The long and winding road from Moldova through Transylvania to Walachia (north to south)
From our rural retreat in Maramures we headed east to Moldova crossing the Carpathians by the Borgo pass road enroute to Bucovina. Egg painting is a competition among the villages at Easter time.
Lunch today was Mici, a rectangular meat pattie cooked on a BBQ and served with mustard sauce.
Visited two painted monasteries (orthodox). The first was for the local community (Moldovita) and used as a refuge in times of siege. Note the wall and the strong wooden gate.
The second was for the clergy (Sucevita). The outside walls of the church was decorated, one illustrating the difficult path in getting into heaven. Inside, the frescoes showed various methods of torture and head lopping. Again a walled garden and plenty of room for the local community to shelter in times of siege.
Next highlight of the road was the animal reservation with animals native to the area. One sad and lonely bear, a small herd of buffalo and several different species of deer.
We drove through the Bicaz gorge (river running down the side). Sampled some green nut jam. Walnuts cooked in a syrup halfway between golden syrup and malt extract. An acquired taste.
Our route took us past Lake Rosu, really a dam and then onto Brasov.
Brasov is also fortified. City square with Lutheran church – aka Black Church due to a fire. Johannes Honterus was
responsible for setting up the Lutheran church and the building of the first school (directly across from the church). The original school was wooden but suffered the same fate as the church and was rebuilt in stone.
It has been particularly pleasant having an evening stroll through the many pedestrian malls in our travels.
Fort on the hill outside Brasov. Spectacular view of the surrounding country.
Bran castle – summer residence of Queen Mary of Romania. No vampires in site. Apparently Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) was have seen it on his way through. The most interesting artifact was the scales of justice. Based on a person’s size and height, if they weighed less than expected they were considered apprentices of Satan and torture would commence. Hopefully you can read the information in the photo.
The most elaborate building in Transylvania is Peles Castle. Unfortunately only outside views, but obviously prime real estate.
Our guest house at Maramures is located in a peaceful rural setting apart from the chainsaws, angle grinders and whipper snippers. Hospitality here is exceptionally good.
Dinner was in an open air setting
Entree meat balls, soft cheeses, pork fat and tomato with onion bread
The lightest, fluffiest and tastiest donuts ever with blackcurrant jam
All washed down with Palinka and black currant “cordial”
Needed a sleep in after last night!
Late start, headed for the local market, plenty of “stuff” to buy from clothing, shoes, manchester and tools. Too late for the animal market. Probably a good thing.
Checked out a modern monastery at Barsana, beautiful wooden buildings and gardens, church with pictorial stories.
Memorial to the opponents of the communist regime, very bleak place.
In a complete contrast we visited the Merry cemetery at Sapanta with colourful wooden headstones with pictures of deceased in their occupations and poems about them (all in Romanian of course)
Spent a leisurely afternoon in the outdoor area. We have eaten so well the last few days Ewen has survived since breakfast on only one jam pancake.
We could not escape Maramures without a ride on the Mocanita narrow gauge railway at Viseu de Sus very close to the Ukrainian border. For the more ardent train fans it was a 1930s vintage steam locomotive that was used to transport timber down the valley. Originally timber was floated down the river, but after a dam burst the train line was built. The 21km ride to the turn around point was supposed to take just over 2 hours. It became pretty evident early on that at the current speed something was amiss and it would be a lot longer (3 hours eventually). Repairs were needed along the way and after much banging and crashing a bearing was suitably adjusted and we continued on our way. Included in the tool set was a most impressive oil can.
The track followed the river most of the way. Still plenty of logging happening here with some unorthodox methods of transportation. A large tractor pulling 10 -15 m logs down the river and smaller pieces being drawn by horse driven carts.
At one point the river narrowed with steep cliffs and caves hidden behind bushes. It was here that the German army had a first aid centre and stored supplies. It was also the point when they planned to ambush the Red army. There was a small museum at the turn around point and a picnic ground.
The return trip took only 90 minutes which was a relief. Sufficiently rocked, rattled and shaken for the complete trip.
There are a few obstacles along the roads in Romania, this cart was one of the smaller ones.
PS Jenelle is having a love hate relationship with the formatting!!
Arrived safely in Transylvania in the town of Sibiu, only slightly misty and light fog. It is light till fairly late and enjoyed strolling around the city squares and along the old wall. The squares were within the fortified walls and protected the guilds of many crafts. The blacksmith’s shop had a good array of industrial strength fasteners.
Note the 4 towers on the church, this meant the town had a legal system and justice would be metred out for criminal behaviour. (we escaped Sibiu without penalty)
Climbed the clock tower of the Lutheran church, the clock was very old, but the driving mechanism was very up to date (electronic). Pipe organ inside.
Outside there was a display of blacksmithing and stone masonery
Orthodox church with exquisite stained glass windows, gold leaf frescoes and intricate wood carving.
Road side stop along the way, a little sample of what we are expecting in the ARDF area. Interesting fungi. Not the edible kind.
At Biertan, fortified church with 3 walls of protection and if that failed there was the room with the door with many locks. The town was settled by German people and hence the buildings have a similar style about them. Many German people left Romania after Ceausescu was deposed, but send their bodies back to be buried in the cemetery here.
Food and hospitality is excellent in Romania. 250 mls of house white of exceptional quality for under $3 and then complimentary palinka and black currant “cordial”. We enjoyed a late evening stroll around the city wall at Sibiu.
We thought of you all as we headed off to the salt mine in Turda (this word causes me some grief) today. Salt mining was one of the main industries in Transylvania.
Many flights of stairs to the bottom, the queues were quite long for the lifts, so we got lots of exercise. To make it entertaining for the families they have installed a children’s playground on the bottom layer. Of course we had to ride on the ferris wheel, but there was also table tennis tables, pool tables, mini golf, even a pond with paddle boats but no coffee!!
Ewen is still puzzling how the walls stay up. If you take a vertical cross section it looks like a conical flask about 90 metres deep, with elevated platform at the neck. Not good if you don’t do heights very well.
Another interesting old wooden church tucked off the road on the way to Maramures. Inside was particularly interesting.
Our trip began with a short 20 hour flight to Bucharest. The most impressive building in the city is the Parliament House, second largest building only to the Pentagon. Ceausescu thought he would leave his mark by commencing this build, fortunately for the people of Romania he didn’t live to see its completion. It is a magnificent building inside, very tastefully decorated with high ceilings, marble floors and beautiful rugs and chandeliers. (no photos unfortunately as did not have a camera pass)
Another beautiful building was the auditorium for musical concerts. We chanced upon workers changing a light globe, quite an art in itself.
We visited the old town and enjoyed a drop of the local ale.
Many old buildings in state of disrepair, including this ruin outside our hotel window. (more interesting than a carpark) Taken from our room as there was a sign outside indicating no photos to be taken (left over from communist regime)
From Bucharest we headed west to the church (in white limestone) where the Romanian kings were buried. Lavishly decorated inside. Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) lived in the building behind this church.
This is one of the fortifications that the Austrian Hungarian Emperor sent German people to build in 12-13th century. It has suffered due to earthquakes over time. Opted not to climb the 1460 steps. Chose to indulge in a Romanian donut instead!
There was a very large dam (about the size of Hoover Dam) that needed closer inspection. Traversed the Transfagarasan Road (of Jeremy Clarkson fame), (perfect for road testing a corvette or similar vehicle) and then took a cable car for a less exhilarating ride.
Please excuse the erratic formatting. Only get to practice this once a year. Jenelle
Thank you for Kristian and Bruce for writing the blog during the ARDF competition while Ewen was doing his team leader duties and waiting for Jenelle to be rescued from parts unknown. All six of us are all bringing home extra baggage in the form of medals.
Facilities at Sanyo Hotel exceeded our expectations
In our rooms chaos reigned
Photos from the closing celebrations
We left the competition area in fine weather and sunshine (compared to the cloudy wet conditions) to be dropped off at various locations. Jack left before the rest of us were up, Greg was settled in for the long ride back to Tokyo, Kristian joined us for the train trip to Takasaki and was last seen running upstairs with his bag to catch his connecting train in under 4 minutes. (a fair indication of his fitness level). Bruce, Ewen and I continued our adventure and finally arrived in Matsumoto.
We spent some time in the Time Piece museum
and then devised our own street-o to various sites including shrines, temples, gardens and the icecream shop.
Choosing dinner is always an interesting experience, our choices so far have been most acceptable.
Yesterdays trek was along the Nakasendo Way (built during Edo period) commencing after a 20 minute bus ride from Nakatsugawa, and continued through Magome to Tsumago. At this point (after 3 hr 30 min of walking and lots of up and downhill) Ewen and I opted for the bus to Nagiso station. Bruce continued on foot and arrived at the same time as the bus.
We have sorted out our transport across the Kurobe – Tateyama Alpine Route and will head off today for the start.
Initial on land instructions, safety briefing, kitted out and out into the sea to practice paddling, and use of the rudder. Only one unscheduled swim from yours truly, unreal sensation. Paddled for about 2 hours to nearby cove (couldn’t call it a beach). Snorkelled, lucky enough to see some pretty little fish, a couple of larger ones that I tried to pursue but they could swim faster than me. Lunch on the rocks and headed back to starting point, Bruce, Kris and Ewen seemed to be quite proficient. As far as I was concerned steering the kayak was not second nature and invariably became unstuck at a critical moment. Arrived back at our starting point just as the afternoon storm broke. Almost didn’t need a shower to wash off the salt.
Transported back to Shimoda station, with just enough time to book tickets for the train to Tokyo. We journeyed together for part of the way. The last we saw of Bruce and Kris, was them scurrying along the platform to catch their connection in 4 minutes.
Our Friday in Tokyo, Ewen and Jenelle took a bike tour. Very exhilarating riding on the streets of Tokyo, not for the faint hearted.
Saturday trip to Mt Fuji
It took about 40 minutes longer than expected to get to Mt Fuji, bus travel is not the way to go in Japan. Passed an amazing fun park on the way.
Ewen, Mark and Jenelle joined Jack for a tour. We eventually got to Fuji 5th station (where the climb starts) about midday. The traffic was very heavy and crowds of people. Fuji was being coy, and only managed a fleeting glimpse as the fog rolled in.
Visited the lava forest, Shiraito Falls and Lakes and garden.
These activities seem quite tame after more recent events!!
From Kagoshima – Coordinating public transport is not without its dramas. Missed the only bus to the Samurai Village and had to take a taxi. Immaculately trimmed and maintained gardens, not likely to be replicated in Melbourne.
An attempt to visit the Kamekazi museum at Chiran was thwarted by heavy rain (big Queensland sized rain drops) and lack of time. We found a warm place (coffee & tea rooms to shelter) as we waited for a bus back to the train.
The second attempt to visit the Kamekazi museum was successful, but needed some fine timing to coordinate train-bus connection. Chiran was the site of the training airbase for young pilots. Old film footage of the servicemen working on aircraft brought mixed feelings (my dad having done the same in New Guinea).The photos of the families waving goodbye and the translations of the messages the pilots wrote to their families were quite moving. Proud young men doing what they thought was the right thing to do for their country and families at home.
The hot sand bath and hot springs were definitely worth a visit. Didn’t know the soles of the feet and heels were so sensitive to heat. It was rather embarrassing having a male voice calling CQ just outside the entrance of the women’s onsen.
We timed our return to Kagoshima perfectly and caught the Shinkansen to Hiroshima, speeds over 300 kph.
Day 1 in Hiroshima, began with a visit to the Peace Memorial Museum and Park.
Exhibits included diorama of the aftermath, remnants of clothing, building materials and household items.
The story of the paper cranes made by young girl in the hope that they would save her life.
Our attempts to fold paper cranes were pretty abysmal, and needed much help from the women to get the final result.
Entrance to Hiroshima castle (reconstructed)
Mid afternoon – visit to the Naka Incineration Plant, not your usual tour attraction, necessitated another run to catch the bus. It is well set up for viewing with a wide corridor down the centre, all behind glass of course, and scaled model explaining the layout. Apparently it is quite spectacular at night when it is all lit up.
Day 2 Hiroshima Today’s excursion to Miyajima Island went ahead despite some pretty ordinary weather. Arrived at high tide and the entrance to the Shrine was under water and not possible to walk to the Tori (gate). Opted to take the ropeway and climb to the top of Mt Misen. Unfortunately we only had a good view of the fog. Ewen and I checked out the waterfall route on the way down. Lots of granite steps and very slippery in parts. By the time we got back down the weather had fined up.
A visit to the aquarium. Penguin feeding (Humboldt penguins, saw none of these in Antartica), a sea lion show, colourful fish and various amphibious animals.
Glad to put our feet up at the end of the day. Dinner at a local bar. Very animated waiters. Lots of shouting and cheering. As my mother would have said, less of that and more concentrating on the job at hand. They forgot Bruce’s order.
Fleeting visit to Himeji to see the castle. Wedding cake castle. Seat of power here from 1400s. Castle has undergone several restorations over the years. Huge timber supports. Not a lift up window seat, but a defence mechanism for dropping of stones, pouring boiling oil & water on the enemy. Good view from top. (Photos in my next blog)
Getting expert at changing trains mid journey, successful at one connection, next trip has 3 connections.Let’s see how we go. Very successfully. Arrived at station, shuttle bus appeared, hotel on the coast, brilliant view, superb dinner, onsen, what more could you ask for.
It was an early morning departure for today’s adventure, the start of a 4 day trip around the National Parks to the east of Almaty almost to the border with China. The weather – some cloud and light and not too cold – just perfect for a long drive. Our vehicle, a six seater Land Cruiser, complete with roof rack and water proof bags on top. It was a neat fit inside, with limited luggage space and minimal leg room for those in the back seat.
Our driver Sergey soon had us leaving the peak hour traffic behind as we headed north from Almaty. The Kazak government is committed to infrastructure building and this is evident with all the road works, dams and power lines. It would seem they like to replace the roads in long stretches at a time. They still use train to transport freight and it is not unusual to see very long freight trains especially coming from China. We also came across ‘Las Vegas’ of Kazakhstan quite in the middle of nowhere. Apparently the local in Almaty has decreed there are to be no casinos in the Almaty city.
We turned off the main highway and headed to the Altyn Emel National Park, (approx 5200ha and 200 km long, running between a mountain range to the north and a reservoir to the south}. We also noticed several military installations along the way. (border security) We spotted a small group of wild horses and also some gazelles. The gazelles appeared in the distance on the southern side of the road and then proceeded to sprint right across the road in front of us. According to Greg the gravel roads are good, at this stage he was not sitting in the back seat and being bounced up and down and sideways. Another feature of note was the lines of small earth mounds that appeared. On closer observation they were they were the contents of a fairly deep channel about 1 metre wide and deep – the Kazak version of fences in National Park.
There were the official entrances to parts of the park, and if there were no response to the beeping of the horn it was simply a matter of driving around the small fenced area and out the other side.
We spent some time in one of the gorges viewing the petroglyphs (pictures etched in the rocks), mainly camels, deer and goats. There were also remains of buildings from the bronze age & some more recent finds. Then more bouncing up and down, we arrived at some burial mounds.
These were from the iron age, and set out in a precise manner. National park authority has built an example of inside the burial mound, wooden log construction (no nails) and reed roof. Apparently the real burial mounds have been plundered for their treasures long ago, so that all that remains is a large hole in the top.
Picnic at nature (provided by tour leader) was indoors because of the wind. Excellent food.
At this point, seating arrangements changed & a much smoother ride to the Singing Dunes ensued. Alas no singing today as the earlier rain had left the sand too damp. This turned out to be a blessing, so instead of one step forward followed by a step back, we could actually manage 2 steps forward to one step back. It was of the order of 150 metre high, but took quite some time to climb. The wind was fairly howling, and particularly unnerving as it affected your balance the closer you got to the top. No need for a facial here, plenty of microdermabrasion from the fine sand. The view was spectacular and well worth the climb. Once at the top the only way down was to toboggan. Good fun and lots of laughter. The only downside was having to empty 1/2 kg sand from each shoe and shake out the socks.
We eventually arrived at our accommodation for the next 2 night at the Altyn Emel Hotel – the only accommodation in town for tourists. A very spacious room with a spectacular view of the sunset.
Note: After dinner at the restaurant next door to the hotel, we had planned to have an early night. We discovered there was a wedding to be held the next day. Three of the hotel guests (2 dressed in police uniform) were socialising in the open area between our room and the bathroom. We spent some time trying to converse with them and had to find Dina our interpreter only to discover that we had been invited to celebrate / toast this important event. Only two vodkas later did we escape. Bruce conveniently was downstairs and missed the action and Greg declined an additional drink graciously.
Saturday 20 September
A relaxed start to today. Left the village at about 10 am and headed east towards the Chinese border. The road was sealed for a small distance and then we were back to our “good” gravel road. It was flat nothingness either side of the road with a mountain range to our left. We turned off the main road and headed for the Katutau Mountains (which translates as severe mountains in Kazak).
Definite red tinge to the mountains and as we entered further in it vaguely reminiscent of the Flinders Ranges. (Sedimentary rock with some volcanic extrusions). We spent considerable time climbing to the highest points and trying to capture the scenery with our cameras with limited success. We spotted a herd of fast moving goats in the distance, too fast to get a picture.
From here we headed to the Aktau Mountains, so called as “ak” in Kazak means white topped. We followed a small canyon / water course into the mountains, and proceeded to explore. Mountain tops to climb, and slide down. In parts it looked like sand but really sandstone. There appeared mud dried in bubbles, crusty on top and soft as we broke through the crust. Very difficult to describe all the features, best to look at the photos.
We staved off hunger pains with a banana at 3pm and eventually arrived at the lunch place at 4pm. Very idyllic setting with lake and large trees. Supposedly a 700 year old willow tree, the buttress approximately 1 metre in diameter. (I could be corrected on this). Obviously, it had succumbed to aging and needed some support. Supersized lunch of roast chicken pieces and rice, the usual tomato and cucumber, bread, biscuits and chai.
Arrived back in Altyn Emel about 5.30pm. Dinner was held in a small room in the hotel as the large dining room was being used for the wedding. As fortune would have it, it was too cold for them outside so their music was contained and had little impact on sleep. They partied long into the night.
Bus arrived as expected at 8 and we headed to Astana. I assumed we would go to the airport and then have to get a taxi to our hotel, but instead of going around the ring road we headed directly into town so we decided to see if the driver would take us to our hotel. We had the hotel address in Russian, but the driver spoke no English so I wasn’t hopeful, however after stopping at the railway station to drop off some Hungarians and Czechs we eventually stopped in a side street near our hotel. Greg had a city map on his phone which was very helpful here. The driver consulted some workmen and motioned us back into the bus and off we went, the wrong way down a very narrow street. Much “nieting” and arm waving convinced the driver he was going the wrong way and he then backed about 100M back to where we’d come from and headed off about 50m in the correct direction before stopping again. We were then about 50 meters from our hotel so decided to walk.
The hotel didn’t look so great from the outside, but the staff were very helpful and the rooms were clean, modern and comfortable. We’re out of the city a bit here and things not quite so glitzy. Still much building work and relatively new huge buildings however. After settling in we went for a walk, partly to find a place for dinner and also to get some lunch which we bought from a small supermarket in a huge apartment block. We were not far from the “circus” a large space ship shaped arena, the roof of which I lit by ever changing coloured lights. As we only found one possibility for dinner Jenelle did some goggle searching after we returned to our hotel which suggested we needed to be one street further west. We investigated this street later in the day and found many very upmarket restaurants which probably wouldn’t have been too happy to have jeans and T shirt clad Australians. Eventually found a small very nice small place to eat. (No English – just lots of gesticulating & miming)
14th Sept Race to the airport and worlds shortest bus trip
Ordered a taxi for 11, I thought, to take us to the airport. Went down the a small shop to buy some things for lunch and got back at about 10.45 and a few minutes later the taxis arrived. Two taxis as we couldn’t fit in one. Off we went at ever increasing speed. Fortunately the roads were very good. At first I thought the taxis were having a race but then it dawned on me that they probably thought we needed to be at the airport by 11. Faster and faster we went at one stage reaching 150km/hr. The speed limit appeared to be 70km/hr as a couple of times we slowed to 70 for speed cameras. We arrived in one piece at the airport, checked in and went and sat under a tree to eat lunch and let the adrenalin levels subside a bit.
Boarding time arrived and we boarded a bus to go to our plane. The bus moved off and stopped 20 metres later. We got off the bus and boarded the plane!
The flight to Kyzylorda was uneventful. We were met there by four people and transferred to the train to Baikonur which took about 3.5 hours. The third class tickets implied seats and not much space but we had two sleeping cabins so were quite comfortable. Also the carriage had a hot water supply so we were able to make tea to supplement our cheese, biscuits, beer and chocolate for afternoon tea. The country side was a bit like central Australia although there was some evidence of irrigated crops in one or two places. Very flat and sandy with low scrub.
We passed through several villages on the way and saw one or two tracking stations and other buildings in the distance. We were met at the station by only three people this time, a driver and two interpreters who transported us to our hotel. The weather is quite warm. Hotel is good. Baikonur is in Kazakhstan but is very much a Russian city. We passed through a check point on the way in and the currency is Rubbles. Temperature can vary from -40C to + 40C here during the year with cold winds but little snow.
Latish start then off to the space museum. With driver and interpreter. Joined by a “space” interpreter at the museum.
Many models of Soviet and to a lesser extent American rockets and other space objects including the International Space Station. Also saw a video of the inside of the ISS. Many rocket motors and other associated rocket parts. Many photographs of the Cosmadrome being constructed and other memorabilia also.
After the museum we did a tour round the town. Saw a Soyuz rocket, the Gagarin memorial, and an obsolete Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. The town has many parks and open areas. Our hotel was on one side of Lenin square which you can imagine has seen its fair share of military parades. Buildings are generally typical Soviet era with new buildings on the outskirts of the town.
After lunch we visited the “space” school. Essentially a secondary school dedicated to those who will work in the Cosmodrome after going to university in Moscow. Many student built model rockets, some of which had been flown, and aeroplanes, gliders etc. Were shown a video of Soyuz launches. Here there were also many rocket motors and associated parts. Quite impressive although not many computers obvious. Visit ended with our launching a couple of model rockets. Link to rocket video – http://youtu.be/n4LsC4uMQfY
After dinner went for a walk to find a supermarket to buy some water and the necessary ice cream. Many people out enjoying the cool of the evening.
According to our guide there are very few, perhaps 20 per year, English speaking tourists visiting Baikonur. The population of the city is largely Kazakhs, looked after by the Kazakh government and Russians, looked after by the Russian government, with the Russians being better off which can cause tension between the two.
We were taken to Turotam station in good time to catch the train however the train only stops for 5 minutes so there was a bit of a run to get to our carriage, especially as the train arrived one platform further away than expected. We only had one cabin this time but still enough room.
A rather delicate operation decanting water into our water bottles in a rocking train. Were collected at the Kyzylorda station, only 2 interpreters and a driver this time and taken to lunch, which was good. Arrived at the airport early so had some time to fill in. Plane left on time for the 1.5 hour flight to Almaty, where we were met by our guide for the next part of the trip and also a driver. Countryside from the plane looked fairly desolate but there were a couple of large rivers flowing through it and some areas looked like they had been cropped.
Almaty is close to the Tien Shan mountains which we saw in Kyrgyzastan and are high and snow capped. We will explore this area more in the next few days.
Note re Tuesday 9 from Jenelle: We opted to skip the tour to Astana and chose to do reconnaissance around our village and the lake. The morning trip to the village netted a new water heater to replace the one I cooked. There was much effort in repairing it, but decided it was a lost cause. Afternoon trip along the lake, the boys did what they usually do – climb rocks.
Wednesday 10 September
Jenelle: Apart from the inclement weather it was not a good start. We discovered a mouse in our room, actually in Ewen’s bag eating his licorice allsorts. For those of you who know Ewen well, this did not go down too well. We are all not looking forward to 2 metre event, there were problems on Sunday on training with some of our blue boxes not auto ranging. Knew the steps to do it manually, but it was just another unknown in the equation.
Note: The team leader’s lot is not a happy one. We sense Jack is getting a little fed up with team leader meetings. He needs all the accolades he can get. He is doing a stirling job.
Jack: Now let’s forget about meetings and get into the second classic event, for all of us it was 2m. Weather was cold, overcast and wet not great weather for ARDF. We arrived ( rugged up) at the start location and after settling in discovered that the start list had changed. For some reason I did not get an up to date start list handed out the night before. I will endeavour to make sure this does not happen again.
Note from Jenelle: All that double checking at work has paid off. Having trouble remembering 2 digit numbers today, so I thought I better check my start group again. Oops my start time had changed, and so had everyone elses. Frantically checked for Greg’s and discovered that he was starting nearly an hour earlier. Breathe!!!
Jack: I was first off again followed by Bruce. Next was Greg then Jenelle followed by Ewen. As there was some time before the last 3 members start they were allowed to wait on the bus. The course was wet, steep lots of trees and very rocky. Ewen, Greg and I only had to find TX 1,3,4. Jenelle was looking for 1,2 & 4 and for some reason Bruce’s category had to find all 5 where as the rest of us only needed to find 3. As expected the 2m transmitters played havoc with our receivers. All except Bruce were forced to use manual attenuation to get good df’s. I spent too much time looking for the first transmitter but then settled down and had a reasonable course for the next 2. Bruce did well to find all of his transmitters in a reasonable time but got one out of order and it was only luck he was able to collect it on the way to one of the other foxes. Bruce finished before me and we both went to the finish chute to cheer on the others. Greg and Jenelle (all 3 txs and under 2 hours) had a good course and were happy with the times. Ewen was not happy with his result and was looking forward to the next event to improve (needs to approach finish shute from the right direction). Looking at the M60 results to be in the top 10 you need to be extremely fast for example UA3BL Cherman from Russia took out first place with a time of 32:23 with our times in the 80 minutes region we don’t stand a chance. I expect our best on this course would be in the high 50’s still way off the mark.
Note from Jenelle: It was always reassuring to know the team was waiting at the finish for you, well in advance. At one point the finish beacon went off and Bruce improvised with the trumpet sending MO (morse for the beacon)
After tea was the awarding ceremony and although I like to see people receive awards it was hard to listen to all of the national anthems in some cases many times. This ceremony went on until about 23:00. By the time I got to my room sorted out some things for the event in the morning and then checked the results and start list for the next event I finally got into bed about 23:45.
Note from Jenelle: Getting elevation seemed to be the key to today’s event. This worked extremely well and the quads and gluts are not complaining. Happy vegemite today. Met up with Vita from Lithuania, gold medal winner in W35. Stayed for that part of the ceremony. It took a long time to start. Presentation to a visiting dignitary of a special Kazak robe. We also have a very charming translator, Anton who was very keen to have a photo with an Australian team member and flag. How could I refuse? We were planning an early night tonight, but hotel staff arrived after we had gone to bed with a mouse trap complete with cheese. Hopefully this will net a positive result.
Thursday 11 September
Jenelle: Another bleak and chilly start today, and to make matters worse the mouse has taken the cheese and not set off the trap. This was not the only hiccup for the day. The local council has decided to cut a large trench right across the road which necessitated a 1.2 km walk to the other hotel to catch the bus to the start.
It was much the same routine to start the event. Link to website with today’s sprint map – http://ardf.darc.de/contest/14090812/14090812.htm#map140910.
Today it was the sprint, in other words hunting by numbers (frequencies). For me it was transimitters 2,3,5 on 3.51 MHz (slow), spectator beacon (S) on 3.54MHz, then transmitters 2,3,4 on 3.57MHz(fast) and then the final beacon on 3.6MHz. Managed to locate only No 3 of my slow ones, found 1 & 4 but they were no use to me. Taken on the advice of the more experienced hunters,” if you can’t find it where you are, go somewhere else”. Unfortunately that took me straight across the marsh and with only 20 minutes left of my 60 minute time I headed for the spectator beacon. Lots of cheering and photos here from the officials (no public spectators) , which made you feel like you were an elite performer – NOT!! Time was moving on as they say, so sensing transmitters 2 & 4 (fast) were reasonably closer made a desperate attempt to find one of them. I felt like I was being shadowed by 4 other competitors. I knew I was close, and then the gods smiled on me. A piece of red and white hazard tape flapped in the breeze. A ha No 4. Nine minutes left to get home. With trusty sniffer set to 3.6 MHz, I headed for the final beacon and the finish shute. I could hear Bruce’s trumpet in the distance and sensed the urgency. Not much run left in the legs today, but managed to finish with three minutes to spare. Not a great result, but as a first attempt I was happy to get back in time. Ruth from USA and I seem to be winning the quinella at the wrong end. The other Aussie team members had varying results. Both Greg and I are happy to have completed our first sprint events within the allocated time.
Bus trip back to the hotel was quite illuminating. Met a visitor with the Hungarian team, apparently the next World Championships are in Bulgaria in 2016. Will have to put my leave application in when I get back to work.
Flew from Bishkek to Astana. The contrast between the cities is so great I thought we must have slipped into another world. Bishkek is a bit tired and run down. Astana near new, much new building work, a mall about 200 metres wide and 2 km long with immaculate garden beds and fountains which are lit with multi-coloured lights at night. Some of the tall buildings are also lit with ever changing patterns of light.
Eventually arrived at our apartment on the 37th floor of the hotel. Magnificent view of the city. We then spent some time trying to find out when we would picked up and transported to the competition area. After several garbled phone calls and a few SMS’s we determined that we were to be collected at 10 AM the next day, from the apartment. We then went for a walk along the mall and investigated a few restaurants for dinner, eventually picking an Italian style place where we had a good meal later in the evening.
As we expected to be collected at 10 we slept in a bit and were just starting breakfast when there was a knock at the door and two people appeared to collect us. A taxi driver and an interpreter. We asked them to wait for a few minutes while we scoffed a bit of breakfast and packed. The car was a Toyota Camary, which is not designed to carry 6 people, let alone with 4 large suitcases and miscellaneous small backpacks, however with 4 across the back seat and Ewen’s large case we departed for the airport where we spent 2 hours waiting for other teams to arrive. Eventually we all packed into a minibus and after 3 hours on a 6 lane tollway we arrived in Burabay. The country side is generally flat for as far as you can see and appears to be used for cropping. Our accommodation is spacious but the bed is horrible. Food is generally OK. I won’t mention the team leaders meeting.
Off to the training area to get a look at the country we will be running in and to check the equipment. This revealed major unexpected problems with our two metre receivers. Of the ten we have only two work correctly. Possibly 2 more will be OK but we didn’t have time to check them. We have a work around but nobody is looking forward to the two metre event. The 80 metre equipment worked well.
After training and lunch we headed off to the opening ceremony. We arrived a little early and found the children still rehearsing their dancing routines, accompanied by rather too loud music and directed by a screeching lady. Ewen resorted to ear plugs, much to the amusement of the people seated either side of him. The speeches were short, even though they were translated into Russian and English and the young kids put on a magnificent display of singing and dancing. A very good opening ceremony.
While the local school children returned to school for the first day of the school year, we headed out of Bishkek for the resort area of Issyk Kul. Felt rather sorry for them in their pristine white shirts and ties and long black pants, considering the forecast for today was 30 + degrees.
It was all going well when we came across a police road block. Soon after there was a flurry of police cars, quickly followed by some smart black vehicles, all heading our way. Unfortunately not our escort. What followed next, resembled something like the starting grid of formula one race, much jostling for positions from all the traffic that had been stopped.
Back on track we visited the Burana Tower, built ~11 to 12 century . The climb to the top of the tower was quite a challenge, once inside the tower it was pitch black, apart from a slit window halfway up the tower. Coming down was just as challenging. In islamic times was used to call followers to pray. Apparently it was part of a larger complex.
The adjoining area consisted of pictorial headstone collected from the surrounding area. Some looked decidedly recent.
We had travelled part of this road before on our trip to Naryn and had observed that there seemed to be much duplication in the roadside stalls. There were several stalls selling the same produce, whether it be lumps of dried cheese, melons, apples and dried fish.
The trip to view the petroglyphs was a non-event as they had suffered over time and were almost unrecognisable. But we were quite entertained by the unofficial drag race down the disused airstrip, complete with flagman waving the start. After a short pause one car started off, the other missed the start altogether.
Our accommodation is a resort with private beach on the shore of the lake, so we could not miss the opportunity to “take the waters”. Cooler than Aquarena at Doncaster, it took Ewen considerable time to submerge himself. With an elevation of 1600+m, swimming was quite a challenge aerobically. We are now becoming more familiar with the local cuisine, lagman (noodles), a rice dish, and assorted dumplings & ofcourse tea. Tonight’s dinner at the resort cafe cost us the princely sum of approx $16.
Tuesday 2 September
We were most intrigued with the wifi set up at Three Crowns holidays resort. There were several located along the fence directed at each of the blocks of units.
The first stop today was the cultural centre. Five buildings all in a circle, representing the five spiritual influences in Kyrgyzstan, Buddhism, Kyrgyz paganism, Islam, Orthodox & Catholic. We were introduced to many of the Kyrgyz “heroes”, artists, writers, politicians & philosophers. Incredibly well manicured lawns, spied someone clipping around the rocks with hedge clippers. Tree of knowledge, the frog with the pearl of wisdom, eggshell artwork & wood carving, bronze sculptures. We also visited a display yurt, and being female got relegated to the side of the yurt with all the pots and pans. Well worth the visit.
Another 150 km of tarred road with many patches and we reached the second largest town in Kyrgyzstan – Karakol.
We visited the Prevzalsky museum situated on the shore of the lake. Prevzalsky was a Polish scientist funded by the Russians who mapped an extensive area in Central Asia and documented the local flora and fauna. He succumbed to a waterborne disease and is buried here. Like Shackleton he is buried where he did most of his work.
We also visited the local mosque (in the style of a Japanese pagoda), where again gender rules apply and I had to wear a purple coverall. Beautiful carpets in the mosque.
Also visited a local church, but they saw us coming and locked the door. Intricately carved woodwork around the gables and doors.
I eventually got my picture of school children. They were playing hide and seek. They looked immaculate in their school uniforms.
We took in the sites of local zoo, animal rescue centre (actually). they receive no government funding, a few kyrgyz horses, owls, porcupines, a very lonely bear, deer, monkeys, snow leopards, chooks and sheep.
To wind down after a very busy day we dined at an outdoor restaurant. The wine list featured red Chardonnay (which seemed a contraction ). It received the seal of approval from the red drinkers amongst us.
Left Bishkek and headed for the yurt camp at the lake Song Kul. Stopped for petrol at Kockkor, long queue which seems to be the norm here, complicated by having to prepay before you get the fuel. Fuel cost is about $1 per litre.
After driving over a pass at 3500 metres we turned off the main road onto several km of dirt racks heading along the shore of the lake, passing several yurt camps until we eventually arrived at our camp.
We had a couple hours before dinner so Bruce and Ewen went for a horse ride. Our horses were clearly selected for tourists and had to be goaded into even a slow trot.
Still they took up a hill which gave us a good view of the lake which is about 20km long and 3km wide.
It’s at the edge of a large flat area between two mountain ranges. In fact the whole country seems to be mostly very high mountains. Camp consisted of five yurts. Owners, eating and three guest “units”
The unit next to ours was occupied by two Australians from McLeod. Almost our next suburb in Melb. Its a small world!
As expected there was no running water. there was electricity, one small light for about 2 hours. Sleeping was on mats on the ground which were quite comfortable. The yurt had a heater but this made it too hot. Might have been OK if we’d not used our sleeping bags. Temperature during the day was high twenties but closer to zero at night. Food was bread, jam, dumplings, water melon and vege soup.
The next day we headed to Tash Rabat to see a ninth century ware house which was used by traders on the silk road. The building is basically intact and has had some restoration work done but has long been disused. Another night in a yurt here. Somewhat upmarket this time with beds.
Headed back to Naryn. Had lunch at another yurt camp and went on a rather strenuous hike up avalley, across a saddle and down a parallel valley on the other side. About 2.5 hours and reached an altitude of 3400 meters. Ewen’s body doesn’t work well at this height!
Roads so far have varied from Chinese built superhighway to bone shaking which in general makes travel slow. (a chance to catch the scenery)
Greg, Ewen & Jenelle set off from Melbourne last Thursday (21/8/14) with a minimum of drama (only missing the SD card from a camera, quickly rectified in duty free). Greg missed the best entertainment of the trip, slept through a spectacular thunderstorm which lit up the clouds below us. Our flight to Istanbul took us well east of Baghdad & Erbil, and flew into Istanbul from the east.
It would seem the drivers here like to entertain themselves taking the tourists on hair-raising rides around the narrow and convoluted streets of Sultanahmet. Still it was a very comfy ride and a good introduction to Istanbul.
Stunning view from our room of the ships in the sea south of Istanbul, one could do a “Monet “ on light effects on this scene.
Compass in hand we took to the streets to locate the main attraction. Istanbul is a bit like China with people touting for business, Not “watch & bag”, but “you like carpet”.
No trouble finding a place for dinner and discovered beers come in all sizes (mines the little one).
Saturday morning we ventured further afield to the archaeological museum and the tiled kiosk.
Guided tour (after lunch) began with a bus ride around the Hippodrome, Blue mosque to Aya sofia,
Aya sofia very dark inside, variety of marble walls, golden frescoes, (Mary on the ceiling)spent ages trying to get a decent picture, climbed to part where women worship, sultan’s wife special black marble area,
Basilica cistern, amazing architecture, lots of mood lighting, recycled columns acquired from various cathedrals. Very interesting concrete ones under the tram stop.
Carpet – the less said about that the better,then off to the Grand Bazaar, excellent turkish delight (Greg succumbed with a lot of encouragement), 65 streets and 4000+ shops
We needed a rest after this very busy day.
Good weather for our trip up the Bosphorus. Climbed to the top of the castle and enjoyed the view back towards Istanbul from the café below. Made an urgent request to Bruce (now in duty free at Tullamarine to stock up on some Honey Macadamias)
Indulged ourselves with dinner at fish restaurant overlooking Marmara Sea, took the waiters recommendations, octopus, calamari, sea bass, excellent wine, salad with pomegranate jus. The ice cream with parsley decoration. (Junior chef just learning) Perhaps downmarket for the next few days.
Final day in Istanbul, took a chance in getting into Blue Mosque. Suitably attired and minus shoes. Very beautiful inside photos don’t do it justice.
Also fitted in a trip to the Science and Technology Museum, a different slant on the history of science. Lots of copies of instruments. Originals held in museums overseas.
At this point we waited in the shade of the chestnut trees for Bruce. Rendezvous completed after a couple of texts and a brief radio call. [Bruce: Actually Bruce was a few minutes late, due to a very slow baggage retrieval at Ataturk airport, and perhaps because he may have even delayed departure from Adu Dhabi to to a bit of a kerfuffle with the handheld transceiver in his hand baggage. A call to Etihad before departure assured him that all was well with carrying it, but those in Abu Dhabi differed in opinion. Bruce’s backpack had to retrospectively be checked into the hold, just to contain the highly suspect radio ! I managed to grab a few things for the flight in a plastic bag.] His 3 hour tour of Istanbul consisted of tram and funicular to the Galata Tower for a view of Istanbul, a quick walk to the Spice Bazaar (jam packed with people – couldn’t wait to get out of it), 20 minute dinner and back to our hotel for a transfer to the airport.
Apologies for the out of order photos. It is getting late and not organised for tomorrow’s activities. J
The following are the results of the FoxOr event which was run in conjunction with the normal Park Street Orienteering event run on the Woodridge map in Eltham.
Congratulations to Bruce and Ian who were able to visit all 20 orienteering controls plus the 6 radio controls within the 75 minute time limit. Ian also had the handicap of using an unfamiliar sniffer.
Dennis’s score was good enough to pick up 3rd place despite being a few minutes late finishing.
Jenelle may have done a little better had the last fox not gone mobile just as she started looking for it.
Dianne did well considering the terrain on the Woodridge map.
Thanks to those who helped with control collection, Di, Bruce, Hamish etc.