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Under a Hanging Hibiscus

A few hours flying and within minutes of leaving the airport we’re sweating. Molly now finding places sweating that she never thought possible! “My toes are sweating” she says. I chuckle. We settle into the Casa Colombo and after breakfast immediately head for the pool as the air is hot and heavy with humiditity. A dip, some lunch and a snooze in the room we are now prepared for the onslaught of Colombo. To us it’s really just another city in the tropics. Hot, humid, noisy, smelly and rife with “guides” and hawkers of all descriptions but staying here a necessary evil. We’re already looking forward to the beach. While here we walk the promenade and take in a temple or two of which all seem to house a chained-up Asian Elephant which disturbs us both.

Galle-Face

Kite Flying in Galle Face Park

Our route will take us to the south coast towards and Molly’s infamous Kalametiya where she spent some time helping during the aftermath of the Tsunami. So, a quick tuk-tuk ride to the Colombo bus station and onto a bus we get with our packs and it feels very familiar, like an old pair of slippers, and quickly we trundle towards the colonial style Spice House in Mirissa horn blaring, sweating and in a seating position made comfortable only by those versed in the Karmasutra we spend four hours travelling the 150KM. We are greeted by our host and made feel at home – still sweating…

Spice-House

It is in Marissa that we start to see the abundant wild life. Already we have seen White-Throated King Fishers, Red Backed Wood Peckers, Rose Ringed and Hanging Parakeets, Olive Ridley and Loggerhead Turtles, Fruit Bats to name a few. We lounge around eating and sleeping well in our Swahili style bed. We quickly slow down and attend to our sunburn!

temple-1

A bone shaking 4 hour tuk-tuk ride to Kalametiya and we finally meet up with Sena and Ananda. We stay in Phillipes house right on the beach. It’s very comfortable and both Sena and Ananda, as well as their families, are very attentive. Overtly so, in that we feel like gold fish at every turn. It’s endearing but difficult to deal with such intense staring and over helpfulness. However, we get over ourselves and slowly we come to rely on this. They take us to various points of interest; the Lagoon, beach, a fantastic view point over looking the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary. This really is a tropical paradise with a long pearly sands empty beach, sided by a large bird sanctuary on one side with the sapphire Indian Ocean on the other. Occasionally, a White Bellied Sea Eagle will swoop down and ensure entertainment for us now made pink and ridiculous by the blazing sun.

fan-club

For the next few days we hang about with Sena and Ananda and their extended families. We were shown incredulous views into the sanctuary, taken on boat rides into the lagoon, even helped to pull in the fishing nets and then played Caram in the evenings amongst thebuzz of the bugs.  It was a real treat to finally meet them as Molly has talked about them so much. I took a particular shine to Ananda as, although we could not speak any of each others language, we got on really well. He rarely left my side. It would be wholly unfair to call them simple people but I do think that they lead simple lives that I am very jealous of. They are just down right wonderful people. I hope to see them again some time.

the -gang

So, as I sit here on the veranda of Sena’s and Ananda’s residence surveying our tropical nirvana I sit under a hanging Hibiscus pondering why we would leave and what lies ahead…

muni

Jordan Part 3

So, north to Al Azraq and the black desert. This place only really interested me as it was near the Iraqi border as well as some castles in the Black Desert. The road seemed to get slicker the further we went. Maybe it was the oil moving in the tankers in the opposite direction or maybe it was just the rubber melting off the tyres, I couldn’t tell. We stayed in a converted military hospital and for some reason there was an old Land Rover in the foyer. It was in great nick though.

IraqLandy

Desert Castle

We moved east to Jerash and it’s Roman ruins. We arrived at the ruins to find the sound of bag pipes bellowing out and there we find Jordanian Bag Pipers. very odd. We ambled about but all I could think of was about the people before me who drove their chariots along this ground. It felt so historic.

BagPipers

Jerash DSCF8168

Soon afterwards we headed back to Madaba. The two weeks here have be joys for us. the people very easy going, understanding, tolerant, open, welcoming and most friendly. There is so so much to do in Jordan and it did not disappoint in any way. The food is excellent, beer a little expensive and accommodation average but I think Molly was going to over load on Falafel. The wine and spices were also excellent. For me the middle east deserves more exploration. We agreed Jordan was one of the bets holidays we had ever had, just incredible…

muni

Jordan Part 2

A few hours south down the dusty road was Petra and Wadi Rum. These were the places I was looking forward to in particular.  Petra is a world heritage site and has been made famous by the Indiana Jones movies. Its spread over a full eight kilometres. So, on the evening of our arrival we got a 2 day pass and ventured only to the top end. We walked down the Siq, a long winding ancient canyon carved by water, for The Treasury to be revealed. For me it was one of those pinch me moments as again I found myself face to face with a World Wonder.

The Siq

Petra 1

As we had arrived in the late afternoon we found that most people were leaving and so pretty much had the place to ourselves and during sunset the place just glowed crimson red. What a fantastic place and time to be in. We sat back, marvelled and bathed ourselves in the red glow until it was dark. The following day we decided to hike up through the site from end to end. We started off at Little Petra and slowly walked, scrambled and bouldered our way up. Every few hundred metres or so a new rock hewn building revealing itself keeping us interested and amazed. The below Monastery being particularly spectacular.

The Monastery

Wadi Rum was next. Further south we arranged a guide (after some messing about with tour guides). His name was Eid. A very articulate young Bedouin chappie brandishing a beat up old Toyota Land Cruiser. I liked him immediately. Off we went into this pseudo hell. The heat penetrating my every inch of me. I’m warm and supple to my fingertips I am at my most content in the desert but Wadi Rum was special. It is the most scenic desert you can imagine. Not lifeless or featureless it amazes at every turn, dune and outcrop.  I felt I could live here become a tour guide and drive my Toyota about sleeping under the stars camping, listening to the Desert Foxes chatter by starlight and having Halawa with pita and yoghurt for breakfast.

Wadi Rum1Wadi Rum2Wadi Rum4Wadi Rum3

That afternoon we found that a movie was being shot there and so the Jordanians obliged when asked to turn over one of their Land Cruisers for a scene….crazy! Typical Jordanians, always ready to help. What a place!

muni

Jordan Part 1

I don’t know where we pulled this destination out of but the anticipation was killing me. I’d never been to the Middle East before and it held so much mystery and allure I was licking my lips with anticipation. I had known of Petra and had always wanted to go to Wadi Rum and this was my chance. The opportunity to return to another Arabic and Islamic culture I looked forward to as I find them well tempered and easy going. We did a fair amount of research and as the country is so small we should get to see all the things we want without too many hours in the car.

First stop was Madaba as Amman, the capital, is just another city whereas Madaba was supposedly quieter and more central to our needs. We spent a few days ambling around and getting reinvigorated by being in completely different surroundings again. We quickly got some spices for ourselves and met a very nice and insightful shop owner called Joseph. Hommous and falafel abound Molly was delighted with Jordanian life. The plan now was to devise a route and hit the road. Naturally, the Dead Sea was on the hit list. Molly had been before in Israel and knew what to expect, I on the other hand, knew only that I would definitely float. So, we stayed in a community run place with a Sirocco wind howling at night right on the waters edge at 140 metres below sea level. The following day, and for the first time, we went bouldering up to a waterfall. We loved it, especially in this heat.

Next up was Dana Nature reserve. We believed that there was some good hiking trails to be explored and a beautiful little village worth staying in. When we eventually found it we ended up staying for a few days more than anticipated as it was so quiet and the local chappies a delight to be around. With the wild Juniper, Sage and Thyme the smell alone of this place was keeping us but there was yet more to see. We did also come across some Striped Hyena tracks which excited me no end. Disappointingly, I didn’t see any though. Maybe we’d get to see some Arabian Oryx in Wadi Rum.

We had fallen in love with Jordan within hours. The things to do and see in this small country were endless. I love the desert and Jordan was brimming with it.

muni

To the Mainland

We made a few trips over to the UK to get some proper South African camping kit for Battutah. A 1.6 metre Eezi Awn roof tent and a 50 litre National Luna fridge freezer were first up. Cold beer and a comfy bed….nice start! A few other odds and ends necessary for camping including a brush up on our African French and before you could say Stoney Tangawizi we were on a ferry to France. The plan was to tour the D-Day beaches, Brittany and anywhere else that took our interest.

Our first night abroad in Battutah looked like this. This over-landing suited us…

We continued on and decided to go to Mont Saint Michel in Normandy. By all reports to looked fantastic with it’s Benedictine Abbey at the peak of it’s island. But we arrived to this…

We muddled through it as best we could (before nearly blowing our tops) to investigate the winding streets and medieval architecture.

Over the next few days we wound our way down through Brittany staying in some fantastically quiet camping spots. Very quite but windy, very windy. As we had gone as far south as we hoped we decided to head for the Loire Valley and Saumur. A down right gorgeous town with its massive château that looks out over the whole town. It was here that we spent the remained of the holiday as we just needed to stop. Have croissants delivered to the car, drink tasty coffee, sample the Saumur Champigny and generally live it up and catch up on some well deserved rest. There was even a pool nearby and a delightful classic French restaurant nearby. Just what we both needed

Battutah was practically problem free, apart from a minor dual battery electrical issue (of my making!). Travelling at our own pace again in the way we wanted felt like putting on an old pair of slippers – comfortable and warm…

muni

A Beast Awakens!

Well, well. Here I am again and we have a new lease of life. The itch that was scratched and put to the back of my empty pocket has returned with  a vengeance in my socks. Plans were already a brewing in the back of my mind and looking at the world with a renewed sense of adventure. I have found a very good job and now am gaining means to look further a field. So, where? We really don’t know yet but we need to focus on the how for now.

There is a myriad of choices out there when it comes to 4×4’s and conferring with as many people as would listen to me, we were stuck on what car to buy. When selecting the vehicle the best way that it was ever put to me was this: If you look at a blog of someone who uses a Land Rover to travel overland the trip inevitably about the car and the fixing of it  to keep the trip going whereas if a Toyota is used the blog inevitably about the places they visited. This made perfect sense to us and so the choice was a no brainier. So now, we are the proud owner of a Toyota Hilux Vigo. It’s in fantastic condition and ready for the multitude of upgrades necessary to prepare it for over-landing.

So meet Battutah, named after the very famous Moroccan Traveller.

Batutah – Naked!

So now all we have to do is get it ready . . .

muni

The Final Hit

So, here I am and it’s Molly’s birthday. Nearly March – good Buddah, Jahova and his five sisters.!!!!

I’d love to put some kind of rosey twist on life at home. How it was wonderful to see those familiar faces and places. But, I cant. By now, being home has just re-affirmed why I left. (The difference now is that I don’t have the means to leave. ) And the predictability of life being home and my feeling of this place and people have been amplified by Africa.

I’m home and it’s crap. So, head down and be a good little rat, muni.

My Rat Friend...

For now, I’ll sign off…..BUT…..are more Safari schemes in the pipeline ?

Hmmmmm……where’s that map……

muni

A Fiddler’s Wink

The train and ferry journey back to Dublin was easy, albeit a bit long. The lights of Dublin ferry port welcoming us back with open arms. Soon we were in front of Molly’s folks, in the car and driving down the Strand Road. The view of the smoldering ESB cooling towers, across Seapoint, with a full moon in between just beautiful. It felt so familiar here but yet very strange. Almost as if I’ve not been away. We made it back to Cabinteely for some stories and some home cooked food.
The next few days we lay low so that we could catch up with family. Saturday night was a different story.
We had heard that our friends were all going out for a few drinks in Johnnie Foxes up in the Dublin hills. We decided to sneak up and surprise them all. Nervously off we went and before I could say “I miss Africa” we were there hugging, shaking hands and laughing. I was good to see them but this still felt alien to me. So many questions fired at us in quick succession I didn’t know where to begin. Purposely, I redirected the conversations to how they were and the goings on in Ireland over the last eighteen months.
For those who don’t know Johnnie Foxes is the highest pub in Ireland and a very traditional Irish pub. A warren of rooms, wooden stools, old heavy oak tables, roaring open fires, saw dust on the floor and lots of atmosphere. And as usual for a Saturday night there was traditional (a Fiddle, Guitar and Banjo with singing) music, or as we call it “Diddely I”. About as Irish as you can get really.
I had wandered off to the bar to get some drinks. On thee way back I faced the band, and in the tinyest moment, as I passed the fiddler, he winked. It was at that very moment when I knew I was home. Travel was now over and the business of re-establishing old friendships and seeing family had begun.
So, now I’m back in Planet Newbridge arguing with me Dad just like as before. It’s as cold as I remember, wet as I remember and as depressing as I remember.
Now I know why I left!
muni

It’s

+


+

And therefore:

Naice wan maoity!!!

muni

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