Sunday, 23 November 2008

Inland to Ephesues ..... November 2008

10-12 November 2008

I'm off home to Auckland for a month to help Mum and Dad shift from their home of 27 years to a lovely new apartment in a brand new retirement village complex. My Emirates flights are booked from Istanbul so we decided to do a little sightseeing up to Epheseus, then for Mark to drop me at Izmir Airport for a flight to Istanbul.It's the first time we were spending such a length of time apart so trying to think of what I need to take and what he needs to keep was quite a mission.

Finally bags were packed and we collected our hire car and headed north to Kusadasi. We had intended to stay the night here then head on to Epheseus the following morning but it was a big busy port town and didn't seem to hold much appeal from what we saw, so continued on a short distance to Selcuk.

We stayed in a great little hotel in the centre of town and the 60Lira room rate included a great breakfast, a lovely rooftop lounging area with free internet and a lovely big fire (well it's winter now) and a return transfer to the nearby Epheseus ruins.We went out for a walk, tucked up in more clothes than we had worn for years, and wandered around the cute little old town area of Selcuk, with ancient ruins and a huge old aquaduct dominating the city square. This whole area boasts more ruins per square mile than anywhere else in the Med, and they do have plenty.

The following morning we got our transfer to the ruins around 10am which in hindsight was a big mistake, we should have waited and gone later, just look at those crowds in the photo. We found out later there were 3 Cruise ships in Izmir and Kusadasi and all the passengers were at Epheseus for their morning sightseeing tour, busy busy busy. So we just walked off the beaten track and waited and waited until the bulk of the tour groups had moved on and then enjoyed this amazing old city in a little more peace and quiet. I came here years ago when backpacking around Europe and remember them as being outstanding, since then we have seen many a ruin, and somethimes feel "ruined out", but these truly are worth it and some of the building structures are still in very good repair. We spent over 3 hours there then got our transfer back and went into town for my last pide "Turkish pizza" for a while.

Mark dropped me at the airport early as we wanted him to get started on the 300km trip back to Marmaris while it was still light, as it turned out it was a very good thing I was early. I was too early to check in for my flight so waited a while until a counter opened. My e-ticket was checked, my credit card checked and my passport was also asked for, strange I thought this is only a domestic flight, but thank heavens they checked it.
We have a problem. Problem? what problem I ask, my passport is valid, oh dear this is not my passport, this is Marks passport, we certainly do have a problem!!!!! After a very frantic phonecall, which thankfully Mark heard while driving he confirmed he did have my passport, all I had to do was sit and wait, and wait. Unfortunately he was already back on the toll motorway, next exit 30kilometres in peak hour traffic. Izmir is home to 2.2million people, we are not talking small town provincal airport here. But if there is one thing Mark loves, that is a challenge and he got back to me waiting on the footpath, we did a superquick exchange of passports and final goodbyes. I tore back in, ofcourse having to do all the security checks again, ran to the closed checkin who were waiting for me, got told Gate 4, Run and run I did, last onboard, door closed and we had pushback 10 minutes early!!!! and I think sailing is stressful.

The thought of missing my domestic flight, then the flight to Dubai, then onto Melbourne and Auckland was just dreadful, how we ever switched passports I have no idea, I also had my EU passport which was mine (not Marks), but would have never got out of Turkey on it as my entry stamp was in my NZ passport, thank heavens Mark thought to take the other (my)passport with him - my hero, hate to think how we would have solved it all otherwise. Anyway, no harm done just a few more grey hairs. So now its the Admiral in Auckland for a month and the Skipper unsupervised in Marmaris, mmmmmmm.
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Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Cruisin, Boozin' and Snoozin' 2008

Tug of war in the Andaman Islands
 It's 51 weeks since we untied Balvenie from her berth in Rebak Marina, Langkawi, Malaysia. Our goal for the season was Turkey and we have achieved it. We knew it was going to be a big year, with many miles to cover, some long passages to undertake, possible "pirate encounters", and the infamous Red Sea. What we totally underestimated was just how totally amazing it would be, we are both very well travelled but what we have seen and done this year has left us in awe.

After leaving Thailand we started in the Andaman Islands, governed by India and still following English traditions of the 1960's. You can not be in a rush here, the sooner you except this the more you will enjoy it. This is an island group incorporated with the Nicobar Islands. The Nicobar's are still off limits to any outsiders (including local Indians), the indigenous population roam the islands, defending them proudly and attacking any one that comes too close with bow and arrows. There are also islands within the Andaman group that are off limits, this is truly an outpost, sitting alone in the Bay of Bengal.

From here we were blown into the harbour at Galle in Sri Lanka. The unplanned stops are often the best and we had a great stay in Sri Lanka and managed to avoid the Tamal Tiger bomb blasts as we toured inland over Independence Weekend. This is a beautiful lush fertile country, but inland it is being torn apart by the fighting and on the coast they are still desperately trying to recover from the immense damage done in the 2005 Tsunami. They have a long road to recovery, unifying and rebuilding their country.
Colourful women of Eritrea
Onwards to the Maldives, hundreds of little atolls in the vast Indian Ocean, our time allowed just the one stop before moving on and completing the big ocean passages. Oman, well we had no idea what this part of the world would be like, maybe sand dunes and Bedouin nomads but neither were spotted, just rocks rocks and more rocks and many a camel! Oman is rich with oil wealth, new roads, latest design European cars and oh so dry. They may have oil, but they have no rainfall and the very rocky desert surely replicates a lunar landscape.

Next we moved along to Yemen and the southern Red Sea countries. This was a journey that took us back in time to the civilisations that were the founders of mankind. In Yemen, Eritrea and Sudan, time has stood still - they are truly amazing places and can not be compared to anything we have seen before. They take your breath away, and have left us with such deep lasting memories, they are a world apart and very special places. They are all so dreadfully poor, but they are survivors, they have been their since time began and life goes on regardless.

The men of Yemen
 Egypt was a huge challenge, the Egyptians being the most difficult race to deal with we have encountered. The history is phenomenal and we are pleased we have "been there - done that", would we return? NO! As someone recently said to me about Egypt "everything there is for dead people" and this is true. It is all about the tombs, the afterlife, and the treasures taken to the afterlife. Egypt may once have ruled much of civilisation and lead the way in many things but it seems it has never moved on.

And then we were in the Med, what an enormous relief and a huge sense of achievement. Greek Cyprus was a breath of fresh air after months in strict Muslim countries, it was great to feel normal again. It is a lovely island, lacking unfortunately in safe harbours so our time there was limited. Then we were just 180miles away from Turkey, we arrived 25 June and have enjoyed every day since cruising the magical southern coastline and a few of the Greek Dodecanese Islands.
Sudanese women
Has it been worth it? - absolutely! Obviously there is much publicity about the continued piracy attacks in the Southern Gulf of Aden, and most countries we visited had government warnings issued for travellers not to visit them. We never once felt threatened or unsafe, either at sea or on the land. Words really can't describe the truly amazing year we have had.

Countries visited - 13
Nautical miles travelled - 6743 of which 3263 were offshore
Nights at sea - 33
Nights tied up in Marinas or town quays - 90
Different Anchorages visited - 93 (several nights at some and also returns to some)
Nights spent off the boat touring - 13
Strongest winds - 38knots at anchor in Ras Banas, Egypt
Most miles covered in a day - 165m enroute to Oman from the Maldives
Fastest speed - 8.6knots, ironically on our last day cruising coming towards Marmaris!
Sleepless nights - 2 at sea Andamans to Sri Lanka with squalls, 1 in Greece and 3 in Turkey with thunderstorms late in the season and boats around us dragging
Rainy days - 1 (while on land travel to Asmara!). This should be rainy hours of which there are about 5 hours. A couple during squalls Andamans - Sri Lanka, 1 hour upon arrival in Maldives, and a couple of hours in recent weeks at night in Turkey
Cloudy days - 3 in Massawa while passing through the convergence zone, 1 in Turkey mid October
Sunny days - Every other day and long may it continue, currently 10.30am at 26c in Marmaris!!!!!
How much did it cost - When we were planning on going cruising it was so hard to find out how much people were spending, as I was told by one long term cruiser you will spend what you can afford which is very true. During these 51 weeks we spent an average of just under NZ$600 per week. This includes everything except for the cosmetic work we had done in Thailand (new galley bench, sail cover, fibreglass repairs to hull). I have also included all the food and alcohol provisions purchased in Langkawi before our departure from there Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 2 November 2008

The Season ends ... Oct 2008

25-31 Oct 2008

***Looking down from the citadel ruins into Bozuk Buku, Balvenie lies at the top of the bay***Mark is King of the Castle at the excellent ruins at Bozuk Buku***

We left Khalki with 2 reefs in the main and the headsail reefed and poked our nose out and had an excellent sail with 20knots on the beam headed northeast towards the southern coast of Symi. Plan A for the day was to anchor in Pedhi for the night and we made great time up in solid winds until we closed in on Symi. The winds died, the seas calmed down, the reefs were taken out and we pottered along for awhile. When we got into Symi straight it all livened up again to keep us on our toes with up to 25knots on a very tight reach, full sail up in flat water. Balvenie and skipper were very much enjoying stretching their legs, the admiral, well she wasn't minding it too much either!! We decided that Plan A may just have to wait another day and we thought the anchorage in Pedhi might be just too gusty with these winds so we bore away and had a great beam reach sail across to Bozburun, always nice to return to a familiar anchorage after a day at sea. We met up with English friends Jo and Dennis onboard Aurora, and also Peter and Brigette onboard White Rose, great to see some familiar faces again. We had a couple of nights in Bozburun while the winds kept blowing, then had a pleasant sail back across to Symi for a night to alcohol, pork and fuel up for winter.

Our cruising season was drawing to its end. If we were in New Zealand with this weather we would never be heading for a marina, the days are still brilliant with blue skies, still no less than 18c overnight and around 25c during the day and even the admiral has been in swimming again (by choice!!!), but we are constantly watching the weather now and everyone says we have had a good October, the storms will come soon.

So we say goodbye to Greece for the year and head from Symi back across to the bottom of the Datca Peninsular and have a very gentle sail downwind across to Bozuk Buku, a beautiful big sheltered bay overlooked by the ruins of an impressive citadel, it was a fitting site for our last night at anchor for 2008. We enjoyed a big walk and climb through the ruins the following morning and got in one last swim for the season before we up-anchored and had another very unpredictable sail with winds from all directions and from 5-25knots, keeping us on our toes until the end!! We are now at Netsel Marina in Marmaris, home until mid April 2009.

Anchorage info:
Bozburun and Pedhi same as before.
Bozuk Buku 36 34.44N 28 00.65E 12m swinging, three restaurant docks stern tie with bow lines, but plenty of room for several boats to swing at anchor also. No wifi signals, impressive citadel ruins ashore to explore

Fuel info for Symi Island - you can side tie up to the dock in Pedhi (rough concrete dock, nasty big black tires for fenders) and walk up to the fuel station on the road that heads for the hill (about 5 minutes walk). They have a little tanker truck and will come to the dock. Cost was 1.29Euro per litre. Credit card accepted. They are closed between 1pm and 4.30pm. They had run out of diesel when we were there so the other option is you can go round to Symi town and as you enter the harbour on the left is the fuel station and dock, nice clean big orange fenders and they throw you mooring lines, didn't look very deep by wall but ok for us, water is just so clear is looks shallower. Cost was 1.15Euro per litre (much better), credit card accepted. Only negative about here is if a ferry comes in while you are tied up, the wake is dreadful as they go by.
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