Yet Another ‘Trip of a Lifetime’

J and I love the odd ‘trip-of-a-lifetime’ every now and again! Since moving here to Turkey we’ve wandered off on the Trans-Mongolian Railway from Moscow to Beijing; (salvaged from Archers of Okçular first posted February 2014)

transmap

With many, many, many days spent rocking across the steppes in a daze (I never realised there were so many different types/flavours of vodka) there would come times when one needed a shower. Our babushka would hold up five fingers, snatch the dollars and direct you into her cubicle where sat one of these . .

transshower

Your $5 bought you the contents of the samovar, a bit of rubber hose for the tap and a squat over the drain-hole in the corner – oh, and she kept guard in the entrance way and held your soap if required!

We’ve taken in the Panama Jazz Festival for no better reason than the delightful local pianist Danilo Perez invited us. We were also treated to passes that admitted us to everything (including many a meal). Danilo is the founder and the festival supports young musicians from poor circumstances with tuition, instruments and scholarships to Berkeley School of Music. Add to the glorious music some wonderful exploration trips along the canal and to beaches and islands and the vultures at sunset and you have a perfect encore.

Ben-panama-jazz
our son Ben, sound engineer of choice for many big names and venues, at the board in the beautiful old National Opera House in Panama City – on stage are some of the young and very talented musicians enjoying their very own gig

From Panama we wandered across to take in some of the revolutionary and ecological joys of Venezuela. In Caracas we met with Chavistas and the amazing Presidential Guards from Chavez’ old regiment who reversed the US instigated coup against him in days! In Merida up in the Andes we rode to the top of the longest and highest cable-car in the world whilst stubbornly refusing the available oxygen bottle and we got an OAP discount into the bargain! Then we found local field biologist, guide and artist Roger crocroger1Manrique aka Croc Roger who led us exploring the backwaters of the mighty Orinoco River where we wrestled with Anacondas and Iguanas (this is true), fished piranha for dinner (this is also true) and saw and photographed more wildlife than you could believe existed! We also spent a few days on the tropical paradise islands of Los Roques where, amongst other things, I was able to ogle the amazing creations that plastic surgeons can achieve in exchange for a lot of dosh – you are left wondering what keeps them up!

. . and now? We are in the early stages of organising a tour of the Glories of Persia – we are (visas and other things being equal) going to be wandering around in Iran for 16 days in April. We’ll be using as much local transport, buses, trains and the like as we can in order to be in contact with ‘ordinary’ Iranians.

Originally we’d hoped to travel by train from Istanbul to Tehran but I think a Turkish Airlines flight is going to simplify the bureaucracy. Then it’s off to places like Esfahan; Shiraz; Bam; Yadz and even Mashad way over in the east of the country before wandering back to Tehran via the Aborz Mountains just south of the Caspian Sea. So much history and culture and food and people to learn about before we get too cranky and creaky – wish us luck with officialdom!

Alan in Okçular

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