Viva México!

We both had such an amazing last 3 months in NZ and OZ but both agreed that we were looking forward to a challenge again. One of the fun things about travelling is trying to work out how to get somewhere when nobody understands you and meeting people from a completely different walk of life. Even though Tom speaks basic to intermediate Spanish the next 3 months in Mexico, Central and South America were definitely going to be challenging.

On arrival into Mexico City we found a taxi counter (as it was 1.30am and all public transport had stopped) and headed out to find our lift into the big city. Unfortunately we’d picked the busiest company to go with and even though there was no sign of any taxis, the queue of people was getting bigger and bigger. Sssooo, back in we went to change our ticket to another company that had umpteen taxis waiting….and finally we were on our way. Apparently there aren’t many road rules in Mexico apart from; drive as fast as physically possible, get as close as you can to the car in front and definitely don’t stop at any red lights….the journey was eventful to say the least. Just before arriving at the hostel the driver had to ask a policeman to move a road block from his way as all the old historic centre of town was blocked off. We stepped out of the taxi to the sight of policemen guarding our hostel entrance and riot police on every corner…welcome to Mexico!! (We later found out that the police were everywhere as a precautionary measure as there had been some political rioting weeks before we arrived)

By this point it was about 2am and we quietly scuttled into our dorm and attempted to make our beds without waking up our room mates, we failed!

After sleeping through breakfast, oops, we headed out for a wander around the city. We both felt there was a bit of a strange feel about the place, I think it was something to do with the amount of riot police everywhere. We headed to a little cafe that had been recommended to us and Tom put his a-level Spanish to good use. We immediately realised that travel around Mexico was going to be tricky. Very few people spoke anything other than Spanish, and as I knew little Spanish communication was hard. Through Tom and our Spanish phrase book we managed to decipher some of the menu and ordered a few things. The food was lovely and the portion sizes massive. Everything seems to come with tortillas regardless of what you order. To be honest we weren’t sure what we were eating but it tasted nice.

Whist we were in Australia we were meant to sort out our malaria tablets for S.America and Africa but we completely forgot! Then when in USA we found out it would cost an absolute fortune so we decided to wait for Mexico. I’d done a bit of research and found out that if we went to a pharmacy with an attached surgery we could, for M$30 (about £1.25) get a prescription to buy the tablets, so off we went. Tom’s Spanish is good, but unfortunately the doctor thought we had malaria and started to bring out needles to take a blood test, Tom quickly explained that this wasn’t the case!! After a few lost in translation moments he agreed to write the prescription for us and we headed next door to pick up our tablets. Unfortunately they didn’t have enough so the poor but helpful pharmacist had to run between 4 different pharmacies to collect all our medication!! All sorted in the end though and at a fraction of the price we’d have paid in either Oz or USA.

Next day we had a load of stuff we wanted to do so there was no time for a lie in. After a breakfast of tortillas scrambled egg, pineapple, refried beans and various spicy sauces we were off. The first stop was very near to where we were staying in the Zocalo (main square) and was Museo del Templo Mayor, which was a partial excavation of “the great temple” of Hispanic origin. Neither of us were that bothered about going in, so we took a few photos from the outside and headed off.

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Next we went to the National Palace, which has been the home for the ruling class of Mexico since the Aztec empire and is now a government building. There were swarms of armed guards and army men with guns all around but we’d gotten used to this by now. This was actually really good with an amazing mural by Diego Rivera depicting the history of Mexico from 1521 to 1930. We’re not really into things like this but both admitted that it was pretty impressive.

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Next we had to attempt the metro. After our experiences in Tokyo with the most confusing underground system in the world we didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully it was relatively straightforward, and cheap. 25p for a ticket, bargain. We were heading to the anthropology museum which was highly rated by everyone we’d spoken to. There was way too much to take in in one day but we were both pleased we went as it was really interesting. One thing that stands out was information about a game that the aztecs used to play. I can’t remember all the details but it was a ball game with a heavy ball where you had to somehow use your hips to make the ball mimic the movement of the sun…something like that anyway. Anyhow the part that stands out for me was if you were the losing coach, you were decapitated!!! And this was a game…..

After the museum we headed outside and in the distance we spotted some kind of maypole dancing. Eager to investigate we headed over and the scene was fantastic. We’d missed all the dancing on the floor and as we arrived a man was climbing up a huge pole whilst other people were sat at the top playing flutes. They seemed to be wrapping the ropes around the top of the pole then all of a sudden they just fell backwards and span around upside down until they were back on the ground. If this was in England health and safety would have had some kind of heart failure!!!

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Next we wandered around an area of Mexico City called Coyoacan which was almost like a little town within the city. Even though Mexico is renowned for making travellers sick we decided to stop at a random street stall to get a snack…you can’t pass up the chance of a Quesadilla for 90p! Let’s hope we don’t live to regret it!

By now it was getting late in the afternoon so we headed to Garilbaldi (not the biscuit) where mariachi bands can be found playing gigs for visitors to the plaza.
There wasn’t much going on when we arrived so we thought we’d risk having some more food from a little street food place. The local grub was really good, but there was enough for about 5 people!! It seems that fajitas aren’t the norm in Mexico (well not so far anyway) and I ordered what sounded like something similar…and it was. Amazing little wraps with fillings of chicken, beef and mushrooms piled high on each of them. That along with the 8 homemade sauces on the table (Tom was in heaven) I could barely finish my plate, which is very unlike me!

Once back outside there was a bit more going on but the place seemed relatively quiet so we headed off a bit disappointed.

This was our last night in Mexico City. Neither of us were that fussed about the place so we decided to move on. I think the police presence on every corner just gave the place an odd vibe. Before leaving the following day we went to visit Teotihuacan, a city thought to have been established around 100 BC. It’s also home to the third largest pyramid in the world, the pyramid of the sun. I’ve never been to Egypt to see the pyramids there but I was impressed with this site. Plus the views from 248 steps up were pretty impressive.

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We were eventually heading to a city called Oaxaca but enroute we decided to stop off at a place called Puebla for a couple of nights. We arrived at the hostel to news that there was free beer and food on the roof terrace, we immediately loved the place. After exhausting all free supplies we headed out for a wander around. For some reason Mexico doesn’t seem to want Christmas to end (a bit like me) and the Zocalo was still covered in decorations, it looked so pretty.

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Tom decided he was hungry so we found a little restaurant that was still open, and they sold fajitas!! We tried to order one portion to share but somehow it was lost in translation and we ended up with 2 plates! I didn’t care, they were the best fajitas I’ve ever had!

We didn’t do much the following day apart from wander around the city, it was absolutely beautiful and kind of how we’d though Mexico City would be. All the streets were cobbled and the buildings all different colours.
We’d read about a little cafe that was an institution in Puebla with the locals, so we headed off to find it. For less than 5 pounds we feasted on mixed meat in corn tortillas and a chicken taco. Plus Tom had this weird cactus drink which I thought was vile, but he seemed to like it.

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Next we headed to Oaxaca (pronounced Wah-hah-kah) The state of Oaxaca is one of the poorest in Mexico and we were both keen on doing some voluntary work whilst we were there. After getting an extremely comfortable bus from Puebla (the buses are a far cry from the tin cans on wheels we travelled on in much of Asia) we arrived in our next city. It was Saturday night so we thought we’d head out. On our way towards the centre a couple who had just got married were being driven around in a car and were throwing sweets out to passers by, what a great tradition! Oaxaca is meant to be one of the culinary capitals of Mexico but we couldn’t really work out where to go. Because we arrived in the dark we couldn’t really get a feel for the place and we just aimlessly wandered around for ages, eventually finding a little brightly coloured restaurant to eat. As usual we weren’t 100% what any of the food was so we just ordered a few things and hoped for the best!! Afterwards we went to a few different bars, one of which had live music and gave you chilli oranges with every drink. I don’t really understand the obsession with putting chilli on everything. For me it totally ruined the oranges but all the locals seem to love it. After a stop off at a mezcal bar (a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant native to Mexico) where we sampled three different varieties, we stumbled across a salsa club. Not our music of choice, but we were intrigued so we headed in. It was amazing to watch everyone on the dance floor salsa dancing to all sorts of music. Such a different atmosphere to clubs in England but absolutely mesmerising. It was almost like we were going back in time and standing in a 1950’s club with people ballroom dancing. We both people watched for ages, it was great fun.

After a day of wandering around the town and the markets, Tom thought it would be a good idea to sample a local delicacy, fried crickets! As usual they were covered in chilli spices, which actually didn’t taste very nice. I nearly gagged when I ate the cricket, I don’t quite understand the obsession with eating bugs but the locals seemed to love them, each to their own!

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The following day we did something that I was really keen on doing whilst in Mexico, volunteering with local street kids. I’d read about a charity called Oaxaca street children grassroots, a charity where children from very poor backgrounds are sponsored and the money is used to pay for schooling, equipment and to give them a hot meal each day. The centre we went to work at was somewhere for them to do their homework/be in a safe environment/play before going to school in the afternoon. As I don’t speak much Spanish barring the odd word I didn’t know if I’d be much use but I managed to help a boy with his maths homework (and confiscated his calculator) The little boys who’d done all their work just wanted to play so Tom spent the morning being ‘horse’ and generally had 2 little boys hanging off him all morning. The place really was amazing and I chatted to the deputy manager quite a lot about the centre and all the good they were doing. He informed me that he didn’t want to stop the children from going out on to the street and selling things as their families needed that income to survive. The centre was there to help them see that they can do more with their lives and they can have a bright future. To keep on the program the kids know that they have to work hard at school and not waste the opportunity they are being given, otherwise it will be taken away. All in all it was an excellent charity and one that I hope we can help out again in the future. Please click here to view their website

We ate food at the centre and were planning on staying for the afternoon but one of the other volunteers told us about an orphanage she worked at in the afternoons and asked if we’d go along to help her. At the start of the trip I read so many negative things about going to volunteer at orphanages so at the start I wasn’t keen at all. But after hearing a bit more about it I felt the need to go and help out. The orphanage called children of the night (which I thought was a horrible name) was for orphans of prostitutes. The lady that ran it wasn’t very nice at all and barely spoke to the children, let alone played with them. The girl who asked us to go along said that she could do with extra pair of hands as the children were just left on their own all day. The conditions the children were living in was pretty shocking. When we arrived they were all outside playing and we helped them sit down and eat some food. The problem was that because they’d never been taught how to behave properly they were really naughty and it was hard work trying to get them to just sit and eat. The owner just sat inside and if it wasn’t for us trying to help some of the younger kids eat they’d probably have ended up eating off the floor. The inside of the orphanage was pretty grubby. There was one bathroom for all 20ish children and it was really dirty. All the kids lived in one bedroom and judging by how many beds there were I’m guessing it was 2 to 3 kids per bed. The conditions made me feel really sad. Outside there was broken glass on the floor and the metal swings were so dangerous. I wish we could have done more to help but just being there and playing with the kids helped in a small way. They just wanted and needed a bit of attention and we gave that to them. It was really hard to leave as it was obvious that as soon as we left the kids would just be left on their own until bedtime. It was a heartbreaking experience and one which will stay with us for a long time.

We spent another day at the streetchildren grassroots before heading off to our next destination. I taught them how to make snowflakes, something I loved to do when I was younger. The girls seemed to love it and spent hours decorating them, but the boys were more interested in kicking the beach ball around and riding on Tom’s back, oh well, at least I tried!!

We had two options on how to get down to the Oaxaca coastal town of Puerto Escondido. Either go to the bus station and get a big bus that took 10-12 hours and costs 360 pesos or, get a mini-van for 6-7 hours at a cost of 180 pesos. The difference being that the bus takes the long but main road around and it’s relatively comfortable and the mini-van takes the more direct route up and over the mountains!! So off to the mini-van we went! I don’t know why but we always have a story to tell when it comes to public transport, nothing is ever straightforward. Our driver who for the sake of this I’ll call Speedy drove our mini-van like a F1 car. I swear at one point he whizzed round a corner on a mountain road so quickly that the van was on 2 wheels!!! We drove through some really traditional mountain villages and it was great just to people watch as we sped by.
Eventually we stopped in a mountain town for some food just as it was going dark and I was thankful for a rest from the bumpy ride. Unfortunately once back in the van the engine wouldn’t start, typical. Speedy and the other driver found a spanner and hit something in the engine a few times, it seemed to do the trick! The other driver, who we’ll call Careful was now driving. I didn’t for a second expect speedy to slow down just because it was dark so i was pleased the other guy was behind the wheel. I thought I’d be able to get a bit of kip now but the van had other ideas. I was just drifting off when we suddenly stopped at the side of the road, and the engine started making some odd noises. We were in the middle of nowhere on the side of a mountain, not the place you particularly wanted to break down. Speedy, who’d been sleeping shouted a load of instructions to Careful and in the end they swapped seats and Speedy was back behind the wheel. After a bit of engine revving we sped off into the darkness…any chance I had of a quick 40 winks were now non-existent!!

Thankfully we arrived in Puerto in one piece and on arrival at our hostel the bumpy journey all seemed worthwhile. The place looked amazing, it was just a huge apartment with a lovely swimming pool and hammocks everywhere, a bed in a dorm was less than £5 a night, bargain.

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After a night in our palace we headed down to the beautiful beach for a spot of sunbathing. It was perfect…apart from being caught by a freak wave and my kobo (e-reader) ended up going for a swim…amazingly though it still works!

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Afterwards we walked into the town along the cliffs and sat watching the sunset on the beach, beautiful. (I wish we had pictures but unfortunately I was in charge of bringing the camera and I forgot to charge the battery!)

The next day was what we’d been waiting for, the boat trip to hopefully see turtles, dolphins and whales. We were down at the beach by 7am ready to head out. The boat we were on was just a basic 6 seater boat with an engine. Slightly different to the huge boat we’d been on in New Zealand when we went swimming with dolphins. Our guide, Roberto, kept saying that we would definitely see turtles and dolphins but whales were a bit more tricky to find but he’d try his best. Off we went and within about 5 minutes we’d found a huge turtle coming up for air. It was massive, but as you can see, it was pretty hard to photograph.

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We carried on and suddenly out of nowhere a huge pod of white bellied dolphins appeared. It was absolutely amazing to be out in the middle of the ocean, low down to the water watching dolphins leap about.

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There were tons of them but we couldn’t get too close as they just vanished under the water and would then pop up in a different location. We stayed there for ages just watching them, it was mesmerising. After a while Roberto declared that we were heading off to find a whale, so off we went. He explained that there were 7 different types of dolphin in these waters so we’d also look for those. By this point, there were no other boats around (earlier there were 2 small boats watching the dolphins with us) and in the distance we spotted dolphins doing amazing flips so we headed over. This time we’d discovered spotted dolphins and these were completely different to the earlier ones. They were very inquisitive and wanted to stay with the boat all the time. There were even babies, which were so cute. They put on an amazing display for us flipping and jumping out the water and it was absolutely breathtaking to watch. Because we were so low down in the water and it was so peacefully quiet all we could hear was them coming out of the water to breathe, it was amazing.

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We were enjoying watching these dolphins so much that we didn’t pay any attention to what was going on further afield and suddenly our guide shouted WHALE and the boat sped off in a random direction. None of us onboard had any idea how he spotted it but he’d seen a spout of water way off in the distance so that’s where we were heading. The dolphins came with us too which was amazing. Roberto explained that we had to wait until we heard or saw the water spout again so we knew which direction the whale was headed. This time we all heard it and off we went again. This happened a few times and then off of a sudden there is was next to our boat. A magnificent humpback whale. We stayed there for probably half an hour just watching and listening. The engine was turned off and the only noises we heard were the dolphins and whales (it turned out there were two of them) breathing. It really blew us away and was one of the most amazing experiences of our trip so far. At one point the whale ended up under the boat and the water was so clear that you could make out it’s huge frame. The captain quickly turned the engine on when it was under us though and manoeuvred the boat so it didn’t capsize us when coming up to the surface.
I still can’t quite believe how lucky we were to experience all that we did. We were just watching these amazing mammals in their natural environment and it really was a once in a lifetime experience.

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Still buzzing from our morning excursion we had a few hours at the beach in the afternoon and went snorkelling in the bay. We decided to have a few drinks in the evening and went to a bar where it was ladies night so ladies drank for free until 11pm, excellent news for our budget! The highlight of our evening was watching an old man, probably around 70 years old dancing with his cup of coffee. He kept challenging people to a dance off. It was highly amusing as he was by far and away the best dancer in the club!! We went to bed that night still on a massive high from our amazing day.

Our next destination was San Cristobal which I hadn’t really read much about but Tom was really keen to go so off we went. We got an overnight bus there so as not to waste a day and also save on accommodation. The 13 hour journey was one of the comfiest I’ve ever had on a bus and we both arrived fresh and ready to go. Unfortunately as we were now at slight altitude (7000ft) and as it was early in the morning it was freezing! We had to go delving in our big bags to find more clothes before heading out on to the streets. Even in the freezing temperatures we could see that the town was beautiful. Little cobbled streets and brightly coloured houses, exactly how I’d expect a mexican town to be.

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After grabbing some breakfast we headed to our hostel which was in fact a homestay. We decided to stay somewhere a bit different so we were staying in a family’s house for the next 4 nights. The family were lovely. Thankfully the Dad (Arturo) spoke English so I could communicate with him. They showed us up to our lovely little but very cold room and then chatted to us about what we wanted to do whilst in the town. Tom mentioned that there was a football match going on in a nearby town that we were keen to go to and Arturo gave us instructions on how to get there. The match was Jaguars v Cruz Azul and was to be played in a town an hour away called Tuxtla. Cruz Azul are one of the top 4 teams in the country so we thought we’d better try and buy tickets before heading there for fear of not getting in. We managed to reserve some online but only after buying them we got an e-mail saying we had to pick them up at one of four pharmacies in Tuxla…random! The match didn’t kick off until 9pm so we spent the afternoon wandering around the pretty town and investing in some knitted gloves. If the morning temperature was anything to go by we were in for a cold night at the footy.
Getting to Tuxtla for the match was easy, but I wish I could say the same for picking up the tickets. We traipsed around for ages and went into numerous pharmacies but none of them could give us our tickets. Eventually in pharmacy number 6 the guy behind the counter informed us that we could just pick them up from the ground, aaarrggghh. So tickets in hand and a newly bought Jaguars shirt (for £4.50) on Tom we headed in. The stadium was pretty big and apparently there was a crowd of over 25,000 there. Just before the match kicked off there was a firework display. I’m not sure if that was the norm but it certainly added to the excitement.

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It was just great to be watching football again. Plus you didn’t ever have to leave your seat as there were tons of people wandering round selling litres of beer and snacks. We were in the main stand at the side and the hardcore Jaguar fans were to our right and didn’t stop singing for the entire match. The atmosphere was electric, which made up for the standard of the match which we both decided was like watching a poor championship/good league one tie in the first half and league two in the second!! It started off ok but by the second half both teams were tired and I don’t think there was even a shot on target. As it was unallocated seating we just decided to stand in the second half to take in the atmosphere. Suddenly a couple of men came over to us and asked if they could have their photo taken with us. We laughed and said of course and then that was it, loads of people wanted a photo. One guy even pushed his child towards me and asked for a picture!! It was all very random, I think we were the only non-mexicans at the match which was why there was such a big hoo-hah!

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After the match we bid farewell to our new friends and headed to find our transport home. (the final score was Jaguars 0 Cruz Azul 1) On arrival at the makeshift bus station all was dark and there was no sign of a mini-van let alone one heading in our direction, aaahh. Luckily after a bit of wandering up the main road I spotted a van with San Cristobal on the front so we managed to head home without any more hitches. On arrival back at our homestay we noticed a little dog sat outside a house across the road. He got angry every time Tom tried to stroke him but we vowed to befriend him and named him Brian. (We ended up buying him doggy chews the following day and by the end of our time in San Cristobal he was happy to be stroked!)

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The following day I really wanted to visit some of the local villages. I’d been reading about them and they sounded really interesting. We decided to do a tour even though neither of us are keen on walking around in a group, the only way to understand the different cultures was to have a guide. The first village we went to was San Juan Chamula and was about half an hour drive from San Cristobal. On arrival we were advised by our guide that photos are only allowed to be taken in certain places and he’d let us know when we could and couldn’t take them. The leaders and any spiritual ceremonies must not be photographed. Honestly the whole place was intriguing and one of the most interesting towns I’ve ever been to. Our guide, Cesar, walked us around through the market and explained lots about the town and all about the rituals of the local inhabitants (Indigenous Tzotzil Maya people) They have their own police force, dressed in the traditional woolen outfits but with an added gun! Their own prison, where the maximum sentence is three days and even have capital punishment for serious crimes. (our guide told us a horrific recent story about this) As we were there on a Sunday the place was unbelievably busy and there was huge market spread out over most of the village.

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We visited a spiritual leader’s home before heading to the church and Cesar told us all about the different things we’d see in the church from chickens being killed, different coloured candles and the use of alcohol and fizzy drinks. I found it all so fascinating as it’s so different from anything else I’ve ever experienced. Once in the church (where photos are strictly forbidden) we saw everything he’d told us about including a live chicken in a bag which was being wafted over someone and would later be sacrificed (this is done because that person is thought to have lost their soul and sacrificing a chicken, amongst other things, is a way of retrieving their soul) The church inside was very smoky and dark and there were no pews, everyone was sat on the floor on pine needles. There were even Mariachis in there playing instruments. It was one of the most interesting places I’ve ever visited and really proves how diverse our planet really is!

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After a wander around the market to sample some local food we headed to our next town of Zinacantan. Cesar explained that even though the same Indigenous Tzotzil Maya people lived here there were many differences between the two groups. The outfits they wore were different for a start and rather than the fluffy woolen clothes the people of Zinacnatan wore brightly coloured cotton clothing. Whilst we were there the festival of San Sebastián was going on and the whole town was out drinking and doing traditional practices. One of the most interesting being a tradition that every year a tree in the town was stripped off all it’s bark and someone dressed as a Jaguar climbed the tree whilst other people with blackened faces threw stuffed squirrels at him which he caught and threw back. We asked Cesar why they did this and he said he’d asked many different people but the answer was always “because it’s traditional”. Unfortunately we didn’t see this in action but we did see the tree and people in the appropriate outfits.

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After this we went to a local family’s home which also doubled as a weaving shop and sat in their kitchen eating tortillas. All in all it was a unique day and so amazing to experience such culturally different people from us just getting on with their everyday lives.

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The next day was my birthday. Originally we were going to head to Guatemala but Tom decided we shouldn’t spend my birthday travelling so we decided to stay an extra night. We planned to go to another town nearby called Chiapa de Corzo where there was meant to be a beautiful boat trip through a canyon and also the finale of the festival of San Sebastián. After a breakfast of 2 birthday cakes and a slightly complicated journey in 2 mini-vans we arrived on the outskirts of the town and walked along the pretty streets which were just setting up for the festival. We decided to head out to the canyon first which really was beautiful. We also saw 2 huge crocodiles by the water.

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Once back on land we wandered around the festival where all the men from the village were dressed up in incredible outfits and all the females in brightly coloured dresses.

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We were only going to stay for a few hours but we got sucked into the excitement of it all and ended up staying all afternoon. There was loads of beer on sale everywhere (1 litre for £1.50) and once again all the locals had chilli stuff all round their cups and a shot of some weird spicy stuff in their beer. Tom, not wanting to miss out decided to give it a try and instantly regretted it. Just sipping it made me gag and his face was a picture every time he drank it. This is one tradition I cannot understand..why ruin a nice beer!!

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After a few more hours people watching and playing fairground games we decided to call it a day. We’d had so much fun and to experience a traditional mexican fiesta was fantastic. We hardly saw any other tourists and it really felt like we’d immersed ourselves into a local tradition, it’s definitely a birthday I won’t forget for a long time.

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Then that was it for Mexico. After not being keen on Mexico City things just got better and better and we had an unbelievable couple of weeks. A usual we were sad to be leaving but looking forward to our next country, Guatemala.

As always we have tons of photos, please click here to have a look

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The US is A O.K.

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We took the Dolarian (car from Back to the Future if you don’t know!) and magically went back in time on our flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. We took off at 17:00 on Thursday 2nd January 2014 and landed at 09:00 on Thursday 2nd January 2014, despite being on a 13 hour flight. We finally made it through the ridiculous grilling the immigration US guys give you and went to pick up our Ford Focus for our 4 day stint in California. For me it was like driving a work hire car but with much more beautiful scenery than Keele and Northampton. We had decided we both didn’t really like LA that much the last time we’d been, so we picked San Diego (“it means a Whale’s Vagina.” – Anchorman, Ron Burgandy) as our home for three nights and jumped on the 7 lane Freeway South. Nowadays I drive an awful lot and consider myself a pretty competent driver but driving in America is just a bit nuts. You have to stop at every crossroads in town and never really know who’s right of way it is and you can turn right at red lights as long as you aren’t going to kill anyone crossing the road. When we got to San Diego we had the fun of trying to find somewhere to park in this busy old city. Our hostel said there was some free residential parking about 10 blocks away so we dumped our bags and drove over to 14th Street. One thing that always surprises me about the States is the huge number of homeless people (hobos) and where we parked our car seemed to be where they were all spending the night. Oh well it was a hire car and I was insured!!

I’m a huge fan of America and a trip to their supermarkets is so much more interesting than to our Sainsbury’s on Clapham High Street. It is a country of such huge extremes; there is such a huge range of crap food available and lots of obese people and yet there is so much stuff available if you want to live healthily. So after overindulging like the rest of the world during Christmas and New Year we decided to eat well for a couple of days. Jet lag got the better of us the first night so we didn’t get up to much.

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On the second day we pulled ourselves out of bed and went exploring the awesome place. What we have realised now is that cities based on water are generally much more beautiful and San Diego has a great feel about it. There’s tons of shopping to be had and thankfully the fact that our 2 (no longer 8) bags were full to the brim we mostly window shopped. That afternoon I went to a world famous gym called Crossfit Invictus and saw just how passionate the Americans can be about fitness. They were a really great club and the people were super friendly, thankfully I held my own amongst them.

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Our third day was action packed compared to the first two. I snook off early to Invictus again and then met Eccles at the street market in the Little Italy district. Now Caroline has dragged me along to a market in pretty much every country we’ve been to and normally I’m interested for about five minutes, however this one was really different as the over the top Americans couldn’t have been happier to hand out free samples of everything which was great news for two hungry and thirsty travellers. From what I can remember we either sampled or brought the following: blood oranges, green tomatoes, super green vitality drink, cashew nut brittle, peanut butter (not the allergic Caroline), seven different flavours of beef jerky, about 15 different hot sauces, a coconut milk cappuccino, mama’s special recipe cookies and cream cheesecake, the freshest orange juice and more than 15 different types of hummus. After our free feast we headed off to the Old Town of San Diego, which is a mixture of real and recreated buildings from the late 1800’s when SD was a vital port for USA. It was quite a cool little place and was very much like walking around the American Adventure, only this one used to be real! The undoubted highlight if the place was when I discovered a shop that only sold Root Beer and Jerky. Two of my very favourite things in the world. I spent a good 20 minutes picking out two very rare and special root beers that I know my brother and mate, Oli would have been insanely jealous about.

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Next stop on the SD tour was to Mission Beach to see the hostel Banana Bungalows where Caroline (big head) Eccles and Claire (new mother) Lewin had stayed 8 years ago. It’s a very nice beach with a beautiful pier and is a picture postcard of America with loads of surfers and everyone playing volleyball. Our final stop was to a small town on the outskirts called La Jolla to hopefully catch a Californian sunset. We managed to find what seemed to be the only parking space in the town and wandered down to a jetty where loads of people were. To our surprise it was overlooking a beach that had about 100 seals of all ages on it. Without doubt the cutest ones were the little pups with their smiley dog faces. We sat on a bench and were lucky enough to get another beautiful sunset to add to the collection we’ve already got from the last six months.

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We had saved ourselves for a big meal and were very keen to find an amazing ribs and wings place. After a bit of research we found a place called the Kansas City BBQ House. This place had an added bonus that instantly drew us to it. It was used as the location for the ‘sleazy bar’ where Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose did their rendition of Great Balls of Fire in one if the best films ever, Top Gun. The ribs there didn’t disappoint and the bar man / owner who had been there during the filming gave us a great, super quick talk about where and how things were filmed 25 years ago and even pointed out the piano they used, which of course we had a photo at. After that we wandered around trying to find a decent bar and struggled for a while until we saw a Piano Duel Bar. Having been to one before in Las Vegas I knew they were a great laugh and that Caroline would love it. If you’ve never heard of one before they are basically a huge bar with a stage on the front with two grand pianos on them, two super talented artists (usually a man v a woman) will them play songs requested by the audience and turn them into a kind of battle of the sexes. Not only does this get the atmosphere really revved up but they also change the lyrics to most songs to something either rude, hilarious or both. The first guy and the woman who played were sensational and knew pretty much every song requested. The next couple were average so we were delighted when the first two finished of the night. The crowd interaction is what really helps make it and they often get people on stage to embarrass them. As the night was coming to an end I sneakily put in a request on a little piece of paper and slipped it to the guy with $20 attached. A few minutes later it started….. BAH, BAH, BAH….SWEET CAROLINE. Needless to say I was in the good books with Eccles. The guy did a fantastic rendition and the crowd all sang along!!

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Our last proper day in the States was spent driving up North on the Pacific Highway 1 and taking in all it’s beauty, stopping at various places along the way. We had our little packed lunch on a lovely little beach with a railway track behind it, it was stunning.

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We decided to spend our last night in Laguna Beach which is a gorgeous as it looks on TV and we bowed out in style with a lovely greasy burger at a Ruby’s Dinner I had been to with Will (bro) and Ben (mate) back in 2005! Just to make us worse about the unhealthy eating we thought it was too far to walk and that we should drive. It wasn’t until turning right and instantly seeing Ruby’s we realised a 50 second drive was perhaps a bit lazy. Ho hum….. ‘When in Rome..’

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It had only been a short stay in USA but it was a great one and we were really glad we had decided against just staying in LA. Next stop was Mexico and South America to go back to the kind of travelling where you really feel like a stranger in someone else’s country. It promised to be exciting

A few extra pictures are available. If you want to see them click here.

Happy New Year everyone. Vamanos.

Tommy and Ecco
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Tis the season to be jolly

After saying goodbye to Fritz it was off into the big city and to our hostel. It was all very straightforward which was just as well seeing as our one year two bags had turned into one year 8 bags….(and we even accidentally left some stuff behind in Fritz!) The hostel we booked back in April was situated in the Rocks area of Sydney which overlooks the beautiful harbour with the Opera House and the bridge. Being at such a great vantage point comes at a cost and after our uneventful trip on a double decker train we had to negotiate some very steep stairs with our umpteen bags! It was all worth it though, look at the view from the roof terrace!!

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For our first evening in the bright lights we decided to head to the Glenmore pub up the road as they were doing $12 steaks and we couldn’t be bothered to traipse to the supermarket. Plus, after our fly ridden last night in the van, we thought we deserved a treat. The steak was amazing for £6.50! We had a wander around the harbour afterwards which was beautiful. There was a really nice feel about the place and we both instantly felt happy in Sydney, we knew that Christmas and New Year were going to be incredible.

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Next day was Christmas Eve. I’d decorated our bunk bed with tinsel and fairy lights and we had a tiny little tree in the room with crackers but we were missing something…presents. I generally leave present buying to the last minute anyway but this was taking things to the extreme! We headed into the city to see what we could find, apparently everyone else had the same idea. Everywhere was so christmassy with trees and christmas music, but it still didn’t feel like christmas because it was warm and I was shopping whilst wearing shorts, weird. We did manage to buy each other a few things though even with a tiny budget.

That evening Tom had arranged to meet some family friends Melissa and Ashley for a few drinks so after wrapping all the presents in free wrapping paper I’d stumbled across in Melbourne, we headed out to meet them.

As usual a few drinks turned into quite a lot of drinks and at midnight we all toasted Christmas Day before heading our separate ways. Once back at the hostel Tom put a stocking on the end of my bed, apparently when I noticed it my face was priceless!!

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I went to bed that night as excited as I usually do on Christmas Eve. It hadn’t been the Christmas Eve either of us were used to but nevertheless it was still Christmas so I was as excited as a small child.

We awoke the next morning to rain!! When planning the trip we’d both said that we really wanted to go to the beach on Christmas Day and I certainly wasn’t going to let a bit of drizzle stop me!
We started off the morning by opening our presents whilst playing christmas music before heading downstairs to make our gourmet breakfast of salmon and poached eggs, well it was Christmas Day!

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It didn’t look like the rain was going to stop but we decided to head to Bondi Beach anyway. I’d love to say that once there the clouds cleared and we had a lovely sunny day on the beach…but that wasn’t the case, it was pretty miserable weather wise.

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After staying out in the rain for as long as we could we headed to a pub for some food. We couldn’t find anywhere selling traditional Christmas dinner and there actually weren’t many pubs open around Bondi. We were both a bit disappointed as we’d been really looking forward to Christmas on the beach. Our first Christmas in a hot climate and what does it do…rain! We headed back to the Rocks a bit dejected and a bit soggy. On our way back towards the hostel I spotted a really Christmassy looking pub called Phillip’s foot so we decided to stop for a drink…we’d stumbled across the most perfect pub ever! It was like walking into santa’s grotto.

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We had a lovely evening chatting to people and even though it wasn’t the Christmas we’d been looking forward to the Christmas pub saved the day!

Usually on Boxing Day we are both heading to work so it felt odd to be wandering around Sydney in the sunshine. I have always found it odd that anyone would want to go shopping on Boxing Day but “someone” wanted a t-shirt from the Nike shop so off we went into town with the rest of the Sydney population.

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We definitely didn’t want to hang around for longer than absolutely necessary so we decided to head to Darling Harbour. After being so cold and wet the previous day we had a lovely time wandering around the pretty harbour in the sunshine.

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In the evening however the rain decided to return just as we were heading to the supermarket to get some food for tea. Tom had bought me some new flip flops for Christmas but not wanting to ruin them on their first outing I wore my old ones which we renamed ‘the ice-skates’. For some reason the rain had caused all the pavements to become ridiculously slippy and much to Tom’s annoyance it took us 5 times as long to get there as I shuffled along like an old lady!!

The next day we went to Manly beach which involved a 30minute boat ride through the harbour. You can do a harbour cruise but we’d read that it was much cheaper and just as good to get the ferry to Manly…the views were amazing.

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Manly beach was a beautiful long stretch of white sand with a lovely little town attached to it. I hired a surf board for an hour and was actually quite successful in standing up, maybe I will be a pro by the end of this trip!! We had a nice relaxing day on the beach before a tea of grilled fish, beautiful.

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For our last Saturday in Australia Tom researched a fun pub crawl for us to do. We’d heard that Sydney didn’t have that many cool bars, unlike Melbourne. But with a bit of research Tom found some great little places, most of which were hidden (I.e we had to wander down a dark ginnel to find one of them, and it was just a door next to a bin…the bar was amazing though!)

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It was a great night with some visits to amazingly cool bars (our budget took a bit of a beating) and we ended up in a place which was an old fashioned pizzeria with a club out the back playing rock. You could order slices of pizza with your drinks and play pinball machines in the back bar!

After a day of trip planning and wandering around the botanical gardens we decided to head back to Bondi the following day, weather dependant. We hadn’t really seen it properly when it was grey and drizzly so we wanted to go on a sunny day. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a packed beach in my life!!!

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They were also doing some filming for the Bondi Rescue TV show that we both love, so we spent most of our time there looking out for some of the stars! We’d arranged to meet Ed in Bondi, another person we’d met whilst in Africa. It was great to see him and we spent the day chatting to him whilst lazing on the beach before going for a few beers….pretty much what we’d wanted to do on Christmas Day…oh well.

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We both went to bed really excited that night as the following day was something we’d been looking forward to since the start of the trip…New Years Eve. Back in April when we’d booked the hostel we’d also booked tickets for their New Years Eve party on the roof terrace, I was beside myself with excitement.

In the morning we just had a wander round the harbour. It was really hot and we were both so pleased we’d made the decision to go to the roof terrace party as by midday the harbour was ridiculously busy with people securing their spot for the fireworks. I’m not sure Tom would have coped so well with the 12 hour wait!! We also climbed up the Pylon lookout which had great views over the harbour.

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Once the roof terrace opened we headed up for our food and drinks and as it started to go dark the excitement grew. I’ve often seen the fireworks on TV and always thought how amazing it must be to watch them…and there we were on a roof overlooking Sydney Harbour!! During the evening there were various other shows like a plane doing tricks and light shows which were all really good. Plus at 9pm there were some fireworks for the families who weren’t staying for the midnight ones. They were amazing so I knew the main ones were going to be out of this world, I was not disappointed. I don’t think we’ll ever see such impressive fireworks again. Just being there for the iconic display was incredible. The pictures just don’t do it justice, but it was truly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen and something we won’t forget for a long time.

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The following day we pretty much did nothing but recover from the epic NYE and lounged around. It was our last day in Australia and we were both really sad to leave. We’d done so much in this huge country and in the grand scheme of things we’d hardly seen any of it!! I’m just pleased we managed to last the whole 6 weeks without seeing a snake! Our adventure in Australia really was incredible. When I think back to everything we’d done from snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef and sailing the Whitsunday Islands, to seeing Koalas in the wild, I sometimes can’t believe how lucky we are to have had the chance to experience all those once-in-a-lifetime things. The NYE fireworks really were a fitting end to our fantastic adventure down-under!!

As usual if you’d like to see more photos please click here

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The Wonder of Down Under

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We set off from Brisbane heading for the famous Gold Coast and decided that the Tourist Park in Main Beach would be our home for a few days. You could tell we had moved closer to the big cities again as the prices of everything had dramatically increased. We spent the day just hanging out on the beautiful beach that was directly opposite our camp grounds and had a quite night in as we had a big Saturday planned.

One of the most famous beaches on the East Coast of Australia is Surfer’s Paradise so we made a 3 Km pilgrimage to the long beach below the famous skyscrapers. It was a pretty nice city, a little reminiscent of a European holiday resort and there also seemed to be plenty of money knocking around with some lovely places to live, fast cars and big boats. Perhaps one of the funniest moments on the trip was when unexpectedly Rel accused a sleeping Matt of throwing water on her back. Unfortunately for our dear Rel it wasn’t water but in fact one of the local seagull’s had decided to poop a thick green mess all down her back. Amongst the screams of panic and comments such as, “you’ll have to go and wash yourself in the sea!” and “have you got any tissues?” the Group of lads sat in front of us thought she had actually pooped herself, especially when the first thing she did was squat in the ocean when she got in there (only to be knocked over by a huge wave, much to Caroline and my amusement). The lads were so intrigued that one of them went and asked her if she had indeed followed through. Rel was happy to put them straight but still mightily embarrassed.

That night we went to The Fiddler’s Irish Pub and persuaded them to find Derby v Blackpool on Aussie Setanta. After a lot of faffing they turned it over and we were already 0-1 down. However, what unfolded after that was a performance from my team unrecognisable from the rabble I had left behind, cheers Steeeve. It ended with a thumping 5-1 win for us Rams which delighted me and also Caroline because of her hatred of the Donkey Lashes (Blackpool are Preston’s hated rivals). We watched Derby win and Man U loose to the Toon whilst the girls kept getting chatted up by random Aussie blokes even though we were sat right there. Much to Matt’s delight we then watched Liverpool demolish West Ham.

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We spent day lazing on the beach having extended our time on The Gold Coast by an extra day ensuring we could attend ‘Christmas Carols on the beach’ which Caroline and Rel had told us would be brilliant. Assuming they’d done all the research necessary to make our extra day worthwhile we headed down to the beach as the sun was going down looking forward to hearing Silent night in Surfer’s Paradise at sundown. When we got to the beach it was empty apart from a few hardy surfers. It turned out it was carols at Main Beach Plaza, a local shopping centre!! Undeterred and led by Caroline and her insatiable appetite for all things Christmas we went to the plaza and watched three hours of very weird singing and dancing designed for the children of the town, it was like sitting through an extended Christmas episode of Rainbow. It wasn’t quite what we had expected so Rel and I amused ourselves with by stroking all the dogs that were there, mostly in Christmas fancy dress!!

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We set off the next day to drive to Byron Bay to stay at a Nomads hostel called The Arts Factory. Which was a huge hostel, where we would be sleeping in their car park for three days. Byron Bay is a really nice little town that reminds me of Glastonbury without the mud and pear cider. A very relaxed atmosphere where the town is made up of rich Aussies, backpackers, hippies, musicians, religious folk and surfers! There are some really great bars and happy hours that we took advantage of and even a backpackers bar (Cheeky Monkeys) where we found our evening dinner for only $5 each which was sensational value in any country but amazing considering this was Australia. The food was surprisingly good and plentiful. So good (cheap) in fact we came back the next day just so the two Northern Girls could have sausage and mash.

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Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worst so whilst Caz and Matt tried to improve their surfing skills further, I went to Crossfit Byron Bay and Rel went Secret Santa shopping and tried to keep warm. It is a lovely beach at Byron but with the cloud it was reminiscent of trying to sunbathe in Cornwall in April! We wandered around town and saw an amazing little band called Timberwolf playing a gig in the street. Earlier had watched a guy called Tom Francis do a great little bit of busking. It’s a very arty town where busking is encouraged and the standard is exceptionally high.

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Our next long driving day was a monster, 900km drive from Byron to Blue Mountains outside Sydney. It started with an attempted Sunrise at the Lighthouse which is Australia’s most Easterly point. It was a bit cloudy but still made for a great picture. The drive was long but kept interesting by animal spotting, we saw kangaroos and camels. We drove to a campsite at Emu Plains after a very long day and were told it was full, which was a bit of a blow but worked out well for us in the end as we went to a Town Club in Richmond and got to stay in an amazing Wanderest campsite for only $5. If only there has been more of these we could have saved hundreds of dollars. It was basically a huge crown green bowls club which had 3 bars, two restaurants, hairdressers and gym.

The Blue Mountains were a place we hadn’t really been that aware of until the recent bush fires which had dominated the news whilst we were in New Zealand, fortunately they had now been put out and were no longer a danger. Our first stop was Wentworth Falls for a view over the vast green canopy of Eucalyptus trees. It is these trees that turn the sky a blue colour with the vapour from their leaves, hence the name, Blue Mountains. Highlight of the day was undoubtably our walk from our campsite in Katoomba to the lookout over the Three Sisters, an iconic rock formation. It was so vast up there with some great colours, especially at sunset.

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The next stop on our road trip was to be Wagga Wagga (just pronounced Wogga apparently). Its been a bit of a pilgrimage to this place as it was a completely random town that Caroline saw on the map about 4 months ago and decided we had to go visit it!! The added bonus of Wagga was that it was a Saturday so we decided this was to be an evening out in this strange Aussie city. It turned out to be a lot bigger than we thought and we had a belting evening. After watching some really good live music until about 11, we were contemplating calling it a night, this however is never a possibility when you go out with chief of the ‘Never Enough Club’ (Caroline) so we headed off to a huge bar that was pumping out some terrible music (Scooter). Inside it was like a maze of different rooms and bars, scarily enough turns out it used to be Australia’s 4th most violent bar which explained the plastic glasses after 9pm! We managed to avoid any trouble and Matt and I kept an eye on the Man City v Arsenal match on the TV behind the bar. However this was enough to alert the local police and bouncer that we were either insane or very drunk. The police officers in the bar sent the bouncer over to see if Matt was intoxicated because he was watching the footy!! The bouncer was cool enough and knew we were just English, however the policeman wasn’t convinced and came to speak to a pretty sober Matt. When asked if he was drunk Matt looked at him with his eyes wide open and uttered the following words,”Shit, you’ve got a gun!” The officer wasn’t entertained but after a quick grilling he realised we weren’t the ones to be worried about and were just a group of football addicted English!

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About a week previous we had changed our route from going inland to what we realised would never be the true outback and instead decided to take on one of the most famous drives in the world, the Great Ocean Road. This was to begin in a great little surf town named Torquay, where Rip Curl’s headquarters were and loads of other surf shops. The owner of the backpackers hostel we stayed in was an ex-guide for the road so told us all the best places to stop and clued us up on some fascinating history behind the road. He told us that when the Australian servicemen from WWII returned at the end of the war there weren’t enough jobs for them as all the women and people who had not been to fight had filled them. So the Government came up with the idea to build this great costal road in order to give them something constructive to do. They had done a great job and it was a really beautiful drive of winding roads with spectacular coastlines. We stopped every now and then to take some photos including the actual lighthouse from the TV show Round the Twist that we all loved as kids. One secret little spot we’d been told about was absolutely incredible. It was a campsite in Kennett River. First up there were dozens of Lorikeets, Parrots and Rozellas (beautiful parrot type birds) which were so tame that they would eat out of your hand and amusingly they would also often land on your head or shoulders. Whilst I was entertaining myself with them the girls had disappeared and soon scurried back telling to leave the birds as there was something much better in the campsite. When we got there the was a little Koala only 10 feet up a eucalyptus tree munching on the leaves. It was amazing to see this iconic animal so close up and after about half an hour of taking photos we started feeding the birds again. The koala was obviously jealous that we weren’t paying it any attention anymore and clambered down the tree right in front of us. This little bear (actually marsupial) was now on the ground and began walking around searching for another tree to climb. It must be said when on the floor these animals are a lot less cute. It walked on all fours and looked like an old little dog riddled with arthritis, it was really weird looking at it on the floor!!

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After our koala experience we got back in the camper and were bombarded with amazing view after amazing view. None more amazing than the iconic Twelve Apostles rock formations. They are one of the famous landmarks of the world you always see in every travel book and it had to be said it was absolutely stunning and didn’t disappoint. We must’ve spent a good hour taking photos there. After that we stopped at even more places such as The Arch, London Bridge and The Grotto. We spent the night in a small town called Apollo Bay in the car park of a strange hostel which was a complex of old buildings and it felt like we were staying at your Grandma’s house!

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As this was to be our first Christmas away from England we wanted it to still be traditional even if it was about 30 degrees hotter and so after finishing off the Great Ocean Road we hunted out a campsite that had a oven so we could make a god old fashioned traditional Christmas dinner. When your starter is mulled wine you know you are onto a winner. Earlier that day Matt and I had raided a local butchers and had managed to get some huge turkey breasts, sausage and bacon whilst the ladies had been in the supermarket sourcing the veggies, potatoes (for roasting), gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing and not forgetting sprouts. The campsite we had chosen was perfect as we had a huge kitchen pretty much to ourselves and a great big table complete with decorations and crackers to eat it all off. We all cooked and made a really beautiful Christmas dinner on this our ‘unofficial Christmas Day’. After we were all stuffed we retired back to Fritzy (the campervan) and opened our Secret Santa pressies. Matt got a bottle of beer and a postcard, Caroline a toothbrush and a miniature surfboard, Rel a koala shaped pencil case and a bracelet and I was the very lucky recipient of a tub of mixed nuts and a bracelet. With a $5 limit on the pressies we had all done really well and like the saying goes “it’s the thought that counts”. We had managed to have a really lovely Unofficial Christmas Day and must’ve listened to Matt’s Xmas playlist approximately 78 times in the last 17 days to get us in the mood (apparently)! Before bed we even managed to squeeze in a special screening of Elf on Matt’s laptop.

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We drove on the dull highway back to Melbourne as it was much quicker and had a final night out in the Fitzroy area of the city. It was amazing and full of some of the coolest bars I’ve ever seen. The highlight was a bar called Naked for Satan with a roof terrace overlooking the whole city. We also finished our ferocious pool competition with Team Taz (Tom and Caz) beating Team Rat (Rel and Matt) convincingly in the end!! 13-10

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After a really incredible month together in our little campervan we said an emotional farewell to our mates Rel and Matt (Team Rat) and dropped them at the airport so they could go back to the UK in time for Christmas. It had been such an amazing month that none of us will forget in a hurry and I think it’s fair to say we certainly are a lot closer to each other now than when we started!! We had snorkelled in the Great Barrier Reef, seen wild crocodiles, driven a pink car around a crazy island, feed rock wallabies by hand, sailed The Whitsunday’s, learnt to surf, driven 6,000 kilometres, seen incredible places, nearly been arrested and had Christmas Day all whilst having a great laugh along the way. We were really sad that they had had to leave us and a little confused about it just being the two of us again.

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Caroline and I drove to a little suburb of Melbourne called St Kilda to stay with a close family friend, Glen and his girlfriend Rani. They were so unbelievably kind to us and offered a bed in their house for 3 nights which felt amazing after a month sleeping in the sweaty camper van (Fritzy) for the last 4 weeks. The treated us to a lovely BBQ and we spent a great evening eating and drinking outside in their lovely garden.

The next morning we went into Melbourne City centre and took in all the sights. It’s such a great city full of fascinating little alleyways all with amazing graffiti covered walls. Amongst them were some great shops, restaurants and cafés, with many of them so well hidden you may never find them. We spent a great hour in a free exhibition in the ACIM museum about the history of moving images. It had all the old computer games and tv programs and it even had one of the cars from Mad Max, which was special for me as it is one of the first films I can ever remember watching with my Dad. We could have spent a whole day there but moved on to see the rest of the city.

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Near to where we were staying was the funky Chapel Street area of St Kilda so on Saturday morning we went on our own eating tour and had paella, healthy grilled burgers and dumplings. In the evening Rani rustled up some sensational pizzas which she somehow cooked on the BBQ and we went to their local for a few Christmas beers. To catch up with Glen and get to know Rani was really lovely.

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Sadly we had to leave Melbourne for Sydney (although that is a pretty good reason) and we drove to a free campsite 4 hours away. That night was to be our last in our third campervan so far this trip and Fritzy had been great to us. Unfortunately the last night sleeping in him was to be a bad one as we got absolutely nailed by flies, there must’ve been 2,000 that got into our van through the fly-screens and gave us a really depressing last night’s sleep!! As soon as the sun was up we cleared up all the dead little midges and got on our way to the big city where we going to be spending Christmas (the Official one) and New Years Eve which we were incredibly excited about.

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As usual we have a tonne of other photos for you to check out if you fancy. Please click here!

Sending you all our love and thinking about all our friends and family over the Christmas period.

Tommy and Caz

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