The World is an amazing place .... go and be in it

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A Paradise where Angels and Eagles play - Norfolk Island

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. 

Monday, 8 December 2014

Even Turkey has a big Chicken.

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

Poppy Fields and a Cotton Castle

(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. ).   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.