Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 - We hardly knew you

Sitting here in my sister's house in Glasgow on the last day of the year. The last few months have been rather busy for girlclumsy and myself... just a little :)

Personally I have to say that 2006 was a pretty good year for me. We have travelled many many places and seen amazing things. Yet it was not just the travel for me this year. It is hard to remember my life before August of this year (Haven't I always just travelled around the world randomly? I am pretty sure this is what I was born to do... give me my TARDIS..im ready), but I do remember directing Equus at the Brisbane Arts Theatre. Now that was a interesting experience! Everything from intense worry, anger, confusion, hope and elation. In the end the show went brilliantly (if i do say so myself!) and i couldnt have been more proud of my cast, my stage manager, my set builder and even myself. I discovered recently that the play is going to be performed again at the Metro Arts Theatre in Brisbane lat January.. so keep an eye out for it.

Christmas was excellent and relaxing. Eoghann's parents (my sister's parents-in-law) are some of the nicest and most welcoming people you could ever meet. Over the last few months I have cut down my food intake (mainly as we couldnt afford to eat sometimes!) but that wasnt going to happen at the Walker residence.. no sireee! We were well fed to the point of bursting with all sorts of scottish treats and meats.. well I had a lot of vegetarian options but the house was full of freshly hunted pheasant and venison. We played board games, ate, went for walks through the scottish highlands, ate, drank waaaaay to much, ate, slept, ate, watched the Doctor Who Xmas Special (The Doctor can be a cruel man at times!), ate, tasted a few (ie many) different types of single malt whisky (I have become a whisky snob in training ;) ) and ate ate ate! All in all a very successful xmas.

We have spent the last few days bumming around Glasgow. Girlclumsy has been enjoying the January Sales (Now in December!) and i bought a beautiful velvet 3/4 length coat...i will only have to wait 6 months or so until it is cold enough in Brisbane to wear it again!

Finally watched the second series of the British comedy show 'The Mighty Boosh'. Much better than series one, imo. The only really disturbing part was the character 'Old Gregg'. Half man, half fish (or maybe 70/30 ratio) with a 'mix-up downstairs'... one word 'Mangina'. I have been wandering around Glasgow saying 'I'm Old Gregg' over and over in a high pitched voice. Well, it amuses me.

We are going to an indoor skiing field this afternoon. It hasnt snowed here in Glasgow at all and we have had a lot of sun! The scottish keep telling me it is unseasonably warm here. I am hoping i break my leg today so i have to take 6 weeks off from work when i get back ;) After the afternoon ski (or even snowboarding) we are off to a Ceilidh for the New Year's celebration. This is a traditional scottish shindig, with dancing, drinking and kilts! I wore a kilt at my sister's wedding and loved it so much i have hired another one for tonight... Nothing is sexier than a man in a woollen skirt. That may be my love of Eddie Izzard going to far :)

Aaaaanyhoo... I have to go make myself beautiful for the ball.

Best Wishes to Everyone for the New Year.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas cancelled due to fog

So... we try and leave Rome and discover that Liverpool airport is closed due to fog. Bummer, hey. So we wait in line.. and wait and wait and finally get a choise between waiting a day for the next Liverpool flight or wait an hour and go to London Luton instead. Thinking that it would bet better to be stuck in London than in Rome for xmas we take the London Luton flight.

thank.. the... gods...

We fly in and manage to hire one of the last rental cars and make our way north. Tagging along with Girlclumsy and I is a Canadian girl we met in the line in Rome who must have decided we were not a serial killer couple (Though GC did start some strange Wolf Creek related conversation in the middle of the Penines... strange girl!). On our 5 hour drive north to Liverpool we here that all the London airports have been closed due to inclement weather.. and so has Liverpool airport! Bloody Hell! As far as we know they airports are still closed but they hope it will all clear by the 24th of December.#

It seems we dodged the sleeping-in-Luton-airport-for-xmas bullet by 24 hours.

We made it to Liverpool safely and met up with MixMaster Mike (last time we saw Mike wasin greece). We spent a fun day and night bar hopping and visiting places from my mum's childhood. I dont mean my mum spent her childhood in bars... i mean she is a Scouser at heart and i managed to track down the very house she was born in!



Wellington St in Garston, Liverpool! Found it! It was funny to think of my Mater as one of nine children (with Nanny and Oupa as well) living in this small house in the rough side of Liverpool.

I even found the house! I won't say which number it was as i dont want you upsetting the nice people who live there now with your pilgrammages to the Mother of The Wah ;)


Today we had to say goodbye to MixMaster and we headed north again until we arrived safely in Glasgow at my sister's house.

Tomorrow we head out to Inverness for a highland christmas.

Best Wishes to you and yours this festive season. Be safe, be happy and be good.. or if you can't be good then be good at it. (Copyright Mika-Monster ;) )

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rome if you want to...

Rome around the world...

ah... the comedy never ends with mis-spelling the B-52 lyrics. Girlclumsy sits behind me in the apartment we are currently staying at cursing me (politely but with venom) for pre-empting her gag title! a-ha!

aaaaanyhoo... Rome.. the eternal city... full of stuff... so much stuff. Ancient stuff, religious stuff, streets, shops and other stuff. We came here a few years ago and pushed ooooh so much into 6 days and still had so much more to see. This time we decided to not run ourselves ragged and just see the things we missed from before.. or we really really liked.

So yesterday (after be rescued from a highway SOMEWHERE in Rome but the man who owns the apartment we are staying in.. we really had no idea where we were or where we were meant to go to ... but Renato came and picked us up from the side of the road in his sexy green jaguar and gave us a tour of the local area... awww.. what a nice man) we headed out to the Colloseum (just walked around it as we have been in before and we are poooooooooor) and then the Roman forum (which i just love) and into the main city area to wander Via de Corso (where the shops are plentiful and expensive). We kept noticing places from Dan Brown,s "Angels and Demons" which imo is a better story than Da Vinci Code and was its precursor and had a little look inside of them... many churches and fountains and suchlike. It is amazing how the outside of a church can be quite dowdy and bland but inside is a riot of gold and woodwork and sculpture..im sure one of those churches could be sold off for billions and used to feed the poor and suchlike but what would a filthy atheist like me know about helping the masses : Had a wander past the Spanish Steps (it looks better by night than by day.. and there are less gyspies trying to sell you tat also) and more importantly went into the Pantheon... oh how i love this pagan temple cum basilica. Everytime i come here i feel 'something'. The age of the place is staggering and all the 'modern' trappings of the church cant hide the fact that this was and still is an ancient place of worship and mystery and general pagan sexiness. The 9m wide Occulus in the roof stares down on you and you know you are someplace special. Also Raphael's remains are in here so that is just a bonus for me! Onwards to throw coins into the Trevi fountain (we shall return!) and this time we were able to enter the church next to the fountain to see the place where the Pope's hearts are kept after they died.. but not the hearst themselves as they are hidden away...poo

Today we went to the staggeringly beautiful St Peter's (My big church is bigger than your big church) Basilica. I love the sense of space in this place.. and it has Michelangelo's Pieta as well... and i have come to really love that sculpture. IMO Michelangelo couldnt paint women to save his life (Sistine Chapel's women are rubbish... men with boobs) but by crikey could he sculpt them... and this Pieta is the best of the bunch and generally a gorgeous bit of artwork. We even went under the Basilica to see JPII's (John Paul the second for those easily offended) final resting place. It was very simple and white marble... which is better than most of the show off burial chambers the Popes used to have. Very similar to JP1 in fact... so well done JP2. Off to the Castel St Angelo which used to be the final resting place for Emperor Hadrien's ashes (the scottish wall guy) but has been a church, a fortress and a papal hidey hole in bad times (also a cracking backdrop for 'angels and demons').

Finally got to see the sculpture 'The Ecstasy of St Teresa' in Santa Maria Del Vittorio (or something similar). Great sculpture.. my new fourth fave after David and 'Rape of the Sabine Women' and Mike's Pieta. This chick basically had endless orgasms given to her by god and Bernini decided to make a sculpture of it.. nice! It is a great sculpture in all seriousness and worth hunting down when you come to Rome.

To top the day off we took a stroll along the Circus Maximus (next to the imprssive runs perched ontop of the Palantine Hill.. where Romulus and Remus were kept alive by the she-wolf) to see the 'Bocca della Verita'. The Mouth of Truth. It supposedly bites the hand off of any liars that place their digits within is marble maw but saaaaaadly my truthiness could not be verified as the place was closed and we could only stare at the marble ex-sewer cover.. shame ;)

2 days in Rome is never enough but we only came here this time as the flights were cheap and we had some time to kill before Liverpool.. which we will be in tomorrow

In the words of Girlclumsy 'Veni, Vidi, Visa' ... 'We Came, We Saw, We did a little shopping'

Friday, December 15, 2006

Wham! Pow! Krakow!

Dzien dobry from Krakow (the cultural capital of Poland... probably the cultural capital as it was one of the few Polish cities not levelled by the Nazis and the Soviets in WW2). Ah Poland... the Parking Lot for german and russian tanks for most of last century... and before that is was used as a major highway and landgrab opportunity for every empire in the area..Prussia, Russia, Austria... even Sweden!

We jet back into Europe and the need to start wearing our fleeces is great as we enter 'official cold' time. Cold and windy.. a fantastic combination. The locals agree it is cold..ish.. but (and you have to thank global warming for this ;) ) they point out at this time of year it should be -15C not +5C! They are scratching their heads and waiting for winter to actually start. Our first day in the Main Square was enlivened with a re-enactment of the anti-communist government riots 25 years ago. Chanting protestors face off the army and it all seemed very real. We were reassured this was all for show by our local walking tour guide... and the reality was further tarnished later on when one of the protestors was broken away from the pack by 4 greenclad army guys who proceeded to beat the protestor with what looked like 14 inch long neon pink rubber dildoes. In the blink of the eye the performance had gone from being GI Joe to Julian Clary... and that amused me no end!

Krakow (and Poland) is steeped in history.. most of it bloody and most of the blood Polish. Being at the crossoroads of Europe they pretty much have had the tar kicked out of them since day dot. For a while they, linked with the then massive state of Lithuania, formed one of the biggest empires in Europe (Everyone gets their time in the sun in Europe history.. everything old is new again and everyone small will one day grow huge and start looking for those that pushed them around and have a 'chat'). Don't get my wrong, i do not believe that the Polish were innocent lambs who hurt nothing and no-one throughout history and I am sure they gave as good as they got... up to a point... and that point was 1795 when the entire country was devided up neatly into three easily digestible lumps and devoured by Austria, Prussia and Russia. They stopped existing as Poland completely until 1918! Holy Crap!

But then it was all smooth sailing until the present day, right? ... right?... um no.. not quite. Uncle Adolph came swanning over the hill and turned Poland into a lovely staging ground against the soviets a(who quickly grabbed as much as they could as well) and Poland stopped existing again. They were forced to be communists after that and have only recently been able to choose something different. You can imagine why they were rather distrustful of joining the E.U originally. But joined they have and I think the future will be brighter for poor battered Poland.

Today Girlclumsy and I went to Auschwitz - Birkenau, the largest and most infamous extermination camp in the world. Just outside of Krakow (nice of the nazis to not put something that nasty on their own soil) this place, i am sure, is synonymous with 'evil' in your mind and i am also sure you have seen the pictures. Piles of emaciated corpses, gas-chambers, execution walls, warehouses of dead people's possesions etc. I don't really want to go into too much detail about the day but the place was exactly as bad as you think it was... maybe worse. To be in a chamber where hundreds of thousands met a terrible chemical end was shocking. The clinical efficieny of the slaughter was terrifying and the number of people killed (1.1 million, 97% of them Jews who walked from off a train directly into a gas chamber) in this place is mind numbing. Visit this place...

For the rest of our time in Krakow we want to visit the world famous 'Wieliczka Salt Mine' and i have heard there are some really impressive pagan burial mounds somewhere nearby. Also there is 'Nowa Huta' (literally 'New Steel Mill'). This is a soviet style steel mill built for propanganda and not economic reasons. Brave sons and daughters of the state toiling for the state and being rewarded handsomely blah blah blah... the usual nonsense governments spout. Actually it is not just a mill but an entire satellite city built to house the workers etc.. and it sounds like something GC and I need to poke around.

The Moroccon and Spanish photos have been added to the many many online travel photos at http://photos.yahoo.com/argo13 .

Buboe Watch - The chance of buboes is small across The Wah this week. The already existing High Pressure Left Jaw Buboe front is diminishing and we expect the entire system to vanish by the weekend.

Last bit of news... It seems our little blogs have been noticed by people living in Fez! They left a comment on both our blogs and were very impressed with Girlclumsy's blog about the hammam. Have a look at 'View From Fez' and see our waxing international star!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Spontaneous Camden

With only a few hours left in London I am looking over the buildings of Camden Town and seeing the top half of the London Eye the dome of St Paul's Cathedral and many other buildings that are instantly recognisable as London landmarks but as a filthy colonial i dont know their names. We have been staying with Deb and Tom from the Spontaneity Shop. Thees guys are professional improvisors.. ie they make their living doing Improvised theatre.. and only improvised theatre.. they dont have other jobs! In fact they even have an honest to god office and have hired two extra staff members! Bloody hell! Who says you cant make money out of impro?! We met them a few years ago when Deborah came to Brisbane and taught an impro class for us. It was really good to see how people in other countries do what you do especially in Brisbane where the impro gene-pool was (at the time) a little bit small and, frankly, stale. From then on we have kept in touch and everytime we come to London we like to meet up with Deborah and Tom and hang out.. and do impro workshops and have even done a few shows with them.. and we also have been lucky enough to stay in their lovely apartment in Camden. Sooo.. if you are ever in London and you want to some professional improvised theatre..or you want to learn from some of the best improvisors i have met then get along to a Spontaneity Shop show/workshop! (not that they need a plug from the likes of me :) )

Avenue Q was brilliant. With such inspired songs as 'Everyone is a little bit racist sometimes' and 'Shadenfreude' and the song made famous by internet geeks everywhere 'The Internet is for Porn'. It was funny and, quite unexpectedly, moving. It is amazing how connected you can become to a puppet.

Girlclumsy and I have had a relatively quiet time here in Camden. She has been in an impro show and done a workshop. I watched the impro show and didnt do the workshop because i havent been feeling the best... yes yes.. still run down and slightly icky. I decided it would be best to conserve my energy for Poland, Rome and a real honest-to-god scottish Hogmanay.

The weather here in London has been getting very cold overnight. I even wore my under-jacket for the first time two nights ago. It isnt the temperature that gets you but the bloody awful cold wind that seems to race down Camden Rd and right up my rain jacket.

Okay.. time for Buboe watch. The buboe under my right ear finally succumbed to my mutant healing factor and vanished (or maybe the alien young gestating there finally decided to leave home and get a job.. you decide which is more likely). That means it lasted for about a week and was a minor inconvenience. Unfortunately another one has developed on the left side, further down. Even for me that was getting beyond a joke, and i have been feeling run down and blechy for a few days, so (remembering all the golden positive experiences girlclumsy has had with the NHS EVERYTIME she has been sick over here.. and i do not mean that sarcastically, it has been good) i shlepped along to the soho walkin clinic to have my lump looked at. I was happy to be told that the wait would be 15 or so... and they kept their promise. Within 15 minutes i was seen by a nurse who... did nothing.. nothing at all. She merely went through all the details i had already written down on the entrance form and proceeded to tell me i would have to wait AT LEAST 2 hours for a another nurse who would try and see what the problem was but would probably not be able to administer anything useful (not being a doctor, i was told) and i would be referred to a doctor at a hospital not that nearby and god only knows how long i would have wait for her/him... So with a smile and a happy cry of 'Bollocks' i left that place never to return. Yes, i know i am ill, but it hasnt killed me yet and i keep hoping it is mumps related and will steralise me... Now, before Mater threatens me again with all sorts of horror :) i am not very ill, i promise. The new buboe is diminishing in size and my only other symptoms are a generallack of energy which she would remember from when i lived at home and she wanted me to vacuum the house :)

All in all we are well(ish) and ready to tackle the crazy party history town of Krakow!

Excelsior!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

London's Calling...

at the top of the dial...

Greetings from the arguably the world's most urban city.

Getting here from Madrid was a bit of trial. They found 4 extra bags in our flight they couldnt account for so they emptied the plane's hold onto the tarmac! They still couldnt work out which were the wrong bags so they had us all (in groups of 5.. according to spanish law it had to be in fives) troop out of the plane and point our our bags which they then put back in the hold. After 2 hours of messing around on the tarmac they realised they DIDNT have any extra bags and it had been a screw up of the baggage handlers... wheee! I was surprisingly zen about the whole situation.. though it was probably the lump on my head keeping me calm so i didnt disturb the alien young gestating in my head :)

The lump seems to be going away all its own, btw. So i dont want to aggravate by letting some quack doctor get near it. If he/she starts prodding the buboe then the alien queen might take offence and reduce our planet to slag.. see.. im thinking about all of you!

But arrive we did in london. I have always had a love/hate relationship with london. It is an amazing place to wander and discover but after a while i get very fed up with the filthy locals and filthy tourists and every filthy person in the middle... but maybe that's just me :)

We traipsed into the centre of the city lugging our backpacks and the first thing i noticed was that i couldnt hear anyone speaking english... on the train.. in Picadilly or even in our hostel! and even more weirdly it was all spanish! It took us a whole to work out that many spanish people use their 5 day long weekend to fly over to london and have a holiday here... So i am very glad i didnt go out of my way to annoy the spaniards in Madrid as they all seem to have come over here!

We are staying in a backpackers right in the city of Picadilly... just off Pic Circus. It is... okay. That is all i will say about it. Maybe i am getting old but it seems to be filled with uppity, fashion victim, euro-trash teenagers. All glitz, glamour and little to know substance (or brain cells) between them... (and they play their music too loud ;) )

Last night i dragged the poor suffering girlclumsy to Spamalot. Yep.. of all the culture and theatre we could go and see i wanted to see the Monty Python musical! We got pretty good tickets for cheap and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. I have always liked monty python but i will only quote the skits loudly at a party if i am sure i can really annoy someone by doing it. ;) I realised i wasnt the biggest geek fan there as many of the crowd broke into spontaneous song during the performance. Tim Curry plays King Arthur and to be honest he seemed a little tired and bored but after doing the same show for months every day he probably finds it hard to do it fresh and exciting. Most of the other cast members did a bang up job... my faves were Lancelot (he likes to Dance-a-lot) and Dennis Galahad (Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government!). Al your fave bits from the movie are there... the vorpal rabbit, Tim the enchanter, the monks, 'bring out your dead', the knights of Ni'... all there... If you like Monty Python and you like kitsch then you would like Spamalot.. i did

Tonight we are off to see Avenue Q... We have been told it is very funny. It is a musical comedy involving humand and puppet.. 'The Sesame Street you needed when you turned 18'

Im sure we will get to see some 'legit' theatre someday ;)

Oh yes.. we went to the Tate Modern on the banks of the Thames. I really enjoyed learning about the surrealism movement. (i am now a big fan of Francis Bacon.. the 20th Century painter.. not the other one) (and also Yves Tanguy... nice!)

but we enjoyed more the installations that let you slide down big slides from the 5th floor... heheh. You have to love art that lets you slide through a art gallery!

It has been an interesting few days to say the least!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Me llamo Bond, James Bond

Hola from Madrid...

Iy has been a lightning few days traveling right across the province of andulusia. We have now came north into Castilla La Mancha.

They are obsessed with Don Quixote here.. you see his picture everywhere. Astride his skinny horse with his tubby page Sancho by his side... tilting at windmills and all that.

Toledo was really cool. As you drive into the city you see the old walled city protected by a river on three sides and a bloody steep hill on the other side. The perfect place to build a city of you are worried about invaders of all creeds and religions coming to steal your stuff. Of course toledo is famous for its steel and swords so that might be another reason to think twice about trying to take the city. The city is full of sword shops and i was sorely tempted to buy many of them but ince again price and bag space reared it´s ugly head. We managed to find a pension for only 20 euro deep in the winding streets of the old city and even found free parking as well.. SCORE! It is gratifying to see these beautiful old cities have managed to enter the modern era with their olde worlde charme still intact.

leaving early in the morning we fought the traffic for 1 1/2 hours into madrid and after a many twists, turns and backtracks (not to mention paying for a parking we didnt even use) we managed to drop off the car, Vin Diesel... who had been renamed Shakira because she was spanish and her backend shook alot. let me tell you that diesel is great! 750-800km on a tank of diesel for slightly less than petrol! woot! diesel cars are now Wah Favourites...

Madrid is a beautiful city designed for girlclumsy and i. it gets up late and stays up to the wee hours. Shops stay open around xmas till after 10pm and the streets are lit with chrissy lights all over the place. you can still have a coffee or beer sitty on the streets.. it is a little cold but not to bad. we have only just arrived yesterday and have spent the morning doing washing but the afetrnoon is for exploring.

Went and saw Casino Royale last night in an english cinema

It is great! soooo good. The best Bond film ever.. seriously. Daniel Craig´s Bond is a true assassin. He is closer to Ian Fleming´s Bond than anybody else and he is possibly the best Bond ever.. yes even better than Connery.

Pater, i think you will like this Bond film. Less messing around and more getting the job done! He is a hard hard James Bond. There is one part in the film where he snatches victory from the jaws of defeat and smiles so coldly at his vanquished foe it gave me chills... go see Casino Royale

In other news I seem to have contracted some exciting mystery illness. I have a largish lump below my right ear that is quite visible... it seems to be too high to be lymph nodes and it doesnt hurt to move my jaw.. in fact it doesnt hurt at all. The only time it causes discomfort is when i eat. The mechanical action of chewing doesnt hurt at all but having the food in my mouth seems to aggravate the swelling... so maybe something saliva gland related. I also have little red welts on my left hand. I thought they were mossie bites from Morocco but they have been around for too long now. I have also been quite tired and run down but 4 months on the road can do that, im sure :) If it doesnt go away by the time we reach englad i am going to go to a doctor. I am hoping it Bubonic plague as i can add it to the list of nasty diseases i have caught and never knew i had.. ah Ross River Virus and Glandular Fever where is thy sting? Maybe it is Bird Flu?? coooool (yep.. i count taunting deadly diseases and dieties as two of my favourite pastimes)

better fly! Madrid awaits!

P.s Big props to our Morocco tour leader Craig and the rest of the tour for making Morocco such an exciting time

Thursday, November 30, 2006

¿OLE?

OLE!

Hola from Seville,

Before anything else give a big hand for QWERTY keyboards! The arabic/french AERTY keybards where really doing my head in.รง

After crashing ashore in Terfia we have made our way by car (a little 1.7L diesel 4 door we have started calling 'Vin') to Alegciras (which is ´green hills´ in arabic... but is the greyest dirtiest city we have seen yet) and even spent half a day in Gibraltar... oh wow.. Gib is great. It is an enclave out british interests on the shore of Spain and has so much history you need a mighty big stick to pke at it. We really didnt put enough time aside to see it and we have added it to our ever growing list of ´Places we MUST return to´. Go to Gib.. go now.. stop whatever you are doing and go! now... stop reading this and go...

We reentered spain through ´the frontier´and headed off to Cadiz. Walked around the beautiful (looked like Brighton) town and had a look at a series of ruins that stretch back to Pheonician and Punic and Roman and then up through time.... i was in heaven

We ended up this evening in Seville after a hair raising map-less drive through tiny tiny seville streets looking for a hotel.. or at the very least a rad we could drive down without smearing pedestrians on our paintwork.

Finally (after losing my cool just a tad... hehehe.. Girlclumsy is a saint) we found a cut little pension and wandered into the streets just in time to see a live traditional flamenco dance/sing/guitar extravaganza. wow.. wow wow wow. It is amazing to see the power and precision of these dancers. They are so skilled it their art and it is so different to the usual singing/dancing style the average westernere is used to. I think the time i have spent in Morocco has rubbed off as i could hear a definite arabic influence on the ´wailing´singing style of flamenco. All those wars back and forth must have had SOME knock on effect in the arts.

Tomorrow we spend more time in Seville and then onto Cordoba.

This is a lightning tour of Spain.. but it leaves more places to add to ´The List´.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

One Hundred Camels

Greetings once again from Marrakech,

As I write this the final night party of the Intrepid tour is going great guns at the Hotel Ali.

It has been a fantastic three weeks and i urge anyone that wants to go somewhere 'different' to think long and hard about Morocco.

But the adventure doesnt end here... oh no!

We are off to Spain, then London, then Poland, then Italy, then Liverpool and finally back to to Glasgow for a big Ceilidh and an even bigger piss up.

Four Months in and the adventure is just getting started!

In other news, i was offered 100 camels for Girlclumsy today in the old slavetrading area of the Marrakech Medina. they were trading in people up til the early 20th Century... fun!

I could really do with 100 camels...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Mighty Quinn

Three years ago on the 24th of November my nephew The Mighty Quinn was born.

Happy Birthday Quinn from your Unky Wah!

Hendrix Vs The Wah

Greetings from Essaouira

It has been a busy few days since last i blogged.

We travelled north to Tangiers via local bus and spent a few days in the old International City of the world. Before 1956 if you were a bad boy or girl in your home country and had the money to flee the establishment it is likely you would have made your way to Tangiers to continue partaking in the naughty lifestyle you loved so much... be it sex, drugs, antiestablishment writings or a heady combination of all three. Many writers, criminals, musicians, tax evaders and so flocked to Tangiers over the decades from all over the world. This has created a city with Arabic, Berbere, Portuguese, Spanish and english influences. Wacky architecture ahoy! Arabic and French are still the main languages but they many people still speak Spanish as Spain is very visible across the Mediterreanean. You can say thankyou in 5 different languages and still be understood! All the crazy lawbreaking came to an abrupt halt in 1956 when Morocco gained its independence and kicked out the world's riff-raff. This made Tangiers are safer, quieter place but i am assured it also lost something else as well. The new King Mohammed VI (in power since 1999) has tried to spruce Tangiers up a little and has had the old seaside shanty town along the main beach bulldozed. This has led to a seaside walking/shopping strip which is eeriely reminiscent of the Gold Coast! It is a pretty place to walk even if it doesnt have a very 'moroccon' feel to it.

Fun Facts With Dr Wah! - Mandarins used to be (and still are) grown buy the metric truckload in Tangiers and shipped into Spain. This led to Mandarins to be called Tangerines...

We took an overnight train from Tangiers back to Marrakech but we didnt stay. We hired a Grande Taxi and drove the 1 1/2 hours out to Imlil with our daredevil drivers. The drive itslef was an experience as you rocket along at 90km on tiny mountainous roads with trucks coming the other direction... and there are no seatbelts.

Imlil is a wee town in the High Atlas mountains famous for... well nada. But it is a great place to sit back and relax and enjoy the majestic views of Jbel Toubkal, the highest mountain in Morocco and in north africa. It is also a great place to go hiking... and hike I did! Our guide took us up a mountain pass early one morning. It was a good blood-pumping walk and we all reached the top of the pass in about 1 1/2 hours. To get back we had to walk the way we came ooooooooor, as suggested by the guide, walk a different way riiiiiight round the mountain. Of the original 10 who went up the pass 4 of the hardier males (yes yes, including me) went with the guide. wow.... it was some hike! It took about 4 hours at a blistering (and i mean that literally!)pace down the mountain, through some beautiful valley villages (where one nice man gave us mint tea and bread), across the river (stones bridges with holes in them are scary), and back up up up uuuuuuuuup the next mountain. Let me assure you, gentle reader, that the ascent was a total bastard. It was a tiny track at a serious inclination and if you made a mistake it would be a long time to wait for the rain to wash you off the rocks so far below. Every time you thought you had made it to the summit you would see the track stretch off ahead of you up the next bit of the mountain! This happened 4 times! Finally we made it to the top and had the knee jarring experience of half jogging down the rocky switchbacks of the downwards journey. Finally we made it to the bottom where we had a rest in the village once frequented by Hilary Clinton ( i have no idea why she was there) and had the frustrating experience of not being able to cross the river! I managed to frog leap across rocks to get to the other side... huzzah for all those wasted hours playing Frogger! We had a 2-3km walk back up the road to Imlil but a man with a ute kindly let us hitchhike. We entered the town like kings, waving at the populace and basically acting like a bunch of men who have conquered a big nasty mountain. It is nice to know that in Morocco there is a mountain that will be forever my bitch!

The next day my legs were like jelly and my knees really ached... but still... i bitch-slapped that mountain!

We have taken a local bus to the old port town of Essaouira. This used to be a very important port before Cassablanca was built. The romans used to make purple dye here and Jimi Hendrix wrote 'Purple Haze' and 'Castles in the Sand' here. There is a half destroyed portuguese castle sitting in the ocean just off the main beach and every second local man sidles up to you and wants to sell you Hashish... no prizes to see how Hendrix came up with his songs ;)

We are here for a few days before we head back to Marakech and then back to Tangiers so we can get into Spain...

But that is the future and as our guide says 'Your time here isn't over yet!'

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Cleanliness or Assault?

If you have read girlclumsy`s latest post you would have been surprised by a tale that seems to be ripped from the script of a softcore porno... all soapy female chests and airline stewardesses!

If you haven,t read it then have a look now... off you go... titillation and suggestive prose awaits!

Okay.. you`re back? such filth, hey? ;)

Well, gentle reader, let me enlighten you on what was happening on the other side of the wall in the male Hamman.

On the plus side i didnt have to go alone... 5 males of the intrepid tour braved the cleansing... of our bodies but not our souls!

Firstly we qre told to strip down to our underwear... no swimmers allowed. I unfortunately was wearing, for the first time, a pair of white yfronts. We all know what happens at a wet tshirt costume when the ladies wear white? Thank god these pair were thick and new.
We are lead into a white tiled room full of naked or semi naked men and told to sit.

No sooner had my buttocks hit the warm tiles i was drenched in hot water by lanky, wiry, septugenarian wielding a huge bucket.

He kneels next to me as i splutter and choke and rolls me onto my front. "what, no flowers, no dinner" i think as he starts pumelling, stretching and roughly kneading every limb and muscle group. He twists my knee and pulls on my elbow and i really think this guy would give Triple H a run for his money in a Cage Wrestling Match. He then slaps my thigh very hard. This is my cue to roll over and let him start again on my front. I dont know whether to laugh or cry so i kinda do both.

Then i get drenched again... i think he does this to keep me off guard and choke me so i cant get enough oxygen to escape.

He grabs a loofah and soap and proceeds to exfoliate 25 layers of skin and implant soap shards deep into my fat tissues.

He even bruised my hair when he washed it

Finally he drowned me again with his herculean bucket and then smiled at me as if we were best friends. I was too scared to do anything but smile back, or maybe Stockholm Syndrome had set in...i even tipped him 5 Dirhams for the assault!

All up, counting tip, this grievous bodily harm cost me 55 Dirhams (about 9 AUD)... and i didnt get to see any perky maroccon stewardess booby either! The only thing to cheer me up was the fact that 2 of the other guys from the tour had it tougher than me. They were twisted into pretzel shapes and had their spines bent backwards nearly double! ha! that will teach them to be small underweight metrosexuals!

all in all it was an experience... but so is being mugged.

The funny thing is I am planning on doing it all again later in the trip but pay MORE for it. I hear they will butter me with oils and cover me in mud for my sins. So if you dont hear from me then i will be found in a million years by aliens buried deep in maroccon mud.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Wah of the Sahara

Salaam!
Greetings from Fes, the intellectual, spiritual and artistic capital of Morocco (but not the ACTUAL capital... that would be Rabat)

The last few days have been an adventure with a capital A! The old saying when it rains it pours applies doubly to Morocco. This is a country that is the western most part of the Sahara (Sahara means Desert in the local tongue... like the Gobi... pretty cluey these local peoples) and is in africa and is NORMALLY pretty damn dry... of course when we come the heavens split open and dump a years worth of water on us. The flooding has been incredible in the centre and south of the country. We started our Intrepid Tour easily enough but when we started taking local buses to out of the way places (ie off the 5 tarmacced roads in Morocco) everything went pearshaped. Every bridge was washed away and every river ford was under over a metre of water! what should have taken 4 hours took 11... but fortune favours the stupid and we finally made it to the sahara. We couldnt camp in the desert due to the flooding (yep flooding IN the desert... i never knew the sahara would be filled by many massive foot deep lakes) so we had to stay in the new mud brick hotel. This didnt make me feel any better as the old mudbrick hotel had been WASHED AWAY 6 weeks ago and its soggy and sad remains could be seen sticking out of the latest paddling lake in the sahara. But sunrise over the sahara is an amazing sight and it is made that little more exciting when you realise that 50km away the soldiers of Algeria are armed and angry and watching you with binoculers :)

The Intrepid trip has been very fun and exciting. we have been using local transport and pretty much slumming it in accomodation that has barely made it to the 20th Century let alone the 21st. You are happy with a bed and amazed with magical electricity and hot showers. But all this is unimportant when compared with the sense assaulting sights of tanneries (mmm pigeon poo AND horse urine... yes please!), 10000 winding streets in a medieval medina and Girlclumsy sucking mightily on a arabic hookah pipe (apple flavoured tobacco... thats all!).

Fes has the best medina yet. 10000 streets, some so small you have to turn sideways to fit, filled to the brim with carpet makers, tanners, cloth weavers, herbalists (45-spice is your friiiiiiiend... and my signature scent is now Mhyrr. If it is good enough for the baby jesus it is good enough for me), food stalls, banzai donkeys, mosques, beggers, fruit sellers, chicken killers (you ask for THAT chicken and they cut its throat in front of you... you know it is fresh), camel meat grinders ( no, they dont kill them in front of you... as far as i have seen) and a myriad other things to see, do, duck and savour. we have also gone out to Meknes whixh was the capital for a 17th warlord called Moulay Ismail.. fun guy who used a massive black african army to slaughter his rivals and create the moroccon state. Nearby was the ancient roman city of Volubis... those romans went everywhere and sent a shiteload of olive oil back to rome from morocco.

All in all it has been an amazing week and we have two more left! the rain has stopped finally and the african sun is blasting down and the flood waters are vanishing nearly as far as they appeared.... crazy country. Some nights i lie in bed and just try and quantify everything thing i have seen that day... try and get a handle on the strangness of it all. Then you realise you just gota roll with it and let it take you where it will.

All good!

Best wishes to you all

Monday, November 06, 2006

Funky warm Medina

Greetings from Marakech, the tourist capital of Morocco. Girlclumsy and I touched down yesterday and have been thrown headfirst into a strange and fascinating place. The Djemaa Al-Fna (Assembly of the Dead) is the nerve centre of the Medina (a medina is the old walled section of the city). It is chock full of stores and winding narrow streets and death-racing donkeys and pugilists and acrobats and orangejuice sellers and snake-charmers (though i think they should be called snake-annoyers as they spend their time kicking the cobra in the face... after de-fanging them of course) and many many foodstores.... in fact the souks (winding streets) are one part marketplace, one part outdoor eatery and one part circus. Once you get past the initial HOLY SHITE factor you can really have a blast. Girlclumsy has been restrained in the buying of stuff but she is in seventh heaven here.

They are cunning sellers here.... they separated us in a shop by showing GC some handmade perfumes and me LIVE CHAMELEONS!!! what chance did i have!?

The city is a friendly helpful place and we havent felt in danger at all, though the guy just left the computer next to me has left his screen displaying a big piccie of Osama Bin Laden! i, sure it is a very innocent and whatnot ;)

If you want a taste of something different then Marakech is a place to go to... and i have no doubt the rest of the trip will be the same.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Daleks and Beer


As of time of writing the new BBC show 'Torchwood' has aired three episodes.

What is Torchwood? It is the spin off show of the hugely popular revamp of Doctor Who (which has finished two series already). Set in Cardiff, it follows a team of investigators as they track down alien technology that has fallen to earth. It is linked to its parent show but the two programmes follow very different tracks.

Torchwood stars the character Captain Jack Harkness.. the omnisexual all-round-cool-guy from the first series of the new Dr Who. It is a much more adult show than Dr Who with swearing, quite graphic sex scenes and blood.. quite a bit fo blood in some places. It is also quite unrelentingly dark. This is not a family romp like the good Doctor.. oh no.. this show can be quite.. well.. if not confronting then at least alarming.

I am still of two minds about this show. It has taken me a while to get used to the fact that it isnt Doctor Who and i can see it has promise as an adult sci-fi show. Some scenes really shine but other moments are plain cringe-worthy. Captain Jack is still an excellent character with such great lines as 'Contraceptives in the rain, ya gotta love this planet'. As a sidekick he was amazing in Dr Who and he has potential to be brilliant as the main character of Torchwood but has been lumbered with some stilted dialogue and exposition.. it is always hard to be the cool guy if you have to explain to the audience what the hell is going on all the time.

Next week seems to star the Cyberman but i won't be able to watch it! The horror!

So when you can have a squiz at Torchwood and make up your own mind.

In more personal news we are off to Morocco tomorrow... and I have bought a 12" remote control talking dalek.. life is good!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

From Loch to Lock to Loch

Greetings all,

I am back at my sister's (and new brother-in-law's) house in Glasgow.

Spent the last couple of days with Girlclumsy's family on a boat cruising different scottish lochs and over half of the Caledonian Canal.

It was a rather relaxed time and im glad we had the opportunity to do it.

I managed to live out one of my childhood dreams by navigating the different Locks between the canals. I have been interested in locks for a while and seeing these Locks seperated Lochs that just made it a whole lot more interesting!

The canals were created in the early 1800s and even today they would be considered a major engineering feat.

I can also tick off another Wah-MileStone... i jumped off our boat into Loch Ness. It was a very cold and windy autumn morning but the Loch was relatively still. I jumped staright in... and then swam straight back to the boat and climbed out as it was bloody freezing! It felt like i had been kicked in the groin; it was THAT cold! I made a joke that the water was fine and was taunted by Girlclumsy's uncle that maybe i would like to go back in..... so i did.... oh gods it was cold!

Thank goodness for me i had purchased a bottle of 'Black Bottle' Scotch. After a few slugs i was warm warm warm! :)

Girlclumy's brother, father and uncle (actually he is her great uncle but hates to be reminded how old he is) are all seamen and had great fun running the boat whilst the women (and I.. i became an honourary woman) sat back and enjoyed the scenary... so it worked well for us all ;)

We are in Glasgow for a few days and then we are off to Brussels to have a squiz at the ... capital.. i suppose you could call it... of the European Union... and then onto Morocco

wow.. Morocco looming already.

My parentals have winged their way back to Australia after Paris and made it home safely. Of course the airlines have lost BOTH their bags. This is a disaster for them and an equal disaster for us. We had given Mater and Pater all the souvenirs we had collected since China! All gone... if the bags can not be located. We had kept all the souvenirs to a minimum but the ones we bought meant a lot to us... ah well.

I was asked if i was missing home and i have to be honest and say 'No'.

Sometimes i get tired and grumpy but even at my lowest ebb i realise that i am tired and grumpy in Scotland and that is better than being happiness and light at home anyday :)

Best wishes to you all

Sunday, October 22, 2006

More than One Night In Paris

eeew... the title even makes me a little nauseous!

First things first... I qm using a french azerty keyboard. They have all the letters in the 'wrong' position and so my usually bad touchtyping skills are now awful beyond belief!

This is my second time in the french capital and it seems to be even more expensive this time around.

Girlclumsy and i hqve been in the City Of Lights for a few days. This time around we are with her parents and her brother, simon (the oversexed lad fron the estonia entries ;) ). As fate would have it my parents have turned up here as well and we are all in two hotels side by side.... and no, it isnt as bad as it sounds ;)

The usual touristy stuff has been done... The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee D,Orsay (ya gotta love that Rodin!) but ,y fqvourite sight seeing was into the catacombs to see the boney remains of 16 million parisians all buried under the streets of Paris.... oooooh yeah! pictures will be forth coming! drians and dead people... thats me!

GC and her brother dragged me along to EuroDisney and i had.... a really good time! surprisingly! i have even conquered my fear of roller coasters and went on the SpaceMountain rollercoaster twice... upside down in the dark... like birth but more scary

It has been wonderful to see Paris again...always good to retrace past visits

better fly, time is running out

Onward to Loch Ness...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

You take the High-road and i'll take the cliche...

Greetings all,

It has been a long time since I have written anything travel related from the Wonderful World of Wah.

We have been in Scotland for about 2 weeks. It must be obvious from my total lack of blogging basically nothing has happened since I have been here... nothing at all.. nada, bupkiss, zero, zilch, squat, diddly, a big duck egg...

Well... nothing except my sister's wedding...


Yep.. the girl known to me as Deborah Jane Rowbotham for 32 years is now Deborah Jane Walker nee Rowbotham. Married off to a lovely scottish man named Eoghann (pronounced Ewan for the Hard-Of-Gaelic).
Eoghann (and his family) is great. Funny, generous, kind hearted and able to put up with the entire Rowbotham Tribe (sans Jack, Adam and their two sprog) camping bedouin-style on his living room floor (and abusing the living jebus out of his oh-so-fast broadband connection.. mmm City of Heroes.. yummy). This means that from now on if you mess with me you mess with the entire Walker clan... and they are scottish! a-ha! ...

But I am jumping ahead of my self... the weekend before Deb and Eog were married I was invited to Eoghann's Stag Weekend. We all piled into a 14 person bus and hit the Scottish Island of Islay (pronounced I-la.. the Isle of Islay... they drink a lot of whiskey here). I knew this was going to be a long weekend when it was explained to me that the weekend would consist of traveling to 7 Scottish Whiskey Distilleries and partaking of as much 'Water of Life'.

Oooo boy.. what a weekend.. Let me tell you what happened..

It all started when Eog****************************************************. (These stories have beed erased in accordance with the rules of 'What Happened On The Stag Weekend Stays On The Stag Weekend')

Hmm seems that contract i signed in blood before the stag weekend really works! Aaaaanyhoo we all had a ball of a time (My father also came along and I am allowed to say plays a mean game of poker.. and takes no pity on drunken people). Scottish and Irish people are great to have a stag weekend with. I advise everyone that is thinking about having a stag party/weekend to hire Rent-A-Gaelic.

Oooh.. if you are interested in Whiskey Production than have a look at the Bruichladdich Distillery website.. they even have live webcams! Keep an eye out for the whiskey they call WMD (Whiskey of Mass Destruction) and WMD2 - Yellow Submarine. The names of these two whiskeys have an interesting origin.. i cant say much now due to time constrainst but it has connection with an american spy agency and the fact that whiskey stills look alot like chemical warfare vats.. supposedly.

Girlclumsy and I have also visited the Falkirk Wheel. This is an amazing bit of engineering. Everybody knows how impressed I am about 2000-5000 year old drains and suchlike.. well I have found a piece of modern engineering that has a sense of whimsical grandeur. It looks like something out of Alan Moore's League of ExtraOrdinary Gentleman. The Wheel is a device that lifts canal boats (and lowers them as well) 35 metres between two different height canals... and if that doesnt get your heart pumping then you just cant hang with the Wah-Dawg :)

So, as i said before my sister was married on the weekend. She looked very beautiful in her dress. My mother had a fantastic hand made hat. It was created in Australia and carried half way round the world to be the Hat of Honour at the wedding :)It was a fantastic, fun ceremony held at Eoghann's parent's house. Called The Croft it is situated near the town 'Muir of Ord' in the scottish highlands. It was a non-religious ceremony (huzzah!) where the good times rolled well into the night. I even wore a kilt! oooh yes sports-fans.. the Wah was covered in kilty goodness! I was in a dress, carrying a knife in my sock (it is called a Sgian Dubh prounced 'Ski-An Do'.. well close enough) and ready to party! And party we did! I love a national dress that requires you to wear a knife. Nobody was stabbed that night but i think that was mainly to do with everybody being exhausted from the traditional scottish dancing and the free flowing alchomohol. Big Props (I am such a white geek) to Geoff and Helen. They are Eoghann's parents and did an amazing job with the food preperation and house set-up. I was especially impressed with the Australian Bar they created in their garage to make us feel at home. I have never seen so many cork-hats and plastic crocodiles in one place! I met the Irish author Evelyn Conlon. She and her talented husband Finton (he plays the flute professionally) were guests at the wedding. She even gave me a signed copy of her last book (here i come EBay!.. no no.. i jest). Her next book is about Irish people coming to Australia during the Irish Potato Famine. I hope that when i return to Australia next year I can organise for her to do some readings from her new book at the Brisbane City Council Libraries!

All in all a very successful wedding and reception. It was a shame my elder sister Jacky, her husband Adam and their two children, Quinn and Perri, couldn't attend but they were remembered and missed during the ceremony (There are many many pictures and videos for them as well)

Tomorrow we are off to Paris for a few days. We shall be meeting up with Girlclumsy's parents and my parents as well.. seeing that my parents only left at midday today i am not missing them that much :)

After Paris we come back to Scotland and cruise around Loch Ness for a while.. then.. well then we have a week or so to do something before we head off to Morocco.

I'll try and keep in touch more often than once every two weeks :)

P.s Best of Luck to 'Nightwatch' at the Brisbane Arts Theatre. It opens... soon. If you like Terry Pratchett novels and you live in Brisbane Australia then make the time to support a local theatre company!

More from the Cephalo-Hominid War


Alerting all CLF members...

More photos from the front (and one from the side as well... but they are never as flattering)

As you can see the squid invasion is becoming more insidious. The photo to the left clearly shows a oddly attractive human-cephalopod hybrid trying to lure male humans to their DOOOOOOOOM. To make it worse she seems to be working for a company called KocMoc... how dare they mock our genitalia! huh!









I have good news! When scoping out Inverness I came across a most unlikely ally in the war against the Squids...

You might have seen her work in Predator 1 and Predator 2... you might even have seen the other movie Aliens Vs Predator... You know her as Predator but I have been informed that actually she is the daughter of the Loch Ness Monster! Ah Ha! As everybody knows the Loch Ness Monster is a Pleisosaur that survived the end of all the other dinosaurs. When most people dont know is that the old girl has had a few children and some of them, including Ms Predator, have had semi-successful careers! Even better I have been assured that the Loch Ness Monster hates SQUIDS!

Yes!

Even though Nessie herself cant make an appearance due to being a 30 ft dinosaur hiding in a Scottish Loch her daughter (a delightful conversationalist, i might add) has added her support to the CLF!

FIGHT THE SQUID!

GregR
SquidFinder General

Thursday, October 12, 2006

SquidFinder General Reporting!



Greetings Squids!

I finally have proof of the Cephalopod Invasion! All members of the CRF (Calamari Resistance Front) and even the RFC (Resistance Front against Calamari.. splitters!) are ordered to stop whatever they are doing and pay attention to this report... many Bothans died getting us this information.

Seen above is the SAS (Squid Airborne Squad) practising their tightrope skills! They didn't realise that the Squidfinder General was so close and had a camera! This photo was taken on the greek island of Mykonos only a fortnight or so ago. These squid soldiers can be clearly seen rappeling down the mainstay of a boat ready to drop onto the deck and overpower the sailors on board. If it wasn't for my excellent hungry whale call impersonation (squids and whales are mortal enemies!) then the crew of the Good Ship Zorba would have been Squid Food!





To the right is the most disturbing photo of all!
The squids have already started infiltrating our numbers. They have taken human names, human women and started shore-line cafes on the greek island of Santorini! Blatantly taking photos of themselves and using it in their advertising campaigns! (Note - Evil Squid Cafe-Lord is on the left... Heroic SquidFinder General is on the right)




Squidy is becoming more and more bold!

We must maintain the never-ending vigil!

FIGHT THE SQUID!

The Wah
SquidFinder General

P.s We have dumped all the photos from the trip so far here at THIS address. They have no captions and are in very rough chronological order. But feel free to troll through the madness

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I remember the old school yard

This is not a travel blog...

A couple of days ago a girl from the high school I graduated from contacted my parents and told them that our school was holding a 15 year reunion.

As it is held in mid-October in brisbane I definitely won't be going... but how do i feel about this?

I have been mulling it over and i dont think i would have gone anyway... why? It was 15 years ago the last time i was at that school. It was an okay school and my fellow students were basically decent people, but I havent kept in contact with any of them... not one. This means to me that I didnt really care that deeply about any of them.

We had our moment together and then we went our separate ways in the world.

I am sure that some have done 'better' than me and others have done 'worse' than me. I assume we are all a little fatter and most of them would have children, jobs and the usual. You have traveled, loved, worked and lost. You have experienced joy and pain and everything in between.

The person I was in that school has very little connection to the person I am now. The seeds of The Wah were in that boy but the man I am today was shaped by forces outside of school over many years.

If you treated me well at school then I wish you well in your life.

If you treated me poorly at school then I still wish you well in your life.

So, fifteen years on, this is my reunion. This is where I say what I would say to you at the reunion.

This is where I finally bury that chapter of my life.

Best Wishes to you all

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Colaboard OverBottle!

And if you understand the name of this post then you must be none other than "Mix Master" Mike F! Howdy boy.. all is good in the Wah Hood!

Greetings to the rest of you... special mention to Taryne... the chef I met at Santorini on my birthday!

If you are interested in hearing my birthday audio blog then jump on over to girlclumsy's site and look for the one labelled "Birthday Blog"

Wow.. Greek Islands... wow.. Mykonos, Paros, Ios and Santorini. Each island different to the last.

Mykonos is the touristy island with much tourist tack to look at.. and it was a full time job holding back girlclumsy ;). It also has fabulous resorts to stay in (with prices to match).. much swimming and surf-skiing to be done. The main town had windmills and churched and crazy streets used to stop pirates in the past

Paros is the quiet island with large hills to climb (at the top a monastry!). The rooms we stayed in were a little crap but Mix Master Mike aided ventilation by punching a hole right through the front door.. shine on you crazy scouser diamond! There were also cheap eats to be had here. I now eat tomato! But i prefer it to be drowned in Tzatziki sauce. We wandered the crazy lanes (also anti pirates) and found all sorts of weird and wonderful shops.... and found another EVEN BETTER shop that sold the hallowed ONE EURO GYROS! sweet! any day you can buy a vege-kebab for 1 Euro is a good day indeed.

Ios is the party island... cheap rooms (that were beautiful) and cheap food, free entry into the night clubs and cheap cheap drinks.. $3 for two cocktails and a peach shnapped shooter... good gods I was absolutely leathered by the end of that night! I even had a flaming Lamborgini.. this is a cocktail that is basically on fire. And dont forget the lay-backs we all did.. including girlclumsy. We had to walk home in the dark down a 'goat track'.. Im sure goats can handle such a vertical walk but i doubt they can do it utterly rat-arsed and singing Bohemian Rhapsody! We went out again the next night but i only had a couple of drinks (due to money being tight.. somehow i seemed give all mine to the bartender the night before).. i am glad we only had a few drinks as a tornado hit Ios and flooded the town.. and the town is ON TOP of a bloody greta hill. Mike, Girlclumsy and myself were running through white streets that looked like waterfalls in the driving rain looking for the rest of the tour who had gone to a different pub (we went to the one with the cheapest drinks... always trust a Liverpudlian to sniff out cheap drinks). On the way to the next bar the power went out and so we were stuck, in the dark, by ourselves, in a tornado.. FUN! We hit the bar drowned like rats and giggling like schoolgirls.. all good! When we got back to the reosrt we discovered it had been destroyed by the toranado. Basically everone had lost their bungalows to the driving rain.. except GC and ME! a-ha! upgrading to a double room paid off in spades! Ios was a fun fun time.. I would recomment anyone interest in drinking and beaches to come here but dont come in the high season.. come in september.. it is cheaper and the beaches aren't cluttered with people.

Santorini is the VOLCANO ISLAND! ooooooh yeah baby! This bad boy blew its top 3500 years ago and was the second biggest volcano eruption in recorded history. It sent a 200m tidal wave all the way to egypt in 4 minutes! cool! It was my birthday the day we took a boat over to the slightly smoking island caldera. We walked up and down the obsidian rocks and i put my arm in a hole that was pumping out hot sulpher... it was hot.. and smelled bad :) We then took the boat to a hot spring in a bay. We had to jump overboard and swim all the way into the bay and lathered ourselves with sulpherous mud and enjoyed the warm water from the sleeping monster volcano that lies 2km under the island.. humans really do live in funny places! (hi to all people in San Francisco!). That afternoon we took a bus and had a picnic overlooking the sea. My tour had a surprise for me.. a birthday cake. Girlclumsy had been running interference all day fo the tour leader (Hey jeremy) who had bought the cake. The whole group (hi guys and girls!) sang me happy birthday and then EVERYONE at the picnic lookout spot applauded me! There must have been about 100 people there... i felt so special aaw :) I, of course, took centre stage and thanked all my international guests for coming to my birthday. I also blathered other stuff which I am sure was comedy gold but i dont remember it now. A nice Korean man gave me a pendant for good luck as it was my birthday and I met Taryne and her mum Wendy who were wondering who the strange guy dressed in black was and why did everybody applaud him :) We all watched the sun go down over the Mediterranean..

It was the best birthday i have ever had.. and I have had some doozies! Thank you to everybody that made it to good.. from Girlclumsy, to the guys and gals from the busabout tour, to Tracy and Jeremy for organising the secret cake and to the nice Korean Man and Taryne and everybody else that will never ready this blog that was there.

We are now in Meteora. 4 1/2 hours north of Athens by train. It is the place where the monks built their monastaries ontop of giant Uluru like rocks. Yesterday we hiked through the forest to get to tof these places. Fantastic views from the top and the churches and gloriously crazily perched ontop of mountains! When we go to the top of the first one we discovered there a road on the other side of the mountians and you can take a coach bus to the top along lovely paved roads... oh well.. i declare anybody that didnt hike for over and hour through rain and rocks and supposed packs of wild dogs (though we didnt see them) SOFT AND FLABBY. The pain in my body meant i really enjoyed that monastary.. honest. Today we took the local bus to the top of the mountain and hiked down (much easoer than hiking UP and Down) looking at the other 4 monastaries.. i enjoyed the less toursty ones which shouldnt be a surprise.

Tomorrow we are off to Delphi.. i shall be asking some probing questions, let me tell you

Best wishes to you all

Friday, September 22, 2006

This beach is trying to kill me...

Water fabulous.

Islands barren.

Food cheap and plentiful.

Ruins ruinous and full of ancient drains.

Highlight so far: Delos, ancient capital of Greece.

Can't type as I injured my finger in a fall due to a combination of ocean slime, flagstones and a double Bourbon & Coke... The good news is, the bartender felt so bad he gave me a free triple Bourbon & Coke.

GirlClumsy has the full Mediterrean story.

ONE EURO GYROS! Excelsior!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Snackpoint Charlie

Blasted into Berlin for an overnight stopover before Athens... it is cheaper to fly to Berlin, stay a night, feed and water two people and then fly to Athens than it is to fly directly from Riga to Athens.. wacky!

I last went to Berline about three years ago and I rememered how to navigate that city perfectly... i really liked Berlin last time and it was good to see it again.. especially with all the new constructions completed near the Reichstag. Holocaust memorial and all the funky walk/bikeways.

Went on a 4 hour bike tour following the 43 km track of the Berlin Wall... not enough time to discuss how awful that wall makes me feel... people can suck bigtime... but as an interesting turn of fate the plane flight gave me time to listen to my iPod and discover all sorts of goodies abut Thomas Paine and his book 'The Rights of Man'... people can rock bigtime :) Go out imediately and read what this guy has to say.. go now.. stop reading this drivel.. i'll wait

doobee doobee doooo

*twiddles thumbs*

*drinks a cola drink*

right... everyone up to speed? good! cool, hey!

As we went past Checkpoint Charlie, the infamous historical border crossing between the madness of East and West Berlin i saw a food court called 'Snack Point Charlie'... now is that tacky or what?!? It made me laugh out loud and snort in disgust at the same time.. Girlclumsy thought i was choking on my cola drink.. but seeing she is used to me choking with rage at the smallest provocation she left me to it.

Now... we are in Athens... oooo Athens! Ancient Stuff Akimbo! DRAINS... so many 2000 - 3000 year old drains! and ancient toilets! oooh yeah, baby!

There are so many americans here. I was wondering if the latest empire builders look at these old empire builder's monuments and see their own future? do they get the feeling that time is running out?

Gotta GO! Islands await! I got to bathe in the seas the gods used to bathe in.. which gods? the old ones... before they died (yay Equus!)

P.s TISM has to write a song called Stingray. it must be!

Friday, September 15, 2006

A lot of Goths here in Riga

First things first... Happy Birthday to my sister, Debbie!
Will be seeing you soon for your wedding. Break out the emergency wedding kilts!

I have noticed a whole load of young gothlings here in Riga. You know what I am talking about.. those pale youths dressed all in black looking glum. Many of them are wearing marilyn manson t-shirts... which is a shame. I saw three of them all wearing the SAME Marilyn Manson tshirt and walking together.. it looked like a rather depressed rock fashion show. I suppose this is the sort of city you should dress up in leather and lace and ponce about looking pensive. Let's face it, Brisbane in the middle of December just doesn't let you work up enough angst. You are sweating your self to death waaaay before the absinthe kicks in :)

Poor bloody Latvia. We went today to the Latvian Natural Museum and saw just how kicked around this place has been since.. well.. forever. Like Estonia over the centuries they have been kicked from pillar to post by Sweden, Finland, Germany and Russia.. I am sure other countries have tried to sink the slipper into Latvia when it had its back turned as well. They manage to get some autonomy after WW1 when they are forcibly invited into the Soviet Union... cue pogroms and other fun stuff. Then the Red Army can't hold Latvia against the Third Reich and in moves Uncle Adolf and his gulags. Latvia once again undergoes a few recial purges and social engineering.... finally the Reds get their crap together and take Latvia back... yes.. you guessed it.. Latvia takes it in the face once more. Decades pass and finally they are their own country once again but i assume that many citizens are looking over their shoulders wondering when the next exciting invasion plan will come into effect.... and if you count sauced up, english chavs on a stag-night as an invasion (and there is enough of the ugly blighters to be found in matching drinking shirts at 2am in a gutter) then i suppose it has already happened. Cheap airlines are great.. but they sure do let EVERYONE in... even over opinionated aussies ;)

Latvians seem to be quite tall. I am average height for a male and i seem to be surrounded by many lanky tall latvian males. In these cold countries the female population makes a hell of an effort to dress up when the sun is out. You keep wondering where the fashion show is and it is just a nice warm day... funny to see gucchi fashion in a cut price supermarket

There were two latvians dressed up as dracula in a supermarket handing out fliers. I had to find out when was going on. The flier was for the upcoming release of the Mazda 3 here in Latvia.. wha? i have no idea the connection between Dracula and the Mazda 3. But they seemed like nice people.. and one wasnt even latvian but russian.

Onto Berlin tomorrow as a stop over and then Athens!

The culture! The Amphoras! The Olives!

Wotcha!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Working the Lats

Labdien from Latvia!

The Baltic Road Trip was an experience... three young people in a car, foot loose and fancy free. We managed to score a brand new black Volvo V50 which we immediately christened 'Beyonce'... as she was black and had a big boot-y. It was a fantastic car, comfy and forgiving of my 'wrong side of the road' driving. We (Girlclumsy and her brother, Simon and I) made our way back to the russian/estonian border town, Narva. By God that is a depressing burg. The people are waaaaay to russian for their own good.. and the only palce we could find food (if you could call it that) was ... sigh.. McDonalds... i know I know! We looked high and low.. oh god how we looked but in the end we had to buy McShite. It was the only place where i felt distinctly unsafe as we were being watched very intently by the roving gang of young males. But with Simon with us (big strong aussie male), Girlclumy's ability to bamboozle with history and my ability to scream like girl and shatter glass I knew we would be safe.

Oh yes.. forgot to ask when we were in Russia... I throw this question open to any russians that read this... (I'm looking at you Daria and Nataliya (even though Nataliya is Ukrainian)) .. do russian girls walk around a lot holding hands? When we were in St Petersburg i noticed a few girls walking pairs holding hands. I thought.. oh, thats nice, homosexuality must be accepted here.. and forgot all about it. But then i started noticing more and more girls holding hands.. enough to make my wonder. Now, either many many many women in St Petersburg are gay or
holding hands is normal for women in St Petes.. Please enlighten this traveller.

Right.. after all that sexual titillation i return to the story. We stayed that night out of the town in a hotel called Laagna.. nothing really special.. just a room to sleep. Next day we were off to see Lake Pepsi! I am pretty sure that isnt what it is called but that is the closest we could come to with our Anglo tongues. Picnics by the lake and onto Tartu the university town. Many young people in a smallish city that once again has a sexy medieval centre.Ya gotta love estonia and its creamy centres groaning with 800 years of sexy history.. nice!

We stayed in a small motel complex called Waide. This a fantastic little place just outside the town called Elva. We got our own building to romp around in... good beds, a loungeroom and satellite tv (with Porn! as discovered by Simon). It also had a giant chessboard, dartboard and swing sets big enough for all three of us! score! If you happen to find yourself in Estonia then try and stay at Waide.. it is great.

Ooo.. before i forget. For all you 'Flash Travellers' out there (those of you that travel with iPods and Laptops etc).. Estonia and Lativa are the countries for you! They have free WiFi (internet access) EVERYWHERE! it is amazing.. every tiny burg had free WiFi access to the internet. This would have been a lot more exciting for me if i had a laptop.. i still have to fork out Kroons and Lats for kinda slow landline internet connections.. sigh

We passed across the border into Latvia and went to a wee town called Cesus. There is a ruined castle here and I think it used to be in a territory called Liivland. If so, i guess this is where a colleague from work comes from! It was amusing to be in a place that has squares and hills and other things named after someone you know. It would like going to a country and finding Wahdinium everywhere. Maija, it is a beautiful part of the world to be associated with.

Onwards to Riga! We dropped off Beyonce at the airport and bussed into the old town of Riga. Much Much bigger than the old town of Tallinn but it has been modernised a hell of a lot more as well. Still a beautiful place but i must admit the proliferation of strip bars to accomodate the english booze-parties is a little much.

Somehow this tiny country has a currency (The Lat) that is nearly equal to the english pound! Bloody hell! Thank the gods things are cheap. You can get a good sized meal for 3.5 Lats.. and that is counting drinks. I am sure if we found less touristy places outside the Old Town area it would be cheaper again. I did read that inflation is crazy here and that is due to the joining of the EU and the comong of the Euro.

I have to fly.. time is up.. will write more soon!

Huzzah for the Baltics!
Everyone should come here!
We should import Latvian and Estonia women to Australia to beef up our genetic lines! ;)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Ya gotta love the EU!

Tere!

Well, here we are in Estonia... and more specifically Tallinn. After a 8 hour bus trip where we had to do the russian ~dance like the peasant you are~ dance just one more time for customs. We had to get off the bus, get all our luggage, wait in a line for a stupid amount of time and then get stared at by a unfriendly border guard who stamps everything a zillion times and then throws your passport back at you. You put all you luggage (which they didnt even bloody check in any way) back on the bus and pass across to the estonian side. Here everything is much more civilised. They take your passport while you stay in your comy bus seat and they are back 10 mins later with everything done.. huzzah for the European Union! I knew i was back in the West when i heard Franz Ferdinand on the local radio station.

I officially love Tallinn. If i was a city and Tallinn was a single i would marry it. If you have been to or heard about the old town in Prague then you have some idea of what Tallinn is like. But Tallinn is better.. much better. To start with things are cheap here and you can actually stay in the heart of the old town and it wont cost you your immortal soul. It is a maze of winding cobbled streets and medieval walls. You can wander lost through the closes and cloisters and come across the most fantastic hole in the wall shops lined with amber or linen or even ironmongery. If you like Prague then come to Tallinn. The Old town is much better, imo. The new town areas of Tallinn are like any european city. But you can go see a movie for as little as 2.50 AUD! They still use the Kroon here (1AUD - 9 Kroon also called the EEK.. which is funny to use when the price of something is really high... EEK! Though i am sure the locals dont find it quite as amusing as i did) When the Euro is introduced next year I am sure prices will go up but at the moment it is a sensibly priced part of europe. People speak english better than I do and SMILE! In fact i think estonians are one of the most attractive people i have ever seen. They were originally nordic people that came and bred with the local tribes. Over the years they have added many other ethnic strains to create a very easy on the eye people.

Poor bloody Estonia... They are one of those counties, like Hungary, that has been conquered by everyone and never really had a chance to go it alone. They have been controlled by Sweden, Finland, Germany and Russia. They finally gain their independence in 1918 but it lasts for a bout 6 seconds because the WW2 happens and estonia become the kicking ground for Germany V Russia. Then the russians take over and try to crush estonian culture by bulldozing cemetaries and inviting russians to coem live cheapily in the newly conquered territory and such like.. you know.. basic bastard behaviour. But now, since 1991, the Estonians finally are independent (after the wonderful Singing Revolution) and ready to enter the world. I have a soft spot for these people. They have free education (and this means that they have a huge percentage of very well educated citizens with useful skills that want to work and make money and therefore taxes... ARE YOU LISTENING JOHNNY?... FREE EDUCATION GOOD.. BEING A TWAT, BAD!) and most of the younger generations can speak many languages. They have joined the EU with gusto and want to promote themselves as the culture capital of europe in 2011 (and if Glasgow can win that title then anybody can.. sorry to all the weegies reading this!). Their economy is growing steadily and they are a bright optomistic people. Righto... enough of the suck~up~to~Estonia blog ;) We went aboard a 1930 Estonian submarine called Lembert. I used to work with a Latvian lady named Maija. Her husband is called Lembert and I do believe he is estonian.. maybe he is named after this submarine. If anyone from work can tell me the answer i would be interested.

You know you are back in Europe when you see walking and bike tours being advertised everywhere. Girlclumsy and i have done both already. We especially loved the bike tour with authentic (read crappy) soviet era bikes. We peddled hither and yon as our bikes slowly disintegrated beneath us. I lost a peddle and the handle bars nearly fell off! But we did see parts of Tallinn we would never have every found on our own.

This is one of those places you really can just wander. You always find something odd around each corner whether it is Kiek in the Kok (Kick in the what? how rude! oh.. it means Peek in the Kitchen) or Fat Margarets Tower. We have had dinner twice in a local Pub called Hell Hunt. Great Pub atmosphere and I have been reliably informed that picking up of attractive locals or fellow travellers is exceptionally easy.... but i might have to wait for girlclumsy to go to sleep before i test that theory.. all in the name of science... of course.

Tomorrow we are off in a hire car to whizz around Estonia and Latvia.

Peter Brock gone as well... i dont know.. you leave the country for a month and the whole bloody place goes to pot! Best of luck to you all in queensland.. voting is important! Girlclumsy and I tried our best to vote but without having a stable address it is bloody hard! We even visited the Honourary Consul in St Petersburg! Dont fine us Mr Voting~Leader~Guy!

Also, my dad has a travel blog as well ~ Travels of an Ancient Man ~ not much there yet but i am sure he will be adding his more vintage form of cyber-craziness in the future.

Head Aega!

The Duck Didnt Die!

St Petersburg.. a city so nice they named it thrice .. plus one ..

St Petersburg ~ Petrograd ~ Leningrad ~ St Petersburg

After the non smiling experience of the Muscovites it was a very nice to see St Petersburgers actually looking happy. They werent dancing in the streets but they definitely looked like a group of people that didnt hate everything about them.

Good old St Petes is a groovy city. Less busy than Moscow and with a lot more Olde Worlde Charme.

Our hostel was a reconditioned factory.. and they seemed to have reconditioned it into a prison. Tiny rooms with bunk beds, grey walls with no windows and terrible brown water in the taps. I started taking a shiv into the shower cubicle so i wouldnt be shanked! Girlclumsy points out that she has no need to shank me as she controls the money on the trip.... but im keeping the jade knife i bought in Lake Baikal close to me just to be sure. These persian~polish~irish crossbreeds are a moody lot!

One of my first memories of St Petersburg was finding out that Steve Irwin had been killed by a stingray. We went to the Australian consulate to try and vote and found out that russians had been ringing the consulate all day passing on their condolences. Love him or hate him you have to admit the crazy guy sure did promote australia all over the world in a very positive way. Bon Voyage, Steve!

Peter the Great was a bit of a dude. Sure he was an absolute monarch and had a habit of throwing his weight around (for example... he banned all stone masons from practising anywhere in russia except for St Petersburg until the city was fully built) but he mucked in and actually helped build the original Peter and Paul Fortress... he also lived in a tiny 2 bedroom wooden shack for ages and ages to the horror of his royal peers. Bascially he wanted to build the sexiest city in the universe and he picked a filthy swamp to do it. What this means is today you have a lovely canal based city chock full of historical sexiness... a fabulous place for travellers like myself to bum around in! Peter The Great was.. well.. Great but his kids and heirs were basically spoiled little brats that kind of deserved to be wiped out... funny thing is that the russians dont really talk much about how they dragged the royal family into the basement and shot them all dead. In fact all the royal remains that could be found have been dug up and reburied with the rest of the Czars. I think the madness and brutality of the soviet era is a time many are trying to make up for ... and then forget.

The Hermitage was amazing. 5 seperate palaces and museums that have been joined together and opened gto the public. It is one of the those museums you can spend months in and still not see everything. You have the restored palatial dining and ball rooms but you also have millions of art pieces. We saw Kandinsky, Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, Gaugin and other painters. We also saw Rodin sculptures by the truckload. I have come to the conclusion that everyone of Rodins sculpture should be called ~Young People Getting It On Number 34 etc etc ~. His manager probably decided to rename the porn Cupid and Psyche and all the others. Dont get me wrong, they are fabulous art pieces but you have to start wondering about a guy that has sooooo many snog sculptures! Also.. Matisse is rubbish... yes.. rubbish. I just dont understand why everyone is so fascinated by his baby drawings! Finally.. if i see one more Madonna with Jesus painting there is going to be trouble. Medieval artists really need to pick a new bloody theme! hehe Had a giggle when we saw many of the paintings had ~acquired in 1947~ written beneath them... the germans must be mightily pissed about this.

We went out to Peterhof.. which is basically Peters summer palace and gardens. It looks so much like Verseille (i am pretty sure i have butchered that spelling) it is uncanny. But then again the Czars of russia really did like the french back then. The Gardens are magnificent but not as extensive as Verseille. The best feature was the moated house Peter had built for his daughter. It made me think she must have been a right strumpet if she had to be moated! Took a hydrofoil back across the water to the City.. squeeeeed in excitement when we stopped being a boat and lifted up onto the blades in the water.. all very flash.

We had dinner in a cool daddio Jazz Club called the Chateau but we also went to the ballet to see Swan Lake,.... now.. answer me this. In Swan Lake the swan princess takes one for the team and dies, yes? Well... in this version THE DUCK DIDNT DIE! It all ends happily with the swan~chick heading off with the prince! What a rip off! I did enjoy the part when the guy who looked like Darth Vader did a vulcan nerve pinch on the prince! Wrestlemania haas nothing on that! But the duck didnt die... not even a little. I assume they wanted a happu ending for the kiddies or they havent heard about bird flu yet.

Odd thing that happened. Went into a Subway sandwich place to get lunch and met a guy that new me from Mousetrap theatre over 10 years ago! His name is Keith and he was on holiday in St Petersburg. How the hell he recognised me after 10 years i have no idea! He also knew Girlclumsy from a show she did at the Redcliffe Entertainment Centre 8 years ago. The world is a really really small place.

So thats the end of russia. It has been a strange time in a strange land. Different enough yet close enough to our culture to make you double~take at something every ten minutes. If you get the chance come to Russia. It is a fascinating and infuruating place. The soviet ugliness is being pealed back and a beautful, but non~smiling, country is waiting to be seen!

Onwards to the Baltics!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Moscow Hates Epileptics!

Greetings from the Red Square... well about 150 metres from the Red Square. This internet cafe is so close to the Kremlin on a still day you can almost smell Lenin... mmmm Lenin-y goodness

Tried to see the old guy but wouldn't-ya-know-it Moscow turns 859 today and the city is closed for Muscovite Celebrations.. but NO SMILING! Russians do not smile... EVER! STOP SMILING! Supposedly they smile when with friends... but i think they must always hang out with hated enemies as they are all so stoney faced. We have been told they do have a national "Smile Day"... but i have no idea how the poor russians will survive such an event. It would crack their stoic faces. There will be much celebrating later in the day with street markets and laser shows. Nat and I watched much Big-Hattery and military goose stepping and tried to see Putin... but the bugger is rather elusive.

Now.. about the epiliptic thing. The city seems to be in love with LEDs. They cover every available surface in randomly blinking lights. Hotels, billboards, public monuments..all blinking away in no discernible pattern. Standing in the main street of Moscow at night you can feel certain parts of you brain passing in and out of consciousness!

The 4 day train trip across 1/4 of the planet was a bizarre, bizarre journey. Eating, Reading, Drinking, Chatting, Vomiting, Staring and TOGA TOGA TOGA! I will leave the Girlclumsy to fill you in on the filthy details... my soul still burns from the "romance" of rail ;) The train was at least comfortable this time but the total lack of showers make for a rather aromatic trip.

Did the usual touristy thing of wandering Red Square and taking copious pictures of St Basil's Cathedral. (Boom! Boom!) You know the one.. Russian... In the Red Square.. Looks like ad for ice cream cones. Inside wasn't waht i expected. It isn't a big empty space like european cathdreals. It feels more like a cave with different grottos scattered haphazardly throughout. Many different rooms (though they are all different churches) joined together by tiny dark winding corridors. I was in raptures with the place. To top it all off there was a male choir sounding in the depths. The place has fantastic acoustics and the baritones sounded like zealot whales calling to their pod. The darkness, the russian orthodox iconongraphy and the singing made for a very eerie and atmospheric experience. Best of all.. free! Huzzah for "Moscow is 859" day.

Wandered the Kremlin also. It is rediculously expensive and only really gets you into the grounds of the Kremlin (which mean Fortress in old russian).. well some of the grounds. When we tried to go to some places we were held back by military types and a stern 'Nyet'. You have to pay more to get into the actual good stuff in the Armoury. Yes.. there were weapons galore (Huzzah!) but they also have many of the Russian treasures. Faberge eggs made to look like bullets (comemerating WW1), dresses for Catherine the Great, many many carriages made by many many countries and given to Russia when they were a sexy imperial power, gilded silver and silvered gold, plates, pots, plaques and pantaloons. The Armoury was the best part of the Kremlin in my opinion. Well worth the money

Oooo! The Mosow Metro! Yay! I have found a Underground train system i love just as much as the London Underground! Well laid out, huuuuuuuge escalators, big trains that come often and a maze of tunnels and connecting doors to explore... good stuff. It is in someways even better than the London Underground because some stations still have the old chandeliers hanging from the ceilings. Imperial majestic light fittings in a common area. I have been digging using the Moscow Metro nearly as much as getting the places I was trying to get to! It has been pointed out by a few people on the tour i am on that I am a freak... but say to you, gentle readers, BOLLOCKS!

Moscow is expensive but not as bad London, imo. No sign of crime and pickpockets... but then again thats probably the point. Two guys on our tour did get asked for their passports by the local fuzz.. Big hatted serious types.. but it all ended well

Righto gang.. must flit.

Dosvedanya!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Always russian somewhere new

There never seems to be enough time to write even a smidgen of what we have been getting up to!

Crossing the border from Mongolia to Russia was a trippy experience. The whole trip took 30+ hours and the border crossing took 12 hours! Why? weeeell.. we arrived at the border at 4am and the customs officials only start work at 9am... so we sit and wait.. and we can't leave the bloody train and you can't use the toilet at a station! So much bladder fun!

Once across the border (where angry russian big-hats demand you fill out the forms in russian and ONLY RUSSIAN (Or ELSE!)) the cabin stewardesses (plural of stewaredess?) try to scam you 5 rubles everytime you want to use the FREE hot water... they also try and tell you that coffee and tea costs 200 rubles as well! When crossing the border you get the excitement of watcing people trying to smuggle goods (shoes, toys etc) across the border. Things are cheap in Mongolia and expensive in Russia. They hide the stuff everywhere... they even try and push it in your cabin when you are not looking. I ruined Austro-Mongolian relations by refusing adamantly :) The biggest crooks on the train where the cabin attendents. They had boxes of DVDs, shoes, jackets and everything else in hidey holes under the floor.. they even locked one of the toilets and stuffed it full of contraband. When the officials came on board they were openly bribed to ignire it all... it was scary.. and then funny as hell.. especially when we started taking photos of people (hehehe). All in all a real 'travel' experience!

We alighted at Irkutsk in the early hours and then took a bus out to Lake Baikal. It is the biggest fresh water lake in the world. It holds 20% of the worlds fresh water.. queensland should run a pipe up here! It is also very cold even in the summer sun. I went for a dip (actually a double dip) in the 5C water... ye gods! frozen goolies ahoy! Supposedly I will live an extra 25 years now i have bathed in the waters.. but i wa taking the chance of dropping dead from shock as soon as i hit the water!

We had a authentic siberian sauna last night. we all had to get nude and wrap ourselves in a sheet. Then we had a dry sauna until the first sweat. We all jumped out of the sauna and threw freezing water over ourselves and jumped back into the sauna... then the real heat and humidity began. 110C! bloody hell! When you cant take the heat anymore you jump out and some mad russian bastard throws more freezing water on you.. then you go back in the sauna... rinse and repeat until dizzy. Costya (our young russian guide) offered to beat us with birch leaves.. when in russia!. It was very relaxing.. Funny thing is you haver to do it one on one in the sauna. You lie there.. he beats you. When he kicked everyone out of the sauna he turned to me and in his best Bond villain russian accent (and being russian he could do it well) he growled "and now... we talk" I giggled for ages... as he beat me :)

We walked along the lake (Nat and I.. not Costya and I.. though he was there too :) ). It is amazingly beautiful place. 600 km long and 60 km across and growing 2cm every year due to tectonic action. We had amazing hots chocolates and i even bought a local knife (yes yes.. i am blade obsessed) It has a jade blade and a blue Chirite (the local semi precious mineral) handle.. gorgeous. Costya was very impressed i knew who Baba Yaga was.. not many tourists (in fact.. i am the first he said) know russian faerie tales.

Russia (or at least the far east of russia) is a interesting mix of 19th, 20th and 21rst century technology. You can walk down a muddy lane and watch women bring the cows home and then go inside to there satellite television. madness!

We have a 4 day train ride to Moscow.. so send happy thoughts our way :)

From Russia With Love! (yay.. i managed to fit that in somewhere!)

GregR
Travel Wah