Category Archives: Africa

Canakkale, Turkey – Part 2 – Worth a Visit

Canakkale is bustling, even in the off season. I would actually hate to see it during the peak tourist times, although most backpackers would probably enjoy it.

My introduction to this was at http://www.vagobond.com/canakkale-turkey-gateway-gallipolli-ancient-troy/ – Just in case you missed it.

I tend to shy away from tourist places in the high season because I don’t like crowds, pyramid in TurkeyI like the locals, and I tend to think that tourist towns are like magnets for all the worst types of people this ugly world produces from drug addicts to terrorists to plain old assholes. But during the off season, I do like to see the pretty places- and most touristy spots are pretty. Canakkale is no exception.

Canakkale Trojan HorseFrom the promenade with it’s nighttime lights, cheap stuffed mussels, and big, fake, Hollywood Trojan Horse to the pretty little cobble
stoned backstreets. It’s a nice town.

We found a great little place to get fresh fish grilled and delicious in the back streets.Seafood in Canakkale I don’t suppose I’ll be going back anytime soon so I’ll share the secret with you. On the road between the dolmus station and the ferry road, there is a tiny little place run by a very nice family. Clean, fresh, and delicious. It’s called Okyanus Balick Calick. Normally, I don’t eat anywhere with anus in the name, but in this case, it was delicious.

There are a number of little monuments in the town. cannon in canakkaleSome old cannons from the Dardanelles battles and a strange ceramic something that is just sort of strange. Of course, as everywhere in Turkey there are no shortage of monuments to Attaturk and the heroes of the Turkish Republic. An Ottoman clock tower somehow seems out of place.

In stark contrast to Manisa, there are a lot of places to quaff a beer in Canakkale. Lucky for me there are plenty of places for shopping too, so I was able to sit in a small cafe/bar for an afternoon listening to jazz and having adult beverages while Hanane shopped. Bliss. I’m very much a Turkish sort of Muslim, my wife on the other hand, well, she doesn’t approve. The difference between Moroccan and Turkish again.

Another difference is the Hammam. After nearly four months here, I finally made a trip to Turkish Hammam while in Canakkale. I went for the full massage at Yali Hammam. As compared with the Hammam in Morocco ( see this post: http://www.vagobond.com/the-hamaam-morocco/ ) I was surprised to find that it was….empty.

The advent of modern bathrooms and hot water in nearly every house has made Hammam a thing of the past in Turkey whereas in Morocco it is still a necessity. I miss going to the Hammam in the Casbah of Sefrou, the social nature of seeing the same guys in the morning, then seeing them through the day. It was nice.
Hammam in Canakkale
Don’t get me wrong, the Turkish Hammam was fancy with marble basins and a heated center platform for massage plus a closed sauna room inside the main hammam. There were private locker rooms to leave your things in and you could lock the rooms. The massage was good, done by a big serious bald fat man.

The expense, well 35 lira in total (just 10 lira for the hammam alone). Pretty cheap when you consider a full bath, massage, and steam room for 17.5 Euros but when you compare it with 3.5 Euros (35 MAD but just 10 dirhams for the hammam alone) in the casbah, well, it starts to seem expensive. In fact though, both are a bargain. If I were to choose though, I preferred the one in the casbah.

Of course there is plenty more to see and do in Canakkale. A military museum, a castle, fishermen, the strange pyramid, the Nusrat Minelayer, the Korfmann Library and more, but I’ll leave those treasures for you to discover.

Oh, one last suggestion though…make sure to try the peynir helvas. It’s sweet, baked, and delicious with strong tea or Turkish coffee.

Coming soon: Gokceada Island: The Organic Turkish Island
Troy: City of Legends
Gallipolli and the Gellibollu Peninsula
Eceabat, Turkey
and much more…

Planning a Dream Holiday – The Travel of a Lifetime

My friend James and I were recently talking about travel – which isn’t very surprising since we both love to see the world, meet new people, and discover new insights about ourselves through the lens of travel. James works in finance and I’m a writer – so sometimes the types of travel we do aren’t as similar as our personalities. His work gives him the financial resources to plan much bigger, but my work allows me to find ways of getting where I want to go and doing what I want to do in a way that most people never get to – i.e. on the fly and by the seat of my pants.

travel of a lifetime

There were a couple of things we agreed on –  first, the world is filled with wonders and  astounding travel adventures that truly are the stuff of dreams. A look through the web will introduce you to everywhere and everything but here are some dream holidays to set you longing. Next, whether you are going to Timbuktoo (in Mali) or to Paris (do I need to say where?) it pays to do your research. I admit, that I’ve done a lot of seat of the pants travel where I go to a new country, city, or region without knowing a thing about it (you know, little places like China and Spain), but the truth is, that was more of a conceit – a way for me to say “Hey, look what I can do” and more of the truth is that when I’ve sat and carefully planned out a trip – I’ve generally had a more satisfying time of it. While it was thrilling to arrive in China without knowing where I was going to stay or how to get from the airport to anywhere – it was far better to arrive in Jakarta, know how far my hotel was, how much the fare should be, and how long it would take to get there.

The thing is – you can always change your plans and that is what gives you options – options equal freedom.Seat of your pants you are pretty well stuck to deal with it – so if you’re a masochist like me- you can put yourself in torturous situations and see how you cope (like going to the Balkans without knowing anything about the language, culture, history, or character of the people there) or you can do like James (and like me in my smarter moments) and actually plan the holiday of a lifetime. I hope that I am becoming wiser as I get older – and the truth is that while it is a bit daunting to actually see how much a trip will cost – you are going to pay it whether you know it or not – forewarned is forearmed – or something like that.

The final point we agreed on was that the key to a rich experience is a combination of anticipation, unique experience, and being able to be fully in the moment. That, my friends is the recipe fot the travel of a lifetime. Planning allows you to build up a well formed sense of anticipation. While it may be wonderful to see the Mona Lisa in person (she is so small), a richer experience would be taking a painting class in Paris. Finally, by having a plan in place – you no longer need to worry about where the next meal, the next bed, or the next flight will be – you can dive into that tour, class, or beautiful view.

With all of that in mind – I offer a few places and holidays that might appeal to you.

Cappadocia, Turkey.  Sleep in a luxurious cave, eat Michelin star chef prepared meals, watch the sun rise from a hot air balloon as you gaze out at the fairy chimneys.  Yes, I’ve done this and I still dream about it.

Fez, Morocco to the Sahara. Lay your head on silk pillows in a pasha’s palace, wander through the largest living Islamic medina in the world, get in a private car and head to the Sahara where you will trek by camel through the mighty sands, dance with Berber drums, and sleep in a luxury tent. Yes, I’ve done that too and it changed me profoundly.

The Aegean. From Izmir, Turkey to the Greek Islands – the Aegean is a wonderland of dreams where azure waters soothe your skin at the perfect temperature and the Meltemi winds drive you to find safe harbors. Never mind the disco lifestyle, it’s the fishermen and tavernas that make me dream of the Aegean. The ferries and raki of Turkey, the colorful houses of Greece, the cheese. If I disappear – this is where you are likely to find me. The five star luxury of Thessaloniki and the treehouses of Olympos. Yes.

Ah, as I write this- I almost feel the urge to start planning a new adventure – but for the moment – I am already on one building a life in Reedsport, Oregon for my wife from Morocco and the daughter we made in Turkey. If you’d like to read some of my adventures – including those above – you should grab a copy of  Smooth Living. Where do your dreams take you?

A Kenya Safari in Style

Story and Photos by Steve Juba

African SafariThere are many ways to experience the great animals of East Africa, but a luxury Kenya safari is a guaranteed trip of a lifetime. Luxury safaris utilize only the best lodges and game camps, the most experienced guides & drivers, excellent food, and a complete package from start to finish.

Imagine touching down in Nairobi about to embark on an adventure filled with giraffes, zebras, lions, wildebeest, and so much more! On a luxury safari there is no need to plan anything. As soon as you collect your luggage a driver and guide will pick you up and bring you to your first hotel in Nairobi. It’s best to plan at least one night here before heading off to the game parks to catch up on much needed R&R after long flights and layovers.

After a good nights sleep, you’re off in the early AM to a wonderful tree house lodge built on stilts in front of Mount Kenya. Mount Kenya is the second tallest mountain in Africa (behind Kilimanjaro in Tanzania – safaris in Tanzania are also something to dream of). This lodge floats 2134 meters above sea level and is situated right in front of a huge watering hole. Each room has a wonderful view and balcony of this important life source for the surrounding animals. Kick back and watch the animals flock to and from the watering hole with camera in hand. It’s not uncommon to see elephants, baboons, gazelle & other antelopes come and go. In the evening enjoy dinner in a traditionally timbered dining room built on top of stilts giving the illusion of floating on top of the surrounding ancient rainforest. After dinner enjoy a massage or hang out on the rooftop viewing deck to witness the creatures of the night.

In the morning venture back down the mountain and across the equator. Enjoy the ride African Safarithrough the bush as the temperature rises heading to the north. Arrive at the luxury game lodge just outside the Shaba National Reserve. The luxury thatched bungalows are set amongst extensive gardens with a beautiful pool to cool off in. It’s set alongside the Ewaso Nyiro River, a haven for crocodiles! Don’t worry, an electric fence protects guests from the reptiles of the river without obstructing awesome views of these fierce predators and their habitat. This evening witness a performance of Samburu dance while feasting on a delicious, locally sourced meal. The next day is filled with safari! The game drives take place in the morning and afternoon when most animals are out roaming the plains. The Shaba National Reserve is teeming with elephants, reticulated giraffes, monkeys, zebra, lions, and the rare Beisa Oryx with huge horns!

African SafariThis adventure is only beginning because after a hearty breakfast you’re off to Lake Nakuru, the most famous lake among the Great Rift Valley and home to a massive population of over 1 million flamingoes! Arrive at the game lodge to a tasty lunch overlooking the flamingo filled waters. Your private bungalow features its own balcony and view of the lake. The lake and surrounding park is also home to Kenya’s first and largest rhino sanctuary (the park is home to the rare black and white rhino)! Head out on an afternoon safari in search of these great beasts along with monkeys and lions. At some point you’ll stop along the lakes edge to walk along the unique shoreline of Lake Nakuru. It’s known as a “soda lake” due to its high alkaline content supporting rare algae’s and specialized organisms. The fuchsia pink flamingos flock here in the millions to eat the specific types of algae that only grow in the warm, alkaline waters. During certain seasons there are so many flamingos you can’t even see the water but instead a constant wave of pink. This world famous spectacle is not to be missed and amazing pictures will be taken with ease!

This morning you’re off to the world renowned Masai Mara, home to the Great Migration. African SafariIf you’re lucky enough to take this trip during September & October you’ll witness the world famous migration of over 1 million wildebeest. All the predators of Africa come out for this annual March as you witness amazing hunts and the circle of life, Nat Geo style! After settling in at a luxury tented camp (and we mean luxury!), enjoy lunch before your first unforgettable game drive on the Mara. The camp is surrounded by tropical gardens and crystal clear streams. These are no ordinary tents; they feature king sized beds, ensuite baths, and electricity. Cool off at the swimming pool after your first game drive before dinner. The next day is spent entirely on safari in East Africa’s most concentrated stadium of wildlife. It’s here you’ll have the best chance at seeing the largest lion prides and elephant herds. The elusive leopard can also be spotted if you’re patient enough. Cheetahs, cape buffalo, wildebeest, gazelle, and so much more are around ever corner. This is truly a wildlife photographers dream. Tonight enjoy a final massage at the camps spa before bidding farewell to a luxury safari of a lifetime.

African SafariAbout the Author: Steve Juba is an experienced world traveler who plans unique, off the path trips for his PhotoFly Travel Club .The group goes on adventures like the one above every month. Steve resides in San Francisco where he leads local hikes in the Bay Area in between escorting international excursions for his travel club. His love for travel, photography, culture, and people make for a great travel companion and leader.  You can follow Steve and the club on Twitter: http://twitter.com/solotravelclubs and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/photoflytravel