Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Peru, Ecuador & Cuba...

The last leg of our holiday year starts tomorrow. Early. A 6am flight to Lima via Sydney and Santiago.

A long day, I suspect. As far as I can work out, Thursday August 28th will be about 40hrs long. (Curiously, we leave Sydney at 10:55am and get to Santiago at 12:55pm and it is a 16hr flight.)

For those of you pining for me to stay put and return to 'normal' posts, I am sorry. November will see the resumption of normal transmission.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Pay attention at the back of the class!

A number of people have said how they enjoy my posts but don't know how to add a comment.

I can fix that!

At the bottom of the post is a statement saying how many comments there are; 7 in the example above.

Click on this sentence and the comments window will open.

Beneath the posted comments you will find the following window for posting a comment:

Write your comment, choose 'Anonymous' as the identity and click 'Publish your comment'.

That's it.

Oh, and if you want me to know who you are, include your name in the comment.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

OK, not quite this bad but...

Back home for a week - do washing (properly, none of this hotel hand basin caper), visit family, pay bills, some other sundry important stuff to do - and the regroup for Sth America.

My garden is not looking too good. The jungle has moved into the suburbs and I can see a mega weeding day sometime while I am home. Mulching held things at bay for the first trip (7 weeks) but the longer second trip was just too much and it is time for the pith helmets and machetes.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Cake stand

More like small sweet biscuits, many marzipan based and honey drenched.

The stands attract a lot of bees but the owners do not discourage them - they are like a living confirmation that their product is sweet.


Now for a little break - tomorrow we head to London, stay overnight and then catch a flight back to Australia. We get home about midday Wednesday GMT.

Attention to detail

I made a comment earlier that there was a general lack of attention to detail here.

Above is the tiling in our bathroom.

Fake but fun too.

A camel egg perhaps?

No, these things are sold across Morocco as geodes, volcanic eggs.

When opened you see lovely crystals like so:

But they are fake. Totally manmade. The crystals grow vertically in both halves of the egg so the two halves are magically growing toward each other, and are symmetrically placed - probably grown over matchsticks - one central crystal evenly surrounded by a ring of six other crystals spikes. (Memo to self: must research how they do it.)

But it was so bad I had to get one. But at an eighth of the asking price.

Pretty Good

One of the fascinating things about travel is the wide variety of travelling companions, from all walks of life.

But when I set off on this holiday I certainly had not expected to be lying on my back in the sand dunes of Morocco with an astrophysicist (and former head scientist of NASA, to boot) pointing out the constellations and explaining the mysteries of black holes.

One of the trip highlights!

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Is it a...?

Mobile phone tower, cleverly disguised.

In Australia all the churches have rented out their spires for mobile phone relays towers but it seems here that the mosques have higher standards.


Jardin Majorelle

A lovely oasis from the bustle of Marrakech - the Jardin Majorelle was created by the French artist majorelle and, after his death, bought and restored by Yves Saint Larent and a partner. YSL is buried here.

The blue of the buildings is called Majorelle Blue.

Memorial to Yves Saint Laurent.

Magic potion

I was told that equal parts of evapourated milk and Coca Cola will solve any and all gastric problems. Well, it did. But would they have been OK anyway? Who knows.

Didn't taste as bad as it sounded.

More Jamaa El Fna

Water vendors.

Snake charmers

Assembling the ingredients of lucky charms - hollow bullet shaped objects to keep on keyrings etc.

Figs, dates, apricots...

Jamaa El Fna

Jamaa El Fna is the square in the middle of old Marrakech - UNESCO registered for its contribution to oral and social history of mankind. It is a neverending sideshow - endlessly fascinating. Above is the food area.

Snail soup vendor.

Sheep's heads anyone?

Orange juice sellers.


Clothes vendor

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Morocco generally

Someoen asked me what I thought of Morocco. I am not sure what I
expected of Morocco. While I have never seen the film Casablanca but
I think it somehow prepared me for something more elegant. I had
forgotten or never even considered that Morocco was a third world
country (which means…what?) but, however you look at it, the overall
impact of the cities is squalid. (Although I have yet to see
Marrakesh). Street fittings, footpaths, gutters, lampposts and signs,
are broken. Things are hot, dusty and dirty. Work is not finished,
there is a lack of attention to detail. There is rubbish on the
streets. Cars are old and battered. Most taxis are Mercedes from the
1990s and earlier. Windows are broken and grubby. Our guide book
says other cities in Morocco are better. But, on the plus side, it
has lots of activity and a multitude of smells and sights to intrigue
you. And if everything, everyplace, was the same, why travel? It's
just that I had a more sanitized image in my mind before we came here.
Once you adapt to the reality around you, comparing it to nothing but
itself, it is much easier to wander the streets and accept it as a
quite different place.

Much of the countryside is stunning but often quite hot. But it is
August. They have snow fields in winter.

The food in tourist restaurants tends to be a bit 'samey' – soup,
tajines (casseroles), skewers, Moroccan salad and fruit platters.

The people are more varied than in some of our recent travels. In
Spain, except for the pickpockets, beggars and roving accordion
players, the population largely ignored you, flowed around you. In
Morocco there are more reactions and the range of reactions seem more
extreme. People look at you. This can be a bit disconcerting at
times. The men in the coffee shops watch you. And it is mostly men.
Women, dressed in all the extremes of outfits from skimpy to total
cover, tend to look away if you catch them watching you. Men will
hold their gaze. Women in the country towns are more likely to catch
your eye and smile. The various street vendors are a nuisance and will
chase you to get you into their shop and once there pester you to make
an offer. We had the luxury of a geologist in our group and he
pointed out all the fake fossils and geodes.

Overall I am glad we came, but I would not recommend it for a relaxing
holiday, more a cultural exploration. Morocco is an experience that
you must partake in, not a spot to come to and just relax.

And then there is the shopping, if rugs, metalwork and pottery are
your thing. But be ready to barter.


Can you guess which part of the Arabic relates to the 'o' in 'Mobil'?

Essaouira market

Varies views of the Essaouira market.

The little window is the community bakery, where you can bring your
bread for cooking.

The brown pots are 'tajines', the traditional Moroccan cooking vessel.


Small, very European town on the Moroccan coast. Curious in how it
starts and stops so sharply. The sand dunes go right up to the edge
of the city and the there is all city. There is nothing you would
call a transition from one to the other.

Aremd, in the Atlas Mountains.


Come with me to the casbah...

It is quite an experience to be travelling through hot dry desert and
to come across a rich green river bed in a valley.

A casbah is a small, one family mud brick fortress.

Men's business

One of the many coffee shops that seem to be the male assembly points
in this country.

The vendors of Morocco II


The vendors of Morocco I


A night in the sand...

The bizarre thing was I rang my parents by mobile (cell) phone from
the back of one of a camel.