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Published: February 10th 2019
Final scenes of London
Day 74: Smooth commute back to Ashford. Really nice to catch up with Hat after a few months, and be with the grandparents at the same time. Hours sadly pass very quickly sitting around that table. Slept like a log with the comfort a non-hostel bed.
Day 75: Packing skill-set truly tested with some of the acquisitions, but after a couple hours of deliberation and trial it all fitted in the 90 litre pack. Dawned on me after a couple of big 'see you laters' that the trip is very much coming to a close. Gatwick check-in was as quick as Europe even with bag. Istanbul airport is both massive and chaos, never seen so much ground support on the move. Upgrade to premium economy for the short leg to Beirut - nice one.
Day 76: First recent war-torn city I've been too - you can still see the marks on some buildings. Police drive Dodge Chargers and Harley Davidson's. Mighty sea defence efforts going on. Bible bookshop seemed a bit niche. Another land of stray cats. Best city to listen to the call to prayer.
Pockets of archaeology. Heard Big Shaq 'Man's not hot' full volume during
Beirut - Can just see snowy mountains in background
rush hour - admittedly only some of you will get the amusement of that. Good chinwag with a Kiwi who's been working and riding motorbike across the world for 20 years - seemed to have read something about everything at some point in time.
Day 77: Witnessed a scene I doubt I'll forget, an 80 year old on a swing having a ripper of a time. Bluebird day. Apart from side street stalls, food is even more expensive than Stockholm. National museum featured some great artifact names - 'Sarcophagus of the Drunken Cupid's' and 'Drunk Silenus on a Panther' my favourite titles. A sight that took me a little aback was one of the former empires used to place skeletons in a terracotta jar for burial.
Day 78: Notable visit from today was the central bank museum - used to have beautiful bank notes. My weight is also worth 4.7billion Lebanese pounds in gold. They bake bread with holes in them to acts as handles for mobile stalls - quite neat I thought. Change of hostels, arguably the best of the trip - gym, bar, heated pool.
Day 79: Jumped in a random mini van 'bus' and
Quite a cool hostel in Beiruit
had to take the locals word that I was eventually headed for Jeitta Grotto. Even on the return, they drive like it's a PlayStation game. Sadly not allowed to take pictures inside the expansive caves, but one of the highlights from the entire trip without a doubt. Huge stalagmites and stalactites, even had a boat trip up the river within the lower cave. Quite hard to describe, so I've put a picture from the internet for reference.
Admittedly getting a bit sick of the second hand smoke and fumes - keen for some clean NZ air. However, not many things better than fresh falafel so it all balances out in the short term.
Day 80: Turns out I've been here during a rather tense political time with threats of civil unrest - but you wouldn't know it which I think reflects some misconceptions about parts of the Middle East in general. Lebanon has the most complex socio-political system I know. Something I will miss is seeing such close snow-capped mountains to the coast. Beirut Airport isn't much to talk about.
Day 81: On a plane.
Day 82: 30-hour stop-over in Auckland. Received the full shake down
Plenty of street art around
by customs after the passport system noted my recent travel history needed attention. Why I visited every country, how it was funded etc. was all noted. Shout to Captain Nev for the patient pick-up. Good to briefly see the boys again.
Day 83-89: Headed to Taranaki to see the parents and their expanding collection of animals. Nice to be met by Taffy jumping out the car window. Enjoyed a bit of R+R. Longest I've have been in one place for four months. Some great walks around the place. Was holding out the blog entry for a summit of Mt. Taranaki, but a rolled ankle but a halt to that.
Day 90+: Auckland for a while, but more trips on the horizon. An African road trip and Mongolia has especially taken my fancy.
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