Blog 5 – Issyk Kul Lake Northside – Bumper Edition

So much to see and talk about. Enjoy

Jenelle

Monday 1 September

Beautifully dressed school children
Beautifully dressed school children

 

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.

Burana Tower
Burana Tower
Before and after restoration Burana Tower
Before and after restoration Burana Tower

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.

Pictorial headstones
Pictorial headstones

 

 

 

 

 

 

The adjoining area consisted of pictorial headstone collected from the surrounding area. Some looked decidedly recent.

Rather new headstone
Rather new headstone

 

Islamic Headstones Burana Tower
Islamic Headstones Burana Tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View from car approaching Issyk Kul Lake
View from car approaching Issyk Kul Lake

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.

Petroglyph - goat
Petroglyph – goat

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.

Parasa[ling over Issyk Kul Lake
Parasailing over Issyk Kul Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

Private beach at 3 Crowns resort 1
Private beach at 3 Crowns resort 1
Private beach at 3 Crowns resort 2
Private beach at 3 Crowns resort 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 2 September

Wifi setup at  3 Crowns resort
Wifi setup at 3 Crowns resort
Apartment blocks at 3 Crowns resort
Apartment blocks at 3 Crowns resort

 

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.

 

resting after making a wish at the big bell
resting after making a wish at the big bell
Meet and greet
Meet and greet
Egg shell art work
Egg shell art work
Artistic representation of the months of the year
Artistic representation of the months of the year
Tuned bells
Tuned bells
Tree of Knowledge
Tree of Knowledge
Ewen and the pearl of wisdom
Ewen and the pearl of wisdom
Interesting couple
Interesting couple
Finish control Cultural Centre - actually photo centre
Finish control Cultural Centre – actually photo centre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another 150 km of tarred road with many patches and we reached the second largest town in Kyrgyzstan – Karakol.

Prevzalvsky monument
Prevzalvsky monument

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.

Pagoda style mosque Karakol
Pagoda style mosque Karakol
Not sure the colour suits me
Not sure the colour suits me

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Ornate woodwork Karakol church
Ornate woodwork Karakol church

Also visited a local church, but they saw us coming and locked the door. Intricately carved woodwork around the gables and doors.

School children
School children
Children playing hide and sek
Children playing hide and sek

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Kyrgyz horse - almost donkey size
Kyrgyz horse – almost donkey size
Wise bird
Wise bird
Porcupine at Karakol animal refuge
Porcupine at Karakol animal refuge

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.

Kyrgyzstan Independence Day (Blog 4)

Greg’s turn today,

Sat 30th August

The hotel in Naryn was an interesting building evidently a converted apartment block from the Soviet era the rooms were tight but perfectly adequate. Unfortunately for Bruce, Greg’s snoring level increased to the level that Bruce had to revert to sleeping in the bathroom, and only caught a few hours of sleep.

We were basically transiting back to Bishkek today  a distance of about 350 km. as Ewen has reported roads are problematical, the older bitumen roads are badly deteriorated and can turn into a mass of potholes and rock requiring heavy breaking and direction changes. Then we were on a Chinese build highway that was as smooth as silk. We are on the Silk Road after all!

As at home, speed radar devices abound with the fine being 500SOM, evidently  a donation to the officer of about 200SOM can be made as an alternative !  Radar detectors are legal here and seem to be the best solution.  The one our driver has is a bit too sensitive but very effective! Currency conversion is about 50SOM to the dollar, average income is around $300 per month.

We arrived back in Bishkek mid afternoon and the first thing on the agenda was separate rooms for Greg & Bruce. Bad news for Bruce only available for one of the two nights we are here.

After scouting around a restaurant with pictures on the menu was found and resulted in an excellent meal. The waitress had enough English to help us out, words like cow and chicken. The meal was completed back at our hotel with fruit and ice cream purchased at local shops.

Sun 31st August

This is Kyrgyzstan’s Independence Day it celebrates their independence from the USSR in 1991. Bruce reported that he had a good night’s sleep. After breakfast we headed into the centre of the city  and took in some of the sites these included, Victory Square commemorating the second world war, the opera house, then a check of our bags as we entered Altoo Square where the celebration was in progress. Traditional dances performed to recorded music. Bruce has uploaded a video to youtube   Following this, the president spoke in Kyrgy and Russian.

Our tour of the city then took us to the House of Parliament, past Game Zone – this was a movie theatre as well, to the university and the Philharmonic Hall.  We were surprised by the number of parks and squares included in the city design.  There were lots of police around but apparently unarmed.In one of the parks close to Altoo Square a number of jumping castles had been set up and the children were enjoying these, there were numerous food vendors doing a brisk trade and everyone was in the festive mood.  There is a public holiday tomorrow, that is the last day of the summer holidays and Tuesday is the first day back at school.

Nearly all the buildings, parks and squares were constructed during the late 1980s and in an attempt to create a city with a cultural heart.  Really not possible for us to judge how effective this has been.

Bruce also uploaded a video of his horse riding experience.

Victory Square
Victory Square

 

Philharmonic Hall
Philharmonic Hall

 

University
University

 

Game Zone
Game Zone

 

House of Parliament
House of Parliament

 

Dancers in Square
Dancers in Square

 

General View of Square
General View of Square

 

Opera house in background and famous ballet dancer
Opera house in background and famous ballet dancer
Another view of dancers
Another view of dancers

 

 

Blog 3 Yurt Experience

Wednesday 27 August

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.

The first of many rough dusty winding roads
The first of many rough dusty winding roads

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.

Horse riding
Horse riding

 

 

Horseriding - the lone rangers
Horseriding – the lone rangers
Song Kul Lake
Song Kul Lake

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”

 

Dinner in the yurt camp
Dinner in the yurt cam

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.

Sleeping quarters in the yurt
Sleeping quarters in the yurt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View from 33 Parrots Pass leaving Song Kul
View from 33 Parrots Pass leaving Song Kul

 

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.

 

 

Caravansarai Tash Rabat 1
Caravansarai Tash Rabat 1
Tash rabat caravansarai 2
Tash rabat caravansarai 2

 

What are the looking at?
What are the looking at?
Caravansarai - cornice decoration
Caravansarai – cornice decoration

 

Yurt camp Tash rabat
Yurt camp Tash rabat

 

 

 

 

 

 

29 August

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!

High altitude trekking
High altitude trekking
Reaching the saddle
Reaching the saddle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naryn - 3 mountain ranges - different colours
Naryn – 3 mountain ranges – different colours

 

Roads so far have varied from Chinese built superhighway to bone shaking  which in general makes travel slow. (a chance to catch the scenery)

Ewen

 

 

 

Istanbul (Blog 1)

Galata Tower
Galata Tower

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.

View of Marmara Sea from hotel
View of Marmara Sea from hotel
Another time view of Marmara Sea
Another time view of Marmara Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).

Beers in all sizes
Beers in all sizes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday morning we ventured further afield to the archaeological museum and the tiled kiosk.

Ewen's mythical woman at the Archaeological Museum
Ewen’s mythical woman at the Archaeological Museum
Tiled Kiosk at Arch Museum
Tiling at Tiled Kiosk Archaeological Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guided tour (after lunch) began with a bus ride around the Hippodrome, Blue mosque to Aya sofia,

Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque
Aya Sofia museum
Aya Sofia museum
Mary on Aya Sofia ceiling
Mary on Aya Sofia ceiling
Aya Sofia upper level women's area
Aya Sofia upper level women’s area

 

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
Basilica Cistern

 

Basilica cistern, amazing architecture, lots of mood lighting, recycled columns acquired from various cathedrals. Very interesting concrete ones under the tram stop.

Grand Bazaar
Grand Bazaar

 

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.

Much needed rest
Much needed rest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Novel post to define archaeological dig at Castle
Novel post to define archaeological dig at Castle
Castle at end of Bosphorus
Castle at end of Bosphorus

 

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)

 

 

 

 

Perfect dinner setting
Perfect dinner setting

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Blue Mosque ceiling rose
Blue Mosque ceiling rose
Blue Mosque interior
Blue Mosque interior

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Science and Technology enthusiasts
Science and Technology enthusiasts
Innovative design for cooking souvlaki
Innovative design for cooking souvlaki

 

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.

Jenelle

Galata Tower
Galata Tower
View from Galata Tower
View from Galata Tower
Spice Bazaar
Spice Bazaar

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apologies for the out of order photos. It is getting late and not organised for tomorrow’s activities. J

 

 

TTT – Surviving the Drake Passage

Monday 28 January

At sea. Conditions deteriorating. Lots of napping. Some eating and meds.

If you bought a ticket to support the eradication of the rats on South Georgia island you were entered in a raffle for a beautifully illustrated chart of our Spirit of Shackleton trip. No such luck. But I did managed to outbid Ian from Qld for a book on Whaling in South Georgia which Ewen really wanted.  Last second bid but managed to secure it. Must have been all that practice on Ebay.

DSC02651 (Medium)Another dinner holding onto the table as we sailed down the Bransfield Strait.

 

 

 

Tuesday 29 January

Very rough overnight. No early morning wake up call, but now confined to cabins.

Report at 9,45am. Winds 60 knots. Gusting to 89 knots.  Waves 8-9 metres.

Breakfast in bed. Yoghurt, apple, bun and cake. Delivered by Kirsten the assistant Expedition leader

A little later Sam dropped by with water bottles. Good left hand catch pitched from the door way.

We had a visit from Dmitri and Josephine , the most visitors we have had all trip. DSC02655 (Medium)Lunch duly arrived about 12.30, wait for it, meat pattie in bun with lettuce and cucumber, cheese sandwich, and cold chips plus a can of drink. We were lucky to be on the third level which meant at least we could watch the waves as they rose and then sprayed against the side of the ship. More entertainment for us than those on the deck below who had their metal covers placed on their port holes. All in all a very relaxing day, and about 3pm when we eventually got in the lee of the Cape of Horn we could venture out and relieve the symptoms of cabin fever.

 

Wednesday 30 January

Disembarkment today. We spent most of the morning saying goodbye to new friends, at breakfast, on the bus to the airport, at the coffee shop, in the departure lounge, even on the flight back to Buenos Aires. We were hoping to meet up with a couple from London for dinner, but Ewen succumbed to a migraine. I expect it was the result of another case of inflight food of chocolate biscuits and apple juice.

We actually met up with the “Odd Man In” team downtown in Buenos Aires when we eventually stepped out for a quick bite to eat later that night. We were quite hungry by then.

PS Need to call it a night. Early morning flight to Lima

J

 

TTT – Australia Day – Antarctic Style

January 26 2013

DSC02495 (Medium)Fabulous sunny afternoon onboard. Checked out the sundeck and the sun lounges and as it was Australia day we did our Aussie thing and donned the bathers to sunbake. Yes we have photos to prove it.

 

 

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREThis chart is included for fellow meteorologists – just conditions for  sunning yourself.

 

 

 

Visit to  Port Lockroy. Museum with lots is f quaint old stuff, from workshop, kitchen, comms room, met room, bedroom and gift shop.

Headed for our camping spot at Damoy Bay. Perfect weather for setting up tent and radio, photo with flag (note the wind is starting to pick up). It took a good 20 minutes to  walk through the snow  to top of hill (good exercise). The snow was soft around edge of cravass (only a narrow one), (Ewen checked this out accidently) Seem to have lost this photo.

DSC02553 (Medium)Glad to make it back down in one piece. Checked out the loo with a view.

 

 

 

Probably should have checked out the penguin colony, but opted for the sleeping bag instead, -12 deg c rating so the cold not a problem. Floor just rather hard, and then the wind really picked up and the tent flapping started in earnest! About 3 hours sleep

Sunday 27 January

Really windy breaking camp. Managed to get the tent back in the bag without it blowing away, trip back in zodiac was more adrenalin rush than Space Mountain, glad to be back on the board, not so happy about the water in places it shouldn’t be. Exit my old Ricoh camera. Don’t have the final outcome on Ewen’s  new radio but the brown smell is not a good sign.

Headed to the calmer waters of Paradise Bay for a short landing followed by a zodiac cruise. We again challenged ourselves aerobically with climb through the snow to the top of the nearest hill for the mandatory photo on the Antarctic mainland. We took the quick route down – tobogganing most of the way down. Cool Runnings eat your heart out. We were rather reluctant to leave to the take Zodiac back to the boat as our time had been cut short due to the additional time taken to wend our way down the Lumiere Channel avoiding the icebergs.

Tango lessons with the Captain. The less said about this the better, needless to say if there was a test for this I would have failed. Rather interesting though trying to do the steps and stay balanced as they ship moved.

Dinner with girls. Ewen had mobile phone with roll and pitch application. Recorded  a total roll of 30 degrees (18 degrees one way+12 degrees the other way), 2 people fell off chairs, soup spilt.

TTT SOS Antarctic Peninsula

Friday 25 January

Half Moon Bay

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

We were still searching for Macaroni penguins, but managed to find more chin strap penguins and some feeding their baby chicks.

 

 

Deception Island

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

There is a very sheltered bay in the middle of this island, called Whalers Bay where there are the remains of an old whaling station and a research base that had been destroyed by a volcano in the early 1960s. The old buildings were filled with mud from the ash. The sand on the beach was black and you could actually see steam coming off the beach. This was the site for the Polar Plunge. The water on the edge here was positively warm (abt 3 deg) compared to the ocean, we chickened out and left it to the more foolhardy to brave the water.

We walked to one of the high points for the view and checked out the melting glacier on the return to the zodiac. If no one believes that the glaciers are melting they would after they see the continuous drops of water coming off them.

The sea started to become much rougher as we entered the Gerlache strait.

Robbie burns night, just as the bagpipes started to pipe in the haggis the ship began to lurch violently. The wait staff were amazing as they balanced all the trays and the haggis was saved.

Saturday 26 January

Early start today –

DSC06491 (Medium)View of sunrise, then for Petermann island ( the furtherest south that we went  nearly 66 degrees, not quite to the Antarctic Circle) We needed to climb up a rocky hill before descending to the bay on the other side to the landing site. This high spot was a good vantage point to watch the albatroses soaring on the updrafts near the cliff. Further along there was a Gentoo penguin nursery. Here there were more baby penguins. Lot of the Gentoo penguins had two chicks and it was rather special seeing them at such close range. Also Adelie penguins as well.

We took to the zodiacs once more and nothing could have prepared us for what happened   next. There were humpback whales about 2-3 metres away from zodiac, breathtaking. Ozzie cut the motor on the zodiac and the whales came to us, some breaching others spouting.  (Could have spent a lot more time here too). Eventually found a solitary penguin on an iceberg. Even managed to collect some ice for the bar. On our returning to boat I managed to get a photo of the tails of two whales as they made their dive.

DSC06671 (Medium)

More ice for the bar for today’s celebrations !!

 

 

 

 

TTT SOS All at sea

Monday 21 January

Wild seas at Cooper Bay SE tip South Georgia
Wild seas at Cooper Bay SE tip South Georgia

Today started quite calm, but during breakfast the wind really picked up and at one point was gusting up to 60 knots. Susan our expedition leader kept making announcements for us to standby for further information about the landing at Cooper Bay in the morning and Drygalsky Sound in the afternoon. We spent the morning drinking tea and venturing out onto the bow of the ship to view the wild life. The wind was fairly howling, at one point the wind just about blew me across the deck. Found a spot to wedge myself in and lasted about 20 minutes outside. We saw a light mantel sooty albatross and a few macaroni penguins, also lots of unidentifiable little birds.

Scobie gave a talk about his time in South Georgia and Antarctica. This gave us some time to wait out the wind but this was to no avail and we had to cut our losses and head for the Antarctic Peninsula. Ewen headed out to the rear deck, but it was nice and cosy in the cabin. The sea was looking pretty rough.

Good view of some of the glaciers along the south eastern end of South Georgia.

By late afternoon, the sea was still fairly rough. Abandoned listening to one talk and headed for the cabin to find the ”travel calm”. Enjoyed dinner and the conversation, Lee and Wren(nicknamed “bird man” from Seattle, Scobie (a seasoned expeditioner) and Kathryn (geologist turned singer with a passion for boats and the outdoors. Resorted to more heavy duty meds at bedtime and slept like a top.

Tuesday 22 January

No call from Susan the expedition leader this morning, apparently there is none on sea days. The only way I can keep track of the days is by writing the diary.

This morning’s lectures, one by Alex on the geology of the region and the movement of the tectonic plates, the second on Cetaceans by John. Both were very good but again started to doze off in the middle of the second one. We have been trying to walk after meals; there are several levels on the boat, so we are convincing ourselves if the climb as many steps as we can find and investigate all the corridors we can claim to have done some exercise. Ewen has now taken a nap.

Movie after dinner and then down to the Polar Bear Bar

Wednesday 23 January

Another day at sea. Lectures, more movies and food, and lots of fog and ice

Geology lecture by Alex, Movie contrasting Scott and Shackleton.

Mid expedition test.  We named our team “Odd man in”, Ewen and his female dinner companions from our night in Ushuaia. We were quite pleased with our win and the 2 bottles of champagne,( not everyone was happy with our result.)

Thursday 24 January

It was good to get off the boat today. Zodiac cruise around the end of Elephant Island (Point Wild) where Shackleton’s men spent 4 months waiting for him to return to rescue them.

Had to rug up well today -1 deg C and snowing. Three layers of wool, a polar fleece and heavy duty waterproof. It was quite an exercise boarding the zodiacs due to a heavy swell. Alex took us out the island, chin strap penguins, macaronis, fur seals and Weddell seals. Broken ice on top of the water, steep rock escarpment and glacier with cracks, blue iceberg.

Lunch was most welcome, needed hot food to warm up. Lunched with the engineers from Queensland. They belonged to the slide rule generation too.

Tabular iceberg  competition (guess the weight of the iceberg) – Ewen just missed out on another bottle of champagne.

 

TTT SOS Seal Alert South Georgia

Sunday 20 January

St Andrews Bay

Gold Harbour -  Elephant Seal 6The day didn’t start very well as Ewen was not happy with his cold shower, but improved with perfect weather for a zodiac landing. Much drier underfoot and not so many fur seals pups. Spent quite some time watching the king penguin juvenile birds (last year’s chicks covered in brown feathers) demanding food from their mothers. Lots of photo opportunities.

We meandered our way up to the top of the ridge where some large birds were nesting. It provided a good view of the colony, especially the striations of colour from the brown fluff balls and the adult king penguins. At the top we could see the glacier with its cracks forming. Apparently a large chunk of ice cascaded down the mountain. Did not see this, but luckily there were no kayakers in the water below. We also caught sight of the skuas making light work of a dead reindeer. Saw some amusing moments in the training pool for the junior penguins as they tried to swim across the creek and stagger out of the water onto the slippery rocks. Back to the boat for lunch, really need to downsize the meals. The food is really good.

.5 sec too late to get this one
.5 sec too late to get this one

The afternoon zodiac the beach left later than originally planned due to a sighting of a large pod humpback whales. (About 30 in total) After some time on deck the old Sony camera battery threw the towel in due to the cold so I went down to the cabin to retrieve the Ricoh. No sooner than I had picked up the camera I looked out the window and there was a whale outside the window. Lousy photo but a good experience to see it breeching.

Eventually set off in the zodiac to Gold Harbour about 6pm. Very aggressive young male fur seals. They must have liked red as they kept following me around. Very uneasy with this, the rocks you are supposed to bang together were pretty ineffective, they are lucky they didn’t get one in the head. More king penguins here and also some gentoos. Some king penguins were still on eggs, but no baby chicks in sight. Huge elephant seals all huddled up together, making disgusting farting noises. The really big one had another pinned underneath the upper part of its body, while the trapped one was flailing around trying to escape. Felt much better when we left here and returned to the boat.

Shared some of Jennifer’s bubbly she won for guessing the time of the sighting of the first iceberg. Another really good meal.

PS All apologies of the penguin overload, it was very difficult to choose just a few.

TTT SOS Grytvikken South Georgia

Saturday 19 January

Grytvikken

Grytvikken - Old whaling station
Grytvikken – Old whaling station

Museum – This was the manager’s cottage, it even contained the original piano. In the Shackleton room there was a copy of Worsley’s Almanac. Apparently there was even a cinema at Grytvikken and they still have the original movie projector. In another room there was a display of stuffed birds, eggs and whale bones. Samples of penguin skin and seal fur for people to touch. The fur seal skins were particularly soft.

Replica James Caird boat – the one that Shackleton sailed from Elephant Island to South Georgia. Wouldn’t have liked to have been on that boat; six men in a leaky wooden boat for all that time.

Thought I should send some post cards. The queue in the post office was quite long, but the salesperson was doing a sterling job given the demands of some of the customers. Hopefully those cards will have a special stamp on them when they eventually arrive at their final destination

Little church – solid wooden pews, organ, and the story was told that the pastor was only here for 18 months, sent home as he wasn’t earning his keep. Not a lot of customers at the church. Also in the church were some of the original plaques from the cemetery

It had started snowing and it looked picturesque especially with the rusting ruins of the whaling station. This necessitated a quick sprint through whaling station, avoiding seals and wallows on the way to the cemetery.  The elephant seals at the entrance to the cemetery were quite vocal. Shackleton’s grave is quite a grand affair, to its right hand side was the small plaque honouring Wild, Shackleton’s right hand man. Dimitri was there doling out Norwegian Vodka in polystyrene cups as we entered the gate. Good view from up here, but pretty chilly and windy. We made a toast to the Boss with Norwegian vodka before running the gauntlet of the seals yet again. (Ewen was quite adventurous investigating remains of the whaling station) Zodiac back to the boat for yet more food.

Definitely not enough time here

Shackleton walk. There was much discussion before as to how difficult it would be. The thought of clambering down greasy slippery slopes in gum boots was rather off putting. Ewen convinced me otherwise and we set off in a group of about 70 people. The start of the climb out of Fortuna Bay was more slippery than I hoped for. After climbing to the top of the first ridge then the surface became rocky, and we crunched our way through the pieces of slate , careful not to cut the gum boots

The view of the upper lakes with ice ready to collapse into it was quite spectacular. Areas of snow were a little slippery to transverse. We could just hear the boat’s whistle from the top of the mountain. I must admit I was much happier once we made the descent on the gravelly hill. I spent much more time looking at where my feet were than the waterfall. It flowed down to a river that was quite wide and lined with gravel and large stones. (very similar to the rivers in New Zealand.)

John spied a colony of Gentoo penguins on the way back and managed to detour across the vegetation to check them out. They were forming a conga line (or it seemed like one) but really there were three of them chasing the one at the front. It was about 1 km from the beach, which seems like a long way for a penguin to travel on its way in and out of the water .It was a nice flat stroll from here down to the beach to the waiting zodiacs.

I thought the expedition leader Susan was joking when she told us on return from our walk to rug up warmly as dinner was a BBQ on the aft deck.

Captions for gallery to come later

TTT SOS – Falkland Islands

Falkland Islands

Sunday 13 January.

Absolutely spectacular weather today. Some people even got sunburt.

We have had several briefings today. The bird man, the historical man (he was particularly interesting). We have fitted our gum boots. Also learnt about the zodiac procedures and watched some of David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet.

There was the formal welcome and champagne toast, followed by another excellent meal. Will really need to find to gym.

Met a lovely couple from Cairns, Darcy and Raylee. (she’s a Boulia girl and he’s in the meat trade)

Monday 14 January

Smooth sailing overnight and another perfect day (some cloud building)

Early breakfast at 7am in preparation for our trip to New Island. We are in Ross group so we had to wait until the first two groups (Amundsen and Scott) had left. We reached shore of New Island about 8.45. This place is really remote, beats me why anyone would want to try to make a living out here. There are a few buildings up on the top of the low cliffs. Trekked across island to windward side, there were hundreds of birds – black browed albatross circling above the penguin colony. Climbed down the cliff through the button grass to watch the rock hopper penguins returning from the ocean, avoiding the sea lions lurking just below the landing point. Also saw a fur seal sunning itself; kelp geese eating sea lettuce and a variety of small plants.

Cloud formations over the mountains – sky particularly blue.

The afternoon was spent at West Point Island. It was a brisk 30 minute hike uphill to the other side of the island to view the penguin nursery. Spent ages trying to get the perfect shot of the albatross and parent penguins grooming their chicks. Discovered one diligent penguin build a nest. The best shot of the albatross was the one wandering around the button grass. Nigh impossible to get a decent photo of them in flight.

We were treated to a fine afternoon tea in the cottage. Proper tea and homemade cakes. Very enjoyable sunning oneself on the soft lawn amongst the very “English” flower beds. We are becoming very proficient at getting in and out of the zodiac.

Tuesday 15 Jan

Having great difficulty remembering which day it is. We arrived in Stanley (Faulkland Islands) early today. First stop was Gypsy Cove to see more penguins (magellanic penguins, black night herons,  turkey vultures, the odd shag on a rock, little brown birds and some more interesting little plants. The cannon on the point was in quite good condition considering it had been there for quite some time. Would have been a pretty bleak cold place to work. Some of this area has been cleared of mines. Not as clearly marked as we would have liked. From here we took a bus into town to visit the museum, lots of old memorabilia (stuff our grandparents would have used)and some exotic china and silver ware. We walked the length of Ross Road, unfortunately no invitation to tea at Government house, but did find an excellent coffee and cake shop after we visited the Post Office.  Was hoping to buy some felted soap at the Pink Shop, but they were closed for lunch. Had to settle for a few bars of chocolate at the Bitter Sweet shop instead. Called into the Globe Hotel to check out the flags on the ceiling and got back to the bus just in time to catch the bus back to the boat.

Spent some time this afternoon on the deck trying to spot whales, but gave up and decided it was time to visit the gym (40 minutes in all); very interesting walking on the treadmill as the ship pitched with each swell. Listened to an interesting talk on Shackleton, we are waiting for the final instalment in the next few days.  Enjoyed dinner conversation with Elaine a doctor(nephrologist) from London and her friend Sandy.

Wednesday 16 Jan & Thursday 17 Jan

These two days were spent enroute to South Georgia Island. Suffering from conference room syndrome as I kept falling asleep on a regular basis. Ewen attempted to do some radio work while I tried to get some shots of the birds circling the boat. There was a wind change and consequently the air became too cold to stay outside. We crossed the Antarctic convergence in the early hours of Thursday morning. The temperature dropped quite dramatically, now down to 0-2 deg C. As we haven’t done too much today, I thought I should venture back to the gym after lunch. The sea was becoming a little rougher and it made using the equipment fairly interesting. About 2 pm we approached Shag Rocks. Didn’t see any shags, but the shipped slowed so that we could get a little closer to view the rocks. The sea was very rough and at one point the boat lurched dramatically and most things not anchored down slip across the floor, including people. I’m not sure what was in the room next to the gym but it made a loud continuous rumble of metal and I hoped it would not come through the wall. Fortunately we all survived unharmed, and as soon as we moved away from the rocks the sea settled down to a manageable level. Didn’t need any meds tonight and slept like a top.

TTT SOS King Penguin Alert at South Georgia

Friday 18 January

Salisbury Plain - King Penguin group photo
Salisbury Plain – King Penguin group photo

This morning our group went out first to Salisbury Plain. More king penguins than you can poke a stick at, in varying degrees of maturity, eggs, brown fluffy chicks, moulting chicks, and parents. We saw a white penguin but did not get a chance to photograph it, managed a black one on the return to the zodiac. I watched a giant petrel swoop down amongst them, but did not see it leave. I was hoping for a picture of it carting its dinner away. Fur seals of all ages, even mothers with their babies suckling. They make a fair noise if you get too close. The elephant seals are huge, scary even if they don’t move all that fast. We saw a giant petrel nesting with her young. After nearly  2 hours  wandering around the colony, avoiding the seals, we took to the zodiacs and cruised along the beach. There were penguins and seals swimming quite close to the boat. The birds were quite amazing to watch, giant petrels ripping their prey to pieces, and some smaller birds virtually dancing on the water. The wind had picked up for the ride back to the boat, so I was rather pleased to have my custom made balaclava. (Extremely bumpy ride back)

The afternoon at Prion Island. Nesting giant petrels and albatrosses. Saw some courting dances. There was a very friendly young seal who wanted to follow Ewen home. Good close up shot of a giant petrel. Grey and white penguin. (really just juvenile penguins before their final moulting)

TTT SOS – Ushuaia Bound

TTT – SOS

alias Templeton Travel Tales – Spirit of Shackleton

Ms Expedition - home for nearly 3 weeks
Ms Expedition – home for nearly 3 weeks

Thursday 10 January 2013

It has taken over a day to get to Buenos Aires with 3 flights, nearly 4 hours to Auckland, close to 11 hours to Santiago, and another 2 hours to Buenos Aires. All flights were unremarkable, very little turbulence, quiet and the food was of a reasonable standard.

We were looking out for our fellow expeditioner Wendy from Melbourne. There were a couple of candidates. We met a couple from Research who were headed on another cruise. Apparently they had the same reaction the announcement asking if there was a doctor on board 2 hours out from Auckland. Luckily did not have to return to Auckland. We endured another stopover, this one in Santiago. Interesting sandwich for lunch, white cheese, tomato, spinach and green beans.  We were happy to be on our way again albeit a little late for the 2 hour trip to Buenos Aires. The customs form handed out caused a little concern especially the bit about tax on goods totalling over $us 300. Ewen choose the option to plead noncomprehende and fortunately we were never asked for the form when we arrived. The only issue was the reciprocity fee form; apparently we had entered the wrong expiry date in the online form. Eventually escaped the arrivals hall and found our transfer to the hotel.

Buenos Aires was very warm and humid and it was a relief to eventually settle into our room at Hotel Melia. Dinner at the steakhouse nearby was exceptionally good, only wished we had taken a picture of the food; fantastic Angus steak for Ewen and pork fillet for me, both served with grilled vegetables. Excellent sav blanc from the Mendoza region in Argentina.

Friday 11 January

Early start today, 4am for 4.30am pick up for 6.40am flight. Four hours to Ushuaia. In flight breakfast was a tiny pack of savoury shapes, and two different chocolate biscuits washed down with apple juice and a cup of tea. Waiting for our luggage in Ushuaia I caught the eye of the only person I recognised from our earlier flights and correctly deduced it was Wendy from the blog. The Gap Adventure people were well organised with transport and it wasn’t long before we were checking in at the Hotel Albatros. Wendy joined us to explore the sights of Ushuaia. Found several possibilities for dinner, including the Irish Pub. Temperature was about 11deg c and extremely windy and it was good when we eventually reached the refuge of our rooms. (in the dungeon but quiet.)

6pm briefing. We met up with the other expeditioners and Ewen headed out to dinner with 8 women (including me). Pizza and beer.

Saturday 12 January

Tour this morning to the Tierra del Fuego national park. The mountain range rose steeply above the coastal area and quite striking – grey black rock topped in parts with snow. We visited the park office and collected a special stamp in our passports. Also saw sights of Yamani (indigenous people) middens. Vegetation was similar to the beech forests of South Island of NZ. There was evidence of beaver destruction everywhere. Apparently they build dams and consequently the trees drown as they don’t like their roots in the water. We also saw some upland geese and several varieties of orchids ,as well as snow drops, ferns and mistletoe.

Returned to Ushuaia and time was spent looking for a hardware store as Ewen’s you beaut power board plug did not fit the outlets in the hotel. It was Saturday so they weren’t open. Decided to spend our money at the souvenir shop and bought some penguins (black and pink- special stone in Argentina).

Back at the hotel we waited for buses to take us to the boat. We could have walked as it was only 200metres at the most. Quite happy with our room. We have a large window a whole 450 X 750 mm, although they need to clean the outside a bit more often.

Ewen and I went to check out the mud room after dinner (meals are very good) and saw the crew making preparations for the pilot to disembark – a rope ladder tied to the door frame. I scampered upstairs to see if I could get and outside view. Watched the speed boat come along side and the pilot step off our boat onto it.  Hoping to get a copy of Stuart’s photo. He caught the exact moment in time.

Farewell Croatia

Tuesday 25th September

Some-of-the-beautiful-old-buildings-along-the-waterfront-Trogir

We are really pleased with our accommodation here in Trogir. It is just a couple of minutes walk from the main square, away from the night life, it ticks all the boxes, very comfortable and most importantly quiet (double glazing on all windows). I can definitely recommend this one. There is a pomegranate tree just outside our window growing in a stone archway, apart from the drip watering system I’m not sure how it survives.

We thought we might see if there was a day trip to Split today, but that did not eventuate.  We revisited the sites from our walking tour last night to take some photos and climb to the top of the bell tower of the main church; at least we managed to achieve this without the bells ringing. It seems the island is on the flight path for the airport not far from here, and around 10 o’clock in the morning, it seems that every few minutes there was another low flying jet on approach to the airport. There is a maze of laneways off the main square, with lots of little shops and restaurants. The one good thing is that if you do get geographically challenged you soon end up on the road around the island and quickly relocate yourself. We have also found Trogir’s Jaycar as well. Ewen has now completed his souvenir shopping.

It became quite hot and windy just after lunch, so we retreated to the cool of our apartment for a siesta. This was interrupted by a text from the tour group who were organising our trip to the Blue Cave and the island of Vis on Thursday; unfortunately the windy conditions make it too rough to view the cave. We have opted for a trip to Hvar and Brac tomorrow instead. Ewen’s solution to this disappointment was to order a banana split. He is now having his second rest of the day, before we head out for dinner. We have found the perfect place for dinner (you would love it Sue and John) – yes it has purple tablecloths. It is just a pity you aren’t here to join us.

Dinner turned out even better than expected, grilled octopus with grilled vegetables for me and steak for Ewen.

Wednesday 26th September

Sailed-into-the-sunset.

Today’s trip to Hvar and Brac(h) was most enjoyable. There was a strong easterly blowing as we headed from Trogir to Split by speedboat, so it was a fairly rough ride. Our waterproof jackets have not had much use up till now, but were quite effective against the sea spray over the side of the boat. We collected a few more passengers at Split and in another half an hour we arrived at Milna on the island of Brac. Apart from the quaint old buildings, the good coffee and the bakery, what I will remember most about this place was the stunning toilet seat of clear acrylic with floral print – very trendy. (Definitely no photos) The male toilet was not as flash!

More bumpy seas on our way to Hvar, but once inside the harbour the wind had dropped, the clouds had cleared and it became quite hot out in the sun. The local guide was excellent, and provided just enough information to make it interesting without overloading the details. Most notable architectural feature was the shed for repairing galleons in past centuries. Check out the large archway at the end of the building. The equivalent of an aircraft hanger for the big ships of that time. There was another fort to conquer, and the view from top was worth the walk up numerous steps. Like all tourist spots there were numerous shops and stalls selling souvenirs. (lots of lavender and olive oil products)

From here we took a short trip across the bay to one of the Pakleni Islands to enjoy one of the beaches.  A little bit of sandy gravel and plenty of slippery rocks. The water temperature was okay, (not chilly like Lorne), but it still took Ewen some time to take the plunge. We spent about half an hour swimming out to the buoys and back to the “beach”.

Meal times are totally different here. Breakfast seems to be about 10 am, then there is a snack around midday, and lunch happens around 3-4 o’clock. A new experience today – green pea dip/spread – surprisingly tasty, and an amazing fresh tomato soup. The bitter orange and lemon tart was okay too as were the jam crepes.

Our return trip to Trogir was even more invigorating. Forget the microderm abrasion at the beauty salon, I feel like I have been sand blasted with salt spray. Totally saturated and salt encrusted eyebrows. The trip was topped off with a view of the sunset just as we returned to Trogir. All in all a good day, even though it wasn’t the trip we had wanted to do.

Thursday 27th September

Bell-tower-and-church-in-Split

We have been told that the weather here is either Jugo or Bora. This week is definitely Jugo. The day starts of coolish and a little cloud and by midday it is hot and humid with a clear sky, and high chance of sunburn. Our plan was an early start to head to Split for the day. We decided to take the local bus No 37, firstly because it was the next one to depart and secondly to check out how long it would take to get to the airport for tomorrow’s departure. Ewen’s comment, “this bus was built for neither speed nor comfort”; so after an hour or so of rocking and rolling we arrived at the local bus stop in Split. The local bus stop is further from the waterfront and not to be confused with the intercity coach stop near the ferry terminal.

We negotiated a price for a walking tour of the Diocletian Palace scheduled for about 10.30am. This left us with sufficient time to do something totally uncharacteristic for me – indulge in a jam donut for breakfast. The Diocletian Palace was originally built by a local ruler as his retirement home in 3rd century AD. He even built himself a mausoleum so that the locals could worship him when he died. He didn’t take to kindly to the Christians even though his wife and daughter were Christian.  Any person (namely Christians) who did not bow down to him was put to death. It seems ironic that when the area became under Christian control the mausoleum was converted to a catholic church (bell tower added) and the pagan statues disposed of or had their heads removed.

The architecture shows a range of influences from Roman right through to the Hungarians, Venetians and the Austrians. There seemed very little respect for previous buildings over the years with the open forum area built on, and archways chopped off so that another building could fit in the space.

Entertainment today was provided by an a’capella group singing in the dome near the Peristyle. They were particularly good, no doubt enhanced by the acoustics of the dome.

It would seem that the plants around Croatia are extremely hardy. Today we saw caper bushes growing out of the stone work around the palace. Yesterday there were small daisies in crevices on the Hvar fort, and as well as the pomegranate tree just outside our apartment window and the numerous fruiting olive trees by the road side.

We opted for the comfortable ride home in one of the intercity coaches for only additional 3 kuna each and returned to Trogir in just under 45 minutes. The market near the Trogir bus stop has some interesting and very tasty merchandise. Sampled some local cherry brandy; alas no bottle of suitable size to fit in my case.

Now comes the difficult task of packing (under the weight limit) for tomorrow’s flight home and then time to enjoy our final night in Trogir.

Plitvice Lakes

Sunday 23rd September

I don’t think you are meant to sleep in Zadar on Saturday nights. They know how to party long and hard till late and then the street cleaners come through just on day break.

Upper lakes – this colour is for real

Today’s excursion took us far away to the Plitvice Lakes, halfway between Zadar and Zagreb, about 2 hours drive. We found out today that the limestone escarpment here called Velebit extends all the way down to Dubrovnik, but here it is further inland. There is an extensive freeway network and what is most amazing is the 5.75 km tunnel through the mountains to the central area of Croatia.

The national park we visited had series of 16 lakes, numerous waterfalls and board walks. Obviously the lack of rain has had some impact on the water volumes, but the colour and clarity of the water were particularly noticeable. In the shallower lakes there were most unusual orange finned trout. In most of the lakes you could see fallen branches from trees that have been petrified by the high content of calcium in the water. We walked around a couple of the upper lakes and had our packed lunch at the edge of one of them. A 20 minute ferry (all electric) ride took us to the lower lakes and from here we walked to the Velebit Slap (78metres) the highest waterfall in Croatia. Probably the most disconcerting of the walk was the smaller waterfalls flowing under lots of the board walks with many with no side railings. There were a few native cyclamen growing in crevices in the rock face.  After about 4 ½ hours of walking our bus collected us from the other end of the park and headed back to Zadar. We broke the return journey with a meal stop, and checked out a few bears as well.

We are now back in our apartment. It seems rather quiet at present but that could be quite deceiving.

…….. Spoke too soon. Another broken night’s sleep!

 

Monday 24th September

Not in a great hurry this morning as our bus to Trogir didn’t depart until 11am. Breakfasted on whatever left overs we had, apples, shortbread biscuits and apple burek and later joined the locals for coffee in the main square and then Ewen had a bright idea. As we had passed the equivalent of Zadar’s Jaycar on Saturday morning, he decided he needed to purchase a European plug so that he could make up his own power board for future trips to ARDF championships. (I should be used to this by now.)

It was only a short trip today (just under 3 hours). The road followed the coast line most of the way, so on our right the views of the coast were good and helped pass the time. While on the left, there were a number of churches built on the peaks of the Velebit escarpment.  We had no trouble finding our accommodation at Trogir, another rectangular grid of streets. We have enjoyed some of the local cuisine and polished off the remainder of our Serbian white wine.

The local tour guide told us that Trogir has had 25 centuries of continuous habitation, from pre Roman times in 500 BC. There was so much information it is a shame I can’t remember it. The buildings are incredible, not only in design, but the fact they have stood for so many years.