On the Road; NYE in NSW

Last week we covered 1000 km with trips along the Great Ocean Road & Tasmania. That’s a mere warm up by Australian standards. This New Year’s Eve we set off on our 2250 km trip from Melbourne Victoria, inland up to Newcastle in New South Wales, and then back down the East coast. That’s the equivalent of driving from London to Lisbon!

It was all worth it to end 2014 with three new travel experiences; 1) My first night in a real roadside motel. Despite my joking, the Hi-Way Inn Yass was totally pleasant & nothing like the ‘Bates Motel’ I’d imagined. 2) My first Australian New Year, filled with card games & family. 3) And being six months pregnant; my first (and last) sober NYE in about 16 years!

Scepan Polje, Durmitor National Park

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We booked a rafting tour through Old Town Hostel Kotor and headed up to the National Park as a day tour (74 euros). It’s a winding 3 hour drive each way, with some pretty spectacular views that give Lake Bled a run for its money on neon blue water. The white water is apparently level 2 – 3; enjoyable with a few drops & splashes. With river temperatures of 4 degrees you wouldn’t necessarily want to fall in, even with a wetsuit. After the travel, a nice breakfast & lunch, you spend about 2.5 hours on the water. The best bit was during a waterfall stop when our guide casually remarked that we were in Bosnia! Apparently border control is pretty relaxed on the Montenegro / Bosnia border since we had no passports. A shame, as I’d love to add ‘raft’ to my list of border crossings.

JSA, Panmunjom, (Almost) North Korea

Photos from the Joint Security Area (JSA) from the Southern side of  the infamous North/South Korean border.

Technically you can ‘cross over’ to the North by hovering down the middle of the JSA conference room Military Demarcation Line (like you can by jump through air  east to west on the equator.) Venture any further than that however and you’re guarantees to be snipered within seconds. (No joke, there have been several tragic incidents including the famous 1970’s Axe Murder.)

Panmunjom is the furthest point civilians can venture from the Republic of Korea, and only on a pre -arranged tour booked at least 3 days before. The 9am – 5pm tours are all padded out with visits to Camp Bonifas, The War Memorial & The Freedom Bridge at Imjingag Park. I booked via Seoul City Tour.

The JSA itself (minus all security faffing) is literally only 10 mins.  Yes it’s a little over-scripted, photos are limited, & everyone’s facebook pics look the same.  However at the same time it’s  unique, surreal, and particularly interesting if you get a bit of ad lib chit chat from the USA solders.  (He fully admitted the North can hear everything that’s said, with their bugs 800 meters away.) The whole North/South guard patrol face off  is almost comedic – if it’ wasn’t one of the most armed places on earth!

Probably the most fascinating 10 secs of the day are the  glimpses of Kijongdong; The Propaganda Village 1km away on the Northern side.  Again it verges on the ridiculous with their ‘our flagpole is bigger than your flagpole’ contest (the North rebuild theres to double the height.) Shame it’s a sham and no-one lives there to see it.  Chillingly creepy!

 

 

 

5 Things I love about you: Malaysian Airlines

IMG_20011) Double Decker airbus A380’s. Yes that’s right – stairs. ON.An.Airplane! You pay for economy, but still get to brag about your seat being ‘U35’. That stands for Upper bitches!

2) How’s this for a snack: Magnum Icecreams! Hell yes. Not to mention Hershey’s Chocolate bars and mini vintage cheddar cheese.

3) Hollywood Camera Angles – OK lots of airlines feature a take off/landing live feed, but these guys have hoisted up the camera angles to the very top of the wings. It’s feels like part movie, part video game.

4) Extra leg room & nifty storage – Side compartments with all window seats that, if you are small enough, double up as great pillow head rest.

5) Making plane friends chit chatting to Sydney Recruitment agents. You never know… :)

www.malaysiaairlines.com/

Gorakhpur India

Just when you think two day train/bus combo journeys can’t get any worse.  India is here to tell you of course they can.

We had the usual madness. Indian families of at least five generations travelling with nothing less than all of their worldly belongings, balanced in potato sacks weighing double a small smart car. Except the 13h Vaishali express this Wednesday evening evidently had the entire nation of India packed into it.

There are normally 6 beds per compartment; lower,middle,upper then two in the aisles. That’s about just less 100 people per cabin lets say. Since there are bars on the window any sane country might appreciate any more than this causes havoc in a fire and/or feels like hell.

Like the mugs/nice people we are (you decide) we give up our bed to stop a family of 10 laying on the floor. No one wants to be THAT guy lounging on a bed to yourself as the 300 people around you contort into square meters the size of postage stamps I guess. Whilst fighting for your birth is one thing, fighting your way to the toilet in the middle of the night across hordes of bedless bodies must be what it feels like to be a worm burying through middle earth. This was made all the more harder by the fact that my flipflops were long gone under someones grandmother, and I had to do the 50m leap in Mark’s oversized trainers with the dignity of a scrambling monkey at a zoo. You would not want to brave train toilets barefooted no matter how desperate the circumstances, so it had to be done.

We pile off at 9am and jiggle 3.5 hours on a bus to the border town of Sunaui, where we crossed into Nepal pretty drama free. There was a slight 10 min confusion where I technically (and possibly illegally) crossed out of India on one passport (the old invalid one) and into Nepal on my nice shiny new one, acquiring my first stamp.

So coming straight off the back of our prisoner of war camp train, our next 12 hours were spent going from bad to worse in a tin can bus that raged it’s way from the border to the capital.The luxary was reminiscent of the standards of the one from Inle to Bagan Burma that Jessica and I christened the chicken coop.  The mountainous roads are notorious. In fact the 3.45pm we were booked on got suspiciously cancelled due to a vaguely mentioned ‘accident.’ But I figure do like in Laos. Never be silly enough to be able to SEE your own plummet to death. Turn a blind eye and do it overnight in the pitch black. Simples.

Now I can’t complain too much as I actually managed some decent sleeps, but I’m informed by Mark that it was pretty much one of the oddest journeys of all time. I missed at least five screaming fights, at least three of which featured our psycho driver, at least one of which took place with us all balanced on a mountain’s precipice. A third involved our new comedy bus friend ‘NGO Chad’ (American do-gooder type) who at over 6ft decided he couldn’t hack 12h of misery on his back seat and stropped off at a roadside cafe, unloading all his stuff and brattily telling everyone he had reached breaking point. He came crawling back a whole 10 mins later, after learning that Nepalese buses are as ramshackle chic as each other, and spent the rest of the night demoted to the floor. We had to snigger.

First impressions of Nepal are that it’s cleaner/richer/more modern than it’s neighbour, giving even Cambodia a run for its money as a nation of strikingly beautiful guys and girls.  There must be something in the water here as Burma is similarly geographically placed and no one there is rocking the enviable bone structure of Chinese features with a killer tan. It was like when we left Bolivia for Colombia and suddenly everyone looks good again. Talking of, Nepal’s mountain climate and scenery feels pretty Bolivia-esq. It’s refreshing to not have a body temperature that isn’t hovering at molten lava for the first time in months. I like it already.

Previous Older Entries

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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