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HOME SWEET HOME

Well this is it. It’s over. Finito la musica passato la fiesta. Papala

19.075 kilometers and 61 days later we made it home all in one piece and in good health.

5 countries, 7 if all were independent as they want to be. We were less than 50 km from another 4 countries and if we increase this to 75 km and then 100 km it’s 5 and then 6 the close fly by from other countries.

Yet to count all the different nationalities of people we met in our journey but let’s just say that in the 6 day trek in Nepal there were at least 4. At least I know that we stepped on 15 different kind of shit not counting small rodent and furry animals that crossed our road several times especially in the forests of Nepal.

The furthest east was Kathmandu, (if you don’t count the little plane ride to Mt. Everest) the most south was Udaipur and the most north I guess Ankara. 4 Capitals, 5 or 6 deserts and so on and so forth.

I hope, if you followed our trip, that you had a good lesson in geography and I hope you too can visit one or more of these wonderful places we went. All of them are beautiful and it’s hard to say which was nicer or better. But all I can say for every single place, is that it was amazing. We were very lucky and wise at the same time so we made the best choices possible and everything went according to plan.

Thank you for the support I got from you to continue this. It was not easy at all times to deliver. Good thing I had to download the day’s pictures every day so my computer was out every night anyway. Also thank technology and the little plug in memory sticks that allowed some of this to happen because very few hotels had wifi connections.

See ya

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ΘΑΛΑΤΤΑ ΘΑΛΑΤΤΑ

For my foreign friends:

It would take a whole Greek ancient history lesson to explain why the one word repeated twice in the title of this entry, suffices to be a whole entry. Just say that some men (10,000) after a long self sustained expedition to the east (not so far east), when finally they made it back to the Aegean, with their first glimpse of the blue water, all in one yelled: "the sea, the sea".

So did we

So did we.

 

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Day 57

If you go back and read day 3, 4 and 5 and reverse them, then you have an idea of what we are doing and what we are seeing. Still lots of snow on the surroundings but the fields are green and the first green leaves grow on the trees and the first flowers are out. Since we are heading west and we will be approaching the Med., spring will be in full force. Strange after the desert. We had a 46 degree drop in temperature from our hottest today. We also got to see Mt.Arrarat today. Impressive.

I guess this is going to be my last or next to last entry Will be home soon. Can’t say I’m done with this trip yet.

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day 49-53

 Day 49

Quetta. Capital of Baluchistan and 12 hours away from Multan. This time we took the mountain road to avoid Sibi and the extra 300 km the other way has. Plus roads like this have less traffic, both human and automotive. We have very few choices of where to stop now that we know what bad it is. So we took the less traveled road, something that we have become experts in doing, especially after the Varanasi to the Nepal border road. After that road nothing scares us. So the road was actually not that bad and the scenery once again beautiful. After we crossed the Indus river, the population and the traffic started to thin out and so did the pollution. We could see blue sky again instead of the hazy and polluted Indian sky. The desert started again and as we were going up the hills the temperature dropped for the first time since we left Manali for Delhi that it went below 30. Actually it went down to 12 at the 2200 m high pass. From 42 this morning at 10:30 down to 12 at 7 pm. And if you think that 2 days ago we had 53, that makes 41 degrees drop in a very short time period. We were even thinking that we might have to get a light jacket out. Anyway, now we wait for dinner at our hotel room and then we have to get ready for bed time. Early rise tomorrow again for another 10 hours of driving to the Iranian border through the Baluchistan desert. . xxxx

Day 50

We missed the border closing by 10 minutes so we are stuck again in a border town. Those are the ugliest and since in Pakistan you expect the worst. We will use our sleeping bags of course but at least we will have a sitting toilet and the city doesn’t smell like shit. So we will survive it. We did the distance from Quetta to Taftan in 10 hours and half but we took the wrong road leaving Quetta and by the time we realized that we were heading to Karachi we had lost 2 hours and 10 minutes and 130 kilometers of our precious time. Only if we had opened a map before leaving and seen that there were 2 right turns we had to make and not only one. Also there are no road signs to tell you where you’re going so we totally missed our turn. Any way V is angry at me but it took us both 1 hour to realize that we were heading too much south and no west at all. The view now although the same it’s much different too. It’s 42 days later and the desert is hot. Only 43 degrees but the sun is deadly. So Iran tomorrow.

Day 53

Shiraz, Iran. Up in the mountains and with a nice climate. We are here because the ancient of Persepolis is close by and we had to see it. We drove straight from the border here, all 1,200 km in one go. We were delayed as usual in the border and then with the army or police escorts we were forced to have but we gained an hour and a half in time difference so we were by 4 pm in Kerman and it was too early to brake our trip. Iran also has very good roads and driving at night is pleasant. Also we had an almost full moon so everything was bright and we didn’t miss much of the scenery. The moon light was adding a sense of mystery to the whole thing and it was a beautiful drive all together. We got very late in Shiraz and after finding a hotel and getting to bed it was 6 in the morning. The next day was Friday, which is a Sunday to us so almost everything was closed so we only walked around the city. Today we had to take the car to Toyota again for its scheduled oil change and also to fix our radiator because it started leaking again at the spot where it was welded in India. We will see how it goes but it is much better to be stuck here because of the car than in the polluted and with oven like temperatures India.

11:00 pm. Car ok, Persepolis tomorrow and then north west to make it to Tabriz in a day or two. I had a carpet request from there. Also I don’t think that I can upload photos from Iran so next photo update in Turkey.     Kisses

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day 48

Finally we made it to Pakistan with a 2 day delay due to mechanical reasons. Poor car, it gave them to us on the hand. (a famous old Greek expression) I guess it didn’t like the idea of leaving Nepal and go back so it decided to keep us in India. The mountains were nice and cool and the heat of the Indian planes killed it. Radiator fluid and gear box fluid became one and the mix (a nice pink froth) was cooling the car and the automatic transmission. From the 11,550 kilometers up to now very few were on major highways. On this one we had just gotten into it a few kilometers before and we only had 145 km on it for the border. We broke down outside (give or take a couple of miles) a Toyota dealership. In all the bad luck we hit jackpot. The famous Punjab hospitality started and we were treated immensely well in the next many hours that we were stuck with them. They even worked on the car on Sunday for a few hours. When we left we were all hugs and kisses with everybody working there.

The radiator was at fault and it got fixed the next morning but it was hard and tedious work to clean all the systems and refill them. It had to be done a few times to ensure that all the scum had gone out.

So instead of spending only 2 nights in India we spent 4. We crossed the border in the morning and drove south west for 350 km to the city of Multan The next 2 days are going to be very hard for us and the car. Today we saw the thermometer hit 50 for a long time but it was a constant 44 degrees and yesterday for seconds we saw 53 with a constant 47. So we have of 2 days of 650 km each on Pakistani roads with no other possible stops for us at this heat outside. After the Sibi experience on the way in now we can only stop in cities with good hotels with air-conditioning in order to survive it. So Quetta will be our next stop and then crossing the Baluchistan desert the next day to make it to the border of Iran. We will enter Iran the morning of the 3rd if we don’t make it to the 4pm closing time. (which we probably won’t)

After Quetta till Kerman, Iran it’s the same road that we took on our way down so we know what we have to face. Wish us luck for no more brake downs. Kisses

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day 42

Back to Pokhara after a 6 day trek in the mountains. First time we went somewhere without poor Voukefalas who was left all alone, parked for all these days. It was us our porter, our guide, the local traffic and the other trekkers. The porter was hired when we landed in Jomsom. Our guide came with us in the car from KTM to Pokhara and then he has been with as all the time. The local traffic is surreal. Most of it is goods transports and most of the goods are for the trekkers. Now depending where you are on the trek, the goods are transferred with whatever transportation can make it. If the monsoon road is not closed due to a landslide then you can have tractor and trailer as your ride. Now this road is almost good at the top of the mountain where the river is slow and the river bed is wide. But as soon as you enter the proper valley and it becomes a gorge, then things get tough. The only transport then is humans or mules. So, if you have a few things then you curry your own stuff or you hire a porter otherwise mules caravan. The same thing goes with the trekkers. The area last year was visited by 36.000 people. (11 Greek) Not all of them choose the same route. It all deepens on the physical condition you’re in and at the time you have. Hard treks need more time.

Jomsom is a starting point. Because of the little airport it’s evident why. Secondly the gorge starts from there and it’s considered an easy trek. (that’s why we took it).

Now easy is questionable. The first day it was. 6 kilometers only, something like a warm up. Just a walk up to the next little village. Actually the heights we were at were lower than I had said in my previous entry. The town and the airport are at 2710 m high and the next town we walked to, was almost 2900. So we never got above 3000. Any way an easy walk, mostly on the river bed and sometimes when the river had turned close the river side we had to climb up to the monsoon road and then descent again. No biggy. Just make a stop if you get tired. We covered the distance in pretty good time (2 hours without the stops) and we had a great view of the Annapurna mountain range and it’s Niligiri 7.061 m peak and Tilicho Peak at 7.134 on our right. Spectacular. Imagine being on top of Mt. Olympus and then have another 4.2  kilometer higher mountain right next to you.. Then next day was the same way back and this time we had the mountain in front of us and then we reached Jomsom for lunch and we continued for another 2 hours walking to the little town where we would spend our night. And this was the rhythm. We would leave at 9 am and end up somewhere at 5pm. 2 hours and then tea brake, then 2 hours and lunch and then 2 hours and hotel room. Small villages all along the way and the river and the mountains. Paradise.  And then day 3 you get a 2 hour rain and on day 4 you get rain from 11 in the morning and then it start’s looking a bit like hell. Day 4 was also the toughest as far the terrain was concerned. Now it was a very narrow trek that 2 people hardly could fit side by side and not a single stretch of road on the same level. We descended about 1000 meters but to me it seemed we were going up all the time. Climbing the hills here is not easy. Especially in sliding mud and with 20 mules in front of you sliding all over the place. Sometimes the steps make your leg have a 90 degree angle and you have 20 of them in front of you. And then another 50 to go down. And you are sweating inside your raincoat and you are wet everywhere. I almost quit yesterday. But quit in the middle of the trek? And then what? Who is going to take you down anyway?

The promise of hot springs at that day’s destination kept me moving. V suffered too and it was tough on him too. Day 5 we had only an hour of rain and only the first 3 hours were rough terrain. The trek at the end became the regular monsoon road and traffic started to appear again. From the last village before our end town, automobile traffic started already. 2 tractors carrying cases of empty coca cola bottles and the other one wood and a few dilapidated Nissan and Mahendra jeeps full to the rim with people. So basically this was the end of the trail and of us walking around half of Mt. Annapourna. Today both of us woke up in pain. Our backs and our legs are stiff. We did a small 20 min walk to a taxi which did a bit of good and after 3 hours of the taxi ride we were even stiffer. We had lunch, kissed our guide goodbye watched the afternoon storm while walking around town and now we are packing and reading maps to find our way back. Going up to the Karakoram highway in Pakistan is out of the question so now it is a bet of how fast can we cross the whole country. We want to be entering Iran the 1st of May. Let’s see. Maybe we can make it out of the western border of Nepal to India and that will save us a day. Kisses everyone and sorry I don’t post more pictures. But only these past days we took about a 1000. So where to start posting?

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Day 35. Destination achieved

As far east as this road trip goes. We made it. We have reached our destination. We are in KTM (Kathmandu) Nepal. The top of the world. 10.500 km away from the Med coast. Away from heat and back to the coolness of the mountains.

We came to Ktm 2 nights ago after a horrible trip from Varanasi. The road to the border was non existent at the last 150 km we shook and rattled like we were in the worst off road rally. Our average speed below 20 km/h. We drove for 13 hours from Varanasi to reach the border and it was only 250 km away. Poor car. Every other experiment we did with taking the scenic route and not the main highways, had worked out well but this time it sure didn’t. It was really scenic in the beginning traveling east next to the Ganges but then when we headed north toward the border the road disappeared. We ended up in another country road lost from the main, passing through very remote and small villages without electricity and finally we reached the border town of Raxaul. Another armpit of the world but not as bad as in Sibi. (see day 10) The sleeping bags and our own toilet paper were out again and off we went in search of dinner. Too late for that so we made some noodles with our cooker and ate them with tuna and paksimadi bread. Delicious. Our Geckos this time didn’t eat all the mosquitoes so some of them ate us but we survived.
Next morning we left around 10 we had our usual 3 hours at the borders for formalities, turned our watches 15 min fast and we were in another world. Paved roads, clean streets beautiful people and no cows and cow shit anymore everywhere. We took the mountain road to KTM (After all the reason for taking that weird road the day before was so we can enter Nepal from this area.  It was pay back time in a big way. So we drove straight through the first Himalayan range. Only up to 870 m high but a tropical jungle it was. Then back to 400 m and the in 20 min driving and 20 kilometers later we were at 2490 m above sea level. Wow what a climb. And then back down to 1300. Crazy ups and downs, going through beautiful mountain villages and a whole different race of people. Six hours of this and we got to KTM. We had a guide connection waiting for us so we found a local phone and paged him. 10 minutes later the vip treatment started. First to our hotel then on for buffalo stakes and potato skins and we had a pig out. I think the last meat we had was in Delhi. That was a year ago. We entered Nepal in the first day of new year’s. Our second new year’s this trip. In Nepal the great year of 2064 entered. Happy New Year everyone. This means I turn 100 years old this year. And you all thought that with the life I’m leading I wouldn’t get to see 100. Tricked ya.
You see the Gregorian calendar doesn’t work here so Nepal is 57 years (and 15 minutes) ahead.

Our phones don’t work here either so there is radio silence and tomorrow we leave for Pokhara (a bit west from here – [ you see out trip back started already]) and the next day we start a 6 day trek so there is going to be a complete silence. We are doing the Jomsom Trek. We take a small plane from Pokhara north to Jomsom and then we walk down the deepest gorge of the world. We start of at 3100 m , we walk up a bit to 3800 and then we get in between these 2 mountains (Annapurna I [8.091 m] and Dhaulagiti [8.087 m] in a gorge only 1300 m high. The distance between the 2 peaks is 8 kilometers. So imagine how deep we will be having these 2 giants around us. I can’t wait, especially after today’s disappointment with our little 1 hour and 15 minute airplane ride to Mt. Everest. The actual peaks were above the clouds and were beautiful but the ride there and back was hazy and with the visibility really low so we didn’t see anything. We just got to see Everest really close up but just for a few minutes and then we headed back. We got in a bit late in the season here and after all these dry months now that it got hotter it gets hazy after 9. Last night it rained a lot and today we hoped for a clear day but the clouds and fog were still around.

So before the 26th don’t expect any news from us. We won’t be camping at night but getting to lodges. Some are really nice and with bathrooms and everything. So it might be a luxurious trekking after all. 6 hours walking per day in a soft downhill. A piece of cake. I walked more in Varanasi everyday. And now we will have a guide and a porter with us. Apparently not only the views of the mountains are amazing but since it will get hazy as the day progresses the nature that we will walk through will be amazing. The flowers and the plants are blooming now because of spring and there are lots of little rivers and cataracts on the way down.

So see you in a week… Unless we follow the big Himalayan Yeti on a Yak and get lost somewhere.

Kissesssssss.

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day 30 Varanasi

Day 30

Afternoon siesta in Varanasi. Two days drive from Agra. Beautiful Taj Mahal and polluted Ganges river. Two contrasts but that’s India. Full of them. Imposing the Taj but not much else to see in Agra but the fort so we moved on. Long drive with the typical crazy driving but somewhat dissent roads. All of India’s grain must be growing here. 45 degrees in the shade but thank Siva for A/C. Both in the car and in the hotel rooms. Two days and that’s all we saw, grain fields and people and animals.. Got lost getting into Varanasi and saw the ugly part of town as a welcome. But the night walk on the river side was beautiful. Today with the day light a different site all together. Totally different. And tomorrow when we take a sunrise boat ride it will be even more amazing. People do everything on that river. From bathing and washing to burn their dead. Meanwhile children are playing in the water and other water their buffalos and 400 million people shit in it. Only in town 40 open suers spill in the river. We decided not to go north from Agra although we miss the coolness of the mountains but then after Nepal it would have been too hot to do Varanasi. So Nepal is close from here and maybe we go on Saturday maybe we go on Sunday. 30 days and 9800 km later all is well and we keep on going.

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Day 26 Happy Easter

Happy Eater every one. Alithws o Brahma. We are having a vegetarian lamb today. Vegetables on the spit. You see Pushkar is a Brahma religious spot with more that 300 temples in the area and strictly vegetarian. Not even eggs which except that it’s an Easter tradition, eggs have been an essential part of our breakfasts so far. I think those kebabs of Turkey and Iran are much missed lately. Today will be our last day in Rajastan. We will be heading to Agra tomorrow and then on back to the north. We need to cool down a bit after the constant 40 degrees (once up to 44) days and 36 degree nights.

Rajastan is a beautiful place and we wish we had more time to explore it’s beautiful country side full of temples and castles. (Anybody planning a honeymoon should start at Udaipur). So Happy Easter again, we are going for a pray to get rid of all our bad karma at the holly lake and wish a good life for our families.

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