Monday, December 14, 2009

Online Diary: OZ Rally '09

visiting a minefield in Kosovo
In search of the greatest Freedom Fest on earth, Fiona, a banger car rally enthusiast and veteran, and I, an expert culinary vagabond, planned to drive 22,000 miles in a '69 Baja Beetle from London to Sydney this summer. We also decided to adopt the charity No More Landmines. They work to clear minefields around the world and also support mine victim rehabilitation centres. We raised around USD 5,000 together for the Mine Awareness Trust (http://www.mineawareness.org/) in Kosovo and the COPE rehab center (http://www.copelaos.org/) in Laos. It's incredible to think that just £50 can help an adult or child who has been maimed by a landmine to walk again! It feels good to get involved in countries that we are visiting and help the local communities, and we would like to thank all of our friends for donating to this cause. We personally visited both projects enroute and we assured everyone that both are honest charities who work very hard at making their communities a better and safer place.
We did not make it all the way to Australia with the car. We suffered many setbacks which included ongoing car problems, illness, weather (rainy season in SE Asia), and of course, a major dispute with our compulsory self-drive tour company in Tibet. Unfortunately, we were not able to make up for lost time before Fiona's deadline on Oct 14. This is when she had to return to work, and her boss would not give her any more time off despite her desperate pleads from China. ;'( We did make it to our last charity project in Vientiane together with Pedro, and this is where we said our last farewells. Fiona continued on to Singapore where she shipped the car back to the UK, and afterwards flew to Brisbane to meet up with family and friends. I continued on the original route on my own, making additional stops along the way, and eventually ended up at a holistic spa in Bali for some much need rest and relaxation for 2 weeks. Afterwards, I flew to Kerala, checked into an Ayurveda hospital for 23 days where I received a complete Panchakarma detox. A lifetime dream come true! After 5 years on the road I can say that the Oz Rally had to be my biggest challenge to date. This online journal has truly been a labor of love and hope that you enjoy it very much. HugS!

videoCharity is not only about helping the survivors, but also honoring those who died defending their respective country's freedom. God Bless. Many thanks to Artur, MAT project manager, for all his generosity.


videoA typical day in the Oz Rally, Yep! Keep reading for more challenging but hilarious adventures. Driving in Pakistan on our way to the Indian border

Friday, December 4, 2009

Kuwait: Ayna s-suq dahab?

Well, we never found the 'real' gold souk as Heidi could not remember how to get there. Every time I asked someone we would be directed to the smaller souk where the selection was not what I was looking for. I'm so glad I went to Kuwait. Love it! Heidi was so much fun to be around and a really good host. She has been working in the ME for a couple of years now and last time she was in Houston I missed her. At least we found the camels. Love camels! So, sad could not go camel riding in the desert because they were all prego. Looking back at these photos I almost forgot! I did wear the same outfit for a week. Lol!!! This was because I had a 'little' mishap at the airport in Singapore, and frankly could care less at this point. (you can read about it on the India post). This was the only 'muslim' worthy outfit in my bag. One of the coolest thing I have seen is a washer/dryer combo. So, Cool! Heidi had one in her apt, tho, a load takes 2 hours.
A final stop to visit Heidi, a former roomie in Houston, who is now working in Kuwait.

Many are surprised to find out I only travel with 2 pieces of luggage, but here is the proof!

Marhaba, Chitless Foodie!


Our first dinner and this is what you get when you order the fruit salad.



Kuwaiti Towers at night

Out for veg sushi


Kuwait City

Falaika Island, twenty kilometers east of Kuwait City, is one of Kuwait's most famous islands. It was an upscale and peaceful settlement before the Iraqi invasion. During this time the locals moved to the city and were compensated for their land by the gov't. Today, it is mostly uninhabited and used for Kuwaiti and American military drills. On the weekends, the locals enjoy the island's resort, boating, fishing, watersports, and diving. Desert Storm remnants are widely visible as the bombed structures are still standing.

Bank
Mosque


Housing

Iraqi tank cemetery


Beautiful desert sunset

Jim! (luv yah) but you are awful at taking photos, Lol!!! (well, maybe not, as I did post many of your photos)

Camel caretaker from Yemen. He so happy when we arrived to play with the camels.
This man is our driver and he had a penchant for crashing photos. He ruined my photo!
1 He is in all of Heidi's photos, funny! (well, not really) Look at the way he is holding her hand down! She looks so uncomfortable, poor Babeh! The camels and caretaker very happy! This could of being such a photo..


The camels were having a blast! They kept coming around us and wanted to play and pose for the photos

So, was I.....

Pretty Lady Camels!





I had such a blast with Heidi! She rocks!

Camels do not spit and are very fun loving animals. They love to come up to you and snuggle

They like to rub their noses on you and love it when you show them affection

snuggling the handler

canoodling with her boyfriend. Soo cute!

Reindeer

More bombed buildings

Bullet holes, Everywhere! War is not pretty and hope our troops in nearby Iraq stay safe.

Dinner with our favourite mint lemonades

Kuwaiti Towers during the Day. Going up!

Kuwait City is a posh living and play space built in the middle of the desert


Kuwaitis spoil their children rotten. You can see family outdoor spaces, amusement parks, and waterparks all over the city. Kinda like Starbucks in the US.

I wanna go to the waterpark!

You can see reminders of Desert Storm all over Kuwait City. Here is a photo of the Air Conditioner Command Center. Hey! it's hot in the desert. In the summer months just 5 minutes is unbearable.

"The Iraqi invaders made beautiful oasis (garden) a dead land"


Salam!

Where there is a fort, there will be cannons! This one is pretty.

On the ferry to Falaika. This was supposed to be a 45 min ride but unbeknownst to us we were let on the 'working ferry.' The one used by the military and transport and the trip took almost 1.5 hours!

We posed for photos, talked to the locals,

and of course, napped! "Are we there, yet?"

I see land!

Surprisingly enough, for a Gulf, the water is a pretty shade of blue and clear. SCUBA is good here.




Yipeee! We are here!

and a slew of funny vehicles disembarked



First glimpse of the Island is not the resort, but a Desert Storm open air live museum

making a lil' movie for y'all!








heee-heee!
I told him to backed off. Now, I wished I would of done the same for Heidi.

I feel bad, cos, I am the one that took that really good photo...

the camel is soooo cute! For this one, I did!

Moroccan dinner and minted lemonades. Kuwait is completely dry. It's illegal, in fact. Alcohol is not 'publicly' served.

My faves, Morrocan salad

and lentil soup.....Delish!


Hurry up and take my photo...

so, that I can eat my....malabiyya...my newest obsession! Custard flavoured with cardamon and rose water and topped with pistachios. Yum! It's Lebanese, tho....


Because the ferry took twice as long as we expected and it gets dark in Kuwait by 1630, Heidi and Jim kept trying to rush me, Arghhh!!! What about the blog? They love the lil' videos!!!

video
The destruction caused by Iraq during the invasion

video
Iraqi armoured car cemetery & desert sunset

video
Meeting the Kuwaiti camels

video
There were so many camels and the corral we were in was all pregnant femmes. Some were really tall and if you stood still long enough it was kinda freaky. You know, to have as many as 10 huge camels surround at a very slow pace and twice your height. It was like something out of Jurassic Park! They did not mean any harm, they were very curious about us...