Archive | November 2011

Turkey travel diary (day 12): Arrival at Pamukkale

A very uneventful weekend, recovering from last weekend. Next week is December and then parties and holidays galore! Woo hoo. This will be my last quiet weekend until the new year. Lots of upcoming engagements (not of the betrothal kind). Can’t believe another year has flown by. My boring (but pleasantly so) Sunday involved a sleep-in, and then a walk to the local library – had some books to return…and ended up borrowing more books too. I love libraries. Free books. Genius. I grew up living behind a local library. Our backyard even had a gate straight to the library. I grew up on books and regular trips there. We went there all the time to pick out a dozen books for the next fortnight. One of my “things” (idiosyncrasies, if you will) whenever I move, is to join the local library. It’s something I like to do. I like signing up for membership and collecting library cards. Pretty much every place in Australia and Japan I’ve lived I’ve joined the library. It’s kind of nice to belong to something. The thing with libraries is that they always have books that you wouldn’t normally read. They expand your reading horizons. Especially in Japan, where the English book section is very limited and all oh so dated. Then I went for a swim. I’ve got more time to continue my Turkey travel now, so here goes. (There’s only 4 days left and then I’ll be done.) Tuesday, October 12, 2011 From Selcuk to Pamukkale. I left Selcuk on the Tuesday around early afternoon and was on another coach bus onwards to Denizli. Gotta love the complimentary beverage and snack service on the bus. This time the dude was even wheeling a snack cart down the bus aisle.

From Pamukkale arrival

Scenic bus route through rural Turkey:

From Pamukkale arrival
From Pamukkale arrival
From Pamukkale arrival

Arrived at Denizli a couple of hours later where I took another short bus ride to Pamukkale – another highlight during my trip to Turkey. It’s a tiny, tiny village with UNESCO World Heritage status. Only has a population of about 2,500. It’s popular as a 24-hour stopover. Pamukkale is world-famous for its pristine white travertines – otherwise known as the “Cotton Castle”. It’s a really unusual, fascinating sight. I didn’t really explore them until the next day. I didn’t get to Pamukkale until kind of late-ish around 5pm so I explored the little village via a photowalk. Some people walk their dogs, I walk my camera. The SLR camera – best money ever spent.

From Pamukkale arrival
From Pamukkale arrival
From Pamukkale arrival
From Pamukkale arrival
From Pamukkale arrival

I think one of my favourite things about Turkey was the sky. It was stunning and spectacular everywhere I went. The clouds were amazing.

From Pamukkale arrival

At the base of the travertines is a beautiful park complete with a pond lake and ducks, so I took lots of photos here.

From Pamukkale arrival
From Pamukkale arrival
From Pamukkale arrival
From Pamukkale arrival
From Pamukkale arrival
From Pamukkale arrival
From Pamukkale arrival
From Pamukkale arrival

Such peaceful serenity here. I loved Pamukkale already within an hour of arrival. And the next day was simply breathtaking.

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Tokyo Yamathon 2011: I survived…barely.

I survived. Woo hoo. I live to tell the story. (And a long one it is, for your reading pleasure). I thought I was on Heaven’s doorstop last night and was worried about whether I would have full use of my limbs again or not. Much to my relief, I can walk. I can walk. Barely. I am a crazy person. Let that be a warning to you. What on earth possessed me to think a 50km walk would be fun. I need my head read. Let me sum up yesterday for you: 50km. 29 train stations. 12 hours and 35 minutes. One hell of a day. Otherwise known as the Ultimate Urban Adventure, or officially as the Tokyo Yamathon. It promised to be such a day of fun, endurance and adventure. What didn’t come with that was the promise of relentless torrential downpour for over 16 hours! I like to engage in a little hyperbole from time to time, but I’m not exaggerating when I say it was like a mini typhoon. Relentless rain all goddamn day topped off with some strong wind. On very little sleep (only 3.5 hours), I woke up early on the Saturday morning just before 5:30am. Got myself to Yoyogi Park at 6:30am for the start of the Tokyo Yamathon. The Tokyo Yamathon is an Urban Adventure Endurance Race. “Yamathon” is a portmanteau of the “Yamanote line” and “Marathon”. The Yamanote line is a train line (the green one) in Tokyo – one of the biggest and most central train lines to Tokyo life. It runs as a circular loop covering all the main stops in Tokyo. In a visit to Tokyo, you can get around to pretty much anywhere you need to go just by taking the Yamanote line alone. For a long time, it was the only train line I would catch. I would just follow the green train line. The Tokyo rail system is a bit of a dog’s breakfast and can be super daunting.

Tokyo Rail Network

The Tokyo Yamathon is a 50km-plus adventure whereby teams of 3-4 people are required to visit every single train station on the Yamanote line – of which there are 29 train stations – and the entire race is to be completed on foot. Sounds awesome, right. It is designed as a walking marathon, but teams can run it if they choose to (no use of trains, taxis, buses, bikes or any kind of wheels). On top of that, is the fact that it’s a navigational challenge – you need to figure out how to get from train station to train station. Totally Tokyo Marathon meets The Amazing Race, right! I swear to god, I would kick arse in The Amazing Race. Kick Arse, I tell you. Maps are provided as a guide, but you’re free to take as many shortcuts or routes as you like. The event is a charity event with proceeds going to Oxfam, so it’s also for a great cause. By following the train line for most of the course covers a distance of approx 52km. With a few shortcuts you can get around to 48-50km. I believe the fastest possible route is about 44km. At any rate, all further than any official marathon race. I tried to Google Map it, but I learnt the hard way after punching in a whole bunch of train stations, that Google Maps only lets you punch in up to 24 stops at a time. 5 short of what I needed! After 24 stations, it told me that it was a distance of just under 36km. Still another 5 stations to go. The aim set by the organizers is to complete it in 12 hours. Teams in the past have taken up to about 16 hours. I believe the fastest time was about 6 something hours (teams who ran the whole way). To ride a complete loop on the train takes approximately an hour. Walking it, considerably longer. There are no road closures, no traffic control, so you have to contend with traffic and the other 20million people that live in Tokyo as you take to the streets. It’s a little bit like a marathon scavenger hunt, except the only thing you’re searching for are all 29 Yamanote train stations. I forgot to mention, you also had to take a team photo at each and every station with the station name in the photo as proof that you visited every train station! The Yamanote line:

The Yamanote line (the green circular loop)

How much fun does that sound?! So imagine my sheer excitement when I was asked to join a team. I was super excited. More than I should have been for a 50km walk. It was only decided less than 7 days ago that I would enter in this race. One of my friends, Ange (Angela) from Hokkaido, wanted to enter, and was looking for a teammate – one that would be genki and reliable (i.e. not cancel on the day of). Hence, Aleisha to the rescue. Hell yeah, I love this kind of stuff! So on Sunday I committed myself to joining Ange’s team. Six days later (with absolutely no training at all), on a Saturday morning, I was at Yoyogi Park. Our team of four was: Ange, Hana (whom I had met once before), Marina (who I met for the first time) and myself (A). Our team name was the “Super HAAMstars”! (HAAM being the first initials of each of our names). Pre-race: We look pretty excited and genki.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Marina and I, coincidentally, had identical running shoes! (Mine, of course, are the dirtier pair.)

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Funnily enough, just to get the start point required riding the Yamanote line.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Over half a day later I would have walked to every one of these stations. As luck would have it, it poured friggin rain all friggin day.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Official departure time. 7:28am At 7:28am, our team officially set off. The Yamanote line being a circular loop – you can choose to do it clockwise or anticlockwise. As part of our strategy, we decided to do the race anti-clockwise. What follows is a photo essay of the Tokyo Yamathon. I’ve listed the approximate arrival time at each station that we reached (I had been taking a memo of the times) and our group photo pose. One of the things we did to occupy ourselves on the walk was to think of a group pose to do once we reached the station. Station 1: Start Point to Shibuya Station. Arrive 7:51am Headed to Shibuya station via a combini stop to pick up breakfast.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

First conbini stop was a Daily Yamazaki.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Because a marathon-plus distance race in the rain was not enough of a challenge, just for fun, we also decided that each combini stop we made would have to be at different chain combini store.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Pose:” Look at me/Yay, we made it the first station” Station 2: Ebisu. Arrive 8:14am. Pose: With the Yebisu (beer) statue. Take 1: Crap, the station name wasn’t quite in the photo!

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Take 2:

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Before I go on, I have to say, that probably the most difficult part of the challenge was finding people at each train station who were willing and able to take a photo for us. We wasted a few minutes at each station trying to approach people to take photos of us, and then having to check the photo to make sure the train station name was included. Given the fact that it was raining, people were wrestling with umbrellas and didn’t have free hands to take a photo or weren’t prepared to stand in the rain to take a photo for us. It got worse throughout the day as the rain progressively got harder. Station 3: Meguro. 8:44am Pose: Normal (no pose).

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 4: Gotanda. 9am Pose: Hands up in the air.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

We were feeling good and doing well at this point. Station 5: Osaki. 9:12am

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Pose: Headshot group photo taken one-handed (self group portrait). Fail.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Take 2: Try and get the station sign in it this time.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Started to pour rain again. We made another conbini stop for snacks, drinks, and toilets. Conbini No. 2 – A Family Mart.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Ange was dressed in a bright yellow rainsuit. No chance of losing her in a crowd. She looked like a human banana. Here is the human banana eating a banana:

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 6: Shinagawa. 9:55am By this time we had walked for about 2.5 hours now. Took some nice scenic en-route photos.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Clearly, we were taking this race very seriously!

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Pose: ABBA (or at least trying to).

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Check out the number of train lines at Shinagawa station! One of those is the Yamanote…we hope.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Time to soldier on. 6 down. Only another 23 to go!

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 7: Tamachi. 10:29am Pose: Charlie’s Angel/007.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Hana wanted a donut.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

And Marina takes a quick stretch:

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 8: Hamamatsucho. 10:49am At some point around here we saw the Tokyo Tower. Another photo moment.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Pose: Angelic

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 9: Shinbashi. 11:10am Pose: Wrestling/Boxing.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 10: Yurakucho. 11:30 We had now been walking for 4 hours. Spirits still high apart from the fact that we were all wet and soggy. Pose: Head Tower.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 11: Tokyo. Time unknown. Tokyo is a massive station. And a lot of it is under construction/renovation. We were hardpressed to find a sign that actually said “Tokyo” on it. Pose: Abbey Road a la The Beatles style.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 12: Kanda. 12:09. Lunch stop. Arrived at Kanda. Pose: YMCA.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Time for a lunch stop. We were wet and hungry. We wanted something cheap, hot and fast. We were not going to allow ourselves to get too comfy at a nice warm cafe or restaurant otherwise we’d never want to leave, so we settled for Yoshinoya where we sat a counter and had gyudon – a hot bowl of rice with meat and some miso soup, for a carb and protein fix. 30min max here and then we were outta there.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

We didn’t want our legs to get too stiff. We also didn’t want to get much colder sitting around in our wet clothes. I changed into a new pair of socks here (had packed a couple of pairs)…not that it did much good. They were soaked again in about 10 minutes. Our map was looking rather dismal and rainsoaked at this point.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

We were about halfway or so, having done Shibuya to Kanda (anticlockwise direction). Did another conbini stop for snacks on the go. We crossed Lawson off our list.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Left Kanda about 1pm and set off on the second half of our journey. From here on out, this so-called “walk” turned into a “swim” as we waded through puddles and heavy rain. Station 13: Akihabara. 1:17pm Pose: Otaku (a signature Japanese nerd/cheesy pose).

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 14: Okachimachi. Time unknown. Pose: “Let’s make use of the pedestrian stripes. It’s a shame we couldn’t use the Abbey Road pose here.”

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 15: Ueno. 1:47pm Pose: “Let’s lift up Hana” (Let’s add some weights to this cardio mix).

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

It was pouring rain and we struggled to get someone who was able to take a photo for us here. We were super wet despite all our rain gear. We had all wet squishy feet as well. Took a toilet break at some public toilets near Ueno Zoo and a mini kit kat break.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 16: Uguisudani. 2:11pm Uguisudani station is a station I’ve never been to before. It’s a tiny station and apparently is an area known for it’s love hotel, hence our pose: Pose: “Hearts” (but it turned out more like a ‘kiss/mouth’ and a ‘heart’)

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 17: Nippori. 2:37pm. Had to set the camera on timer here and we did our own group photo. Pose: Head upside.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 18: Nishi Nippori. 2:52pm Road block: train crossing.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Pose: “Walk like an Egyptian…except nobody told me that we weren’t supposed to look at the camera!”

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 19: Tabata. 3:07pm Pose: A Chorus line – can can dance.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 20: Komagome. 3:44pm. I was starting to die at this point. I was probably starting to die a few stations back, but my legs were getting sore and we were less mentally genki. My patience was waning at this point. We had been walking in pouring rain for over 7 hours now! We got lost around here as we were getting tired and we slacked off on the navigating. Walking additional extra distances = unhappiness. Discomfort was setting in. This neighbourhood was also really boring and residential. Was not happy to be here/there at that point. Stupid neighbourhood. Stupid rain. Stupid walk. Tabata, Komagome and Sugamo were all kind of a blur…. we got a little lost as well as fatigue and confusion and generally not giving a rat’s arse kicked in, so I have probably messed up this recount a little. Was getting tired. We also stopped at a supermarket for a drink stop.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Feeling a bit deflated when we finally got to Komagome. Pose: Deflated grimace.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 21: Sugamo. 4:01pm. Sugamo is an area known as the “Old people’s Harajuku”. Pose: Old people. We didn’t have to act. I was hunched over and limping as it was. Aching back, aching legs. We had walk over 35km at this point, in the rain no less.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Between here and the next station, we needed another conbini stop for toilet etc. Crossed a Sunkus off the list.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Even though it was just on 4pm, it was also dark by now. Gets dark really early now that we’re going into winter.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 22: Otsuka. 4:29pm I was beyond death at this point. Legs were getting cold and stiff. We had been walking for 9 hours now in sopping wet clothes. It was dark, wet and cold. Pose: Bodybuilder. Yeah, we’re strong.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 23: Ikebukuro. 5:12pm. It was a long walk between the previous station and this one. Slowly but surely dying. Ikebukuro means ‘swamp bag”, which is exactly how I was feeling. Ikebukuro was so freaking crowded! We looked like drowned rats as we made our way through the mosh pit that is Ikebukuro. What were all these people doing out and about on a rainy Saturday night?! Go home! Death is ugly, folks.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

We finally got to Ikebukuro at long last! Pose: Ange wanted to do an 80’s lunge pose. WTF. My legs can barely hold me up, let alone do a lunge. I do a half-arsed lunge.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

At Ikebukuro I had officially hit The Wall:

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

And that Wall ain’t pretty:

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

I was wet through to the bone. Wet socks. Wet shoes. Wet hair. Wet face. Wet undies. Wet leggings. Wet shorts. I could have foregone toilets and just peed as I walked – I was that wet. Hell, peeing on myself would have at least made me feel a little warmer. My legs were sore. Feet were sore. I was in a world of pain. The neverending Wall:

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Alas, we soldiered on in the dark and the rain and the wind. The rain and wind got so much by this stage that we forwent the umbrellas which were rendered useless in this crappy weather:

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 24: Mejiro. 5:35pm. Only five more stations left after this one! Mejiro: Eye pose.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 25: Takadanobaba. 5:56pm By this point, I really don’t know what I was thinking. I just wanted this ordeal to be over. The faster we walked, the faster this would all be over. Trouble was, my legs could barely move. Body slowly breaking down. Nothing to do but one foot in front of the other. No matter how slowly. No matter how painful. Are these not the eyes of a crazy person?! Oh, and someone needs to invent windscreen wipers for glasses. Isn’t there an app for that? There should be.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Pose: Astro Boy.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 26: Shin Okubo. 6:36pm. Every step was becoming even more and more painful. I was definitely limping. Another toilet and conbini stop along the way. At least we got to cross a 7-11 conbini stop off the list. I was also getting ravenous by this point. It had been about 6 hours since lunch, a hell of a lot of walking, and not enough eating. A quick snack of some chocolate and crackers.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

This would also be our last break stop for the day before reaching the finish. I caved and had to put a couple of bandaids on my blister that were covering my feet and toes. So much pain. As night was setting in, the streets got more crowded and we had to contend with more pedestrian traffic as people went about their social Saturday nights. I was looking forward to nothing more than a hot bath and bed.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Pose: A kind of korean pose (according to two Japanese girls, there’s a particular korean stance so that’s what we did. Shin Okubo is Little Korea in Tokyo. Great place to eat korean food!)

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Station 27: Shinjuku. 7pm. People central. Shinjuku on a Saturday night. A sea of umbrellas.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Pose: Backs turned. Don’t face the camera.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Only two more stations to go! Station 28: Yoyogi. 7:18pm. Waiting at another train crossing:

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

And the Yamanote line train passes us by, as if to add insult to injury:

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Pose: Crawling out of Yoyogi Station. No pretending there. I was practically crawling by this time.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Only ONE station to go. Point of no return! Station 29: Harajuku. 7:55pm Woo hoo. Harajuku station in sight!

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Last station checked off! Finale Pose: Too buggered to make a human pyramid so here is our STAR pose.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Yay the Super HAAMstars! We walked all 29 stations of the Yamanote line AND in pouring rain and wind. How goddamn happy do we look now that that ordeal was over.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

We still had a little ways to walk yet. We had to check back in to the start point and officially time out. Check in Point. 8:03pm. Official time 12 hours and 35 minutes. About 50 or so kilometres walked. All 29 Yamanote train stations completed. Hundreds of calories burned. As for our conbini checklist: Daily Yamazaki. Check. Family Mart. Check. Lawson. Check. Sunkus. Check. 7-11. Check. We then dragged ourselves to the bar where the afterparty was being held. Had me a well-deserved half pint of beer:

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

And a hotdog (coz, let’s face it, the dogs were barking):

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

And then we passed out!

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Somehow I managed to get home sometime around 10pm. 50km later and I’ve aged about 50 years! Knees and legs are shattered. And in dire need of a wheelchair. Got home and peeled off all my wet clothes. WARNING: Some super gross photos coming up. Look away now. And I hope you’re not eating or about to eat. After over 12 hours walking around in wet socks, wet shoes (despite changing socks twice on the walk), my feet were all blistered and pruny. They were white, wrinkled and just plain disgusting. Blisters to boot. Check out my feet. I honestly don’t know how they made it to the finish line in that condition.

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Here’s the other foot:

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

Sweet Jesus, Bless my soles for they were in need of some major heeling. (Couldn’t let ya go without a pun thrown in.) Had a nice long hot bath to soak and sooth my aching muscles. I tell you, it was a struggel climbing in and out of the bathtub. That was a feat in itself. There was no water hot enough in the world to soak my muscles. I could have fallen asleep in the bathtub. I very well nearly did, except for the fact that my feet were already sooo wrinkly and pruny. The soles of my feet, legs and in particular, the backs of my knees (strangely enough) were in extreme pain. Body had totally started to stiffen up and get tight. Also had aching and bruised shoulder after carrying a backpack all day in the rain. Powdered my feet and lathered my legs in Dencorub. Crawled into bed with a hot water bottle to soothe my feet and legs. I could not walk last night. Extreme pain. I had buggered up my knee as well. Woke up today after a 12-hour slumber. Legs and knees in particular are sore. Sore back as well, actually more my hips but the back of my hips are sore. Legs are still super tight but I can walk….albeit very slowly and painfully. Thought I would feel a lot worse today given that I was in so much pain last night. I was really scared that I would wake up paralysed this morning. I was in that much pain last night. Just lying down in bed hurt my legs. Mostly sore muscles today that should be fine in a week. Apart from that, no major injury. Nothing that a nice massage wouldn’t fix…if I could actually get myself to the front door to leave my aparto. I’ve actually starved most of today because I can’t get out of bed and walk myself to the kitchen. That would require use of my legs. Have to say it was a hell of a lot of fun though. Don’t let all that pain put you off. It was just a shame that it rained all frickin day. Would have been so much more pleasant and bearable were it not for the rain. I don’t mind being tired from all that walking, but being wet on top of that was just nasty. And of course, today was a perfectly dry and sunny day! It was a great way to explore Tokyo and all for a great cause. The Tokyo Yamathon is held twice a year – in April and November. Info here. They have prizes and stuff as well for fastest team, best costume etc. If you don’t have a team but still want to join, they can hook you up with other people and you can join a team. Teams of 3-4 people. Team entry is 6000yen, split between each member is very reasonable as well. Plus 1000yen insurance fee per team. Donations and sponsorship also welcome, as all proceeds go to Oxfam. It was a fun day out. Some teams did it in 6 hours. Other teams will take up to 16 hours. You pass a lot of teams along the way which is great. Exchange words of encouragement, and “we’ll take a photo of you guys if you take one for us” kind of thing. Quite a few teams did it in costume as well! Hard core. A lot of people did it in regular clothes – jeans, street shoes etc. A team of girls were even wearing ugg boots. Respect! Thanks to all the random people we met along the way who were nice to enough to take a photo of us at each station. So I may not have been accepted into the Tokyo Marathon, but this was the next best thing. I may not have ran a marathon, but I know I can walk a marathon, and then some, in rain and wind! Although I don’t know exactly how many kilometres we walked, I guesstimate it around 45-50km. The Yamanote train line by rail tracks is about 39km alone. Obviously we can’t follow the train tracks the whole route around as we are often diverted along buildings, no-through roads, paths, traffic and roads etc, factor in some wrong turns, and your own navigational skills, and it’s closer to 50km. The map given provides a basic route which is 54km, but we reckon we did it in a little less than that. iPhones are allowed so that came in handy too as we Google-mapped our way through most of it. Our team probably took in more pit stops than I would have liked, but still it’s a team effort and that was what got us to the end. We kept ourselves amused with conversation, taking in the sights of Tokyo, and sustained ourselves with encouragement to make the finish line. Our team did awesome! Super proud. The other girls were such troopers! I am sure I was the weakest link. Ange was talking about doing it again in the Spring! Is she crazy?! I might suddenly be otherwise occupied on that day. I’ve always wanted to visit every train station on the Yamanote line and now I have…on foot. I will never look at the Yamanote train line the same again. And how cool is this: I actually saw this on the walk. So apt. It was like it was a sign…literally:

From Tokyo Yamathon 2011
From Tokyo Yamathon 2011

 

Afternoon Tea at Mariage Freres (Ginza)

You know you’re a tea geek when you spend your weekend (that is, time not at work) hanging out with your boss and your boss’ cousin for afternoon tea. A few weekends ago, actually the weekend after I got back from Turkey, I went to afternoon tea with my boss (my manager at work) and his visiting cousin from New York. My manager, like me, is a huge foodie. And his cousin is a huge tea lover. And by huge, I mean massive. Ah, a kindred spirit. She puts me to shame. I love the whole experience of “Afternoon Tea” – the food, the tea and the ambience. She, however, was a tea expert and Anglophile (lover of all things British). It did not escape my observant spectacled eyes that she was even wearing tea earrings – on one ear was a teacup and the other ear was a teapot! She was visiting Tokyo and during her two-week stay had partaken in at least four afternoon teas. Impressive. So we tried out a different non-hotel tea venue. They call it a Tea Emporium (Tea salon and restaurant). We went to the Mariage Freres in Ginza on Saturday at around lunchtime-ish. Mariage Freres, if it wasn’t obvious, is a French tea brand, founded by brothers Henri and Edouard Mariage – hence Mariage Freres (The Mariage Brothers). They boast a tea menu of about 500 blends. Impressive. Or so their menu would have you believe. It seemed that each tea we tried to order, they were out of stock. Hmmm, perhaps they list 500 teas but maybe they only have about a dozen in stock. I have mixed feelings about this place. Their tea store is impressive, as is their tea selection (all 500 of them). Food was a little hit and miss. But their service was, how shall I say, perhaps very French (and excuse the stereotype) – they lived up to their rude, arrogant service. Or maybe we were just unlucky. We weren’t able to make reservations here. Apparently, bookings are only available for lunch and not if you’re just having afternoon tea. There are four 4 different dining levels here. And the place was pretty full with ladies who lunch. We were seated on the second level dining area. Tea menu was impressive. 500 teas to choose from. Dilemma. Thankfully, the tea menu was nicely categorized according to tea varieties, and also number coded. They also had a tea book (almost like a tea manual which gave an explanation of all the teas). I will go back at some point to buy that book. Yes, it was for sale. It detailed tea history, tea brewing method, plus a blurb about all the 500 teas on offer at Mariage Freres. For afternoon tea, there are a few options available. It’s not the traditional afternoon tea either. It’s more like a little lunch plate. I recommend actually eating lunch before you come here, and then have the afternoon tea here a little later, because you may not leave here feeling full. I opted for the croque monsieur set – which came obviously with the croque monsieur and a salad. It of course included your choice of tea (except the more expensive specialty blends) and your choice of dessert. So no three-tiered platters here. The all-white tuxedo uniforms that the staff wore did nothing for me, except feel as though I was on the Titanic. I like a man in uniform, but these were just tacky, especially for a tea store. I also noticed that ALL the staff that worked there were male. Not that I have a problem with that. They were obviously aiming to please all it’s predominantly female customers. I didn’t spot a single female employee throughout the Tea Emporium. As usual, I got out the SLR to capture and document the afternoon tea. However, no photos are allowed here! Was told off by the staff! I did manage to get a couple of photos in before they saw me and told me off.

From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres

I then had to put my camera away for the remainder of the meal. With over 500 teas to choose from, I asked what their ‘ninki’ (most popular, number 1) tea was. Here, it’s the Marco Polo – described as Mariage Freres most famous secret mysterious blend with the aroma of Chinese and Tibetan flowers. The aroma of the tea was very vanilla-esque. It was ok. Not my favourite tea. An impressive selection of tea though, so there’s bound to be one to suit your tastebuds – teas from all regions over the world. The staff are a bit picky when it comes to tea service here. And again, maybe it boils down to a bit of arrogance and the French art of tea, but here the teas are especially timed and brewed by their own tea masters, and all you receive is the pot with the brewed tea – free of the leaves. They are very pedantic about their tea brewing methods. Personally, I like receiving pots with the tea leaves in it. This allows the paying customer (us) to enjoy tea brewed at the strength that we desire. Here, you don’t have a choice. Their strength-brewed tea only. It does dispense with the need for a tea strainer…but I quite like tea strainers. Receiving teapots without the tea leaves in it, means no hot water refill either. You’ll need to order yourself another pot of tea which will set you back about 1000yen. I also think Mariage Freres are tea purists – they don’t give you milk….unless you specifically request it. I can understand that to enjoy and savour the subtle flavours of tea, you shouldn’t add milk, but milk in my tea is a huge comfort thing for me, except obviously herbal blends, green teas, jasmine and Chinese and Japanese teas and the like. What amused me here were the tea warmers for the teapots. The teapots were covered in little armour outfits – a metal tea cozy!

From Mariage Freres

I enjoyed the croque monsiuer – can’t go wrong there. The tiny salad was rather lame and not so tasty. The other lunch plate options were the mixed sandwiches, and something else…I can’t remember. If the afternoon tea plates are too light, there are lunch courses on offer. For dessert we got to choose a selection from the menu or the cake display. On offer are scones, creme brulee, macaroons, and a small assortment of cakes and tarts etc. Normally, I go scones, but on this occasion I opted for the earl grey creme brulee. I hadn’t been too impressed by afternoon tea at Mariage Freres, but it was redeemed somewhat by the creme brulee. I managed to sneak in a couple of pics on my iPhone:

From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres

I thought the food was somewhat overpriced for what it was. It’s about 3000yen. I guess, it’s not so bad, considering the tea itself is worth 1000yen for a pot. But for 3000yen I expect to be somewhat full. And sadly, I wasn’t. And the service was really lacking. We then went down to the tea store on ground level. They have beautiful displays of teapots and teacups. (Apologies for poor photo quality. I was trying to discreetly take them on my iPhone).

From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres

Being as it were, in Japan, there was a woman in a kimono:

From Mariage Freres

What I also loved about the tea store are the wall-to-wall shelves lined with oversized tea canisters! I love tea stores that do that.

From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres

Mari had wanted to buy some tea here, but alas, service was non-existent despite us waiting for about 20 minutes. The staff here are really hoighty-toighty which makes for a really unpleasant experience. Quite the turn-off. They instead bought tea at one of the department stores at another Mariage Frere store outlet. As I mentioned earlier, there are about 4 dining levels here. The venue is narrow but it’s built over four floors: In the basement is the:

From Mariage Freres

(Which I should add, is not a museum at all). On the ground level is the tea store. On the next level:

From Mariage Freres

And then there’s the following two rooms:

From Mariage Freres

Some of their cuisine is made with tea as an ingredient (eg, the earl grey creme brulee). In addition to being a tea venue, they offer French dining.

From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres

You might want to take a French cuisine glossary just to read the menu. I took a lot of photos of outside the store where they couldn’t tell me off for taking photos!

From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres
From Mariage Freres

Mariage Freres (Ginza) gets a decent rating on Tabelog. As for the no photo rule – no photos my arse. There’s a whole stack of photos on Tabelog. 255 photos from Tabelog reviewers alone have been posted on that site. And I reckon there’d be a handful of Japanese bloggers who have all taken photos on their keitai. We were unlucky to have been seated right in front of all the staff. Had we been seated away from them, I reckon I could have gotten away with a lot more photos. There’s another Mariage Freres tea salon in Shinjuku. I’m game enough to go and try that one despite the rather disappointing experience in Ginza. I’m prepared to give them a second chance. But it might have to wait until next year. Mariage Freres website in Japan.

Swimming adventures

This is the last post, I promise, of swimming pics from Turkey. These are photos that were taken by Mustafah – the boat captain for the last two days. In addition, to driving the boat he would run around and take photos of us all whilst we were in the water swimming. He had an impressive Canon Digital SLR camera. Here are plenty of action swimming shots of me and my fellow swimtrekkers, accompanied by our swim guide escorts. Viva open water swimming. No boundaries. No lanes. No walls to kick off from. No chlorine. We battle the waves, the sea water and the marine life.

From Action swimtrek
From Action swimtrek

Here’s a few of me, in action:

From Action swimtrek
From Action swimtrek
From Action swimtrek

One of the minor challenges of open water swimming, was knowing where our destination was. Kind of hard to tell which way to swim and having to sight. Which way? That way!

From Action swimtrek

Middle of the pack:

From Action swimtrek
From Action swimtrek

Mr. D doing a backdive into the water. Don’t try that at home kiddies!

From Action swimtrek

I forgot to mention that there were a few hand signals that we had to learn for the duration of the trip. There was a signal for ‘help’, a signal for “I’m ok” and can you guess what this one was for:

From Action swimtrek

The letter “W” made with both hands. It meant you were taking a leak in the water, just to let others know around you to keep clear. No one actually made this signal during the trip. We all just peed anyway…but of course you’d swim away from the group. (Well, I hope others were offering the same courtesy!) Here’s a group photo of us yellow-cap swimmers. We look pretty happy and glowing – high on endorphins and sunshine:

From Action swimtrek

Drink breaks involved treading water and having drink bottles thrown to us:

From Action swimtrek
From Action swimtrek

This is our group setting off for the archipelago swim:

From Action swimtrek
From Action swimtrek
From Action swimtrek

More action shots:

From Action swimtrek
From Action swimtrek
From Action swimtrek

And another one of me:

From Action swimtrek
From Action swimtrek
From Swimtrek day 3

I took a couple of videos on the trip. They’re a bit lame. And I haven’t edited them (don’t know how and can’t be bothered). Here’s one of the water as we sail on the boat. Click link. This video was taken at Aperlae. I was in the water and taking a video of the other practising swim drills. This has a lot of noise, so best on mute. And this video is kind of crazy. I was taking footage of Mr. A freedive down to the sunken coast guard boat, but this was the failed attempt. The water was super choppy and it was quite deep in this part of the sea. After the failed freedive attempt, I didn’t realise the video was still running, so I have all this random footage of what looks like me being tumbled around in a washing machine. I’m obviously trying to stay afloat, and tread water, but my hand holding the camera is waving about under the water with the video still running. It was really nice to be able to have the luxury to spend 2-3 hours a day swimming. These swimming adventure holidays are a great way to travel. I promise, no more photos. That’s it. Got no more left to show you. My blog will resume back to its regular dribble of food and life in Japan. There are a few other companies that offer swim adventure holidays. Swimtrek is the most prominent and has the most extensive and comprehensive destination itineraries, but it’s more convenient for those in the UK and Europe. I also highly recommend booking in advance, because they book out really quickly. I booked in February this year for an October departure. I had wanted to go in September, but they were booked out. 3-6 months advance booking is ideal…also gives you time to train and get in shape! There are a few other competitors out there but are more specific to a particular locale. SwimVacations – focus mostly on the British Virgin Islands and Caribbean SwimSafari – is more Australia friendly in terms of location. They run swim safaris in Fiji and Vanuatu. Doing one of the 5km OWS races there is on my bucketlist, but they also run swimming tour holidays as well. Would like to do one of these once I’m back in Australia. And if you missed my day-by-day recount of the week-long swimtrek here are the quicklinks: Swimtrek day 1 Swimtrek day 2 Swimtrek day 3 Swimtrek day 4 Swimtrek day 5 Swimtrek day 6

Turkey travel diary: Day 8 – swimtrek day 6 (last day)

So far I’ve only gotten around to posting up the first week in Turkey – the week of the swimtrek – so after today, I’ll put up one more post and that’ll it be it (and maybe one more bonus post). I may eventually get around to posting up some other stuff about my Turkey travels, but I don’t foresee that happening anytime soon. I have over 3,000 photos I need to sort through of my second week in Turkey (3,176 photos to be precise, which I need to organize and cull. Whoa, that’s about 450 photos, on average, I was taking, per day). I really need to learn the art of restraint. Day 6 of the Lycian Way swimtrek: A little sad that the trip was drawing to an end. It would be a day of lasts. This would be our last full day of swimming. Our last day out on the turkish yacht. Another two great swims were had. First up was an archipelago swim – how cool is that. It was a 3.5km circular swim around a small cluster of islands between Turkey and Greece, so we swam from one island to another.

From swimtrek day 6

Towards the end of the week, and by this time, I was suffering from some neck and shoulder chafing. Vaseline – a must. So were some photos of the Vaseline ritual. Rubber gloves and some petroleum jelly. Most of us (especially the gals), opted to apply our own, but our swimguides were on hand to help us out. Mr. D looks rather menacing with his latex glove, looking for his next vaseline victim:

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

Going in for the kill:

From swimtrek day 6

Here’s the start of the archipelago swim:

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

The pink group set off:

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

I look ready to swim:

From swimtrek day 6

One island down:

From swimtrek day 6

Our morning swim was rewarded by a lunch feast of shish kebabs – yum. Our last lunch feast, cooked right on the boat.

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

Can’t top these water views. Seaside dining, redefined:

From swimtrek day 6

And how lucky were we with the weather. We had been blessed with glorious weather and sunshine all week. Temps in the high 20s. Was sporting quite the tan after this week. Lots of delicious, healthy, fresh food:

From swimtrek day 6

Everyone digging in:

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

Lunch was followed by some chillaxing on the sundecks. It was going to be so hard to go back to reality:

From swimtrek day 6

There was more stuff to see underwater. Today, a shipwrecked fighter plane that had crashed into the sea for real (and not just planted there for the scuba divers).

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

Our last afternoon swim was a nice coastal swim past some Lycian tombs and cliffside (about a 2km swim). Here are some action shots during the swimtrek. Each group was escorted by a swim guide in a boat, on hand to throw us drinks when needed and to provide us direction.

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

A water bubble shot of Mr. D:

From Swimtrek day 5

Some fish:

From swimtrek day 6

This last swim was pretty exciting because we got to see a couple of large sea turtles which I thought was really cool. I was swimming with my underwater camera on me, so I was lucky to be able to take these snaps. I was surprised how close we could get to the turtle. The turtle is well camouflaged in the first couple of shots, but then I got some really clear ones:

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

That was one of the highlights of the trip. I’m glad I got to see one whilst we were actually swimming in the water (and had the camera tucked into my cossies). We reached the Lycian tombs:

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

Ah bliss. What a great way to end the swimtrek! Totally satisfied. We climbed back onto the boat and made our way back to Kas. This random fisherman tried to sell us some fish he had caught:

From swimtrek day 6

Back to Kas we went:

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

We finished at around 4pm, and had a few hours to kill before our last final group dinner at the hotel. Water views from my hotel balcony:

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

On this last day, I had one thing I had left to do that I wanted to do – and that was to take a visit out to the Amphitheatre ruins which was about a 20min walk. We had seen it from the water on the previous day, but I had wanted to go out there. I went for a photowalk out to the amphitheatre…to take in one last time the beauty of Kas and my time there, and to see one more last sunset.

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

The amphitheatre was surrounded by olive trees:

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

Great views to be had up here. Definitely worth coming out here for a bit of solitude, scenery and a stunning sunset for a bit of quiet reflection.

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

Best lookout point in Kas for sure, which is probably overlooked by a lot of visitors and tourists:

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

I’ve run out of adjectives to use…stunning, breathtaking, amazing…

From swimtrek day 6

This next photo is a little sad though. It depresses me a bit. Take note of this man…you’ll see why a bit further down:

From swimtrek day 6

It captures such loneliness.

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

I stayed up here for a bit over an hour taking in the scenery, until it got dark.

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

And then I made my way back into town and back to the hotel in time for our group dinner. Took more photos on my way back. Here’s a few of some kittens. Lots of cats in Kas.

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

These were really two kittens and not some trick double photography!

From swimtrek day 6

Now, you remember the photos above of the old man sitting alone at the amphitheatre? Well, I happened to pass him again, sitting alone, in the main town square. I didn’t realise it was the same guy until I actually went back through all these photos! All I remember at the time, was thinking that they were great images to take a photo of, but didn’t realise it was the same old man, alone. Makes me wonder what his story is.

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

Time for one last final dinner, this time a group farewell dinner, as people would be departing the next day. A week went by fast! Drinks first:

From swimtrek day 6

Dinner was on the sea deck by candlelight:

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

We celebrated the last night in style – roasted whole leg of lamb that had been slow-roasted for 10 hours (we had to decided our order the previous day so they can spend the whole day slow-roasting them). What a feast! One leg of lamb was shared between groups of four. I think I singlehandedly ate half a whole leg of lamb. I could totally indulge now totally guilt-free after a week of clocking up 25km of swims.

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

And lots of wine!

From swimtrek day 6

Followed by more drinks – a lot of beer judging by the table:

From swimtrek day 6
From swimtrek day 6

It ended up being a big night for some! People were up for celebrating, and it was the only night that we could let loose with the drinking because we couldn’t swim with hangovers during the week, happened to be a Saturday night too, so a handful went out nightclubbing. I called it a night and went to bed instead. A massive week of swimming, I had no energy left. Most people were also heading back home the next day, but I still had another week of travel around Turkey! Totally satisfied. It had been an amazing week. An experience that can never be relived. Truly magical. Am also totally hooked on doing another swimtrek tour. I had known before I even did this one, that I would want to do one every year…and I think I may very well might. There’s a few other destinations I’m interested in going to. It was a hard decision to do the Turkey one first…so will definitely get around to doing a few of the other destinations over the next few years. Just the idea of it sustains me. If you’re interested in doing a swimtrek, you should check out their website. You don’t need to a fast swimmer to join. They cater for all levels and speed. You can breastroke the whole time if you prefer. Wetsuits, flippers, snorkle masks are fine too. Very little restrictions on swimming. And you can jump on the boat at any time if you prefer not to swim at all. Go on, take the plunge! iSwim, therefore I be. iSwim, therefore I don’t drown. What! Not enough photos, you say. Fear not. More here. You’re welcome. 5193017 2011-11-02 13:44:27 2011-11-02 04:44:27 open closed turkey-travel-diary-day-8-swimtrek-day-6-last-day publish 0 0 post 0 Fitness passing time photography Swimming Swimming Travel travel Turkey _edit_last 253158 Turkey travel diary: Last day swimtrek (officially) http://memoirsofaleisha.blog.com/2011/11/04/turkey-travel-diary-last-day-swimtrek-officially/ Fri, 04 Nov 2011 00:30:40 +0000 aleishariboldi@gmail.com http://memoirsofaleisha.blog.com/?p=5193007 Sunday, October 9, 2011 A sad day. The last day of the swimtrek. Officially. (Thank god, you say. Enough of these swimming photos!) It was actually a semi-half day. There were 2 optional early morning swims – at 7am and at 8:30am. I made it up for the 8:30am. Seemed the morning was a struggle for some, given the previous night’s drinking antics. Last swim for the holiday took place in the bay in front of the hotel. Clouds were rolling in, it was grey and overcast. Storms were predicted for the next few days, and indeed it rained for most of the next week. I had been lucky with the weather on this trip. I would have hated to be out on the boat and in the water with it raining all week, especially given how blessed we were with the weather on the week that I did it. The holiday gods had been upon us. Felt a bit bad for the next swimtrek group that would have had a week of rain on their trip. We did a round lap of the bay out the front of the hotel, for a last refreshing swim. The water temp was so much cooler.

From Swimtrek – last day
From Swimtrek – last day
From Swimtrek – last day
From Swimtrek – last day

Breakfast, and then good-byes dragged out during the day as people left – some on flights back home, some onwards with their Turkey travels, and a few were staying an extra night in Kas and leaving the next day. Parting is such sweet sorrow. It was great to have met an awesome bunch of people though. I was due to leave on an overnight bus that evening so I still had the whole day spare. Myself and a couple of the other girls went for a hamam – a Turkish steam bath. This is something that has to be experienced to be believed. For many foreigners that come to Japan – onsens and the ritual (and pasttime) of public communal bathing is quite foreign and can be uncomfortable for some. I’m so used to communal bathing that I don’t think much of it. A hamam is a similar, yet different experience. Basically, your entire body is scrubbed and washed by someone as you lie naked on a marble table. I was a little apprehensive, but I decided to go with one of the other girls and we went together to experience a Turkish bath. When in Rome, ay. The Hamam Experience (Turkish bathing), explained: Strip off and wear a bikini. And wrap a towel around you. You’ll be taken to the steam bath room where basically you lie on a hot marble table and sweat it out. We were in there for an extraordinarily long time – 40 minutes of steaming. It’s usually only about 10 min or so. Then the Turkish woman (or man) comes in and lies you down on the marble table. I think the locals do this totally naked, perhaps, but for most tourists – they let you wear a bikini, although they usually take your bikini top off, so you lie there pretty much naked except for a pair of knicker bottoms. I felt like a sacrificial naked lamb on a marble altar. What follows next is some abrasive dry body scrubbing. I felt as though I was a block of parmesan cheese being grated. They are not gentle with the loofah. You literally see rolls of flesh and dead skin cells being grated off your body. There’s exfoliation, and then there’s a Turkish body scrub. They take great delight in showing you all your dead skin too. They must think we’re so filthy. It made me wonder what the hell I do in the shower all these years, because I certainly hadn’t been seeing this amount of dirt and dead skin on my body. The scrubbing is intense. Good for the circulation though. I had a Turkish lady scrub me, but the other girl I was with, had a Turkish boy scrub her down. It’s all PG though and not at all sleazy. Some hamams are mixed gender as well – this one was. But luckily, no other men at the same time. After you’ve been scrubbed to within an inch of your life, you are washed down with soap. Full on lathery, bubbly soap. This part is awesome. I looked like a soap mummy. They massage you a bit with the soap as well. And yes, you’re still lying down naked the whole time. At one point, she spun me around naked on the slippery marble table. Holy crap, I thought I was gonna fly off. They wash the soap off you and then you dry off a bit. We had gone the massage option as well, so we were taken to the massage room where we laid face down and had a deep relaxing massage. This is the part where they pummel and grind you like a piece of dough. They give it especially hard to the men. I saw looks of pain for one guy that was there after us. But he also had a strong Turkish dude give it to him. I had asked them to go easy on me, so they gave me a young girl to massage me. She was really good. She was thorough. Awesome massage. I felt so clean and fresh. My skin was practically shiny. I felt like a polished apple that he been scrubbed, washed and waxed. And the massage was much needed after a week of swimming. Loved the hamam experience! Exactly what I needed. Spent the rest of the afternoon shopping and browsing the local markets with one of the girls. By this time the rain had set in and a storm was brewing:

From Swimtrek – last day
From Swimtrek – last day
From Swimtrek – last day

Turkish delight:

From Swimtrek – last day

More hidden Lycian tombs in the cliffside:

From Swimtrek – last day

And thus concludes my week of swimming around the Lycian Way, Turkey. A satisfying week of open water swimming. It’s the only way to travel now! Will definitely be doing more swimtreks to new destinations in the future. I hadn’t expected the experience to be so cathartic, like some kind of awakening within me. I was reminded of one of my favourite non-Murakami books; ‘The Awakening’ by Kate Chopin. There’s a certain irony in that some people liberate themselves and set themselves free by drowning in the sea, yet I find so much freedom in swimming in it. Much better to be alive in the water, than not. Water is so lifegiving. And I had had such an amazing holiday. I still had another week of traveling around Turkey (on land) which only further cemented my love for Turkey. Such a beautiful country with diverse landscape. Since I’ve gotten back from Turkey, I’ve only hit the pools once, and I have to say that it’s not quite the same being back in a pool. It’s been a bit of a struggle to face the cholorine box. Much prefer ocean swimming. I did lose about 2kg over the course of the swimtrek which was a nice bonus and was definitely feeling healthy and fit. Am trying to keep the weight off that I’ve lost as well. It’s struggle though as we go into winter here. You’d be hardpressed to gain weight over the week with the amount of swimming we did. A parting gift we received from our swimguides was a map and swim log of the week with the swim routes and distances marked out. That was a really nice touch. A little memento of our swimming achievements:

From Swimtrek – last day

Our approximate daily swimming distances were: Tuesday – 5.5km Wednesday – 4km Thursday – 4.5km Friday – 5.5km Saturday – 6km Week total: 25.5km + leisure swims and walks. I swam more than I ever thought I could over a week. I’ll end with a few nice swimming inspiration/motivation quotes: “Don’t wait for your ship to come in – swim out to it.” ~Author Unknown “I always wanted to be Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up. I can’t fly, but swimming is the next best thing. It’s harmony and balance. The water is my sky.” ~Clayton Jones “Seventy-five percent of our planet is water – can you swim?” ~Author Unknown “H2O: two parts Heart and one part Obsession.” ~Author Unknown “It’s a good idea to begin at the bottom in everything except in learning to swim.” ~Author Unknown And just for laughs: “We swim because we are too sexy for a sport that requires clothes.” ~Author Unknown