On to Calakmul

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We spent the next day (we are now up to 17th January) traveling.  Early morning bus (we watched the sun come up through the bus window) to Chetumal.  Grabbed a quick lunch in Subway (which is a big thing in Mexico) at the ADO bus station then onto the second class bus headed for Escarcega.   This bus had no movies but it did have Village People.  Quite loudly.  All the way.  We asked to be dropped off at Rio Bec Dreams.  Apparently there is usually no problem with that but…  We got some very helpful passengers and a driver who dropped us off at Becan.  Which is about six km from Rio Bec Dreams.  We walked it.

Rio Bec Dreams is a jungle lodge just off the main road in the Calakmul bio reserve.  It’s run by a very knowledgeable and interesting couple – he’s from Canada, she’s originally from the UK but has lived all over the world.  It is a lovely place, a little spot of paradise with hummingbirds and more.  They have about five bungalows, a bar and a restaurant serving international cuisine.  At that point in our stay, I was not in the mood for international cuisine (with vegetables) because I was not yet sick of Central American food.  The goats cheese salad was, however, amazing.

The main point of our staying at the lodge (apart from enjoying the garden and the wonderful wildlife inhabiting the garden) was to visit Calakmul – a somewhat remote site which is supposed to be totally wonderful.  Calakmul is not the easiest site to access, we’d been led to believe that the owners of Rio Bec Dreams would be able to help us get there, even if only help with organising a taxi to get there are perhaps a guide.  It got better than expected, they helped us hire a car so we drove ourselves.

The drive was epic.  First an easy half hour down a modern highway.  Then you turn off to the left and drive about 60 Km.  The first bit is on an almost intact road.  Not a modern highway, but easily negotiable.  Then you drive 30 Km down a rough track full of very deep potholes.  We mostly managed to dodge them.  We hit one on the way in and one on the way out.  And the car was returned to the hire place undamaged so clearly it had withstood the trials of the road.

Calakmul itself is a very large site and, I thought, presented in a highly confusing manner.  First of all we saw a very large and easy to understand residential complex.  That was lovely though all the frescoes had been removed to somewhere we didn’t go.  There are some very high (for Mexico) temples and, of course, a lot of the visitors think that the whole point of the site is to get exercise by climbing them.  I found it a bit disappointing, to be honest.  I think I might have expected too much.  I’m not sure why but the lack of Stellae and relief work on the walls might be a partial explanation.  On reflection, even though the well thought out route and notes provided from Rio Bec Dreams helped , perhaps we should have taken a guide or visited later on our trip when our eyes were more in.  So, the ruins were somewhat disappointing but the wildlife was sensational.  We saw spider monkeys, ocellated turkeys (some of whom like to walk in front of your car for considerable distances), red throat ant tanager, black cowled orioles,  I’m pretty sure I saw a peccary and I definitely got my first sight of Montezoma’s oropendolas.  These birds were to feature frequently in our future.

Spring is for new beginnings

 

Ibis1-24March2017We have neglected this blog for a bit, we think this happened because after being here in Turkey for more than 5 years we ran out of new things to blog about.  This and we got lazy or busy or something – we never even blogged the trip to Athens and the museums there.  This is about to change and if truth be known there are always things to blog.

Ashley-buildingThis spring Ashley built a brick barbecue.  A new thing for Ashley, and a whole set of skills to learn.  It is done now, ready for summer and pretty soon we’ll be inviting friends around and making more use of it.  One of the great things about being retired is learning new skills, and doing new things.

We’ll be writing more on the Central America trip.  This got delayed because we never got it together to sort out the photos.  There is an absolute mass of photos, mostly from archaeological sites or of wildlife and nature.

On the subject of photos we bought a DSLR and a decent lens.  There will as a result be more bird photos.  We got lucky, on the first test run we happened to be wandering around Pamucak and found migrating glossy ibis.  No doubt in summer we’ll be off to Kerkini for some bird photography.

Another thing that will appear is material about a project we are planning.  We’ll be poking around a few places in Greece looking at property in need of a little restoration.  Before anyone asks we have no plans to move from Selçuk, this has very little to do with events here.  The new place will be a means of maintaining our European Citizenship, something which is very important to us, so this project has far more to do with events in the UK.

We seem to have acquired a cat.  This is fine, but we need to not make her dependent, we go awayduman-and-the-tiles too much for that to be fair on her.  Truth be told she adopted us.  When we got back from the 8 weeks away in Central America, she greeted us, and…..  It all went from there.  We took her to the vet, she was pregnant at the time, so she’ll need to go back after kittens.  She is no longer pregnant but she is keeping her kittens hidden.  Still turns up two or three times a day for food!

So there are going to be lots of things to blog about, learning new skills, life and living here in Selçuk, our travels and more.

 

Flying into Mexico

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I think it’s about time I began to write this as we have now been home well over a month….

On 12th January this year we flew from Izmir to Stansted.  There was snow on the ground on the way to Adnan Menderes.  Our flight was direct and trouble-free and we had booked our National Express bus from Stansted to Luton where we planned to stay with family.  We arrived in Luton in a blizzard that, although short-lived, coincided with our getting off the coach and into a taxi for the short ride to Ashley’s mother’s house.  Next day we went to London to spend time with my family and, Saturday 14th we flew from Gatwick to Cancun.

A ten hour flight is never the best way to spend a day but we had excellent service on our flight with Virgin Atlantic.  The flight was not full and we had a row of 4 seats to ourselves.  The seat back entertainment system was excellent and varied (we watched the first episode of Westworld, amongst other things), the food was fine, there was free alcohol in moderation and the staff were helpful and friendly.  We landed in Cancun and got through immigration feeling reasonably relaxed, then a taxi to our hotel near the bus station.

The hotel was OK and the staff were sweet.  We had a problem with the aircon which was fixed almost instantly.  It felt very late at night though, in Cancun, it was early, so we didn’t do a lot.  We took a stroll to the local square.  This was not the touristy part of Cancun, so it was full of locals enjoying Saturday night.  There were folk dancers and stalls selling street food, balloons and that kind of thing.  I particularly remember the bats.  There were lots of them, large ones (probably fruit bats of some sort) hanging from one of the trees in the zocolo like black handkerchiefs.

We had a few beers in the bar attached to the hotel.  I got bitten.  Lots.  One of the worst mosquito attacks I experienced in the whole 5 weeks we were in the tropics.

Valladolid1Next morning we wandered around, back to a square where we listened to birds and watched those brave enough to show themselves in a crowded area.  Basically we were waiting for a bus to take us to Valladolid.  An easy ride (first class bus, it had movies, including one about Turkey).

I really like Valladolid.  It’s not too touristy, though it does have some pleasant pensions and a couple of decent restaurants.  It has a cenote where we watched loud tourists and a family of black vultures.  It has a lovely, green square full of ground doves and… grackles.  I really do like grackles.  And, of course, it’s convenient for Cichen Itza.

There had been some debate around whether to go to Chichen Itza.  Ashley has been several times, I had only been once.  It was the first Mayan site I visited and I wanted to refresh my memory.  We went on a collective (the Mexican equivalent of a Dolumuş).  We saw a mot mot sitting on a wire on the way, though the vehicle was pretty full and it was hard to see much from the window.  The first thing we saw upon arrival was the queue.  Although we had arrived quite early, the crowds are such that there is a 20 minute queue just to pay to get into the site.

Sadly, from my point of view, they allow people to set up souvenier stalls inside the site itself.  I suppose that is better than having them wander around accosting tourists, but it does little for the atmosphere.  Also they sell these vile noisemakers which are supposed to imitate jaguars (I think they sound more like howler monkeys) and, unsurprisingly, these are very popular with children.

Nothing can really spoil Chichen Itza.  The site is large and most tourists go to a very limited part of it (I think that a lot of the tour buses don’t allow you time to get around the whole site, particularly not if you like to take your sites slowly).  There are two cenotes, both of them very beautiful (though I do have my favourite).  There are some wonderful reliefs.  And we spent quite a long time standing on one of the slightly out of the way paths watching a mot mot hunt butterflies.  Well, mostly it was sitting pretty still so Ashely got some good shots.

 

Back to Valladolid for dinner (yes we did get the cochinita pibil) and a bit of sleep before catching the 5 a.m. bus to Chetumal……

Berlin – October 2016

 

 

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I have wanted to go to Berlin for many years – the museums contain many things I  wanted to see (things that are not in the British Museum or Istanbul, or even the Louvre).  And, at the end of October I finally got to go there.

We both liked Berlin – it’s a pleasant enough city – and, whilst the weather was colder than it was here in Selçuk it was not too cold to wander around if adequately wrapped up in fleece, hat and jacket.  The metro system worked well once we discovered that you can’t feed the automatic machine notes larger that 10 Euro, and whilst we were staying some distance from the centre, it was easy enough to get around.  The first night we went to a microbrewery where we drank beer and ate sausages.  Then we had a full day of museums….

Berlin has a museum Island.  It has six museums on it and you can buy a ticket to cover all of them.  We managed four (with a brief break for currywurst).  We did (in order) the Altes museum, the Bergama museum, the Neues Museum and the Bode Museum.  At which point we were museumed out.  I was hugely determined to see the Bergama museum, even though parts of it are currently shut for renovation.  It contains many of the brick mosaics that led up to the Ishtar gate (other bits of which are in Istanbul and the BM).  I really wanted to see that.  The Assyrian items came as a very pleasant surprise.  And I had completely forgotten that the Miletus gate is also in Berlin.  You can see it at the top of the page.  Miletus is less than an hour’s ride from Selçuk so it was easy for us to visualise it in its original location.

I’m just going to leave a gallery here….  So much amazing stuff!  And some of the best red figure ware I’ve seen anywhere outside the British Museum – not even in Athens….

 

 

 

 

Our first walk with Zirve – 2016 season

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This was a complicated walk, though not all of it was walking.  We set off from Selçuk at 8:30 in the morning and drove to Pinar Köyu where we stopped for breakfast of gözleme, domates ve zeytin.  It was a fairly brief stop and soon we were back on our buses for the drive to Çomakdağ köyu where we ended up staying for longer than I think was originally intended.

First we climbed up with some other people, above the village where there was a fantastic view.

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We were back in the village at the appointed time, but everyone else was behind by half an hour then we went strolling off with a gentleman from the village who showed us several traditional houses (many of them somewhat ruined), his pygmy cows and an olive barrel.  He ended up taking us home for lunch.  Which was delicious but had to be cut short as the buses were revving up and we were keeping them waiting.

Our next stop was Euromos – we’ve been there before and our visit was all too brief as we were running late.   It’s a really impressive site and I would love to go back on our own, with more time to explore (and less people…..  There were 75 in our group!)

 

We drove onwards towards Bafa Lake where we finally got our walk!  Only about 7 Km the Yediler Manastriri and back.

And finally, onto the beach at Heraklia (no time to explore the ancient city) where we watched a beautiful sunset and enjoyed an ice cold beer with friends.

It took a couple of hours to drive back to Selçuk.  A very full day, but extremely worthwhile

 

 

And, finally, Kos

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We wound up on Kos where we had arranged to meet friends for lunch.  We stayed at the same little Pansyion we stayed at last time we met those same friends on Kos.  They live in the UK but like to take their holidays in Greece!  The Pansyion is set back from the very quiet ‘strip’ in the quiet tourist resort of Lampi which is an extension of Kos Town and an easy walk from the harbour.  The hotel is set in farmland and you can sit around the pool watching the puppies chase the goats and chickens in the field next door.

Kos is genuinely a ‘holiday island’.  It has wall to wall tourist resorts all around the coast and a few farms in the middle.  We had great fun taking the hired quad bike over dirt roads through the mountains, bumping over rubble, turning round at dead ends and finding some beautiful views.

Ultimately, though, Kos is about eating and drinking and sitting on the beach. It does have some spectacular beaches and we did go swimming, though we didn’t take photographs.  Ashley excelled himself by finding the little restaurant we ate in two years ago, it’s just above the village of Zia, but, sadly, it was shut.  We hope not permanently.  We struck it lucky again though by finding a lovely restaurant (Taverna Zia no Stress – highly recommended)  at the top of Zia which claimed to have the best moussaka in Europe.  We took that as a challenge.  The moussaka was very, very good indeed and the stuffed courgette flowers were wonderful.  It was also very quiet, given that Zia itself was as busy as usual.

The next day we had a fish lunch with our friends and their young son.  We were right on the beach so he was able to run off and play safely.  We ate a lot that afternoon so, in the evening, it was mezzes  at the restaurant local to our hotel.  This was the mezze plate to go with wine.  There was a different one to go with ouzo (mostly seafood)

The one fly in the ointment was when we put Ashley’s cash card into a cash machine which ate it.  This was a cash machine attached to a bank, but it was a Saturday and our ferry left for Bodrum early on the Sunday morning.  It was at this point that we discovered that Garanti Bank’s phone line does not work on our mobiles when we are outside Turkey.  Thankfully the bank machine immediately re-credited Ashley’s account and we were able to cancel the card from the bus to Aydin on Monday morning.  A new card was ordered on Tuesday and arrived at our bank in Selcuk within a week.

 

 

 

 

Island Hopping – We moved on to Nisyros

greek-islands-20161We spent two nights on Rhodes then caught the big ferry to Nisyros in the late afternoon, arriving around sunset (and it was a beautiful sunset).  We stayed in a really old fashioned hotel with a sea water swimming pool.

Nisyros is a small island (we got round it in less than a day on our hired quad bike) with a couple of seaside towns and a couple of villages up in the mountains.  Well, I say mountains but, in fact, the island is one large volcano.  We stayed in Mangreek-islands-201610draki where the ferry (and a host of day trips) dock.  There are plenty of seafront bars and restaurants but the nicer restaurants are up in the square, away from the sea front.  We ate very well (and cheaply) on Nisyros.

There is a very nicely restored castle above Mandraki – a pleasant and not difficult walk.  That’s where the picture of the windswept trees was taken.  I don’t know why we didn’t take photos of the castle (which is mainly a curtain wall).

The main attraction on the island is the volcano itself (there’s a very interesting volcano museum) and the actual caldera.  You can walk right into the caldera and explore it.  It bubbles and smokes and smells of sulphur.  We were lucky to get the place to ourselves – we arrived as one bus tour was leaving and left as the next bus tour arrived.