15
Jul 2014
POSTED BY Sheena
POSTED IN

Blog, Europe, Recipes

DISCUSSION 4 Comments

The Alpine Reunion

2014-05-09 - Brugge transfer 062 - Copy

“I know it’s somewhere!” she cried out in frustration as she flipped through a stack of twenty full size trail maps, each showing a mess of trails that slipped between valleys and up endless snow-capped peaks. They were some of the best trails in the world. “He’s like a little kid here,” she said as she held up the stack. “This is like his playground. I swear, if he knew where we were going today,” her eyes widened, “he’d go nuts!” She ran up the stairs and came back with a new stack of maps. “Here it is! Etienne was trying to keep this one all to himself!”
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21
Apr 2014
POSTED BY Sheena
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Blog, Europe

DISCUSSION 19 Comments

Two Nights in the Orchard

Almost two years ago when Europe still felt like a world away we were contacted by a fellow Volkswagen owner and mechanical engineer from Turkey, interested in obtaining a copy of the CAD file that Brad made of Nacho’s body, which he had used to design our cabinets. Eren, after receiving the file, invited us to his home for tea if we ever happened to pass through his city of Ankara on our world tour.
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13
Apr 2014
POSTED BY Sheena
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Europe

DISCUSSION 20 Comments

Take Me Back to Constantinople

From the moment we set foot in Istanbul it felt like we had fallen into a love affair of sorts. It didn’t matter that we had unknowingly stationed ourselves for the next month in Balat, or Little Tehran as it’s known, Istanbul’s most traditional Muslim neighborhood. It took us a while to come to this realization but Balat was quite literally like no other neighborhood in the city. Our apartment was directly on its fringes; one block downhill put us in a rather typical Istanbul setting while one block uphill was a scene plucked right out of the Middle East. Women flowed down the cobblestoned streets in shapeless black burkas, their eyes and noses peeking out of small triangular openings in the fabric while their fathers, brothers and partners wore sported thick beards and dressed in long gray trench coats and finely embroidered flat-topped hats.
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23
Jan 2014
POSTED BY Sheena
POSTED IN

Asia, Blog

DISCUSSION 11 Comments

Pit Stop Varanasi

We reached Varanasi terribly late on the fourth day of our drive to Nepal. Varanasi was to be our much needed intermission point; a place to stretch our legs, build back our endurance, and wash off the caked dirt plastered on our skin. At some point in the evening the plan was to reconnect with Regina and David at a hotel in the city where past overlanders had supposedly camped. We had lost contact with them earlier in the day, but given the state of the roads and their higher clearance vehicle, we were pretty sure they’d beat us to Varanasi.
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17
Jan 2014
POSTED BY Sheena
POSTED IN

Asia, Blog

DISCUSSION 7 Comments

Hampi Campers

A few weeks back when we went to our friend Santhanam’s house for coffee I brought along my India map, and he offered his advice on the must-see destinations in South India. While we sipped on coffee in his bedroom we worked through the map. He highlighted several places on the map that I had never heard of.

“The Thillai Natarajah temple is there, dedicated to Nataraja, Shiva, the Dancer of the Universe…”
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09
Jan 2014
POSTED BY Sheena
POSTED IN

Asia, Blog

DISCUSSION 13 Comments

The Onam Food Babies

Over the course of a few days we crossed the subcontinent from the Indian Ocean west to the Arabian Sea. We left Pondicherry, first stopping in Madurai to celebrate the birthday of the elephant god Ganesh, and then to the hill station of Munnar to escape South India’s heat. The ground rose from the desert plains like a strange goose bump until we were in the middle of a Van Gogh painting with fluffy clouds and Assam tea fields manicured in rows of stripes and swirls. The air smelled of freshly cut tea leaves and at 5,000 feet it was actually cold. I strutted around smitten with happiness in my sweater while Brad removed Nacho’s starter and reshaped its mounting surface with a file to fix some starting issues we’d been having.
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14
Sep 2013
POSTED BY Sheena
POSTED IN

Asia, Blog

DISCUSSION 8 Comments

Cambodian Dolphin Hunt

Brad had finally reached defeat. His stomach gurgled and groaned and kept him horizontal for 24 hours straight. He lay in bed exhausted by nausea and uninterested in exploring the world around him. He wasn’t the only one.

Four of the seven people in our group (myself included) came down with a nighttime bout of stomach related issues, yet Brad’s seemed to be the worst. Finally he’d stop talking about his gut made of steel and unparalleled superhuman powers. “I only eat at dives. The dirtiest dives you could imagine!! And still, I have not once been sick on this trip! Just eat where the locals eat! You don’t see them walking around sick, do you?

He lay in bed all morning and afternoon and not even the rare and critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin could wake him from his trance. I did what any girl would do. I bought him a bag of sticky rice and a wedge of pineapple and told him I was off in search of the Irrawaddy dolphin.

I closed the hotel door, ran down the stairs and hopped into a tuk tuk with a group of friends. I had high hopes of seeing these critically endangered dolphins. Less than 90 remain in the Mekong River, while larger populations still inhabit places like Bangladesh.

For the next hour our tuk tuk driver skirted up the same pot-holed dirt road that we drove down just the prior day. After crossing the border we had entered our fifth and final country in Southeast Asia: Cambodia.

Once again, we passed by the dolphin-themed karaoke bars, women dressed in their flowered pajama sets, and children on their oversized bikes. I can only guess that some NGO in the past distributed a few truckloads of adult sized bikes and that the kids learned to make do. They worked them like elliptical machines and with each revolution of the crank their tiny bodies would rise into the air and fall back down again. These kids were powerhouses, often times carrying a friend or sibling on the back seat.

I was happy. Cambodia seemed to be everything I thought it shouldn’t be, especially given its horrendous history and all around poverty. It was a place with moody skies, green fields, dirt roads, thatched hut homes with red tiled roofs and beautiful people. It was also evident by the first day that we’d be travelling through one of the poorest countries in our travels thus far.

Back on the tuk tuk we continued down the long straight road. As we approached a shoddy looking bridge our driver slowed to stop and motioned for us all to get out. Would he race away as soon as we got out of the carriage? No, the bridge was just in such a state of disrepair that it was safer to walk rather than drive across in a tuk tuk at full capacity.

In order to see the Irrawaddy dolphins it’s a bit of a game. Like all attractions in these parts of the world, you’re not going see anything for free. A boat must be taken, even if it only travels five minutes upstream, and if heaven forbid it is possible to see something for free from the shores, you can rest assured that they will build a wall to hide it from your view. So we followed our designated boat captain down to the water, just a mere boy really, and like all Cambodians (and Asians for that matter) was dressed in long sleeves and pants to protect his skin from the sun.

Sometimes it can take me a while to notice the simplest of cultural differences. And then one day it just stands out like a sore thumb. This is one of those differences: wearing sunscreen is very much a Western concept. Asians do not tan in the sun- they don’t even let their skin see the light of day. Hats, masks, socks, and gloves are big business here.

Braaapppp…Braaappp…Braapp…Brap! Brap! Brap!  The engine on Boat 21 was irritatingly loud considering that we were in search of the region’s critically endangered dolphins. I was shocked that this was standard procedure. We motored up the river for just a few minutes and parked next to an outcropping of weeds which our captain used to secure the boat in place.

Now it was time to wait. To see or not to see? Earlier in the hour, two Germans had told us that they had tried to spot the dolphins for two days, but for two days had seen nothing. And so we waited in a motionless state, entirely at the mercy of the dolphins.

After a short time, I could hear a sound nearby. Psshhhh…psshhhhh…psshhhh.  It was the sound of a small family of dolphins releasing the water from their lungs and coming up for air. They knew we were there and circled our boat in a clockwise motion for the entire hour; disappearing and rising back up again, quickly revealing their shiny backs and dorsal fins.  We constantly shifted in our seats watching their every move. While I never saw a face I knew they had a silly grin that stretched from eye to eye, as their nickname was the “smiling face of the Mekong.”

They were so consistent in their actions that I didn’t even have to watch to know what they were doing. With the sound of each re-surface I knew where they were and in which direction they were moving. The sunset was gorgeous that night. In one direction the sky exploded in vertical bands of blue and in the other direction, fluffy clouds lit up among a motley of yellows, oranges, and reds.

No wonder the Irrawaddy dolphins live here.

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