Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Welsh Week

Is Murphy dead? If he is it serves him right, for his “law” is well at work in Wales this Christmas Season in the form of outfitters who are closed, out of specific gear, or mail orders that never shipped and thus…have never arrived. Our long list is still long and we have been forced to travel farther and farther each day at the suggestion of locals who know this shop or that shop in Shrewsbury, Birmingham, Wrexham etc… which leads to more suggestions for places beyond and away.
Our Cottage

North To Porthmadog

We had also scheduled several days of Ice and Mountain Climbing instruction only to watch our plans float away with rains and flooding that have been in historic proportions. Yesterday we stopped in at another outfitter and climbing center that we had contacted from Istanbul…only to find them closed. Funny thing is this outfitter has everything we need on the shelves. We can see through the barred windows all the equipment we need-just out of reach.

Last night I cracked open a book that I had been saving for this time away “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush” is an adventurer’s travel classic and tells the story of Eric Newby and his escapades in the late 1940’s in Central Asia. The bit of frustration was driven deeper as I read that in preparing for his first trip to Asia he had traveled to Wales to learn to climb and had stayed just a few miles up the road from where we are staying. His first lessons in basic mountaineering had been at Mount Tryfan…the same as ours, and he had been outfitted in the same town we had traveled to yesterday.
The Kids Near Holy Head

To our credit we have rallied in the face of these annoyances with Steward Creativity and have discovered that the consumption of enormous quantities of fish & chips saturated in malt vinegar and ketchup work to detract and divert us from our outfitting frustrations…which leads me to wonder if a change in our SRE07 strategy may be in the offing…would it be possible to eat our way through Central Asia?

Monday, December 11, 2006

British Bivouac

While it seems that we just returned home to Istanbul a few days ago, we are once again packed and within a few hours will be UK bound on British Airways. Packing has become a breeze once we figured out that it made more sense to live out of our backpacks fulltime and just “sort” things before each away.
The Sort

Taking advantage of a mandatory Visa exit we are heading to Britain to outfit and equip the SRE 07… and, if time permits, take a few days of holiday in Wales. We have a long list of expedition equipment to collect and convey to Istanbul.
Our phone, internet and social accessibility will be limited which is a key element to the Steward Tribe Christmas plans.
We will update as access presents itself and are hoping to keep the Global Nomads Live window current with our GPS coordinates. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 08, 2006


The old Chinese proverb hails that “A journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step”. I have always thought that was a bit obvious. Sitting here on a freezing balcony in a dingy hotel in Dogubeyazit, Turkey, a renegade frontier town 10 miles from Iran and overshadowed by Mt. Ararat (the Biblical berth of Noah’s Ark)…I realized that I had missed the point.

Ararat From Our Balcony

Our “single step” had begun with a decade old passion to live, travel, and wander along the historic Silk Roads of High Asia. We arrived in Istanbul 6 months ago with the intention of spending several years wandering these historic paths and now we were heading into Asia Minor on our first foray.
Forty-eight hours after picking up our rental car we pulled into Amasya in Central Turkey just before “Iftar,” the evening meal signaling the breaking of the daily fast. The travel gods were frisky and coincided our first expedition with the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunup to sundown.
We honor Islamic traditions and dress norms when living in Muslim majority regions and had joined them in keeping the fast. After a quick check-in at a dilapidated pension, we found a little café and were seated by the time the Amasya cannon thundered its approval for the evening meal to begin.
Our Amasya Pension

The next morning we headed east and were mesmerized by the hundreds, possibly thousands, of small villages clinging to the steep sides of the mountains, each discernible by the thrust of a single minaret into the sky.
We pulled off the highway and wound our way up a muddy unpaved road to a small village partially hidden by trees and the folds and ravines of the hills. As we pulled into the dirt square that marked the center of the village we came to a stop at the front of a remarkably large Mosque for so small a community. Seated in front of the Mosque in a variety of plastic and aging rusty chairs was a group of men whose age was well above that of my own four decades.
The Village Square

These people know how to stare. And they were demonstrating their proficiency and talent by the dozen pairs of eyes burrowing into our little car. I got out of the car and said “Merhaba!, Benim Turkce cok kotu”! (Hello…My Turkish sucks)! Smiles cracked quickly and in the distinctive Turkish style I was greeted with a chorus of “Yok…cok guzel, guzel”...”No!...Your Turkish is beautiful, beautiful.” After a series of formal introductions where each of the old men offered me his chair, I was peppered with questions: Where are you from? What about the war? Are you Muslim? Why does your wife and daughter where the veil? Etc…we settled in for a chat like we were old friends. When I asked if the village had a local bakery where we could buy bread for Iftar…the village chief grabbed me by the hand and led me down a muddy lane. As we walked he told me that he (Turin) had been raised in this village of Ortakoy and had left and worked in Istanbul for 40 years, returning to die in his own village.
Ortakoy Villager

We dodged deep sink holes of mud on the narrow lane and eventually came to a cinder block home on the edge of the village. Turin stepped into a Spartan, but spotless living room containing a single small bed, calling for his wife, while I waited outside. Turkish was spoken in rapid and clipped sentences and the two of them eventually came to the door with a plastic grocery bag filled with ripe tomatoes, plum sized grapes and ¾ of a round loaf of bread…the missing ¼ retained for their own dinner. When I realized that they were giving me the core of their evening meal I protested ashamedly. I was over-talked, over-shushed, and shooed away by Turin’s wife.
Turin walked proudly on the way back to the Mosque while I withered. I had inadvertently stolen his dinner and no amends could be made. Before we reached the Mosque I pulled him aside and asked if I could please pay for the groceries. He feigned offence and continued walking telling me that the joy of meeting an “Amerikan” deep in the Turkish mountains was a great gift to his village.

We made a commitment to return next spring and parted with handshakes and cheek kissing. I got into the car telling Turin again how grateful and humbled we were for the food and hospitality. As we pulled away and started down the muddy hill, the men stood to their feet in unison smiling and waving. Catching a glimpse in my rear view mirror Turin waved and took a single step forward…the journey of friendship had begun.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Steppe

An Ocular Buffet for the offering:

Military Checkpoint Near Town

Steppe Mosque

High Steppe Rest Stop..."Bracingly Refreshing"

Dogubeyazit on the High Plains of Ararat

Visiting a Local Mosque

Friday, November 24, 2006

Dogubeyazit...Take 2

Chillin Out At 6500 Feet

We made it home 48 hours ago after a border to border run of 2200 miles. It looks like we have nailed down the apartment in Dogubeyazit, its not a "done deal" yet due to some foot dragging on our part to put off the move until after the holidays and the worst of the infamous steppe weather.
Dogubeyazit From Our Apartment

Downtown Dogubeyazit

Once again we were smitten with the nomads that wander the Central Asian steppes. Their affection, hospitality, and perseverance in the face of the extreme living conditions in these high mountain locales has captured our hearts. Our new base in eastern Turkey will give us great flexibility in wandering with these tribes throughout the next few years.
The Road To Ararat

The coming days will be spent resting, and then getting ready for a 3 week December run to the United Kingdom to gather supplies and equipment for the SRE07, and to celebrate Christmas in a 300 year old abandoned fisherman’s cottage in Wales.
This will be our second year to spend the holidays in this remote village that is hailed by the guide books as “suicidally desolate”. After our busy year, a Trans-Global relocation and our crisscrossings of Asia Minor, this is what this crew needs.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Chillin in Dogubeyazit

Mountain Mosque

Spent a good part of our day today in the villages on the Plains of Ararat and then headed up the mountains to see if the passes were still open. We were finally defeated by the icy incline of the road to Soğuksu. With no traction in our rental van and several large trucks laboring with chains on, we headed back to the plains. Early this morning and then again this evening we met with the family that owns the apartment we are considering. We are hoping to wrap up negotiations soon and be able to open the Dogubeyazit apartment in late January. Cold today...high of around 30 degrees with a stiff breeze.
Border Snows

Dogubeyazit 11-06

7500 Feet High in Eastern Turkey

We have made some tracks the last 33 hours. Our launch got off to a slow start when the apartment door was shut as we were loading up the truck. Since there was a set of keys in the lock on the inside of the house, my set of keys wouldn’t work on the outside of the door. All was solved by a passing window installer who removed a window so we could climb through.
989 miles later we pulled into Dogubeyazit. The Grand Derya was expecting us, and to our amazement, had water and electricity both going at the same time.! Life is good. Cold, clear and beautiful at 30 degrees and 5300 feet.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Border Run

My literary sap has gelled in light of a busy couple of weeks, so we are going to try and jump start it with an unplanned trip to the Iranian border this week…leaving tomorrow morning.
SRE 06...the Sequel, Returning to the Border

We are making a move from Istanbul to Dogubeyazit...if we can secure an apartment this week in “D”...we will split our time between Istanbul and the border for the next year or two flowing with the seasons, tribes, nomads and language school schedule. Yeah….it’ll be a mess.
So, while this is not officially a segment of the SRE’s…we are going to call it an “expeditionette” . The weather forecast is good for the next 48 hours, changing to snow and deep freeze upon our arrival in the mountains. I know it…we have the gift.
GPS Updates start tomorrow in our GLOBAL NOMADS LIVE window…stay tuned for the chilly updates.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


The traditional launch of The Steward Tribe Christmas Season has always been on Thanksgiving night. Back on the other side of the world we would spend the week prior to Thanksgiving decorating the outside of our San Diego home. Then after Thanksgiving Day was over, the food eaten, the table cleared, we would gather on the sidewalk and throw the switch for the lights to come on. It was quite a moment for our crew...and for the local electric grid.
White Wake-Up

Today we awoke to thunder and snow in Istanbul, and while it is not staying around it set the tone for an early Christmas launch. After hours of hints and pestering we finally capitulated and the holiday music and DVD’s came out. Since Christmas doesn’t get the airing here as it does in the West and there is a noticeable lack of Christmas spirit…maybe we need a few extra weeks to get the Christmas season warmed up and ready to go.
Hiding In "Habib's"

While we were out east on the Turkish border with Armenia I found Santa Claus tucked away in the back of "Habib's Market" in Kars. The owners proudly claim that he is the only Santa in the eastern region (at least one that sings and dances like Elvis).
Sorry to interrupt your Harvest candy fest...I gotta run...the popcorn balls, fudge and cookies are ready.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Regroup

24 Years, 11 Months, 10 Days....Yeah Baby!<

Pulling into Istanbul a few days ago we arrived as Ramadan was wrapping up. The stores are bristling with people, the malls are full, food courts are standing room only...(its almost like these folks hadn't eaten in weeks).
We are getting our feet back under us...great trip but we came home a bit beat up. Today was my first full day of work and I have been busy trying to decide whether I like my brown sweater or my blue one better...believe me, I'm wiped out.

Lake Van

Ann is washing and airing out all the gear and clothes; sleeping bags, backpacks, jeans and jackets are all in various stages of cleaning, repair or repacking.
Stanley has every socket in the apartment hooked up to some battery, camera or charger. We have stacks of DVD's from his camera to view and edit. Elle has pages of notes, sketches and thoughts she is sorting through. Even though we are still regrouping...the map is out and plans for a January expedition are firming up.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Space, Distance, Danger

“I wanted space, distance, history, and danger, and I was interested in the living world”. (Coast of Incense, Freya Stark).

An Imam's Family Prayers

Near Edremit

Ann in Caldiran

Walking the Silk Road Near Kars

Borrowing a Bike in Dogubeyazit

Ann & Elle at a Village Well

Playing with the Locals

Stanley, His Coffee, and Ararat

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Village Vignettes

The wireless gods are in a good mood today so it seems that we may be able to proffer a number of prints for your peckish palates. We cut our day short and returned to the Grand Derya (now day 3 with no or little water) after the rains began to make the remote roads too difficult for our little rental to navigate. We will spend the afternoon getting our notes in order and planning tomorrow’s journey towards the southern regions.

The Plains of Ararat

Ararat Village

Views From Our Trek

Mosque With A View

Worshipper In A Village Mosque

Our Early Wake Up Call

Monday, October 09, 2006


This is our 8th day on the road and our 5th without an internet connection. We ran across a rogue wireless signal last night and we have been trying to “borrow” it to update…but the signal fades every time we try to upload. We will give it another whack and see what happens.
Mountain Ridge Near Iranian Border

This View Of Ararat Makes Our Dingy Hotel Worth It

The last few days have been overwhelming. We are just a few miles from the border of Iran and spent today hiking and driving off-road through the mountains that define the Iranian/Turk border. Over the last few days we have visited a dozen remote villages high in the mountains of the region and have been received with amazing hospitality and affection.

Iranian Border...Traded Pomegranates With Murat

Trekking Along The Euphrates

Nomadic Goat Shepherd's Village

High On The Ridge

Village Near Ani

The Climb To The Ridge

We have walked with nomadic shepherds as they move their flocks to lower pastures, sat in stone huts covered with earthen roofs, traded pomegranates and gifts with boys and girls tending goats miles from their family’s camp, visited on the roadside with gun toting teens, and hiked through stunning mountain passes and high steppes of eastern Anatolia. Our boots carry the dust of the ancient Silk Road on them for the first time. Life, my friends...is good, on the Far Side of the World.
More…when the internet gods smile again.

Living, Traveling, and Wandering on the Far Side of the World

Living, Traveling, and Wandering on the Far Side of the World