South West WA with Merry

A week in South West, WA… by car!

Merry and I have spent the last week touring South West WA. It’s wonderful for me to have Merry here and also good to have a rest from riding Azulo. The quality of food and lodging has also improved significantly.

This is just a quick update …not much commentary. Just a few photos from our trip for the record.

We spent our first night in Eaton, near Bunbury with my cousin (once removed) Alex and his wife Rachel. We phoned Juliet, my cousin in England. Alex and Rachel have a lovely home in Eaton and a 6 acre block in the hills nearby, Currently they have a shed and 9 Alpacas on the property, but their dream house is in the planning phase!

Alex and Rachel Thornton

Alex and Rachel Thornton

Alex and Rachel's country retreat

Alex and Rachel’s country retreat

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Photo – Busselton Pier… It’s very long…2 kilometres!

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Photos: Vasse Félix Vineyard in the Margaret River district

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We saw some lovely beaches… this one is Hamlyn Beach

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The Karri Tree forests are superb. The trees grow up to 80 metres!

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We visited a 500 year old Jarrah tree… it was saved in the nick of time from being cut down!

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We visited the Jewel Cave… there are many others but one was enough! It is spectacular. We chose well!

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We visited a Truffle Farm, the largest in Australia and one of the largest in the world. They have Labrador dogs to sniff out the truffles and tours are possible but unfortunately the season starts in June.

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We stayed in a variety of places from a very nice Airbnb in Fremantle to comfy a cottage near Nanup

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It was pizza night in Nanup. The local café lays it on every now and then. There was loud live music of very doubtful quality but the pizza was terrific. As you see they made a fuss of us with the table sign

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We saw this sign outside a beach shop which amused us (sign enlarged on second photo below).

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Our last three nights were spent in Fremantle. I am really impressed with Fremantle. It’s got lots of character and is full of life, restaurants, lovely old buildings etc.

We took the “hop on tram” ….an amazing coincidence happened…The tram driver RECOGNISED ME….He said… “You were in the same hotel as me in Kalgoorlie… just a few days ago… you set the smoke alarm off burning your toast didn’t you.”

It turned out that I even slept in the same room as him…Don’t worry, he left a day earlier than me. Just to complete the coincidence, his name is also Geoff.

Tram driver Geoff...I met him also in Kalgoorlie.

Tram driver Geoff…I met him also in Kalgoorlie.

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Cicerello"s Fish Restaurant. Famous in Fremantle

Cicerello’s Fish Restaurant. Famous in Fremantle

We visited the Gaol which has been welcoming guests since 1850’s and only closed in 1991. It was built by the convicts.

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Some more photos of “Freo”

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Swan River Cruise to Perth and Perth hop on bus

Merry and I are very impressed with the quality of the infrastructure here. The trains and stations are clean, the busses are excellent…there is a free bus service called the CAT They are building a superb new Football/Cricket stadium which looks impressive. There are good roads and more!….Also there is very little graffiti!

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They had a free wine tasting on board..

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Perth hop on bus

Perth hop on bus

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Magnificent meals

Naturally, we’ve had lots of good food and wine on this trip… as always!

Perhaps the pick of the restaurants’ though is “Bread in Common” in Fremantle.

It is modern and the food is fantastic. Food prices are reasonable but wine is expensive.

It is packed out all day from breakfast till dinner. You must go there if you are in Fremantle!

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Now sadly Merry leaves and I start the journey again. Merry will meet me again in Darwin in three weeks. I’m looking forward to that already!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Esperance and Albany

This may be the last post for about 10 days or so as Merry arrives on Monday 15th and we are spending a week touring the Margaret River, south of Perth

I’m in Perth now staying with my old mate Gordon Roberts. Gordon rode with me in my trip to Nepal, India and Bhutan.

AZULO has performed magnificently but I need new tyres and the speedo and GPS fixed. This will all be done next week whilst Merry and I have a good break.

Kalgoorlie – the final word

I forgot to mention in the last post something I found amusing. I hope you do too!

This is how the 19th Century Kalgoorlie Politicians solved the difficult problem of the “unsavoury behaviour” in what is now Hay Street, Kalgoorlie.

Broockman Street, Kalgoorlie, in the late 19th Century had some 30 brothels. As you can imagine, it must have been hopping!

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Photo – The last “old” brothel in Kalgoorlie

The “gentle” people of Kalgoorlie wanted them closed down yet the politicians and many more including 99% of the miners felt they provided a very important service to the town!

Broockman street  had a “good” and “bad” end so the solution was simple…. just change the name of the bad end…. Hey presto, problem solved.

So, they split Broockman street in two and re-named the “bad” end Hay Street. A notice appeared in the newspaper saying there were now no brothels in Broockman Street!

Esperance

Esperance is a pleasant seaside town with magnificent beaches in a beautiful setting.

It’s hard to avoid references to the early seafarers who sailed past in the late 18th Century

Esperance was named after the French Ship L’Esperance.

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In 1792, two French ships, L’Esperance and Recherche nearly foundered amongst the many islands and reefs here. The ships were saved by the lookout, “Monsieur Le Grande” who at the last minute spotted a channel.

Esperance, as said above was named after the ship.

The nearby peninsula, now a National Park was named Le Grand and the whole archipelago named Recherche Archipelago.

Whilst I’m boring you with some potted history, I found this story in the museum interesting

Matthew Flinders, who was the first person to circumnavigate Australia, passed by Esperance twice. In 1803, he too had a near disaster.

He only managed to save the ship by cutting the ropes on two anchors which were lost until 1969.

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In 1969 the two anchors were discovered and salvaged.

The home made wooden aeroplane in the photo above was used to search for the anchors. it was a sort of “submarine”. The plane was lowered in the water, a diver hung onto it and they were then dragged along the sea bottom by a boat. It apparently speeded up the search!

The anchors once recovered, were spirited away from Esperance. One is in Canberra and the other in Adelaide. Poor Esperance got the aeroplane submarine and nothing else!

Enough of that!

Esperance and the whole coastline is extremely beautiful. The beaches are stunning.  Some, like “Lucky Bay” have “OMO  white” sand and the sea appears a bright turquoise colour. The photos don’t do them justice. Lucky Bay by the way is in the Le Grand National Park some 40 k away and was named by Matthew Flinders who stopped there after his near death experience.

Lucky Bay has Kangaroos on the beach at certain times of the day. Unfortunately I was there at the wrong time. No Kangaroos!

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On my way to Lucky Bay I saw a very strange site….

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Yes, Stonehenge!

It’s a full sized replica of what Stonehenge looked like 5000 years ago! The stone was  quarried nearby. I’m not sure quite why anyone would think of rebuilding Stonehenge but someone has!

I stayed at and Airbnb which was excellent but I made a bit of a fool of myself. I tipped over the bike as I was about to leave. The family kindly helped me lift it. It’s much too heavy for me but the two kids of Fiona and Brendon, my hosts, made Azulo look like it was made of feathers!  I must be getting old and feeble.

Photo : Charming Airbnb owners Fiona nada Brendon

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Albany

The 450 ride to Albany was rather boring.

Unfortunately the weather was bad in Albany and I once again got soaked a few times and had to dodge the many showers. At times like this I wish I was in a car!

Albany is in a magnificent setting in King George Sound. It’s Western Australia’s oldest town, founded in 1826.

The little ship Amity sailed from Sydney in 1826 with a few soldiers and convicts and set up the settlement. They didn’t want the French to get there first!

This is a replica of the Amity in the photo below

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The most impressive thing in Albany is the Anzac Memorial and Museum. The ships taking the Australian and New Zealand Corps and their thousands of horses to Egypt in 1914 sailed from here. This was the last Port of call for those poor soldiers (and horses)

Here are some photos but as you see the weather wasn’t very kind to me!

All the ships lined up in the Sound. It must have been an impressive sight

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I love this sculpture of an Anzac giving his horse water.

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A very beautiful and emotional statue

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The old Guard House

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Below – The Anzac Memorial ….Typical…why are monuments always under repair when I’m there!. This is an impressive monument to the Anzacs,

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Other things I saw in Albany in between heavy showers…

The Gaol House

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The Whaling station. It was closed in 1978

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The Gap…This is a very impressive structure over a gap in the cliffs.

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Again, the pictures don’t do justice to this

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 There is one other piece of interesting history here…..

Australia’s very own pirate – Black Jack Anderson

This story fascinated me. My brother in law Cam told me about it, There’s a book on it and it’s apparently all true…. but there is nothing on him to be found here, although the people in the museum know about him.

I think Albany is missing a magnificent tourist opportunity!

Black Jack Anderson was a big Negro Whaler from Massachusetts who in the early 1830’s found himself in Albany. He killed someone in a brawl in the pub and ran away stealing the whale boat.

He set himself up on nearby Middle Island and over some 10 years terrorised the passing ships. He was very cruel but must have had charisma as he kept several Aboriginal “wives” and even a white woman. He made a lot of money which has never been found.

Eventually he was killed by his own men.

Why does Albany fail to cash in on this amazing story! It beats me!  Sorry, no photos.

Off to Perth …the final leg of “stage 1″of this trip

I left Albany to ride the 400 easy kilometres to Perth. It was a good ride and the weather had improved.

Unfortunately I had a “senior moment” at the petrol station…. I filled up Azulo with diesel. Ugh….. My feeble defence is that there was not caution sign on the pump gun.

I managed to borrow a hose and bucket and siphoned out all 30 litres of diesel, not a pleasant taste. I then filled up and continued the journey.

So now I’m having a couple of days off in Perth before Merry arrives. I’m excited about her arrival.

Gordon is a terrific host. We had nine holes at a superb Gold Resort, Joondalup…lots of wine…bacon and eggs and more!

Photo -Joondalup Golf Resort

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Some company on the course. Gordon and friend

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Some “Cockies” in Gordon’s garden

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Sian, Gordon’s daughter with Jack and Gordon looking on.

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Bye for now…. If I get time (and Wi-Fi) I’ll put some photos up of the Margaret River and district.

The journey continues again on Tuesday 23 May!

 

 

 

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The Nullarbor and Kalgoorlie

The highlight of the past few days is the Superpit in Kalgoorlie. It’s a simply amazing goldmine that produces 22,000 kilograms of gold per year. The pit is 700 m deep, 1.5 k wide and 3.9 k long. More later!

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First though, I rode through the Eyre Peninsula and over the Nillarbor

Journey through the Eyre Peninsula

Near Port Lincoln I stopped at Coffin bay. This is an Oyster producing area. Port Lincoln is a Tuna fishing centre. Coffin Bay is a sweet little place but it’s still the off season and everything was shut!

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Photo :Coffin Bay’s Oyster beds

Many of the Bays along those stretch of coastline were named by Matthew Flinders who sailed past here in 1802. Streaky Bay and Smokey Bay are two named by him.

The countryside is pleasant and there are always photos to take.

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I thought the use of rain tanks as toilets was very creative at this roadside stop.

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Just after taking this photo I had a minor drama… My “good angel” came to my rescue.

I rode on from this café about 15 k and for some reason I checked to see that my camera was in its correct spot in my pocket. It wasn’t there. I went back to the café hoping to find the camera but no luck. I thought I had lost my camera. How would I do this blog without a camera! Ok the phone is an option.

Anyway, I rode away dejected but kept an eye on the side of the road in case it had fallen out of my pocket. About 12 k along the road I saw it. How lucky am I.

There it is in the photo below. Luckily it was in its case so no damage.

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Near Streaky Bay there are these amazing rocks called Murphy Haystacks. They are 1500 million years old.

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The journey across the Nullarbor Plain starts at Ceduna SA and ends at Norseman WA, a distance of 1200 K. The journey must have been horrendous before the road was sealed and before the roadhouses and fuel stations were established. The myth of a difficult journey still continues today but it is actually a very easy journey, albeit  a long ride; The road is excellent, the roadhouses are surprisingly good, there is fuel within easy distances (the longest gap is 200k)

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I saw just one kangaroo, no camels or wombats however there were plenty of squashed and very dead ones!

The road trains are interesting….The weather for me was good so they weren’t a problem but I heard that in the wet they can blind you with the spray for several seconds as they pass…best to pull over.

DSC02582I had a chat with Rex the Road Train driver at one of the Roadhouses where I found a motel bed. He said he prefers to travel at night as they can see lights ahead. Most of the poor wildlife gets mowed down at night. Rex told me he travels 1200k per day. He is allowed two half hour stops and cannot legally drive more than 14 hours. I thought my 750k was a big achievement. How on earth they stay awake beats me!

Some say its a boring trip. I can see why but it has things to see on the way and the scenery does change slightly!

The highlight along the way is the “Head of Bight” which is a whale watching lookout. This is where the white dunes meet the spectacular Bunda Cliffs. These cliffs are 90 metres high and stretch for 200 kilometres.

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DSC02587The photos don’t do justice to the view. Also the sea is a deep blue that is fabulous.I saw one whale but he /she wasn’t doing much and was far out but at least I saw one!

There are other things along the way that add some interest!

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As I neared Norseman there is a forest of gum trees that have rich golden trunks. Maybe someone knows what they are called.

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The 90 mile straight road is very straight. It’s quite a shock when suddenly there is a bend

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Kalgoorlie

I reached Norseman at 1.30 on my second day. Too early to stop given there isn’t much at Norseman so I headed the extras 190 k to Kalgoorlie. After riding nearly 1500 k in two days I need a rest.

Kalgoorlie is a fascinating place.

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It was founded more or less instantly after Gold was found here in 1893 by Paddy Hannon.

The town used to have some 90 Hotels (Pub’s to my UK readers) Some of them are splendid. There are Hotels on every corner. Some have wonderful stories to tell.

Here are a few photos:

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The Hotels catered for different clientele

The Exchange Hotel (photo above) was the rough place.

They used to have a “Skimpy of the week competition”. The bar maids were very skimpily clad (actually they still are but I was unable to get a photo, sorry)

The customers all put a coin in the “Titty Kitty” and this was given to the most skimpily clad lady providing she had a nice smile!

The Palace Hotel  opposite was the posh place. Herbert Hoover the US President was here when he was a mining engineer. He had a liaison with a bar maid and later sent a huge mirror to the Hotel (why would he do that????) He also wrote a very romantic poem to his lost sweetheart. Here is a photo of the mirror and his poem.

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The town hall has an impressive theatre. There are 1200 cast iron chairs. One can imagine attending a show here.

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There were over 30 brothels too.

One of the original brothels remains and is still a working brothel today!

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Kalgoorlie has a lot of street artists or did today! They are painting all sorts of pictures on shop windows

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Kalgoorlie and Boulder are now one town. Boulder also has some fine buildings and Hotels. It also had the Railway line that brought miners and equipment to town. At one time it was the busiest station in Australia, busier than Flinders St Station in Melbourne

Some photos of Boulder

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Now to finish, some more about the Superpit

Alan Bond instigated what is now the Superpit. The Golden Mile as it was called had over 260 separate individual and uneconomic mines. His idea was to buy up the leases and create one open cut mine.

This happened in 1989.

The operation is staggering. The equipment is awe inspiring:

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This truck carries 225 tons and cost $4.4 million

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The bucket carries 68 tonne and the machine costs $18.5 million

To finish… you don’t want to get in the way of one of these trucks!

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6 – 10 July – Bizarre Turkmenistan

I’m now in Iran heading for Tehran…Frankly I’m delighted to have left Turkmenistan and as soon as I crossed the border I felt a curtain lifting! 

The last few days in Turkmenistan can only be described as bizarre….The country is still suffering (in my view) from the personality cult of it’s previous President and it is the most restricted and closed place I have visited.  .

President Saparmurat Niyazov took control of Turkmenistan after independence in 1991. He turned this oil rich country into his personal kingdom until his death in 2006.

He called it “The Golden Age” and spent most of the oil profits on the construction of his Capital Ashgabat …He built huge white marble buildings set in a “Disney like” version of Rome at the time of Julius Caesar! . He placed “golden” statues of himself everywhere.

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He named the “months of the year” after his relatives.!.He banned music in cars.!.He started to run out of money so he cut pensions and more. To placate the masses however,he gave everyone free gas and electricity and petrol prices were near zero.

He is, I think, to us Westerners, a total nut case …. but nobody speaks badly about him in Turkmenistan!

His successor has toned down much of the above stupidities and seems genuinely popular. He has increased pensions and spent money on Education but still Turkmenistan is extremely odd…..to say the least…. and very restrictive. It is tightly controlled and the Police are everywhere.

I was not allowed to take photos of many places including the Presidents residence and the main street so my photos don’t truly give a full picture of Ashgabat. Google Ashgabat to see better photos!

Acquiring a Visa is a challenge! You can get a Transit Visa for 3/5 days and can travel UN-escorted or you can get a Tourist Visa in which case you have to have a GUIDE.

I opted for the Tourist Visa as I mistakenly thought I could only get a 3 day transit visa which I thought gave me insufficient time..

My guide met me at the Customs.. I’m glad he was there because it was chaos. Even the guide was confused!…. Uzbekistan has been bumped to 3rd on the “awful customs” scale. Turkmenistan and Honduras are equal first!

I followed the Guide’s car to Mary about 250 k from the border. it is all desert and was stinking hot

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I checked into a Hotel which from the outside looked MAGNIFICENT but inside was cold and empty. It was all rather depressing……

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My Hotel in Mary…Magnificent? Just go inside! a big cavern!

Luckily a nice German couple on a KTM Motorbike arrived so we could commiserate together!

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Nice German Bikers…We were mutually dumbfounded by the place

The next day i visited “OLD MERV” which I enjoyed very much

Merv is just a ruin. It was once one of the great Cities of Islam alongside Damascus and Baghdad and a major centre on the Silk Road

The city was totally annihilated by the Mongols in 1221 for failure to pay tribute. Apparently, Tolui, Genghis Khan’s son arrived with 80,000 warriors and surrounded the City. He cut off the water supply and when the City surrendered he killed EVERYBODY, some 300,000 people. Imagine!

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Somehow knowing this, made walking around the city very sad. It’s unbelievable how tough times were.

The next day we set out for Ashgabat.

Before we went, I had a bit of a scare with Azulo. He developed a squeak in the front wheel. I thought it might be a bearing which would be nasty. Mohammad my guide took me to a car service place (there are NO motorbikes here) The man reckoned it was the brakes so we changed the pads but still the squeak persisted!

Anyway we set out with Azulo sounding like a frustrated mouse. About 20 k further along the speedo stopped working….The cable had snapped.  So now I have NO SQUEAK and NO SPEEDO! but my bearing is OK (touch wood!)

I spent the next day in Ashgabat. As said earlier it is bizarre.

As said earlier, the Guide insisted I DON’T take photos of many of the most “impressive” places. If you’re interested in seeing more, Google Ashgabat photos”

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HIM AGAIN!

The thing that makes it even MORE bizarre is that the squares and monuments are EMPTY and most places are closed. I was told that the Museum has photos of the President in just about every exhibit!

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Mosque in Mary

There are big and impressive apartment blocks (in white marble of course) Most of them look empty to me as the windows all look the same.and are mostly blacked out

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Really tacky statues – Mary

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Library Mary – Completely empty of people

 The next day I was very pleased to leave Turkmenistan!

Arriving in Iran was like returning to the “real world’ Suddenly there were no Police asking to see your Passport and a real life buzz in the towns!

It would be interesting to return to Turkmenistan in 10 years. Hopefully the legacy of Niyazov will be consigned to History.

 

 

 

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The Bikes are packed and on their way!

    Azulo and Rojo were packed at my house in their BMW crates, courtesy of BMW on 13th October. Off they went on 17th. Now they are somewhere on the Ocean heading for Singapore where they get loaded onto another ship heading for Buenos Aires. The bikes arrive (we hope) on 28th Novemmber. John and i arrive on 3rd December. It’s gertting exciting!  

     

God speed Azulo and Rojo