Wednesday, 29 June 2016

These are the photos taken by Perry during our sojourn across Biscayne Bay by jetski.

Days 29 to 31 27/06 to 29/06

Hi once again to all and we hope this finds you all in the pink!!
Yesterday we had a bit of an adventure. Perry had suggested that we might like to take the 2 jetskis down to Key Biscayne. 10-12 miles away. Tracie was at work and Rosa had as usual taken the children out for the day, so it was just the 3 of us. We loaded water, sun screen, towels etc. into the lockers on the skis and Perry instructed Jim in the finer points of operation. Soon got the hang of it and then we were off down the canal at 0930 (low tide at 1030) - Perry and Jean on one and Jim on the other. Soon we were into the main canal and we turned south. The weather was mostly fine but we had a small shower soon after we started heading south. Just as well Jim had bought some new sunglasses (Jean had broken his other ones!) because at 20+ knots the rain was hitting with some force. We first went under the N 79th. St. bridge. There are speed restrictions as you go under the bridges which are actively enforced by the water police so you have to be careful.
Then under the I95, the N 15th. St., and the MacArthur Causeway bridges and we were speeding across Biscayne Bay with spectacular views of downtown Miami with its skyscrapers and Miami Port on Dodge Island with a long row of container cranes - all currently unused. Jim felt it was all quite bizaare for a while as he had never been on a jetski before (and indeed had always regarded them with some suspicion), but here he was in Biscayne Bay, Miami speeding along at up to 30 knots! Mostly around 20-25 though as that seemed to be a comfortable speed. Perry and Jean always seemed to be well ahead though and had to wait for the old mariner to catch up. Then we were past Fisher Island (only accessible by vehicular ferry) and under the I93 bridge in the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW). It had long been a bucket list desire of Jim's to travel the ICW from Florida to the Chesapeake but due to the onset of age and healthcare unaffordability, it is unlikely to be achieved in this lifetime. Still it is an amazing engineering feat, offering as it does an almost unbroken length of inland waterway navigable by reasonably sized yachts for all of its distance. However, he has now travelled a very short distance of the ICW, albeit on a jetski.
We were headed for a sandbar - the Nixon Beach Sandbar which lies off the inland (west) coast of Key Biscayne. There, you can stop in less than 12 inches of water and have a swim right out in the middle of the Bay. And with the distant views of downtown Miami. Quite surreal. After a short stop there we continued south for a short distance and saw Stiltsville - a collection of houses on stilts right out in the Bay which you can rent for the weekend. So, you'd leave your canal side home and come down in your 30 knot plus fizzboat and stay there with the boat moored alongside!! We then entered No Name Harbour which would be a great hurricane hole and moored alongside a wall just below the Boaters Grill which is a seafood restaurant offering reasonable promise. However, as so often it disappointed. It was only moderately good and Jean had snapper, whereas Perry and Jim had Mahimahi. Disappointing inasmuch as the fish had been frozen and each dish was USD19.99! After 4 beers the whole lot came to USD89 and then when you added a tip, was an even USD100 for an average lunch for 3 ! That's 400 Malaysian ringgits and would keep us fed at Wonderland in Kuah for a couple of weeks at least! Interesting to experience, but as we've said before, we could never afford to live here. But such an experience to travel by jetski along the waterways of the rich and famous - especially never having been on the infernal machines before!! We had travelled at least 10 miles from home to here and it seemed like nothing, whereas on TT3 it would have taken at least 2 hours and probably even longer due to the necessity to stay in deep water.
We finished our lunch and left in extreme heat as the harbour was bereft of any cooling wind. Couldn't even put one's feet on the jetskis' footrests as they are black and were scorching until we managed to get some water over them. We headed north again under the I93 and then went out to sea in the Atlantic Ocean through Bear Cut. The sea was a little lumpy which poses a problem when you're trying to travel at 30 knots as the water seems like concrete! However, it was only a mile or so and then we re-entered the ICW through Government Cut where ships enter the Port of Miami. A ship entered before us and then we followed it in. Jim managed to steer through a strong tidal race and big tidal upwellings which actually didn't faze the jetski much at all as there isn't much in the water. On Tiare we encountered similar conditions several times in Indonesia and always we were knocked off course, sometimes by as much as 90 degrees. Soon back in sheltered water though and we continued north under the MacArthur Causeway again, past Belle Isle and the Venetian Way. under the I95 and JFK Causeway. And home back up the canal that bisects Normandy Island. We had travelled at least 20 miles, stopped for an hour or so at the Nixon Sandbar and had a leisurely lunch, all in 5 hours.
It was a thrill to be riding a powerful jetski, having never done it before, but the constant up and down movement and the necessity to hold the handlebars to avoid being thrown off, together with the need to continue to squeeze the throttle lever, meant that fatigue was setting into this old 69 yr old body, to say nothing of the beginnings of arthritis in the fingers. Great to have experienced, but nothing is like the gentle motion of our old girl, even in rough conditions. It takes another experience to appreciate what you have.
Today (29/06) Jean and Jim biked down to the famous Miami Beach and rode north for a mile or so until we ran out of concrete path. It's a great beach but Pakiri would leave it for dead, except for the temperatures!! Had an icecream at an Italian icecream parlour, bought a dozen beer and biked slowly home.
Then a siesta and a lovely salmon meal cooked by Jean. Managed to get the children fed in time so didn't have too much angst about eating dinner!! Makes one's own eating experience a bit more relaxed!!
More to come as always.
Cheers and love from us........
Jim and Jean

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Monday, 27 June 2016

Fwd: Days 24 - 28 22/06 - 26/06

----- Original Message -----
To: "Lizzie Fletcher" <>
Subject: Fwd: Days 24 - 28 22/06 - 26/06
Date: 27 Jun 2016 12:13:00 -0000
From: ZMQ5985

----- Original Message -----
To: "Alec" <>
Subject: Days 24 - 28 22/06 - 26/06
Date: 27 Jun 2016 12:05:06 -0000
From: ZMQ5985

Hi again to all,
Well, 27 days have gone - 43 to go. So far, it's gone like a flash. It's a challenge writing these blogs as so much happens that is different, one thing blends to another.
However, to start here are some impressions of Miami.
Firstly it's surprising just how many Latinos live here; from unreliable memory over 60% of Miami's population is Latino. You simply cannot assume that everyone speaks English. In fact, far from it. Especially in the little supermarket just down the road where we often bike to. When standing at the butchery/deli counter it's 100% Spanish all around. Donald Trump's going to have his work cut out!!!
The food in cafes generally is of poor quality. Breads and pastries galore. Quite dispiriting. Even the other night we went to a new place which was all outdoor with a central bar and takeaway type food outlets around the perimeter in makeshift shelters or vans. Some actually quite good but, as it was a highly imaginative innovative way of serving food, you might have expected a bit better. Jim opted for the really healthy option - Scotch Egg and chips and cheese and Jean had a vegetarian salad. She enjoyed hers but the cheese wasn't even melted on the chips. However, the Scotch Egg was well ahead of any in recent memory. Last one was probably back in Godszone last year!
Another thing which came to mind after we had arrived back home was that it would have made an ideal venue for an Orlando type shooting. At least 200 people there in a rectangular space from which there was no obvious way out except through the front gate. A killer with one of these assault rifles could have a field day. Doesn't bear thinking about (so we will try not to), but it does come to mind every so often and there is no doubt that another nutter/fanatic will do it again in this country with its out of control gun laws. It's insane and for that reason alone, let alone anything else, we could never live here.
Jim probably had some irrational expectation that one might see some 50's-60's era cars with teeth and fins still driving about, but of course that's not the case. They are either all gone or in the hands of collectors where they are lovingly restored. There is a car yard not far from here which has some examples but they look as though they are either beyond restoration or at best needing lots of $$$$$'s. So, it's disappointing to see Buicks and Cadillacs which in some cases are almost indistinguishable from a Toyota. Even Lincolns. Famous names such as Lincoln Continental (in wich JFK was assasinated), Ford Thunderbird, Cadillac El Dorado and Buick Riviera. And Pontiac and Oldsmobile (no longer made), not to mention the ubiquitous Chevrolet Impala and Bel Air. Chevs nowadays go by the names of Spark and Volt! But to make up for all that blandness, there is a plethora of Europeans - Volvos, Mercedes, BMW, Audi to name a few. And relatively cheap here compared with NZ. If Jim lived here with lots of money he would collect a '53 Buick convertible with a straight 8 engine, a '59 Cadillac El Dorado convertible with a 7 litre V8 and fins to die for and a '56 2 door Chevrolet Bel Air. And maybe a '59 Pontiac Le Mans (or Bonneville) convertible. Then a '71 Mercedes Benz 280 SE 3.5 V8 convertible. These MB's were the last to be hand made and are worth many $$$$$'s now. Saw an ad. for one for sale and it was USD375,000!! Such are dreams made of! However, it is good to see retro styled new Ford Mustangs. At least they look like cars - and available new in NZ too!
Miami seems to be architecturally fairly featureless. You hardly ever see restored old buildings and yet there must have been quite a few. An exception already mentioned in a previous blog is South Miami Beach's Art Deco buildings. They have made a feature of these and there are now covenants against substantial alteration or demolition.
Last Saturday we went on a picnic down to Key Biscayne via Virginia Key. We went to a pleasant beach which has an outlook back to downtown Miami CBD. Very hot (over 30C) but there was some tree shade and we had a small tent which kept the worst temperature away. It was a weekend so quite difficult to park two SUV's (!) but we managed and the white sand beach itself wasn't too crowded. Had 2 swims in warmish water but it was cooler than the air temperature and, being salt water, was good to swim in. The boys were surprisingly unfazed by the small waves as they are mainly used to swimming pools so that was good to see. Even the change to salt water didn't upset them unduly. Tracie had made a quiche and we also had some enchiladas and a cold beer so were well replete. Amazing we didn't sink; it was probably the buoyant salt water of the Atlantic Ocean that kept us up!! A Mr. Whippy-type van came by so we had icecreams and then drove back home. On the way Perry drove Jim further south along Key Biscayne to see many marinas, condos and golf courses - all in immaculate condition. Goodness knows what it costs to be there, even living on a boat!!
We had been swimming in Biscayne Bay which is where there is a nuclear power station that apparently is leaking a radioactive isotope (Tritium) into the Bay in its cooling water. Various conflicting opinions claim it is harmful while others (mostly power company spokespeople) say not. Either way, it's disquieting to say the least and one wonders just how many of these aging facilities are in a similar condition in this country. We were joking that we were getting our daily dose of Strontium 90, but it's not really a joking matter.
An unexpected result the other night with Brexit by a margin of 2 million votes. Jim was fascinated and watched the result unfold live on the internet until 2 am Eastern Summer Time. Seems that at least a major factor was a general deep seated dissatisfaction which has been completely overlooked or ignored by those in power. It's the same groundswell of opinion that has supported Donald Trump thus far and despite the polls which were spectacularly wrong with Brexit, Trump could actually win the presidency. A far scarier scenario than Brexit. However, you can understand that mainly middle class middle age people who have lost at least jobs to globalisation and in many cases their entire assets in the GFC, feel this way. They are lashing out the only way open to them and it is a potent force for change. And not for the best. It's the same anger and frustration that saw Hitler come to power in Germany in the 1930's - circumstances were different but the anger and sense of loss was the same. Governments would do well to heed these warnings but there is little sign of that as was clearly shown in the British Government's decision to hold the referendum on EU membership.
Last night an ex work colleague of Perry's and his wife and their 7 month old son came around for a BBQ. They are Aussies of Italian descent and a pleasant evening was had by all.
Well, that's it once more - Colombia is looming up. Only 9 more sleeps!
Cheers and lots of love from us
Jim and Jean
----- End of Original Message -----
----- End of Original Message -----

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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Portrait - the Grand Vizier and No. 1 wife!!

Hi to all,
Couldn't resist sending this to you. It was taken during a cruise on the Bosphorous (Istanbul) when we were in Turkey. We were persuaded to dress up in ceremonial Ottoman clothes and Jim was handed a large curved scimitar for the occasion!
It is now day 24 out of our total of 70 days (already just over a third of the total) - how time flies. Lorraine and Alan left the other day to return to NZ and it was sad to see them go.
We have been living a relatively quiet suburban life here at Normandy Island, Miami and Jean in particular has been enjoying the children. We have been riding Perry's and Tracie's bikes around locally and getting used to travelling on the right.
Another visit to Whole Foods yesterday where we bought some more provisions. Looked at their website and must say it is impressive. They have over 300 stores in the US and UK and are very staunch about refusing to stock various food additives including MSG!! Also NO GMO. This is in itself impressive in a country like the US which is absolutely consumer driven and our perception is that relatively few would ever bother about what is in their food!
A couple of days ago we all came down with quite a virulent stomach bug. It's taken a bit of time to get over, but we are all making strides in the right direction now. As usual with these things, we really don't have any firm idea of where or how this was caused, but it's been debilitating for all of us.
We are leaving for Medellin in Colombia in 2 weeks' time and looking forward to that enormously, although Jean will be missing the children. However, we are back here again 2 and a half weeks later.
More to come of course and we hope you've been enjoying our earlier blogs on
Cheers, love and all best wishes from us......
Jim and Jean
Normandy Island

Sunday, 19 June 2016

photos relating to recent blogs

At last, some pics!!!
1) The 124 yr old "Vega" at Langkawi. We brought down some deck caulking material for them from Thailand and had a fascinating tour over this venerable vessel. Hopefully Tiare will last at least as long as this magnificent specimen of wooden boat history.
2) The Dolmabahce Palace was built for the Ottomans in the late 1800's - possibly because they wanted to keep up with their European counterparts. However, it was eventually a major factor in the demise of the Ottoman Empire, just as Versailles in France did the same to the French Royalty. Still, unlike France the Turkish Ottomans kept their heads!
3) We didn't actually visit the Hagia Sophia but saw it from the water. We are all mosque'd out!
4) This is a miniature version of the above.
5) The magnificent gates of the Dolmahahce. God knows what they cost alone; the entire palace cost 35 tons of gold - an eyewatering sum back in the late 19th. century.
6) Jim's favourite shop - enough said!!
7) Jean with an Albanian jeweller from Kosovo in the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul.
8) Part of the Topkapi Palace. Don't know which part; it was massive and was a completely self contained community with wives and concubines galore!!!
9) Turkish Delight everywhere. Don't really know where to begin.
10) The entrance to Earnest Hemingway's house (although it actually belonged to his wife which proved to be a far sighted move on her part).
11) Many examples of Art Deco architecture in South Miami Beach. This was a notable example and made us think we were back in Napier.
12) This ute caught our eye in Key West. Promoting some tourist venture or another.
13) An example of historical building styles in this historic town of Key West.
14) Carter with his personal swimming instructor here in Miami. Even Nash at just over 1 year old is an accomplished swimmer and it's so important, especially here, for children to learn to swim as soon as they are able.
15) Key West again - this is actually not the southernmost point but very close. Good enough for tourists!!
16) The desk where Hemingway wrote 65% of his published works. The study was connected to the main house by an overhead wrought iron bridge so that he could have absolute privacy whenever necessary.
17) Jean, Perry and Carter at swimming.
18) Jean and Lorraine - South Miami Beach.
19) The famous Conch Train which we took for the best part of a day in and around Key West. Far and away the best way to get a quick overview in a short time.
Hope these pics bring some life into our written blogs!!
Lotsaluv from us,
Jim and Jean
Normandy Island

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Days 10 - 17 08/06 - 15/06 Miami and Key West

It's difficult to know where to start as the days are definitely blurring into one another.
Time is passing so quickly and it's about a week since our last blog!! One day we went to a large mall complex (Sawgrass) about an hour's drive west. Very urbanised but all neat and tidy. Pretty uninteresting flat country but all lush and green. That is what strikes us most. The greenness. Even greener than Godzone! The mall itself was huge and you needed a map (provided) just to navigate your way around. It's all on one level and covers many acres. It was a weekend and we were late arriving so the crowds were starting to build. Seems to us that the only time to come here is early on a week day. We bought hardly anything because first it was almost impossible to find an item of interest in these huge stores. You'd need at least half an hour in each shop just to locate something as there appeared to be no-one to assist. The staff were all manning the checkouts. Quite frustrating really. And endless queues at the checkouts. It takes half an hour just to pay for something. And the examples of various forms of humanity that one sees are fascinating. It's an entertainment in itself - just people watching. We had something to eat from one of the many outlets in one of the food halls because we were hungry. That's the only reason that you would eat mass produced American food because it's just like mushy plastic. Jean asked at one place whether they put MSG in their food and they completely misunderstood her concern because they replied proudly - yes (!) it's in everything!!!
Another day Perry dropped Alan, Lorraine, Jean and Jim off at South Miami Beach for us to wander around on foot and see the sights. All condos and glitzy retail stores and people being seen. The restaurants all look good from the outside but again the food is at best very mediocre. And not cheap, especially for us when you need to add about a third onto USD prices to convert to Kiwi. Jean led us to what had been a Jewish synagogue where she had been last year and that was very worthwhile. It has been converted into a museum now and we had a guided tour. Miami has an extensive Jewish history and we learnt much. From early discrimination where Jews were only allowed to buy property in certain places to their eventual dominance in commerce and local government.
Then last Sunday Perry and Tracie very kindly organised a trip to Key West (4 hours SW of here). This was a major exercise with Nash and Carter - they seemed to have more stuff than the 6 adults and of course meant that we had to take their 2 SUV vehicles - the Mercedes ML 350 and the VW Touareg. Vehicles are so much cheaper here in the US than in NZ.
The drive south onto the Keys was fascinating. Prior to the road, the railway was constructed on a series of raised bridges spanning shallow water miles long. The railway was finished in 1912 and it was then possible to travel all the way from New York to Key West. Several wealthy individuals even had their own private rail carriages which were hooked onto a train whenever the owners wished to travel. The road which is built of everlasting concrete like most of America's main roads and turnpikes, was completed in 1938. It is unique in that it spans shallow water for much of its 80 mile length from Key Largo and it is the southern part of US1 which runs from the Canadian border and terminates in Key West. You alternately travel over water so clear that you can see the bottom and then you pass through the various Keys on the way south. Incidentally the word "Key" is thought to have been an English version of the word "Cay" which is a coral/sand island. Key West is so-called because it is the western most of the Florida Keys.
Some other historical tidbits for you -
Pan American Airways began in Key West with a mail service to Havana in Cuba in 1927 with a German Fokker trimotor F-7. THe following year a passenger service started.
In 1935 the largest storm to ever make landfall in the continental US struck. It is known as the Labour Day Hurricane and had 200 mph winds. It caused 600 deaths, destroyed much of the railway and cost 6 million dollars in damage.
Key West has always been of strategic importance to the US. Even as the state of Florida, along with 6 others seceded from the Union in 1861, thus igniting the Civil War, Key West was seized by a US Army detachment which had been garrisoned there under the command of a far sighted officer and it provided a harbour for Union Navy ships to blockade Confederate ports to the north which were being supplied arms by the French. It had also been used some 40 years earlier as a base for the anti piracy offensive that started in response to rampant and vicious piracy then flourishing in the Caribbean. It has been used as an important Naval base during the 1st. and 2nd. world wars and was visited by JFK in 1962 at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Cuba is only 90 miles to the south. The Spanish-American War was largely supported from Key West in 1898. Cuba was liberated from Spanish rule at that time and it also marked the end of Spanish dominance in the Americas.
There is the Truman White House on the Naval Base where various US presidents came and stayed - FDR, JFK, Truman, Taft, Eisenhower, Carter and Clinton.
In 1850 Key West was the largest city in Florida with a population of 2,600. By 1860 KW had become the wealthiest city per capita in the entire US. It then had 2,900 residents, while to the north Fort Dallas (now Miami) had but 83!
We were staying in a separate house of 3 floors on a relatively small footprint. Kitchen and living on the ground floor together with a deck and very small in-ground swimming pool. Main bedroom on the 1st floor and then 2 more bedrooms on the top floor. Very comfortable except for the stair climbing which was a bit of a trial for Jim's knees and excessively soft beds which we are definitely not used to!
Key West Town is of course very historic as described above. Many old and very attractive houses in the typical southern American style with various period influences. It is mostly flat with the highest "hill" at 16 feet above sea level! Possibly KW's most famous ex resident is the American writer Earnest Hemingway. We visited his house which is a 2 storied structure very close to where we were staying. The house is built of coral limestone blocks which were excavated and fashioned on-site. The hole became a large basement which the Hemingways later turned in to a wine cellar. The house was built in 1851 by the first owner Asa Tift and became the Hemingway's home in 1931. The history of the 1st owner is tragic. His 24 yr old wife and very soon after 2 young children all died of Yellow Fever which was endemic at the time and which accounted for many deaths of Europeans including in the Armed Services where more died of Yellow Fever than from the results of combat! Tift continued to live in the house alone for the rest of his life when he died in his 80's. We were guided around the house and were given a potted history of Hemingway's life from when he volunteered as an ambulance driver in Italy in WW1 to when he tragically committed suicide in 1961 in Ketchum, Idaho where he was then living. In spite of spending a relatively short time in KW, Hemingway actually produced 65% of his published work during his time on Key West. He also lived in Paris prior to KW and later Havana before moving to Idaho. He was a avid big game hunter and game fisherman. He was married 4 times. A very talented writer of course, he also abused himself with alcohol and it is now thought he suffered from bi-Polar Disease. We would recommend reading Wikipedia to learn all about this remarkable man.
We then decided to do the famous Conch Train tour which is a road vehicle disguised as a locomotive towing 6-8 open carriages. It is the ideal way for first time visitors to Key West to see the island in a relaxed and friendly way. It has been running since 1958. The main points of interest are Sloppy Joe's Bar (where Hemingway used to drink), the Hemingway House, the southernmost point of the US and countless other points of interest on the way around. All narrated by the driver in a very folksy amusing manner.
Speaking of humour, there is one story about Hemingway that is worth repeating. Sloppy Joe's at one stage had to move to a new location as the lease had expired and there was a marble urinal that became surplus to requirements. Hemingway insisted on acquiring it and had it installed in his garden much to the chagrin of his then wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. He famously remarked that he had bought it many times over considering all the money he had poured into it!!
We found a great breakfast restaurant, Blue Heaven, which a local told us made the best breakfasts on the island. That may have been true; they were certainly very good. But we must make mention of the costs of Key West to a visitor. Firstly for us everything is 30% more expensive than shown due to the Kiwi/USD exchange rate. Then, everything is expensive anyway. At one stage we decided, when feeling hot after a bit of a walk back to where we were staying, to treat ourselves to a couple of fruit juices - Jean had a carrot one and Jim an orange. Both very good but USD7 each! That translates to a total of NZD20 which is 56 Malaysian ringgits. That would buy a very good meal for the two of us on Langkawi, but only 2 fruit juices on Key West!! In fact on Langkawi we routinely spend less than that on a 2 course meal for 2 plus a beer each!!
We only had one full day on Key West and then the next day it was time to return to Miami. So, after the palaver of loading the kids and all their stuff (and 3 pushbikes on the back of the Merc), we went to a local beach to have a swim before hitting the road. There was a beachside cafe selling the usual indifferent food and we had a plate of chips and a "toasted sandwich" (which was really just a sloppy burger). However, it was good to swim in the buoyant clear salt water once more where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Gulf of Mexico and the beach was good.
Then we hit the road for the 4 hour drive back to Miami. Sorry to leave Key West because it's a lovely leafy place with all its old historic buildings but we couldn't afford to stay there for any time at all. We've never experienced anything like it for rampant commercialism on an eye watering scale. Leaves other "tourist" places we've been to for dead.
Yesterday Perry was going up to Fort Lauderdale (about 45 minutes away) so we went along as we needed to visit a marine chandlery for some items we needed. We had found a West Marine store there so he dropped us off and we made our purchases. We had a different price experience there. Everything we looked at was significantly less than from Burnsco in NZ - even doing the currency conversions. We told Burnsco about that and all we got from them was - "if you're in NZ it's a fact of life and suck it up"!! There was an article in the NZ Herald recently about how NZer's are getting ripped off everywhere and it's no wonder that on-line buying is in the ascendancy. Many things sold in NZ are in fact invoiced through Australia as most agencies are held there and NZer's certainly pay the price due to multiple markups.
Finally we must make mention of the political situation. Everyone will be sadly familiar with the worst multiple shooting in US history not far north of here at Orlando. Predictably Trump is using the situation for all he is worth blaming Obama for the situation. In fact, it is a direct result of the insane gun laws in the USA. The killer just a week before walked into a gun store and purchased an automatic rapid fire assault rifle of a type used by US Special Forces. He also purchased a hand gun. Both completely legally. The fact that any nutter can do just that is the real disgrace and the National Rifle Assn. and the Republican Party in particular should take immediate steps to end this insanity. But Trump certainly won't and would likely deem it a necessity for all citizens to bear arms to counter the "Islamist threat". If the purchase and possession of these types of guns was made illegal with hefty fines for non compliance, America would undoubtedly be a safer place. There does seem to be a growing groundswell of support for restrictions on gun ownership though, and it is to be hoped that the Democrats win the Presidential elections in November. Then some moves in the right direction may occur.
Well, that's it for now from us - there will be more!! Hope you have enjoyed the read.
With lotsaluv from us..........
Jim and Jean
Normandy Island

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Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Miami sojourn ongoing

Day 8 - 06/06
Bit more for breakfast this morning due to our shopping expedition yesterday. Big excitement after breakfast when Nana Rosa arrived to look after the children. Jean and her greeted each other like the long lost friends they had become during Jean's last visit here last year. Rosa speaks very little English and our Spanish is similarly woeful, although if we have any thoughts of settling anywhere in South or Central America that will have to change. So, it was a case of "Hola Rosa, comesta?" And that was about it!
Then Rosa took the children off to a local park and we decided to borrow Perry and Tracie's pushbikes and we rode down the road to get some money out of an ATM and buy some more oranges. The neighbourhood is upmarket but the houses are mainly single story and about 40 years old. Nothing really very outstanding architecturally but by all accounts very expensive with rents up to $US9,000 per month. Seems totally incomprehensible to us that housing costs should be so high and indeed Auckland is heading in a similar direction. By comparison with all this the boat is cheap! Only NZD700 per month to berth at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club in Langkawi!!
Day 9 - 07/06
The days are tending to blur together somewhat just now. Maybe it's got something to do with getting over the jetlag - or something!! More bike riding and getting used more or less to being on the right. We'll be dangerous when we get back to Langkawi. This morning went with Perry, Carter and Nssh to swimming lessons. It was amazing to watch very young children being taught to swim. Nash is just over one for instance. The instructors take them one on one and each one has 10-15 minutes. They push them underwater and they swim back up and they are taught to lie on their backs and float. All good stuff if ever they fell into water by accident. It reminded Jim of when he was at Penrhyn Island in the Cook Islands in 1968 and there saw very little children swimming unsupervised with reef sharks underneath them. They were so young they couldn't even walk and were crawling out of the water.
Later we biked to a pharmacy where there was a 20% discount for "seniors"!! Jim got a hairbrush and Jean some haircutting scissors for Jim's hair! And a Wall Street Journal which originally exposed the corruption of very senior people in the Malaysian Government, including Najib, the Malaysian P.M. USD700 million worth! Pity about hair cutting because he is trying to become a Trump look-a-like! Probably not a good idea though down here in the south where there is a very sizeable population of Hispanics - something over 50% in fact. Trump is not exactly their favourite person, especially after his comments about a Federal Court Judge of Mexican descent the other day. We also found an Italian icecream parlour and had some delicious chocolate icecream - great for the Diabetes, but you have to break out sometime.
It is now 0700 the next morning as this is being written and feeling better all the time - especially since we slept for at least 7 hours last night. More to come in due course.........
Lotsaluv as always,
Jim and Jean

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Monday, 6 June 2016

Days 6 &7 04/06 & 05/06

Day 6 - Today was a sad day in some respects because it marked our departure from Istanbul which we had thoroughly enjoyed but we are giving serious though to spending a few more days there on our way back to Malaysia in August. Depends on whether we can persuade Turkish Airlines to change our dates with no or little penalty.
However, on the other hand today marks the day when we arrive in Miami to be with Jean's family so that definitely outweighs any regrets at leaving Istanbul.
We were picked up early from the hotel for the usual reason that we wanted to organise good seats and had a quick trip to the airport. This time managed to get bulkhead seats which gave us more legroom but the aircraft was almost full which surprised us. Of course this meant that we could not commandeer a row of seats so had to remain sitting more or less upright for almost 12 hours.
The flight was an hour late leaving so that was going to delay our arrival time. It was scheduled for 1710 but in the event we didn't arrive at Miami until almost 1900.
We had imagined that we would fly along the Mediterranean more or less but of course we took the Great Circle route which is actually shorter. So we flew over Bulgaria and Romania and eventually exited the French coast about the latitude of Paris. Then flew over southern England before heading out over the Atlantic. We turned SW near the Canadian coast just south of Gander in Newfoundland and encountered severe headwinds as our ground speed dropped to well below 400 mph. All of this contributed to our eventual late arrival.
We were probably still jetlagged after the KL - Istanbul flight and of course we had been on the go since arriving there 4 days ago. So, the flight dragged more than the 1st. leg and it wasn't helped by our relatively slow progress. The food wasn't so good either so our earlier praise of Turkish Airlines must be somewhat muted. They certainly win hands down though for service, helpfulness and straight out friendliness though.
Soon enough we arrived at Miami. Then we had to negotiate the US border protection. Before leaving Malaysia we had had to obtain an ESTA which is a visa waiver programme so, although NZ passport holders do not require a visa, the ESTA is meant to be a substitute screening process. How effective it is, who knows? Anyway, it was all a piece of cake in the end and we were soon through US Immigration.
As an aside, in the local Miami Herald there was a report that Muslims in the US are starting to be fearful for their own safety. There is no doubt that there is widespread paranoia and the politics of fear are taking hold. Trump is playing this card for all he is worth and for this reason alone he should never be president. Adolph Hitler did the same thing in Germany in the early 1930's and we all know what happened after that.
Perry met us at the airport and pretty soon we had arrived at their house at South Shore Drive, Normanby Is. Great to see everyone, and of course Jean was pleased to see Carter and Nash. They are both bundles of energy and keep everyone very busy! Alan and Lorraine (Tracie's Mum) were both there too and in fact everyone had just that morning arrived back from a cruise that incorporated Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica. So we were all very tired and Thai takeaways were in order.
Day 7 - Woke early due to the fact that we were still on Istanbul time - 6 hours earlier. But felt pretty good overall and we were ready for anything - at least for a while. After breakfast which was a bit on the skinny side as there was not much food in the house, we all decided to descend on Wholefoods which is an upmarket supermarket quite close. We went in two cars as there were 6 of us plus the 2 children. Bought up large as we hadn't been let loose in a supermarket quite like that in a long time. It's expensive for us too as the Kiwi dollar is only buying 68-69 US cents and also all prices of things which were sold by weight were in pounds. So to convert to something which made sense for us firstly you needed to do the currency conversion and then multiply by 2.2 to get the equivalent price per kilo.
America is crazy in that respect - they have of course had dollars and cents for well over 100 (possibly 200) years and yet still use an antiquated system for weights and measures (pounds and ounces) and also linear measurement (feet and inches). In addition fuel is sold by the American gallon (different to the old Imperial gallons we were used to back in NZ) so to compare the fuel price to Kiwiland one has to go through a similar convoluted exercise. And of course America drives on the right so we don't think we will be driving! No need anyway with Perry and Tracie to drive us around.
They are having to vacate their leased house about mid August which is a pity as it is very comfortable with 4 bedrooms and is on one of the local canals with a pontoon and 2 jetskis moored out front.
Later Perry drove us around the local area and we saw the next house they are leasing and also saw a portion of the famous Intracoastal Waterway which is a navigable (mostly) inland waterway which stretches all the way from Pensacola in Florida to the Chesapeake. We would love to do this trip on Tiare but somehow time has caught up with us and it's doubtful whether that will ever happen.
One doesn't realise just how Spanish Miami is with immigrants (legal and illegal) from Mexico, Cuba and many Latin American countries.
BBQ tonight and watched a major basketball game on TV. Then bed again to finally get rid of the jetlag.
Lotsaluv again
Jim and Jean

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Friday, 3 June 2016

Day 3 - 01/06 - Istanbul

After an excellent breakfast at the Golden Crown we went for a short walk to search for an ATM. This part of the old section of Istanbul is quite steep and had us puffing somewhat when we got to the top and a main road where there is a rail line for the city's light rail system - they call them trams.
We strolled along admiring in particular shoe stores selling Turkish made footwear. Very well made and very reasonably priced. Better than anything we have seen in Asia by far. Found a small jewellery store where Jean bought some silver replacement earrings and also found the ATM - there were several close by. At present there are almost exactly 2 Turkish Lira to 1 NZ dollar. So it's easy to mentally do the conversion calculations when shopping. Easier than the Malaysian Ringgit at just over 2.8 to 1 Kiwi dollar or 24 point something Thai Baht.
We had a great time ambling about and had a very friendly conversation with the jeweller. There are many small shops selling fresh fruit drinks and smoothies and Jean had a carrot/apple one while Jim had Pomegranate. Beautiful and no added sugar! We also spied one of many small shops selling mainly fresh herbs and spices. There was the usual Turkish Delight of course but the sheer variety amazed us. All sorts of fragrant flowers for teas and coffee galore. Even some Turkish Viagra (!) which caught Jim's eye. Bought a small bottle and apparently according to the very accomplished salesman, only 3 small teaspoons is enough! Enough for what you may ask - well, we're not telling! Among many other things they even sold Goji berries. Our acupuncturist friend in Langkawi would be most impressed! Google them and you will be impressed too.
Then it was back to the hotel to await our pickup for the cruise on the Bosphorus which we had booked. We probably would have preferred to get over our jetlag but with such a short time here we had to make every day count.
We were picked up in a medium sized bus which had enormous difficulty negotiating the tight turns and narrow steep streets in this area. Eventually after picking up others at various hotels we arrived at the waterfront on the Golden Horn. We boarded a large cruise boat which normally carries up to 400 but today we only had 70. Mainly due to bad economic conditions in Europe and Putin's ban on Russians travelling to Turkey after Turkey shot down a Russian military jet which has strayed into Turkish airspace. One crew member was killed and Putin was enraged. As a result of all this, average hotel occupancy is around 55% in Istanbul currently and times are tough.
Anyway, we were soon underway on the Golden Horn which is a short tributary of the Bosphorus. Had a very good lunch on board although a little bit too Turkish salady for Jim's taste but Jean said she was in heaven! Certainly the Turkish food has impressed us starting with the meals we had on Turkish Airlines. Everything is so fresh and TASTY - something that is rapidly being lost everywhere else it seems.
We cruised out of the Golden Horn where the Ottomans used to keep their Navy under the nose of the Sultan's who were resident in the Topkapi Palace on the hill above. Then we turned to the north towards the Black Sea up the Bosphorus. Found out something we've always wondered about - the colour black to the Turks means north - hence the North or Black Sea. And the Mediterranean to the south was known as the White Sea. We cruised up the Western (or European) side of the Bosphorus and passed many beautiful buildings all of which were in some way related to the Ottoman Sultans and the Ottoman Empire. Summer palaces and mosques galore. You tend to think that the Sultans and their entourages and Hareems lived a wonderful life, but behind the scenes not so. Each Sultan had 4 wives and countless concubines. The concubines lived as quite a separate community and there were always many children running around. Apparently the wives and concubines were "recruited" from Europe as most of the Sultans preferred blondes! Don't know how the women were recruited and it probably was not all a case of blondes having more fun!!! The were intrigues and plots going on all the time and apparently one Sultan killed his own son because he became aware that the son was plotting to overthrow his father. No doubt the son would not have shown any more mercy towards his father. For the most part it was a brutal ruthless business.
Anyway, we cruised past all these splendid buildings and past opulent seaside mansions. Apparently the highest price paid recently was USD100 million. Puts Auckland in the shade. Eventually we stopped at a small seaside village - very touristy with prices to match. The Black Sea was just a little way further north but we didn't go that far. We went ashore and wandered around and were soon back on board and cruising back down the Bosphorous. This time down the Asian (eastern) side. No Ottoman buildings but even more opulent mansions. There were many large cargo ships and tankers heading empty up into the Black Sea. It's a narrow waterway so it appeared that there were ships only going one way because the next day we saw loaded ships coming the other way. One way system. Very sensible because loaded tankers need to be treated with respect in those congested waters. We imagined sailing Tiare up there. We'd absolutely love to do that. The village where we went ashore was in a quiet bay out of the current which is fierce in some places but nonexistent in this small bay and others. Then there is the southern Black Sea coast of Turkey........!!
All in all the Bosphorous cruise was a great experience. We had heard about these famous places full of romance and history but it all seems to come down to earth when you see such mundane things as commuter ferries plying every day across the Golden Horn and from there across the Bosphorus!! While on the cruise we were persuaded to dress up in Ottoman clothes - probably as a Grand Vizier and his No. 1 wife!! Had our photo taken. Very impressive! Jim was holding a large curved scimitar! We have a hard copy but they are supposed to email it to us as well so when it comes we will put it on the blogsite!
Another wonderful day in Istanbul.
Day 4 - 02/06 Istanbul -
Had a quiet morning but walked up the hill again and found the Grand Bazaar market. All undercover under old eastern arches. Every type of shop you could imagine and heaps of them. Turkish carpets and jewellery abounded. Had a great conversation with the proprietor of one jewellery shop - his family originally comes from Kosovo which at one time was part of the Ottoman Empire. It is a very poor state between Serbia and Albania and is still slowly recovering from the devastating recent Balkan Wars. He still has family there and he very kindly gave us 1 decorative coffee spoon each.
We must mention the food again. We should leave soon before a forkhoist will be needed to put us on the plane!! Fresh cherries, strawberries and oranges to name just a few items. Sooo tasty and so different from the bland offerings generally available in NZ and many other countries. All bred for show but no substance, but Turkish produce is simply not like that. It's gorgeous and Jean was told that there are very strict restrictions on the use of pesticides. They also know how to feed their crops too and it's all so different from what we've been used to. Then there are dark chocolate covered orange Turkish Delight balls and chocolate cake and deserts to die for. Lentil soup, mushroom casserole, Turkish lamb Doner Kebabs - all absolutely wonderful. And NOT expensive. We could go on and on!
This afternoon we took another short tour to the Topkapi Palace (the principal residence of the Ottoman Sultans from the 1460's for 400 years). It is a fascinating place and was a completely self contained community with its own huge bakery (300 workers in the bakery), the hareem quarters and all situated on a commanding site overlooking the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. It provides an insight into how the Ottomans lived and indeed this way of life with its authoritarian lack of concern with the welfare of the ordinary subjects of the Empire. There are precious stones galore on display including the 2nd largest diamond in the world (86 carats) after the Koh-I-Noor. Ultimately this extravagant living together with the neglect of the Empire's subjects was the underlying reason for the decline of the Ottoman Empire, although the result of WW1 hastened the inevitable end. Probably a comparison could well be drawn with the French monarchy and their attitude towards their subjects which caused their demise in the French Revolution.
It is interesting to speculate as to what would have happened if the Ottoman Empire had not allied itself to Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire during WW1. For one thing, Gallipoli would not have occurred. If they had also reformed their relations with their subjects and had given their various colonies independence as appropriate (as the British did), they might have had a continuing constitutional monarchy today and most of the current troubles with Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine and in the Balkans would not have occurred. Borders would have been drawn with intimate knowledge of the populations living therein, instead of ignorantly by the ruling powers that took over and who were primarily only interested in oil extraction. We, and particularly those populations, continue to pay an awful price today.
The current downturn in tourism to Turkey is causing tensions on the street. We went out on foot to have dinner and discovered two restaurants opposite each other. We looked at the menu of one and the owner was pressuring us to patronise his establishment. We then went across the narrow street and perused the other menu. We decided on the 2nd. one and the first owner glared at us during our whole meal which was very good. We also had 2 free glasses of Turkish wine which is also very good. The warring across the street somewhat spoilt the experience though!
Day 5 - 03/06 Istanbul -
A quiet morning and then we caught the tram (train) to the end of that particular line on the Bosphorus where the Dolmabahce Palace is situated. The Palace is most impressive as it took over as the official residence of the Ottoman Sultans in 1856 and incorporated many more modern features than its predecessor - the Topkapi. It is also more magnificent and contains a crystal chandelier which weighs 4.5 tons and which has 10,000 crystal pieces. The decoration is sumptuous and much of it is gold plated. One thing that we noted with some amusement was that in the Hareem quarters was a large wonderfully furnished room called the Sultan's Resting Room. No doubt he needed plenty of rest with 4 wives and many concubines!
It is said that the building of the palace cost 35 tons of gold. Wonderful to see but very reminiscent of Versailles in France which led directly to the French revolution. As with Versailles bankrupting France, the extreme cost of the Dolmabahce also bankrupted what was left of the Ottoman Empire and was a main cause of its final extinction. With the decline of the Ottoman Empire after WW1 the title of Sultan had been reduced to that of Caliph and so the last of the Ottoman Dynasty to live in the Dolmabahce was only in office from 1922 to 1924 when the Ottoman rule was finally abolished and the Ottomans were banished abroad. The last Caliph died in Paris in 1944 coincidentally with the Liberation of Paris from Germany which was happening at that time.
The Republic of Turkey was then established in 1924 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who as an army general had been responsible for the Allied defeat at Gallipoli. Ataturk then ruled as President until his death in 1938. This occurred in the old Hareem quarters of the Dolmabahce where he had been living. The hour of his passing was 0905 and clocks in the Palace were stopped and the hands put to that time. He is revered in Turkey as a national hero still.
Well, that's enough potted history for one night. It is now after 2200 and we must get a reasonably early night as we leave here at 0830 tomorrow morning for our flight to Miami and Jean's grandsons! More to come in due course.
Lotsaluv from us as usual............
Jim and Jean

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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The big OE - Day 1 Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur.

Hi to everyone,
The start of this blog is being written as we sit in Starbucks at Langkawi Airport waiting for our Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur. We still have two and a half hours to take-off time. This morning we were up early before dawn which isn't hard here with the ridiculous defacto daylight saving that exists in NW Malaysia. Finished last minute chores for leaving the boat - lowering the front awning to try and prevent rain water entering our 2 small round ports, turning off 4 seacocks which are laboriously accessed from the engine bilge and by delving into the storage spaces under the V-berth. All these jobs must be done at the last minute because once the seacocks are turned off you can't use the galley sink or the head.
Last night Lee and Richard of "Before" very kindly drove us to Mangoes for dinner as the boat was by then devoid of food. We had the usual gastronomic meal and we had a very pleasant and cordial time in the company of Richard and Lee.
Yesterday we made the annoying discovery that the pump (now 9 years old) which pumps the shower waste water overboard had started leaking directly into the bilge which at least has solved one issue for us. It explains the buildup of bilge water which had been worrying us because we couldn't find the cause. Hopefully we can get the necessary parts to fix the pump in Miami.
We've asked Paul Brennan who looks after boats in the RLYC marina during their owners' absences to also look after our old girl. Main thing is to flush the watermaker membrane with fresh water twice a week so we've left a list of instructions!
So much to do with leaving a boat for any length of time - emptying the fridge and freezer for one - and Jean always insists on spring cleaning which is good because it lessens the risk of mould growth. And we have sent our aircon away for servicing so we are relying on fans only to move air around. And it's the start of the wet season here now so dampness is definitely an issue. However, fortunately it's much cooler.
It rained heavily all last night which made for a damp start but at least the rain has stopped for now so we have been able to get off the boat and get a taxi to the airport in a relatively dry state.
We must make mention of the Moslem women in full black Burkhas. They are generally tourists from the Middle East (Saudi Arabia in particular) because the local Moslem women usually only wear headscarves, some of which are definite fashion statements and often they go with tight jeans and tops. So much for Moslem modesty! The other day when we were in Starbucks at the Jeti, there was a Moslem couple who it turned out were visiting from Saudi. He had shorts and a T-shirt while she was in a full Burkha. She had the most gorgeous eyelashes which indeed was the only part of her which was visible. While her husband was getting their coffee, Jean engaged her in conversation (as she does!) and said she was admiring her eyelashes! Were they real? Yes she said they were and we suppose that as that is the only feminine attribute she is allowed to show, she lavished some attention on them. She certainly wouldn't have talked to Jim and when her husband approached she withdrew from any contact with Jean as well. Still, she seemed cheerful enough and spoke excellent educated English. We simply cannot understand how otherwise intelligent women could allow themselves to be treated as second class persons and be virtually nonentities - as invisible as possible in their black Burkhas.
And we particularly notice young girls as young as 7 or so who are already wearing headscarves. It seems such an infringement of personal freedom but of course when they get them so young by the time they are young adults they are completely brainwashed and accept all this nonsense without question. One of the office staff in the marina was quite proud of the fact that her young daughter had just started wearing the headscarve as some sort of ritualistic religious passage.
Anyway, we had an uneventful flight to Kuala Lumpur. We landed at the Air Asia terminal and Jean was amazed at just how much had changed since she was last there a year ago on her way to Miami via Heathrow. Shops everywhere and many restaurants. Bought a new knee support at a Guardian pharmacy as Jean had left hers on the boat! Eventually found the Tune Hotel which is the only hotel within walking distance - it is owned by Air Asia. It's a budget hotel, very new and clean and comfortable. There was a reasonable restaurant so that's where we ate as we couldn't face searching out anything better. We'd packed 3 x 100ml. plastic bottles of Famous Grouse and finished those off in short order - then collapsed into bed after a very long day.
Day 2 - up early as we wanted to get to the Turkish Airlines checkin counter to get good seats. The flight was leaving at 1150. Mediocre breakfast at 0600 at the Tune Hotel restaurant (the Malaysians simply can't cook and routinely ruin good food in our opinion! And Malaysian eggs are tasteless - don't know what they feed or don't feed the chickens). Then we eventually found the train to the international terminal (KLIA). Getting directions in Malaysia anywhere together with confusing or non existent signage soon manages to alter one's mood for the worse. Then after all our efforts, we arrived at the checkin desks at 0800 only to find that they didn't open until an hour later! Managed to cool our heels and took it in turns to wander around. We changed most of the Ringgits we had left for 300 Turkish Lira. Then the counters opened but we couldn't get bulkhead or exit row seats as they are reserved for mothers with young children or very tall people. Still, as it turned out on the aircraft the legroom was not too bad. Had 2 very good fruit smoothies after we'd checked through immigration and security which was worryingly lax. We didn't have anything contentious but Jean contrasted it with Heathrow where they insisted on physically checking the bag contents. Malaysia really is a worry in that respect; terrorists would find it so easy to mount an attack there and the Malaysians wouldn't know what had hit them.
We took off on time and headed off on a NW heading. Before we left the ground we were given a Turkish Delight which was a nice touch. Saw Pangkor as we cleared the coast. The meal we were served (chicken for Jim and vegetarian Lasagna for Jean) was easily the best airline meal we'd had in many a long year. So far Turkish Airlines are very impressive.
This part of the blog is being written as we traverse the Arabian Sea just south of the Pakistani coast. Jean has found an empty 4 seat row so has pulled up the armrests and had a much needed sleep. Jim meanwhile has been staring out the window but unfortunately for most of the way across the Bay of Bengal and indeed as we crossed the Indian coast north of Chennai there was very thick cloud. We detoured to the south of the Nicobar Islands - not sure whether that was due to weather or Indian security - maybe a military exercise going on. India prohibits yachts from going there whereas the Andamans further north and also Indian owned are often visited. After a fitful sleep woke to find us over western India just south east of Pune and later Mumbai. Visibility had returned and it was possible to see how dry and arid the country looked. Earlier we had passed just south of Hyderabad and the country looked terrible. Unremitting aridity and brown as far as you could see. Made one feel very sad for the people living in that climate in which by recent accounts temperatures have exceeded 50 degrees C. For instance we noticed a smallish lake with an outlet to a substantially wide riverbed. The water from the outlet, such as it was, had dried to nothing in a very short distance. New Zealanders with their seemingly endless water supply should stop and reflect just how lucky they are. Didn't actually see Mumbai as we were too far south but what was noticeable (especially to those of a nautical frame of mind!) was quite a heavy surf on the west coast - but of course the SW monsoon is now in the beginning stage. One can only hope that eventually it will bring much needed rain to all those parched areas.
We have now just crossed the Pakistani coast west of Karachi and it is also parched beyond belief. No doubt it's "normal" in this part of the world but one can see many completely dried up rivers. Nowhere near as much evidence of habitation as was visible passing over India. Just looked out the window at where a substantial river has carved a gorge through a small range of hills and it is completely dry. How it is possible to exist there we cannot imagine.
It looks like we soon pass over Iran and Iraq (south of Afghanistan) so hopefully there aren't any trigger happy characters down there armed with anti aircraft missiles a la Ukraine. All being well, this blog and this stage of our journey will be finished from Istanbul.
Well, we safely arrived at Istanbul (Constantinople) half an hour late. This was due to us having to maintain a holding pattern over and around the city due to heavy traffic in and out of Ataturk Airport. It gave us great views of the city and the shores of the Black Sea and the Bosphorus which separates Asia from Europe, and on whose shores Gallipoli is situated. We had flown over Iran and then skirted the northern boundary of Iraq - no doubt due to security concerns. There must be much greater awareness of flying over war zones since the Malaysian airliner was shot down over Ukraine. Interesting to see the high altitude country in eastern Turkey with many snow capped mountains even now in early summer. There are many lakes in this region too, a couple of which are soda lakes with very high salinity and alkalinity.
Ataturk Airport was unremarkable except that there appear to be no foreign airlines operating there. All the aircraft are either the Turkish Government owned Turkish Airlines or its domestic subsidiaries. By the time we landed at 1800 local time after an almost 12 hour flight it was already midnight as far as our body clocks were concerned so we were feeling somewhat jaded! We had arranged a pickup from the airport which is on the European side of the Bosphorus and it was a half hour trip to the hotel (Golden Crown) on the Asian side. Very glad to get there and the room is a bit old and jaded (like us!!) but clean and comfortable. We walked a short distance up the road to have a meal at a local restaurant which was excellent and then came back to the hotel about 2100 when we fell into bed exhausted. Slept like logs.
Lotsaluv from us..........
Jim and Jean

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