The Lismore Larrikin

Dawn broke cool, grey and typically Scottish as this intrepid explorer upped sticks from Glasgow, jumped on a bus and headed out for the wild west coast. Destination: Oban, which is apparently Scotland’s seafood capital and one could definitely believe it given the numerous small vans selling mussels, fish, clams and the like. But before arriving, I was treated to a wonderfully scenic bus ride complete with brooding castles, picturesque heaths & glens and a snaking passage alongside the bonny banks of Loch Lomond. It’s one of those places that seems to have jumped right out of the pages of a book: lush, green and entrancingly medieval.

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Rugged, foreboding and medieval: The Hebrides

I didn’t ever expect to say this, but it was alarmingly comforting to feel the floor rolling gently beneath my feet and stifle the urge to yell “CONTACT” at every buoy I saw as the Lismore ferry steamed slowly through the islands of the Inner Hebrides. Once again, it was the Scottish Isles down to a tee, with rolling green hills (punctuated now and then by a crumbling castle or stone ruin) falling gently into the still grey waters. I had a distinct feeling that this could be an incredibly rugged, bleak and miserable place – it’s a feeling that sets off a faint tingling in my adventure glands. Meeting my Workaway host, Jennifer for the first time was an odd experience – somewhere halfway between an internet date and a job interview but as we bumped along the rustic roads, Jenny overcame her initial trepidation at this strange bearded Australian treefrog and we pretty quickly warmed to each other’s company.

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Jennifer, Tilly and Molly with the rare bearded green Australian tree-frog

It would prove to be the ideal start to my Workaway career – the quietly outspoken Jennifer provided no end of interesting dinner-table discussions (from apiculture to politics and back again) and living legends/historical treasures Anne and Duncan welcomed me with gruff, grandparently hospitality and generosity. During my all-too-brief two week stay, we also had cameo performances from Jean & Davey (a pair of genuine larrikins from Fife who have a caravan permanently rusted in place on Duncan’s farm), Mary (the self-harming cat) and a contingent from Jennifer’s family (Steph, Nevin, Tilly and Molly). My first meeting with Jean & Davey was a corker. On the first day of work, 4pm rolls around and Duncan ushers me into a little caravan where I’m greeted with a warm, unintelligibly fast welcome and before I know it I’m sat down with a rug on my lap, whiskey in hand and the a pot of tea is on the boil. Our 10-minute break cantered on for more than an hour fuelled by Davey’s manic stories and sense of humour and Jean’s amusingly half-hearted attempts to control him. I tried hard to keep a level head as I rapidly discovered that the whiskey glasses in that caravan are bottomless (at least until the bottle runs out) and Davey plied me with refills whenever he spied a gap between liquid and the top of the glass. This made it all the more absurdly amusing when Jean showed me her latest knitting project for the grandkids: a pair of sloths. God only knows what kind of 7 year old that has the choice of any knitted animal on the planet (tigers, horses, elephants etc) requests a sloth of all things. What’s even more incredible is that there exists a pattern for it: knitted sloth. But I’ll readily admit that the finished product was pretty spot on – looked a bit like a womble.

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A bumper crop of rhubarb

Somewhat red-nosed and happy I followed Duncan back to the house where we called it a day and (I think) I made it through the first-day grill without making too much of a fool of myself. From then on, it was all rosy. The work was generally of the simple variety, which meant that I more or less spent five hours a day contemplating all the big issues of our generation whilst I weeded, mended, strimmed or shifted dirt around. For example, I quickly formulated two postulations about gardening. The first is that a weed is a weed no matter where you are in the world (ie they all have a similarly scraggly appearance and roots that aren’t conducive to being yanked out in one piece) and that weeding is truly a constant losing battle because weeds always have far more will to live and thrive than you have will to pull them out. I became intimately acquainted with Scotland’s friendliest animal, the midge – these critters are almost invisible to the naked eye, swarm in their hundreds and have a bit that is similar to that of a mosquito. If you’re not careful, you’ll wind up with itchy red lumps in every nook and cranny – without doubt the peskiest creature I’ve had the misfortune of encountering.

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Getting some ‘help’ from Mary

My daily meditations were interrupted now and then by the call to a meal (all were completely delicious, eagerly anticipated and a contributor to my rapidly ballooning weight) and in between, I spent spare hours engaged in various activities. Fell running barefoot through the lush green fields was a standout – the absolute joy of movement & pure contact with the natural environment more than compensated for treading on a few prickles and exacerbating a persistent foot injury. A few days after arriving, I was presented with two completely unexpected experiences. The first was at breakfast when Duncan announced that we would be repairing the road. Turns out ‘repairing the road’ means transporting ourselves back to the 1920s: Duncan would claw down some shale from a rock wall with his digger, we loaded the chunks onto the back of a ute by hand, whacked them with a hammer until they broke down into biscuit sized pieces and then shovelled them into the potholes in the road. Duncan (who has lived under the same roof on Lismore his entire life) built the road by hand in the 1940s, has been repairing it the same way ever since and was going toe-to-toe with me all day. He’s 90 years old.

I’ll forever regret not taking a photograph with him, Anne, Jean and Davey.

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Modern day John Henry

The second surprise came later on that evening when I was lucky enough to attend a rehearsal of the Lismore Community Choir. For an island with a population of about 200, there is an incredible wealth of musical talent – it was an absolute treat to have a sing with them all. Any preconceptions I had of an enthusiastic but slightly misguided gang of happy clappers singing mediocre arrangements of Beatles tunes were blown away completely as we launched into a gorgeous sacred number (Weep My Eyes), a lively little gaelic ditty, some baroque SATB and the beautiful folk song “The Parting Glass.” It was a magic day – ticking off a bucket list job (breaking rocks for a living like John Henry) and thoroughly scratching a musical itch.

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Two strong helpers

So it continued for two wonderful weeks – it would have been a special time for me if it hadn’t been for the appearance of 3 mysterious travellers who turned a special time into a downright phe-no-menal and unforgettable snippet of my life. What happened, who were these handsome & rugged characters, where did they take me and what larks did we get up to together?? Just like all series (Harry Potter, Game of Thrones etc) you’ll have to wait until the next instalment to find out. Stay tuned!

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One evening (just one) on Lismore. Phe-no-menal!

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Gallivanting in Glasgow

As I mentioned in a previous post, there’s a first time for everything – here’s one that I definitely never thought I’d have… fielding a request for an entry into Doyle’s Gallivanting. So here’s a few big ups to old mate Mad Mon and an account of my two weeks in the Wild West (of Scotland).

Wow! Talk about a pilgrimage – 13 hour bus ride from London to Glasgow, 5 hr bus ride from Glasgow to Oban and a 1 hour ferry from Oban to the Isle of Lismore. Thank goodness for my new found ability to sleep anywhere on anything, an exhausting few days in London, some gorgeous English scenery and a 2 day layover in Glasgow. Why bother with buses? Because of the UK’s ludicrously priced trains of course, which would have set me back some 200 quid for the journey.

Feeling right at home on Perth St

Feeling right at home on Perth St

The digs in Glasgow were conveniently located at the end of the main drag (Buchanan St) and were a mix of hotel and hostel. Confoundingly, the company had managed to combine the worst of both worlds. Creaky bunk beds, cramped dorm rooms with dubiously stained sheets, no kitchen or common room facilities and a pretty sterile sort of atmosphere. But when it’s the cheapest place in town, one tends to grin and bear it – which is exactly what my 3 roommates (a Yank coming to the end of a semester abroad and two Fritz travelling duo around the UK) and I did. The little electric kettle (situated on the floor) was worked overtime and we shared some food, some beverages and a few stories before they all took off the next day leaving me with a blissfully empty room (sleeping with less than 8 people in the same room for the first time in 3 months – what luxury).

It’s not every day that one happens to find oneself in Glasgow, so despite a good measure of weariness, I strapped on the shoes, bolted down some 2-minute noodles and stepped out in search of the Ben Nevis. Shuffling in past the crowded front door, I was smacked in the face by the sight of a towering wall of whiskey and the furious fiddling of some of the country’s hottest tune musicians in the middle of a spanking session. Well worth the 20 minute walk to get there and bask in a bit of Scottishness.

Lunchtime views: Glasgow Cathedral viewed from the top of a mausoleum

Lunchtime views: Glasgow Cathedral viewed from the top of a mausoleum

Day 2 and morning broke on the aforementioned empty dorm room, so I wasted no time in ploughing through a quick workout and jumping out the door. Today’s mission: do Glasgow in 13 hours. This city has a reputation for being a bit of a shopping destination (at least within the UK) so I spent a good couple of hours combing the streets looking like a shady burglar and exercising some serious self control whilst I window-shopped. There were just a few items on the shopping list – a set of waterproof trousers for working, a Buff headband for looking buff and staying warm and a knife/fork/spoon set that I’ve been coveting ever since attempting to eat yoghurt with my hands (great for moisturising, but never again).

To further strain the purchase impulse inhibitions, there was a market on Sauchiehall St that was throwing out some seriously delicious sights and smells – certainly a step up from my packet of vegetables and an apple that I’d packed for myself in order to bandage my rapidly bleeding wallet. I beat a hasty retreat in the direction of Glasgow’s cathedral – a truly spectacular building of soaring dark grey stone. Upon my initial rounds of St Mungo’s, I noticed a small side door opening onto what looked like a side-chapel – it looked a bit forbidden, cosy and ancient, which is exactly the kind of space that appeals to my adventurous side. I’ll always regret saving it for later because by the time later rolled around, the door was securely locked. Bummer! This served to reinforce my suspicion that the public view of a cathedral is just the tip of the belltower – I always get the feeling that there are endless mezzanines, staircases, secret rooms, chapels, catacombs, towers and crypts that the plebs can’t gain access to. It’s fair to say that I’m dead set fascinated by them (I’m not ashamed to admit that I skipped a trip to Disneyland in favour of a cathedral adventure whilst in Paris some years ago).

A beautiful mausoleum that would later become my picnic hangout

A beautiful mausoleum that would later become my picnic hangout

Having thoroughly explored every publically explorable nook and cranny, I headed out the back toward an equally interesting site: the Glasgow Necropolis. Which inspired me to research the difference between a necropolis and a cemetery (simply put, the former is larger, more ancient and generally more elaborate). It certainly lived up to all three criteria and I spent a very pleasant hour strolling through the green hills, grey headstones and immaculate mausoleums of Glasgow’s lords and ladies. I’m not much of one for superstition, so I stopped for lunch sitting atop Mr George MacDonald’s (a merchant, died 1842) tomb overlooking the cathedral and Glasgow’s sprawl.

With time rapidly marching on, I took off down Buchanan St toward the river Clyde and an attraction that had caught my eye on Tripadvisor – the good ship Glenlee. It’s a fair step to the maritime museum and sadly it was closed by the time I arrived, but the brisk walk in the fresh air along the foreshore was worth the effort and I was still able to view the Glenlee up close from the pier. She must have been quite a sight when fully rigged – certainly she was a formidable performer with several circumnavigations and roundings of The Capes (Horn and Good Hope) to her name. It’s sad to think that such a proud ship-building tradition fell by the wayside as a victim of cheaper labour and increased restrictions, but such is the way of the modern world. I find it a bit funny that prior to April of this year, I had only a passing interest in all things nautical – now having been aboard a tall ship for 50 days, I’m going out of my way to visit an old decommissioned boat!

A legend of the seas... with the Glenlee in the background

A legend of the seas… with the Glenlee in the background

Having scratched my nautical itch for the moment, I turned my sights northward toward Glasgow’s famous, edgy and arty West End. It was certainly reminiscent of Camden (of London), Brunswick St (of Melbourne), Beaufort St (of Perth) and other such areas and it was a relief to stumble into a cosy café for a cup of tea and a respite for my weary legs. Chatting away to the (pretty fair) lassies behind the counter, we were mutually amused to discover that one of them was a Western Australian – from Albany of all places! Typical travelling Aussies, I guess.

With daylight slowly fading (it’s a dead set stitch up that it only gets dark around 11pm up here), I decided to take a detour past Glasgow University and through the adjacent Kelvingrove Park. I was well satisfied with the choice – the university sports some stunning architecture, which might be expected from the 4th oldest university in the world. Kelvingrove Park was similarly enchanting in a peaceful, gardenish way.

Well met, Glasgow University

Well met, Glasgow University

Passing through the inner city nightlife districts provided a glimpse into the early stages of a Friday night in Scotland’s party town, but your intrepid hero was in no mood for any shenanigans after a big day on the streets. Besides, with an Aussie dollar this weak, social outings have been put on the backburner for the moment so I retired to my creaky bunk well satisfied with the day’s explorations.

Back on board the bus next morning, I was gazing listlessly out the window when a sign went flying past “Loch Lomond” (and bonny were her banks indeed) making me truly feel as though I’d arrived in Scotland. At length, the bus wheezed into the quaint coastal town of Oban, where the air is salty and the seafood is sold in huge portions by wee small vans that line the quay.

I stepped aboard the ferry and breathed a huge sigh of relief to feel the floor rolling gently beneath my feet – yet another unexpected reminder of how my Young Endeavour voyage has commandeered a big part of my soul. The ferry trip amidst the inner western Scottish isles was an absolute treat – sunlight breaking through the clouds to dance across the water and illuminate green island hillsides, glassy water and a pair of Germans who had just conquered the West Highland Way to share stories with. I stepped off the boat with a cheery good day to the ferrymen, breathed in the cool, fresh air and strode onto the Isle of Lismore and into my next adventure.

share stories with. I stepped off the boat with a cheery good day to the ferrymen, breathed in the cool, fresh air and strode onto the Isle of Lismore and into my next adventure.

Dabbling in Devon, Paddling in Portscatho

Well folks, there’s a first time for everything. Unfortunately, this is one first that I’d rather not have experienced: missing a flight. The 4.5 hour drive up from Portscatho wound up as a 6.5 hour marathon and all of our best laid plans were foiled. On a positive note, I’m bunkering down in the airport for the night and it means that I’ll be able to get a little bit of writing done at long last.

Wrists are filling up with trinkets & looking mighty seamanlike

Wrists are filling up with trinkets & looking mighty seamanlike

And I wouldn’t change the situation for the world because it meant that I was able to get a couple of days knocking around with a top mate – H.M. “Digs” Denning – and her swell family down in Portscatho, a nice part of the world. It’s no hyperbole to say that my time at the Denning household was right up there with the most relaxing and enjoyable moments of my entire trip so far. The south-west of England truly surprised me in all aspects (except perhaps the predictably dreary weather) and the lush green woods and fields were the perfect antidote to almost a month at sea. Doyle’s cold-water swimming exploits continued with an early morning swim accompanied by Digs and Jennifer (mother of Digs) – who both proved to be women of steel in the chilly Atlantic Ocean. Swimming out to the pontoon triggered fond memories of Mandurah where a boogie board was the only way to traverse the vast expanse of Indian Ocean way back in the early days with the cousins.

Dinner party with some of the regulars...

Dinner party with some of the scallywags (Martin, Tilly, Claire & Josh)

There were mixed emotions the day before upon departure from the good ship Excelsior. As taxing as the voyage was and despite some significant personality clashes aboard, it’s hard to spend 11 days aboard a cramped traditional sailing vessel without forming a certain kind of respect and mutual affection for the other souls on board. Fundamentally, Diggsy and I were glad to depart the claustrophobic confines of the ship but I certainly came to enjoy my time down in the galley with Deidre (the diesel range) and to appreciate the different characters on the voyage.

Digs stitches up Doyle yet again - capturing him deep in contemplation of a very interesting paragraph....

Digs stitches up Doyle yet again – capturing him deep in contemplation of a very interesting paragraph….

In any case, we whipped through the changeover cleaning, saw off the charter guests and made our farewells to Jelly, Gav, Toni and Brixham before taking the bus and train down toward St Austens where the amiable Jennifer was waiting in the trusty Fiat Panda. It was a gorgeous drive through tall, ancient hedgerows, rolling fields and twisting tree tunnels – complete with a very English blanket of low cloud and misty rain. The Denning family beach house is a stunningly renovated old fisherman’s apartment and a good many cups of tea were put away on the window seat overlooking the bay.

What a gorgeous view off the cliff, out over the stunning seaside and... oh, hang on...

What a gorgeous view off the cliff, out over the stunning seaside and… oh, hang on…

In between tea and coffee breaks, we had a grand old time in a full house – complete with the Denning family (Jennifer, Nick, Digs and Claire), two friends (John and Hillary), Claire’s mate (Tilly) and yours truly. There were croissants for breakfast, a dinner party (with celebrity chef “Jamie” Doyle), a trip to Truro, stunning views from the clifftop point, and a bit of much needed R&R for two weary sailors.

There's a familiar sight... although I've never seen it in the flesh before

There’s a familiar sight… although I’ve never seen it in the flesh before

Then, of course, came the increasingly frantic drive up to the airport – two distinct highlights were Digs’ fine driving and even better company and a drive-by of Stonehenge, which is every bit as mysterious and impressive as the stories suggest.

Cornish pasties in Cornwall!

Cornish pasties in Cornwall!

So there you have it, folks – the post-cheffery report. As always, it’s sad to leave behind some terrific friends but the adventure continues – onwards to Provence for a month or two. See you in the land of wine, cheese and lavender!

Chef Doyle’s Floating Festival

“Go and work as the cook aboard a traditional sailing vessel,” they said. “It’ll be fun and you’ll get to go to the sea shanty festival in Paimpol!” they said. After a day and a half, I’d just about broken and was making plans to grab my bags and escape as soon as we hit France.

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From scruffbag...

From scruffbag to chef

Was it the frantic resupply day where I was greeted with a colossal oversupply of food, a 10-minute walk to and from the office where the food was delivered and the pouring rain that we had to trudge through in order to transport victuals to the ship? Or perhaps the thinly veiled disappointment of the captain and captain’s advisor as they watched me struggle to store all the food (offering no assistance whatsoever) in the tiny fridge/freezer and storage lockers and quite obviously thought they’d landed themselves with a woefully inadequate cook? Maybe it was arriving to find the galley in utter disarray and having to wade through the mess in order to plate up an arrival meal for the charter guests? Or the stifling confines of the galley – a tiny space dominated by a hot diesel range with just enough room for one person to stand comfortably? The grey water bag that needed to be hand pumped after every 10 litres that went down the sink and that released an unpleasant odour with each pump? Or the constant call for cups of tea from all and sundry (particularly the skippers) – seemingly whenever I managed to snag 10 minutes for a nap in the mess or when things were really getting hectic in meal preparations.

Escaping the galley chains! Thanks to Jelly for the snap

Escaping the galley chains! Thanks to Jelly for the snap

Ultimately, it was bloody hard yakka – generally around 16 hot, sweaty, frantic hours slaving over the stove for the first few days. To put it into perspective, I was drinking somewhere in the region of 10 -12 litres of water each day… and not having to go to the toilet much because it was all pouring out of me in sweat! I was constantly terrified that one of my dishes would misfire completely and I’d be left with a hungry, unhappy crew that might be tempted to bung me into the pot in order to atone for an inedible meal.

I missed home, I missed my family and I missed my mates but somehow I managed to make it to Paimpol without poisoning anyone – even keeping the vegetarians on board reasonably happy.

Stunning French coastline

Stunning French coastline

Those first few days were a complete blur – cook, eat, sleep, repeat and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I was able to venture up on deck to take in the view. Thank heavens for Diggs (my incredible, turbo-charged, gorgeous, ray of sunshine mate from Leader) who consistently came through with a helping hand just when the tide of dishes was threatening to overwhelm me or poking her head down the hatch to make sure I didn’t miss a beautiful panorama of the Channel Islands or the French coastline.

The Paimpol pirates

The Paimpol pirates

Working in the galley allowed me to get a really interesting perspective on the guests aboard because I spent a lot of time pottering away whilst they ate or relaxed in the adjoining mess. The roll call for the 11-day voyage included:

Tony (the skipper – a salty fisherman who has skippered every single Brixham trawler that still sails the seas based out of England. Strong white tea, 2 sugars).

Gav (the incumbent skipper – on holiday for this voyage and making the most of it by doing very little work of any description. Simply loves the sea and sailing – a decent bloke. Strong white coffee in the morning/strong white tea at all other times).

Jelly (the first mate. Stunningly interesting individual who wrote the textbook on social media as a teenager, spent a few years as a social media and marketing consultant for some of the biggest firms on the planet, got sick of it and now lives on a boat and earns a living working on sailing vessels and doing private consultancy work. Earl grey, white, no sugar – she’s sweet enough).

Helen-Mary “Digs” Denning (the bosun. Awarded most-nicknames-on-board including “Duracell” by some. 20 years old, super competent hands-on sailor and a great friend to boot. Will no doubt be involved in a renaissance of alternative schooling methods in the near future. White tea, white coffee, always accepted with a cheeky grin).

Jacquie (Jersey heritage – a primary school teacher on the verge of a breakthrough as a young adult novelist. I’d have struggled without her calm wisdom and help in the kitchen. White coffee in the morning).

Maria and Chris (primary school teacher and biochemical doctor respectively. Both vegetarian with a super sense of humour – sharing the honeymoon suite 2-berth and sailing to Paimpol for their wedding anniversary. A breath of fresh air in the long galley hours. White coffee and tea for both).

Rob (yet another teacher. A genuinely top bloke – plays cricket and loves to rub in an English Ashes victory. Black tea and coffee to match his black heart!)

Spencer (Englishman living in Stuttgart. A delightful personality, but a liability up on deck. Made a name for himself on board by prematurely untying dangerous working lines and letting go of loose halyards. White tea).

Chris (a sea shanty tragic. Loves a language, a poem, a tune and a yarn and plays the squeezebox. Retired globetrotter – his work took him to the Middle-East for an extended period. White tea, occasionally coffee).

Sylvia (a chemical engineer with a talent for getting in the way. Helped out a lot in the galley and enjoyed herself despite her constant whingeing. White tea).

Tim (hard of hearing, suspiciously deep tan. The brownest Englishman I’ve ever met. White tea or white instant coffee).

Graham (a gentle soul. Grew up in Singapore, has been sailing for pleasure ever since the age of 14. Wins the award for “most roped in individual” because he was often lurking around the galley when jobs needed doing. White tea).

Davey (a seasoned scallywag who lets his hair down on sailing trips once a year. Wicked sense of humour. Constantly on the prowl for the local birdlife. The resident fruitbat – was caught pinching peaches in the early days of the trip. White tea)

Paul (the joker in the pack. Squeezebox player, always ready with a witty remark or a hearty laugh. White tea).

Peter (classic car mechanic. Has worked on just about every classic car you can imagine but drives a battered old Fiat 500. Taking off to see his youngest daughter married a week after the voyage finished. White tea, white coffee).

Stopping off in a sheltered Guernsey bay and up a small French river on the way to the festival provided some incredible highlights in the first two days of the voyage. It was a bit of a reward to be up before the rest of the crew and bask in the early morning atmosphere before getting stuck into the breakfast service. There were some sights that couldn’t be captured properly with a camera – the rugged coastal cliffs and caves of Guernsey and the woodlands and quaint houses lining the river in Brittany. What an absolute gee up – and we hadn’t even reached the festival yet! I took particular delight in a few late night and early morning loo-with-a-views off the stern of the ship and into the water. There’s no better tonic to a frantic day in the galley than to relieve oneself into a French river whilst watching a blanket of stars twinkling away overhead.

Mayhem in the harbour - kudos to Cap'n Toni for navigating it safely. Thanks to Jelly for the photo

Mayhem in the harbour – kudos to Cap’n Toni for navigating it safely. Thanks to Jelly for the photo

Eventually, we made it to Paimpol and into the locked harbour – I heard stories that the entry was particularly stressful due to the vast number of boats all jostling for position and the double gated harbour, which secures a constant water level despite the raging tides that flow in and out by tens of metres a few times a day. One luckless captain managed to snap the bowsprit off another boat after an unintentional bout of boat-jousting.

And then it was on with the festival – starting with an almighty bang when the crew of the boat berthed on our port side transported a full DJ system onto their decks and proceeded to launch into an enormous dance party. It had to be halted several times because their deck was visibly bouncing and flexing under the weight of 40 or so vigorous dancers. It raged on until about 4am – not bad considering the festival hadn’t even officially begun!

Monsieur Doyle: Early morning patisserie run

Monsieur Doyle: Early morning patisserie run

So, from Saturday until Monday the routine was established: up early in the morning to rustle up croissants and other delicacies for breakfast, breakfast service, wandering the festival for most of the day and then back down the hatch to prepare a meal for the hungry crew. After dinner it was party time and some memorable times were had including sloshing barefoot in the mud to the sounds of Orange Blossom (an eclectic French world-music/beats band), having the party boat on our port side shut down by Mr Plod when residents started complaining about the ruckus, sharing a drink or three with the crazy sailors aboard the other vessels and cutting the rug listening to a legend of reggae on the final evening. Sleep was certainly not a priority!

Mud dancing!

Mud dancing!

During the days, it was great fun to stroll the festival grounds taking in the sights, the stalls, the smells and the harbour teeming with sailing ships of just about every shape and size. Even better was the opportunity to escape the madness and stroll the cobblestoned streets of the old town to do some window-shopping and sit quietly with a coffee and a crepe, watching the world go by. A tool shop with a vast collection of vintage sailing knives was the most tempting store that I came across. I took the opportunity to visit some of the local chandleries and restock on my dwindling supply of line and shackles from a rainbow of patterns and colours.

Sights and sounds of the festival

Sights and sounds of the festival – thanks to Jelly for the photo again

It was a great relief that most of the passengers were keen to sample the local cuisine, meaning that I had two dinners and most lunches off work! It also allowed me some time to take a much-needed inventory and figure out exactly what I had and what needed to be used up in the near future.

Doyle's Daily Degustative Digest

Doyle’s Daily Degustative Digest

As a result, my carefully constructed meal plan went out the window completely and I was really thinking on my feet for most of the voyage – planning meals day by day according to what ingredient was developing mould at the quickest rate.

Abandoned! The meal plan

Abandoned! The meal plan

I also developed a bit of a reputation for re-using leftovers (stale bread into bread and butter pudding, paella and risotto into arancini balls etc etc), for constantly wearing shorts and T-shirt no matter the weather, for using cinnamon in just about every dish and for “cooking too much of that healthy shit.” But I was really chuffed to hear reports at the end of the voyage that it was some of the best food that folks had eaten on boats and that everyone gave me an A+ for effort.

A proud chef and his roast dinner

A proud chef and his roast dinner

Some of the culinary highlights included a spot on Butterscotch Pudding (thanks mum and Jane), top notch Bread & Butter Pudding (onya Jamie), Anzac Biscuits (Straya, get it up ya!) brilliant Broccoli Cream Soup (they didn’t even notice the broccoli was well past it), Birthday Pasta (thanks mum and Jane again) and a Lamb Roast that threatened to turn the veggos into carnivores for just one meal.

Culinary highlights

Culinary highlights

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On the last day in port, I managed to snag a couple of hours to myself and walked to the local swimming pool to unwind with a punishing couple of kilometres of swimming (my standard coping mechanism). What a bizarre experience! Through the front doors and up to the reception I went, managing to bumble my way to an entry ticket with some very broken French. I was about to head for the change-rooms when the receptionist thrust a small piece of lycra toward me and indicated that it wasn’t an optional piece of equipment. On closer inspection, I discovered it was a swimming cap (in order to keep the patrons’ hair out of the pool, apparently). No problem, smiled Doyle and headed for the entry only to be brought up short by several doors, none of which had any indication of gender, but which all contained a very aggressive looking sign mentioning something about les enfants (the children). It was quite confronting to think that with one wrong step I might accidentally step into the wrong change-room and irreparably tarnish my reputation in Paimpol! After a good few minutes of deliberation, the receptionist took pity and pointed me toward the door on the left – through I stepped and into a locker room. Perfect! So I chose a locker and was just about to down dacks to put on my togs when a lady and a few kids stepped came strolling through. They were about 5 seconds early enough to avoid an unwanted experience with a prime specimen of Australian snake. Meanwhile, yours truly was 100% stumped at this stage and cautiously explored the rest of the locker room (no doubt looking like a total creep in the process), which gave way to a row of showers and a block of cubicles further on. “Righto,” I thought to myself, “here’s the dunnies and the showers,” before being even more bewildered at the sight of a lady (who had obviously been swimming already) showering alongside a young lad (who had obviously not been swimming yet)! Both in cossies, of course. In addition, the cubicles I had assumed to be toilets proved to be empty and had a door on either end! At this stage, I was utterly bewildered, flummoxed and was beginning to get a little frustrated as my precious swimming time was ticking away. So I chose a locker, feigned busyness and kept an eye on the movements of the locals as they carried their togs into the cubicles, locked up and emerged after a time having changed. They then proceeded to have a quick shower before entering the pool area to swim. Strange customs indeed, but when in France, so I followed suit and enjoyed a much needed dose of physical exercise.

Mischief!

Mischief!

Back aboard once more, I fell into the routine of life as the cook – helped out immeasurably by a roster of washing up helpers, an initiative suggested by the ever-helpful Jacquie. We stopped up a French river once more, enjoyed a day exploring the stunning Ile de Brehat and stocked up on some supplies on Guernsey to prepare for the final 48 hour crossing of the English Channel.

Stunning: Ile de Brehat

Stunning: Ile de Brehat

Although it was incredibly tempting to leave the ship in the sorry state it had been in when I arrived, I pitched in with an all-over cleanup and waved goodbye to our guests as they dribbled off the ship and back to the real world. I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to recreate a classic image from the Young Endeavour (where shirt, shoes and pants were a necessity in the galley). Around mid-afternoon Denning and I said fond farewells to the other staff and took off in the direction of Devon in England’s south-west where I would spend a day and half with her incredibly welcoming family.

The recreation

The recreation

The original

The original

And so, in typical English drizzle, the adventure concluded back in Brixham 11 days after it had begun. Once again, I had visited places I never would have dreamed of going, experienced a Sea Shanty Festival and worked in a job that I wouldn’t have imagined working in. After all the rough times, I’m not sure I’d change a thing and I’m pretty certain that I’ll get short term memory loss, forget how tough it was and sign myself up for something similar in the near future. My thanks go out to Julie and Mano (you know who you are) for convincing me to give it a crack and to old mate Diggs for helping me not to go AWOL in France. In the meantime, I’m about ready to see the colour green once more and have some land adventures!

The Turkey’s Breast (Central Turkey – Egirdir and Pamukkale)

It would be difficult to top the view that awaited Harker and I as we stumbled out into the brilliant sunlight reflecting off the Egirdir Golu lake. We were almost overwhelmed by the temptation to sit back with a Turkish tea or two and recount on the time in Cappadocia to the extremely friendly staff (which included a middle aged lad from England who was living and working at the hostel as a part of a mid-life crisis).

The view

The view

Our adventurous natures won out and we strolled down along to the lakeside to hire pushbikes for the day (a steal at 12 lira or $6). Before long, we were boosting off – sun on our backs, wind in our hair with grand plans to reach a town around the lake some 25km away. The first big climb put an end to that idea and by the time we’d reached a smaller village after 12km of very hilly cycling, our legs were about spent.

Move over Lance, here comes Harker!

Move over Lance, here comes Harker!

It was a quaint little farming community – absolutely no bells and whistles to speak of, not even a café – and the locals seemed pretty bemused to see us panting and pedalling up the long slope to the town. Our brief breather was overseen by some curious little kids who waved us off when we mounted the saddles once more. Wish I’d taken a photo of the little gang.

Magnificent - the locals sizing up the leap

Magnificent – the locals sizing up the leap

The homeward journey was punctuated with magnificent views, 50 cent icecream (haven’t had that since 1994) and a swim in the lake – cold, but not quite so cold as New Zealand or Korea in the middle of winter. The worst part was the biting wind that had whipped up off the lake and that blew through the village at a million knots – a daily phenomenon according to Muslem – and one that he would take steps to avoid if he ever gets the chance to live in a new city.

The beast emerges from the deeps

The beast emerges from the deeps

The day was capped off with a fish casserole from a cheap little eatery back in town… not so much a casserole as just a whole baked trout that looked nothing like the pictures and was a bit muddy and disappointing. But for $3, you can’t complain about too much.

More crappy views

More disappointing views

Just a cool side of a house

Just a cool side of a house

An interesting character greeted us the following morning as we waited for our next bus to Pamukkale. He was a Spaniad, dressed mostly in battered camos and hefting a small but tightly packed backpack and sporting wild, greying, curly hair and a salt and pepper beard with goatee. I wish I’d taken a photo – he was the epitome of the seasoned, lifelong traveller and spouted wisdom at us with just about every sentence: “You have to work to live, not live to work,” “buy a small pack – that way you’re not tempted to pack more than you need” and “to see a new sight every day is the only real romanticism left in the world.” He certainly made the wait for the bus fly past and before long we were back into the sweat-box on wheels for a much more manageable 4 hours to Pamukkale.

The Tavertines

The Tavertines

After dumping bags and indulging in a quick swim at the hostel pool, we set off for a short stroll amongst the tavertines and ancient ruins that are the key attraction in this tiny, dusty town. 5 hours later, our short stroll came to an end as we descended across the pleasantly grippy tavertines once more ahead of an ominous bank of dark clouds.

Ominous

Ominous

The ancient Greek and Roman Heirapolis were a huge highlight of the trip so far and included a 4th century ampitheatre, the tomb of St Peter (no longer present in it of course), a bride and staircase, cathedral and the main entrance gate.

Giant pillar

Giant pillar

Like so many attractions in Turkey, one of the most wonderful things about the ruins was the complete lack of restriction – we could wander amongst, climb on, explore and generally feel the history right beneath our fingers and toes. Add to that a beautiful sunny day, rolling green hills and a panoramic view of the valley with mountains in the background and we were well and truly awestruck by the place. The day was capped off nicely with a dram of the local amber (Efes), freshly made gozleme for $5 and some of that good old 50c icecream again.

Much better views than the Coloseum!

Much better views than the Coloseum!

The famed Turkish hospitality was on display again when we got back to our hotel and found old mate the owner having a little party for his birthday. We were promptly invited to join in and had some cake whilst all present spun yarns of varying truthfulness depending how many drinks the teller had downed. Harker and I were excited to be offered the chance to tour our host’s hobby olive farm the following day, so we hit the hay with some anticipation about tomorrow’s activities.

Front driveway, Roman style

Front driveway, Roman style

Unfortunately, these didn’t come into fruition – our man decided to make use of the favourable weather to carry out a bit of maintenance around the hotel. Harker and I took the opportunity to have a restful day – catching up on some writing and emails, heading into town for some more gozleme and messing around with a little Turkish tacker who was pedalling around on his trike (pimped out with tassell handles and spoke decorations).

When it came time to organise a ride out to the airport, we were somewhat dismayed to learn that our host had booked a shuttle picking us up at 12:30 for a 13:30 flight (with a 40 minute trip to the airport). Old mate assured us it was no problem and eventually we succumbed – trusting that the Turkish way of getting things done would come up trumps for us once more. And in fact, it did – despite leaving 10 minutes late, stopping for fuel on the way and bribing the police to avoid a speeding ticket. The asian tour group that shared the bus with us had multiple heart attacks along the way but on the positive side, it meant that we only had 10 minutes wait in the airport.

Getting amongst the 7th century ruins

Getting amongst the 7th century ruins

So, after a straight up and down flight, my sojourn in central Turkey came to an end and we enjoyed a reasonably uneventful ride to the ferry terminal at Kadikoy – a young, very lost and confused looking Yank gratefully accepted our help to navigate her way to her friend’s place along the way. If the bus trip was bland, jumping on the ferry and motoring across the Bosphorus was anything but and we got a good look at the sprawling, heaving mass of life that is Istanbul. Dozens of majestic mosques graced the skyline and Harker and I were itching to pound the pavement and explore the next morning.

I’ll finish with a fun fact about Istanbul – it’s the only city that spans two continents (Europe and Asia), with the Bosphorus marking the boundary.

The ANZAC Day Centenerary

It’s a surreal feeling to gaze out across the quay at 130ft the tall ship sitting proudly at anchor and know that the next seven weeks will be spent aboard.

Home, sweet home

Home, sweet home

The sun was warm, as was the greeting by Captain Gav, the staffies and the Voyage Three crew when at last we stepped aboard after a long and snoozy bus ride from Istanbul. As afternoon faded into twilight and a fiery sunset, the excitement and happiness ebbed away, replaced by a restless and expectant energy.

Spectacularly foreboding

Spectacularly foreboding

It was difficult to fathom the enormity of the moment that was due to unfold before us in a few short hours. Many were lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of The Endeavour as she motored slowly through the Dardanelles toward our rendezvous at Anzac Cove. For the others, it was a damp, cold and restless vigil – counting off the hours and spending long periods buried deep within our own thoughts. For my part, I snatched a fitful hour or so beneath a wet weather jacket on the forward port side of the deck after my eyes grew heavy gazing at the foreign constellations that dotted the sky. Adding to the atmosphere, at around 0300 a slowly rolling band of clouds gradually shrouded the stars and turned the setting quarter moon into a blood moon as it sank below the horizon.

With an hour to go until dawn, the ship sleepily stirred into wakefulness and the boiler was worked overtime keeping a double crew well plied with hot drinks to stave off the frigid cold. All aboard were most grateful for the Canakkalian café which was kind enough to lend us two outdoor gas heaters for the vigil. By 0500, the first embers of light began to glint in faint patches amidst the thick cloud cover and the bustle of activity on board ebbed to a low murmur.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them

Finally, after 5 hours of motoring, the ship manoeuvred into position alongside the line of warships and the wireless crackled into life with a broadcast of the commemoration ceremony. Standing at midships, shivering despite my seven layers, I  pondered the thoughts of the Allied soldiers – who would surely have endured a similarly disturbed night en-route to their landing 100 years ago. It’s impossible to imagine the depth of emotion that those men would have felt in the face of the impending trials. Perhaps they had little notion of what awaited them on the shores of Gallipoli – particularly because it was such a green force that landed. In any case, it was clear that the entire crew aboard the Young Endeavour was in a contemplative mood – from the fresh blood to the seasoned returnees to the top brass in their full ceremonial attire.

Contemplative - photo courtesy Brett Douglas

3 of the finest in a contemplative mood (Bollen, Harker, Yak) – photo courtesy Brett Douglas

The speeches rang out over the loudspeaker and the crew absorbed each word before the Oath of Remembrance faded into the Last Post. Although it’s always struck me as a powerful ode, being a part of the shared experience on the Young Endeavour and having such a close reenactment to the original Anzacs magnified the feeling enormously and brought wave after wave of goosebumps to my skin. The clear notes of the bugle ringing across the cold grey morning stirred such a vast array of emotions it was enough for me to simply stand and soak in the feeling shared by millions of people across the globe as we paid tribute to the battle that shaped three nations and is an integral part of a monumental piece of humanity’s history.

Bringing up the rear of the naval salute (attended by five different nations), we witnessed one of the largest naval tributes in history and the line of warships stretching into the horizon was a thrilling sight. For a long while as the ship headed straight toward Anzac Cove, it felt chillingly as though we were headed toward a landing on the placid, pebbly beach but the parade bore to starboard and passed by instead.

The naval flotilla - photo courtesy Lachlan Bollen

The naval flotilla – photo courtesy Lachlan Bollen

I’m certain that the events of the 24th and 25th of April 2015 will take a long while to fully process through my consciousness. I think perhaps that even 100 years on, the world is still coming to terms with the tragedy of Word War 1 and still has many lessons to learn from the rich collection of stories have survived for the past century.

The Quintessential Cappadocia

Turkish people are all in cahoots. This was my realisation as the shuttle bus pulled up alongside a balloon at 6:30am this morning. After a brief exchange between driver and balloon people, we were ushered off the bus and the driver announced that this was our balloon for the morning. Never mind the fact that it was with a completely different company to the one that we booked – the main thing was that after a hasty nibble on the complimentaries we hoiked ourselves up into the basket and the friendly Emir fired up the gas. It didn’t take long for old Emir to flaunt his piloting skills – our ascent carried us through a very tight squeeze between fairy chimneys in the first 30 seconds. Hovering along, the basket remained low in the valley for a good 15 minutes, affording us a good view of the cascade of multicolour billowing balloons slowly filling the gorge.

Up and Away

Up and Away

It was a truly spectacular way to see the countryside – what struck me most was the serenity and calm 3000ft from the ground. With far fewer clouds, the sunrise wasn’t as vivid as yesterday but it was still nice to feel the warmth stealing over the craggy landscape and adding to the sporadic bursts of heat from the gas jets.

More balloons

More balloons

To conclude the flight, our company put on champagne (non-alcoholic) and cake to “celebrate our survival.” Supposedly this is a ballooning tradition and we weren’t complaining.

Survived!

Survived!

The impending departure from Cappadocia necessitated a quick strip down and pack before settling the bill and checking out of the hostel. The Turks are extremely laid-back about the process of paying bills – often in a café I’ll attempt to pay the bill at the counter whilst ordering, only to be waved away and told to pay later. I’ve only remembered at the last minute on quite a few occasions – this hostel was no different. They almost seemed surprised when I stepped into the office and announced that I’d like to pay. I’m sure they wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if I’d just walked off or told them that I’d already paid online… although maybe they’re just more aware than they let on.

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You just can’t take enough photos of this experience!

In any case, Tim and I boarded the tour bus with full luggage in order to make our getaway easier later in the afternoon. A fresh guide greeted us (apparently GG had her hands full with a Japanese tour group today), but the quick-witted Arija didn’t disappoint and kept us all informed and amused with her insightful facts and wry humour.

Goreme’s Open Air Museum is a wonderfully preserved cave monastery, with a vast network of small chapels, living quarters, kitchens and churches carved in intricate detail out of the soft volcanic rock.

Dining in style!

Dining in style!

It’s difficult to imagine cave-life back in the early AD years, but it’s worked for centuries due to the temperature-regulating effect of caves (they hover at a constant 13C despite Cappadocia’s 47C summers and snow-covered winters). The unwavering temperatures have inspired a couple of little cottage industries down in this part of the world. First is winemaking – it just so happens that the absolute perfect temperature for fermenting le vino is 13 degrees. The second is fruit-ripening. I’m not sure how much I believe the tales, but supposedly lemons and oranges left to ripen in the caves for 6 months or so attain a juiciness and mineral content that can’t be beaten. The tradition still continues – Cappadocian cave fruits attract a premium price at supermarkets throughout Turkey.

Although photos weren’t allowed inside the cave chapels, I couldn’t resist snapping one on the sly – this is the mysterious chicken-turtle. This little chap represents the devil or a demon and is drawn inside the church to keep evil spirits away (or something along those lines).

The dreaded chicken-turtle... almost as deadly as the fluffy rabbit a la Monty Python

The dreaded chicken-turtle… almost as deadly as the fluffy rabbit a la Monty Python

There were some magnificent examples of Christian cave art on the walls throughout the museum but sadly many have been destroyed or defaced by opposing religions over the years. Often, the faces or eyes are scratched out of the paintings – usually by some sort of stone implement. Occasionally the graffitists couldn’t reach the paintings and simply threw stones at the walls and ceilings in an attempt to obscure the faces. They didn’t have great aim – often it looks as though the graffitist just plain old missed and there’ll be a little chunk out of the rock close to the face, but not actually on it. Near enough is good enough for religious art destruction, it seems.

A short bus ride away is Pasabag (the Monk’s Valley) with more fairy-chimneys piercing the skyline. Having grown tired of being disturbed by common folk, many monks gouged dwellings out of the chimneys here. Once again, Turkey’s laidback attitude toward historical sites astonished me – it’s perfectly ok to climb up and around these ancient caves, no thoughts of preservation or restoration in these parts. On a positive note, it gives the traveller a sense of being right amongst the history and the sensation of physically touching the ancient rock with one’s bare hands is hard to beat.

“These rocks look like chimneys,” they said….

A brief stop at Deverent Valley (Imagination Valley) gave us a chance to spot a camel, kiwi, iguana, The Queen, a vulture and Keith Richards lookalikes among the rock formations before we trooped off for another well earned and (very satisfying) buffet lunch.

A camel rock - imagine that!

A camel rock – imagine that!

Arguably the high point of the day came straight after lunch on our visit to Master Garlep’s pottery studio. They call this fella the Einstein of pottery – and he lives up to the name in both looks and skill.

The Einstein of pottery

The Einstein of pottery

The deft skill of Mr Garlep’s nephew in the pottery demonstration was (almost) matched by our man Tim as he attempted to emulate the process of making a simple bowl on the traditional kick-wheel. Of course, our tour culminated in the studio’s shop but this turned out to be more like a stroll through an art gallery than a hard sell on crockery. The pieces were exquisite and I only wish my budget had allowed me to buy something small to send home for the family.

Harker's a natural at this part...

Harker’s a natural at this part…

I have an idea we spent longer than anticipated drinking in the wonders of Master Garlep’s Aladdin cave but we left ourselves with plenty of time to marvel at Goreme valley from the lookout point and take a closer look at Uchisar – the tallest fairy chimney and old-world citadel.

Classic Cappadocia - Urgup

Classic Cappadocia – Urgup

Having finished with the tour for the day, I was glad to have a couple of hours to explore the town of Urgup before our night-bus journey. Padding through the dusty streets with no destination or aims in mind was the perfect way to get a small taste of local life in this region. We were left pondering the average wage and living conditions of the townsfolk in this tourism-supported area and came to the conclusion that perhaps despite low wages, the people were generally a pretty happy bunch. However, we noticed a few murmurings of discontent talking to Arija (who, at age 28, has never been able to save enough money to travel outside of Turkey) and Osman (who has been driving tourist buses for 34 years and reckons his next holiday will be when he’s in the cemetery).

The day concluded with 3 essential Turkish experiences:

  1. Clay-pot testi kebap. This delicious specialty is cooked in a single use red-clay pot that’s made using the local clay. The beef casserole is cooked inside for 5hrs and sealed with a dough ‘lid’ before it’s broken open and poured onto the plate for service. The spices and flavours were on a whole new level – definitely one of the most delicious dishes I’ve had the pleasure of tasting.
  2. Getting fleeced by a taxi driver. Our night-bus was due to depart from the airport (about 40mins out of town), so we had organised a shuttle bus as part of the tour. Supposedly the shuttle was running late (through no fault of ours) and we were ushered into a taxi who promptly boosted off and began flying over the cobblestones around steep mountain bends and the like. The thrill ride cost us 20 lira – we really should have argued the point but at that stage were more interested in making sure we got onto the night-bus on time. Once again, it’s clear that they were all in cahoots – I’m sure the shuttle driver, taxi and maybe even night-bus will take their cut of the proceeds.
  3. The Turkish night-bus. We’d already heard a few horror stories from our good friend Lock of freezing night-bus rides with temperatures hovering in the single digits. Our experience turned out the be the exact opposite – we cooked our way through seven stifling hours trapped in the oven-bus with a bunch of increasingly smelly Turks and other travellers. At the two rest stops along the way, we stumbled out of the bus into the frigid night air in an attempt to lower our internal body temperature by a few degrees before we had to fry once again. It was an experience I’m glad I had, but I wouldn’t go back again in a hurry.

Upon our 2:30am arrival in Egirdir, we waited on the side of the road for half an hour or so for our scheduled pickup by the hostel. Eventually, we decided it was best to strike out alone and a nocturnal Turk pointed us in the right direction for the hostel – about 5 minutes walk. Turns out Muslum, our contact at the hostel had fallen asleep waiting for us… but we were just glad that he was still up and able to let us in to our room where we collapsed into strangely lumpy, but nonetheless comfy beds.

Chimneys, Churches and Caves

As I stepped out of the moist, warm dorm room at the Dorm Cave into the 5am Cappadocian morning I was hit by the cold like a sack of potatoes. Here was something I wasn’t expecting – a refrigerator cool morning hovering somewhere around 2 degrees. At least it wasn’t a 4:45am start as scheduled because my balloon flight was postponed by an hour. This was an interesting experience in itself – I had been notified of the change the night before by my airport shuttle driver and this was confirmed by the staff at the hostel when I arrived (despite my itinerary clearly stating pickup was at 5:30am). I’ve quickly come to realise that it seems all Turkish people are in cahoots with one another and they all seem to be able to switch things about willy-nilly but everyone knows what’s going on. There’s also a real “she’ll be right” attitude here – maybe that’s why they seem to get along with Aussies so well?

Balloons at dawn

Balloons at dawn

Along with the significant thermal shock, Tim and I both experienced “Turkish time” on our first day and we were left waiting for 40mins for the balloon shuttle and 60mins for the tour bus. It strikes me as one of those places where the traveller needs to just take it as it comes, not much one can do about it anyway.

Barrelling along winding, gravelly roads in the shuttle was a more effective wakeup than drinking the sludge at the bottom of a Turkish coffee and the French couple and I emerged from the bus wide-eyed and open mouthed when we arrived at our destination. Our jaws dropped further at the sight that unfolded before us – hundreds of colourful air balloons all in various states of inflation littering the post-cardesque valley as far as the eye could see. Those wishing to have a Cappadocian experience on the cheap, could come out very satisfied simply watching the flight of the balloons in the pre-dawn light.

Balloon over Cappadocia

Balloon over Cappadocia

This is one of those occasions where the tourist destination is a self-fulfilling prophecy – watching the balloons has become an essential activity just like the balloon ride. It turned out watching was all I could do that morning because my balloon had developed a large tear near the top. I was glad they found it before we ascended 800m above Cappadocia! So we simply enjoyed the refreshments provided by the company, watched the others take off and listened to the group of old Swedish tourists complain to an unreceptive balloon attendant about the inconvenience that it had caused. Perhaps they were just miffed about having to get up with the sparrows two mornings in a row (no problem for me – the mild jetlag came in handy for a change when I snapped wide awake at 4am).

Yours truly - Rose Valley

Yours truly – Rose Valley

By 10am, it felt like 2 in the afternoon but still hadn’t warmed up a whole lot. Really difficult weather to dress for – I was quite cold in the shade but boiling hot in the sun (particularly on our 4km walk through Rose Valley), which was our second stop on the tour after visiting Cappadocia’s second largest fairy chimney. 10:30am wasn’t too early for a wee bit of wine tasting – the sweet pomegranate wine didn’t sit too well with us though. GG, our enthusiastic and very well informed tour guide plied us with a wealth of knowledge about our destinations.

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I’m sure resident rock-spotters will be interested to hear that the geological formations in the area were created by volcanic ash. Basically the ash from hundreds of eruptions over the years settles into layers (coloured according to the heat of the eruption and the trace elements in the ash) before eroding away. Pieces of heavier rock (such as basalt) in certain places compresses the ash and increases the erosion time, forming the fairy chimneys and the basalt erodes even less quickly and forms the caps. GG informed us that the formations look like mushrooms, but I don’t think that was the first thing that springs to mind for most people…

As we padded along through Rose Valley, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for those who choose to make this trip in summer when temperatures rise above 42 degrees on a regular basis. We got really lucky with our timing – one week earlier and it would have been covered in snow (beautiful but cold) and a few weeks later and we’d have roasted. April/May is definitely the time to visit!

Ancient graveyard, ancient monastery

Ancient graveyard, ancient monastery

The great Christian cave monastery reared up at us as we made the final few steps of our trek through the valley. Strolling into Cavusin village, we welcomed the chance to escape from the harsh midday sun and browse the ubiquitous carpet, spice, trinket and juice stands that lined the cobbled streets of this tiny town.

Ubiquitous: Orange and Pomegranate Juice

Ubiquitous: Orange and Pomegranate Juice

The mosque standing opposite the monastery was a perfect microcosm of the colliding cultures and history of this fascinating corner of a fascinating country.

Tell him he's dreaming...

Tell him he’s dreaming…

Following buffet lunch (with beautiful bread, dips and salads), we enjoyed a brief photo opportunity in the picturesque Pigeon Valley (so named for the myriad of pigeon roosts where villagers collected acidic droppings for fertiliser) before continuing to Kaymakli underground city and one of the highlights of the day.

Walter Pigeon in Pigeon Valley

Walter Pigeon in Pigeon Valley

It was entrancing to think that this vast network (6 levels) of tunnels was built in the 7th century and has been used as a hiding place over the centuries by folks with nothing but candles to traverse its depths. Indeed, there are many markings on the walls that archaeologists suggest were used to help with navigation in the dark. It’s also incredible to think that we still don’t know the full extent of the cave system and that there are rumours of a tunnel that links up with the other major underground city of the area over 60km away. Nothing like a good bit of spelunking to get the heart racing – claustrophobic types may not cope so well down in the deeps of Kaymakli.

Spelunking like a boss

Spelunking like a boss

Exhausted from a very full day, we retired for a quick snooze before dinner where we met up with a third Endeavour comrade, the photographically gifted Lachlan Bollen. Take a look at his Facebook page for some top notch snaps. 2 out of 24 Endeavourers met and both have been champs (we’ll forgive old Tim for being a Kiwi). Hope the trend continues – I’m sure it will.

Back in the 7th century, they took the sign away when they were hiding from hostile armies

Back in the 7th century, they took the sign away when they were hiding from hostile armies

One small step for Doyle….

It’s one thing to step through the departure gates for a holiday with a finite length, but a completely different beast altogether to do it with nought but a backpack and a one-way ticket to your name. Of course, a pair of rapidly deteriorating parents doesn’t help the situation and we were all a mess by the time I took my first fateful steps through the security screen.

My life in 15.5kg

My life in 15.5kg

It was relieving to pass the customs check without trouble – my new haircut (lovingly nicknamed “The Crim-Cut” by my caring younger brother) would surely give the officers some pause? But no problems (not even an explosive residues check) – perhaps they were simply glad to see the back of me and have me out of the country?

Before...

Before…

FIFO approved

FIFO approved

HMAS Endeavour approved

HMAS Endeavour approved

And so it was that I wound up alone, a single traveler on the cusp of an adventure on the high seas, highlands and beyond. A few people have asked how all this came about and have been confused about my recent global movements, so I’ll attempt to explain everything with a simple flow chart:

How it all came to be

How it all came to be

Hopefully that makes things a little clearer – basically I’ve been the luckiest man alive for the past few months and I should either buy a lotto ticket or it’ll run out and I’ll somehow manage to fall out of the plane on the way over to Turkey. In any case, there’s no doubting the feeling of trepidation – particularly after hearing a good friend’s story just before I left. His attempt at a similar sojourn lasted 4 days before he bee-lined back home to Perth after suffering extreme homesickness. I’ll be trapped aboard a ship, so no chance of escape for at least 7 weeks.

I’ve heard stories that people dressed well on airplanes occasionally get upgraded to the pointy end of the craft. Sadly, this hasn’t been the case for any flights so far – once again my sartorial efforts were wasted and I gazed longingly at the acreage afforded to the better classes as I shuffled past with the rest of the cattle. I must say that Qatar airways provided an excellent service and the leg room wasn’t half bad on the long haul to Doha. 10 minutes after settling in my chair, the jovial Scottish lady to my left was already trying to set me up with the attractive young Romanian on my right. Could be an interesting and eventful 11 hours…

Some wonderful sights over southern Turkey

Some wonderful sights over southern Turkey

Packing for this sort of expedition was always going to be difficult – I wish I could be more fancy free and be content with a smaller, lighter bag. But I have a tendency to pack for all seasons and therefore I’m sitting up around 15.5kg for the big pack and 7.5 for the small. Let me tell you, that’s not light sitting on one’s shoulders – will have to get this waist belt well and truly adjusted for any longer hikes. One of the fatso items is my sleeping bag – necessary for the trip on the Endeavour. It adds 4-5kg and takes up as much room as a small maltese shihitsu – certainly a pain that the Endeavour couldn’t just provide some bedding for the crew. Perhaps I’ll be able to jettison some unused cargo along the way.

One absolute necessity for any trip (Doyle’s Travel Tip #1) is earplugs and I was glad to have them when our little friend the 18-month-old in the row in front started wailing away. He was a noisy little nipper – although it didn’t bother me too much, I felt sorry for mum and dad who must’ve been losing sleep over the disturbance to other passengers (let alone having to rouse themselves to calm little Johnny every so often). I reckon I managed to sleep through about 70% of the flight, which was a great blessing and in between enjoyed some very acceptable plane food.

Doyle’s Travel Tip #2 concerns the plane food and is alliterated for ease of memorisation: Veggies Are For Veteran Voyagers. Plane food has enjoyed significant improvements over the past 10 years or so, but the safest option is still the Vegetarian dish, closely followed by anything that’s not chicken or fish.

At the end of the day, an airport is an airport, but Qatar Airways gets another tick in the box for its impressive home at Doha Hamad. When you have a cavernous arrivals corridor with wood paneling the whole way along the 800m ceiling, it’s certainly a “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Perth anymore” moment. In fact, the arrival and departure gates are so numerous they have an indoor monorail to service some of the outliers. It makes a lot of sense for a country such as Qatar or UAE to set themselves up as an international airline hub because they have two things in abundance: money and empty, non-arable land (although some might say it’s very arab-le, hyuk hyuk hyuk…). But good on ‘em for making a smart strategic economic decision – now there’s a phrase you don’t hear too often in Australian politics. Likewise, the availability of free WiFi in the airport is such a blessing and it’s become ubiquitous enough that it’s a darn nuisance when airports fail in this area (I’m looking at you, Sabiha Gokcen).

The new Perth airport upgrade? Sadly not... this is impeccable Doha Hamad

The new Perth airport upgrade? Sadly not… this is impeccable Doha Hamad

My luck held true over two legs of a four-stage journey out to Cappadocia, but it was the internal domestic flight to Kayseri and subsequent bus ride that I was most concerned about. Thankfully, the transfer from international arrival to domestic departure was as easy as falling off a log and I spent much of my 5 hour layover learning some basic Turkish phrases (Merhaba, tesikkür ederim). Which brings me along to Doyle’s Travel Tip #3: Learn The Language!

I can’t recommend learning some language highly enough – it goes such a long way to endearing yourself to the locals, makes you look and feel like less of a tourist and helps with charming people (particularly people of the fairer gender). Here’s a list of the most useful phrases that I’ve found for several languages (French, Korean, German and Turkish):

  1. Thank you
  2. Hello
  3. Goodbye
  4. Yes/No
  5. OK
  6. Delicious
  7. Can I please have this?
  8. Friend
  9. How much?
  10. Numbers (for counting money)
  11. Do you have….?

It’s really pretty simple – 11 phrases for traveling success, there’s really no excuse. I don’t tend to recommend things unless they are truly exceptional, so if you need help with the learning, I’ve found Survival Phrases to be an excellent resource. The best part is that the podcasts have native speakers delivering the lessons, so it’s perfect for nailing a natural accent (and they’re not even paying me to say all this)!

Goreme by night

Goreme by night

After an enormous day of travel, it was a welcome relief to see my man Osman waiting out the front of Kayseri airport with a transfer shuttle ready to go. Night had descended upon the valley and the 2 hour bus ride to Göreme was uneventful and probably less spectacular than it would have been during the day. Arriving into the tiny tourist town and checking into my cave hostel was mercifully easy. With its bizarre mix of old-world/otherworldly scenery, the temptation for a short nighttime stroll proved too much and I wandered the pockmarked streets with wide eyes before the allure of food dragged me into the Hidden Cave Hotel Restaurant for a small meal (8TL for spinach pastry with salad).

Cheap and (almost) cheerful: The Dorm Cave

Cheap and (almost) cheerful: The Dorm Cave

Sensibility and preparation for a 5am start got the better of my adventurous spirit and the rough sheets of the Dorm Cave put an end to a 31 hour, 4-leg travel day.