Category Archives: Fascinating facts

Fascinating facts: part 7

  • Mary Queen of Scots was the first woman to play golf.
  • The modern game of conkers is believed to have evolved from an earlier version played with snail shells and was first recorded in 1848.
  • The average oak tree sheds 700,000 leaves each autumn.
  • In the next 40 years we will need to produce as much food as we have in the lsat 8,000 years.
  • Half the world’s population has seen at least one James Bond movie.
  • Pueblo Indian women could divorce their husband simply by leaving his moccasins on the doorstep.

What is a Thylacine?

This is a Thylacine. Aka Tasmanian Tiger

Went to see The Hunter this week, a Willem Dafoe movie shot in Tasmania with epic sweeping vistas and a storyline centering on the Tasmanian tiger. Is that made up, I wondered?

No, is the answer.

The Tasmanian tiger (or wolf) hasn’t been seen since 1930 when it was hunted out of existence in its native Australia and Papua New Guinea thanks to a bounty on its head having been designated a sheep worrier. Occasionally sightings are still reported but none have been confirmed.

It is a funny-looking hybrid with its elongated nose, stripy bum and kangaroo-style tail. It’s official academic name (thylacinus cynocephalus) means dog-headed pouched one and it was the largest carnivorous marsupial. Name another carnivorous marsupial, I hear you cry! Ok. The Tasmanian devil.

Here’s a little vid of the last ones alive. They made a feeble attempt to breed them in a zoo when they realised how badly they’d screwed the species over but it was too late and the last ones in the zoo are thought to have died from neglect. Fail.

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Fascinating facts: part 6

– A shark’s liver occupies approximately 40% of its mass.

– Bulls can produce up to 150 litres of saliva a day

– There are currently more mormons in the world than Jews. Mormonism is the fastest growing religion in the Western Hemisphere.

– Since Peter the Great wanted to follow the European rise to greatness and Europeans were clean-shaven, he introduced a Beard Tax.

– Skype was born in Estonia. So was marzipan (unless you ask ze Germans).

– The Queen was once given five tonnes of dried fruit as a gift.

Fascinating facts: part 5

– The Netherlands produces 13,000,000 kilos of cheese per week

– 75% of the entire world’s flower bulbs come from the Netherlands

– A tarsier’s brain is the same size as one of it’s eyeballs – 16mm in diameter.

– Proboscis monkeys live in a harem arrangement of one bloke to around 20 ladies.

– Half the world’s population live in cities, estimated by the UN to rise to 70% by 2050.

– The Maldives calculate the value of their sharks to the economy at US$33,000/year. Alive.

Proboscis monkey. How about that for a nose? (Half-inched pic)

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This boat comes up with the google search ‘stealth super yacht’

As stealthy as a T-Rex in a petting zoo

We just saw it floating off the coast of Surin Beach and thought we’d look it up.

“His [a Russian oligarch, naturally] 400ft super yacht … features a swimming pool, a large master suite, six luxury cabins for up to 14 guests and enough room for 42 crew members.

“Other details of the interior have been kept strictly secret by its German builders Blohm and Voss, who constructed the battleship Bismarck, the pride of the Nazi fleet in World War Two.

“But it is rumoured to have helicopter hanger and two 30ft long speed boats which are kept in hatches on both sides of the hull.”

“The yacht, named “A” after his catwalk model wife Aleksandra Nikolic, docked in the Norwegian port of Kristiansand, where three paintings by the French Impressionist artist Monet were loaded on board, amid an impressive security operation.”

I cannot imagine what the supermodel sees in him.

Train crush

Have y’all seen the proposals for a 120 mile tunnel under the Bering Strait linking America to Russia? Not cheap at $60 billion but could well be a cheaper way of moving freight and carry 3% of the world’s cargo and make $7 billion a year, according to this article. The Russians seem to be the driving force but are trying to get the Yanks to pitch in for it too. Understandably with that whopper of a bill. Perhaps the Chunnel could flog them some diggers?


More importantly, wouldn’t it be the best train journey in the world ever?? Have a look at the map on this website to show you just a few potential stops. I believe that train travel is the princeliest of all modes of transport. Surely they’d lay on some passenger carriages…? Vodka and noodles all the way from Oslo to San Fran. Yippee! It’s at least 10 years in the making though so I’ll have to add it to the bucket list and look elsewhere for short-term adventure fixes.

This is how the mega train journey looks in my head.

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Fascinating facts: part 4

– Hippo milk is pink

– Slugs have four noses

– Chickens feel empathy

– Sixty percent of people look at their toilet paper after they’ve wiped

– The first ever toilet paper was used by Chinese emperors in the 1390s. Each sheet measured 2′ x 3′.

– EXCELLENT collection of facts here!

The Four Hour Work Week

You’ve probably all heard of the Four Hour Work Week sensation that hit the world a few years back. I know I had. It’s not new, but I recently picked up a copy of it and had a flick through the content. It’s written in a sometimes-nauseating American fashion and there are times when the author, Tim, seems so conceited that you want to reach through the pages and punch him in the head.

However by and large, this is a man after my own heart.

‘If you’ve picked up this book, chances are that you don’t want to sit behind a desk until you are 62. Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, real-life fantasy travel, long-term wandering, setting world records, or simply a dramatic career change, this book will give you all the tools you need to make it a reality in the here-and-now instead of in the often elusive “retirement.” ‘

‘People don’t want to be millionaires — they want to experience what they believe only millions can buy. Ski chalets, butlers, and exotic travel often enter the picture. Perhaps rubbing cocoa butter on your belly in a hammock while you listen to waves rhythmically lapping against the deck of your thatched-roof bungalow? Sounds nice.

‘$1,000,000 in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows. The question is then, How can one achieve the millionaire lifestyle of complete freedom without first having $1,000,000?’

‘The question no one really seemed to be asking or answering was, Why do it all in the first place? What is the pot of gold that justifies spending the best years of your life hoping for happiness in the last?’

‘Test the most basic assumptions of the work-life equation.

  • How do your decisions change if retirement isn’t an option?
  • What if you could use a mini-retirement to sample your deferred-life plan reward before working 40 years for it?
  • Is it really necessary to work like a slave to live like a millionaire?’

Amen, brother. Read more of his blog and book, if you can bear it.

Reminds me of the Frank Turner song, Photosynthesis. Happy tune!

Fascinating facts: part 3

– Osama Bin Laden was 6’4.5”

– Certainly back in 2006, the average American walked an average 1.6 miles a week. Just over 300 yards per day. Bill Bryson told me so it must be true.

– It takes 80 hours to get from Bogota to Lima on a bus. I might do it.

– 80% of the world’s cocaine still comes from Colombia.

Fascinating Facts: Part 2

– The wealth disparity between North and South Korea at the moment is estimated to be four times as great as the disparity between East and West Germany when the Berlin Wall came down.

– The Gobi Desert copper and gold mine is expected to account for one-third of Mongolia’s total economic output by 2020. The copper deposit discovered there is said to be one of the three largest in the world and it is supposed to sit on around 6 billion tons of coal. Not bad with China and the world’s largest steel industry as a neighbour.

– Chupa Chups were invented in Spain in 1958. The name loosely translates to Sucky Suck.

– The hookworm parasite can cure chronic asthma but deliberate infection is considered ‘unethical’ by medical professionals.


The monks, Muslims and Christians are getting too much press. Check out these two bad ass Turkish tyrants.

Basil II – Bulgar Slayer

Conquered armies from Islamic Egypt, the Bulgars and Russia. Put out the eyes of 14,000 Bulgar prisoners of war.

Sultan Ibrahim

When he tired of his harem, he had all 280 (what a guy) women tied in sacks and thrown in the Bosphorus.

Nemrut Dagi

I almost reeled from the stench of feet and farts that hit me when I boarded the bus from Kayseri to Kahta. Sweet shit. Promptly tying my scarf bandit-stylee across my face, I was directed to a seat seemingly next to the source of the smell. Sad face.  Here’s me and a fellow traveller whose name I do not know but who I collared for a ‘feet face’ photo.

Say ‘cheese’

Try as the conductor did, the cursory squirt of some lemon cologne at the floor nearby did little to suppress it. Add to this a 2.30am wake-up from the same conductor to ask me where I was from and whether I was with the Japanese dude, a half hour 4am stop to wash the bus (WTF?) and being dropped, not in the bus station, but outside some grotty pension 500m down the road with an owner solemnly declaring that there were no minibuses up the mountain at all, and I was a disgruntled bunny.

The guidebook warns that Kahta has a reputation as a rip-off town and, for once, it is right. Such a shame as I came to learn it’s pretty much its only downside. Once at the otogar, every man in the sleepy provincial town determinedly tries to convince tourists that there is no way of reaching the summit other their through their cowboy outfit. One bloke doggedly pursued with constantly changing  misinformation and asked at the same time why I was annoyed.

So I pulled out the big guns. The sit in.

It’s obvious that there are public buses up to the villages on the mountain, even if the Lonely Planet says there are only 3 a day in the afternoon (they’re every 2 hours from 8am). I’m a skank. I wanted to get the cheap-ass public bus and dang it was I moving til I found it. Especially with the less-than tantalising alternative of another tour. Made myself comfortable and began to polish my Turkish skills with a young local school teacher.

My Turkish is coming on. I can now greet people, ask how they are, ask their name, tell them who I am, call them a bastard and tell them to fuck off. Plus I can ask for anything up to 6 of your basic supermarket items. Optimistically tried to use this concoction of words to engage an elderly farming couple in conversation in the Cappadocian countryside. But I digress.

Six cups of tea and an hour later, a scheduled minibus service had miraculously appeared and, better still, I’d been offered a ride up the mountain. The catch? I had to do the weekly shop with two Kurdish blokes from the village on the way. Problem yok.

By lunchtime I was just a hop and a skip short of the summit and settled in a lovely, clean as a whistle pension with hot (hoorah!) running water and plush fleecy blankets. It’s a new build, though I noticed the finishing isn’t up to much as the wind sang underneath the UPVC door frame. Cue some chillin’, writing and napping before chatting to the handful of other guests in search of a willing accomplice in the 2am hike up the mountain (15km, 3 hours) for sunrise.

Enter Jose, a Spanish Special Needs teacher (I’ll beat you all to the inevitable joke and admit that’s probably why he agreed) who has been learning Arabic in Damascus for the last year. He had interesting insights into the latest demonstrations but, having heard about the Syrian secret police, I won’t mention them here.

I should probably mention here that the purpose of going up the hill isn’t for the hell of summiting, it’s because a megalomaniac King Antioches, in the first century BC ruled over a bit-kingdom between Rome and Persian and fancied himself descended of Gods. So he had himself and members of his family (shown as Gods) represented as statues on two broad terraces on the East and West side of the mountain and had a gargantuan mound of crushed rocks piled up between (about 50m high), under which experts suspect his mausoleum lies. He actually wasn’t that great and his kingdom was successful for all of 26 years, but who’s counting?

Got up at 2am after a few hours kip with a knapsack full of snacks and set off up the paved pathway to the summit. It’s a fair climb so hard work at such an unusual hour but worth it for having the mountain to ourselves and catching 2 proper shooting stars. One looked like a comet, the tail lasted so long. Come 4.30am, we came across another couple of minibuses who were taking tour groups up for the sunrise. Resisting a lift, we trekked on up to the very top, and just as well. We waited just 25 minutes and I was frozen. Chatted to a Chinese bloke who had retired from the UN up the top who was waiting for the sun to appear. He and his wife are life-long backpackers and he said he was wearing more layers here (8) than he did in Antarctica.

The King and his fam. The bodies are behind them, having shaken the heads free in an earthquake. 1BC. Can you believe it?

Still, you gotta admit that these are pretty cool.

The bods and the massive pile of stones making the fake summit behind

On the other side of the mountain lie some more old castles and palaces. The guest house owner had kindly agreed to drop my bag down at the bus station in town ahead of my 3pm bus connection so I figured I had bags of time to go check them out. Set off back down the hill after a cup of chai with the dudes at the cafeteria up top and as the sun was strong enough to thaw the bones. It was significantly further than I realised. By the time we reached Arsameia it was 10am and we’d been walking for more or less 8 hours. Reward was found in  the beer given to us by theholidaying  Turkish couplewho were mystified that we’d walked all the way, and the remains of the ancient palace on the outcrop.

Check out this relief of the King and Hercules. That’s no way to dress, Herc.

A footstep away from crossing swords

Further on down the road there’s an old Roman Bridge which somehow still has three of its four pillars in tact. It’s supposed to be one of the other ‘must sees’ in the vicinity so I was going to press on and see it, assured of picking up a dolmus from there to town. Jose meanwhile turned around and headed back up the mountain to stay another night.

There wasn’t another soul, beast or vehicle in sight and the road ahead, as I found out from the dudes at the park office a little way down the hill, was 10km long. Weary and a bit spooked by the apparent absence of life, I chickened it and asked about minibuses. This was too much for the meagre Turkish-English skills of both parties, so a farmer was summoned from a nearby field to act as translator. Established that there were no buses til the next day from that village but was offered dinner and a place to stay with him and his grandfather. Tempting, very tempting to experience proper rural  Kurdish life…but not as a single white female. What a world we live in.

So instead he hitched me a lift in the next car that came along the road (sorry Mum) and I skirted round the mountain in the right direction to be deposited at the top of a road with an incredible view of the river delta and lake beyond, to yomp the 1.5km down to a main road for minibus flagging purposes.

And it’s not even lunchtime.

I hadn’t got a cheese sandwich down the road and some engineers on their way back from doing some site measurements for a civil engineering project (there’s lots of them in Turkey at the moment – the place is booming) stopped to offer a lift into town, with tea at the office thrown in for good measure. Praise be to google translate for allowing us to happily breach the language barrier and discuss the Royal Wedding. They love it. Some drunk loon in the bus station came up to me at midnight a few nights before saying only ‘Princess Diana’, pointing at his hand and saying ‘English’ at me.

Got back to the bus station in good time to hang out with the shoe shine boys, village idiot (Tito was his name. The locals had to prise a cup of half-drunk tea from him that he was trying to gift me) and bus staff. Wondrous as the tourist sites are across the world, often the time I spend hanging out with the locals, speaking the language badly and messing around with the kids is the most enjoyable.

Heading North next to the Black Sea to see about some trekking in the Kackar Mountains, though might review that after the deep freeze of just one night on the mountains: Turkey has had a harsher spring than usual. Regardless, there’s a monastery up on the cliffs at Sumela that looks like it’s worth a look on the way  East towards the Armenian border.

Fascinating Facts, part 1

– The oil pipeline running from Baku to Ceyhan, Turkey is the world’s second longest and it takes oil a month to travel from one end to the other.

– Dry stubble has the same tensile strength as copper wire.

– Lipton yellow label is exactly the same blend of tea as PG Tips, just half the amount.