Mark: Have you done your visa application?
Mark: Have you had your visa photos taken?
Mark: Have you got the reference number for your visa?
Mark: What have you been doing?
Me: I don’t know.
I’ve been rather quiet on the blog. This has been for a number of reasons. Some are technical (I’ve moved to a new web host…blah blah yawn) but also, we’ve slowed our travelling right down.
For the past 3 months I’ve been in countries I’m familiar with (Australia and New Zealand) as well as staying with family. I don’t quite feel I’m ‘travelling’; even though I am. It’s been an odd feeling. Sort of familiar, yet unfamiliar at the same time.
Oh yeah….and this has been happening. A lot.
At the moment, we have the incredible good fortune to be staying in a house that belongs to a member of my extended family. It’s a gorgeous place. It’s in a lovely community. It’s a train ride from the city of Wellington, New Zealand, yet right by the sea. There are amazing sunsets and, allegedly, equally stunning sunrises. Every day I can’t believe our good fortune. It’s inspirational. If I was going to be productive, surely it would happen here. Wouldn’t it? Surely. Surely? I have all the time in the world. Continue reading →
Turkmenistan, particularly the capital Ashgabat, is a very odd place. I felt like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City.
I kept expecting to see Toto pull the curtain back and reveal the former self-endorsed ‘President for Life’ Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov (deceased) pulling levers and gears and bellowing into a megaphone.
He was known by his self-given title ‘Türkmenbaşy’, meaning Leader of Turkmen. Bold.
As vain dictators go, he’s pretty high up the list. There’s an enormous gold statue of him that revolves so it’s always facing the sun.
A picture of it is above. To give you an idea of size, if you click on the photo, the two small sheds you can see at the front? They contain a guard each.
Uzbekistan is one of only two* double land-locked countries in the world. Hands up who knew this? I didn’t until our guide told us. Shame on me. It is surrounded by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan. It became independent from Russia in 1991. We arrived here in May 2014, entering on the overland truck from Turkmenistan, which is one of the strangest countries I think I’ve been to. I’ve written a bit about it here and here, a longer post will follow, soon. We visited the main towns and sights in the two weeks we were here, crossing west to east. These are Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent, finishing our time in the lush (yet conflict-prone) Fergana Valley. Crossing west to east meant we did them in this order, and I’m glad we did. Each town/city offered something new and increased in size and complexity and the Fergana Valley gave us a good indication of the changing landscape we were soon to encounter when we entered Kyrgyzstan. Continue reading →
I was asked the other day what I could recommend as a gift for someone going travelling. It took me a while to think about it as there are so many different ways people travel.
I’ve come up with the following items that I think would be useful, for men and women, whether they are backpacking, cruising, sipping champers on a balcony overlooking the Amalfi coast, or riding festering buses in SE Asia.
1. Silk sleeping bag liner (even if they’re not going anywhere near a sleeping bag)
I’m not talking bulky cotton or polyester sateen here. urgh…static! No. I’m talking real silk. I’ve had mine for over ten years (sorry, can’t remember the brand) and it always travels with me. It is so, so useful. Continue reading →
I’ve mentioned before that without doubt anything I brought that had sat in the ‘dither pile’ when packing, was never used. But sadly, it doesn’t end there. I also brought things I was so convinced I’d use, yet still made no, or limited, use of them. Here, I’ll tell you about four items that I either didn’t use, or that didn’t work out and explain why.
Oh dear. The number of hours I spent dithering over buying this makes me shudder. Overlanding through Central Asia into Tibet and on to S.E. Asia meant we would be travelling in a variety of temperatures.
I brought quite a lot of Icebreaker clothing with me and on the whole they worked really well. Icebreaker gear is quite pricey so I knew I wouldn’t want to risk sending it out to be washed on a rock in a river. The Scrubba Wash Bag seemed the perfect solution.
I had visions of me, during our overland trip, camping deep in the wilderness of Kyrgyzstan with a fantastic backdrop and no one around for miles, happily washing clothes with my Scrubba. So, sitting on the sofa in the comfort of my home, The Scrubba struck me as the perfect solution, I purchased it. Only it wasn’t. At least, not for me. Continue reading →
The Uzbeks like their tea sweet. Very sweet. You see hunks of crystallised sugar for sale wherever you go. You see it in huge, tumbling piles in bazaars, or in deep filled boxes in shops.
It seems that by middle age most adults have a set of golden gnashers. It’s not uncommon to see them on younger people too. I think partly it’s the sugar, but it’s also a status symbol. When speaking, I found it hard not to be mesmerised by their golden mouth. When you’re used to seeing white teeth, the gold makes the mouth seem very dark.
Many of the women in Uzbekistan, particularly in Samarkand, wear wonderful, colourful dresses. Sequins and diamanté are stitched into the pattern, it shimmers in the sunlight, dazzling your eyes. I felt very dowdy and underdressed in my quick-dry t-shirt and walking sandals. Not at all feminine.
Some women sport a fetching monobrow. I asked our guide, Bek, about it. It’s Tajik fashion and apparently it’s drawn on, though on some it looked very authentic.
I even saw one on a two year old girl. I’m assuming it was drawn on…but you never know!
I’ve put luxury in quotes for a reason. If I was back home these items wouldn’t be on my luxury list, but when you’re travelling what counts as luxury takes on a whole new meaning. Examples are: a flushing toilet (if you can sit on it, even better), a shower that actually gets you wet and doesn’t hurt you, bedding that doesn’t have the imprint of the previous occupant, or their hair! I know, I’m fussy.
Me, sporting the Glam Glow Mud Mask
I’ve read lots of blogs of people who travel (it seems) with nothing but a Lush solid shampoo bar. I’m afraid I’m just not like that. At home, I had a bathroom cabinet chock-full of moisturisers, oils, masks, cleansers, serums etc. I’ve struggled to leave that life behind, so I keep a little bit of it with me in the form of these products. There are other products I thought about adding, such as face masks, (despite my experience in Bali) but they’re not a luxury, they’re an essential! Below are three things I guess I could go without but choose not too, despite being on the road.
We lived in Australia until I was almost 10. My brother, who is 5 years younger than me, desperately wanted cracked feet like his friend. My mother kept trying to tell him that actually he didn’t, that cracks are painful. He didn’t understand the pain. Nor did I, until I got a crack on my heel, 35 years later.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. I’d spent 4 weeks living in slippers at my parents’ recuperating from surgery. I’d finally managed to move home, but still had to take it easy for another couple of weeks. When I was finally ready, and able, to pack up my house, pack my bag and leave, it struck. It was just a small crack on one of my heels, but it was debilitating. Continue reading →