Where am I?

Created this blog to document my travels, experiences & thoughts thru Central & South America but hell plan to blog my travels to where ever. Goofy harmless Free Spirit hoping to spend most of my time with locals & enjoy the world! So hang on as I travel, drink cervezas, raise a little hell, maybe piss off a few people & hopefully not give Canadians a bad reputation! Of course don't do these things on purpose but while having a good time well "Shit Happens"!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Yeah Iraqi Kurdistan was a different adventure cus we all know about the Iraq Wars & figure all of Iraq is dangerous but the Kurdistan part is cool!!

So although we saw signs to Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk, etc. well we never entered any of those dangerous areas. Shit even the Kurds didn't want to go to those areas. But some Kurds go to those cities cus they have family there! So when we travelled in Iraqi Kurdistan all the taxis and mini buses detoured around any possible treks in regular Iraq.

Hell it seemed even the Iraqi's didn't want to go to those cities never mind the Kurds or foreigners! We met a few Iraqi's who were vacationing in Iraqi Kurdistan. We they they probably found it a lot more peaceful and safe (hell we know they did with out them telling us) in Iraqi Kurdistan rather than in regular Iraq. We found the Iraqis we met to be friendly and curious about where we came from, etc. A lot of Kurds and Iraqis asked us why did we come to Iraqi Kurdistan. Our answer to their question was "We came to Iraqi Kurdistan because we could!!".

Saw all these American army equipment hanging there by the Iraq - Turkish border. Don't know if they are being ready to be used or left over from a previous time. Shit there was a lot but luckily didn't see any in action. Hell in South East Turkey we were closer to seeing military equipment being used as the Turkish army ere chasing a bunch of PKK militant or terriorist guerillas who killed a Turkish soldier so we heard.

Roland sends a postcard from every country he visits but he couldn't find any post cards in Iraq. So even tho I don't send postcards well decided to send a couple as we made a couple of home made postcards. We had to get a picture printed and put a backing on it. Then we wrote the postcard and had to find the post office to post our home made post cards. So the pic below is of the people working in the post card. As u may notice not all girls or women wear the head scarves as they are Kurdish not Iraqi Muslims.

We also bought a couple of Kurdishstan flags as Roland likes souvenirs from each country while I can't be bothered as it takes a lot of space. But did buy a small flag so decided to wear it rather than carry. I later gave it to this Kurdish man in eastern Turkey who had us stay at his home overnight.

I don't mean to knock Roland cus we got along super but he sure liked to shop in bazaars, souks or markets. I found myself waiting for him a lot of times. He wanted to buy a small water heater for a cup to make tea or coffee. So he must have checked all electrical type stores in iraqi Kurdistan I think. I kept wondering why doesn't he just look for it when he gets back to Germany cus sure they have everything there! The only thing I bought was a cell or mobile phone in Iraq cus the battery in my old phone was dead & I couldn't get another battery for it cus the phone is so old. I use my phone as a clock & alarm cus need it catch buses, etc. So I paid $25 for this Nokia phone cus for some reason thought it would cheaper in Iraq but think I guess wrong but oh well I always guess wrong!

These pics don't do it justice but there are some very scenic beautiful sights in the Kurdishstan mountains, so check out my shitty pics and try to use ur imagination.

I thought that Iraqi Kurdistan was a great country as the people are all so friendly, helpful and kind. In fact they get so few tourists that when we went anywhere the 2 of us were the main focal point as people just gathered around us to most just stare as few could speak English!

But it got to the point that it was starting to get to be a pain in the ass for me but I think Roland kind of fed off it! Hell he'd stand and chat with these people using a word or 2 of Kurd and the rest of the time he'd talk in German! Hell neither the Kurds or he knew what the hell they were talking about! But most of it was like What's your name?, Where are u from? It was the same old small talk shit over and over & I'm not big on small talk especially when I can't understand them or them me! It was just hard work which I didn't need cus dislike work, ha ha!

Roland and I were a strange looking pair which added to the stares and attention by these people who hardly ever see foreigners! He's tall 2 meter & 3 cm he says which in my calculation is about 6 ft 9 in or so! While I'm just a midget next to him! Plus he's German and well I'm Canadian of Japanese descent. So I don't how many times we had to explain " he is from Allemania (German in Arabic I think) and I'm Canadian but yes I'm Japanese so go figure dude!

One night there was the final game of the European Championship football match. Roland wanted to go and watch it cus Munich was playing Milan. Plus there was this German guy who has a German restuarant in Erbil. Guess the guy likes to open restuarants in off beat places. Roland told me the guy had owned a restuarant in Afghanistan a few years before. So we went to this restuarant and watched on big screen TV drinking German beer. There were a lot of German business men there so the resturant prices were geared to them as it was dam expensive. I enjoyed watching the game even if I know very little about soccer/football. But was really getting into the game and started to know the players as watched a semi final game played by Munich in Syria before that time. But unfortunately the outcome wasn't what we wanted but u can't have everything. Wil probably end up watching some World Cup Games too in June as most people are soccer/football crazy in this part of the world - hell in most parts of the world but US and Canada I guess!

A Kurd told us u have to go to this resort type village in the mtns called Plank! So of course we took a mini bus and got off by the highway! So we hitch hiked to this town Shaqwila which is a beautiful town with trees (don't laugh cus some don't any). Then we got out and hitched again and got picked up by this man and his family! He was friendly and so was his wife as she didn't shrink into her seat and hide like some women would! So when we got to this village by Plank we got out and the guy wanted some money for the ride! We had no problem with that cus most people in Iraq, Turkey and some other countries around aren't familar with hitch hiking. So they think that we are just flagging down a car to get a ride as the car will act as a temporary taxi for the trip! So we gave the guy 5 dinars each or about $3. But the guy wanted double that amount but we weren't going to pay that so he got a bit upset (only incident we had in Kurdistan Iraq). So we gave him the 10 dinars and walked away as didn't want to create an international incident or get shot by some upset driver. So that ended that incident as we didn't have to call in the Marines, ha ha! We ducked into a restuarant cus it was lunch time anyway! So the driver just drove away a bit pissed at foreigners probably! But this guy eating in the restuarant was friendly and bought us lunch. Shit Roland eats a lot and had 2 or 3 sharmwas and I only had 1 but would have had 2 also if I knew this guy was going to shout (slang for buy in Aussie) us lunch! So our celebrity appeal hadn't been tarnished I guess.

So we started to walk up the hill to this resort area called Plank to stay the night. But we got a ride to the place by this local. (no we didn't have to pay as only paid for a ride once in Kurdistan Iraq). But shit we found out that it was really touristy and the prices of a place to stay was going to cost us mimimun $175. So of course we almost ran away in fright! Hell we could have stayed in budget hotels for a week for that price. So this man and woman gave us a ride back to town. Then another guy gave us a ride to the bus station in another town so we could catch a mini bus or taxi back to Dohuk a city close to the Turkish border. But when we got to the bus station we found there were no more mini buses that day. But we could take a shared taxi to Dohuk. Unfortuantely the taxi has only space for 4 people comfortably. But there ended up 5 of us including a woman plus her kid. So we had a choice either we wait for another taxi but it was getting late and there may not be any more people going. So we decided to squeeze in the taxi but negotiated a better price. The driver wanted $10 each (a king's ransom to us) but we got it down to 1/2 the price by both of us sitting in the 1 front seat together. Shit Roland is 2 meter and change and I'm just change so the front seat was crowded and it was a 3 hr trip. But one has to do what one has to do to get around. Shit when we both got in the taxi the guy couldn't change gears with Roland's long leg spread across the gear shift. But hey we made it back to Dohuk in 1 piece but my back felt like someone sat on it! But it was just one more funny experience on our crazy fun adventure!!

One time we were in this village Amadie sp? which is a beautiful village built on top of this mtn and is suppose to be the most beautiful village in Iraqi Kurdistan! So of course we had to check it out! We also had to take a shared taxi there and had to wait in the hot sun to find enough passengers to get a shared taxi back to Zohan the last city we went to before passing back into Turkey!

But I think going to the village of Hadeja near the Iranian border was the best time we had in Kurdistan Iraq. We took a mini bus from Suylamania for 3 hrs. The village is like spitting distance from the Iranian border. We went to check out the museum dedicated to the 5,000 anhilated by Chemical Ali's work commanded by who else Saddam Hussein. The pics and people who died there didn't know what hit them. They hid the chemicals in the bombs with some very nice smelling aroma so the people inhaled it and died.

There are still a lot of buildings that are destroyed. But the people were all friendly and nice to us! Shit they all would crowd around us to stare and try to talk!

Then we hitched back to Suylamania in 1 hr by this man and his son including a stop for lunch. So when we got back to the city we hit the Terror Museum showing more of Saddam Hussein's handy work with the Kurds! Kind of gave us the opinion that he didn't like Kurds!

But with all the distruction to them the Kurds all have a friendly and kind dispostion. They seem upbeat cus guess they got their own region now and self governing!

So we had an awesome trip to Iraqi Kurdistan and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Travelling to me is an adventure & have to say our trip to Iraqi Kurdistan was that as ıt was a real experience!!

Well had another great experience (but it may not be everyone's idea of a great experience) but yeah going to check out Iraqi Kurdistan was a different trip! Probably cus there was a little mystic, apprehension, knowledge of the wars in Iraq & the unknown of what the region was about!

So like the idiot traveller I am well I have to go & check the place out. I must say that I could eliminate any thought of apprehension or fear cus there was nothing to be concerned about. I suppose the name Iraq brings images of the wars, bombings and bloodshed that has gone on in Iraq. But that was and is the regular country of Iraq & the Kurdistan part is completely different. Heck we hitch hiked in the region a number of times & met some friendly, curious and nice people.

If you are wondering what the heck the following pics are about. Well went to visit the Terror Museum in one of the cities Suylimania. It was a museum of the horror and killing that Suddam Hussein and his hinchmen inflicted on the Kurdish people. Yeah OK so some of pics aren't that great cus they are pics of pics so hence a bit dorky. But hey I took and posted them cus I wanted them in this posting for my memories of the museum not cus they look nice! I don't personally care if this blog is pretty and well designed cus I have limited time, shitty internet response and don't really give a care so this is kind of my personal journal as well as share my travels, pics and views with anyone stupid enough to read this travel blog.

Went to this village called Hadeja close to the Iranian border to check out the Museum dedicated to the 5000 Kurds killed by the chemical bombs created by Chemical Ali who was Saddam Hussein's wingman. Chemical Ali was caught in 2009 and put to death. So the pen used to order his execution is also in the museum!

Roland and I were such spectacles that a bunch of guys working at a construction site stopped to gawk at us! One guy even wanted Roland to sign his arm! Talk about celebrities, ha ha! Roland ate it up but I felt a bit embarrassed and silly!

The big dude in the pic is an Iraqi doctor from Baghdad who was staying in our hotel. Really friendly and curious about us like alll the rest of the people!

Went to a Textile Museum in Erbil the capital of Kurdistan Iraq. Yeah never go to museums but Roland wanted to go so who was I to say no. But it was OK!

The Textile museum is in Erbil in the Citadel which had this statue of this poet so of course had to have a pic with the dude! The one pic is sort of sideways so turn your head it's OK!

Andrew and Ellen pictured here with Roland were 2 of only 5 foreigners we met in all of Iraqi Kurdista. i had met the 2 Assies in Trabzon Turkey and we shared a taxi witht the 2 of them one day.

So yeah I went wıth my German friend Roland as we both travelled quickly to Mardin a Turkish city close to the Iraqi border. But shit after we hurried to get to Mardin we had to wait 3 hrs for a bus to get to Silopi the last Turkish town before the Iraq border. We wanted to get there so we could leave our back packs there and only travel with a day pack for our time in İraqi Kurdistan. So we just went to this hotel mentioned in the guide book & asked if we could leave our packs there as we would stay there when we returned from Iraq. Of course we knew we wouldn’t be staying there after we found out the price of the rooms!!

We then got a taxi which charges 20 TL/14 dollars to drive us to the Iraqi border and do all the paper work to get us ınto Iraq. They usually wait until they get 4 people to take before going.

So we ended up with Roland and I plus 2 Iraqi kurdısh guys! It was ınterestıng to talk to Alex as he calls hımself now (hıs real name ıs Saman) as he spoke good English. He told us he worked as an ınterpreter for the US Army. But a lot of Iraqı’s were starting to think he was a traitor. So he got an US army captain to help get him out of Iraq. So for the past 6 years he had been in exile in Europe. In fact he had gotten married to a Swedish girl and was just returning to visit his family for the first time ın 6 years. His family was in Baghdad so he was kind of scaried about going there so was keeping a low profile in case someone found out he was back in Iraq and told the police on him. So we had a meal with the 2 Iraqı Kurds, got hıs email address and parted ways.
The taxi driver did all the running around to get our visa for the 14 dollars as we just talked. So the entry procedure was even easier than most border crossings. Plus we didn’t have to pay for a visa!

Iaqi Kurdistan or Kurdistan Region is an autonomous Regıon of Iraq

. It borders Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and the rest of Iraq to the south. Its capital is the city of Arbıl known in Kurdish as Hewlêr. The Region is officially governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The establishment of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq dates back to the March 1970 autonomy agreement between the Kurdish opposition and the Iraqi government after years of heavy fighting. The Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s and the Anfal genocide campaign of the Iraqi army devastated the population and nature of Iraqi Kurdistan. Following the 1991 uprising of the Iraqi people against Saddam Hussein, many Kurds were forced to flee the country to become refugees in bordering regions of Iran and Turkey. A northern no-fly zone following the First Gulf War in 1991 to facilitate the return of Kurdish refugees was established. As Kurds continued to fight government troops, Iraqi forces finally left Kurdistan in October 1991 leaving the region to function de facto independently; however, neither of the two major Kurdish parties had at any time declared independence and Iraqi Kurdistan continues to view itself as an integral part of a united Iraq but one in which it administers its own affairs. The 2003 invasion of Iraq by joint coalition and Kurdish forces and the subsequent political changes in post-Saddam Iraq led to the ratification of the new Iraqi constitution in 2005. The new Iraqi constitution stipulates that Iraqi Kurdistan is a federal entity recognized by Iraq and the United Natiıons, and gives Kurdish joint official language status in all of Iraq, and sole official language status in Iraqi Kurdistan.

We visited all the major cıtıes and a lot of the villages ın the region.