A Travellerspoint blog

Back in the US of A

Link to photos included!

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Hello to all of our dedicated blog readers!

Jaime and I have been back in the states for about 6 weeks and have been going full speed ahead ever since! So, sorry about the long delay, but we would like to share our photos from the trip for all that are interested. Please keep in mind that there are many photos and you are not obligated to go through them! We have just received so many requests that we narrowed it down from "way too many" to "too many" for your viewing pleasure.

Here is the link: http://picasaweb.google.com/114988625256131581156

The photos albums are separated by country.

As we sign off until our next big adventure, I just want to say thank you to everyone who so avidly followed our blog. It is truly refreshing to know that the many hours spent writing and rewriting (and sometimes re-rewriting) our entries weren't in vain. I also want to encourage everyone to do something similar and go outside your comfort zone. Whether it be going abroad or taking a couple of weeks to travel across the U.S., take an adventure! I learned so much about myself, about Jaime and about relationships that I will not only benefit from, but treasure, for the rest of my life.

Best wishes to everyone,

Kym and Jaime

Posted by kym.haley 11:13 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Island Life to the Mainland Frenzy: Holy Museums!

Nearly on the road back home...

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Hard to believe…It’s our last official day travelling! And lucky you because we decided to spend a good portion of it fashioning one last blog entry before we bombard you with the long versions of our stories once we get home :)

The other side of the story is that it is FAR too hot to walk around Athens during “siesta”, in which all stores but a select few cafes close during the heat of the day and don’t open back up until around 7 or 8pm. This heat is serious business! Plus, we just finished a fantastic lunch of Greek salad, tzatziki, kebap…oh, and our token ½ liter of white wine to really settle in on siesta time.

So last we left off, we were enjoying our last day in Santorini waiting for our ferry to Naxos. We loved Naxos! It was one of those unfortunate instances where we wished we had a little more time to explore this beautiful island, but had a schedule in making our way to mainland Greece. While Naxos is still a super arid, volcanic island it had the most beautiful beach that we had seen in Greece! The picture doesn't do it justice, but it had completely clear, cool water and the perfect mixture of white pebbles/sand.

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The Kastro was a hilltop neighborhood overlooking the "new city" and had a lot of great nooks, crannies and alleyways that sum up the stereotypical photos you see of dreamy Greece.

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There were also a couple of other interesting ruins including this reconstructed arch on a bluff above the ocean where we had a picnic dinner watching the sunset. Mushy, I know… But it was beautiful and we really enjoyed our 24 hour stay on the island.

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From Naxos we hopped on another ferry to Athens (with a sketchy overnight in Piraeous because we arrived after the public transportation stopped for the night). The next morning we got on a bus to Kastraki, a small little village at the base of Meteora - a historical area where "reclusive" monks came to escape society and built a series of monasteries to practice their religion. The interesting thing about these monasteries is that the monks built them on the tops of giant rock formations making it nearly impossible for other people to reach their sacred places. First of all, the rock formations in themselves are amazing! Not to mention the fact that the monks essentially free climbed up the sides of these ginormous rocks to build the churches.

The town of Kastraki:

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Enjoying our private patio at our amazing accommodation - the Doupiani Traditional House:

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The Monastery of Megalou Meteora was the largest of the monasteries setting on top of a rock over 600 meters above the town. It housed several fascinating exhibits, including the old kitchen and ossuary (containing hundreds of skulls), and 3 or 4 different museums.

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Stairs have been built to the top of each of the monasteries for tourists. Too bad because Jaime would have appreciated another reason to bust out our rock climbing gear one last time :) Before the stairs, however, monks and supplies were hauled up baskets like this one:

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Varlaam Monastery was also very impressive:

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This is the smaller of the 2 nunneries in the area that we photographed from an unbelievable viewpoint. The nuns were by far the most strict when it came to etiquette and dress code. At each of the monasteries I had to wear a skirt around my shorts and sleeveless tops were STRICTLY prohibited.

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And it wouldn't be much of a final blog entry without a photo like this one:

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The Monastery of St. Nicholas was the last site we visited, which had a beautiful bell tower above it.

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Although most people rent cars, we planned on walking the route to all of the monasteries. Walking the entire route would probably be around 10 km with about 600 m in elevation gain. Well, that plan was out the window when in the first 5 minutes of walking we were offered a ride by some nice Greek guys to the top. Then at nearly every other monastery visit we were offered rides to the next place. We quickly accepted the offers as the heat was just plain brutal. We still got some walking in, but not 10 km in 100 degree heat!

Then it was time to head back to Athens, leaving our beautiful hotel behind...

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Yesterday was a long day since we knew how many sights we wanted to get in by the time we leave tomorrow morning. We took a bus from Meteora to Athens, another bus to the metro, then the metro to our hostel. We immediately set out to see this Acropolis thing that everyone keeps talking about :)

While the ancient city is fascinating in its rich history and archaeological finds, it was much smaller than I had envisioned. The ruins of Ephesus in Turkey were far bigger in size, but not nearly as intact as the Acropolis. All in all, there were both positives and negatives to my personal Acropolis experience, but I certainly attest that it is a must-see.

A restored theater where musical performances are still held today (you can see equipment still set up from the performance the night before):

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The Parthenon:

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You can still see the burns on the marble from the fire in 1687, when the town was invaded and the gunpowder store in the Parthenon exploded:

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View from the Acropolis, Athens below:

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View of the Acropolis from Athens last night after dinner:

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Well, more to come here in a few days! Be thinking of us in the next 24 hours because we will be on a plane for about 15 of them!

United States here we come...

Kym

Posted by kym.haley 20.07.2010 07:10 Archived in Greece Tagged backpacking Comments (6)

Now onto Greece

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Hi everyone. I can't believe that it has been so long since our last posting. Time goes by so fast! We traveled from the ruins of Ephesus by ferry to the island of Samos, Greece. There is an immediately different vibe in this country. There are more tourists, cafes that serve espresso and not just instant coffee, and everything costs twice as much! The friendly hospitality that we were getting used to was no longer there. That doesn't mean that we didn't have fun though! We had a great view from our room in Samos where we saw this sunset:
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We also visited a museum where they stole artifacts from ruins in the area. The original head of this statue was taken by archeologists and is now in a museum in Germany?
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Although the beaches are rocky, the sun is hot and the water is pleasant. We have spent a little time everyday to catch a ray and take a dip:
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Another Samos sunset (my family would say there is a green flash behind us!):
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From Samos we took a boat to Kalymnos, an island further south in the Dodecanese. Here is our ferry giving birth:
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The first day in Kalymnos we met Jamie, who convinced us to come to Vathy beach with him and his family to climb on the rocks above the water. It is called Deep Water Soloing where you climb until you fall or jump and land in the water. We traversed out along the rock about 250-300 meters. Part way along the traverse a tour boat pulled up alongside us and we heard the guide say, "Kalymnos is very famous for climbing and ... ooh... on the rocks over there you can see two climbers right now!" All the tourists on the boat went to one side and a hundred people snapped our picture! Kym says that she is famous now!

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There are lots of climbing sectors on the island and we climbed three more days. Kym sorting our gear:
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One sector is called the "Grande Gotta." It is a cave with stalactites coming from the ceiling called tufas. Using these tufas it is then possible to climb on nearly horizontal walls.
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Climbing another day with Jamie, he talked me into following him on a line in the Grotta. It starts about 10 degrees from vertical and ends about 10 degrees from horizontal. The route we took was called DNA (7a+). I have never attempted a route that hard and it took a little motivating, and despite a few falls, I was very surprised that I actually did finish it!

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Just after that route, Kym was talked into leading a 6a route (5.10b in US grading). That was the hardest she has ever climbed and she did a fantastic job! She has improved so much it is really fun to watch.

Another day at the crag:
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Greeks love backgammon almost as much as the Turks and I have grown to love it as well. Even when Kym comes up with an amazing come from behind victory rolling four sets of doubles in a row!
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Kym sporting the fantastic new fashions of the scooter community:

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The view from our studio:
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We crossed to the island of Telendos, a 5 min ride away, for a view of the sunset and dinner. The view of a Kalymnian sunset:
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A day at the Odyssey Sector:
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Our next stop in Greece was Santorini, where we still are today. The ferry that took us there was massive. It had restaurants, cabins, even two decks for trucks.
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On Santorini we rented a scooter to tour the island. Our first stop was the Red Beach.
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We visited some smaller towns and eventually made it to Oia for a view of the sunset. Some pics of the drive north:
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We found a front row seat at a bar to watch the sunset with a couple drinks. Kym's Margarita...and yes I think they added Malibu. Why would someone do that?!:
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The actual sunset was very nice, despite the hype:
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Yesterday we visited a wine museum. It was very interesting to see the old presses and the ways in which they made wine hundreds of years ago. The arid climate here is ideal for growing grapes and most people even have their own vineyards. Every restaurant has their own house wine. It is very fun to try them.
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For the last evening here we went to Santo Wines, a winery with another great view of the sunset.

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Today we will travel to Naxos for one night and then we head inland to Meteora and then finish our travels in Athens. We miss you all and can't believe that it is so close to the end.

Posted by kym.haley 15.07.2010 01:34 Archived in Greece Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Western Anatolia was a Cruise

This time I promise no phallices!

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We arrived in Olympus with ease. We walked from our beautiful cabin to the road, waved our arm at our side, got picked up by an extremely nice mother with her two sons, and arrived at the bus station. We caught the bus within 2 minutes, and found Çıralı about an hour and a half later. We caught the Doumuş within 2 minutes and dropped at the front door of Kadir’s, our home for the next few nights. And to think we budgeted 5 hours for this? I wish travelling was always as easy as it is in Turkey!

Olympus is a mediocre destination, with ruins that aren’t preserved very well, and a rocky beach. So, why would we come? It has climbing! It also happens to be a kick-off point for cruises to Fethiye, a port city further west. We climbed two days (mornings really), and I bouldered on the beach the third evening while Kym got some rays. It was fun climbing and refreshing to find a rock surface that wasn’t quite so sharp.

Kym at one of the crags in Olympus
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Visiting the ruins of Olympus:
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The Olympus Beach at dusk:
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The third day we visited the Chimera (it has about 5 different spellings). According to Greek Mythology, the Chimeara was a fire breathing animal slayed by the guy who rode Pegasus, the flying horse (I don’t remember names well – sorry). The Çımera was so powerful that the fire still burns today. In Olympus, they held a race where athletes would run to the Chimera, light a torch and run back, and this started the modern torch ceremony in the Olympic games we know today! Long story short, we went there! Although the history is cool, it was a bit anticlimctic. The ruins aren’t preserved well, there is trash everywhere from tourists leaving crap, and it was a long, hot, and dusty road to get there. But because of the history it was cool to see.

The Chimeara:
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The next day we started our boat tour. It was relaxing, beautiful, and fun. It was a family-run boat, the dad was the captain, the mom the cook, and the son the mate. The food was spectacular and there was definately no shortage. There were six cabins, but only four groups of two, so we had a pleasant cruise without it feeling crowded. We sun-bathed, read, swam, and ate for four days. We even waterskied one evening. The ski was a little short and it was tough skiing on water that was as choppy as Lake Washington on the 4th, but it was very fun nonetheless. It was also surprisingly inexpensive! It was definately worthwhile.

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The remains of a sunken city due to an earthquake many years ago:
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Our wonerful travel companions:
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The famous Butterfly Valley:
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It was sad to say goodbye to our new family and the port of Fethiye was a chaotic mess of touristy shops, trinkets, expensive shopping, and not at all what we were used to. In the morning we went to Selçuk, the town 3km from the ruins of Ephesus. This morning we toured those ruins and tried to picture how they looked 2,500 years ago. There are many stages of repair and refurbishment, but I enjoyed seeing some parts as rubble on the ground and some as reconstructed to their original splendor. The city must have been a spectacular sight to see long ago and even today the pictures don’t do it justice.

The ruins of Ephesus:
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Everyone should sit on a marble toilet seat at least once in their life:
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Tomorrow we leave our much-enjoyed country of Turkey, heading for the Greek Islands. The plan is to visit a few islands and catch a glimpse of the mainland before our flight out of Athens on the 21st. The time has gone by so fast!

Miss you all,

Jaime

Posted by kym.haley 04.07.2010 07:13 Archived in Turkey Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

From Kapadokya to Geyikbayiri

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Jaime left off last telling you about Cappadocia (or Kapadokya, in Turkish) while we still had a couple of days left exploring with our new friends, Dave and Allison. After that, we still had time to go on a couple of hikes in the nearby valleys to get an up close and personal view of the many different (and unusual) rock formations in the area. Now, I know those of you following our blog are seeing a general theme with our recent photos, but I assure you that these rock formations are real! Not all of them resembled such obscene formations, but they are all equally fascinating. Between the 4 of us, we were all trying to hypothesize how they eroded over time to form the different shapes...but in the end, I think we were still way off! We then finished off an amazing Father's Day (we were thinking of all you dads and grandads out there) at a viewpoint high above the town of Goreme at sunset over a fantastic picnic dinner of Turkish cheese, olives, baklava, wine and other yummy delights. It was a great day!

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When we first arrived in Cappadocia, we spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how to see everything since many of the sights are so far away from one another. Most people book tours and go on giant buses from place to place with 50 of your closest strangers, which didn't sound very appealing to us! So, we rented a car and spent our final day in Cappadocia driving around on our own time...seeing what we wanted, when we wanted, for how long we wanted. And it turned out to be fantastic! We visited Kaymakli, an underground city that was once 8 levels deep into the earth, though we were only able to walk through 5 levels. The city had rooms designated as kitchens, living rooms, an elaborate ventilation system, water well, several wineries and even a prison (although we didn't actually see it with our own eyes)! I estimated that about 200 people could live there comfortably only to find out that there were well over 3,000 people inhabitting this underground city! The nooks, crannies and tunnel system throughout was extensive. We all joked that it would be a kid's HEAVEN playing in these caves - the ultimate fort! We then visited the town of Urgup for some wine tasting then over to a restored caravanserai, a meeting point where camels and other goods were traded on long journeys from place to place. Then came the town of Çavusın where we walked through the "old town" - more abandoned cave-like dwellings - including a church dedicated to John the Baptist. Parts of the frescoes from inside the church were still visible from hundreds of years ago! On our way back to the car, a roadside souvenir vendor invited us inside his house to watch the soccer tournament and drink his homemade wine. Turkish people are the MOST hospitable, helpful people that I have ever met!! After kindly turning him down a MILLION times to call and cancel our bus tickets that night to stay with him and have BBQ, we headed back to town.

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Our night bus to Antalya was uneventful, which was made up in adventure when we arrived. When we asked someone at the bus station how to get to Geyikbayiri (our climbing destination outside the big city of Antalya), he hopped on a bus with us, took us to breakfast..and paid!..., then planned to have a friend drive us there later in the day after he showed us all the sights!!! Now that's genuine hospitality! Unfortunately, we were in a hurry to get to Geyikbayiri and had to turn him down. But that just goes to show how people here will literally drop everything they are doing to show you the way - and what is most amazing is that they don't expect anything in return. Nor will they accept it!!

Our quick stop in Antalya:

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Once we finally arrived in Geyikbayiri, we discovered that the guesthouse we looked up online had closed for the summer!! Luckily, the grounds keeper was around to call the owner, who came down and gave us a phenomenal rate for a decked out cabin with 2 bedrooms, bathroom, a full kitchen and a wrap around deck from which to admire the most amazing view of the valley and surrounding mountains. We were literally the ONLY people at the campsite for 3 days in the middle of nowhere. Once we realized how remote this place was, we had to hitchhike back into town for groceries for the next 3 days. We spent the mornings climbing, the afternoons resting and waiting out the heat, then went back out in the evenings for a couple more routes before making amazing dinners each night. It took me these last couple of days to realize how much I miss real food - that isn't fried, or breaded, or just strange. We cooked fantastic, healthy meals that was a very refreshing change from our options lately.

The climbing was far more challenging than what we saw in Thailand. The routes were graded more strenuously and the limestone was incredibly sharp. The monster holds that we saw in Thailand are nonexistent in Turkey and replaced by tiny, sharp-as-glass finger holds. I joked with Jaime that everytime he finished a route he would come down bleeding from somewhere new - an elbow, a finger, a knee. It was very challenging for both of us, but we luckily found a great place on the first day inside a cave where our ability was consistent with the routes it offered. Nonetheless, we had a great time climbing on new rock that was outside of our comfort zone.

Here are a couple of pictures from our adventures out in the middle of nowhere:

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THe view from our deck:

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Posted by kym.haley 25.06.2010 09:10 Archived in Turkey Tagged backpacking Comments (8)

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