Thursday, July 24, 2008

Come on, say it, you missed me!

Well it has been awhile, hasn’t it?

I have been quite busy, but that has never stopped me in the past. I’m starting to think it’s because I’m lacking inspiration. It’s when this happens that you start to worry – am I so used to London that the stupidity no longer affects me? Am I so used to the hell that is catching the tube to work that I fail to notice the hilarity that a Northern Line station attendant literally shrugging his shoulders and walking off when someone asks him if there is a replacement bus service between Angel and Camden? Do I have so much inner peace that I don’t feel the need to throw an ash tray at the TV when I see the latest reality show is named ‘Choir Wars’?

Someone forgot to tell Ralph that 'Britain's Greatest Over Actor' was next door

Well, I’ve just been busy. Alyssa has been forcing me to see the tourist sites, and after 2 and a half years of really not caring to see them - as I walk past them daily - I relented. There really is a lot to see in London that doesn't include someone's kitchen floor at 4.37am. Maybe that's why I haven't really written many blogs; it's because I've kind of settled in.

So with contenment looming, it was time to head to that truely English institution - the festival. What better place to go to completely forget who you are, which way is up and what personal hygiene is - all the things that English find dear - than Glastonbury.

It was a three hour drive to Glastonbury, which after making friends with a bottle of scotch was relatively painless. Stonehenge shot by on the right - missed it - the 40 minute walk from the car to the campsite - missed it. Falling through a tent, trying to crawl in to Coomba's to stay warm, telling tall stories and finally Coomba having to set my tent up as a I couldn't stand that well only for his to flood in the rain and mine to be bone dry-misse..well actually I remember that and it was pretty funny.

The mud, the crowds, the 900 litre hole in the ground that is used by 130,000 people as a toliet, all fall away when the excitement and sensation flooding fun kicks in for the next three days.

Some embraced the rain...

...some didn't.

Things seemed a little calm on day one. With so many things to pick from we ended up settling in at the Pyramid Stage. In a crowd of 130,000 people it was quite bizarre that every second person I bumped in to I knew. Yakka, Steve Canty (who bizarrely enough I only bump in to at festivals - Virgin, Glasto, SW4) and finally waking up in the morning I look over and unnoticed to me, I (well Coomba) seemed to have set up the tent next to Michael Valvo from Uni.

Highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Kings of Leon who closed the day before we all went off to watch Fatboy Slim while Coomba explained his theory of economics to random strangers.


video

Falling out of my muddy, hot tent the next morning I wondered to myself why Guantanamo Bay wardens simply don't make prisoners sleep in tents and do away with water boarding - a lot more effective style of torture. The slow crawl to the 'toilets' in gumboots was made much worse by the knowledge that I had two more days and nights of this. Shower in a can and sanatised wipes, all was forgotten when we walked in to listen to Sneaky Sound System, and promptly bumped in to Tess and Treve steaming away. Definately a highlight that one. Fast forward through our experiences in the hippy section of Glastonbury, we headed back to the Main Stage to listen to Amy Winehouse.


video

I've lost my Kiwi friend - anyone know him?

Wow - what a train wreck she was. Obviously forgetting the words, she was basically singing half a second behind the backing band, stumbling across stage, before finally coming to the front of the crowd and punching fans - hilarious. Dutchy screaming out 'you're a crack whore' at the top of his voice when it was most quiet was a highlight for me. Following that, Jay-Z performed in what I thought with as a pretty lack lustre performance.

Fast forward 24 hours and we were standing in front of Groove Armada and the most expensive light show put together. I don't really remember a huge amount except for what looked kind of like an explosion, flares and lots of people bouncing.

video

The rest is kind of a blur. Wandering around like lost children for the next five hours it was time to go home. After no sleep for seveal days and the excitement levels of a Morman accountant, that car ride was painful.

Glastonbury was over for me.


A couple of weeks later, I went to a more cultured festival; that is that it was just up the road and I got to shower. SW4 (so named as that is the postcode for Clapham) is Carl Cox's festival, which is basically an excuse for him to invite all his DJ mates to come around to the Common and have a play.

Says it all really

Next day Alyssa was heading home to sort out her visa situation. This basically means that I'll have more time to be able to get the blog back on track. On that, I better get cracking.

More pics here.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Gobble, gobble

Like an annoying stalker London has a way of punishing you if you leave it while still maintaining that façade of being nice. The double back-handed insult. The killer smile, etc. Arriving back in London from a two week holiday it had been a sunny week with great temperatures and beautiful weather. And I caught a killer cold. Not just me – but at least 10 other people I was there with!! And friends of friends who went to Turkey for ANZAC Day as well. London is a revengeful madame!

But anyway, let’s move on to Turkey. Now for those that have read my blogs since day one know that they are usually quite detailed and descriptive. I don’t think I can do it for this one, for three main reasons:

  • there was such a diversity in what happened in Turkey;
  • it was quite lengthy – two weeks; and
  • I wasn’t sober much (ironic when travelling an Islamic country).
Istanbul
Arriving in Instanbul, Longy, Kiwi Falan and Kiwi Nick greeted me with roaring hangovers and advice where I could get one. Taking that advice the opening night was a blur of shishas, Efes and some randomness….

It wasn’t pleasant that I was woken the next morning by Kiwi Nick telling me that the bus was about to leave with out me and I had missed breakfast – he found me in jocks spread eagle on the bed with my tongue hanging out. There were no winners on that day.

Moving out of Istanbul we headed to Anakara and Mutsfa Attaturk’s tomb, which is a testament to how much Turkey loves their founder. Fresh from defeating the Allied Forces in Gallipoli he then won the civil war and founded Turkey, before completely rejigging the economy, establishing a parliament, a new currency, etc, etc. Pretty lazy guy. No idea why he picked Anakara ove
r Instanbul, as it’s in the middle of a dry, hot sand bed. After pushing our way up the hill, I realised that it must have been the abundance of booze and how bad teh devil drink made you feel that made him come here from Istanbul. Kiwi Nick was having similair thoughts about my semi-nakewd waking pose. We pushed on.

Buried on the hills over looking Anakara his tomb is spread out over an area that you usually see reserved for pharaohs. Feeling like I needed a tomb myself, we slowly carved our way East to Cappadocia.

Cappadoccia
The town is a bizarre place. Surrounded by limestone towers that over the years have been carved out for housing by nomads, tribes fleeing invading armys and the Flinstones, ‘rock houses’ scatter the landscape. And not to mentione, hard as nailing shit to a wall to get down once you climb in one!

video

Arriving late, a few of us decided to take a look around the town. Four minutes later we had finished. It’s amazing how quickly you get bored when you can’t even have a perve on the Turkish ladies. Once that sun goes down there are no ladies on the streets. Walking through town all we could see were dozens of guys, hunkered down over back gammon sets, sipping their coffee and smoking away. Making friends with the locals we got a few beers and had a little chuckle before it was time for bed. Ducking behind a building to relieve myself of the ‘strong beer’, I finally found the women. Well, three of them staring at me. First sight of woman in four hours and they are staring at me decorating the side of a house.

Up early the next morning we were going to see the lime stones caves of Cappadocia from the air.

Now people talk about the serene beauty of hot air ballooning, and Lonely Planet says that ballooning over Cappadocia is one of the Top 100 things to do before you die, but after 15 minutes it does get a bit tedious.

So soaking up the rising sun while the dry crisp air gently ruffled our hair and the intermittent burst of the air balloon’s flame punctured the silent morning…..it seemed a perfect time to tell fart jokes. And we did.

video

This went for three hours.

Air ballooning and site seeing over it was time for a shower, shave and slap on some Turkish kit for a night of sampling Turkish culture. Being taken to by a paucnhly old man with a cut throat razor while your friends behind make fun of Turkish TV is a scary thing, but the ‘cut throat shaves’ are vunderbah!

So all Turked up – no shower, BO and constantly failing to make a dent on the world soccer stage – it was off for one of those tourist ‘this is our real culture’ evenings. By the end of the night the only Turkish culture I had experienced was my head being slammed in to a door by an over zealous security guard and a similar thing by a kiwi.

Waking up with a sore head and no idea where my wallet, camera, phone or keys were, I was glad to be leaving the moonscape of Capadoccia for the Treehouses of Olympus.

Items returned a few minutes later and away we went.

Now bounding around the Turkish countryside, seeing scenery and experiencing the sensual flavoursome food was on all our minds, so the arid highway, Bangkok Hilton toilets and oh so wonderful tourist buffets studded along the path didn’t endear themselves to us. Every now and again you’d duck in to a mega mall in the middle of nowhere to get something. Kebab..kebab…kebab…Burger King…kebab…kebab. In one such mall I was accosted by two men: one with a microphone, one with a camera. Bleating at me in Turkish, my confused looks let him know I wasn’t from around there. After getting over the language barrier, they asked me to smile and say yes after he said something followed by a wave and a smile. I did.

I’m hoping that it wasn’t for the Turkish dating game or I’m some how in an arranged marriage?

Arriving at the treehouses in Olympus we were glad to be unloading – and after drinking Efes for three hours we unloaded quite quickly – and then took our bags off the bus.

Olympus

Our initial disappoint that a fire had ravaged the treehouses and now they were just houses made of trees was quickly forgotten with one visit to the treehouse bar, of which I never had in my treehouse as a kid (did have a treehouse meth lab and brothel…but no bar). For the rest of the night I rushed around at play in my little treehouse world until we were told there was a night club around the corner…so off we toddled. Now this ‘club’ was much like a colosseum – and hosted some gladiatorial battles that night – with a large fire in the middle, a DJ booth up high on one of the walls and a bar in the corner. Pepped up of ‘tree nectar’ I was having a riotess time minding my own business until I was set upon by a random girl named Alyssa. Trying to experiment and impress with my athletic prowess, I was all confident and decided to bust out some dance moves that involved catching her…

Waking up on my face I was told that my head hitting the ground made a clunk sound, kind of like a log being hit with an axe. Apparently I didn’t even put my hands out to stop, so my face caught the brunt of it. It was off to bed for me.

The injuries and the attacker!!

Rising the next morning to a face that resembled a burn victim, I decided it was good to get some salt water on to it to wash out the dust/dirt/ash and shame.

My last swim in water was San Sebastian beach in July 2007, so I was ecstatic to be peering out over the wonderful the Mediterranean! A quick dip and it was fucking freezing, so we hiked for about an hour to take a look at the Chimera – an eternal flame that the Turks thought was a devil as you simply can’t put it out. And as you walk for an hour and come to a rocky outcrop with cracks and holes that spew out flames, you can be convinced it is. After singing the Bangles ‘Eternal Flame’ to it, it was time to go back and on to another night at the Treehouses via a five hour cocktail session at a bar along the way. One of the best sessions ever. This bar was a series of huge ‘beds’ with pillows, a big table and shishas all around. And a bar man keen to please.

As you know when a bar man makes the drinks he tests them by dipping a straw in and tasting a tiny bit. Half way through we had ordered so much our barman was pissed. Stumbling back to the treehouses, Alyssa apologised for blatantly tripping me and making me land face first on the ground* and we moved on to the treehouse club again…. and for a second time in the trip….a Kiwi abused an Aussie. But this time kickboxers were needed!

*Some or all of this story is fiction.

It was with great pleasure that the next four days were going to be spent on a boat cruising the Turkish coastline with nothing to do but swim, tan, drink and eat. I don’t usually simply like lying there doing nothing, but this was awesome.

Sailing

There really isn’t a lot to say about sitting on your arse doing nothing. The first day we simply cruised and swam. Now the Mediterranean is basically one big chasm, and as Turkey is at the end of this chasm, the land simply drops away when it hits the ocean. We were moored no more than 10 metres from islands and the bottom – although the water was crystal clear – was gone. It took one anchor 19 seconds to hit the bottom...10 feet from the bank. But what sailing trip would be complete without pirates.

About half a day sail from Olympus is a little alcove surrounded on three sides by small islands and nestled on one of these islands is Smuggler’s Inn; a cool bar that you can only get to by boat. So we put on our best pirate gear, raided a launch and ended up seeing the better side of £2 vodka redbulls. I limped away from the bar later after realising that you can’t do the caterpillar on a hard wood floor. Knees bruised, pride dented I was glad to limp back to the boat to a joyous welcome.

The next few days were a bit more subdued. There was a lot more swimming, a lot of cannonballs and a few boat parties here and there. With three large boats, all sleeping about 16 – and a random larger one that followed us around – you can imagine the parties when they are all joined together.

After a particularly rough evening and some more sailing, we decided to throw ourselves off a perfectly good mountain. Motor boating (hehehe) in to port we took some jeeps up one of the thinnest and scariest drops in to the valley below, that I’ve ever seen. Finally making it up to the top I was strapped in to the front of some guy (who actually said ‘can I scare you’) and ran off a cliff. After the intial fun, it gets a little dull. Simply sitting there taking in the scenery. After gliding around for an hour, we came in to land and back to the boat for another party.

video

video

Falling off the boat after four days we were in Fethiye, and what a lovely place it was.

Fethiye

Finally a bed to call my own and flushable toilet (on the boat you couldn't flush paper, so you had to wipe and place in a bin). Strolling through the town I was amazed by how long it took to find a freaking kebab, but buoyed on by the promise of a massive night at Car Cemetery (a bar owned by the cousin of our tour guide) I needed to eat. Now the bar for the evening, as I said, was owned and operated by one of the tour guide’s best friends (or relative) so we were taken care of and left to run rampant, which we gave a red hot go at. As all the drinks were named after cars it did get a little confusing when ordering and I did often need to refer to drinks as: “the red one – and I want mint!” Stumbling out of the bar and half past fuck knows I ended up finding a dog and trying to take it home – and when I say dog I mean canine!!!!After my suggestion of the drink Datsun 180B (containing VB, Ouzo, half a pack of Winnie Blues and some grease) was denied, I needed the comfort. The dog left me for Nick. I wasn’t happy.

I needed to relax. Thanks Christ, we were heading to the lime pools at Pamaluke the next dat for a little bit of a lie down.

Pamakkale

Pamakkale is something else. You can see it long before you get there. The lime pools cascade down the hillside and make it look like snow from a distance. It is formed by hot, lime rich water bubbling from the ground, which as it cools drops the lime forming encrusted pools. Where the water comes from the ground there is a pool that dates back to Roman times and invites you to bath in the warm water. The water forms bubbles on your skin and as you move the surface of the water fizzes like a huge glass of lemonade. For thousands of years it was used as a spa bath.

Oh, and did I say I found weapons of mass destructions.
Moving swiftly away from the radio active weaponry we travelled to Ephesus.

Ephesus

Ephesus used to be one of the most important cities in Turkey, until the ocean receded and the trade routes with Europe and Asia took precedence, moving the ecomony to Istanbul. To this day it is still a large, spread out city that, by the standard I’ve seen in ancient cities, quite large. With a hospital, running water, sewage system and an underground tunnel that connected the library to the local brothel – this place had everything!!!!! Oh, but did I mention it was ruined?

A spot of sight seeing and we were back on the road for lunch. Lamenting what we thought was going to be the stock standard, German finger-licking, tourist buffet was not to be. We set up shop in a local restaurant and had some bizarre pancake like things.

It starts here...

and ends up here.

Sight seeing out of the way, the next stops were all on the way to Gallipolli for the main event. But not before one final stop off in Kusdasi to, basically, party our asses off, as the next two days were going to be quiet, respectful, cold and late. Jim’s Irish Bar took the full force of the blow. Not sure if it was the buy one get one free vodka red bulls or the..hell…I don’t know what it was, but the night got a little out of hand – in a good way of course – and ended with walking on glass in bare feet (Nick?), tattoo contemplation and Alyssa and I walking around looking for a kebab for nearly an hour – why can’t you find a frigging kebab in Turkey when you need one???

In fact, after walking up to a hamburger shop, asking for hamburgers and being told that they only had apples – I was done.

Gallipoli and Anzac Cove
A few days later we crossed the Dardanelles on to the Gallipoli Pennisula. There are statues, memorials and every single shop is selling a Aussie or Kiwi flag all around when you get in to the port. Driving for another hour or two you start to hit the huge line of buses that snake their way down from the entrance to Anzac Cove. Off the buses, through the checkpoints, another 20 minute walk and you’re there.

Turks and the Aussies at it again

Like a mini-festival there are shops, toilets, stands, etc. After pushing down to the front, you set your sleeping bag up and wait. Horseshoeing around the grass area are seats where the people sit upright for 12 hours (you need to arrive by midday or you probably won’t get a space) we were glad we were lying down with sleeping bags. Didn’t help with the fuckwit MC blaring out his opinion on everything from the weather to how to act respectful to insulting cultures and nationalities. Apart from him ruining the day for 70 per cent of the crowd, the event was a moving ceremony.
As soon as the sun went down the temperature plummeted. So crawling in to our sleeping bags we had a 10 hour wait before the Dawn Service. After the ceremony, it was an hour walk up to Lone Pine, the site for the Australian war memory, due to the area hosting significant battles between the Turks and Aussies.


Finishing up with a ceremony at Lone Pine, we were all totally bushed from two weeks of partying and no sleep the night before. I was looking forward to getting back to London, funnily enough. I could on and on about the history, battles and more, but I'm guessing you probably would just scroll over it.
One thing that was mentioned and is reinforced all through the area is that both armies really had no quarm with each other, but were part of a larger plan. There is a large statue when going up to The Nek of a Turkish soldier carrying an ANZAC back to his trench after he was injured. More amazingly is that this actually happened, and these stories are not rare.










Istanbul..again

Back in Istanbul and not a moment too soon. We were sore. We were tired and we were ready to go home. I for one was ready for bed. But push on we did. The memories of the diggers still in our minds, we ventured back to the Sultana Bar for some two-up and shisha – what a mix of cultures. The following day was tourist time in Istanbul – what a perfect time for Alyssa to have her card swallowed by the ATM. To let you know, this place is mosque city: there’s hundreds of them, and they are all superb. It was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque has become one of the greatest tourist attractions of Istanbul. And it’s not difficult to see why. Stunning on the outside and vast on the inside, it’s not only cavernous but imaculate in detail. It is mirrored by the Süleymaniye Mosque which was finished in 1557, but was used as a place of worship for both Christians and Muslims. But I’ve seen enough of mosqus, forts, castles and temples to last a life time in my years, I wanted something else.

After speaking to our friendly neighbourhood police officer, off to the Grand Bizarre for a bit of shopping. The Grand Bazaar (or Covered Bazaar, Turkish: Kapalıçarşı (Covered Bazaar) is one of the largest covered markets in the world with more than 58 streets and 6,000 shops, and has between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. In two words – farking huge. After walking around with a few people, Alyssa and I peeled off to do our own thing, which included eating from the street vendors, buying some spice and being growled at by shop owners, with a bargain and barter thrown in here and there for good measure.All shopped out it was time to say goodbye to everyone in a closing party. A wild endeavour it was too. On the way home, Alyssa and I were accosted at the door of a nightclub near the hotel:

“Allo – you want to have drinks?”
“No thanks – we just want a kebab?”
“We do kebab – wait here.”

And off the man went – in to a heaving nightclub with people dancing on the tables and the music blaring…and 10 minutes later he emerged with two kebabs!!!! The entire holiday we had been searching in vane for a Turkish kebab, but we were foolishly looking in kebab shops, not nightclubs. Amateurs. But in the end we finally found our kebab.

For all photos, please click here and here.