A Travellerspoint blog

Medieval castles to cotton castles

Rhodes to Pamukkale

In Rhodes we were enchanted by the huge medieval castle, the largest of it's kind, draped over a section of the island. Built at the end of the crusades, this is a classic fairy tale castle complete with parapets and turrets, you can imagine the knights of St John roaming the same roads centuries before.

Finally crossing to Marmaris (after several days of apparent bad weather, although we were out sunning ourselves) we were instantly enamoured by the beauty of Mediterranean Turkey, it's green, stunning, full of mountains and beautiful coastline. Navigating our way through the incredible Turkish bus system, with well groomed stewards keeping the buses well groomed and handing out wet wipes and washing windows at every road stop. We're blown away by the sheer size of Pamukkale, or the cotton castle. From the bottom it seems the entire cliff side is covered in travertines, with the calcified formations falling over each other, and expanding the further up you go. Walking over the calcium deposits feels like you're walking over cuttlefish, with warm water trickling over our toes. Its a slow climb as the view is so impressive and changes every few feet, the impossibly white travertines, crystal blue pools, snow capped mountains in the distance and stretches of green farmland. There are shoe police with whistles to ensure that everyone complies with the barefoot regulations, its usually the oldies who lapse and is funny to watch them being pulled up.

Exploring the enormous ruins of the Hieropolis, an ancient Roman city, wild poppies wavering in the wind, reminding us of Anzac day fast approaching.

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Toasting our feet after our adventures

Toasting our feet after our adventures

Posted by two_pukeko 10:15 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Santorini

Squashed Panini

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View Our trip on two_pukeko's travel map.

Awesome to catch up with Gemma and Smit, chasing elusive golden sunsets over the caldera. Chilling out on black sandy beaches and meeting more friendly dogs. Burning around the island in our tiny rental car, and getting stuck up the narrow roads that taper off to footpaths. Heading out for a swim in the 'hot pools' off the crater, which was a 30 metre swim through bitterly cold water to reach the beach that was about 3˚ warmer. Being fed delicious goodies from our hostel lady in preparation for 'Big Week', or Greek Easter. More delicious Greek goodies of pastries baked in ouzo, zucchini balls and tsatsiki, gyros at Lucky's, and of course washed down with raki. Picturesque views everywhere; looking up at village of Thira hanging on the cliff top, the white washed houses making it seem like sugar dusted mountains from a distance; donkey's lining the zigzagging path down to the old port and looking out over belly dropping cliffs. And possibly the most incredible sight ever, watching the mountainside village of Pyrgos being set alight with enormous candles, on the windiest day and fearing slightly for being caught alight.

The rough journey from Crete to Santorini!

Sunset seeking

Sunset seeking


Sunset over Thira

Sunset over Thira


The road to the old port

The road to the old port


Perfect weather for outdoor candles

Perfect weather for outdoor candles


Village of Pyrgos at Easter

Village of Pyrgos at Easter

Leftover shells from shooting an effigy of Judas

Leftover shells from shooting an effigy of Judas

In search of the crater

In search of the crater


Windmills of Oia

Windmills of Oia


Chilling in Oia

Chilling in Oia


Little villages

Little villages


Narrow escapades

Narrow escapades


Narrow escapades

Narrow escapades


Hanging out

Hanging out


Old mate

Old mate


Scaling ridges

Scaling ridges


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A room with a view

A room with a view


The edge of the world

The edge of the world

Posted by two_pukeko 03:32 Archived in Greece Tagged santorini Comments (0)

Exploring Crete

Beautiful beaches and WWII history

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View Our trip on two_pukeko's travel map.

Crete was cycling through warm villages past orange groves and hiking through patches of wild oregano in the mountains. Meeting crazy Polski's on their holidays and missioning out to the most picturesque, almost deserted beach, and having a dip because it was too beautiful not too, grinning and bearing the off peak temperatures. Being greeted warmly by every Cretan for our kiwi connection and the NZ effort during WWII. Looking through Stelios' vegetarian kitchen and stuffing ourselves on his creative fare, baked eggplant with balsamic vinegar, raisins and a dash of chilli. Checking out WWII memorabilia, with the history lessons coming thick and fast from our hostel host George. Visiting Knossos, home of the first civilised society ever and the 'maze and the minotaur' legend, being amazed that there was not actual maze (Mostly Michelle). Washing everything down with a shot of raki.

Galatos

Galatos


Goats roaming the hillside

Goats roaming the hillside


Balos beach (with a big NZ in the sand)

Balos beach (with a big NZ in the sand)


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A big ass fortress

A big ass fortress


Eerie caves

Eerie caves


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Unamazing Knossos

Unamazing Knossos

Peacock in the trees

Peacock in the trees


Port of Heraklion

Port of Heraklion

Posted by two_pukeko 01:55 Archived in Greece Tagged crete Comments (0)

Daydreaming in Dahab

Sunshine and Shisha

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We took a 9 hour bus ride from Cairo, with about six check points along the way. The first of which we thought was a refreshments break, so we just stay on board. Next minute, there is a police guy who comes on board and takes our passports, and then an army guy comes on board making chopping gestures. Things start to get a bit heated only to find out that all we had to do was take our luggage off board so the sniffer dogs could check them out. It was plain sailing from there, but we weren't sure what to expect at each stop, refreshments break or check point? Michelle managed to go the whole 9 hours without going to the toilet for fear of being left behind, and also a case of travellers tummy that morning, ugh.

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We arrived in Dahab a little weary and hoping like crazy that the hostel that had been recommended to us had a vacancy. Turns out they did, and we fell in love with the place immediately. The restaurant or chill out area was a cushioned paradise with a couple of open fires, and plenty of atmosphere. The staff were all really welcoming and really genuine after all the pushy touts in Luxor. Aziz showed us the beach just behind the restaurant curtain, gently lapping the shore a few metres away with the lights of Saudi Arabia in the distance. Amazing.

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We filled our days exploring our surrounds, renting bicycles and soaking up rays. There is a lagoon where everyone learns to wind surf, where we discovered the water is actually quite cold, despite the warm temperatures. The mountains were the most incredible back drop to the beach, with the low sun they were all silhouetted against each other. Apparently there are something like 360 days of wind here, which makes it such a great spot for windsurfers, so was really eerie to head out one evening with the water completely calm, looked amazing and so serene.

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The food was pretty good, plenty more kosharyi, and had to try local dishes of stuffed pigeon and bedouin spiced fish, both really delicious, followed by sweet shisha and beer, super cheap. Cats are king here, so you have to defend your plates against them armed with a spray bottle of water. Any unwatched plates get taken over by the resident cats, and they're not fussy, they'll chow down on cucumber and all.

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Dahab is full of activity and people along the beachside, but is a real contrast when you leave the seaside roads, the people disappear and the whole vibe completely changes. Goats wonder around idly, and only a little bit further beyond that and buildings cease to appear, save for the few remains of places that have fallen through. The drive on the way into Dahab revealed finished and unfinished resorts that went on for miles on miles, almost like a whole city, just sitting there, it was really odd, tourism has really taken a beating here.

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One of the highlights was going to the blue hole, a massive natural hole that goes down 100ft or so, to go snorkelling. Again the water was really cold, but was pretty gorgeous swimming around the perimeter checking out the fish and coral. We dipped in twice, the second time swimming beyond the hole, where we saw trumpet fish and more impressive coral. On our trip we met a really cool guy, Peter, a sort of freelance philosopher from Munich, and we ended up climbing Mt Sinai that night with him, the site where supposedly Moses received the ten commandments.

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St Catherine's monastery, at the base of Mt Sinai

St Catherine's monastery, at the base of Mt Sinai


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That night was something tough, we headed out about 9pm in a loaded hiace van that had little room to put your legs, let alone have a 2 1/2 hr sleep. Was pretty hard climbing on very little sleep, also instead of bringing the head lamp for the night walk, we took sunglasses for the next day instead. Classic case of lights on but no one home. After say 5 hours of climbing, with three to four 20 minute breaks in between we reached the top. Well almost, we stayed about 365 steps below the summit to warm up, because it was freakin cold, then about half an hour before sunrise we headed up to the top where there is a small church. The views from up the top were pretty incredible, amazing place, even if the sunrise almost didn't happen due to clouds.

Dahab is a beautiful place to just chill out. Place wouldn't have been as cool I don't think if it wasn't for our cool hostel guys. Cheers Penguin.
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Posted by two_pukeko 11:58 Archived in Egypt Tagged snorkelling mt sinai sunshine Comments (1)

What up Giza?

Pyramids and Sphinxes

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The excitement really began when we arrived in Egypt, we were looking forward to exploring such a different culture, not knowing quite what to expect. We were met by our hostel's driver Mohamed, who was full of wise cracks as he drove us through the city. Giant murals bought us up to play on the history and sightseeing spectacularrrs, and every so often an intriguing building, monument, or the turrets of a detailed mosque would pop its head out of the heaving metropolis.

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To add to our experience, Mohamed played contemporary Egyptian music with an urd, an exotic beat that made the jammed traffic seem like a dance floor. Quick turns and manoeuvres were executed with such bravado that you sometimes felt that this really was a choreographed dance extravaganza that would leave you with your mouth agape in amazement, and sometimes a little scared at the proximity of other drivers. All it took was a little toot or beep, and like a sonar signal being received everyone would adjust accordingly. AMAZING! To make it feel more precarious a rather large proportion of vehicles seemed like they were more worthy of time travel than road travel, not to mention the odd horse or donkey pulling a cart.

Walk like an Egyptian brought on a new meaning when it was time to cross the road to our hostel, under guidance from Mohamed, who told us the way to cross is to close your eyes and go for it, translated, don't hesitate or chaos truly will rain down upon you, and guess what, sure enough, it worked every time.

Everyone was really friendly and welcoming, despite a few strange looks. We stayed in Downtown Cairo, where the "cheap" hotels were, so we were told, but despite this we didn't see many tourists around. 'Welcome to Egypt,' greets a guy at the local store when we were buying water, was kind of cool. We try to blend in at the local kosharyi joint, serving up a delicious pasta-type dishes and super cheap at about 80p a pop.

Day one, first priority has to be the pyramids. So we hire a camel and horse to see the pyramids, desert styles. Half way through our pyramid trek, Taui starts sneezing, which is weird as although he gets hay fever, there is no grass or pollen in sight, so we wonder if its the dust. And then after a while he starts itching all around his neck, and by the time we get back he is starting to wheeze and we realise that he's allergic to horses. Ughhh.

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We took the opportunity to take plenty of silly photos, but our big camera started playing up, then the little one battery putts out, and we were down to Taui's iPhone, and this was the very beginning of the day, eeshk.

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After checking out the most famous Giza pyramids, the home of the largest pyramid we headed to the oldest at a site called Saqqara. Here we descended into a pyramid down a deep stairwell into the tomb, where you can see the the hieroglyphs up close. It's really quite amazing to see how well preserved it is despite it's age and really eerie to see the opened sarcophagus sitting there.

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We check out the Egyptian museum; full of mummies, giant statues and tiny trinkets. Although full of artefacts it is pretty thin on information – we have been spoiled in Europe with an abundance of information in signs and brochures for free. But as is the way here, information is a commodity and if you want it you have to pay for it. We gleamed what information we could from the various signs, and made up the rest in between. You find yourself wanting to know more about everything, there is so much to see and each new thing creates a new question.

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One of the highlights of the museum was the findings from Tutanakmen's tomb. There was a little bit more info on this; he ruled during an enormous period of wealth and as such his tomb was stacked. Gold everything, and everything had a container, and then a container to contain that container and so on, one is never enough, and gold is the only respectable medium. His mask that went on the mummified body was super impressive, and apparently fashioned in the actual appearance of his face so the gods would know he was, handsome guy. One can only imagine what sort of egos these Kings had, fashioning themselves after gods and create such rich temples for their afterlife.

Having explored the more famous sites we were pretty keen to leave behind the city of Cairo and head south to check out some more sightseeing in Luxor. We spent the night on the sleeper train brushing up on a few Arabic phrases so we could converse with the locals, or just get directions. On arrival we knew it was a short walk from the station, there was this one guy who really was determined for us to take a taxi. Instead we ask for directions to which we followed, in the opposite direction of our accommodation, only to be met by him on a motorbike down the road, still determined we headed back the other way, refusing a ride on his bike and eventually find our hostel.

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Luxor temple is pretty impressive, built on the scale of gods. We arrived just after a bunch of tour buses, which was really quite packed, with loads of cheesy photos going round, but after about a half an hour the tour buses go, leaving us practically by ourselves and it was really cool. Huge, monolithic columns and plenty of hieroglyphics to get the mind wondering about their meaning.

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We decide to check out Karnak temple at night, as most places advertise a 'light and sound show,' and we think we ought to check out at least one of them. You got led through with a bit of show and history, with the narrator sounding like he was out of 'Conan the Barbarian.' Although we would have preferred to wonder around by ourselves like at Luxor temple, it was cool to see the place lit up at night, the columns there are even more imposing and really majestic bathed in ambient light.

After a little bargaining we find a taxi driver who takes us sightseeing for the majority of the day. The touts and vendors are really something else here, and they're a lot more prolific on the West bank attractions. We had to get creative to fend them off, trying to pretend to speak a language they didn't know, as they are versed in English, German, French, Spanish and Russian, so it was a bit of a lucky dip. At the tombs "Valley of the Kings", "Valley of the Queens", and "Hatshepsut" there is usually someone stationed inside who will jump up and try to act as a guide and offer information, all in return for baksheesh of course. Most of them it was someone pointing at a wall painting, saying 'Look, look, Ramses,' which we would mimic for the rest of our time in Egypt. And beyond.

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Talk about amazing burial tombs! One could only imagine the cost of such dedications, especially when everything that you owned was buried with you. What about the missus??? Valley of the Queens? Can't be that simple can it?

After all the sightseeing and heat we take a felucca ride down the Nile, was a really relaxing way to spend the afternoon, not bothered by any touts. Our captain was quite sweet and was cool talking to him at a little cafe up the nile about politics, tourism and his hopes for his family. We sailed back into Luxor just as the sun was setting. Pretty gorgeous.

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Posted by two_pukeko 14:07 Archived in Egypt Tagged luxor cairo pyramids Comments (0)

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