Follow Amanda & Rob around the world for a year. From 30 September 2005!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The last word on pies

Right, I promise no more words on pies after this, back to the normal stuff on kangaroos, bonza tucker, swagmen etc. But, the world is a big place as we have discovered over the last few months, and unfortunately I personally do not have the resources to investigate every pie on this planet. So I sent Pie Agent Kevin off to Adelaide to investigate the 'pie floater' - an intriguing concept of pie in pea soup. He sent me the following report from the field which I appreciate greatly.

Over and Out.

The Piemaster General

'.....After the show I stopped out for a couple more beers. I was fortunate
as earlier in the day I inquired at an I-site of all places where I
might be able to procure the elusive pie-floater. They are sold out of a
truck that parks in front of the General Post Office, so I made my way
over. It was a slow night and I was the only customer at the time so I
had a chance to chat after giving my order of "one pie-floater,
please". The pie is served upside down in a plate/bowl (think a supper plate
with sides) kind of thing with pea soup generously ladled over the
top. The guy wasn't very friendly and didn't even know how the
pie-floater began! That whole thing may have taken away from the experience I reckon. The pea soup was kind of bland, but some salt and pepper helped a bit. I am thinking that ones enjoyment of a pie-floater is largely
correlated to their penchant for pea soup. Mine is low, but I thought
the pie would make it all better. It is relatively easy to get a good
mix of soup and pie in each bite, but I found I had for more pea soup
left over at the end. It was OK overall as a general experience and by
all means every pie connoisseur must have a go, but I don't think I will
need to have a pie-floater again.'

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

An Ode to Pies by Robert M Speake

(or 'Conclusive proof that I have too much time on my hands')

Dedicated to my pie-eating buddy, Kevin.

Having grown up on a diet, of Speake and chimney pies,
My obsession with this wholesome snack should come as no surprise,

My favourites are all savoury, with chicken, lamb, or steak,
I buy them from the bakery, for they are hard to make,

I'm also fond of porky pies, or pies with cheese and ham in,
But not so keen on rat pies, from the Pied Piper of Hamlin,

I ate a blackbird pie (don't tell the RSPCA),
There were only three and twenty though, for one bird flew away,

Some come in little foil trays, some types of pie are square,
A round pie's rim is 2∏r and area ∏r2,

In Tassie they have National Pies, in NZ Mrs Mac's,
Can't wait to taste a Pukka Pie, when finally I'm back,

So hoorah for every single pie, they fill me up with glee,
Look out for future ramblings, where I'll praise the mushy pea.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Where the bloody hell are we?

In Australia of course. Or ‘Australia gets the gold’ as they are known at the moment.

First few days we spent in Tasmania. Many people, including Amanda’s Mum, didn’t know where Tassie (as the locals call it) is, and we knew nothing about it at all really and had not planned anything when we arrived. I was disappointed at the lack of zebras and lions there, but the experts inform me that that is Tanzania. For those who don’t know, Tassie is a little island off the south-east corner of Oz. Before we came here Amanda guessed it was about the size of the Isle of Wight or similar… more like Ireland in fact but hey.

Here we had our first ‘Couchsurfing’ experience, whereby we signed up to a website and hooked up with a complete stranger to ‘surf’ their couch for a few days. They picked us up from the airport where I had to do all the talking as Amanda had a cold which had caused temporary deafness when the plane landed. Fortunately she can hear again now, as a few hours of not being able to listen to my amusing remarks and excellent jokes must have been quite awful. The couchsurfing proved very worthwhile, so thanks again to Silvia and Dave, and we got plenty of tips before heading off to explore the island in our go-kart-like hire car - a Mazda 121 Fun Top whose roof pulled back in a similar fashion to opening a tin of sardines.

The first four days we had our stalker/official photographer/fellow traveller with us – Kevin from New York City. This was in fact the fourth country in which we have seen Kevin, having met him inTahiti, spent Xmas with him in the Cooks and New Year in Auckland, and it was great to have him along as we embarked on our whirlwind tour of the island. First was the Freycinet National Park where we walked to the stunning Wineglass Bay. Saw a wallaby on the beach – the only live one we have seen so far in the wild. We have seen many many dead ones on the road though….. We stayed that night in a retro 70’s style caravan called ‘Frog Hollow’, which provided much amusement.

Then on to Launceston where we had a big night on the town and crawled out of bed the next day to head to Cradle Mountain. This was another most amazing place, unlike anything I have seen elsewhere in the world. Had another wonderful walk before heading on to Strahan on the west coast. Then on to Lake St Clair, back to Hobart to drop Kevin off, down to the Huon Valley to stay in a hostel which takes the award for worst level of cleanliness in a hostel kitchen yet encountered and then on to Port Arthur to spend a couple of days on a beautiful stretch of coastline. I spent a day hiking 18km along the coastline which was simply stunning. Strange to be on my own and it took me a while to get used to the fact that every rustle I heard in a bush wasn’t a large poisonous snake coming to eat me alive. But I enjoyed the solitude, the tall cliffs with huge drops down to the sea (Mum, you wouldn’t have liked to watch me as I leant over the edge to take some photos :)) and the endless spider webs in my face and encountered all of two hikers the whole day. This was typical of how busy Tasmania was – the roads were even emptier than NZ which is saying something I can tell you.

Just before we headed back to the mainland we took a trip to the Tasmanian Devil Park. It was great to see the little fellas in the flesh although they are mean looking critters. They do make similar noises to Taz and with the frenetic way they that run around, it is easy to see how simple it would be to escape from a flimsy wooden box whilst being shipped to Chicago Zoo or something. I also learned that they don’t eat deckchairs, cars, restaurants etc. as the real Taz does, preferring instead a diet of wallabies (bones, fur, the lot), birds, mice and other Tasmanian Devils (yum). We also saw kangaroos, possums, cockaburras sitting in an old cage, and cockatoos (sadly no sign of Humpty, Big Ted or Jemima though).

We now find ourselves just outside of Melbourne staying with Robyn and Ken for a few days who we met via another website, ‘Help Exchange’. Ah the interweb is a fine thing. They have been very kind already in showing us around some of the splendid countryside and wineries near to them and we have already got to work on destroying some English ivy in their garden. We had spent a night in Melbourne where we witnessed an evening of Rugby Sevens at the impressive Telstra Dome. It pleases me to say that England stuffed Australia 14-12 in the final game of the evening in a game not at all influenced by some terrible refereeing which saw the Aussies reduced to five players at one point. The highlight of the evening was probably Uganda’s unlikely victory over Tonga which drew a standing ovation from the crowd. You could tell the Uganda team were cock-a-hoop.

Melbourne is buzzing at the moment with the Games and a huge, free arts festival with music, dance, circus and allsorts taking place all over the city for free. Indeed, we discovered upon waking up the morning after the rugby, that we had been sharing our dorm with various circus performers who were over here for the festival. I haven’t been in a room with so many clowns since stumbling across the Bristol City FC AGM a few years ago, but thankfully they were off-duty and we weren’t woken up by the parping of an old school car horn and water from a squirty flower being directed in our faces.

We’ll be back in Melbourne in a few days to soak up some more of the festival, meet a few friends and family before embarking on the trip up the East Coast over the next few weeks. Having blown our tyre budget for the trip in NZ, we won’t be venturing into the second hand car market again, it’ll be buses and trains all the way. So more on that as we continue bumbling our merry way.

Finally, thanks again for your emails and comments on the blog. The most feedback we have had so far is on the stuff we have written on animals and pies. You will be delighted to hear that pies seem to be equally as abundant in Oz, and myself and Kevin spent many enjoyable hours debating the merits of these baked delights. One night we were very lucky as we managed to get the last two pies in Strahan. It would have been a long, cold night were we to have gone to bed pieless that day. So after our long discussions I was inspired to write a poem all about pies. A piem, as it were. I will be putting the finishing touches to it over the coming days, so watch this space......

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The end of NZ

Well it has been a while, and since Rob has done most of the writing I thought it was about time I wrote an entry instead.

We last wrote just before visiting the Cadbury Chocolate Factory in Dunedin for my birthday – Rob failed to mention the balloons he blew up and the little notes inside each one with a present for me (bless!) – including dinner out that night (delicious), $10 to spend at the chocolate factory shop (I spent $13 instead!), and, amongst other things, a hot air balloon ride! More on that later. The point is that, although it rained pretty much all day (the first time I spend my birthday in summer…), it was really special and I had a lovely time.

We also visited the Speights Brewery in Dunedin and ended up staying an extra night due to van problems, before heading back inland through some amazingly stunning scenery and going to Mount Cook, Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo – all beautiful places, the lakes are the bluest blue you have ever seen! However we were constantly a little distracted by the fact that we knew we only had a week to sell our van when we arrived in Christchurch.

Our fears were made worse by the fact that, during our last week in NZ we had to replace both of the back tyres, one of which we had bought just 1000km previously! So Rob is practically a professional tyre-changer now, and we sure know how to spot a warped tyre when we see one!

But we were in luck and, unlike the people who had been at the Backpackers Car Market for 9 days trying to sell their vehicles, our van came up trumps and we sold it on the 2nd day! This really was a stroke of luck and extremely jammy – probably about 5 buyers came through the market over the whole 1½ days before ours did, so we left feeling a bit (ok, very) smug and had another 5 days in which to enjoy Christchurch – lovely city, if a little cold and windy.

This was also the city where I had my hot air balloon ride – a 5am start but definitely worth it. There were actually 22 of us in the basket – it was the 2nd largest balloon in the world (made in Bristol) – so very cosy but it needed to be at those temperatures. Floating through the air was so calm and smooth, and we felt completely safe with our Oxford-born pilot. Landing was fun in a field full of cow poo, followed by a glass of champagne, and then I was treated to a big breakfast in town afterwards. A fantastic birthday present!

Our last night in Chch was a free concert in the park which concluded with the Christchurch Symphony playing the 1812 Overture complete with real canons, the cathedral bells and the most fireworks I have ever seen in my life – it was fantastic, despite the fact I was ill! Rob says that the canons were even louder than the version they did at Yate Leisure Centre a few years ago…

So that was it for NZ - a really amazing, beautiful country with some fantastic scenery and very friendly people. But don't worry parents, we have no intention of living there, yet!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

On Biscuiting......

Just to clarify for the boy Nunn, riding a biscuit does not involve attaching wheels to a jammie dodger or a custard cream and pootling off down the road on it. Oh no, it involves being pulled on a big inflatable round rubber ring by a speedboat. This demands great skill and strength to fight against the immense G-forces inflicted upon the rider and I am going to push for it to be included in the London Olympics where I hope to become Olympic champion.

Bob the Biscuiter