by the turn off that would have taken us to the rarely visited but supposedly incredible ruins of Sagalassos. Besides the Sultan Ahmet (Blue) Mosque this site was high on my list of must sees. We do however enjoy the thrill of driving the Southern Med for one last time and being "flashed" by a jaw dropping Bentley convertible which in turn, is chased by two other equally shiny, mouth drooling convertibles. Not long after that our mouths drop open again, this time with peels of laughter, when we zip past two chaps trundling along the highway on Segways. "Why would you bother?" I say in wonder. "Forget why! More like where the hell have they come from?" exclaims M. and yes it is a question of where in world had they came from, for there was nothing but the sea on one side and an enormous mountain on the other, with the nearest town miles and miles away.
Once past Antalya we leave the twisting sea hugging highway for another twisting, mountainous hair-pin road that is peppered with roadworks. The highway is heavily trafficked by massive lorries labouring up the steep inclines whilst cars whiz about overtaking in the most dangerous manoeuvres that leave us breathless with fear and amazement. The countryside surrounding us is wide open expanses of sparsely vegetated mountains and fields, every now and then dotted with ancient ruins. The occasional township looms up and then disappears into the space, we bypass them all.
There are numerous roadside cafes offering comfortable lounging under big canvas tarps and we stop at one for a bite to eat. It all looks very 'mobile', yet judging by the enormous fire pit where the shishs are cooked, it's very permanent. It's also obvious that not many "English-speaking' foreigners stop here, for we participate in a game of charades upon ordering our meal. Unfortunately my pantomimed gestures don't match what I think I've ordered, and for the first time ever in Turkey I get a meal that is beyond being palatable for me. M on the other hand absolutely loves his.
As we get closer to Pamukkale the fields become more dense with vegetation and we pass paddocks of what looks like wheat and acres and acres of poppies - great swathes of white, flecked with the occasional purple. They are beautiful. I'm surprised to see so many fields and later learn that Turkey allows the cultivation of the poppy for various reasons, including fuel, fodder and of course Opium and of the six countries legally allowed under the United Nations to grow the opium poppy, Turkey is the largest with their 'share size' being 54percent of the six nations.
Another great swath of white looms up before us as we get closer to Pamukkale. It's so large we can see it from miles away and it looks like a mountain of cottonballs. As we drive into the village of Pamukkale I'm shocked to see buildings and structures made out of cement but looking like petrified wood and faux-castles. I feel like I've stepped (or I should say, driven) into a theme park. It's all so garish and fake looking! I keep my eye on the prime focal point for coming here - the beautiful crystal mountain that looms up over the village and glitters in the afternoon sunlight. The bleached white travertines known as the Cotton Castle.
M and I book into our guesthouse which on the outside looks like a Swiss chalet but inside is beautifully traditional in Turkish décor with vibrant rugs and cushions, and endless Turkish lanterns. That is, until we open the door to our room and we nearly fall over laughing - it's so far from traditional or quaint, it's downright OTT "PimpVille"; a hideous cross between tacky boudoir meets disco décor with wrap-around blue neon ceiling lights and a plastic covered padded bed head. We can't get out of the room quick enough.
It's coming up to dusk and the setting sun is casting a glorious hue across the face of the travertines. The Cotton Castel is in full glow and reflects back onto the lake that lies at the bottom of it. Groups of evening picnic'ers gather around the grassy knolls of the lake and families paddle large swans-boats across its waters. On the travertines hundreds of tourists trail down the slope reminding me of ants on a mound of white sugar. As it gets darker spotlights flick on, turning the white mountain into a kaleidoscope of blue, pink and green. Music drifts across the parkland. We raise our glasses to the immense beauty of it all and the joy of life, no matter how awkwardly we stumble through it.
Sunday, 18 May 2014
I’m a great believer in Karma. She hides around the corner to surprise you on the actions you have done, and she’s not always subtle in her rewards to you. Give Kizmet a jab and Karma’s return knock can be a mighty great kick that’ll send you sideways and unhinge those plans you'll have made. So why didn’t I heed this line of thought as we continued our journey and rambled across the stones of time.
We left Kas early in the morning aboard a bit of threadbare carpet wrapped in shiny metal we’d got at a bargain price from a real life Ali Baba. This magical zippy little car would whisk us around the tight corners of the Med coastline and squeeze us into the tightest of spots within a breeze, and it tickled M to no end to know he’d rented from a chap whose name was actually Ali Baba. We hadn’t planned for a long-term car hire while in the south-east of Turkey, especially after the duck and doge we’d experienced two days earlier but after an evening of impulse buying we now had two enormous boxes to add to our luggage which was growing each time we left an area. In Capadoccia a carpet bag filled with trinkets, rugs, dolls and woven fabrics joined the ranks of four backpacks. And now I had no longer been able to resist the glitter of Turkish lights (which will probably need a bank loan for the rewiring and installation into our house when we get back) nor could I ignore the vibrant colours of Anatolian ceramics and thus we decided to hire a car instead of trying to lumber all these goodies onto a dolmus (a minibus). The name Dolmus comes from the definition of “apparently stuffed” and one look at these little minibuses with their cramped possies is enough to entice me into renting a car.
In the early morning sunlight the Turkish Mediterranean sea sparkles like a turquoise gem, but we only get a fleeting glance as we drive into the hills and the sea we later encounter is once again an ocean of plastic poly tunnels filled with tomatoes and other crops. The tunnels spread out for as far as the eye could see yet it is far from an ugly sight as orange and mulberry groves infuse the shining plastic with flushes of deep green.
Our first stop of the day is the town of Myra, an ancient city of great importance during the Lycian era. I’m not sure if the town is still called Myra today, as I'm a little confused by the the maps we have as they seemingly give it a number of names – Kale, Demre and Myra. Either way, it has a lovely village atmosphere once we turn off the bustling highway and drive down wide cobbled stone streets which in turn lead into dusty narrow lanes to the site of ancient Myra and the Lycian Rock Tombs.
Even before we arrive at the site, the honeycomb of carved rock tombs springs forth from the mountainside. Looking almost like a grand apartment building, they are stacked upon each other encompassing the whole side of the mountain, a jumble of carved ornate rock doors and windows with beautiful reliefs inserted into the gables. In the sunlight the warm caramel and honey tones glow against the ‘steel’ granite cliffs.
These honey toned tombs are called the Sea Necropolis, (because they face the sea) and to the east of them sit the River Necropolis tombs, once colourfully painted in blues, reds and yellows but now faded to almost nothing. A magnificent and very well-preserved theatre sits below the tombs. It's still used today for festivals, concerts and wrestling matches. In stark contrast to the theatre of Xanthos where I could imagine without any trouble the stoushes of gladiators, this theatre appears to be where you came for comedy and theatrical drama.
Stone blocks of faces in various theatrical poses lay scattered around the perimeter. In it's heyday the theatre held up to 10,000 spectators and it has a wonderful acoustic vibe that still resonates today. As M and I walk around the top diazoma (deck) of the cavea we listen to a chap in the orchestra belt out a patter aria that fills the air. We read there is an inscription on the western side of the upper theatre where the peddler, Gelasius staked out his spot for selling nibblies to the masses, but we can't seem to find it and wonder if the carving of man’s physique that we do find might be the 1000+ year old advertising billboard akin to “Kebaps, Kebaps, come and get your hot kebaps here”
It wasn’t until I was in Kas that I discovered the inspiration for the jolly man with the jubbly belly and white beard was born and bred in Turkey. Born in Patara (which we didn’t get to even though it’s 'just up the road' from Xanthos & Letoon), Nicholas became the Bishop of Myra in 4th century A.D and was beatified after his death for his many generous deeds. It was said that he would secretly throw bags of gold into the houses of poor residents who were unable to provide dowries for their daughters, that he worked hard to improve the social welfare of orphans, labourers, sailors and students, and that he once persuaded captains of ships carrying wheat to stop at the port of Andriace and each ‘lend’ 100kilos of wheat to the people of Myra during a time of famine. Apparently this deed became a miracle, for when upon arriving at their final destination; each of the ships had overflowing holds of wheat, more than they originally started with. Thus the compassionate deeds of St. Nic gave origin to the loveable jolly fellow who generously gives gifts to the kids at Christmas. Upon his death the people of Myra built a monument in honour of the Saint, this monument then became a basilica which unfortunately suffered destruction in 8th century from earthquake and invasions. A smaller dome church was later built to house the saint’s tomb. Then in 1087 merchants from Bari robed the tomb and carried off St. Nicholas’ bones to Italy.
There is no mistaking the intense venerating of Saint Nicholas as the complex where the little church sits is overflowing with pilgrims and tourists. It's shuffling room only as we all squeezed into the small ‘bee hive’ domed building which sits under a massive tent like awning designed to protect the church from the weather and elements. The fervour of the pilgrims stuns me as we are pushed and shoved, stood upon and elbowed as people try to view the site of the tomb and photograph the peeling frescos. There's so much ‘sign of the cross’ waving and kissing of certain areas in the church that I muse to M that I think "we've wandered into the Vatican and not some rural little church".
“Please, one moment, may I take a photo, please” I say to him.
He looks at me, smiles, takes out his smart phone, holds it up, checks his face in the screen and clicks his photo. Then, he smiles back at me. I wait for him to move, but he doesn't. He just looks at me.
“Please, I take photo, see no one in room, please could you move” I ask, making hand gestures towards the side of the room.
He smiles again. Then to my absolute astonishment turns to his other side, holds up the phone and looks into it. He smooths back his hair and takes another photo. I wait, feeling the frustration growing inside me. He doesn't move.
“Please, sir, please” I plead. I can see more people approaching the room and I want desperately to get a photo of that room in an empty state. I begin to wave my hands. He smiles; a smarmy smug smile before turning his back on me and proceeded to ‘view’ the bema. The atrium is now filling and the moment is lost. Anger boils up and I growl under my breath.
Now, the reality is with these sites, gaining a photo with no other person in it is near impossible, and with the amount of ‘sights’ we now snap on our digital cameras and phones, if you were to ask me “will you actually look at the photo again once home, or in a years time,… what about in ten years time” the chances are I’ll answer “No”. So, I don’t know why I am being so dogmatic about photographing this room in an empty state and of course I’m not thinking about the absurdity of it all when I do something I would never, normally, do. I stalk up to the chap and snap out “I hope that’s a really ugly photo of you,” to him and end it with “you stupid horrible man.”
He gives me a look of confusion and it doesn't occur to me that he probably can't even understand me. I walk away, but not before being bumped by more devoted pilgrims wanting to get up close and personal to the pillars.
“Don’t these people realise the contradiction of their actions to the compassion and generosity of the man this place is all about?” I grumble to M as we leave the complex. Of course, I’m totally oblivious to the irony of my own words and actions but karma however has taken note and later she will give me a swift little reminder.
We drag ourselves away from the fairy-like spectacle and cool quietness and find ourselves on the pebbly beach. It is filled with bodies laying upon its stones, soaking up the rays. There's so many sun-baking bodies upon this part of the Turkish Riviera, it reminds me of images of Christmas day at Bondi – packed to the hilt!
It’s getting late into the afternoon and we’ve still yet to find a place to stay at our final stop – Cirali, home of the Dragon. We drive back up the winding pot-holed, just-a-fleeting-glance-of-tar road to the highway, turn right, drive a couple of hundred meters then turn back down into another twisting, full of holes, guttered track to Cirali, which turns out to be just five minute walk via the beach to Olympos (It takes nearly 40minutes to drive the18km of road up and down).
Cirali is adorable. Like Olympos it’s laid back, but there’s a more quieter vibe to it. Olympos is full of the 20something backpacker who’s looking to catch the essence of yesterday’s hippy trail.
Cirali is more of a ‘flashpacker’ village. Set amongst stands of orange groves, the ‘tree houses’ are little more refined from the rustic huts of Olympos and the cafes play a more mellower tune. We book into a sweet little motel in the middle of an orange orchard, creatively called “The Orange Motel” and quickly change into warm clothing and comfortable walking shoes for the hike up Mt Olympos where we will watch the sun set and watch the spectacle of the Chimera begin. The Chimera is a mythical Lycian fire-breathing creature, with the blended appearance of lion, serpent and goat. It was thought to inhabit the area near ancient Olympos where it roamed and roared its flaming breath. These flames still sprout forth, from the rock of Mount Olympos. Called the Yanartaş, methane gas permeates from the rock and has been burning for over 2500years. Although it’s impossible to extinguish them, they do ‘move’.
M and I drive the three km’s to the start of the path to the Yanartas. It's a steep walk up.
Although we don't find it too taxing, the path is extremely slippery. The marble rock slabs are so worn by time and the thousands who’ve walked it, it’s like being on roller skates... on ice! and any little gravel dust on the marble see us sliding precariously. I’m astounded to see people trekking up in flip-flops and sandals and do my little under-the-breath 'tsk tsk' and shake my head. The path up is only about 1000metres and we reach the flaming rock mound after a half hour or so. It’s spectacular! Behind us the views are stunning and the valley, beach and sea stretch out in the soft sun setting glow. In front a large grey rock mound is peppered with flaming vents.
Small and large flames lap out; groups of people sit around them. Some roast marshmallows and toast bread, others enjoy a drink as if around a camp fire. One family is actually ‘rotissering’ a sausage. Just near the path and below the flaming mound sits the temple ruins of Hephaistos, god of blacksmiths, volcanoes and fire. There’s a party atmosphere on the mount, one group has brought music.
We’ve brought beer and packet of BBQ Shapes and so M and I find an unoccupied flame vent, pop ourselves down and watch the glowing sunset as music and laughter fills the air. Dusk falls and the mountain comes alive with lapping flames. It’s an amazing sight. When we first arrived it looked like there were only a few flames, but as the cold air hits the mountain, flames begin popping up all over the place.
Darkness descends and we begin the walk back down along with a few others. I barely step onto the path when my foot slips on a smattering of dust on marble and I slip to my bottom. “Whoa, that’s slippery” I say. Next minute another woman just in front of me goes down. M helps me up and we gingerly walk down the pathway, torch in hand, trying hard not to step on the marble slabs – which is quite hard, for between the flat marble blocks sit large round stones poking out. A short way down we hear another person fall on the stones and stop to see if they are ok. They are. I keep telling M to be careful and not to slip – my main concern, if he gets hurt I can’t drive the car. Firstly, I didn’t end up getting my international licence and secondly, I can’t actually drive a manual car. Behind us an elderly lady is being helped down by her not too much younger friend. M offers to help them and as he assists I continue on.
As I take a step down my foot catches the gravel and a very audible, sickening crack is followed by a searing pain shooting up my leg as I feel my ankle do a 90degree bend under my weight. I go down. We are still at least 700meters up from the bottom. I can barely stand, let alone walk. The pain is excruciating. M reaches me, does the ‘can you move it’ routine for which I nearly knock him out with a reflex action when he touches it, then he offers a solution to the problem – “I’ll piggy-back you.”
"Don't be so ridiculous!" I cry. An image of us both tumbling down the mountain flashes across my mind. I continue trying to hobble down. A guide with group coming up sees me and offers to send someone for a stretcher from the village but warns me it’ll take a while. A cold wind is creeping up the mountain and I'm starting to shake. I'm not sure if its from the cold or it's shock, but I don’t want to spend another minute on the mountain. I thank him through tears and keep hobbling. It takes us over an hour to hobble and shuffle to the bottom. The drive back to the village is awful as every bump and turn sends more excruciating stabs into me.
It’s well after 11pm when we finally arrive back at the Orange and seeing my distress, the very concerned owners go for the doctor who just happens to live next door. Dr Ali comes and gently feels my ankle and gives a diagnosis – he’s fairly sure it’s a sprain and not a break. It’s as positive as could be hoped for and the relief is palpable, although Dr Ali tells me “It’ll be crutches and a boot for at least two weeks.”
Karma, she’ll change your plans if you step out of line.