Posted by: travelrat | June 15, 2019

Off Again

Only one more shave to go until I’m off on my travels again … Iceland, via Portsmouth and the Faroe Islands. As usual, the blog goes into ‘standby mode’. for, as usual, only a tablet goes with me. I should be able to pop in occasionally with a ‘position report and picture’ … but that depends on how much free time I have, and whether of not I can find wifi.

It’s not before time, for I’m running out of stuff to post about … I only have a few more entries to go in the ‘Morocco Diary’

But, if all goes well, I should have plenty of tales to tell and pictures to show when I get back at the end of the month.

Seeyalater!

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Posted by: travelrat | June 13, 2019

About Elephants

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I can’t remember where I heard these words … a TV documentary, I think … but they gave a guide to telling the difference between an African and an Asian elephant.

‘An African elephant has ears shaped like a map of Africa; an Asian’s ears look like a map of India’. Then, he went on ‘… but, the surest way is … an African elephant won’t be carrying a load of tourists looking for tigers!’

In Asia, they’ve been using elephants as draught animals and for riding for centuries; Africa has no tradition of such, therefore it would be hard to train them. However, to train an Asian elephant still calls for methods which are downright unethical and cruel. Many organisations call for tourists to shun any elephant rides they may be offered, for this reason. On our recent visit to India, our guide said we wouldn’t use the elephants to ride up to Amber Fort, because his company had misgivings about the way the animals were treated. And, only the other day, I read that the Cambodian authorities were banning elephant rides to Angkor Wat from next year.

These measures I agree with wholeheartedly … but, we have no qualms about riding horses or camels. These, presumably, are trained using humane methods, so I have, so far without success, trying to find out if similar methods can be used for training elephants. No problem if it’s not … I’d rather ride in a car, or even walk rather than cause any animal to suffer for my convenience or pleasure.

Elephant

 

Posted by: travelrat | June 11, 2019

Lunch at Tioute

The Kasbah, Tiout

Tiout: 5th February 2019,

Maybe today’s tour illustrates the often inaccurate saying ‘Never go back anywhere ‘?

In 2002, we had lunch at the Kasbah at Tiout, where we partook of tagine and cous-cous, and thoroughly enjoyed it. We had been looking forward to it, the fare served was similar, but nowhere near as good as we expected. It could be that the place has become a bit more tourist-oriented than our last visit … or, to be charitable, it might have been due to our late arrival.

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But, as befits a former defensive work, the Kasbah was on higher ground, which does afford some excellent views.

Tiout

Posted by: travelrat | June 9, 2019

Solstice at Sea

In a couple of weeks, it will be the Longest Day of the Year in the Northern Hemisphere. And, the further north you go, the longer the day will be. Until you reach the Arctic Circle, at which point the sun will not set at all on the few days either side of the Summer Solstice, or the Longest Day. Norway, in particular, advertises itself as the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’; six months later, it’s the ‘Land of the Mid-day Darkness’, but they don’t advertise that quite so much.

Living a short bike-ride from Stonehenge, I can’t avoid the Summer Solstice (or the Winter Solstice, to which I believe the Ancients attached much more importance), for the crowds who come to worship, party or just be here.

This year, though, on the 20th June, I shall be on the High Seas … if all goes well, I should be midway between the Faroe Islands and Iceland. That’s just below the Arctic Circle … but I once took a photograph of the Black Cuillin, on Skye, in the ‘simmer dim’ about 11 pm.

So, if all goes well, and weather permitting, I shall be on deck at midnight, and hope to get a picture of the ‘sunset that isn’t really a sunset’. Or, maybe the sunrise a few minutes later!

Posted by: travelrat | June 6, 2019

The Crew

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Delhi: 29th September 2018

As we come to the end of our tour, and we board the coach for the last time bound for the airport, it’s time to say ‘thank you’ to our driver and his assistant. We mainly saw the backs of their heads, and neither spoke much English, but they always had a smile and a namaste for us each time we boarded the coach.

What surprised me was how calmly the driver navigated through India’s manic traffic, and emerged unruffled, without as much as a scratch on the bodywork.

In this, he’s helped by his assistant, who guides him through tight situations. His other duties seem to be handing out bottles of water and hand-wipes; older books refer to this gentleman as the ‘cleaner’. Maybe that’s part of his job description, too? In fact, I wonder if this is an essential stage to becoming a fully-fledged bus driver?

Posted by: travelrat | June 4, 2019

Taroudant Video

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Taroudant: 5th February 2019

I’ve already told about my annoyance at waiting around for the guide to round up a group of clients who decided to go shopping. But, ‘standing on a corner, watching all the world go by’ does have its advantages if you like video.

Music: ‘Ibn Al-Noor’ by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/b…

Posted by: travelrat | June 2, 2019

Marco Polo

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No, this isn’t a post about the Italian explorer who invented the mint with the hole. It’s about a ship; the one we’re cruising on in just over a fortnight. I know of two ships named Marco Polo; the other one’s a container ship, so there’s not much chance of getting them confused.

The bottom of Marco Polo first tasted salt water back in 1965, when it left its builder in what was then Eastern Germany. It wasn’t called Marco Polo then, though. It went to work for a Russian shipping line under the name Aleksandr Pushkin.

(As I said in a previous post, it feels odd to call a ship with a masculine name ‘she’. So, since the US Navy formulated a policy of regarding their ships as ‘gender neutral’, I shall do likewise)

There are some sources which say the ship was originally a ‘Russian icebreaker’. That isn’t quite true, although it does have a strengthened hull, so it can deal with broken ice … not that we’re expecting any on our cruise!

During Marco Polo’s long career, it’s changed hands several times, and undergone a few extensive refurbishments and modernisations along the way. It received its present name when it came under the flag of Orient Lines in 1993. Its current operators, Cruise & Maritime Voyages have chartered it since 2010.

It weighs in at 19860 tonnes, and is 176 metres long, and 23 metres in beam. It carries only 800 passengers, and comes well within my criteria for a ‘small ship’ … a long way from the sea-going theme parks that some operators think are the way to go.

Posted by: travelrat | May 30, 2019

Indian Trains

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There was something missing from our India tour. What I really wanted to do was a train ride! I’ve had a thing about Indian trains since I was about ten years old, when I read an illustrated article by Walkden Fisher about the Darjeeling-Himalayan Railway. One of the tours offered by the company we used featured a ride on this quirky little railway, but it was fully booked, so we opted for the Golden Triangle instead.

In the intervening years, films like North West Frontier and Bhowani Junction fired my interest, as well as television documentaries about the ‘Ooty’, the Toy Train to Shimla and many others … some of which were quite good, some over-technical and some downright patronising, in which the trains play only an incidental part.

Many books have been written about the subject, and one of the best is Around India by 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh. This not only gives an excellent view of the rail system, but of India as a whole.

Although we didn’t ride any trains, I don’t feel I can leave India without a mention of them, so here’s some pictures of the small display at India’s Transport Museum.

Posted by: travelrat | May 28, 2019

Taroudant

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Taroudant: 5th February 2019

After the two excellent private tours we’ve been on in Morocco, I suppose that, sooner or later, we’d do one that was a little bit this side of Heaven. The wheels started to come off when the tour bus didn’t turn up at the appointed hour. However, a phone call eventually produced a car, which drove us up to where a minibus waited on the outskirts of Agadir.

On the way to Taroudant, we stopped for refreshment at a roadhouse, behind which was an orange grove, which they insisted they show us around. And here, we met the guide who conducted our City Tour the other day. Maybe the Agadir guiding world is a small world indeed?

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Taroudant is sometimes called ‘Little Marrakech’, and it’s often recommended for visitors to Agadir who don’t feel like hauling all the way to Marrakech. We’ve been here before, but the town was still as lovely as ever; the pink-ish coloured walls still as imposing, the wide avenues just as photogenic and the medina just as manic and bustling.

We could have seen more, but we spent so much time just standing around waiting for the guide to round up some of the group who had decided to do some shopping … and who probably failed to realise what a protracted business shopping in Morocco can be.

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Posted by: travelrat | May 26, 2019

Been There: Bought the Shirt

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I have to thank Marie, at ‘Hops Skips and Jumps’ for today’s prompt. In her excellent post at https://hopsskipsandjumps.com/2019/05/18/i-cant-dump-those-old-holiday-tshirts/ , she discusses what to do with those treasured souvenir shirts that don’t cut it for wearing any more, but you just can’t bring yourself to throw out.

Why not, I’d suggest, simply collect photographs of you wearing them, and store them in a separate folder somewhere? That way, you’ll still have the memories that shirt brings back, although the shirt has long since been consigned to the duster box.

I have a couple of ‘shirt stories’ to tell, too. I was at a stall in China, considering whether or not to buy a shirt I rather liked, when our National Escort passed by.

‘What do the characters on this shirt say?’ I asked.

She said something like it was the story of a dragon which journeyed down to the sea. I’m afraid I didn’t pay too much attention; all I was concerned with was ensuring it didn’t say something like:

‘I am a stupid tourist, who paid far too much for this crappy shirt!’

The other concerns my grand-daughter, Charlotte. She’d recently returned from a field trip to Iceland, and then went on holiday to Italy with her family. While they were there, the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull erupted, sending clouds of ash into the atmosphere, and grounding flights all over Europe.

And, Charlotte was walking round Milan Airport, wearing a T shirt, bearing the legend:

‘Iceland Rocks!’

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