Had an AWESOME time over in Western Aus. We spent 10 days over there - a couple of nights in Perth, a couple in Margaret River, and the rest down south visiting our dear friends and their 8 month old baby (by whom Gus was fascinated). In that time we:
And the plane trips were totally fine! Gus was a dream, not a peep from him (except once he got a bit shouty whilst landing, think his ears hurt). We got given a spare seat on the way over, and a bassinette on the way back. And I coped too (was only mildly terrified the whole time).
.. we were in Rishikesh in India, sitting by the Ganges watching an evening aarti ceremony.
Exactly a year ago today we were here, in Positano, Italy, on our 3 month world adventure. Magic. Wish I could live it again.
India was intense. I knew what to expect but I still got a big shock. It was overwhelming.
The things that stood out immediately were the sheer number of people, and the intense poverty. It was also well over 40 degrees everyday. I had a mini breakdown more than once.
As Tim put it, you definitely need to keep a positive attitude.
But having said that, it was good experience too, and I'm glad we went.
After a quick tour of Delhi, we caught the train to Rishikesh, where we watched the evening Aarti ceremony by the Ganges, which involved lots of chanting, lighting a fire and floating some pretty leaf bowls full of flowers down the river. It was nice to sit in the crowd and be a part of it.
From there we drove up into the Himalayas, to Dugalbitta. The drive in itself was an adventure, it took 9 hours to travel 250 km! The photo of the road above explains why.
In the Himalayas we climbed up Chandrashila, which was 4000 metres high. We could definitely feel the effects of the altitude! The views from the top were sensational, especially coming from flat old Australia.
The drive back down was even more eventful than the journey up, thanks to heavy rain during the night which set off a series of landslides. When we hit one that was 6-8 hours from being cleared, we had to take a detour. It took much longer, and we had to drive in the dark which was terrifying. Things got even scarier when we hit another heavy storm, whilst driving through a landslide-prone area with a kilometre or so of mountain above and below us. Tim and I were both convinced we were going to die, however the Nepalese guides in the car were so unfazed they went to sleep! After bribing the police to get through a roadblock (closed from 8.30 because the road is too dangerous!) we finally arrived back at 10pm. The journey took 12 hours. Definitely the worst day of the whole three month trip.
Back closer to sea level, we visited Agra (home of the Taj Mahal) and Jaipur. I liked Jaipur in particular, especially the old city with all it's matching pink buildings and little the market-style shops.
India was full of highs and lows, and is definitely the country we talk most about now that we're back. It was also a good country to finish on, we were definitely ready to go home!
The amazing curries. So much more delicious than anything you can get back home.
The beautiful saris on all of the women
Seeing the Taj Mahal. It really is spectacular.
Rafting down the Ganges
Getting in a traffic jam that involved an elephant
Not so good:
Having freckles in India - they totally threw everyone. One woman asked why I'd painted henna dots all over myself!
The tipping thing - we didn't really understand it, and felt like we had to tip everyone. It ended up being quite expensive!
Be sure to pack:
Modest clothing, especially if you're female. Long loose pants, and loose t-shirts or shirts.
It was a bit of a drama getting to the Greek islands from Sicily, I even suggested not going, but so glad we did! For some reason we'd decided it would be too touristy and not that nice. Wrong. It was bliss! We stayed in a village called Naoussa, on the island of Paros; part of the Cyclades. It fitted all the stereotypes of a Greek village: cute white buildings, brightly painted fishing boats, rows of octopus hanging out to dry in the sun. Our days consisted of drinking coffee, swimming in the amazingly clear blue water, and eating Greek taverna fare.
We were going to island hop, but ended up staying put in Naoussa for a week as it was so great, then we went to Santorini for 2 nights at the end. We stayed in Fira, and whilst our hotel was cute and the views great, we didn't really love it. Too many tacky tourist shops and no cute little white buildings. Perhaps we stayed in the wrong part, I don't know.
Then we spent our last 3 nights in Athens, looking at lots of ancient things made of stone. Tim was very excited by all the history, but I'm a bit too gen Y for too much of that. It was also insanely hot. But I loved the area we were staying in called Plaka, it was within walking distance to all the sights, and it pedestrian only streets were home to hundreds of tavernas and bars. A good finale for Europe.
Loukamades: small round donuts served in warm honey and cinnamon.
The Acropolis (of course), and the new Acropolis museum which is really interesting and very swanky and modern.
Not so good:
The very repetitive menus: dolmades, moussaka, octopus, tzatziki, Greek salad (which are delicious for the first week but you start to feel like something else after that)
Be sure to pack:
Your snorkel for the lovely blue sea
This is going to be a big one, because we spent most of our trip here - almost 5 weeks. We started up top, where it was chilly with green rolling hills, and the food was all about wild boar and truffles. Excellent. Mum and dad "just happened" to be there the same time we were, so we visited them and spent a lovely week together in Spoleto, mainly eating and visiting other nearby towns.
I love Rome. I really do. We stayed in a great apartment in Trastevere, which is a bit like the Fitzroy of Rome.
Then it was down to Naples. Which everyone had told us was dirty, dangerous and crime-ridden and warned us not to go. We loved it. What a vibrant and exciting place. Plus the home of pizza. The. Best. Pizza. Ever.
Then it was south to Sicily, which is dramatically different from the north. It's hot, dry and arid, covered in prickly pear and too many ugly inappropriate buildings (apparently the work of the mafia). But it grew on me. The water is turquoise and crystal clear, the food is all about the sea, and the lifeguards are hilarious (see photo above).
We loved the Aeolian Islands, particularly Lipari. We climbed Stromboli, which is an active volcano! The walk up required helmets and dust masks, so we looked hardcore. And the display at the top was well worth the very taxing and fast-paced climb up. The descent was even harder as it was dark by then, we had to wear head-torches. Which made us look even more hardcore.
Italy was great, I don't think we've ever eaten so well, not to mention the drinking. We both did Italian classes before we left, and by the end we'd really nailed the restaurant dialogue.
Ice-cream brioche in Sicily, sampling cheese and wine at various Enotecas, attempting to speak Italian, sending pope postcards from the vatican, pretending to be millionaires in Positano
Not so good:
The fashion at the time seemed to be purple, and EVERYONE was wearing it. Everyone. Whole families. Often paired with white jeans. Why.
The beach culture: the pay-only areas lined with deck chairs and umbrellas, loud music playing, people selling stuff, lots of litter, everyone tanning and no one swimming, people chucking cigarette butts into the sea. I guess we're spoilt in Australia.
Be sure to pack:
Your skimpiest bathers - I was the only woman in a one-piece at any of the beaches
What can you say about Paris that hasn't been said before. The place is so gorgeous, romantic and picturesque it makes you sick. We had a magical 4 days there, in blissful sunshine, walking around, looking at art, and eating basically.
We stayed with a gorgeous young Frenchy couple who fed us cheese, took us to a champagne bar, and were lovely and generous hosts (particularly considering we'd never met, they were related to my father's colleague!). We loved listening to their French banter - everything sounds better in French.
We ate baguettes in the garden, visited Versailles palace (that place is ridiculous, that Marie Antoinette really had it coming), walked kilometres of the Louvre, and compared Ladurée and Pierre Hermé macarons (no clear winner there, both good). Paris, you are one big cliché but I love you.
Highlights: everything - the food, the champagne, the cheese, the macarons, the bread. People speaking French. The excess of galleries.
Not so good:
Can't think of anything right now...
Be sure to pack:
Again (see Japan), your smartest clothes, they're not lying when they say everyone is fashionable!
It's very silly, but I had this song playing through my head most of the time:
First stop Japan! Gyoza, cherry blossom, massive shopping centres, cute stuff - what's not to love? It's the easiest, cleanest, most helpful and efficient place I've ever been!
We were lucky that our Japanese friend Haru happened to be in the country at the time, so we went and stayed with her gorgeous family. Super cute kids! Haru organised an action-packed itinerary for us, one of the best things was staying in a heritage-listed traditional Japanese house in the mountains.
Another of my favorite places was Kyoto. Beautiful old streets (with the occasional Geisha) and lots of temples and gardens to see. And tame deer roaming around in nearby Nara. I love the deer.
Clockwise from top left: The onsen in our room, the garden of our ryokan, horse sashimi, onsen in Kurakawa
The other big highlight was staying in the "Onsen town" Kurokawa. We stayed one night in a traditional ryokan there, which was amazing, we had an onsen in our room! You can walk around town with an "onsen pass" trying all the different hot baths. Awesome. The ryokan experience includes a traditional Japanese dinner. Tray after tray of tiny beautifully presented dishes were brought out, each getting slightly more challenging for our Western palates. Think whole salted dried fish (actually very nice) and horse sashimi. Argh! I started to dread those trays coming out, but it was an amazing experience.
Highlights: the gyoza, tempura and sushi, yum! Heated toilet seats. Vending machines everywhere. The convenience stores. Hello Kitty. Shinkansen trains. Kyoto, Nagasaki and Kurokawa.
Not so good:
Getting sick for a week - in the cleanest country ever!! How?
The 5 mm futon mattresses paired with rice-husk-filled pillows, the discomfort!
Be sure to pack:
Your smartest clothes - the beautifully dressed women made me feel like a total frump!
Business cards - these are presented with much ceremony, would have been good to give one in return.
Metamucil - the dramatically different diet that's mainly rice. Enough said.
We have just returned from three months of travel. Tim had long service leave, and I had a very generous and understanding boss. I'd never really done the extended travel thing before - whilst many of my friends went backpacking after high school or uni, I went straight into uni, then into the job i've now been in for 6 years. Then after getting married recently, I was wondering if I ever would!
We somehow decided on Japan, Paris, Italy, Greece then India. It involved a lot of flying - 9 flights in fact, and I HATE flying. I even saw a psychologist a few times to try and improve my phobia. With some noise-blocking headphones, some deep breathing, and the occasional wine, I managed most of the flights ok. Tim might disagree.
Apart from the flights, it was a fantastic three months that we'll never forget, we felt so lucky the whole time. We loved the different foods, attempting to speak different languages, and observing the various little cultural quirks of each country (why do Greek men prefer an iced coffee frappucino over a beer?). It was lovely traveling with Tim, he was a great travel companion, and we didn't even crack it at each other once!
I'll post about each country separately, and try to narrow the photos down from 1,200!!