Wednesday, August 29, 2007

SRE 07/Dispatch 1

We got lucky on our second night out and found a wandering wireless signal to link up with. Our first day we made 300km in about 5 hours. Yesterday was a different took us over 8 hours to travel 200km. The road wound along the coast of the Black Sea and while this area is not our destination...we were amazed by the number of remote villages and communities. In 8 hours we saw less than 30 other vehicles.

Hurrying to Prayer

Village Bridge Over Dry River

Elle Picking Berries

Road Snacks

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Value Of Men

Our Chart Horde
The old Moorish proverb hails that "He who does not travel, does not know the value of men". With that in mind we are finally ready to "engage" and set out to explore another leg of the Silk Road and the peoples that live along it.
We are packed, loaded and with the exception of perishable provisions, ready to leave within the next 36 hours. Our plan is to follow the Black Sea coast east before turning south toward Iraq.

Dogubeyazit Bound...Finally, Beds For Our Ararat Flat!

Traveling Light
We will write daily, but will only be able to upload as E access is available. Our Global Nomads Live window (to the right>) will be updated daily with our GPS coordinates...copy them, click on Google Maps, and enter them in the search window for a near-live pic of our location. Look close...we'll wave.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Turkey's Son

Loading Up
Service in the Turkish Military is compulsory for all fit males. For the past year we have watched as cars crammed to the door jambs with family and friends make the traditional journey to install their sons at the military boot camps scattered throughout the country. On every car in the caravan large Turkish flags are tied and the communities they pass through on the way to the base pay them respect by honking horns, shouting blessings or by holding their hands over their hearts.
The cultural importance of this event struck home yesterday when our building handyman took his oldest son to serve. The family is poor and owns no vehicle, Mustafa rented a van (an extravagant cost for them) and they left late at night to take Erkan to a military base several hours away from Istanbul.
Off to Serve

For a country that is not at war, Turkey has lost many soldiers this year to PKK terrorists. Word from the pipeline is that Erkan will be stationed in the volatile Hakkari region close to Iraq and Iran...the stronghold of the PKK organization.
We stood on our balcony and waved as the family began a slow drive out of Istanbul. This morning Mustafa delivered our bread with a wan smile and red eyes. Culture does not allow for sympathy to be expressed when a son leaves to serve his country, it is an honor, a joyful occasion even though they are heading to danger. I am guessing the party will start in 18 months when he is discharged safely.

The Magic Electric-less Water Heater

They tell us that this is the hottest summer Istanbul has experienced since records have been compiled. A few days ago we topped 128 degrees on our little shaded balcony on the Asian side of the city. While the official temp recorded at the airport came in lower...we just got lucky at our place. Surprisingly the hottest part of the day is early evening between 5pm and 7pm. This heat is simply beyond anything we have experienced.
Our water heater hangs on the wall of our bathroom...which happens to be the warmest room in our flat. We have had it turned off for 4 months now to conserve electricity and to compensate for the weather.
Our Magic Water Heater
This last week we hit a new high with our experience in this pervasive heat, the cold water in the water heater actually soaked the heat up from the room and the temp in the water heater rose to over 100 degrees.
We are leaving town for eastern Turkey in the next few days and looking forward to the higher climes and lower temps. I had a report last week that the overnight temp at our Iranian border flat was just 59 degrees. The parkas are coming with us.
Stay tuned for news on the SRE07.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Folk Medicine

Secrets are hard to keep in this corner of Asia and our little neighborhood is aware that we should be on the road to eastern Turkey but have been waylaid by weeks of sickness. Yesterday, they decided it was time for action and conspired to administer some Turkish folk medicine to these "Amerikan Yabanjis".
At 11pm last night our upstairs neighbors came to visit...Ercan stayed with me in the living room while Reyhan walked to the bedroom to check on Ann. After talking with her for few minutes she returned and issued commands for me to fetch powdered Turkish coffee, a tablespoon, 1 lemon and a glass of warm water.

Taking a generous portion of dry coffee on the spoon she squeezed the juice of half the lemon on it and told Ann to eat it using the glass of warm water to wash it all down. Ann obeyed and was struck mute for a few minutes.

Reyhan made sure Ann was OK and wiped away the tears caused by the concoction then looked at me and said it wouldn't hurt for me to take a dollop myself. I protested but found myself a few minutes later bent over the sink snorting powdered coffee and lemon juice out my seems there is a trick in learning how to swallow the finely powdered coffee without sucking it up one's nose.
This morning when I opened our door to get our bread from the basket I heard Reyhan's door open up at the top of the stairs. She asked how we were feeling and said she would be around to check on us in a bit.

The Dose


Half an hour later she arrived and was happy to see Ann out in the living room and sitting up markedly improved from yesterday. Reyhan's makeshift apothecary appeared and another citric-caffeinated fusion was whipped up before our eyes. I don't know whether it was coincidence or what...but the doggone stuff seems to have brought some relief and it seems that Ann is on the mend, albeit slowly.
Which brings me to this; After 2 weeks of doctors, antibiotics, emulsions, salves, and a variety of digestive prescriptions with little never know when a late night visitor with a spoonful of goo may be just what you need. It just goes to show you that life is never dull when you live on the far side of the world.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Privy Primer

Rest Stop Bathroom

While we have had to deal with a little frustration lately in some health issues and travel plans...I was reminded today that it is the small things that make life so sweet. After being coerced last year into keeping my Asian Toilet Tales tampered to a low flow…it was a pleasant surprise to discover that it was time for another update.
I am submitting a delightful duo of water closets for your perusing pleasure. The first is a “developed” rest stop restroom complete with paperless toilets and a waterless sink…followed by an outdoor toilet with a refreshing breeze high on the plains of Ararat.
To read my original posting on the finer points of Asian toilet etiquette, you can find it Here. Then you can judge for yourself whether the minutiae of our lives leaves you feeling flushed or looking for a bit of fresh air.Proper Foot Placement

Water-less Sink

High Mountain Bathroom

No Brainer

The Shop Around the Corner

We aren't quite this run down...but this little house down the street could pass itself off as an illustration of our week and work schedule. The kids woke up this morning nursing colds and this evening the second wave took Ann hostage. With all the other issues that we have been navigating in launching the SRE07, we have decided to yield to common sense and delay this 5th and final expedition of the year until the planets align in our favor. Yeah...I know its a no brainer, but then again, were talking about me.
A Gninwa...(Reverse Awning)

Just so you don't think I am the only slow one on the block...the awning in the above picture was installed to catch the crumbling second story as it falls apart. There are lots of us around.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Stuck in the Mud

Things must be slow in the celestial realm for the Travel Gods to spend so much effort on frustrating our travel plans. A series of events have joined forces to once again force the SRE07 into a frustrating and expensive delay.
We thought we had circumvented the money glitches, national elections, Islamic Holy Days and arriving visitors only to be faced yesterday with a heavy regimen of antibiotics for one of the members of our crew. Doc says to stay put until things improve.
For now all we can say is that the Dark Side is on the prowl...and we are stuck in the mud.
Best as we can will be another week at the earliest and could possibly be as late as mid October before our launch. The issue now is whether to hunker down and wait for the out of our backpacks with the keys in our hands?
The Score? Travel Gods-5 Stewards-0

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Jamin' in Istanbul

Our neighbors took Ann to the street Pazar a few days ago after deciding that this was the week to make cherry and peach conserves. I walked into a steaming kitchen and into a bevy of women working to can up a winter's worth of morning spread-ables. The mood had come upon them and within hours they were in full production.
Fresh From The Pazar

The Pits

Next month the pomegranates will be ready (my personal favorite). Then with great excitement we are looking forward to a National Turkish favorite and our first experience and taste of Egg Plant Jelly. Mmmmm….Huh?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Cracking the Whip!

With just days to go before the start of the SRE07 we are at full throttle with preparations. We were able to partially outfit this expedition with the help of some friends who brought over some of the needed outback gear last November. As for our equipment deficit we are going to wing it and hope for the best.

Unfortunately there was mix-up with the tents we ordered from the States…we ordered 2 four-season tents that would withstand the High Asia climate, but ended up with lightweight summer tents with mesh see-thru ceilings/roofs.
Our truck is still without a bull bar, winch and heavy bumper…and we are hoping to make do with a pair of hand crank come-alongs for our river crossings.

On the high are such a blessing! Its kind of like having your own personal Sherpas. We put them to work with practicing the quick set up and tear down of our tents last week. Their starting time was 30 minutes…right now they have it down to 8 minutes a tent. We will crack the whip this week and see if that can’t improve a bit. They may be slow…but aren’t they cute?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Road Trip Retreads

We have been home now for 4 weeks...the longest we have been in one spot for over a year and it has been kind of nice being "normal" for a while. And yet...anticipation has been building as August 11 and our departure for the SRE07 approaches.
This week we are busy with language studies, an airing out and repack of our outback gear, and a few writing projects.
Looking forward to the coming 5000 miles of Asian road trip we have been rehashing the things you see as you pass through Central Asia. We offer these Road Trip Retreads if you are in the mood for a brief ocular outing.

Islamic Cemetery

High Road at 12000 Feet

Remote Turkish Village

Grain Truck

Produce Vendors Along the Road

Amazing Cabbage...20-30 Pounds Each

Herding Goats

Mother In Law at Work

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

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