Yogykarta 

“”Is the hotel far”? Said the fly to the spider. Or in this case the exhausted traveler to the taxi driver. With multiple assurances and much arm gesticulating the point was made. No, not far. 

A few minutes later we pulled up outside Be One Yogia. Handing over too much money we clambered out to be met by a Cheshire Cat of a smile. Paid and keys in hand we bid a goodnight with offers to Prambanan and Borobudur singing in our ears to help us into the land of nod.

We shared a room with the children which was relaxing! The room was clean and comfortable and quiet at night. We also got to hear the planes landing, which was lovely. In a perverse manner. Breakfast was super sweet coffee. Lesson. Order milk, real milk not tinned super sweet, separately or be diagnosed with diabetes within seconds.  The food was fried and not too healthy, so off we went. Food the destination. 
The only people walking along a broken up pavement next to a main road into the heart of Yogykarta. Amazing. So many mopeds and scooters weaving around each other. Whole families on machines. Dad drove and in from of him stood an infant holding onto the steering column. Behind dad sat mum, and between a baby was squashed, held in mums arms. Super!

Mini-market. Cakes and processed pre-packed salty and sweet gooey things. Now that’s food;-) replete we headed back and enquired about trips to Prambanan and Borobudur. Having inferred that we wanted to rent the vehicle, not purchase it, a price was settled on. We had a lovely fellow who gamely communicated in English and gave a running commentary as we sped to Prambanan.

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Spice Islands

Eastwards Ho! Equipment purchased, 10 flights booked and off we toddled to Indonesia. We stayed overnight in Warsaw before our flight to Istanbul in a super little hostel in the new old town of Warsaw. Bunk-beds with all the ensuing claims to sleep up or downstairs. The Cannon was perfect for us.

Flight number one. We flew Turkish Airlines to Istanbul where we had a seven hour lay over. I determined to reduce DVT by walking every part of it, and I can attest to the fact that it is big! Very big!! Then we had an 11 hour flight to Jakarta. The flight was great and the service excellent. Never have so few lavatories been serviced so often, by so few, for so many.

Jakarta. Tired and hung down like overdecorated Christmas trees we trundled into full view of the cab touts. Shouts of Hey Mister, Hey Boss and simply hey assailed our ears. We had originally planned to take  a bus from the airport to the station at Gambir. I had travelled down to Bandung many years ago by train and enjoyed the experience. Sadly our visit coincided with Ramadan and so there was not even room for a slimmed down cockroach. This meant we had to book a hotel, the illustrious Dreamtel Jakarta. Thus a taxi, and the first of many haggles. But to haggle one needs an idea of the going rate. We paid 300,000 IDR for a taxi across town. The lovely people at Dreamtel told us later that it should have been 200,000IDR maximum. Guard up! The hotel was clean with a funky glass elevator that Will Wonka would approve of. The room was good, a double shared with the children. Aghhh…The view was a little less pleasing. A brick wall, although painted off white, about 30cm from our window. Breakfast was very good and the guys behind the counter helpful and a couple spoke good English. Heads up with the Bluedird taxis with meters and asking suitable questions about tolls being included in prices and off we went from Jakarta the next day by plane. The flight was about 3 hours late. About 10 staff behind the counter could giggle flirt with each other beautifully, but giving information was not their forte. We flew up to Sumatra, landed, which was eventful and bumpy, waited 20 minutes and set off for Yogykarta. The flight attendant pointed out a few general facts and asked us to pray to God for a safe flight. That was reassuring for one and all. Yogykarta. Little did we know but we were close to the airport. The taxi driver again charged over the odds. The place we stayed was clean and again we shared with the kids. Breakfast was a greasy mess and the coffee so sweet one shot of it would have given a whale diabetes. We valiantly strolled down the side of the dual carriageway in search of munchies. Amazing to watch whole families, babies included, all perched on weaving mopeds and scooters. Grabbing a taxi, with the meter agreed as arbiter of cost, we set off down town. We spent the evening on Maliobor Street. Locals looked at us as though they hadn’t seen foriegners before!

Memories of Flying in Cuba

Off to Cuba in 1999.  Flew one day late due to engine problems. Should of seen it as a sign. Arrived in Havana and mooched around. For me it was a delight. For the locals a nightmare stuck in time. Remember one shop, a chemists, with only vinegar for sale.

Onwards and another flight. Driven out to an airport that an Estate Agent/Realtor would call ‘’well lived in.’’ There was a plane, shiny and modern. A list of names tramped out and boarded the gleam machine. I waited. Next airplane. Older but relatively new and smaller. Another list, but not for me. Then I spied a relic being towed to  museum or knackers yard. No, wait a minute, it’s stopping. It stopped outside the departure lounge. Departure seemed to take on a new meaning. Everyone left was beckoned onto the relic. An ancient Antonov, probably from the 1950s love festival between Castro and the U.S.S.R.

As we approached the Wright brothers reject an engineer was tapping the nose cone with a mallet. Nervous laughter. On we climbed. The seats gently in their brackets and Russian accompanied Spanish instructions. Gunning the engine outrageously, the pilot got us airborne.

As we straightened out the cabin began to fill with smoke. The steward ran up the aisle to assure us it was harmless and from the old air conditioning  system. More nervous laughter, and a large rum, please. As I sat in the window seat I decided to watch and pray. Then to my dismay a flame shot back out of the engine. A couple of people said, ooh and one person screamed. The steward tried allay our fears by stating that on these engines, ‘’it was normal.’’ He needed to try harder. Well we landed and it was time for a large rum..Return flight to Havana was at night, in a thunderstorm on the same aircraft. It was a very, very quite flight.

Baggage Allowance

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Whitby bound soon. Flying to Newcastle, and later out of Leeds, with Ryanair. Some wags say that is the best thing to do with Leeds. Fly out.

The luggage allowance is so low with Ryanair that I can only pack my emotional luggage. Could still be tricky! Must check how many pairs of socks I can fit on my feet?

Travel and Pollution

Ripping the skies

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We travel. We like to go places. I like to travel. Travel broadens the mind. We like to travel to many places. Most people travel by air. Flying further and further in search of the exotic or simply a week in the sun. This coupled to an increase in the number of people travelling is a cause of pollution. Flying is the number one culprit. Estimates state that around 13-15 percent of greenhouse gases in the UK are generated by aircraft.

As we speak, the Arctic is rapidly moving towards an ice-free scenario. The upshot will be the increase in plumes of greenhouse gases, which will warm the planet even more. Our protection, the Arctic Ice, which has  shielded us from climate extremes is rapidly disappearing. Predictions state that 2016 will be the hottest year ever since records began.

We are like a smoker with a hacking cough who simply cannot quit. We are addicted to our own demise. Technologically there is no airborne revolution that will change this situation. Certainly not one which will comply with the number one directive. Namely to make money.

This is something we must take into account when planning our travels. For as we travel, we are killing that which nurtures us all, our planet. It is time to look beyond our own noses. But will we?

Memories of Koh Samui

Arrived via a small ferry. Chose a place to stay from the hawkers at the quayside. Onto the small van like vehicle and away.  Accomodation. One of six, or maybe eight small chalet style places in a neat row. Think I can still spot them on Google Earth search. Clean inside with a backroom with a hole in the ground and a tiled mandy for washing. Great.

 

Hot, hot hot. And don’t forget humid. No namby pamby aircon for us. Budget constraints meant we had only a fan on the ceiling. On reflection on the floor would have been rather troublesome.  Fan, you were lucky! Okay but a fan so slow the flies hopped on for a rest. Our neighbours were German lads with their ‘temporary’ Thai girlfriends. True love runs deep.

 

The beach, (Lamai I think), was a little stroll away. Somebody told us that it would be even hotter when we got to Indonesia. It was not. At that time Koh Samui was not overly commercialized. Plenty of hippy style chill out places to doss and chill. I remember  one good hotel with one good pool. The problem. The clientele was entirely German. We snuck in and tried to blend around the pool. However  the hotel staff saw us for what we were, thin and poorly dressed, and we were forced to scuttle away. We left heads held high, and feet higher.

The girls with me adopted a little doggy. She was sweet and they christened her Lucy,  They fawned on her. I remember them being heartbroken on the day we moved onto Penang in Malaysia.

Food was sadly western if required. I remember eating a super hot soup which had the words crab and hot in the title. I liked it, my body not! When ill there was a well equipped medical centre. Nearby weer shack like phone booths for that call home, to reassure you why you were there1

Nightlife was fantastic. Well certainly after a few glasses of Mekong whisky. The full moon party was full on craziness.  Starting with the almost embarrassed tipping of small amounts of water over people, it rapidly grew into a frenzied water battle. Then dance the night away. Magic.

Eating crabs on the beach at a barbecue, watching the sun rise. Great stuff. In the end we left Koh Samui, but Koh Samui never left me. After Koh we needed a rest.

Memories of Cameron Heights

Monday mornin’ and raining here. I love the rain. Must be an English thing. Yes, that’s it, an English thing.

Recall making plans to go to the Cameron Heights. Booked tickets on an old jalopy of a bus and had an overnight drive. The road meandered through the forest in the pitch black. Then  a thunderstorm rolled over and accompanied us. The lightning illuminated the soaked forest for milliseconds at a time.

Pulled into Cameron about 4am or 5am. Some ungodly hour. Everything was shut. So thoughtless of Cameron;-) I made my way to a hostel, but it was closed, too. Constructed in an imaginative square. But redemption was at hand. The building had a wide porch running around the font and both sides. How does a porch run? Slowly.

The rainy weather was kicking in again. I settled down on one of the comfy chairs, feet on my backpack, and slipped into my sleeping bag. Remember feelin’ cosy, dry and happy to watch the rain from my temporary sanctuary.

Cheese pleez

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What is the one food in your fridge that is never wasted? Never left till mushrooms pop up, or it turns green and evolves into a lower life form. For us, it’s cheese, cheese and cheese. Yellow, red, green full of nuts, bearing blue strata or just nice and smelly.Cheese pleez!

Predating even fridges, yes that ancient, cheese has always been with us. In France the cheese was great. Whole sections were set aside for this product in homage like manner. We would buy about eight unknown varieties and sit down with a fresh French stick and a glass of red vinegar for a tasting. Wonderful. Only one cheese was beyond hope. Upon opening it a safe containment zone was imposed. Essentially me running it out of the room at speed. Strong is not the word! The rest was delicious.

Cheese for the uninitiated comes from, milk. What did the first man to milk a cow think he was doing? Anyway, cheese is to to be savoured with relish. Even some scientists are swinging back round to saying that its health benefits outweigh the negatives. Bless them.Let not a day pass without cheese, for that will be a sad day.

Now its time for a tasty toasted cheese sarnie. Smacznego:-)