Weekend Getaway

“Come with me” I said.

“It will be fun.

We will escape Melbourne, the weather looks good

and it is sooo close”

And so she did.

Come with me, that is,

to escape Melbourne and because it is close.

Well to be precise,

I went with her since she has a very flash ‘ute’ –

with heated seats and all.

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Off we went on Friday,

two ‘gals’ on an adventure to visit the

Victorian High Country.

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We stopped for drinks at Bonnie Doon – seen the movie The Castle?

If not, why not, a great film and if you have, you know why we stopped here.

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Boonie Doon Pub

Mansfield was our next stop.

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It is a charming town, gateway from Melbourne to The High Country and always busy; with people –

riders like ourselves,

cyclists with their paraphernalia,

runners proving their worth to themselves, or someone else,

tourists browsing the shops,

locals doing their shopping and

everyone stopping at the many coffee shops.

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always a good excuse to stop

 The hospitality of ‘country folk’ the world over, knows no bounds and so it was here too.

Nelda and Greg opened their absolutely beautiful home to us for the night.

and what a night it was……

Four women from completely different backgrounds

sat round the table and laughed and talked as only women can.

moment
a moment captured
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a view captured
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a hug savoured

 

That we finished a bottle and a half of gin probably helped. 🙂 🙂

When we finally trundled off to bed wondering why we had lingered so long

when we had a full day of riding ahead of us –

we were tempted

not to,

ride that is, but just linger longer……..

joy
‘no words’ required

cheers

claire d

ah the joys of ‘geselsskap’  (English words don’t cut it)

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The morning …
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after the night before….
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brought a hazy beauty, perhaps not just because of the light 🙂

Saturday arrived bright and early, and so did we.

Arrive at Telephone Phone Box Junction to be precise, at 9am –

where we were met by old friends –

I had ridden with Christian and Laura before (

in case you are curious: Hidden Trails…… (click on the link….)

and quite a few ‘strangers’.

It is interesting how the dynamics of a group changes depending on the length of time one is going to be together.

In this case, only one night and so both the guides and guests seemed ‘more insular’ as though the energy required for introductions wasn’t  warranted for just 24 hours.

What can I say?

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What I CAN say, though ,

is that there is something about growing up in this country,

and even more so if horses have always been your love,

and the story of The Man from Snowy River.

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It carries an almost mystical attraction

so that to ride up to Craig’s Hut becomes

for many a sort of pilgrimage, or so  it seems to me.

I have now been lucky enough to ride there 4 times,

on on each occasion with different people

and each time I sensed they had a link to the place that I did not feel.

I am sure because I came to this place, horses and the story relatively recently.

For me, it is the ride, the mountains, the trees, the birds, the magnificence of the vistas.   Breathtaking.

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I was ‘moved up the ladder’ so to speak and my horse this time, ‘Billy’ was ‘more forward’ (for my non horsey friends – quicker, eager, needs more skill!)  and allowed to ride with the front group.

A huge step up for this wanna be rider you must understand –

kind of like wearing my ‘big pants’ now.

So off I went with the ‘real riders’  through rivers, up hills and across dales,

(although I think I may have the wrong country – dales? Australia?)

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We all know about mountain weather, and how unpredictable it can be.

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We also know that is has been over 35’C for weeks and weeks and weeks and the weather forecast showed a narrow band of rain, about 30% showers.
Nothing too alarming, but just to be sure we all strapped a ‘dry as a bone jacket’ onto our saddle and confidently set off for a day of pleasure.

And pleasure it was for the first hour or so,

and then, it would appear,

we rode straight into the tiny blue band we had seen on the weather app –

that small 30% chance of rain?

Well, we found it –

and suddenly the temperature dropped to about 9’C,

the wind arrived

and the rain bucketed down.

There we were, astride our horses, committed and gradually getting colder and colder

and wetter and wetter.

I was fortunate I had gloves, which although so wet I could squeeze handfuls of water from them, they kept my hands protected from the wind.

The others were less fortunate and I noticed hands being clenched in pain against the cold.

Finally we arrived  at our lunch spot – the sight of a fire and hot food.

We were more fortunate than our poor horses who were not fed, but rather tied up to weather the storm as best they could.

And of course we had our famous ‘dry as a bone’ jackets, which were in fact not dry at all and most of us were wet to our bones, but who am I to argue with an iconic name?

wet
our smiles, the horses heads down
wet1
3 musketeers
wet2
finding a hot drink
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and SO much smoke
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and rain
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while some burnt their pants drying to dry them

Finally, the rain eased and we tried to bridle our horses again.

My poor Billy was so cold he could not keep his head still and it was with great difficulty and much coaxing that he was finally all set to go.

I could feel his body shaking with cold as I mounted; it was a really awful feeling.   Thankfully he warmed up quite quickly once we started down towards our camp.

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Does that look wet & cold? Hope so, because it WAS

And it wasn’t long before everyone felt a little better;

the rain had stopped, the wind felt less brutal and the temperature was

a little higher as we went lower.

We left our horses at Razorback Camp, unsaddled, blanketed and fed.

Some of us meet ‘the locals’, shared their fire and drinks until it was our turn to be taken to our camp, ‘unsaddled’ of our wet gear, blanketed in warm clothes and fed a deliciously hot meal.

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Our horses rugged and settled….
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so welcome
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a hut to dry our clothes
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aptly named camp site

 

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And so to Sunday.

Which thankfully started bright and sunny.

Nonetheless I was not going to be caught wrong footed again, so when we were warned that it would be cold and windy ‘on the summit’ and we should dress warmly,  I took them at their word and did.

For the first time ever, I wore two pairs of pants, thermals and riding pants, and because it would be cold, I wore TWO thermal tops, yes I know, overkill?   But hey, you weren’t with me yesterday !!!!!  My cotton shirt, my down vest and again because I knew what Cold meant now, my down puffer jacket And my purple Aldi rain jacket.  Not to forget my thermal neck warmer and the ‘dry as a bone’ jacket strapped to my saddle, just in case.

I explained to Billy and asked his forgiveness for having to carry this

Michelin woman

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because the look he gave me clearly said, “and now?”

And now……..

Of course.

Sun and warmth and despite the predictions, not a breathe of wind.

In fact a perfect day.

Unless you are kitted out like a Michelin woman –

which of course I was as you can see by the shape 🙂

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Michelin woman

For about the first hour or so both Billy and I ‘steamed’ as the sun warmed us.

In Billy’s case the steam was literal and quite funny to watch.

In my case, not quite literal and certainly less comical.

He and the other horses stopped steaming.
I was less fortunate and for the rest of the day  remained insulated in my private steam bath, unable to take anything off as there was nowhere to tie anything else on.

I did after all still have my ‘dry as a bone’  jacket, which interestingly was still very wet and heavy from yesterday, strapped to my saddle.

Nonetheless we had a magnificent day of riding to the summit of Mount Stirling, to Craig’s hut and back down to Telephone Box Junction –

A glorious end to an interesting two days of riding.

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Snow Gums, Mountains, Sky, Beauty

 

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We
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finally all
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got there together 🙂

 

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Those Musketeers!

 

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Playing is
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such fun
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My partner in crime sure knows how to ride
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The iconic Craig’s Hut
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Bucket list stuff
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And just as quickly
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as it began it was
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over….
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And it Was Fun

Thanks for coming for me, Jacqui.

It Was fun.

We Did escape Melbourne

The weather Was good (some of the time)

and it was sooo close……

…… to perfection, we may have to do it again

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Feb 2019

Always read the fine print. Really?

If you have a legal brain,

 if you are naturally suspicious.

or if you don’t want any surprises.

 

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I, of course, do not have a legal brain,

and am,

some would say,

naively trusting

and since my life has been one surprise after another,

I am somewhat inured to the unpleasant ones and the good ones give me

no cause to complain.

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So I have No reason to worry about the fine print.

I usually scan read whatever it is,

decide if it is interesting enough to read more than every fifth word

and if it is still interesting,

I sign the dotted line.

 

And so it was that I signed up to do a horse ride in Morocco.

I read all about the exploratory nature of the ride,

the Barb/Arab horses, the camping, the sand dunes, the Daar Valley

and what I read ticked all ‘my boxes’ so I ticked all their boxes and signed on the dotted line.

‘Somewhat lazy’ must stand alongside ‘naively trusting’

so I said,

“whatever you decide,

I’ll go along with”

…….

And go along I did.

On a long trip,

which had nothing to do with horses,

(that was still to come, all 7 days of it.)

Rather this had much to do with a vehicle

and a road,

Over the Atlas Mountains,

from Marrakech to Ouarzazate

which as you can see, ‘Google’ says will take 3 hours and 51 minutes.

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And so it was that we happily jumped into our vehicle.

Oblivious of what lay ahead,

confident in our Google map information and

full of energy in anticipation of our horse riding adventure soon to begin.

Twelve of us squeezed into our van,

 every seat occupied, off we went.

Blue van full of children illustration

We went over the Atlas Mountains,

using the Tichka Pass.

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The Atlas Mountains – ethereal, like a mirage

If only we spoke or even understood Berber,

we would have known that Tichka meant ‘difficult’ and

this pass is listed amongst the

ten most dangerous mountain passes in the world!

Although even if we had spoken Berber,

we did not discover the name of the pass until we reached the top

and saw a sign the first sign marking the Tichka Pass.

But we didn’t speak Berber so it didn’t mean anything to us.

I jump ahead of myself –

forgive me, for we were not there yet.

We were leaving Marrakech, looking at the scenery,

ooing and aahing at this and that and

taking snapshots through the windows.

And then the ascent.

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As we left the lowlands,

those on one side of the vehicle looked downwards to a bottomless space

while the others side looked out at a dark wall of rock that blocked the light and stretched I presume to heaven, we could not tell.

As we left the lowlands,

conversation slowed, windows were opened, photography ceased and

slowly it dawned on me that we were in for a long day.

A long day

of winding roads, sick passengers and no way of preventing either.

And so it was.

We stopped when we could,

everyone descended to gasp for air,

empty our stomachs,

(again and again and again)

decide who would be best at which window,

fill water bottles and those who could, at any time,

take a photograph or two.

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But for the majority of the team,

this was a road to and/or from hell.

It seemed pointless to discuss this objectively since it was clear

that as far as they were concerned, death would be a welcome relief

from the hell of this road.

This road, which Google confidently forecast would take us 3 hours 51 minutes

actually took us close to 6 hours.

Which made me wonder if Google knew that there was traffic, an ascent and more bends and turns than in a game of snakes and ladders

followed of course

by a steep descent,

with another game of snakes and ladders!!!!!!

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Shadows of our former selves !

And I feel confident when I say that for many,

those 6 hours felt longer than the entire 7 days on horseback.

After the event,

hindsight being a wonderful thing – don’t we all know that,

I discovered the following tips:788eaad4-8c20-4a46-92ff-f6df41d4813d-drunkemoji3110

1) Hire a driver with an air conditioned vehicle who will stop every hour or more.

2) Take plenty of water to avoid dehydration – you are travelling to the Sahara desert and the temperatures and altitudes will be extreme

3) Take travel sickness tablets before travelling

4) Avoid eating too much – it may not stay down!!!!!

And the final line was a challenge :

What about you, are you brave enough to see the Atlas Mountains via the Tichka Pass?

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If only we had read the fine print !!!!!

 

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Keeping our spirits up at a stop along the way

 

Epilogue

Some of our team refused to do the return trip,

wisely finding an aeroplane to take them back from Zagora to Marakech.

Others elected to be passengers again,

but going back,

better prepared,

we seemed to fare better.

Perhaps reading the fine print isn’t such a bad idea?

Just a thought.

 

Thanks to Jo for many of the photos.

Tassie Tigers…..

It would appear I begin every riding blog

with the imaginative but repetitive statement

there are no words

Which is odd,

for as anyone who knows me knows,

words ‘are my thing’ 🙄

I love the sound of them

(don’t we know! I hear you say )

although I will point out that loving the sound of them is different from loving the sound of my own voice using them 😂

I love how you can play with them;

saying one thing while meaning something completely different 🙃

I love the the way they dance, black and white, across a page

the way they ‘mean’ something – as if they were musical notes.

And yet, there are times when there

Really Are No Words.

When your heart is filled to bursting,

When your eyes are mesmerised by the beauty around you

When your body is filled with such a sense of well being and energy

When your soul is at peace

(and for a short time you can imagine

‘all is well with the world’)

Our Tassie Tiger Trail was just such a time.

Across the Ditch…..


A time when eight strangers came together to the most beautiful Tasmania.

All trusting that our faith would not be misplaced,

our money not wasted;

our souls fed with the joy of riding great horses;

our bellies fed with the best of the Apple Isle and

our minds filled with joyful memories.

It goes without saying that our faith was not at all misplaced.

This was a Wonderful adventure.

Day One: New Friends……
Learning to communicate……..
…..and trust one another

It may be worth clarifying how we ‘find our horse for the week.’ Well the truth is we don’t, they kind of find us. When you go on a trail you are ‘matched’ with a horse based on –

not sure what; 😉 weight, height and temperament.


And so my horse Basheer and the ‘blurb’ in his profile?

“Every family has a gifted child. Basheer is ours.

Suffering small horse syndrome this little steed is both insecure and courageous, bold and embarrassed.

His antics are mind boggling.

He is in your face, in your space and eager to be part of everything that is going on”

Jen & Jeremy our hosts for the week had never met me, but there were some smiles about whose profile they had captured 🙄

And so to ‘what was going on’

as we set out on our 5 day adventure.

to explore the hills

 

Melaleuca everywhere

A time to reflect

There were views to absorb, canters to enjoy, laughter to share.

words? really?
patience – always……
and faithful togetherness
The “crew” day 2
no longer strangers
with a little
help from
our friends 🙂

There was wildlife to see, snakes, eagles, sugar glider, wallabies, echidnas, platypus, black cockatoos.

New friends
Still a little prickly
and old friends who had worked out the prickly bits 🙂

And there was food – home made biscuits for morning tea,

delicious salmon at the salmon farm,

fresh raspberries at the raspberry farm,

roast lamb and all the veges at our B&B

and dinners out.

 

with a laugh whether …..

At the Raspberry farm…..

Or the Salmon Farm
One of many lovely words of advice from Theresa –


Our hostess at Bonney’s Inn

Served us
such great food
and fun
with ‘heaven on earth’ offered

in her lovely home….

(as well as her philosophy 😊)
This was Them: Roland & Theresa making Bonney’s Inn beautiful
Friendships created….

And for a week, we were suspended in time;

neither wives, nor women,

nor mothers, grandmothers,

fathers or husbands,

but friends

with no agendas, no concerns, no judgements.

Open to the sun, the sky, the feel of the horses and each other.

joy

Vulnerable and Invincible at the same time.

 

The tall and short of it……
The smile …..
The exhilaration
The conversation
which didn’t always need words
down time…..
even for Daisy
The colours ……
of the sky…..
as we meandered down
along the Meander River

We laughed till we cried.

And we cried till we could laugh again.

We encouraged and learnt from each other.

We talked into the night,

we shared;

thoughts, ideas, experiences

and even clothes

as for a time I felt like I was on school camp again

but this time able to enjoy it – secure in my age (and of course no rules!!!)

Me and my other friend
did I say we were crazy? No, we were just happy.
As was Sage
Learning….
to trust….

And just when we thought it could get no better,

A day on the beach.

And honestly, truely, believe me, unless you have done this,

you will not understand

THERE ARE NO WORDS……




 

A Hammam – Spot the difference☺️ (not to be confused with A Hammam but to be read alongside it!)

One of the joys of travelling, after exposing myself to new ideas and challenging my perception of how one ‘should’ live,

is returning home.

And so it was that I found myself happily (and sadly at the same time)

back home after riding a Stunning Arab cross

(horse🐴that is, not anything other😉)

for 5 days in beautiful Tasmania;  

not camping but definitely ‘making like the locals’ in terms of

food and wine (plenty of it) 😍

Our little band of riders were closely observed by many of those around us who thought we must be mad, maybe not dogs, (as in Englishmen and that midday sun☀️) but clearly crazy with an enviable giddy kind of joy.

Because that ride was a wonderful exhilarating experience.  

However it is not the topic for day.

Rather I want to share a differentexperience.  

One I shared with my beautiful daughter.

Today.

We were each given a Christmas gift of self-indulgence

and when she suggested we went the day after 5 day’s horse riding, why wouldn’t I?

And so we did.

We hopped into my little car,

and drove to the appointed place without getting lost.

This could not be described as an unprepossessing building.

On the contrary it is anything but – bright, new, shiny and filled with exotic shops, people and a very large, very bold sign lest we had any doubts:

The Glen Shopping Centre.

I had read what was on offer,

and felt an involuntary tremor go through my body

as I recalled a travel experience 😳that I vowed

not to repeat, anywhere, anytime, ever again 😔

(https://leepowrie.com/2019/01/09/a-hammam/  )

 😳

I read how :

“You will LOVE it.   

You lie on hot stones, you get wrapped in a clay/mud mask and rest and then you are massaged with oils and your hair is washed and you feel SOOO good and rested. “

And yet here I was again.

Breathing deeply, focusing on gratitude

– it was after all a gift

And A Gift it was.

This time it was just OUR gift.

We were still in a small room,

but there were no wooden benches

and no other women, naked or clothed.

Just the two of us as we undressed,

placed our clothes in beautiful baskets,

put my glasses and jewellery into a tiny elegant purse

and then lay down on warm towels,

spread lavishly on a soft bed

(one bed each) ;😉

And

not a spot of linoleum anywhere in sight.

The only noise was the sound of a reed bass and wind chimes, simulating, I suppose a gentle breeze

(except of course a breeze is never as even as the music was –

I did muse on that – but I digress)

I lay happily on my tummy as my back and legs and arms were massaged, oiled and treated with hot stones

(or at least hot something as the lights were dimmed and my head hung through a hole in the bed) 🙃

When I was asked to turn over,

it was with a great sigh of relief that I knew I need not keep my eyes open;

ever alert to avoid being hit by swinging anythings – large or small 😂

The clay was applied with much TLC, the breezy music continued and I wallowed in nothingness till it was all gently removed. (the clay that is 😉)

Dry, snug, oiled, pampered and feeling SOO good,

we finally dragged ourselves away,

to enjoy a drink to Savour the memory rather than Expunge it.

And so it is that the same words are used to describe two very different experiences.

Strange that…🤔….

A Hammam

One of my reasons  for travelling is to expose myself to new ideas and challenge  my perception of how one ‘should’ live.   

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And so it was that I found myself in Morocco riding a Barb/Arab horse in the Sahara Desert, camping and ‘making like the locals’ for 6 nights and 7 days.  No, let me rephrase that – the locals do not  by choice do what we did; only mad dogs and Englishmen (or similar) go out in the midday sun, let alone in the desert, on the back of a horse 🙃.    Our mob definitely fitted the mould of (or similar) 🐎🙄

And that ride was in itself a remarkable experience

but not the topic for today 🙂

Rather, I want to share a different experience.   

And I use the word ‘different’ fully aware of the many meanings it can convey.

Throughout our time in Morocco we heard tales of how wonderful a Hammam was.

So what was this?

The word is derived from the Arabic meaning ‘bath’ – delve further into the history and ‘communal’ appears 😉.

Moroccans along the way gave us varied descriptions but essentially

“You will LOVE it.   You lie on hot stones, you get wrapped in a clay/mud mask and rest and then you are massaged with oils and your hair is washed and you feel SOOO good and rested.  It is amazing.” 

Or words to that effect. 

While ‘Google’,  describes it as follows.

“A hammam is a traditional cleansing and beauty ritual.

At the heart of the Spa, an authentic hammam provides guests with a signature bathing ritual that combines heat, fragranced steam, warm water, ‘marocMaroc’ hammam products and a cold plunge pool to revitalise the body and soul.”

A Hammam

It is important to understand that we had been in the saddle,

in the desert for 7 days

with only one brief shower during that entire time.   

And while we were exhilarated by That adventure,

we were also dusty and saddle weary by the time we found ourselves back in Zagora.   

So when our inimitable guide,

whose name I have forgotten, but whose smile I will not, 

(it was a little too welcoming, a little too joyous, a little too jolly

and clearly as we were about to learn he was a lot smarter than we were)

suggested a Hammam, well we positively leapt at the opportunity.

Wouldn’t you?

IMAGES LOOMED……. 

And so it was that with the anticipation of an hour or two

of quiet, tranquil, relaxing, muscle soothing pampering,

the six of us women

(who were still to tackle the 8 hour road trip home over

on the the 10 most dangerous passes in the world the following day,)

jumped at the opportunity.

No warning bells sounded at the speed with which this was organised for so many of us all at the same time.

No unease appeared when we were quoted only MAD 100 each (less than A$20).

And still we were enthusiastic when we were told to hurry and come just as we were.

Because we knew all about the Hammams – Didn’t we?

We had heard about them for weeks.

And so we paid our smiling guide MAD 100 each

We Paid

and squeezed into a tiny vehicle to go to our Hammam.

We squeezed in and off we went 

Not directly though, as our driver managed to get lost;

but eventually, after several u-turns, mobile phone calls and general chaos we did arrive.

……….

At a most unprepossessing building with no signage to indicate this was anything at all – it may have been a factory, a closed shop except for the no windows. It could have been a disused warehouse, or in fact a deserted prison. It was not.

It was in fact, our Hammam.

Well therein lies the rub.

This Was Our Hammam.

It was also the Hammam used by Every woman

(and None of the tourists) in Zagora!!!!

Our smiling guide shoved us through the door before we had a chance to say anything. It closed behind us and …….

He was gone. We weren’t.

And then again we were.

Or at least for an instant it felt like we had gone,

we were not sure where,

but certainly we must have left our planet and …..

…….well each of us had our own picture of where we were now….

and it was nowhere any of us had ever even considered a reality.

However, this was VERY REAL.

We were in a small room with a line of low wooden benches along 3 walls. The 4th wall had a high counter in front of it on which two women leaned; watching us. They were clothed from head to, I presume toe (I couldn’t see behind the counter) while the women, old and young seated on the benches were either naked, or in the process of becoming so. Quite happily it would appear.

And it was SO noisy.

That I think was the first thing to register in my mind after the first 3 or 4 seconds of blind shock!!! There were the voices, all raised, laughing, talking, shouting across at one another. There was a sound of water and steam and it all bounced off the tiled walls and floor so that one decibel instantly became five

And 6 Anglo tourists ranging in age from 65+ to 26+ stood amongst the Arab women, like rabbits caught in a hunter’s headlight.

Although, of course, no one was ‘hunting us’ (or perhaps our guide already had as turned out the locals paid less than MAD10 each for this adventure, we had paid 10 times that 😂

There was not much to be done now except ‘go forward bravely’ because, to quote Macbeth, to go back were as difficult as to go ….etc.

Breathing deeply, I decided to ‘go forth’ and slowly took my sweaty, (very sweaty, 7 day old riding shirt) off my equally sweaty body and stood there.

Waiting.

I am not sure what for but after a few seconds of standing there feeling very foolish, I removed my bra.

And rather like a reluctant strip tease dancer I slowly and very carefully took off my boots and socks (the tiles were damp and slippery), and then hesitantly my riding pants.

I was now as good as naked, my arms piled high with dirty clothes and heavy riding boots which I handed to one of the ladies behind the counter, along with my handbag.

In ‘our’ world, you would have received a receipt for these goods – not here. They just disappeared behind the counter somewhere and I wondered if they would ever reappear.

So I stood, on a wet, clammy tiled floor, stark naked apart from a tiny pair of lacy knickers which did nothing to ease my sense of exposure and vulnerability when the lady behind the counter indicated I should hand over my glasses. I refused as politely as I could under the circumstances. I felt vulnerable enough without losing my sight as well 😐

For a brief second in the chaos of emotions I was experiencing I was reminded of another time and different showers and the loss of identity. It took a strong ‘self talk second’ to get things into perspective.

My friends were on their own journey of ‘exposure’ so to speak until finally there were 6 very white bodies clad only in knickers (and my pair of glasses) standing sheepishly in what I shall call the ‘reception’ room.

The craziness of the whole thing struck some of us then and we could laugh at ourselves. Nervous laughter, perhaps, but still a laugh as we looked around at the equally naked women watching us and going about their business with No sense of unease, despite their nudity.

And their business was?

Well having their weekly Hammam of course.

Dressing, or undressing in this room

and then walking naked into the next room while carrying their basket of “cleaning materials”.

All the while talking loudly and laughing and thoroughly enjoying their time here. This is their weekly gathering place, a chance to say hi, to catch up on gossip, share recipes, joys, sorrows, to look for prospective daughter in laws (all 10 fingers, child bearing hips.. you get the picture),

and savour the most precious commodity in that part of the world – water.

There were elderly weathered bodies, young lithe ones, children, babies in mother’s arms, teenage friends.

All naked, all comfortable and sitting around either on low wooden benches or on the tiled floor. Watching us as two very large, very black women, wearing ‘almost’ knickers, silver necklaces and nothing else appeared and ‘herded’ us from the reception room through a middle room into the last room and pointed to the floor against the wall.

(By this time my glasses had completely steamed up and I had no choice but to walk back to the ‘reception’ and hand them over – not knowing if I would ever see them again, or I guess, whether I would ever see again full stop. (My spare pair was far away in a bag in what seemed like another planet at that moment in time.)

Back though, to the floor against the back wall where we now all sat, facing into that room and beyond that into the middle room.

Ah, if that was all we were doing – facing.

But not so.

We were facing and looking directly at pendulous breasts and huge thighs occupying low benches along the walls, all at eye level. And it didn’t matter which way your eye went, there was another body or part of a body. 😂 The rooms were filled with bodies.

We watched arms, legs, thighs, all being massaged by either the owner of said limbs or in some instances by someone else.

And everywhere NOISE and heat and buckets of water into which ladles were dipped and water poured over bodies.

It is difficult to describe this place and how like ducks out of water we felt, even though we were actually in water.

Slippery water all over the floor which was diligently swept away by a naked lady with a large broom. She moved the water around and with it, mandarin peels, banana skins and you don’t really want to know what else.

The experience continued with our ‘black herders’ (for that is what they felt like to me, the lamb being herded) ladeling water over us, giving us slippery black soap to massage into our bodies (which we duly did). Surprising how submissive one becomes when out of one’s comfort zone, just following orders whether verbal or otherwise.

So there we were on the hard wet tiled floor (for some reason I was given a tatty piece of linoleum to sit on – go figure). Our two ‘ladies’ then came back and poured more water over us to rinse the soap off. With sign language we realised we were to lie down on our stomachs (on the hard wet tiled floor) while our bodies were subjected to a brief but very severe ‘massage’ with a loofah glove that had been who knows where 😫😅.

And Yup, you got it, we were turned over and the process was repeated on our other side, with equal vigour only now I was facing my ‘masseur’ and her very large free swinging bosoms which hovered before me so I dare not move for fear of making contact with one or both!!! 😳 That completed I saw Jo alongside me, with complicated sign language say, ‘yes please she would like her hair washed’ and ‘no she had no shampoo’.

No problem apparently, as our large lady simply poured water over her head from a bucket. I watched Jo splutter and spit like a child caught unawares under a shower, have her hair ruffled by said lady who poured more water over Jo’s head and hey presto –

Hair Washed.

I declined the hair wash

One more bucket of water over me, (and the others) cooler this time, and we were ‘free to go’.
Back the way we came –

through the middle room,

into the reception room –

not only naked (bar the skimpy knickers) but sopping wet too.

At this point we realised what the ladies had in their baskets apart from shampoo –

towels and dry clothes.

We had none of those and while our ‘used clothes’ along with handbags, boots and glasses were returned we struggled to get dressed on a sopping wet floor with now damp as well as dirty clothes, and of course in full view of our gallery of voyeurs.

But dress we did and with a HUGE sigh of relief

walked out of the front door.

Away from the heat, away from the noise, away from the complete strangeness of the local Hammam.

Some of us were still laughing at the craziness of this adventure, some were close to tears.

All of us needed a drink (or two or three) and so we crossed the road to a tea house and sat down with a deep inhalation of clean air.

While we may have wanted something stronger, no alcohol is served in Morocco (or at least that is the official position) and we settled for several cups of coffee while we discussed and digested our experience and waited for our guide to meet us again.

I go back to where this all started:

One of my reasons  for travelling is to expose myself to new ideas and challenge  my perception of how one ‘should’ live.”

I was most certainly exposed 😜today – in more ways than one!

And yet, we all lived to tell the tale – and quite a tale it was.

Long day in Lisbon, or rather Portugal 🇵🇹

0AC06374-FF92-4A64-9430-D85946AB77C8There are lazy days in Lisbon and then there are Long days in Lisbon.   The capital ‘L’ is not a finger mis-type – not at all.  In fact it should be a LONG day and even that would not adequately describe it.  

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We had thought to use the red and yellow and even perhaps the purple busoes; reasonably priced, hop on/hop off, you know the type. 😉

 However the charming young lady at ‘The Blue House’ had captivated us and convinced that her private tour with Paulo was the best option. 

“Paulo is lovely, (which he is) 

Paulo is very knowledgeable (which I am sure he is) 

Paulo is funny (yes he made us laugh)

Paulo will take you everywhere (which he very definitely did)

And That, precisely was the point, or perhaps the ‘problem’.

I paid  (not sure how much exactly but clearly quite a bit as Margaret has continued to pay for everything since saying she still owes me money 😯)

We set off at 8am, after a coffee and banana, with the expectation of a long day.   And so it turned out – a long day followed by a long night 😴.

 And lovely, knowledgeable, funny Paulo set off to show us all the best pastry shops in Lisbon …. and beyond. 

Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with pastry shops  – not at all.  In fact I love a good pastry – but a life time’s quota in one day 🤣 ? 

Obidas our first ‘tourist’ stop was really quaint and interesting.

 

 

It is a constant source of amazement, at least to me, to see the size of the stone walls, the strength of the fortresses and love in the churches built in this case in 13 century, all with manual labour and plenty of it I should imagine. 

 

Interesting and fun it was as we sat down for pastries and coffees – oblivious to the fact that this would be the first of many and what lay ahead 😊

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Which was Nazaré- which needs a whole blog to itself – I was blown away.   Almost literally and certainly emotionally.  

 

 

Ah I was mesmerised, and could have spent a few hours exploring.  Was befriended by a charming American surfer whose uncle had been the last lighthouse keeper here.   He explained the different boards; the subtleties of the ‘edging’ some smooth, some dimpled; fascinating.   He knew the surfers, understood the skill, the water flows, the winds.   Oh I could have stayed and listened to him for hours.   

 

But I was called away – guess why? 

Another pastry shop 🤣

Seriously though I was ‘dragged away’ to travel to Batalha.   More history, cathedrals, monasteries and amazing snippets of information – look at the column – every stone has an ‘initiial’ carved  into it.   Payment was made to families by counting the stones per this identification. (13 Century)

 

And then the local speciality – a pastry. Different from the last but as sickly sweet (at least to my palate)

And so onward and upward toward the purpose of our expedition- Porto

Via Aveiro and more pastries and I believe another cathedral although the mind has blurred a little by this time. Although I did see this quirky shop with random groceries from all round the world

Lunch had somehow passed us by , it being the latter part of the afternoon already as we headed finally for Porto with a list of the things we wanted to see.

Porto is beautiful, you could spend several days there.  Or you Should spend several days there was what we were told by everyone since.   We had a few hours, in the dark, under the raindrops- make that sheets of 😩.

We raced up stairs – many, of them, looked at the bridge and across the river, found ourselves separated by the dark and rain. Searched rather anxiously for some time and were happily reunited even if the air turned blue as we found each other!!!! Expressions of relief and frustration 😊 you get the picture.

And here are some more. (Pictures. Of Porto. In the dark)

And finally – some food.   By now so late a bowl of bean soup was all I could face.   But what I actually faced when it arrived was I Thibk pumpkin 🥣 soup 🤣🤣🤣

a Looooong drive home, sometimes at 160km/hr has us both wide awake rather than sleeping in the car.

At 2.30am we we’re droppes at our home having done a round trip of 700km!!!!!!

A long day in Portugal 😉

 

 

Breakfast – Lisbon style 😉

Yesterday’s eighteen and a half hour day on just bowl of soup and some pastries had left us a little fragile so we awoke today with rumbling bellies.

Just washing ….

So at the bright hour of 11am, we set off to get a brunch. Sunday morning – how hard. We have walked past cafe after cafe all week, two a penny everywhere we looked.

No matter where we looked

But not today, for love or money – we were prepared to offer either or even both – we could not find somewhere to settle the rumblings.

It was quite remarkable. If I had found a Mac Donald’s I would have settled even for that – but alas, not one in sight. Yes I know, but you have to believe me!!! Evaporated!

Go Natural

At precisely 11.59 we found a cafe “go natural” which was open . Surely an egg on bread and maybe even an avocado 🥑? In we went.

Happily we found a window seat so we could watch all the other people trying to find a coffee, wandering up and down the street. Happily they offered free wifi so I can write to you.

Passers by

Happily we ordered “2 poached eggs with avocado please, and two coffees please”

And happily (very) he took our money after checking they had 🥖 bread.

But I must confess that this is where the ‘happily’ bit stopped 😐 unless the fact that they wore hairnets and blue gloves made you happy 😉

After an interminable wait, an egg on toast arrived, deposited in front of me. Of course Margaret’s would follow immediately. Why would I be silly enough to assume an ‘of course’?

We waited, and waited, we checked our receipt – did he only charge us for one? Nope there it was – 2 eggs on toast.

Happily (?☺️) and finally an explanation.

“We only had one egg!!!! My colleague has just gone out to buy some more!!!!!”

They checked they had bread but didn’t check they had eggs?????? A restaurant????

Nothing to be done but to eat my now cold egg on toast while poor Margaret waited for her egg on toast to be found .

No words needed

And that was breakfast in Lisbon – we are now looking forward to lunch ☺️

Lazy in Lisbon

Today was a catch up day

The sun shone, the people smiled, the traffic was good and we ‘made like the locals’

Breakfast at our local bar – low on English, high on smiles. We managed to navigate the language sufficiently to get fresh orange juice and ham and cheese sandwiches dripping in delicious butter – heaven on earth, or at least on our street

Then off to Belém – where it all began. Well at least where Vasca da Gama set sail to discover me (aka South Africa – oh I remember our history lessons with pain 1497 😉) and the East.

Where Da Gama set off on his voyages of exploration

And a Pasteis de Belém.

To have had one of these is ‘Truely to have Lived’ was what I had been told. I smiled sweetly- I mean how good could they Really be? Good yes, but Really, let’s not exaggerate.

No one was.

We walked past a queue (line) of at least 80 people waiting to order and didn’t know about the side entrance leading into a labyrinth of rooms. All tiled in various colours, with tables and chairs everywhere and people coming and going, and sitting, eating and all taking photographs.

On an ordinary day 30 000 pasteis are baked but on a holiday up to 90 000 can be made. According to the same recipe since day one which was in 1837!!! Every one is hand made.

And to have one is indeed ‘to have Truely lived’.

I smile now, in agreement.

It really is something special – almost impossible to describe, a bit like a soft melk tert, but not, a bit like a french custard, but not.

A lot like heaven when you sprinkle the cinnamon (from the East) and the sugar (from Brazil) onto the warm pasteis and quietly swoon as the smell reaches you and that is even before it reaches your mouth!

And then you die 😍

But ah what a way to go!!!!

With 2 napkins always – 1 for your mouth and 1 for your tears when the pasteis has been eaten 🤗

A visit to the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art in Belém was so interesting. The school uses Lusitano horses from the Alter Real Stud farm established in 1748!!!! We were shown round their stables and watched the horses (or some of them) practicing.

And with such stunning weather what else but a train ride to Caiscais and lunch overlooking the sea, a gentle stroll around the town, a quick horse ride and train back.

And just to round off a lazy day In Lisbon – a delicious Portuguese drink – Liquor Beirao which has left me quite light headed and ready for 🛏 bed

Sintra – Dreamy Castles

Sintra – a city larger than Lisbon and with the most expensive real estate in the country is set in the Sintra mountain (hills actually) just north of Lisbon.

It also has a Whole lot of castles. Castles , of every shapes and size imaginable and even unimaginable. So much so that even Madonna thought to buy one here 🤣

So off we went to see what the fuss was all about.

And….. I hear you ask.

And indeed – What a day

Where do I begin? (Didn’t Frank Sinatra day something like that – perhaps he had Sintra in mind 🤣)

Maybe with the second place we visited : Palace of Pena

I quote “this palace is the finest example of nineteen century Portuguese Romanticism….. they (the castle and gardens) constitute the most important part of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra’s World Heritage site “ I unquote 😉

How do I begin?

A monastery (12 century) converted into a royal summer palace by King Ferdinand II beginning in 1838 and completed roughly some 12 years later.

How do I describe what I found?

I must confess – totally conflicted 😐

Ferdinand’s folly?

Fun in the summer?

Fantastic dreams?

Or just a case of ‘over the top’

A mishmash of styles,

A hodgepodge of colour

A chaotic combination of cultures

One man’s indulgence – or perhaps not – I am still trying to get my head around the place – suffice to say a bit of this and a bit of that and everything in between.

And still it was amazing, interesting and challenging

And in case our senses were not overwhelmed already we went to another castle the Quinta da Regaleira where we got totally lost trying to find the famous finished well which should have taken us underground to the lake. And may I add, we were not the only ones 🤣 we encountered at least 12 people doing the same and at the end felt like the pied piper. For some reason my look of knowledge 🤣🤣 found me leading the way to nowhere with several groups blindly following!!!!

and then of course there was our first castle – the Moorish one (my favourite – perhaps a blog one day) and before that there was …. can I even remember ?

Oh and the setting of the sun over that Atlantic at the most western tip of the European continent. Next stop – New York 😄

( we were not alone as you can see 😉 but no one fell off the cliff today which was a relief))

And then there was the famous Santini ice cream and did I tell you about the Belem pastry to die for?

Or the night in a local bar Fado singing and far too much wine ?

No of course I haven’t because the ‘day’ ended at midnight and another day begins with new adventures, so interesting as they all were, a few photos will have to suffice till I find more hours in a day