challenge: a to z of travel

I visited my luvverly friend Bron’s blog a few days ago, and found this (via Andrew Petcher) and I thought “Holy A to Z Batman, I’M gonna do that too!!!”.

So here it is! My A to Z of travel:

A: Age at which you went on your first trip abroad

I would have been about 11. My folks took me to the UK for a 6 week jaunt through the countryside. I remember one night when we were staying in a B & B (a converted barn near some woods – very quaint!) I couldn’t sleep because something was plaguing me; I got up, went to see my parents (who were enjoying a glass of red wine by the fire) and asked “Does Santa Claus really exist?”. They were a little drunk, and didn’t hold back on the truth… Sadface.

Something else I remember about this trip was having a glass of orange juice on the flight between Singapore and Heathrow and throwing up all over myself. There was a group of high school kids on the plane on an excursion and one of them made a tiny fluffy toy koala for me, to make me feel better. It really helped…

B: Best foreign beer you’ve had and where

ANY beer in Asia is the best. It actually doesn’t matter if it’s the worst beer ever, there’s something refreshing and thirst-quenching and delicious about an icy beer on a sticky, humid afternoon. It’s even more delicious if you’re on the beach, or in a hammock, or both.

C: Cuisine

The most memorable meal we had on our latest adventure was probably at Robinson’s in Croatia. The only way to get there is by boat (or 4 hour hike) and it’s on the most amazing rocky beach… There’s no electricity, so everything is cooked either on a BBQ or in a wood-fired oven (somehow they keep their beers and wines cold, which were equally delicious in the hot afternoon sun!); tables and chairs are set up under the trees overlooking the water. You order your food (freshly caught fish, crabs, prawns, mussels), order your drinks, go for a swim, then you’re called in when your lunch is ready. It was SO delicious and so flipping beautiful…

Our lovely friends Sarah & Ben, waiting for lunch

Some bobbing swimmers

Fish, squid, prawns: nom, nom, nom

D: Destinations, favourite, least favourite, and why

Iceland is definitely up there with the favourites – I’ve never been to the moon (does that surprise you?) but I kind of imagine it to be like Iceland. No trees, just rocks and moss and crazy bubbling pools of mud. The peeps are friendly and wacky and hilarious (and super styling too), and their sense of culture blew me away – I loved how knowledgeable everyone seems to be on their ancestry (so many Icelandians have VIKINGS as distant relatives!!).

Least favourite… Hmm…. Umm… I would say Caracas, and I would say that as a copout. We didn’t actually leave the airport, but had to spend a few hours there on our way to El Yaque. We had NO local money on us, there were no ATMs in the terminal and no money changers (though a LOT of people came up to us, whispering ‘Cambio? Cambio?’. We later discovered that Venezuela has two currencies – the official currency and the black market currency); I hadn’t eaten all day, was hangry and tired and on the verge of a major hissy. After trudging around the terminal we FINALLY found an ATM, got some cash, but when we went to get food, THERE WAS NOTHING VEGETARIAN!!! I settled on a packet of chips and a ginormous cup of lemonade and that tided me over.

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”

We arrived in Oslo on a rainy, cold Sunday afternoon. After checking into our hotel, we went for a walk to get some lunch and our bearings. After a salad and a  coffee and a weird pastry near the central train station, we walked further up the hill, turned a corner, and were suddenly in front of a church surrounded by a sea of roses. I’ve never seen so many flowers; the ones closest to the church were brown and withered, while the ones nearest to the street were vivid shades of red, yellow, white. The bombing and shootings at a nearby island had taken place a few weeks prior; I’d had no idea we were staying so close to where the bomb had gone off. Seeing the flowers, the written messages to lost loved ones, the Norwegian flags, the open displays of grief, made my jaw drop. I had to spend a few moments alone after seeing this; it was an absolutely devastating sight.  F: Favourite mode of transportation

Riding a camel through the Saharan desert is pretty incredible. A bit bumpy and terrifying (you’ve definitely gotta trust your camel!!) but amazing when all you can see for miles is red sand and your camels shadow.

camelwalk

G: Greatest feeling while travelling

The greatest – and most terrifying – feeling I felt was not knowing what was around the corner. You get on a plane or a boat or a bus to somewhere you’ve never been (and often somewhere you know very little about) and when you get there, and you see the sights and smell the smells and hear the language and the voices and the laughter – even the cars honking – and it’s really exhilarating. And you’re kinda in the hands of the Gods most of the time as well – you get sick and you miss flights and you can’t find accommodation – and learning to let go of the need for organisation and heaps of planning and all the jazz, just going with the flow, is what makes you a traveller and not a tourist. Don’t you think?

H: Hottest place you’ve travelled to

Like Bron said, Melbourne gets pretty hot (it was 47 degrees a week before our wedding a few years ago); Morocco gets pretty boiling. New York summers are pretty revolteh hot too!

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and why

Definitely Abel and JC and all the porters on our Inca Trail adventure. Their gift of the gab, kindness, hilariousness, bag carryingness, cake bakingness (not to mention all the other incredible meals we had each day), and (gulp) the whole ‘carrying me down the hill’ thing was really above and beyond.

J: Journey that took the longest

Ha. Definitely the Inca Trail. That counts, right? 42 kms up and down, through sickness and health, hot days, cold nights, squat toilets, bruised toes and ALL THOSE STEPS it was definitely the most epic journey I have EVER been on!!!

K: Keepsake from your travels

Probably this blog. Awwww. And maybe this tattoo on my wrist, that I got on a trip to London when I was 23. I had just broken up with a boyfriend and was having my first ever overseas ALONE trip (I started in Japan, then had a few weeks in London, then had a week in Barcelona – with minimal skillz in Espanol); I decided I needed to document the trip (this was before the days of blogging), so popped into a tattoo parlour in Soho. I met an artist called Dingo, who flat out refused to tattoo my wrist. He held my wrist up to me, like I’d never seen it before, saying “No! I won’t do it! I won’t mark this lily-white skin…” (yes, he actually said that) “… what about your job? What are they gonna say if they see a tattoo on your wrist??? What if you want to go to the RACES???” (I’ve never been to the races in my entire life, and I don’t plan on going anytime soon). I finally wore him down, explaining that it would be inconspicuous, it wouldn’t be garish or bright or over the top, and he agreed. Before he started, he looked at me and said “Now listen darl, if you want to yell and scream and call me a motherf****r, that’s OK. You won’t be the first, and you won’t be the last”. He was a nice fella.

No need for name-calling

L: Let-down sight, where and why

The Amazon. BECAUSE WE DIDN’T GET THERE!!! Does that count?

M: Moment when you fell in love with travel

My first trip with Rich cemented how rad travelling is. My solo sojourn mentioned in K was great, but I struggled a bit on my own (more out of loneliness than any actual struggle). Travelling with Rich has always been easy and fun and having someone to share the sights and food and cocktails with, for me, is the bees knees.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in

Rich and I had a super lah-di-dah trip a few years ago to the Maldives. It is SUPER cray, yo. Over-water huts, white sand, clear water… you get the drill. We were picked up from the airport in Mali at around midnight, then got in a speedboat (that smelt like frangipanis) and were given refresher towels THAT WERE ACTUALLY TOWELS AND NOT BABY WIPES and bottles of water, and then we sped out into the black night. After about an hour of sailing the high seas at high speeds, the lights of the island came into sight. We were met at the jetty by a man in a golf buggy, who drove us to our hut (which was actually bigger than our house… and then some). There was a plate of antipasto on the table, along with a bottle of champagne and some flowers. Neither of us are hugely into champagne, but we guzzled that baby back, despite the fact that it was after 1am and we’d been flying for over 17 hours. After our champagne and antipasto feast, we took a moonlight swim in our own private SEA GARDEN under our hut which was amazing (but a little bit scary). During the day, puffer fish and baby sharks bobbed around in our sea garden (hence the whole ‘fear’ thang). The staff were divine, the food was amazing, and the digs… well…. I don’t think we’ll ever stay somewhere that fancy ever again, but it was so bloody amazing!!

Are you a postcard? NO! You're a photo from the Maldives!

O: Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking photos of when you travel

Dogs and cats. Hands down. I have hundreds of cat and dog photos. One dog, eight angles.

O hai cat!

Wass that?

Just chillin'

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where

I got a fancy e-passport just before we embarked on le world tour, but I still have a pretty nifty collection of stamps – from the start of my p-port to the back, we have: Indonesia, UK, Iceland, somewhere called Dobova, which I think is in Slovenia and I think we got this on the train, Norway, Singapore, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Croatia, Brazil, Turkey, Canada, Peru, MACHU PICCHU, the USA is in there somewhere too (but I can’t find it – yikes!).

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where

Blood Manor.

R: Recommended sight, event or experience

Hmmm…. The White Night Hike in Iceland is definitely a must (provided you’re there during summer). Strolling around in the daylight AT NIGHT is definitely rad, not to mention eating soup and cake and drinking wine in your bathers in a hot spring. Do it!

S: Splurge – something you have no problem forking out money for when travelling

I have no problems at all forking out cash for an experience you couldn’t have anywhere else; riding a camel and camping in the desert, learning how to make ceviche in Peru, going for a hike at midnight in broad daylight – spending money on things you couldn’t experience at home is important, I reckon.

Ceviche. I MADE THAT!

And. Food and beer. Not all the time. But I think you’ve gotta have at least one amazing meal in each place you visit, and you definitely need to try the local brew (or wine, or cocktail – whatever takes yo fanceh!!).

T: Touristy thing you’ve done

I feel like it’s kind of impossible NOT to do touristy things in New York. The city that never sleeps is the perfect place to take cheesy photos, eat ridiculous food and immerse yourself in BEING A TOURIST rather than a traveller. Hire a bike and ride around Central Park (and stop to watch some beat-boxers or break-dancers or a weird dance troupe who seem to rely on flexing their pecs and psyching out their minimal audience with intense stares and glares); go to Serendipity3 and try to finish an icecream sundae (you can’t); go to Rockefeller Plaza and pretend you’re Liz Lemon; eat a slice of pizza in Greenwich or a bagel from a street vendor; revel in the accents (“I think that baby lady done want her some SOO-SHI”, said a man handing out fliers for a Japanese restaurant in Times Square, when Eva went to take a pamphlet but decided against it…). NYC is the greatest place in the world to be touristy. Yay!

U: Unforgettable travel memory

We had a stupid amount of fun when we were on le world tour, and I’ll treasure every single second it (even the annoying times were unforgettable), but my absolute favourite travel memory is definitely my birthday in Slovenia. It made my love for Rich multiply by about 80,000 (which I didn’t even think was possible but IT DID!!!!).

V: Visas – how many and for where

Just one. For Brazil. And look where that got us.

X: eXcellent view and from where

When we climbed onto the roof of an art gallery (that had a tree growing through it) in Rio and looked out over the favella, my breath was well and truly taken. In a sea of mostly brown and grey square, squat dwellings, there were blocks of red, yellow, purple and green buildings; I’d liken it to a magic eye puzzle, but I feel like that lessens its awesomeness. I’d also liken it to a patchwork quilt, but I feel like that makes me sound like a derb with no skillz for adequate descriptions.

Y: Years spent travelling

32 (age now) minus 2 (age started) equals 30. From those long drives as a kid to visit family in Queensland to my first time riding a horse on the New South Wales Central Coast, to visiting Beatrix Potter’s house in England (clad in my knitted “people finger” gloves), to espying a tank of baby turtles at a market in Tokyo, to moving to Canada to further my career in the film industry, to moving home again because I was too in love with Rich, to the Maldives and Bali and the Philippines and Vietnam, to…. the world tour. Travelling is definitely in my blood. I’m happy to stay put though… for now.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where

I feel like Y & Z should really be reversed, because Y is kind of a nice point to finish on. And because the only sports fans I encountered were at a baseball game in Toronto, and… well… I was expecting WAY more out of control fandom and I just didn’t get it. Short of singing their teams song, hand on heart, balancing hotdogs and beers and giant tubs of popcorn on their knees, that was about as passionate as they seemed to get…

Do you wanna have a go? You should! Epic list, BUT FUN and a great way to remember past trips… Woot! Let me know in the comments if you do it on YOUR blog!

heading home…

OMG ZOMG. Did you think that the trials and tribulations of our Inca Trail adventure caused my hands to freakishly stop working, and my fingers – crying out as they were to type up my latest tales of tall and true – to cease their digit-y dalliance with my keyboard?

Alas, there is no such story of numbness or sudden loss of hand-eye coordination or anything like that (which is good, I think!!); instead, our travels have come to an end, we’re back in our Melbourne abode, and I have been busying myself with a frenetic bout of summer spring cleaning and early morning dog walks. Added to the hurricane of 6-month-old dust bunnies and dried leaves in unusual places and weeding and shed cleaning (am I turning into a 45 year old man, preparing his mancave for the coming apocalypse???) I have been without wifi ever since we got home, making blogging a little bit trickier than it should be.

So. To fill you in. When we last spoke, Rich and I were tired and stinky and thoroughly enjoying an agua con gas in the town of Aguas Calientes. Exciting stuff! We caught the train back to Ollantaytambo, then a bus to Cusco, then – in a moment of extreme love and a need for further bonding – our trek group went out for dinner. Beers, mojitos, and a guinea pig was ordered.   Yes, a guinea pig. It arrived at our table on a bed of giant corn with a tomato forced between its teeth, his baked, leathery face still housing a few whiskers and a contemplative expression. I did not partake in the guinea pig feast, but contrary to popular belief, GP does NOT follow the ‘tastes like chicken’ logic applied to nearly every ‘unusual’ meat, and was likened to a tough old boot. After dinner, a storm blew in and we all ran, drunk and exhausted and happy, back to our hotel, where I KNOW we all slept like behbehs. Our first sleep in a real bed in four nights. B to the liss….

The next day Rich and I headed back to Ollantaytambo for a few days of R & R. For four days we ate amazing vegematarian food and slept and read and strolled and that was it. There are no adventures to report here. All the excitement and torment of the Inca Trail meant we had to balance it out with some extremo nothingness.

So after Ollantaytambo we started the long trek (figuratively speaking) back home. We flew out of Cusco (just as terrifying as our arrival) back to Lima, where we spent the evening at the Magic Water Circuit (with about 10 million other people); the next day we visited the gallery and ate a bourgie lunch and wandered about looking at Incan jewellery and crazy sex-pots (no really – the gallery was having an erotic art exhibition, and two rooms were full to the brim of weird ancient pottery depicting all kinds of sex-stuff: people-sex, people-sex-with-a-baby-being-born-at-the-same-time-sex, dog-sex, cat-and-giant-mouse-sex. It was… interesting. And the furthest thing from ‘erotic’ I think I have ever encountered. And I’m not sure telling you about it here is the wisest move either… Do I really want traffic from peeps searching ‘cat and giant mouse sex’ in Google? Hmm…). After the gallery I had a $3 manicure, then we moseyed back to our hotel and sat around until it was time to leave. In our humungous, strangely decorated, 3-single-bed-ed room.

At 8 o’clock that night, our cab arrived, and whisked us off to the airport. Do you know that in Lima, instead of straggly-haired, missing-a-few-teeth window-washers at the traffic lights, there are fire-breathers and jugglers and kids who breakdance on the road in front of your car when you’re stopped at the lights. How good is that?

After the dramz of Miami/Brazil a few weeks ago, I was anticipating similar issues when we got to the airport. Why? Because, despite 5 months travelling around with my fella, and feeling relaxed, and having implemented several tips from the Happiness Project into my daily existence, it is now a FACT that airports stress me out. This stressure (that’s a new word that I just invented) was exacerbated to no end by our good friend (that’s sarcasm, BTW) Mariana at the TAM Airlines desk in Miami, and I figured that if we were going to be faced with another round of bad luck, now would be the time for it.

But guess what? It didn’t. We checked our bags through to Sydney. We were given our boarding passes, which did not have an SSSS on them (did I tell you what happened when we left Toronto? My passport was flagged as ‘suspicious’ and I had to sit in a room at the airport with a scary man with a baton while he asked me questions like “Have you ever lost your passport?” (no), “Have you ever reported your passport as stolen?” (same question really – no), “Are you SURE you’ve never lost your passport?” (yes, I’m sure, no, I’ve never lost my passport) – on it went. SSSS is a heightened security code, so you get pulled aside and questioned like nobodies bizniz, but then you get whisked through security and you don’t hafta stand in the super long lines). We actually had seats next to each other (we had SO many flights where we had to sit next to strange, tomato-eating Venezuelans and middle-aged Poms on their first ever overseas trip…). We spent the last of our Peruvian Soles (on chocolate, FYI). We made it to the gate lounge in plenty of time. Our flight was not delayed. Our take off was smooth. All was good and all was right.

We arrived in Buenos Aires and sat around for 6 hours, playing Scrabble and Gin Rummy and drinking lemonade and coffee and eating those gigantic croissants that only seem to be sold in airports, or in glad-wrapped six packs at rural supermarkets. We went from being the only people in the terminal, to being surrounded by shorts, Crocs and Australian accents as far as the ear could hear. Our fish-out-of-water, overseas adventures were seemingly over. Even though we were in Argentina, we were pretty much home.

The flight from Buenos Aires to Sydney is pretty much the worst flight ever. It’s SO. FLIPPING. LONG. Rich (lucky sod) was able to sleep for most of the flight, but I passed the time watching such cinematic greats as ‘Our Idiot Brother’ (good) and ‘Friends with Benefits’ (not good) and ‘Crazy, Stupid Love’ (Gosling-y!!), along with an entire season of ‘Parks and Recreation’, and multiple episodes of ’30 Rock’. And that only got me through 8 hours. The rest of the time (yes, 7 long hours…) was spent closing my eyes and trying to sleep (unsuccessful), eating (not enjoyable, but at least we got icecream), drinking (which is never a good idea on long haul flights but I managed to enjoy it), and shooting stink eye at the multiple peeps in our cabin who refused to shut their blinds. I realise we were flying over Antarctica, but guyz, YOU CAN’T SEE ANYTHING!! IT’S JUST CLOUDS!!!!

Finally, after a bajillionty hours, we touched down in Sydney. Home soil. Almost there, but still not quite. We went through immigration and to the baggage carousel and guess what? My bag was the first one off the flight!! Hurrah! Which I guess is why Rich’s bag failed to arrive… Boo…. We chatted to a baggage rep and he looked at our flight details and said “You’re gonna miss your flight if you hang around here; file a report in Melbourne” and with that, we hotfooted it to the transfer counter so I could check my bag through to Melbz. A rep there said “Unfortunately your flight to Melbourne has just closed, but we can get you on the next one” which was half an hour later… Boo… But when we got to the ticket counter, a rep there said “Actually, your flight’s been delayed 15 minutes, we can keep you on that one” – hurrah!!! We bussed it to the domestic terminal and arrived at the gate just as it was boarding (hurrah!!). But then. A voice came onto the loud speaker, announcing “Attention passengers of Qantas flight blah blah to Melbourne – there is a mechanical issue with the plane. Please standby until further notice”. Boo…

Tired, narky, in-Sydney-for-the-weekend passengers filed off the plane. Rich and I looked at each other – one bleary, blood-shot eye to the other. Would this day of travel – now spanning nearly 30 hours – ever end?

A few minutes later, another announcement: “Our engineers are working on the issues on Qantas flight blah blah to Melbourne, we hope to resume boarding shortly”. Hurrah!

Then, a few moments after that: “We regret to inform you that Qantas flight blah blah to Melbourne has been cancelled.” Boo…

Passengers yelled and stomped their feet. Others huffily crossed their arms and glared at the desk staff. Rich and I went to the food court and had a beer.

An hour later, a new plane was found, passengers boarded and then… we were off. Again. But this time it was the last take-off, the last safety demonstration, the last mini can of ginger ale of our adventures. After an hour of almost-falling-asleep-but-waking-up-when-my-head-dropped-too-far-forward, we landed. In Melbourne. Hurrah!

We got my bag, stepped into the unseasonably cool December air, got in a cab, and hightailed it home. After opening some mail and putting on a load of washing (and other scintillating tasks I had been DESPERATE to do) we got into our bed with our pillows and our doona; our cat crept onto my feet. We slept the sleep you sleep when you’ve been awake for over 40 hours. Which is pretty much the greatest sleep ever.

So. Our worldly adventures are over. For now. But Wembolina’s adventures will continue. I have LOVED writing this blog, so this will keep going. While I probably won’t be regaling you with tales of mountain treks and overzealous dogs and diving off boats and donkey races, I will definitely keep you posted on country’n’western junkie crooners outside my office and epic bike rides through the country and a weekend in the bush painting portraits of friends and drinking wine and eating cheese, among other things.

Till then, dearies!

Wembolina xxx

p.s. I actually feel a bit teary posting this. So let’s make things a bit sappier and tearier:

xoxo

Did I tell you that Eva and Scarlett arrived in New York on Wednesday evening? They did. I feel like I have been on the verge of bursting for the past few weeks, in anticipation of their arrival. Rich and I headed out to JFK on Wednesday afternoon (after a loooooong walk from our Williamsburg digs to Dumbo, then over the Brooklyn Bridge) – we arrived early, and passed the time with a game of Scrabble and a stale, over-priced muffin from Starbucks. There’s not a lot of choice for gastronomic pleasure in the arrival lounge at JFK… Every so often I would throw down our Scrabble game and check the flight board to see if their flight had arrived – I’d check back in with Rich every few minutes:

“It’s on time!”

“It’s fifteen minutes away!”

“It’s making its final approach!”

“It’s LANDED!!”

We packed up our Scrabble, binned our stale muffin, and stood outside the arrival gates, as close as we could get. As each weary traveller emerged, my excitement grew and grew, to the point where I actually burst into tears upon seeing a complete stranger reunited with a lover/brother/friend. What a loser… This is why I can’t watch those airport shows or This Is Your Life.

As I wiped away the tears, two familiar faces beamed towards us through the arrivals gate. Both looking totally spectacular, and not at all like they’d just spent 24 hours on a plane.

The past two months have felt a little like there’s been a big gaping hole in my heart, and as soon as I saw those two beautiful girls, it was instantly filled. Tis a weird and lovely and comforting and ace feeling. Sigh… It has definitely been strange and a bit unsettling and quite lonely without them for the past little while, and things are most certainly not as hilarious when they’re not around, but now that they’re here it’s like no time at all has passed. Except that they’re a little bit taller and a little bit wiser and a little bit more grown up.

Scarlett’s beauty continually knocks me for six – every time I see her, my breath is taken away, just a bit… And chatting with her, about life and parents and sisters and the future, well, I am constantly surprised (and awe-struck) by her insights and intelligence. She is a cracker, and one amazing lady.

Eva puts a smile on my dial morning and night, with her enthusiasm and hilarious outlook on everything. My favourite times with Eva at home have always been when we’re walking somewhere – either with the dog, or to school, or to the shops – and I’m so so glad that we’re having hysterical walks and talks here as well, about cats and dreams and friends.

Best of all is seeing the girls and Rich back together again. He has been a little bit lost without them too, and he smiles a different smile and laughs a different laugh when they’re around. Their love is infectious, and I’m finding myself spending quite a bit of time sitting back and just watching them be. It’s a great gang to be in.

We have two weeks together in NYC; already we’ve spent an afternoon in Central Park at the zoo, eaten cupcakes and big salty pretzels, been on a Gossip Girl tour (AMAZING!!) where we visited filming locations and Dylans Candy Store (heavenly), and where our tour guide accidentally burped into the microphone just after professing her love of Chuck Bass to us for the umpteenth time… There are more adventures to come, but I’m most looking forward to the strolls and the ice-creams and the chats that are chatted on our way from here to there.

Scarf, Rich & Beev in NYC

Rich and Beev and the ridonkulous sundae at Serendipity3

Streets lined with sweets

 

london : berry nice

Breakfast at Thomas & Christopher's

Twas nice to spend the first major chunk of le world tour somewhere familiar, with friends, with a public transport system that is easy to navigate (seriously, how does Myki get it so flipping wrong??!), with fresh berries & cereal for breakfast every day and with good, cheap beer (I put in that bit about the berries so the above pic would be more relevant – although they are amazing at this time of year!!). With the exception of Canada and New York, everywhere else on le world tour is completely unknown to us…

So a wrap-up on my favourite things in London (that I haven’t already mentioned – I could devote MULTIPLE posts to the brilliance of Napoleon, if you like?):

  • Catching up with Fiona & Jerome at The Jolly Butcher in Stoke Newington, in a pub where dogs were welcome (hello, big, grey weimaraner), followed by a trip to their flat to meet the lovely Kashi and walk through the park in Seven Sisters. Coincidently, Seven Sisters is right near Walthamstow, home to East 17. As we strolled through the park, I had ‘House of Love’ barrelling through my head).
  • Cycling through Oxford with Brad, alongside double decker buses and beautiful old sandstone buildings, and past Harry Potter walking tours – never have I seen so many bookworms donned in pointy hats with magic wands. We rode through Radcliffe Square (obviously named after Daniel), ambled alongside the canal, cycled through a paddock with horses, and finished up with a pub lunch at The Punter (also boasting a ‘pub’ dog).

    Staring forlornly at an empty plate...

  • Getting lost on my way to Shoreditch via housing estates, witnessing a car accident, trying desperately not to look like a tourist (in the ghetto) but checking the A to Z like a madwoman, stumbling across the Tatty Devine store in Brick Lane and declaring ‘THIS IS FATE, I JUST TWEETED YOU!!! HELP I’M LOST!!!’ and then feeling like a moron (but they were SUPER helpful and pointed me in the direction of Old Street). By the way – how nice are their spectacle necklaces?? Want!!! 
  • Running into an old workmate in Whitechapel, while in search of a Wagamama that didn’t actually exist. He walked us to Tyabbs, which was unfortunately too full with too much of a line for us… Majeur de bummer, we strolled to a weird Pakistani place near our house and had curry instead… The curry wasn’t a highlight, but running into John was!
  • Dinner with Rich, Sarah & Tamara at a Vietnamese place in Old Street, followed by dessert and ‘Martinis’ (not the shaken variety, but the aperitif – not what I was expecting, but still great) at a crazy rockabilly-Euro-YeOldeFashioned cake shop across the road. The decor was BANANAS – old prints in gilt frames on all the walls, a black & white TV above the door playing a boxing match from the 60s, a dial up telephone (wha??), and a cake cabinet like you would not believe…
  • AND! Heading to Wareham/Lulworth with Rich, Sarah and Ben for Camp Bestival, massive walks, and sea kayaking. This is another post (with pictures!! And stories!! Of falling into the freezing cold ocean on the Jurassic Coast!!!) – to come!

Rich and I spent quite a lot of time on our own while in London; he, in meetings; me, wandering around, cuddling Napoleon, and researching adventures to come. Weirdly though, we ran into each other on the street, totally by accident, on three separate occasions. I think we’re meant to be doing this together…

bintan – part 1

Where o where can one be blessed with pancakes, fruit, juice, coffee, beer, nasi goreng AND mee goreng for around $15? Yes – Bintan (but only once you get out of the ‘Bintan Resorts’ precinct, where the same will cost about 10 times that).

After 1 hour on a vom-inducing ferry trip from Singapore, followed by an hour long drive, we arrive at the Yasin Nostalgia bungalows, on the east coast of the island. There are about 15 over-water bungalows here, connected by a rickety bridge made of driftwood. Rich and I wonder how much it would take for the bridge to snap and are thankful for not being too much chubbier than we are.

Our room is basic (read: rustic) – a fan, a bed, a mosquito net. There’s a little bathroom that will become the bane of my existence, but that’s another story (and possibly one not to be broadcast on the internetz). There’s a small balcony that looks out over the water when the tide is in, and over wet boggy sand and crabs having a part-ay when the tide is out. The outlook is much nicer when the tide is in.

Most of our time is spent lying around reading books (I’ve just finished ‘Someone like you’ by Roald Dahl and have just started ‘The Fry Chronicles’ by Stephen Fry, if you’re interested) which is a pretty fine way to pass the time on week 1 of le world tour.

On our first night here, we take a stroll to a neighbouring hotel to check out the pool. Walking into the resort is kinda reminiscent of The Shining, if The Shining was set in Indonesia and in really hot weather. A HUGE hotel with lots of weird ‘quarters’ around the place. Multiple pools (with no one in them), a small beach you can’t really swim at, a miniature golf course, A ZOO. It was a bit creepy. I see no sign of a hedge maze, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was one.

On our way back we stop to watch a volleyball match at the side of the road. Orange vs Yellow. It seems like the whole town has stopped to watch the match – after around 10 minutes of spectating, we were whooping, clapping and whistling with the locals and men on motorbikes.

We also pass a group of men – perhaps 40 of them – all dressed in black and jogging along the side of the road – SINGING!! It was pretty amazing and made me imagine an Indonesian Friday Night Lights-style sporting team, only I’m pretty sure these guys were soldiers. Which could also make for a pretty interesting TV show, don’t you think?

Yasin Nostalgia does not let me down in terms of restaurant soundtrack (see: Singapore) – there is a far more upbeat selection of music here. Now, I love golden oldies, but it may surprise you to know that I am also quite partial to Pussycat Dolls, Beyonce and the Bieb. Yasin Nostalgia just keeps the hits coming, even playing Doves and Kid Cudi over breakfast. My kinda place.

After 2 nights, we decide it’s time to move on and experience a leetle beet of luxury, so we get into a rickety old bus and head to the ‘Bintan Resorts’ part of the island.

TO BE CONTINUED!!!

ouch ouch, that REALLY flippin’ hurt

The other week I paid a delightful visit to the travel doctor for some all-important immunisations. I’m usually not too fazed by overseas travel and injections and the like – I’ve never really bothered with it before – but because we’re headed to the Amazon (or The Amazin’, as I like to call it) my mind has started going bananas with thoughts of:

  • getting bitten by a monster mosquito and getting malaria
  • getting bitten by an evil sloth* and getting rabies
  • a piranha leaping into our boat and splashing dirty river water into my mouth and getting Hepatitis and/or Typhoid

The likelihood of any of this happening is slim to none, but the more I think about it, the more I think “ESSENTIAL”. How terrible would it be to sustain a life-threatening illness at the hands – nay, TEETH – of a rabid dolphin??? Dreadful.

So off I went. I told the doctor:

“Just give me the essentials, and don’t try to scare me into thinking I need EVERYTHING”.

She said:

“Well, you HAVE to get Yellow Fever. And you should also definitely get Typhoid. YOU CAN DIE. AND WHAT ABOUT HEPATITIS A AND B??? AND A FLU SHOT?? AND RABIES????? And did you know there is a currently a MEASLES EPIDEMIC IN PARIS??????”

She was doing a great job of quelling the ol’ nerves. Doctors are really very excellent at spying vulnerability and injecting them with not one, but 4 needles full of revoltingness. Well – I had 2 that day, and go back for the 2 “big ones” next week (LIVE ANTIBODIES!!!!! Party on!!!!!).

While at the travel doctor, I also had to have a blood test to see if I was still immune to rubella, measles and mumps. Everytime I think of someone with the mumps, I think that they look like that guy with the salami stuck on his head from that movie Hellboy, but I’m pretty sure I’m just getting mumps confused with ‘meatface’.

Mumps or Meatface?

Anyhoo, I’m usually quite fine with blood tests. Needles don’t really bother me, unless I’m looking at it, which I DON’T DO. The nurse looked at my inner-arms, found them both to be suitably test-worthy, and jabbed a big long needle into my right inner-elbow. It felt OK, and then – POW – it didn’t feel ok. In fact, it FLIPPING HURT!!!

The nurse said:

“Oh… Sorry…. That’s going to leave a bruise”.

I thought “Bruise? Pft. Big deal.”

He pressed a cotton wool ball on my arm, tutted a bit at himself, looked at the tube of blood extracted from my vein, shook it around, tutted a bit more, then said:

“I don’t think we got enough blood out of that arm. I’m going to have to do it again.”

Fortunately, my left elbow vein was more forthcoming and the blood tube filled up quickly and, thankfully, painlessly.

I went on my semi-merry way, with a sore tetanus-arm and a relatively sore blood test arm. I took myself straight to the Gasometer and had a cider and a huge plate of fried chicken, followed by the most enormous slice of carrot cake I have EVER SEEN and felt much better. Until later, when I got quite a bad tummy-ache. But it was worth it.

The apology for the blood test was not heartfelt enough. Nearly two weeks later, and the avocado shaped and hued bruise has only just faded. I’m so glad the weather has been so bloody cold lately, lest the world be confronted by my hideous junkie arm. Bleck!

xx

* I’m pretty sure ‘evil sloth’ is an oxymoron. Need proof?

Meet the sloths from Lucy Cooke on Vimeo.

do you need a reason?

Sometimes you do. Sometimes it’s hard to get something started ‘just because’. It shouldn’t be. Writing should be something you just do, because you love it, or because you have interesting stories (or think you do!), or because you have a bad memory and want to document your days and experiences. It seems strange to me that we often need an ‘event’ (Hello brides! Hello new parents!!) to get a blog up and running, when really, we should just get things started.

That said, I needed a reason to get the ball rolling on this bloggy behbeh.

On the 18th of July, my darling fella and I are embarking on a 5 month adventure around the world. This is a HUGE thing for us – it’s the longest time either of us have ever been away from home, and it’ll be the longest time we’ve spent together alone; we’ll have friends and family joining us along the way, but in the nearly 8 years we’ve been together, the longest we’ve been “just us” has been about 2 weeks. Tis a pretty exciting prospect!

Soooooo, The Adventures of Wembolina is a diary of our travels, and the leadup (we’ve got 5 weeks to go!), and the aftermath. This is a way for us to plan and keep in touch and share our tales and photos and good bits and bad bits, but most of all, document everything. I hope you like it…

xx

Rich & Wembolina in Morocco - 2008