Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Chrismas and hurry Krishnas! xxx

Hello hello,
So my best beloved, where did we leave you... in that zoo of a city, Delhi, eating momo's  with Neeraj. Neeraj was a god sent for us, a breath of fresh air in the stifling city smog, my throat is still recovering. As Matt explained in depth we spent a few days lounging in UK high commission and eating fish and chips. After which we were once again ready to explore India, and so off to rajasthan we went.

We've been traveling by train here which is quite an experience of it's own. We take 2nd class (sleeper) where we've found ourselves stacked among layers of beds, usually 3, with an assortment of other Indians (men mainly) who more often then not spend the entire ride staring at me; an hour i could understand but these are 10 hour rides people. The trains have the most atrocious toilets in the world; and if, God forbid you have to use one on your 10 hour ride, you'll find yourself in a little bunker of a room with a rather ambiguous puddle on the ground, shit on all walls, and a whole in the corner. I wont go on, I'm sorry, but i thought a few of you might want to know these things. Though out the ride, at any hour day or night, people will be tromping up and down the train saying "chai chai chai, chitta chai chai." I can't explain the tone they use but it comes from somewhere deep in their sinus, very nasal, almost like a tuvan thought singer, and they all sound just the same. Other than the Chai Guys there are people selling samosa's, nuts, rice, chips, soda's; people shinning shoe's, fixing broken zippers; selling bags and blankets and cloths. All sorts of stuff, we even found a 'pen' sales man, very sweet guy with thousands of pens, he had pen's coming out of his ears.

The train this time took us to the little oasis town of Pushkar, the 'Bhrama' place of India (I believe he's Krishna's brother.) Pusha means flower and Kar is hand; the oasis was said to have been created from the petals that fell from Bhrama's hand. To say the least the spring here creates a very holy lake with ghats on all side, I might venture to call these ghats steps into the water. A good Hindi would make a yearly pilgrimage to the lake to bath in it's water and wash away the sins of the past. It is here that Matt and I fell victim to our fist con, for some reason this village is brimming with crocks and cons. We ended up paying someone about 300 rupees to put a dot on our heads and give us a bit of string. Religious cons are really the hardest to walk away from though we have a new vow "NEVER (ever) pay for religion" and i think it will serve us well. The streets of Pushkar are filled with not only people but pigs and cows and the occasional camel too, and the roofs are lined with monkeys. At dusk the monkeys venture down to the streets to reek havoc and steal from the fruit stands. Perhaps the thought of theft does not cross a monkeys mind but only a innocent imitation of the people they observe all day. Something about how comfortable Pushkar made us feel lead us to think that hopping into the first cafe we found and eating the food they were cooking on the side of the road was a good idea. Our stomachs spent the next 2 days violently rejecting whatever it was we consumed; we made it though, ate a few banana's and drank lots of water and came out 3 days later a little thiner but all in all just fine.

After Pushkar we made our way to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal and Matt's 26th birthday. The Taj Mahal is picture perfect (besides from the swarms of people everywhere.) Something i never new was that it is a Moslem. The king and queen who built it had 13 children, six of which survived and four of those where boys. One of the sons then killed all his brothers and locked his father up in the fort to take over the palace and the Taj. So not such a romantic story but the moral is you can be rich enough to build one of the 7 wonders of the world and you still may not find peace, in fact i would say it lessens the odds. Anyways the original king was returned back to the Taj... after death, and that is now where his tomb lies. One other interesting point here is the Taj cost 750 rupees to visit, which by indian standard is REALLY steep, but this is only for foreigners. Take a guess at how much indian nationals pay? Twenty rupees. Unbelievable! I mean the principle i can understand but lets put the two numbers a little closer together ehh? Anyways the Taj is beautiful and glorious and everything you would expect but Agra is a dirty tourist trap and not somewhere worth righting about at all.

Now we make our way to Dharamsala, home to the Dali Lama. Another train to Delhi and then what we hoped would be a 8 hour ride to Chatty back and THEN a 3 hour ride up the mountains to Dharamsala. As you can imagine we were not looking forward to re-entering the hellish city of delhi but it actually turned out quite well. We found the extremely sought after restaurant 'Karims.' It was opened over a hundred years ago by the man who cooked for the maharaja's of the Mughal empire and since then has been passed down though the family to the current owner who is the great great grandson or something like that. The food is AMAZING! Defiantly, by far,experiences and absolutely the best indian food ever; and damn close the the one of the best dining experiences ever. You see how much of a impression good food can make on somebody. Anyone going to Delhi absolutely must eat here, and it's very well priced, about 10 dollars and we could barely walk away we were so full. So it was a excellent intermission for our journey and a good intermission for us... I'll leave the rest for next time.

Merry Christmas once agin

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holy Cow!

 OK, OK, wow!  The last few days have been a whirlwind of wild experiences, and I think we can say without too much doubt that the adventure has truly began.  I am writing you currently pool side in the safety and comfort of the English Embassy in Deli, India; a much appreciated change from the last few days.  So in true Wains World fashion lets flash back to just 10 days before and get you all caught up....

 The Mini Buss is actually a public Turkish buss in Denizli, we come to realize, and is crammed to the brim with an assortment of very colorful people.  We are dropped off in the quite dubious looking little town of Pamukkale, which happens to look nothing like all the pictures we have seen, but it is the off season so we're gona give it a chance.  Weather it was the ten hour bus ride from Olympos, or the ever growing hunger pit in our stomaches we let ourselves get coaxed into a room at a place that slightly resembled what the hotel may have looked like in the 80's; we were starting to notice a trend.  This coaxing, which is like coning with a smile, is something were are getting good training in dealing with, and let me tell you it won't be a problem much longer.  We collapsed in our dirty bed, and decided better grab some grub and hit the sack, but on our way into town we were coaxed to eat at the hotel, which we were assured would be cheaper and traditional, and we thought what the hell, and i am sure that if we had eaten it within a few days of it being cooked it may have been good.  The next day, when I managed to stay away from the toilet for more than five minutes, we trekked to the famous Roman Bathes, but being the genius that I am, decided to ignore the looming clouds and Nimas advice and just wore my swim trunks, then I managed to use the last bit of my optimism to ginks the clouds into drenching us by saying, 'Hey at least its not raining.'
  The Bathes were at one point very beautiful, and you can still see potential, but make sure your in the mood to stair at more ruins, if you hadn't had your fill.  To go into the famous Cleopatra Bath you should prepared to spend about 80 american, oh and if you want maybe a freekin beer to chill you out or just some stale crappy french fries to fill the burning hole in your stomach be prepared to fork out another 20.  But hey if I were you I'd save myself allot of money and damn near hypothermia and just take a quick trip to the DMV for a similar experience.  I was spent at this point, emotionally and physically, but Nima, who I must say has the stomach of a goat, was pissed and done.  In a gust of feminine glory she went back into our hotel to tell them that we were leaving, but to her dismay there was no one there, so we packed up left a 50 lira note on the bed and bailed to a much better place that Nima originally wanted to go to, and our trip to Pamukkale turned around.

Thanks for hearing me out I think I really needed to vent.

  We spent the night Drinking beer, eating our first veggie meal in Turkey, and playing backgammon with a very nice couple that ran the hotel.  The beds were cleaner and so was the food, both of these things were cheaper as well, plus they ran a travel service and hooked us up with a bus in the morning back to Istanbul.  That place made it all worth the trip.  After another 12 hour cross country trek we were back with our friends Onar and Turan, the guys who generously offered us their couch.  They had kept track of our bags while we paraded around their country, and it was nice to get back to friendly faces and a clean place to sleep.  We had what we thought was the luxury of a few days to spend in Istanbul before our flight to India, but unfortunately we realized that Midnight thirty on the ninth actually came dangerously close to the eighth, which happened to be that day, so we scrambled to see the Hagia Sophia which had a history as long as something really long. The place was a Palace, then a Temple, then after Constantine the Great, it was Catholic, Constantine changed Istanbul to Constantinople, then it got changed back, and the Hagia became Muslim, but now it it is a famous and majestic tourist trap, but a nice place to wonder around before a flight.  We also rampaged through the Grand Bazar, but it wasn't bazar at all, it was a mall, but the coolest and oldest mall ever, lets just say I saw some rugs that would really tie my room together back home and some hookahs to burn holes in that rug.  Cool place.  After a quick bite with Tunar at a place we quickly became locals at; eating there every night, our host took us to eat the best desert, aside from Grandmas red velvet cake, I have ever had, real baklava with whip cream.  Then we grabbed our bags and jammed to the airport for our next three and a half hour time change.  Thanks guys for all the help!  In the line for our tickets I was informed by a representative of Arabia Air that I could not take my guitar on the flight unless I played for them, right their in the airport, in front of everyone.  A rather crazy form of security, by my rendition of Cecelia by Paul Simon seemed to suffice.

  We landed with red eyes to the land of saffron, sorrys, and samosas, but man I felt high from the lack of sleep, so we giggled our way through customs which was surprisingly painless.  Then our adventure truly began, stay tuned after a word from our sponsors.
  With my hectic travel schedule its hard to stay healthy, different vitamins and minerals, its all so hard to keep track of, thats why I put my trust in Citricidal TM.  Just 15 drops in your water every day to keep you off the toilet and on your feet.  Its grapefruit seed extract liquid concentrate, and take it from me, it really works.  That or a shot of whiskey after a shaky meal.
  You know Mr. Toads Wild Ride, it's got nothing on a rickshaw ride through the streets of Delhi. The things you see going down the road; horses, oxen, children on motor scooters, bicycles dragging scaffolding.  Cows with more makeup than Paris Hilton crossing whenever they please, and everyone stops for them, and you know the best part, NO STARBUCKS, I wondered if I didn't survive the ride and I just ended up in heaven.  I will take the poppa squat toilets any day over seeing a starbucks on every corner, no joke.  For the first few days we couch surfed and explored with some other surfers we met, Robert and Jadah, who showed us the wonder of foot travel in Delhi, which I will use my SAT skills to describe.  Foot travel in Santa Cruz is to foot travel in Delhi as driving at Disney Land is to Driving In LA.  Its not the best metaphor, in fact I'm not sure it's a metaphor at all, but I hope you can see what I mean.  We checked out the biggest Mosque in all of Delhi, which I managed to snap a rather imaginative photo of, completely accidentally by the way.  We had bon fires and played music, and one night I got drunk and rode a horse, you know when you get all drunk, then the next morning your girlfriend is like, "what did you do last night?'  but in your memory you had spent it together until you get this flash of riding a horse through the streets of Delhi; it was like that.  I ate something too, but I don't remember what, but I'm alive thanks to Citricidal TM.  Next we caught the couch surfing wave to Neerag's door, he's an old friend of Eve's from her time at the English Embassy.  It was great to meet him, and he's giving us much appreciated local advice, as well as letting us chill at a sweet pool where the hot December sun is warming our souls.

  So it looks like this episode has really came full circle folks, I was a little worried about those two for a while, but I sure am glad they pulled through.  Until next time keep dreaming, and ask your doctor if Citricidal TM is right for you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Istanbul, Oylmpos, and the Chimera Beast

Turkey, a land where howling prayers echo though the streets and over the mountains three times a day. Where the men bath in fountains before entering a mosque and the woman cover all but the face in shrouds. Where one eats Kebab breakfast lunch and dinner (breakfast might be an exaggeration) Where the Cafes are lined with leathery men smoking nargile (hookah) and playing backgammon, and where to be beat by the likes of me (a woman) is very unlucky. A land where chestnuts roast on every street corner, and the bridges are lined with fishermen.  A world where the Mustache rains, and nobody got the memo that the 80-'s where over.

Matt and me flew into Istanbul on the 27th and stayed with some new couch surfing friends there for 3 days.  By day we explored the city on our own, navigating though crocked streets lined with cons and rip offs; and by night we dissolved into the local life of our host, smoking nargile and drinking salep. For our first step into Istanbul we made our way to the blue mosque. In contradiction to its name it is not blue, it gets its name however from the blue motif of the tiles inside (make's it a bit hard to spot for the likes of our American eyes :P) Right across from the Blue Mosque we stumbled upon, and luckily not into the Basilica Cistern. This was a huge water storage chamber for the Great Palace of Constantinople, now called the Topkapi Palace. Together Matt and me walked down into the Cistern which was one of the most unforgettable images we have found on our travels, a chamber of approx. 450 feet filled with nothing but darkness, 2 feet of water, and rows upon rows of marble columns.  In the far back corner of the Cistern we found two columns which were resting on Medusa's head. Many of the columns and heads a like were said to have been stolen off of old Roman building and brought by the Ottoman Empire to "Constantinople" Istanbul.Matt and I also witnessed the burning of the Historical Train Station. Strolling along the old city walls though the Topkapi Place Gardens we crested a little hill only to be stunned by the sight of the Old Train Station burning from the other side of the Bay.

After a few days in Istanbul Matt and me hoped on the Kamil Koc (pronounced couch not cock) which is an over night train that took us to the southern Mediterranean region Antalia. Matt wants me to let you know that after a long hard journey on the Kamil Koc our bums were very sore, unfortunately it's too true. We had a tip from someone to come to the little valley of Olympos in the middle of no where. We arrived 'there' at 8:30 AM after a 12 hr journey, and when I say 'there' i mean on the side of the road 15 Miles above Olympos with a stack of bags. Luckily this was a common occurrence and due to the regular dismayed backers left on the road a small cafe had opened up. Through our nonexistent Turkish and highly developed expertise of body language we gathered from the owner of the cafe that a mini shuttle bus would come to the top soon enough and we could catch a ride to the bottom of the valley then.

In Olympos we found accommodation at the Hotel California... well that is the name of our room. The place it's self is called Kadir's Top Tree Houses and it's really very special. It's a funky little adventure resort which looks like a mix of  "The Swiss Family Robinson" and "Butch Casady." (if these references are lost on you go ask your parents.) We have our own room here and get breakfast and lunch included in the fairly low price of 20 lira per person. Olympos it's self is amazing, Now it has perhaps a population of 50 but It once was a powerful ancient city filled with hustle and bustle from Hellenistic Period (just after Alexander the Greats conquests.) In the 1st century AD it was invaded by Cilician Pirates, run down and abandoned by anyone with dignity. About 100 years later a Roman commander accompanied by Julius Caesar took the city after a victory at sea. And so the city became part of the Roman Empire and stayed that way until during the civil wars that eventually crushed the roman empire and the city once again fell into the hands of the pirates. In the 10th AD the city was brought back to power by the christian crusaders who built fortresses along the coast. But though all this history and different societies that lived here, Olympos was abandoned by the 15th century. And today there is a little village here supported by tourism from people like me and matt who think the idea of strolling though the ancient ruins and artifacts, sitting on the Mediterranean beach underneath a 500 year old castle, surrounded by renegade grape vines olive and bay trees is about as close to perfect for the time being as one could get.
Matt and me are absolutely loving exploring here, as one could guess. There as no fences, or keep out signs, we're just able to wonder though the old roman ruins of temples and bath houses etc. Climbing though windows and touching the ancient carving in the stones.

Olympos was also home to the great Chimera beast; she had the head of lion, body of a goat, and the tail of a serpent (perhaps the front feet of a bird as well?) It is here that the beast was slain and in the spot of her death the flames of her anguish will forever burn. Science on the other hand has given light to the natural phenomena as being methane gas seeping out from the crevasses  in the rock and this is what causes the eternal flames of Chimera. Anyway you slice it it is very cool. Matt and me hiked about 6 kilometer though the valley and up the cliffy mountains to see the Chimera flames, when we finally arrived at the top of the mountain there they were as they were 2000 years ago. Homer actually wrote about Chimera in the Odyssey. It was truly amazing, an eternal gas stove glowing away in the sunset. We had heard it was a two beer minimum location for anyone who could stomach the climb so at the top we had a nice picnic of snacks and a couple brewskies. Matt actually light one of the flames... the gas seeps from the rocks and a few of the obvious normal flame spots where out so leave it to our Matty boy to take a lighter to them and test his luck. To our suprise one of the holes made a gurgling noise and then shot flames from it's mouth. We tried and tried to recreate this experience with no success. The flame had been light and the excess gas had been used so you will not get to see a video of this but you can hear the story alone.

I think i could tell you stories of the dogs we've adopted here, or that have adopted us; or of the climbers we've met and the people we've stayed with but i'll leave it at this for now and let you dwell on the Chimer Beast yourself. Perhaps you will make it to Olympos one day and then we'll all know that it's not some fairy land that Matt and me created for your enjoyment.

Until we wright again, much more to come...