To continue with my poetic divertimento, here are some more limericks, ditties and other poetic creations inspired by Mark and Kirsty’s twelve years on the road each carrying all their worldly goods in a rucksack small enough to be classed as a carry-on when boarding an aircraft or hugged safely to their chests in a louage or marshrutka. As in Part 1, the order of the poetic creations is random but accompanied by a short narrative explaining the background and illustrated by one of their vast collection of photographs. Here goes:
Off the Grid: Gers and Thievery
We’ve slept in gers in Mongolia,
Been robbed of cash in Abkhazia.
And just like Bob Dylan,
‘Climbed mountains, seen fountains’,
And drank tea with Turks in Anatolia.
As you might imagine, Mark and Kirsty have slept in some strange habitations, including a traditional ger (pronounced gee-ya) in Mongolia when they spent three weeks in the country back in 2010. A ger is the Mongolian name for what the Russians call a yurt – a pack-up-and-travel circular tent made from animal skins, wooden poles and frames, rope, and complete with doors, windows, stove and soft furnishings inside – what one might term Gucci camping accompanied by the sound of farting goats and smell of yak butter tea.
In all their travels to off-the-beaten-path places, only twice have they ever been close to a life-threatening situation. The most serious one happened in Abkhazia, a disputed territory in the north of Georgia bounded by Georgia, Russia and the Black Sea. Abkhazians claim sovereignty over the place whereas Georgia says no way. Be that as it may, the area has a reputation for lawlessness although Mark and Kirsty would argue otherwise except on the occasion they were accosted by three men while wandering around the old mining town of Tkvarcheli. You can read the full story here but the bottom line is that most their money was taken from them and, for a while, it looked as if things could turn violent. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that and also fortunately, the men didn’t steal their passports, cameras, or credit cards, and for reasons unknown, gave them back some of the money they stole.
The other potentially life-threatening situation occurred in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, when a drunken knife-wielding youth came towards them. Fortunately, a not-quite-so-drunken colleague persuaded the youth to desist.
We travelled in a rusty van,
Heading up to Yerevan.
Is this place in Kazakhstan,
Hindustan or Kyrgyzstan,
Maybe even Tajikistan?
Well and truly up a gumtree?
Armenia, is its true country!
Armenia, south of Georgia in the Caucasus and bordered by Turkey in the west and Azerbaijan in the east, is a country with a chequered history. Both during and after World War One, systematic genocide of Armenian people was carried out by the Turkish Ottoman government. Many Armenians fled causing a world-wide diaspora that exists to this day. In Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, there is a memorial to the genocide and you will find a detailed description of Yerevan’s attractions in Mark and Kirsty’s post here. In reality, Mark and Kirsty did travel by ‘rusty van’ to Yerevan. They travelled in a marshrutka ( a fixed route minivan) and, in some cases, the rusty van description is a perfect fit for the state of the minivan.
Nepal held us in thrall
The place was so cool
But the place we like best
Far more than the rest
Is a bar in Chiang Mai; it’s a jewel.
When Mark and Kirsty want to take time off from their busy life on the road, they have two options – either return to their family homes in the UK (and also in France), or squat down for a few months in a rented apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand. They pick the former when they have a hankering to mingle with family for a while, and when it’s time to refresh their travel insurance policy, and the latter for the warm climate, entrancing sunsets, tasty cheap street and restaurant food (including a traditional English Sunday roast! – photo in Part 3) and decent cold beers.
There was a young lady from Chisinau
Who developed a sneeze, a-chise-now.
The folk of Moldova
Were truly bowled over
So she stood up and gave them a bow.
Moldova, a land-locked former Soviet state close to the north-western corner of the Black Sea, is not high on most people’s list of countries to visit and yet it’s full of history and with diverse ethnic groups. Chisinau, the capital, is well represented on Mark and Kirsty’s website with almost thirty separate entries. The challenge for me was to find a word that rhymed with Chisinau. It was Mark who suggested it could be made to sound like a sneeze!
If you ever travel to Kashgar,
Be sure to go by motor car.
Don’t use a bike,
And please don’t hike.
’Cos if you do you won’t get far!
China is a vast country and features heavily on the Kathmandu & Beyond website. Kashgar is a major city in the far west, close to four ’Stans and India and an important staging post on the old Silk Road. And, it does take a long time to get there: from Beijing, for example, it will take almost two full days by train (47 hours). By car, stopping only for pitstops and refreshments, you could do it in 40 hours. Hence the sentiments in my poem above!
One of the main attractions in Kashgar is the Sunday animal market. If you ever find yourself at this market, look for the aptly-named fat-bottomed sheep!
To pronounce Tbilisi is hard,
So I sought the advice of a bard.
He said, ‘Start with the T,
Seamlessly change it to B.
Get it wrong and you’ll get a red card!’
Several times already, I have presented place names that are hard to pronounce. East European alphabets, particularly, seems to have missed out on vowels to separate hard and soft consonants. Try saying Kyrgyzstan, Tkvarcheli or the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi. Is it two separate front-end sounds – Ter-Bilisi – or should the T and the B be somehow merged into a single sound moving smoothly from the hard-tongued T to a softer more-lippy B – TB-ilisi? Check it out at HowToPronounce.com It’s a fun website to use. Try some of the other names mentioned above.
Thanks to Mark and Kirsty for commenting and correcting earlier drafts of the three posts, and to my sister, Maureen, for polishing the scanning, grammatical and rhyming aspects of many of my poetic creations. Anything that still jars is called poetic licence!