Thursday, 26 May 2016

Amazing Turkey: Side, Cappadocia and Pamukkale/Hierapolis

Last week I took a last minute deal to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Unlike other cheap island choices I could've had, I discovered that the resort area of Turkey can be a base to exploring a country that is full of interesting natural and historical areas, so although my cheap holiday was actually in a surprisingly lovely hotel (Melissa Gardens) I spent most of my time exploring!

The first trip I took kept me in the local area. This is the Kursunlu waterfall located in a protected area with lovely walks.



Then we visited Aspendos, on the tentative UNESCO list this amphitheatre has one of the best preserved 2 level prosceniums. This theatre is still in use and can hold 15,000 people. And from above it, one of my all time favourite panoramic views (orange trees in the fields)



On to Side, the area I was staying in has a town centre full of Roman ruins, you walk down the old Roman ruin high street before hitting today's touristy high street and harbour! This is the temple of Apollo right by the sea.


My second trip was to an area called Cappadocia and Goreme National Park, a good 5 hours drive from Side. My tour set off at 5am! First stop was to see an example of an underground village where Christians hid from the Romans.


Arriving in time for lunch we stopped at many panoramic view points where we could see the unusual rock formations that were historically carved into homes and weathered into the famous 'fairy chimney' shapes.




The open air museum preserves those rocks that were made into churches:




And another good example of fairy chimneys with the dormant volcano responsible for this area in the background.


The following morning a 3:45am start but worth it...








I have even more photos on my Flickr, this trip was amazing, if you ever go, don't miss the hot air balloon option it is worth every penny!

The final trip I took during my stay in Turkey was to an area called Pamukkale and Hierapolis, another 5am start but there and back in one day!

The trip starts with a stop at 'red rock' where you cover yourself in mineral rich mud and bathe in the heat of a natural geyser:


Hierapolis refers to the Roman ruined town that was located next to the travertines of Pamukkale due to the high numbers of visitors to the area for their mineral rich waters. Here's the amphitheater and you can see the mountain views beyond:


However at the edge of this ruined town are the calcium travertines of Pamukkale. Tourists flock to those still open for bathing and climbing, it is total chaos there, but walking along the edge I was blown away by the peace and the view and beautifully maintained gardens, as with the hot air balloon ride I took a lot of pictures here!






The views were over 180 degrees surrounded by the Taurus mountains, quite spectacular and as I said before, peaceful if you find the right spot.

Turkey's tourism has been dramatically affected by the refugee news but Turkey is a massive place, 3 times the size of the entire UK and in all my travels the Syrian border at nearest was 500 miles away and the refugees have their own villages near the border, you're not going to encounter one walking down the tourist beaches! So go to Turkey, its a heck of a lot more interesting than island resorts!

If everything is going to plan I'm going back to work soon, I hope I'll have photos to share when I get back!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Sri Lanka Train: Nuwara Eliya to Kandy- Time Lapse Mistake

I mentioned in my previous post that part of the tour took us by train. I actually took a time-lapse video of nearly the whole ride only to realise that it was sped up too fast to be watchable and recording for so long means so many frames are dropped and lost forever. I have learned my mistake but I do have something just about worth sharing...

This is the first 30 minutes or so and the best views of the journey slowed down ultimately to create a series of stills:


And this is 45 minutes we were stuck at a station in 6 seconds!


As I'm sure you can see I loved my trip however there was a minor monkey incident and now I'm waiting to finish a series of vaccinations rather than being back at work. It has left me with time to take another trip though (you only live once) so my next post with be 'adventures in Turkey' where I will avoid monkeys. Until then.

Grand Tour of Sri Lanka with Mum- Voyages Jules Verne

As always there are more photos on my Flickr site.

On April 14th I arrived in Sri Lanka after a painful 10 hour overnight flight! The tour company Voyages Jules Verne isn't targeted at 30 somethings like me particularly, but this was a trip Mum chose and the route is exactly the same as the 'younger' travel companies take. For the extra money I never had to lift my suitcase for the whole trip due to the standard of the hotels we stayed in (I think this was the biggest novelty for me) along with me being one of the fittest of the group hahahaha! Also we were a group total of 10 which is wonderful, I never missed a chance to ask a question and fully understand everything we were seeing.

The tour started in the capitol city of Colombo and we stayed in a hotel with incredible views:


In this picture you can see the Indian Ocean to the far left, the lake was created by the British and we had dinner at a lovely hotel there and the park on the right contains some parliamentary buildings.

To see Colombo properly we took a city bus tour... and had the bus all to ourselves!


Here you can see a good example of the buildings the British built and below the Independence Monument.


Leaving Colombo for Galle we stopped at one of many turtle sanctuaries along the coast. They rescue the turtle eggs so that they can hatch in safety and let the baby turtles get the 3 days old before releasing them into the sea, dramatically increasing their chances of survival. At 3 days old we are allowed to hold them!


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Galle is a fortified town protected by UNESCO. The photos show the walls up close but also we could see the entire peninsula from our next hotel, plus in the other direction, from the 4th floor restaurant, amazing forest views.




From Galle we travelled on to Yala National Park one of the highest leopard densities in the world. I cannot say I wasn't disappointed we didn't see any leopards but it was great to see sunset at the park and here's what we did see:




A new day and off we head to the mountains to see an ancient Buddha carved into stone.



We had lunch at a hotel in a tea plantation called 98 Acres in Ella with incredible views:



This waterfall was another stop on the way up. As you can see the waterfall is pretty busy with locals, all the time of our trip to Sri Lanka New Year's celebrations were taking place and this was the day it affected us the most as we sat in traffic heading to Nuwara Eliya and watched the sunset from the bus:


Nuwara Eliya is a holiday town set up by the British as at Sri Lanka's highest elevation it is much cooler! There are 'mock Tudor' style houses and even a horse racing track. Here we went to find out about Ceylon tea, how it is grown and what the differences are, at the Mackwood factory with it's own amazing views of it's land:



After this we had to catch a train to Kandy, around 4 hours of views just like those above:

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Kandy is the current home of the Temple of the Tooth and other religious sites protected by UNESCO. We had a packed day visiting an elephant sanctuary, lunch with a view, buying sapphires, visiting the Temple and seeing a cultural show:





Continuing north we visited UNESCO Cave Temple of Dambulla, this was 4 rooms built into caves FULL of Buddha's and painted walls! The ground outside was excruciatingly hot for our feet too as we had to take off our shoes (temple socks required next time!)



This was the view outside the temple:


At the end of this day we finished at a hotel very near to the entrance of Sigiriya as this would be our earliest start of the trip to try and beat the heat. Sigiriya (UNESCO) or Lion's Rock is a massive rock fortress, massive in land size and in height. On the tour you are shown where the outer walls began, the clever and beautiful garden's with water features and then you climb the rock and see some of the preserved cave paintings and the 'mirror' wall which would've reflected the art to make a grand walkway to the Lion's entrance, and eventually the top, a ruined palace with swimming pools and dinning rooms.




Perspective is a funny thing, although beautiful you can't tell at all the height I'm at in this last photo, according to my iPhone I did 37 flights of stairs this day.

OK wait I've just imported this picture:


Looking down on the path we walked up and I took the first photo from, you can zoom in on all the little people... that's better perspective. If you hadn't guessed this was my number 1 highlight of the trip. Just amazing!

We went on to do a 2nd UNESCO site this day because we're nuts! Polonnaruwa, the 2nd ancient city:




And one more UNESCO to finish the trip. Whereas the 2nd city was a bunch of ruins the 1st city Anuradhapura has had restoration of it's major religious sites and we saw stupa after stupa lovingly painted (for the new year), one of them even contains Buddha's collarbone.




That last one is the largest in the world! Moonstones are important too:


And that was it, except for being dropped off in paradise for a night before flying home: