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

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Travelling statistics, tips and 'Best and Worst of.....'

Days on the road: 330
Countries visited: 20
Nights spent apart: 9

Beds/places slept in: 139 (includes overnight buses, planes etc. and different places we stayed in our campervan!)

Nights spent free with friends/relatives/other random people: 55
(17% of the total, that's really not bad going is it!)

Hours spent travelling by:
Bus - 282 hours
Car - 238
Boat - 93
Plane - 78
Train - 31
Tuk tuk - 16
Bicycle - 12
Moped - 6
Rickshaw - 2
Hot air balloon - 1
Bamboo Raft - 0.5
Elephant - 0.5 (and a bloody long 0.5 at that)

Weight lost/gained: Amanda +/- 0 kg! Rob -6kg

Highlights and Lowlights:
Our highlights are always places where we stayed a little longer and did something more worthwhile than simply being a tourist - the week of living with a local family and learning Spanish in Guatemala, learning to dive in Belize, 12 days working on the sheep farm in New Zealand, trekking to the local village in Laos, and the cookery course we did in Thailand. Sleeping on the Great Wall was pretty amazing too! And getting all those clothes made in Vietnam was great fun. Could go on all day!

Honestly cannot think of any specific lowlights... coming home?

Top 3 Favourite places: Belize, New Zealand, Laos

Most disappointing place: Honduras

Most surprising place (in a good way): Nicaragua

Paradise: Aitutaki, Cook Islands

Best accomodation: Maison Souvannaphoum, Luang Prabang, Laos (it was posh but we needed a treat)

Worst accomodation: There was the place in Belize where we looked at a room, but bats flew out when he opened the door, so we opted against that. The worst place where we actually stayed, probably a windowless room in Malaysia.

Best cuisine: Indian in Laos, French in Vietnam, Cambodian (in Cambodia!)

Best drink: Amanda - Cappucino! Rob - Beer Lao (we couldn't agree on this one!)

Best walk: Tongariro Crossing, NZ

Best experience: Our 'perfect' day in Aitutaki - snorkelling in the amazing clear lagoon in the day time, and in the evening an island buffet followed by dancing and beautiful singing from the locals. Fantastic.
Loads more too -
skydiving, scuba diving, walking on glaciers, caving, trekking in Laos etc etc...

Scariest moments:
- The boat journey from Belize to Honduras when we thought we were going to drown
- Arriving home (!)
- and (for Amanda) whenever Rob let his facial hair grow for more than 3 days.

Person we saw most of: Our American friend Kevin, who we met in no less than 6 countries! Sinead comes a close second - we saw her in 3 different countries.

Tips and Pearls of Wisdom

  1. A head torch is a most useful thing
  2. Girls, pack a sports bra for those bumpy bus rides in eg. Central America & Asia. Trust me on this one!
  3. For travel in Asia, practise your squatting technique (yes, THAT squatting technique!)
  4. Get a raincover for your backpack. Not only does it keep your pack dry, but it protects it from all the dirt and scum in coach and aeroplane holds. Oh how I wish I had one, when my bag spent a long journey on a Greyhound bus swimming around in fishy smelling water. All my underwear stank of fish after this. Come to think of it, this may have been an improvement on the pre-journey smell. Another advantage of bag covers is that it makes you look like a tortoise.
  5. You will meet many Americans on your travels and they are a friendly bunch. However, feel free to slap them in the face every time they inappropriately use the word 'like'. Its the only way they'll learn and they will thank you for your efforts.
  6. Listen to an iPod sparingly. We witnessed so many backpackers get on to rickety old buses and put in their earphones for the entire journey. Part of the experience involves listening to arguments that you can't understand and hearing worrying clunking sounds from the rear of the bus. iPods do isolate backpackers from the locals in my opinion.
  7. If beer is laughably cheap, drink plenty of it. You will get home, got to the pub and regret every minute of the day when you weren't drinking the 8p a pint beer in Vietnam. It was good beer too.
  8. Eat at markets. We did, generally eating very tasty, very cheap food, most of the time not knowing exactly what it was. And ignore those scare stories about hygiene, we never once got the squirts. Well, not from market food anyway.
  9. Try to spend time living with locals - it is a much more rewarding experience.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Home and Dry

All good things have to come to an end and last Sunday (27th August) we flew into Heathrow after 330 days on the road. Very much mixed feelings. Lovely to see our parents again (armed with signs and balloons) but it has been difficult adjusting to the fact that it is all over. Looking back, it all seems a bit of a dream. But we did have an enjoyable last few days of travelling.

The camping trip to the Great Wall was excellent. It was a bit of a trek up there due to the fact that the section of the wall was actually closed to the public and was completely overgrown. But we got to our tower with only a few cuts and scratches. We had paid a Chinese bloke to carry up firewood and beer and spent the rest of the evening drinking, eating a civilised picnic (thanks Rich and Carol), drinking warm beer and warmer wine from a carton, stoking the fire and plucking massive millipedes off the walls in order that they didn't enter our sleeping bags later in the night. Got, ooh, at least three hours sleep, and getting up at 5am for a misty sunrise was truly spectacular. We packed up, headed back down, had a hearty breakfast of rice and noodles and Si bought 40 Chinese fireworks and let them off next to the wall. Great fun. By midday we had taken a bread car (a little minibus in the shape of a loaf of bread - see the pic on flickr) back into the Jing and had a welcome shower and out in the evening for duck and deep-fried scorpions. Nice.

The flight from Beijing to Frankfurt was full and we ended up getting one seat in business class and one in cattle class. I spent the first four hours in business, with a slightly guilty feeling as I thought of Amanda squashed up in the back of the plane. The guilty feeling didn't prevent me tucking into a hearty steak and quaffing numerous glasses of excellent red wine and champagne. Unfortunately, I had said to Amanda that we would swap halfway through the flight and it was back to earth with a bump (not literally, thankfully) as I headed back to the soggy sandwich hell of economy class until we landed in Frankfurt.

We drove straight to Holland to see the Smits and were treated to more gastronomic delights and my red wine quaffing continued. How much of that bottle of port did we actually drink that first night, Erwin?! Then back to Frankfurt to see old friends and colleagues (sorry to those who we didn't get to see - it was a bit of a fleeting visit and we will be back soon). The first glass of Apfelwein was delightful, as was the Malepartus schnitzel on Friday night. Great to be back in our 'hometown' of the last few years.

So now we are home, back to reality and job hunting. And sadly, that is also the end of our blog. 'Cos, whilst some people may have been interested in our adventures around the world, sadly I fear that tales of my recent drive on the M5 won't be quite as rivetting. I am looking to buy a tuk-tuk to make things a little more exciting though. Hopefully it will be fun and it is quite exciting trying to work out what we are going to do now. We have vowed to explore the UK a bit more and who knows, one day we might head off again.

Thanks to all who have read the blog over the year. I am actually quite sad to log off for the last time. Just one last post after this of our highlights, tips and various statistics.

Rob and Amanda