This was probably one of our favorite days of the entire trip. We spent all of 24 hrs in La Paz, Bolivia, but we made sure to make the most of it. Our first priority was to mountain bike the “death road.” It was steep, the scenery was amazing and it was plain to see why the road is so dangerous. Fortunately no cars are allowed on it anymore, just bikes. In these outfits we ruled the road and survived.
Archives for August 2010
We walked nearly 8km from our hotel to the Chimera thanks to some mis-information. Finally arriving at the site after about an hour and a half walking in the thick humidity, we were drenched and not exactly happy to see more heat. That was until I remembered that the flames supposedly couldn’t be put out and for research purposes only of course, I decided to try my hand. My first attempt, splashing a little water on a small flame, put the flame out momentarily, but it quickly returned. Thinking it would make a great video for the blog, I moved to a slightly larger flame and instructed Danny to film. Sprinkling water on the flame, it didn’t even flicker and Danny urged me to splash more on. Slowly at first and then with a little more zeal, I splashed water out of my Nalgene onto the flame. Sure enough it went out with a loud sizzle. We waited….and waited. Embarrassed, although you can’t hear this on the video, I decided the best thing to do was to stop filming and walk away quickly and silently. At this point Danny and our Turkish friend Baris were audibly laughing at me claiming I had doused the eternal flame. For the record, we left 20 minutes later and the flame still had not returned, but to be fair, I did see some match like pieces at the base of one of the flames.
You’re probably thinking, Chimera, Chimera, where have I heard that name before? High school, Greek Mythology. The fire breathing monster appears in Homer’s the Iliad as a creature of Lycia: “a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire.” The Greek myth is said to have been inspired by the “eternal flames” (or are they) above Olympos on Mount Chimera. No one will ever know the truth, but its safe to say that spotting of the Chimera in ancient times was seen as a bad omen. Likely because you were about to hit shore.
If You Go: Tours run every night from Olympos for about 20TL. The walk is relatively flat, but prepare to ask for directions as signage for “Yarnartas” is few and far between. It’s about 7km from Olympos to the Chimera, and you should bring a light for the rocky beach. We took a taxi from the entrance back to the beach and walked back to Olympos from there.
Call the dentist! Baklava is probably the only dessert in the world that I can have just one piece and walk away. It’s seriously sweet. A combination of phyllo dough, honey and nuts, baklava is a national dessert here in Turkey. But don’t tell that to the Syrians, Lebanese, Greeks or pretty much anyone else between here and Mongolia who also claim baklava as their own.
Made in enormous trays, cut and sprinkled with pistachios, baklava is decadently sweet. Ramadan’s evening meal, Iftar, seems to always include dessert. It’s no wonder given how delicious they are here in Turkey, and I swear since Ramadan started I’ve seen more and more Baklava sold on the streets. It is advertised in nearly every shop window, and by late afternoon the smell of baked goods is wafting through the street. Don’t ask me how Muslim’s keep their fast after walking by a pastry shop! Yum!
Baklava looks like it’s a little intense to prepare, but here’s a recipe that will hopefully make it easier!
For the filling:
- 1 (5-inch piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2/3 pieces or 2 tsp ground
- 15 to 20 whole allspice berries
- 6 ounces blanched almonds
- 6 ounces raw or roasted walnuts
- 6 ounces raw or roasted pistachio
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- 1 pound phyllo dough, thawed
- 8 ounces clarified unsalted butter, melted
For the syrup:
- 1 1/4 cups honey
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 (2-inch) piece fresh orange peel
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place the cinnamon stick and whole allspice into a spice grinder and grind.
- Place the almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sugar and freshly ground spices into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but not pasty or powdery, approximately 15 quick pulses. Set aside.
- Combine the water and rose water in a small spritz bottle and set aside.
- Trim the sheets of phyllo to fit the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch metal pan. Brush the bottom and sides of the pan with butter; lay down a sheet of phyllo and brush with butter. Repeat this step 9 more times for a total of 10 sheets of phyllo. Top with 1/3 of the nut mixture and spread thinly. Spritz thoroughly with the rose water. Layer 6 more sheets of phyllo with butter in between each of them, followed by another third of the nuts and spritz with rose water. Repeat with another 6 sheets of phyllo, butter, remaining nuts, and rose water. Top with 8 sheets of phyllo brushing with butter in between each sheet. Brush the top generously with butter. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and cut into 28 squares. Return pan to the oven and continue to bake for another 30 minutes. Remove pan from the oven, place on a cooling rack, and cool for 2 hours before adding the syrup.
- Make the syrup during the last 30 minutes of cooling. Combine the honey, water, sugar, cinnamon stick and orange peel in a 4-quart saucepan and set over high heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Once boiling, boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and discard the orange peel and cinnamon stick.
- After the baklava has cooled for 2 hours, re-cut the entire pan following the same lines as before. Pour the hot syrup evenly over the top of the baklava, allowing it to run into the cuts and around the edges of the pan. Allow the pan to sit, uncovered until completely cool. Cover and store at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to overnight before serving. Store, covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Recipe courtesy of The Food Network and Alton Brown, 2008
Cruising the Mediterranean should conjure up imagines of deep turquoise and blue waters, yachts, drinks at sunset and fresh grilled fish. Add in a few Italians, a cadre of Australians, some itsy bitsy man bikini’s and lots and lots of ice cream and you’ve got our cruise along the Med.
Needless to say the four days on the cruise weren’t exactly the hardest days on the “road.” Joined by our friend Baris, we sailed from Fethiye to Olympos, stopping at nearly ever beautiful blue, turquoise lagoon along the way. Our boat was crowded, the temperature was hot and no matter how many times we swam in a single day, usually around four, we couldn’t get enough. We lingered in the water until the meal bell rang, ate traditional Turkish food, and jumped right back in.
From blue lagoon to blue lagoon we went, exploring little inlets along the way, cold spring fed lagoons, a sunken city, small fishing villages and finally arriving like refugees at the treehouse village of Olympos. We slept under the stars, the waves rocking us in to a blissful sleep.
It’s hard to describe the pure relaxation on the cruise. The only concerns we had were to apply sufficient sunscreen, swim back to the boat before the Australian water polo team finished our lunch and whether the Italian in his little white calvin klein’s would catch a fish. For the record our Turkish friend Baris caught the biggest tuna on the boat.
Despite all the rest and relaxation, four days was about all I could take of bobbing in the Mediterranean. Although we looked somewhat like an overcrowded refugee boat with all our luggage piled on the dingy, we were glad to be back onshore.
If You Go: Turkish “blue cruises” go from Fethiye to Olympos or in reverse. Go prepared for a lot of sun, even with the sunshades there isn’t much shade on deck. We went with V-Go Cruises. Our boat was slightly overcrowded with little room to sleep on deck, but overall it was a good experience. Check with your company to see if beverages are included in your package price- usually they are not. After four days even water adds up, so ask if you can bring your own on board. The practice was discouraged on our boat but some people did anyway.
Danny’s experience in Ethiopia underscores the need to stay healthy on the road. In case you missed it, take a second to read it before you continue. Although we’re pretty well prepared to handle basic first aid and stomach illnesses on our own, we were caught out in Harar and frankly that was our own stupid fault. We carry everything with us that we needed, we just didn’t bring it with us for the short weekend. Mistake #1.
Here are some travel health tips to avoid “the worst day ever”:
Basic First Aid. Both of us are certified in basic and wilderness first aid. We chose to take a wilderness first aid course because of its emphasis on improvised triage and long-term first aid management in difficult situations. I can’t say that we’ve used that knowledge while traveling, but we felt it was good to have just in case.
Prepare, but don’t forget. We were prepared to handle Danny’s stomach problems in Ethiopia, but we “forgot” the first aid and medicine kit in Addis Ababa. What’s the point in carrying it around the world if you don’t have it when you need it? Our “go to” kit includes ibuprofen, oral rehydration salts and ciproflaxin. If you carry medications and first aid equipment, keep it with you. You may not be able to find it in a pharmacy when you need it.
Don’t wait, get help. Fortunately Danny’s fever broke quickly, but that was luck. A few weeks ago we recounted this tale to his Aunt, a registered nurse, over breakfast. Her face and tone said it all, his fever had been dangerously high, and her response reminded us how bad the situation could have been. In hindsight we should have sought help immediately when he began shaking – we aren’t trained medical professionals and violent shivers are a sign that something is very, very wrong. We were lucky this time, but waiting it out isn’t a good idea on the road. Listen to your body, if it doesn’t seem right, get help.
Health is Wealth. Like Mom said, eat your fruits and veggies and get a good night sleep. It’s better to take it easy for a few nights and treat yourself right then end up with a week down and out on the road. If you can’t maintain a balanced diet on the road, consider taking a multi-vitamin. Look for fresh fruit juices at roadside stalls.
Know thy self. Only you know if those aches and pains are normal. Only you know your allergies and tolerances. Ask, ask and ask again. If you’re allergic play charades, draw, or translate your allergy or illness into the local language. Better safe than sorry. In Guatemala a pharmacist tried to sell me a drug to take care of parasites. My Spanish wasn’t great, but I could read enough of the lab report to tell that the bacteria column had a + and the parasite column had a -. I refused the parasite drug and went to another pharmacy. I later learned that the anti-parasite cost 5 times more than the antibiotic which the second pharmacy recommended.