09 May 2014 | Ephesus, Turkey
I admit, I'm actually having a difficult time getting around to writing this blurb about our trip to Ephesus, because it was so cool. I'm sure that makes sense. Sometimes the words that come out after such an experience are so full of flourish and superlative, it sounds almost idiotic.
So. Ephesus: Amazing. Expansive. Eye-popping. Magnificent. The scale of it all is a bit unfathomable, like so many of the ancient civilizations around the world that are only partially unearthed: we see but a fraction of the picture, and to imagine how it looked in it's heyday is quite a mental task, especially these advanced cultures with underground plumbing and big libraries and stuff.
Underground plumbing! Steam baths! Gender-separate loo's! Like most Roman and Greek cities of it's time, the bath was an important part of the culture, and was located near the entrance. This meant all the visitors to the city arrived clean. Our guide told us that newcomers were also sent to the hospital for a checkup, to be sure they weren't importing communicable diseases. How lovely! If they weren't all so aggressive and full of the urge to conquer each other, I'd say parts of that ancient realm definitely had it going on.
We apparently started at the wrong end of the site, near where all the tourists end their walk downhill through Ephesus, which, it turns out, was a good thing. We hired an official guide at the exit gate, (there are plenty of unofficial guides who want to drag you off to carpet store after) and he shared his knowledge all the way up and around to the upper gate, where we paid him and parted ways. After a cool glass of fresh-squished pomegranate juice in the shade and a visit from a friendly pregnant kitty, we started back down, this time at our own pace, augmenting our knowledge with the Lonely Planet Guide. We spent about 30 minutes in the Terraced Houses, an add-on to the base ticket price and well worth the extra $7.50.
Six of the thousands of terraced houses have been excavated, and are still in the process of detailed reconstruction. The entire complex of rooms and houses is protected by a huge structure built about 15 years ago, and has people throughout working on restoration. When you see someone with what looks like a dental pick working meticulously on a 1" square of tile, you get a sense of the massive job of restoration it would take to put Ephesus back together. So far, about 20% of the city has been excavated. In the spaces between structures that have been reconstructed - the amphitheater, library, baths, etc., there are piles and piles of neatly stacked building components: Doric, Corinthian and Ionic columns, pilasters, lintels and doorways, blocks and pavers, plaques, tiles, and more. It was a kick for a yard sale junkie like me, with the feel if a salvage yard: wander through and take your pick!
At it's height around 0 (that's somewhere between BC and AD) Ephesus had over 250,000 people. Driving back to Marmaris Harbor that evening, we passed through a town that listed its population as 62,000. Looking at how spread out that town was, I realized how extensive Ephesus must have been. In the terraces we saw 6 homes that might accommodate a total of about 25 people; that leaves 249,975 residents, slaves, and transients that lived in palaces, homes, and apartments.
It's all quite extraordinary, and somewhat humbling when you realize how many ancient cultures like this are gone, buried beneath millennia of dust. Where will we be in 1000 years? Will anyone marvel at our libraries and plumbing systems, or the staggering number of McDonalds and Starbucks they find under it all?
By the time we wandered back to the bottom gate, it was nearing 5pm. Most of the tour busses had loaded and left, and we almost had the place to ourselves, leaving us a few minutes of quiet to sink our minds back 2000 years and see Antony and Cleopatra (who visited several times) arriving while shoppers wandered along the wide marble street, shopping for silks, spices, and other goodies.
It's definitely the kind of place you could visit several times, and because we went up and back, we've already seen it twice!
(We are standing in front of the magnificent library in the picture above, which literally takes your breath away the first time you see it.)
Tomb Bay, Turkey
03 May 2014 | Tomb Bay
What are we doing in Turkey?
For one thing, we're eating extremely well. Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables were so prolific in today's farmers market, Allan and I were in anti-oxidant heaven, with long rows of Turkish women in colorful scarves and floral dresses displaying a rich bounty. And we're especially enjoying the fresh-squished pomegranate juice, available all over Turkey this time of year.
But we're actually here in Turkey because our sailing friends Michael and Gloria are here, and their raves about cruising the Turkish Mediterranean last season convinced us to come and join them this season.
We flew into Istanbul direct from Los Angeles on Turkish Airlines, and arrived at our charming hotel, on a winding charming cobblestone street in a charming neighborhood with a view of an old ruin of some sort just out our windows across the street, and the Mediterranean ocean a few blocks away. We were sort of, well, completely charmed. I had no idea what to expect, but it wasn't quite that.
We had dinner around the corner at a restaurant with a marvelous view of the Blue Mosque, which is, like so many beautiful and important buildings and structures in major cities around the world today, lit with an array of lights that made it look right out a movie set.
The next morning, on the recommendations of multiple friends as well as our Lonely Planet guide book, we set off in the rainy morning to tour said Mosque, as well as the Basilica Cistern, the Haggia Sophia, a 5th century Byzantine church which was later converted to a Mosque, and is now a museum, and finally a visit to the infamous Grand Bazaar.
The first two things were fabulous, the Haggia Sophia was good but I was getting a bit tapped-out by then, and the Grand Bazaar, updated in recent years, is too 21st century for my tastes, with neon lights and a McDonalds, and feels more like a mall these days than a crowded, fascinating old Turkish bazaar. But we took some cool pictures of the old stone walls and ceilings in parts of the Bazaar, as well as some fun belly dancing costumes, and could sort of imagine what it might have been like 75 years ago, or even 25, before Istanbul began a long overdue overhaul.
We ended our day at a terrace restaurant, of which there are many in Istanbul, taking wise advantage of the city's many fascinating views. We wound our way up narrow spiral staircases to the 4th floor (followed by a waiter, laden with a big tray of food - up and down four floors again and again - good exercise, that job!) Bundled up in our down jackets, we drew the table close so the tablecloth kept our legs warm from wind and chill of the brisk evening, and watched the sun sink behind one of the many Mosques in the distance while huge ships sat at anchor in the bay.
Up the next morning for a flight to Dalaman, on the southwestern coast. Michael and Gloria had arranged for a taxi driver named Feris to meet us, and there he was, holding a sign with our names, (spelled correctly!) on a big sign. Off we went, and after a short while Feris took a detour into a narrow road that deteriorated into old paving and finally gravel, and we began to wonder if perhaps we were being abducted, as our GPS (love this modern world, at times!) indicated the marina was off in a completely different direction. But soon enough we began to glimpse the sea, with sailboats and big yachts in the idyllic bays, and we realized we weren't headed for the big marina after all. Sure enough, we got to the dirt parking lot and there were Michael and Gloria just climbing off the dinghy. Gloria rightly chastised me for not reading her email thoroughly: she had completely briefed us the day before on the winding dirt road and every aspect of what to expect.
After a fantastic lunch along the water at a wooden table set under a blooming tree on the lawn, we headed off to Michael and Gloria's Beneteau Custom 50, Paikea Mist, shore-tied in a little corner of the bay, and off on our Mediterranean Adventure.
As I write, we're now anchored in picturesque Tomb Bay, sipping white wine while the late afternoon sun makes the trees and flowers seem transparent and aglow. The sun is glinting off the water just astern in a way that seems unreal, enhanced, and our little spot, nestled up against the shore reminds us of a set for a summertime Shakespeare play. Tomorrow, after a breakfast of granola, sweet berries, crisp, incredibly fresh walnuts, rich yogurt, and giant plump raisins we'll hike the hills to one or two of the Lycian tombs.
Our planned itinerary takes us to a few more spots M & G know of with some good hikes planned and one day hiding out from predicted 40-knot winds. Tuesday Allan and I will rent a car and spend a day at Ephesus, one of the best Greco-Roman ruins, located along the coast, and return to Paikea Mist that evening. We'll fly back to Istanbul next Saturday for a few more days of city time, then home.
This all feels completely comfortable to me, perhaps because the climate is very Californian, and the produce meets the needs of a mostly vegan very well. I can see why Michael and Gloria love this part of the world.
Last Day in Indonesia
20 September 2012 | Medona Marina, Lombok
Greetings from Medona Marina on Lombok Island, once again. I’m sitting in the marina’s seaside restaurant, hoping my battery holds on long enough to write this blurb, while the breeze flows through the open-air building. Clumps of cruisers sit about, talking, reading, writing on their laptops, gladly partaking of the free, high-powered Internet service.
We spent a few days on Gili Air, and since “gili” means islet and “air” means water (go figure) we were on a little water island. But really, it was a delightful spa/resort destination in the Indonesian style. Small town with a narrow dirt/sand road running down the middle, too small for cars but serviced by itty bitty horses with bells and fancy head dresses pulling little carts carrying locals, tourists, and bundles of huge bamboo. Small bungalows dot the land side, ranging from backpacker inns to high-end honeymoon escapes, and there are scads of fabulous beach bars and restaurants with the best, freshest tuna skewers for $5. Not to mention Indonesian curries and all varieties of Asian food. We even had a hamburger, although they reminded us they’re Muslim, so it’s not a hamburger, it’s a beefburger.
Every morning and evening, the small hand-made fishing boats motor out, their old outboards rattling by, plop-plop-plop-plop, long fishing nets neatly piled in the narrow boat, fishing net sticking up out of the back, one lone fisherman in his conical woven hat settled low in the boat, almost like he’s molded right in. They look like big water bugs with their with stabilizing bamboo or PVC pontoons reaching out from either side to glide on the surface. I believe their catch goes right to the local restaurants, which explains why the fish is so fresh and fantastic.
Gloria and I splurged some rupia ($) on hand, foot, head, and back massages, as well as 90-minute facials, quite lovely. Meanwhile, Allan and Michael went on one last dive before the borrowed dive gear is returned to the Ulf, who graciously loaned it to us. This morning we pulled anchor and waved goodbye to Gili Air, and are now back on Lombok Island, a short 3km hop across calm water.
Allan and I fly home tomorrow, sadly, and have one last night here. As timing and fate would have it, tonight is a huge party here in the marina, one of several held throughout Indonesia for the cruisers who joined in the Sail Indonesia 2012 Rally from Darwin to Kupang a few months ago. They’ve been setting up hundreds of chairs under large tents, with banners, booths, and what promises to be a large spread of food.
Next morning: Well, an interestingly small event for the hoopla that surrounded it. There was a slew of police, the area was sealed off to incomers until the dignitaries arrived, dancers and musicians were dressed exquisitely in traditional Indonesian garb and it looked like the women had spent half the day layering on their makeup. Not sure how some of them could blink with all those lashes. It was a very large group of performers, but as it went, Gloria and Michael returned from their trip to town, laden with groceries just as the festivities were beginning. So we joined them for a quick trip back to the boat, and also agreed that we needed to re-anchor as the boat was a bit too close to some rocks and coral. We could hear the drums starting up, and had confidence that we’d make it back for the second half of the show. But it turned out to be a very short performance, maybe 15 minutes, and we missed it completely. All that makeup for a flash-in-the-pan show – we were a bit surprised. We arrived in time for the boring official speeches, and then they announced that the buffet was ready. In all, the event lasted maybe 2 hours. By the time we’d eaten, it was dark, and all the local vendors in their delightful fabric booths selling jewelry and ikat fabrics and clothing had to pack up. So it seemed like a lot of buck for no bang. We did hear that the night before they put on a blues night that was so fantastic, everyone was raving about it. We were in Gili Air and missed it, but perhaps they were all spent! Worn out! The Blues took it out of them … but so it goes.
We don’t leave Indonesia disappointed – we leave it rather, full of curiosity. It’s a beautiful place, with incredible variety in the land, the sea, the animals and the people. We’re glad we had this chance and we’re grateful to Gloria and Michael for making it so amazingly wonderful for us and sharing 11 great days on Paikea Mist.
Calling EVA Air
17 September 2012
Changing our tickets home ... we need more time!!
17 September 2012 | A Hilltop in Indonesia
This is out of order due to a posting snafu, but these pictures were taken a few days ago from a hilltop we climbed in order to get a good Internet signal, so we could post our blogs, change our airline tickets on our phone (with great difficulty) and check email for the first time in a week.
The wall served as a wind break from the stiff breeze flying across the hilltop, and a bit of shade to see our screens.
Passage to Lombok
17 September 2012 | Lombok, Indonesia
It's 6:30am and we're motoring west, bound for of Lombok Island near Bali, which should take us roughly 28 hours, depending on the winds and conditions. We had 3 nights in our last anchorage, a busy destination for colorful, pirate-y looking Indonesian live aboard dive boats called Phinisi boats -- traditional, twin-masted schooners, and also a number of cruising boats. They, like us, were there for the incredible diving. But by yesterdays' late-morning dive, it had gotten a bit out of hand: 3 Phinisi boats, 8 sailboats, and scads of divers. It was a veritable parking lot in the waters above the pinnacle: Michael was manning our dinghy along with 2 others, making a 3-car train. The Phinisi boats were circling with their Indonesian crew hanging out on the stern, and a slew of other dinghies were sitting in the hot sun with their attendants (a wife with a cold, a snorkeler who doesn't dive, or the sacrificial volunteer) all waiting and watching for their people to surface.
Beneath the water, it was just as busy: all you could see were towers of rising bubbles, and clumps of flapping divers going clockwise, counter-clockwise, and willy-nilly around the beautiful pinnacle, with huge schools of fish clouding the water, all accompanied by the rather annoying rumble of the dive boats above us. By the time we got back to Paikea Mist, we were ready to move on to a more peaceful setting, which we found 9 miles south.
The new anchorage was deserted and starkly beautiful. We dropped anchor in blue water surrounded by a semi-circle of yellow-orange hills next to m/v Further. The two boats looked like a happy couple sitting placidly on the glassy water: the blue-hulled Further looking manly and stout, and the sleek, blue-hulled Paikea Mist looking the feminine counterpart. We all took a swim, and then Gloria and Michael roamed off on their inflatable kayaks while Allan and I joined Brian and Megan for drinks on Further.
From Furthers' high upper deck we spotted something flapping in the water, which turned out to be a manta ray. We'd been looking for days for the mantas but they had so far eluded us. A bit of excitement ensued as we reached for cameras and binoculars; Allan ran down the stairs to the aft deck, stripped to his shorts, grabbed a spare mask and fins in Brian's bin, and dove in. We hollered instructions to him from the top deck: "He's over there! 50 yards to the right! No, wait, he submerged, he's turning around, look ... over there!" while Allan swam furiously trying to close the gap between his clumsy terrestrial self and the graceful underwater bird. Not that Allan's a clumsy swimmer, he's actually part fish, but let's face it, the manta is made for the underwater job and has a definite speed advantage. He did finally succeed at sharing the same 10 square feet of water, and we delighted in watching the scene from high atop the boat.
Dinner on Paikea Mist was Australian steak and sausages with potatoes and onions, a nice bottle of Australian wine, and a delightful trip down memory lane as we recalled our early days together in Mexico and some of the highlights of our Pacific adventures. It's always such a surprise to realize how much I've forgotten. But our recollections and theirs recreate a pretty comprehensive picture, and I realize - if I'm going to put any of that in a book I need to do it soon, or I'll have to make it fiction.
(Later) It's been an absolutely perfect day so far. We put the sails up within the first hour and have been sailing along at a nice 8-9 knots on smooth water, with ideal temperatures and varying mountainous terrain off the left. Furthur is alongside us by a few miles, keeping pace and planning to meet us in Gily Air tomorrow. Here in the cockpit we've been reading on our Sony readers and Nooks and iPad's, writing blogs, taking little naps, eating sugar-sprinkled soda crackers with almond butter, and looking at pictures of fish. Michael has set the watch schedule in 3-hour blocks, and I'm looking forward to my traditional middle-of-the-night shift from 1am to 4, when it's quiet, and it's just me and the stars and the sea.
Next morning. We've crossed a large bay and are nearing Lombok, should be there in a few hours. My night shift was fabulous. I love the middle of the night on a boat, and sailing Paikea Mist is especially satisfying because Michael and Gloria have a very comfortable setup with great technical support. I was going up and down the companionway stairs every 10 or 15 minutes to check the radar and AIS data (AIS is a traffic thing for boats) and try to spot the targets on the water, keeping an eye on their path. Brian and his crew on Furthur are 5 or so miles behind, and it was comforting to see their blip on the radar, data on the AIS, and lights on the horizon. Then, a check of the wind and current to see if a sail adjustment is needed, and then back to the Nook to read a few pages, sipping on hot tea. Sometimes I'd turn the Nook off and sit in the dark, reveling at the stars above and the twinkles in the sea from the phosphorescence illuminated in our wake.
We lost our wind somewhere in the night and have been motoring, and now, as we near Lombok, a flurry of activity on Paikea Mist as dishes are being washed, blogs polished off for posting, sails lowered, beds remade, laundry collected for the onshore laundry person.
Later Still: And now we're settled in the beach restaurant on the NW corner of Lombok Island -- cold Bintang, tropical breeze, lovely view, Indonesian curry on the way. It may be harder to return to our lives at home after this trip than after the 18 months we spent on Fly Aweigh, it's been such a departure, such a relaxing escape, and yet this all feels so normal to us. It's clear we love the cruising life.