Take Me Back to Pammukale

The wind has picked up and it almost feels like winter today, a strange feeling in the wake of a summer that refuses to end. I find myself thinking of the winteresque calcium deposits of Pammukale and not only wishing to go back in time, but wishing that I could hit pause as well. As far as exceptional places go, I think this piece of heaven might be right at the top of my list. Up there with the Cappodoccian balloon ride and the joys I feel whenever I enter Birds of Eden. These sorts of spaces always inspire that overwhelming reminder of how crazy beautiful this world that we live in is.

As I understand it, the calcium shelves at Pammukale are the result of both nature and the actions of mankind. The excess water servicing the ancient city on top of the hill was rerouted down the hill where the calcium rich streams caused these beautiful white pools. Today they’re maintained by only opening small portions of it up to the public and by continuing with the steady flow of water. The sight is quite breathtaking.

And you know what else? It’s romantic as hell. Walking hand-in-hand with my man through those freezing cold pools was pretty freaking nice. Especially since so few folks seemed to be prepared to walk right down to the bottom. Sadly we didn’t take out cameras with us (for fear we would slip and drown them) but at least one of the trusty cellphones came with and we have a few pics to share.

But wow, what an experience.

PS: the water tastes weird.

 

 

Up & Away: I finally got to climb into a hot air balloon

I had a dream last night that I flew to Sweden in a hot air balloon with my cat, Weasley, and Morrison, my sister’s golden retriever. Sometimes I love my brain for its ability to bring back the exact feelings of a past memory. Of course I haven’t gone to Sweden in a hot air balloon with my cat, but I can finally say that I have been in a hot air balloon.

For as long as I can remember, climbing into a hot air balloon and experiencing what it feels like to drift among the clouds has been at the very top of my bucket list. In fact, I had this particular longing way before bucket lists were called bucket lists. I don’t know if the same sort of thing exists today, but back in the 90s I had these books of classics that had been re-written for children. I can’t remember exactly which ones I had. My cousins had them too so I read some of their as well. Little Women. Alice in Wonderland. And of course: Around the World in 80 Days. Granted, that sort of adventure seems just as terrifying to me as going around the world in a yacht (all those potential ways to die!) but a balloon ride could not sound more glorious. I want to do that one day said the child self. It seemed a safer plan than allowing a handful of helium balloons to take me.

I’ve twice considered taking a balloon ride in my own country. The price tag is a serious factor though, I must admit. Wow. And while I was in Chiang Mai I considered it again, but between breaking my knee and feeling like I didn’t want to have the experience without my husband, I gave it a skip. And then finally in Jaipur out hot air ballooning plans were cancelled due to the weather.

Finally, along the strange landscapes of Cappodoccia, I got to live my dream. I can tell you that it was, in fact, glorious, although to be most frank there’s a small bit of sadness that tinges the edges of a realised dream. This little nugget now lies firmly in my past and is not longer a wish to hold on to for the future. I can only hope that a certain dreaminess might return with each re-telling. I do feel it now.

There is, however, a small problem.  How do you even describe something so mesmerising?

It seems to me that possibly there is no point. Perhaps all I can tell you is that you don’t need to be afraid. That there is a godliness to be found in the skies that you cannot quite experience without leaving the earth. And that this godliness is so overwhelming that any predisposition for fear may very well melt away for you. It did for me.

I don’t know if any old balloon ride would be quite the same as our experience in Cappodoccia. My husband thinks it should be, though I have my doubts. There’s something about being in a balloon among other balloons that surely adds the most magical dimension to the whole experience. Folks don’t seem to quite believe me when I tell them that the hot air ballooning in Cappodoccia is what ultimately lead to me choosing to go to Turkey. It was the whole point of the trip.

And was it worth it? Was it worth spending all that money to trek across the world for one 45 minute balloon ride?

Yes. Yes it was.

 

Meet Ismael, Our Tour Guide

One of the things that has become very apparent to me when it comes to adventuring in different countries is this: tour guides are everything. And when your spoilt little English butt is traveling somewhere where English is barely spoken and you haven’t the first clue about the local language, well then you bet your spoilt-little-butt that The Tour Guide is a kind of saving grace that you cannot live without. Tour guides not only educate you with fascinating historical tales about the spaces that they share with you, but they also know where all the clean public bathrooms are. And the ATMs. If you get lost, they will find you. If you get hurt they will get you help. And if you get into a spat with a shopkeeper they will save you. They are worth all the gold, people. All the gold.

To that end I’d just like to take the time a pay a little tribute to our guide on the Neon Tours tour we did of Turkey last month. I’ve never done a proper tour before. Not one where you basically just pitch up and nothing is in your control. Of course I’ve done a ton of day trips both alone and with guides, and tour guides really do make a difference when it comes to understanding what you are and being shown where to look. But I was a little bit worried about doing one big tour with one guide and one group of people. My worry was for naught. (more…)

Turkey: 6 Reasons to Visit Right Now

Well, I’ve been back from Turkey for two weeks now and I haven’t settled back to real life yet. I have, however, spent hours and hours (seriously I’m not kidding — probably about 30 hours in total if not more) pouring over maps and trying to figure out how and where to next. Who even feeds my kids when I slip into this kind of obsessive state?

I’m also kind of tempted to organize a whole tour for my family and friends (with the help of Neon Tours of course because they were awesome!) because I am certainly of the opinion that everyone should just drop whatever it is that they are doing and go to Turkey right now.

Yes. Now.

I have wanted to go to Turkey for a long time, so I did expect to love it. But I have to admit that our trip far exceeded my expectations. The existence of Turkey in all it’s exquisite beauty now sits in my soul like a comforting balm. What an incredible place. How lucky we are as humans that it exists.

Here are some of the reasons that I think you should go to Turkey, and why I hope to be able to go back there one day… (more…)

The Introverted Traveller

I’ve been home from Turkey for a couple of days now, hiding my introverted self from real life and prolonging this hermit existence for as long as humanly possible, but I suppose it might be time to wade back into the real world again. If someone could remind me how to do that…

I mentioned to my fellow travellers that I’m very much an introvert and that even though they met me in the middle of Istanbul I am very much someone who barely leaves the house sometimes. I don’t think they believed me. Which I get. The homebody traveller character doesn’t really make sense, does it?

Anyway, I must admit: I kind of expected Turkey to take it all out of me, and it did. I should possibly have practiced being “out there in the world” a bit before I went. Ten days with an itinerary that left almost no down time ensured that I got home completely exhausted with an aching body, blistered feet, and a badly bruised shin that I got from the camouflaged side tables attached to the chairs at the Dubai airport. And I was peopled out. Good and proper.

But guys?

I have so many wonderful stories to tell about Turkey. What a magical place filled with incredible people and amazing food and incomparable scenery. Where do I even start? What do I tell you about first? I have no idea. I guess as I spend the next few days sifting through my photographs I will find my inspiration.

Until then I leave you with just one thought:

Go to Turkey. If you feel like you wish you could travel more but it’s too expensive and you don’t know which destination to choose, go to Turkey.

I knew I would love it because of the research I did before I left, and also because so many people have dubbed Turkey their favourite destination.

All that hype and expectation did nothing to steal from the wonder of this country.

Go to Turkey.

If you’re like me, your introverted self may be overwhelmed by all of it. But your soul will soar. And that’s what travel is all about, isn’t it? Taking your soul out and letting it soar…

Travel Essentials: My Top Five

I’m not really one of those travellers that can brag about how light they travel. You know the type: Oh I travelled through Asia for three months with only my hand luggage and a tube of mascara. No. That’s not me. At the same time I’m not one of those travellers who you see at the check-in counter, trying to justify why they shouldn’t have to pay extra for the 5 piece matching luggage set that weighs four times the allocated baggage allowance.

I’m just the girl who tries to strictly keep it under the 20kg average that should keep you from forking out any extra cash. I don’t mind spending money on travel. Spending money on extra luggage though? No man that’s crazy!

Anyway – I’ve been thinking about what the must-have items in my luggage are, and I’ll admit that the answer to this question changes from mood to mood, because most of what ends up in my luggage is obviously clothing.

There are, however, 5 items that never change. It doesn’t matter if I am on a road trip through my own country or I’m galavanting over the seas to foreign lands. These 5 are my no-compromise must-haves, and honestly I have no idea how other folks manage to exist without them. I couldn’t! (more…)

Granny Mouse & the Marvelous Coincidence

I mentioned last week that I was lucky enough to be sponsored with some accommodation by AccommoDirect.com which is why my spoilt little butt was able to afford to dash off for a weekend of awesome Hogsback zen and some much needed canoodle time with the husband. Although “afford” is maybe pushing it a bit since I pretty much just charged the whole non-sponsored part of the weekend to my credit card – thank you Standard Bank! (I really should get back to being less irresponsible sometime….)

Anyway, I ended up at Granny Mouse House with the help of Toni who had zero judgement for my very strict adherence to a very low budget when it comes to accommodations. We’re all about the affordability around here – even when we’ve been lucky enough to have someone else picking up the tab! And when affordability and “oh my goodness this place is so lovely” meet then it is totally my favourite thing because that means that whenever one of you lovelies inboxes me for a recommendation then I get to excitedly steer you in the right direction with confidence.

I digress though…

Ty and I arrived at Granny Mouse House on Friday and promptly jumped into bed for a nap because sleep is everything. Madness, perhaps, to give in to sleep so easily instead of exploring immediately, but who knows? Maybe other people do it too? Maybe that bed was so comfortable that we just didn’t have a choice. Also maybe my alergies were acting up so hard I had to slip into an anti-histamine coma for a little while to recover from pollen overload…

Of course we did finally leave the warm coziness of our perfect cottage. We didn’t need to go far for our exploring instincts to kick in because the garden  we found ourselves in was a sight to behold all on its own! And I think that this sort of thing is possibly my favourite thing about exploring. The fact that you don’t always need to go far to be delighted by your surroundings.

And the coincidence? Well, it turned out that Ingrid, aka Granny Mouse, is the daughter of my godfather’s late best friend. A charming reminder, perhaps, that if you do enough exploring, the world becomes a very small place and the universe likes to show off by connecting us together…

Hogsback and Higher Powers

 

When I was about 12, or perhaps 13, my family went on a weekend trip to Hogsback where we got lost and couldn’t find our way home for about four hours after we were ready to be done with hiking. I remember some parts of the trip quite well. I remember the carved hiking sticks sold by entrepreneurs on the streets, and the little clay warthogs painted with white decals. I remember that I wore this little black shorts and t-shirt outfit that my friend Riëtte gave me. I remember that a lot of family closeness was born out of that weekend. I remember that in the midst of trying times we kind of just had this weekend that was so perfect. I remember it as one of the few times in my childhood when I felt content.

And I remember that the word “cool” became “cabbage” in my family that weekend. Because we are seriously just so ridiculously uncool. Yes, all weekend long (and sometimes it happens to this day) anything that could be referred to as “cool” was instead referred to as “cabbage”.

Can you figure out why? (I’ll sit here and *facepalm* while you figure it out) (more…)

Spoilt Little Traveller

This past week has been a good one for feeling the love on the thoughtful gifts for a traveller front and I’m feeling a little spoilt by the humans in my life. Maybe I’m just a daft old cow, but I have to admit that it feels nice to be carving out a reputation as The One Who Travels instead of just being, you know, that chick who has a lot of cats. Although I don’t really mind being the chick who has a lot of cats.

What was my point again?

Oh yeah: travel themed gifts are the bomb.

The fabulously-blessed-with-all-the-hair Eleanor from JustEllaBella gifted me with the most thoughtful handcrafted jewellery on Saturday. She has a little side business called A Cup of Cute which is basically a cup of adorable handcrafted jewellery (which you can get from my favourite geeky spot Geek World if you so wish) and of course she made my little Cup of Cute especially for me.

You know how you get those people who are not only crazy talented at crafts and things, but are somehow also crazy talented at using their crafting skills to make you feel special as hell? Well Ella is one of those.

She made me a ring with a map of Africa on it, and immediately I knew that it was especially for me to wear on my trips overseas. Why? So that I don’t forget where I come from, of course! And then she made me a pair of gorgeous protea flower earrings. Of course I feel all teary just looking at them. All I can think is: Proteas! How perfectly indicative of this place where we live. How beautiful.

Of course now I feel a little bit protea obsessed. I need more protea things!

Like a handbag… I need a protea handbag…. hmmmm….

I digress!

On top of being spoilt with trinkets I had to have a huge laugh because my husband spoilt me as well.

I posted this update on my Facebook page the other day:

And then what happened?

My husband bought me hiking pumps!

Guys: Life is weird.

And I do quite love that I can be a traveller and still wear pumps. Don’t you?

 

Introvert About Town

I made a deal with myself that this year I’d be a better tourist in my own town and that there’d be no international travel on the cards for a while. Well you already know that I failed on the international front, but I must admit I’m not doing quite as well as I’d like on the hometown touristing front either.

Well, I did go to Kragga Kamma and had a wonderful time in January, but since then I’ve been hibernating a little. It happens sometimes, and when it does it becomes  a little tough to snap out of it.

On Friday night my favourite artists, The Four Blind Mice, had an exhibition at ArtEC which I felt to go to out of love for the boys. Then, Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism invited me out to The People’s Port Festival on Saturday. And then I spotted that the Colours of You team were hosting an Instameet at the festival as well. I finally broke my hibernation and ventured outside.

And, as always, I learned the lesson that wonderful things happen when you go outside!

The Instameet started before the NMBT event so at 9:30, before the festival opened we were all in the parking lot with our cameras. Gerard (seriously how much do we love that guy?) informed us all that we’d be going on a tugboat ride. Here I was just keen to hang out with some cool peeps and I scored a ride in a boat. No complaints here!

Then, windswept and happy, and emotionally recovering from an incident where my husband had to duck under my skirt to retrieve the slip that had somehow retreated to above my thighs (thanks PE wind!) we popped in at The Dockside where we were wined and dined by the ever fabulous Reuann from Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism, just as a thanks for being lovers of the Bay.

I ended up going back to the festival on Sunday because I didn’t feel like I’d experienced it enough and because I wanted to take Noah. And I must say: well done to all of those involved. It was a great event!

This little dorp of ours is awesome, hey? And this year I officially become someone who has lived longer in Port Elizabeth than she has lived anywhere else. This makes me weirdly happy. I’m officially Port Elizabethan.

I love here. Which is why I never fail to #sharethebay when I do venture out of my introverted little cocoon. And why I’m never disappointed when I do.

 

Why I Can Afford to Travel

Can I confess something? Every time I admit that I am planning a trip I am overcome with a mass of guilt. Sometimes I know well enough that I have a bit of a guilt complex in general, so acknowledging that helps, but most of the time I honestly feel like I am just a spoilt brat. I sort of am.

Don’t get me wrong. I do work hard to make our travel goals come true. But it’s the kind of “hard work” that is made possible by a whole lot of pre-existing privilege. I have a pretty good knowledge of what things cost because I’m always looking, and I try really hard to make sure that we can pull things off on a very tight budget. I pour a lot of hours into figuring out how to make a small amount of money go as far as possible. A lot of effort goes into what I achieve. And sometimes what I achieve feels like a damn miracle.

I assure you it is not.

Sometimes it’s tempting to take all the credit. Sometimes it’s tempting to say things like “If I can do it, anyone can.”

But calling my travel achievements “hard work” does not take into account one very inescapable truth:

I’m lucky.

  • I’m lucky because I have a husband who doesn’t mind living a super frugal life at home so that once or twice a year we can splurge on an adventure. We keep “extras” to a minimum. Take-aways. Booze. Dining out. New clothes. Electricity. (that last one is only sort of a joke)
  • I’m lucky because my husband’s salary pays for all of our expenses. Ty pays for all of our day-to-day life and there is zero wiggle room there. He juggles it like a pro though! Because he does this, I can put away the small bits of money that I make every month and save until we can afford to use it on a trip.
  • I’m lucky because my husband can take leave at any time of year and isn’t forced to take it in December like a lot of our peers are. December is high season. Being able to travel in low season makes a huge difference to affordability.
  • I’m lucky because I have a mom and dad who have bought me plane tickets before. And who have loaned me money to go on trips and been patient about the time it takes me to pay them back. They understand that I am far better at diminishing debt than I am at saving money.
  • I’m lucky because I have people who will look after my kids for me. My mom, my sister, and Noah’s paternal grandmother are always accommodating when it comes to Noah. Tom and Bridgette’s mother and grandmothers are the same. Without these people Ty and I would not be able to do this.
  • I’m lucky because I have tenants who look after my home and my animals when I am away. If I had to pay for a house and pet sitter that would be quite a huge extra expense and I wouldn’t be able to afford it.
  • I’m lucky because I have a lot of the kind of privilege that is easy to overlook when you’re scrambling to make things happen. It’s there though. And it plays a big role.

 

So, yes. I work hard. I save hard. I plan hard.  I sacrifice some things to make our travel plans work. But very little of what I am able to do rests solely on me. Very often my trips occur because of a cosmic series of fortunate events , and I would be remiss to ever assume that if I can do it anyone can because we all live different lives and we’re all caught up in different circumstances.

I am, however, grateful to myself for making the decision to use my circumstances to my advantage. I’m grateful to myself for finally admitting what I wanted and for having the courage to go after it despite the anxiety issues that I keep triggering because of it. And while I do admit that I am a spoiled princess who is able to travel because of a whole bunch of luck, I also think that I can be used as an example of how we can sometimes look at what we want and see it as impossible when actually it’s just improbable.

Improbable is something that I can work with. It took me a long time to learn that. But I know it now.

5 Reasons We Chose Turkey

Can I admit something daft? I was supposed to go to Italy this year, not Turkey. Actually, even that isn’t quite true. If I take a step back from the idea of going to Italy I have to admit that what I was really supposed to do this year is not go anywhere outside of the borders of South Africa.

And yet here I am. Going to Turkey.

I think I can properly call myself a traveller now, although that still doesn’t feel true. Then again, I don’t feel like “a writer” or “a mom” or “a wife” either. And those things are true. So I’m a traveller now, whether it feels true or not.

This trip to Turkey has evolved from a trip to nowhere, to a trip to Italy, to a trip to Ireland, to a trip to Germany and Italy, to a trip to Israel and Egypt, and finally it settled as a trip to Turkey. It took a lot of ideas to get to where we are now. I feel for the poor folks who had to endure me bouncing all those ideas off of them! I can’t imagine everyone who travels does this, but I can’t be the only one. Am I?

It seems that, when it comes to travel, I have resigned myself to the idea that we will go where we go when we go there. And I’m weirdly ok with that for someone who has a tendency towards control issues.

So this time, we’re going to Turkey. And here are some of the reasons why: (more…)