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Beginnings:

Welcome to Richard & Colleen’s excellent adventure blog.

This blog has been created to document our RTW (Round The World) trip which is planned to start sometime in June or July of 2018.  As Col is the literary giant in our partnership she will be providing the majority of the blog content, but of course I will chime in from time to time with my own input.  We ask for your patience as we learn and navigate through the world of blogging.  Our hope is that through this blog our family and friends will be able to take part in our journey, participate in our ups and downs and be with us as we set forth on our adventure of a lifetime.

  • IT’S THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION.
  • CARPE DIEM

The Grand Mosque

It is hard to believe that this is our last day in Oman. The time has passed so quickly!! After our run to the desert, Richard and I decided that we would prefer to spend our time exploring Muscat on our own and we cancelled our last two days of tours with Khalid. So, we have been doing a lot of walking and exploring. Yesterday we walked to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which dominates the Muscat skyline. It was amazing and again the pictures will never do it justice. Construction began in 1995 and was completed in 2001 using 300,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone.  The entire mosque will hold up to 20,000 worshippers with a private prayer room for women which holds 750 ladies. We wandered through the ablution rooms where worshippers wash before they pray. The ladies chamber was impressive in it’s own right but it was not until we reached the general prayer room which holds 6500 worshippers that the magnificence of the structure became apparent. The persian carpet on the floor measures 60 by 70 meters and took 600 Iranian ladies four years to weave.  The chandelier located in the center of the men’s prayer hall measures a staggering 14 meters and weighs 8.5 tons. It holds 600,000 shining bright Swarovski crystals, 24 carat gold plating and took more than four years to complete. The marble pillars, stained glass windows, and handcrafted inlay patterns on the walls were jaw dropping. A definite must see when visiting Muscat.

From the mosque, we took a taxi to the National Museum. After our first taxi experience on our arrival to Muscat where we paid double of what we should have, we have become quite shrewd in our negotiations. We haggled with a few drivers to get our price and enjoyed a pleasant conversation with our driver on the way to the museum. The museum is quite new and shows prehistoric through to modern Omani artifacts, clothing, weaponry, pottery, furniture as well as relations with other nations throughout the world. It was quite interesting and another recommended attraction.

We took another taxi to the souk that we had been to when we first arrived in Muscat. We wandered around there for awhile, then along the waterfront and decided it was time to make our way home. We hailed a couple of drivers but none were willing to accept our price so we started to walk.  We knew we would never make it all the way back to the condo as it was about 25 kilometers. However, we did walk for about an hour or so before we finally grabbed a cab to take us the rest of the way back. We got home in time to take Cedrik to his swimming lesson and spent an hour by the pool watching the kids swim.

We have no real plans for today other than packing, laundry, doing some shopping and going to see Elena’s Christmas concert. Our time here is almost over and we are going to miss this beautiful family that we have come to know so well. They have shown us so much kindness that words cannot begin to explain. We thank you Lionel, Martina, Elena and Cedrik for a wonderful stay in Oman!!

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The Ladies Prayer Room.

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The Main Prayer room.

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The Ablution area for washing before prayers.  There are more than one in the Mosque and separate ones for women.

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Water & Sand

Muscat is situated along the Sea of Oman, but it also sits next to the desert. Proof of this is found in the following picture which shows a sand dune right in the city. Again, not something you see everyday.

Cooling off in Lionel and Martina’s pool.

A Traditional Arabic Restaurant

Lionel and Martina took us to a traditional Arabic restaurant for supper and it was quite the experience.  Great atmosphere, wonderful tasty food and of course our hosts were top shelf.  So far we have found the food here extremely good and safe to eat and of course getting a Beer can sometimes be a challenge, but that is not always a bad thing.  Did I mention the Hookah?  We had a hookah (Shisha in the local language) which we shared and even Col tried a little puff.  It is definitely not like having a cigar or cigarette.  I took a couple of big inhales and it was not harsh at all.  I may have to get one when we get back home.

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Now for the food.  Lionel and Martina ordered appetizers for us which were tantalizing  to our taste buds to say the least.  As for the main course I had a Lamb Shawarma while Colleen went crazy again and had a Tex Mex Shawarma.  She is so daring.

Below is a picture of our appetizers which are as follows.  The small little brown patties are Falafel which are deep-fried patties of ground chickpeas, fava beans or both.  The small round dish with the spoon in the center is Moutable which is spicy eggplant dip.  To the right is a larger silver bowl which I am not sure of the name, but it was my favorite and is a mixture of yogurt, meats and other spices with pomegranates on top.  And of course you see the large Arabic bread used for dipping.   Yummy…….

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Four Wheeling in the Desert

Today was our first day with our tour guide Khalid and he was at the house exactly at 7 AM to take us in his Nissan Pathfinder to the desert. The drive was a little over three hours and we wound our way through a series of mountain ranges before reaching our destination. The highway for the most part was three lane each way and Khalid informed us that it was built within the last 7 years. The villages along the highway all looked like they were built within the last 7 years as well. Buildings were clean, neat and new. We did not see much wildlife other than a few camels and some long haired goats. In fact, we came up behind a camel in a pickup truck but we were past before I could get my camera out. However, we did get lucky in the desert and got a picture of TWO camels in the back of a truck.

The desert itself was amazing!! Sand dunes everywhere. Khalid thought it was a lot of fun to go ripping over the dunes at about 60 miles per hour (that my friends is not an exaggeration as I had a clear view of the speedometer!!) and after bumping our heads a few times on the roof, we asked him to slow down for us old people. We stopped for a photo op, then at an overnight camp that was deserted for the day and then at a Bedouin dwelling where we had some dates and a cup of coffee. For the uninformed, myself included, bedouin is a generic name for a desert-dweller and is a term generally applied to Arab nomadic pastoralist groups, who are found throughout most of the desert belt of Arabia and north Africa.

Before we left the desert we came across a four wheel drive with a flat tire. We stopped to give them a hand and while the Arab men were working out a system for changing the tire, we had a pleasant conversation with the folks from the broken down vehicle. They were Italian and had been in Abu Dhabi working on a Michael Bay movie. The movie has wrapped now and they are just enjoying some R&R in Oman. Before long the tire was fixed and away they went. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized that I had not asked what movie they were working on. I guess I’ll have to watch for a Michael Bay movie coming out in the next year or two. Maybe they were acting in it – I really have no idea.

So, out of the desert and off for some lunch. Just a quick burger and we were on our way back to Muscat. As we know, everything looks different coming from the other direction so we enjoyed the scenery just a much on the return trip.

Because we were home by midafternoon, we had the opportunity to see Elena and Cedrik play rugby. It certainly made us miss all our grandchildren at home and all the activities that were are missing with them. Know that we are thinking of you all and can’t wait to see you in June. ❤❤❤

 

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Flat tire in the Dessert.  Not a good thing and the owner of the vehicle was not very happy.

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Dates and Coffee at the Bedouin encampment.

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NOW this is a sight you don’t see everyday.  Well, at least where we come from.

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The Dessert. Quite Amazing!!!!

Muscat, Oman

Arrived in Muscat , early evening Friday. The first thing that we noticed was how quiet the airport was. Then, how quiet it was on the street. Then, everyone is driving in their own lane and not a horn to be heard. It was quite a change of pace from Delhi!

Our driver and future guide Khalid took us to our hotel for the night and we made arrangements to meet him for three days worth of tours. The hotel was very nice and after a good night’s sleep, a fantastic breakfast and a nice hot shower, we caught a cab over to our friends’ Martina and Lionel. As you may recall, we met them in Zanzibar about six weeks ago. Martina is Czech and Lionel is French. They live in Oman with their two young children Elena and Cedrik. Lionel is manager of a desalination project and Martina is a coordinator at the local French school. They have taken the time from their very busy lives to host us for the week that we are here. They started by taking us for a drive through Muscat to the Sultan’s palace. We walked around the beautiful ornate grounds in front of the palace and took a few pictures in front of the gates. From there we wandered along the docks where the cruise ships have a port of call. The children helped a man feed the seagulls and then we went across the street to explore the old fort and lookout tower. After climbing quite a few stairs, we got a wonderful view of the city. Muscat should be called the “White City” because 99% of the buildings are white. There are no skyscrapers as the law allows buildings to be only a few stories high. This ensures that everyone can see the mountains that rise along the city limits. There is much construction everywhere within Muscat as tourism continues to grow here. The freeway system and roads in general are new and well thought out.

Once we got back to ground level, we went into the souk (market), the largest and oldest in Muscat. Much like the markets in Thailand and India, the shops sold everything from soup to nuts. The big difference was that there was not the noise and general chaos that we have seen in other markets.  Again, everything was clean, neat and organized.

We picked up some street food and headed back “home” for supper. As well as the street food of large and small samosas, deep fried chicken wraps, battered hard boiled eggs, and spicy deep fried onions, Martina had also made a large pot of spaghetti. The meal was delicious and the company second to none.

With the children in bed, we sat in the living room with some wine and visited like old friends. It was a wonderful close to a wonderful day.

This morning both Lionel and Martina had to work and the kids went to school. (work week here is Sunday to Thursday) . Martina dropped us off at her hairdressers so that I could get a haircut and Richard could wait patiently for me. Once that was complete we got our Google Maps running and walked for about an hour down to the Shati Al Qurum (loosely translated to The Beach). We walked along the beach letting the waves crash over our feet. The water was nice and warm and we wished that we had thought to bring our bathing suits. We took a cab back to the condo and are spending the rest of the afternoon writing and relaxing by the pool. Life is tough here in Muscat!!

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The two Royal Yachts which apparently do not get used very often, but they sure are impressive.

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Believe it or not we are standing in the Sea of Oman.  Just a note to clarify that Michael Oman does not own this Sea.  

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Farewell to India

Our eleven day adventure has come to an end. As we pack our bags for the last time in India, we marvel at the sights and sounds that we have experienced. We feel that we have seen an India that many tourists do not see. We rode in tuk tuks, buses, trains, boats and cars. We saw cows, pigs, dogs, camels and goats wandering the city streets. We saw poor people and rich people. We saw palaces, forts, markets, celebrations, and funerals. We took a boat down the holy Ganges and witnessed every day life. We took two overnight trains. We stuffed ourselves with food and drink. We made new friends. It is overwhelming to think that we crammed all of this into only eleven days. Though this country may be poor in many things, it is very rich in culture and beauty. We are not sure whether we will ever return but it has definitely been an experience that is worth having. I challenge you all to add it to your bucket list.

Gandhi & a Food Walk

We boarded the train at 5:00 AM to make the trip from Jaipur to Delhi.  This will be our last full day in India and it started off great as we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise as we sped by the Indian country side reflecting on all we have seen of this amazing country.

The train was actually ahead of schedule which is quite rare for India which placed us at our hotel around 11:30 AM.  After a short wait we checked into our rooms, freshened up and headed out to the Gandhi memorial.  Within the memorial is the house where Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life and it is also the place where he was assassinated.  We took our time going through the museum which detailed the life of this great man from his birth in India, his leaving for London where he studied to become a lawyer, his years in South Africa where he fought for human rights up until his return to his home country of India in 1915.  It was well worth the visit.

From there we drove through the government quarters and by the parliament building on our way to our walking food tour.  Colleen and I were a bit apprehensive about how the food would be in India and I have to say that we were pleasantly surprised.  Instead of losing weight I think we may have put on a few more pounds.  I will talk more about the food tour later, but in the mean time these are some of the foods we have sampled.

Chicken:  Chicken Masala, Chicken Curry, Chicken Wala.  Lamb curry and lamb Masala.  They serve a lot dishes with a cottage cheese base which is called Paneer.  This can come in variety of ways which includes vegetables, chick peas, spinach blended with a creamy tomato or brown gravy and of course mixed with the finest Indian spices.  Naan, we had Naan with almost all of our meals it is a flatbread that you use to soak up the wonderful sauces.  Of course there was always lamb available which I had quite a few times.  Other than that rice was a common meal along with some of the local dishes I tried at different stops along the way.  We avoided street food and drank only bottled water as per AJ’s instructions and it worked out well.  There were other little tid bits now and then, but I am not able to recall those at the moment.

The cuisine on our walking tour is as follows.

Chicken Sharma.

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Paneer masala Monos

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Chicken Honey Monos

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Tandoori Chicken Monos

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Afghani Chicken Monos.

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Bhel Puri

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Aloo Tikki.

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Pav Bhakti.

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Dahi Golgappa

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Stick Kulfi (Kesar Pista Badam)

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Gulab Jamun

Jalebi

Lassi

Maharajah McChicken and Fillet O Fish. Well this one wasn’t actually on the tour, but it was pretty good.

You can Google these items if you so wish to find out more about them. Over all it was a very good culinary experience.

Jaipur – The Pink City

We arrived in Jaipur around noon on Tuesday, Dec 4. We stopped for lunch at the Green Pigeon in the old city. The food was very good but the reason that I am mentioning this particular restaurant is that we had entertainment while we ate. A father played an Indian string instrument called a Ravenahatha while his son danced. The boy was probably about 10 years old and he was quite the little ham. He had us all clapping in delight and then he would choose ladies from the tables to come up and dance with him. It was very entertaining and we enjoyed it immensely.

After lunch we headed to the Amber Fort and Palace. Maharaja Man Singh I, who led Mughal Emperor Akbar’s army, commenced its construction in 1592 on the remains of an 11th-century fort. Made out of sandstone and marble, Amber Fort consists of a series of four courtyards, palaces, halls, and gardens. We wandered through the palace that housed the king’s twelve wives and 200 concubines. We gaped at the mirrored hall (Sheesh Mahal) where the walls and ceiling are covered in mirror mosaic. The craftsmanship on the marble pillars was breathtaking and the gardens beautiful. All too soon it was time to leave but not before we witnessed a crew from Bollywood filming a dance number in the main courtyard. It was quite fun!

We got to our hotel  and said goodbye to our bus driver. From here on in, we’re back to tuks tuks and trains.

The next morning we went to the old city by tuk tuk. The traffic is still crazy but seems a little more organized than Delhi and Varanasi. There are even a few traffic lights!! AJay took us for a walk around the old city. It is called the Pink City because in 1875, Prince Albert, the Prince of Wales was coming for a visit to India with a stop at Jaipur which at that time was the capital city. The Maharaja (Sawai Ram Singh) decided to paint all the buildings a terracotta (pink) colour which is the welcoming colour in India. This colour is so significant to the heritage of the city that it is enforced under local law. In fact, there were many bamboo scaffoldings across the streets where people were repainting the walls to bring out the pink. We saw spice markets where mountains of red chili peppers lined the streets. There was also barrels of saffron, curry, cumin, cinnamon sticks and many others too numerous to mention. We went down a lane of tea shops and most of the group stopped to buy some Chai tea to take back home with them. We wound our way to the largest functioning Observatory in all of India. Called Jantar Mantar it is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, and completed in 1734. It features the world’s largest stone sundial. What is amazing is how precise these large marble stone instruments are. Of course I did not really understand a lot of what our guide told us, but he could tell time to the second on the large sundial.  Now that was impressive!!

The rest of the day was our own free time so Richard and I wandered around the streets for a while, had a quick lunch and headed back to the hotel. Louis and Lisa arrived shortly after us and we spent a pleasant afternoon out on the terrace discussing politics, history and religion. It only reinforced to us again that travel is a great way to learn about the world that we live in.

We were up bright and early this morning and caught a train to Delhi which should arrive by noon. This is our last full day in India and I believe are going to the Ghandi museum followed by a food crawl. I can’t believe that 11 days has flown by so quickly!!   

The Amber Palace.

The Floating Palace

The Observatory.

The Worlds Biggest Sundial.

The Spice Market and the Pink City.

You never know what you will come across in India.

The Palace Oasis – Tordi Garh

We arrived at Tordi Garh early afternoon. A light lunch was served up for us of sandwiches, french fries, naan bread and some delicious Indian nuggets (sorry, do not know what they were). We spent a quiet afternoon recuperating from our journey and enjoying the quiet and the castle. After the noise, traffic and smog in Delhi and Varanasi, this was a little slice of heaven. The group met on the outside terrace for drinks around seven and we had a wonderful evening bonding, sharing stories, food and drink. The ladies (and Felix) decided to do henna tattoos and two girls from the village came with their designs. The girls were so very talented and as you can see from the pictures, the tattoos were beautiful.

Early the next morning, Richard and I and Miriama and Felix followed a guide up the hill behind the castle to the ruins of the former fortress in order to watch the sunrise. The climb was not an easy one and at times I wondered if I was going to make it to the top. However, we were successful and after about an hour of climbing we reached the ruins. We waited for the sun to rise and it was beautiful. It was so peaceful. God is great!

We explored the ruins for a few minutes. The fortress was originally built on the mountain in the 16th century. From this vantage point you can see for miles so they could always see the enemy coming. However, life was hard on the mountain as all supplies had to be brought up the mountain, including water and food. The fortress was eventually rebuilt on the plains below and the descendants of the brave men that fought for this land are spread throughout a number of villages throughout the region.

Once back from our hike, we packed our bags and then AJ took us for a walk around the village. We stopped in at a local pottery shop and watched the master potter spin a few pots, cups, piggybanks and bowls on a pottery wheel run without any electricity. We were shown the kiln and the final product. These products are sold to markets in Jaipur and other towns in the region. Of course, there are always children in the village to warm your heart and many groups on the way to school stopped to say hello and have their pictures taken.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to this place. With renewed souls and energy, we stepped onto the bus to take us to our next adventure – Jaipur – the Pink City.  

The Palace that was converted to a hotel:

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The Henna:

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The Sunrise Hike:

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The Village Walk:

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The man you see in the Village when you need some ironing done.  The iron is heated by hot coals.

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This next picture was of interest.  When someone is going to get married the names and date are put on the house and the whole town is invited.  

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