Updated: Nov 21, 2020
Well, what can one say about 2020? Bloody Covid, that's what! Stopping the world in it's tracks, and tragically for many, permanently. Sooooo, here we are, sitting here on the beautiful Gold Coast of Australia,
counting our blessings,
yet still dreaming of better things and far off places for 2021.
I miss travelling, and I miss writing about it, so I thought I'd compile a 'Best of ' blog. Greatest, yummiest, funniest, craziest, most memorable,
even scariest of all our experiences from around the world, and not forgetting my
favourite photo challenge; selfies... with animals! I think this will as fun for me as it will be to you, my readers. I'll try to dig out some unpublished photos, as well as perhaps untold stories.
Let the fun begin!
Hands down -
I'm only sorry it took us so long to get there!!! Trev had visited Milan on business in 2006, but it took us till 2016
before we both holidayed there together.
This was a very poignant time for us. (I haven't done a blog on this trip, yet.)
We had only just discovered Trev had a tumour, and thankfully our surgeon said to us,
only 13 days before our scheduled departure mind you...
"You are going on this trip - you just aren't taking this with you."
Soooo, off we trekked,
(tumour free and waiting to deal with any consequences on our return)...
on a Mediterranean Cruise around Italy, The Greek Islands and Turkey,
followed by another week in Italy that we did on the fly. It was excellento! Italy....omg, so diverse, so historical, and the food - ahhh, bellissimo! We still plan on returning, and pretty much drive/train around the whole country.
It has captured our hearts. The people, the ruins, the architecture, the scenery, the wine, the food,
the rhythm of the language...
It's just pure magic.
Just sitting outside a restaurant, eating a simple yet flavoursome pizza,
with the owner's grandmother topping up your wine glass to the brim
as the piano accordionist serenades you just outside the Trevi Fountain...? Seriously, getting the picture?
IT IS JUST LIKE THAT.
A Roman Holiday.
Yeah, we look just like them! ;)
Rome, London and Paris, in my opinion, are the best cities in the world for jumping on the 'On/Off' double decker tourist bus. So many fabulous locations to stop at.
Yes, it's touristy, but guess what? We're tourists, and these buses do the job, big time!
The Colosseum, Forum, Vatican, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Circus Maximus... The list goes on!
Make sure you allow a good half day for a tour of the
Colosseum with the Roman Forum -
(TIP...take the tour, the things you learn are fabulous. Otherwise for instance, you'll have no idea that the steps in front of you is where Julius Caesar was slain.....)
and The Vatican deserves at least a half day, just to do one section and
don't miss the Sistine Chapel.
Enjoy the culture, the gelato, but maybe not the traffic! I'm skipping a lot, as this is just the highlights.
Learn at least a little of their language.
They'll appreciate your effort, and its fun.
Leaving Rome for the biggies north of this ancient city... Florence - the heart of glorious Tuscany, birthplace of The Renaissance and home of Michelangelo's Statue of David,
The Medici , and Dan Brown fan landmarks!
Stroll the ancient cobblestoned streets of the Old Town, dodge the Vespas, and admire the splendour of the shop windows, that are crammed full of Italian delights. Parma Ham, delicious cannoli, ribbons of fresh pasta, colourful macarons, refreshing gelato, Italian leather, Murano glass....
everything you can imagine, and the quality is sublime.
A must do is to climb to the top of The Duomo. Wow, what an amazing building and still has the largest Cathedral dome in the world. Here is where I realised, a little too late, that I suffered badly from claustrophobia. Being the first one in a group climbing these narrow and steep spiralled stone steps,
with no room to move, pass, or seemingly breathe - I seriously struggled on this, especially feeling the need to set the pace... Note to self - never again! However...there was light at the end of the staircase...and we were rewarded with a magical Tuscan sunset over the terracotta roofline of this most romantic of cities.
Only a couple of hours or so away from Florence, lies the picturesque coastline where you'll find 5 towns, famous for their colourful facades , nestled into terraces of vineyards, overlooking the aqua waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Here lies, Cinque Terra. 'Five town.'
Originally only accessible by rail or boat, nowadays you have to park and walk into the town. Not even residents can drive there.
The walking track connecting all five towns had recently closed when we were there,
due to landslides.
It's a delight to visit, cheap to stay, but be warned, the pickpockets are a dime a dozen, particularly on the train and at the stations.
Keep your back pack on your front.
They are quick, and work in teams, and can look like street urchins,
businessmen or even priests.
That said, its still absolutely worth going!!!
Just be an aware traveller.
The buildings are all very colourful - not quite as bright as the enhanced images you see online, actually they could do with a coat of paint - but that all adds to the charm. Jump on a boat (the best way to view the towns by a country mile), or train,
and visit all the towns if you can, or better still, stay for a couple of days,
and immerse yourself in the village life by the seaside.
Back to Florence again for us as this was just a day trip and we had scored an amazing
hotel right at the end of the
Ponte Vecchio; The Pitti Palace.
Really reasonable rates, and they even had a couple of resident cats,
who graced us in our room for a smooch.
The view from the breakfast terrace was first rate. We'd definitely stay there again.
An hour or so away from Florence, is the 'MUST VISIT' town of Pisa.
We of course thought were only going there for the most famous bell tower in the world;
but don't be fooled...there is so much more to this charming, historical town than just that.
Situated along the Arno River, the same picturesque river that flows through Florence,
it offers you a full day of fabulous sightseeing,
with the best photo opportunities for hamming it up. We weren't very creative back then...you should google pics and find some good poses.
My favourite is holding an ice cream cone under the building,
or... as my favourite Italian celebrity chef Gino Da'Campo shows...
a classic pose for you guys!
Get imaginative and have fun, and don't worry about looking silly -
everyone does and you'll get a fun photo.
Aside from the leaning spectacle, the gorgeous church and baptistry that is associated with the tower are still there, in absolute fine form,
and as at 2016, the Tower had been recently cleaned
and was beautiful shiny white marble again. If you're as lucky as we were, you can hear a pastor sing hauntingly in the baptistry, and the dome of the ceiling acts as an amplifier like I've never experienced.
The place was almost vibrating in the sound.
I think he does it on the hour. Sit, be silent, and get lost in the magic of the moment.
The Tower is able to be climbed again, and no claustrophobia for me on this one,
as it's roomy and airy.
Strange walking around the spiral, and seemingly going down as you go up.
Do it, the views are always worth it.
Say you have done it, before they might ban it altogether one day.
Okay, there is so much more to these places, but I'll save it for it's own blog, sometime. Next stop on the trip north is the penultimate water city...Venice.
Stepping out of the rail station and being met by water taxis and gondolas
is nothing short of fabulous!
We found a couple little boutique hotels to stay in on the island.
Nice to move around ?
Ah, no - we were struggling on a weekend
to actually find accomodation at the last minute,
therefore we couldn't get two nights in a row in the same place. So there's a tip...book ahead.
I can't say anything about Venice that hasn't already been said...other than perhaps pick your season to travel there.
Summer may be busy, but winter will be cold, and sometimes underwater...so, if you come from many miles away and it's your dream destination...make sure you give yourself the best chance to enjoy it. (Spring and Autumn anywhere in the world are choice travelling times in my book.)
Once there, revel in it's uniqueness.
Take a timber motor launch over to the island of Murano, to witness the age old craft
of blowing the famous Venetian glass.
Going through the showroom you'll be shown pieces that you could swap your house for...
or do what we did, nick off to the last part of the tour...for the cheapskates,
and pick up some pretty figurines for 40 Euro.
Back on the island, you MUST book a Gondola ride..ok, it may be cliche, but still, it's Venice,
and you should experience it - at least once.
You get to cruise under the famous Bridge of Sighs, then venture in and around the private (or not so private) canals.
Once away from the main canal, it was peaceful, serene, and yes, very romantic.
We absolutely loved it.
2-3 days is enough for a nice taste, and let me tell you, we found the best cannoli in Italy there, as well as the most ornate and quaint hotel room with a view to drink in...
Without going into other places we visited in the south, like Naples, The Amalfi Coast and Pompeii, I'll save that for its own story.
That was just a taste of how much we love Italy.
SOOOO much more to see of it. Soon.
Very soon. We hope...
City of lights. A city of dreams; a living patchwork of 17th century mixed with the now.
It imprinted permanently in our hearts.
And yes, like it's neighbour, Italy, it took FAR too long for us to finally to get there. We spent only 6 days exploring it, first on our own,
then with friends that joined us from the UK. What a hoot we had.
And what a place to have it!!!
Once again, jump on an On/Off bus to take you to all the famous locations you've grown so familiar with, and now you can see, touch and experience them all.
Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triumph, Champ Elysees, Opera House,
and many more.
In 6 days flat out, we still never got out to wonder at the glory of the Palace of Versailles
or the spooky yet intriguing Catacombs.
Bummer. (Next time.)
We did however squeeze in a show at the Moulin Rouge,
went to the top of the Eiffel Tower,
and admired the talented painters at work at the Artist's Square at Montematre
whilst adding a love lock by the Sacre Coeur.
Aside from all that, the best thing you can do is walk...and walk...and walk.
Get lost along the cobblestoned streets. Get lost amongst the Masters in The Louvre.
Have a coffee, absorb the flavours of the place.
Get down to the St Germaine sector for true al fresco dining,
devour a filled baguette along the Seine,
stroll through the majestic Jardin Du Luxembourg Gardens,
sample some escargot, browse the historic second hand book carts,
marvel at the Mona Lisa, drink champagne and fall in love all over again.
It's what you do. It's Paris.
We WILL return.
Most amazing experiences...
Okay, for me, it's something that doesn't happen very often, and blows you away.
I think the following stories might just fall into that category.
It's no coincidence to me, the the majority of my 'wow' moments, have happened in Africa. All very unique in their own ways.
Okay, in no particular order...
Serengeti Meteor Shower.
Seriously, if you have to be ANYwhere in the world, with a forecasted meteor shower -
hows about being on one of the flattest, scarcest places on Earth,
with no moonlight to spoil the show... Yup, we got lucky on this, I tell ya.
Just prior to our Kilimanjaro climb in 2007, myself and two other friends, were enjoying a 5 day camping safari in Tanzania, when one of the girls mentioned that the following morning, there was supposed to be a meteor shower, between 3-5am, 'somewhere' in the world.
Okaaaaay, so here we were, on the Serengeti, with zero light pollution, 180 deg horizon to horizon visibility and it was the dry season, ...yup - this could be good we thought. :)
Come 4am, it was time to peek out of our tiny tent, to see if there was any
It was so cold, just crawling out of my snug sleeping bag was such a huge effort,
I said to Sharon (my tent buddy),
"I'll look, and if don't see anything, I'm going back to sleep." Well - the moment I looked out, I saw a shooting star. Ok, maybe that was a coincidence I thought, until I saw another one moments later. "Ok Sharon, up you get, let's check this out."
Zip, zip, and we were standing in the pitch black, next to our mate Narelle, who had already been up for a while, enjoying the most astonishing feast of shooting stars
you could ever imagine, all the while we were also listening to
lions and hyenas in the not so distant grassland.
Could we have been in a more perfect place to witness such a sight? I think not.
With our heads spinning in each direction, all we kept saying was
"Ooh, there's one! There's another! OMG, that one is huge!" I thought afterwards, that if anyone was lying in their tents listening to us gasp in awe,
they probably would be too chicken to poke their heads out,
maybe thinking we were talking about predators instead!
Apparently hyenas trashed our garbage bins overnight anyway.
We must have seen a hundred shooting stars
striping across the sky in all different directions, for over an hour.
It was a true life highlight,
and an experience without a single photograph. One for the heart and memory bank.
Summitting Mount Kilimanjaro
By far, the HARDEST and most gruelling, yet overwhelmingly satisfying
experience of my entire life. Childbirth was so much easier. ;)
In 2007 I travelled to Africa to climb this Bad Boy, or in a mountain's case, 'Bad Girl',
as she surely lived up to her reputation. 5 people tragically died on the mountain the week before us,
and one of our team very nearly did as well. She's not to be underestimated!
That said, if you want to see 'The snows of Kilimanjaro' whilst they're still there, and you have an adventurous spirit, give it a bash. It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Go to my 'Kili' Blog for the whole story, the summit night section holds nothing back...
Machu Picchu at dawn.
This had always been on my top 5 Bucket List adventures.
Only second behind climbing Mount Kilimanjaro,
which I had done 10 years earlier for my 40th birthday.
Now I was turning 50, I thought it was the perfect destination to celebrate such a milestone.
We joined our first ever tour group, with 'G Adventures', for a two week tour from Lima to Cusco, out to the Amazonian rainforest, up to Machu Picchu and then cruising on the high altitude lake of Titicaca, where I celebrated my big day.
Half our group were hiking the Inca Trail, and the other half, including us,
took the gentler route along the river, hugging the Andes, on the very scenic train.
The Inca civilisation is truly something to marvel at, yet still they have left many questions unanswered as to where they went.
We met up with our hikers at dawn, in front of that picture postcard site of Machu Picchu,
just as the early dawn clouds parted like sheer curtains, and even Trev said it was one of the most incredible, memorable and magical moments in his life.
It was something to behold, and an utter privilege to be there.
The Great Migration river crossing.
Back to talk about Africa again, this time it's a 3 day safari at the fabulous 'fly in - fly out' Governor's Camp on the Masai Mara, Kenya, during August,
to witness a wonder of the natural world...
The Great Migration of the wildebeest,
along with just as many of their companion animals; zebras.
Every year, an estimated 1.5 million wildebeest migrate from the dry plains of Tanzania, crossing the great Mara river, for greener pastures in Kenya on the Masai Mara and beyond.
If you are going to go on safari, why not at this FANTASTIC time, and witness first hand, this spectacle of nature.
We spent 3 days 'glamping' here, and enjoyed many game drives,
some of them lasting 6 hours!
The best one of course, ended in a finale at the end of the day, as we had been following and watching a huge herd of these creatures, as they kept approaching the river, but often balking, as their instinct kicked in to the dangers present. Giant crocodiles sitting on the river banks and underwater - just waiting, hippos in the way, and lions overlooking the whole event with the vultures waiting for leftovers. Yup, they were on high alert.
The herd are desperate for a drink, many going days without water, and the draw is too hard to combat, and eventually, if you are lucky to be there at the right time, you will seem them plunge in and take their chances.
Spectacular doesn't even come close in describing this event. We even got caught up in the stampede as we were driving
to the river to get there in time to see it.
Well, see it we did.
2000 crossed eventually, after a few false starts, 3 being taken by crocodiles right in front of our eyes...probably not a bad ratio, to lose only 3 out of 2000, always sad to witness,
but that's how it is. The circle of life is never more prevalent than out there on safari.
So, this was the highlight, but there were so many more...watching a leopard just after her kill, lions mating - well, it was spring after all, and even having hippos and elephants walking through our camp at night and eating right outside our tent.
Wild Africa is just amazing.
The Devil's swimming pool, Zambia.
When I first saw videos of people swimming in 'The Devil's Pool',
I knew I had to do it.
Timing it is essential, as you can only do this in the dry season, and sometimes even then,
if they have had heavy rain just recently, it may be impossible.
So when we finally got to Livingstone, Zambia, home of the great Victoria Falls,
you can just imagine my reaction when our guide said to me, upon picking us up to go,
that we couldn't swim that day is it was full of ice. Being winter, I knew it was going to be cold, yet I still squealed "NOOOO'", before saying, "I don't care! I'm still going in!" Then I saw him and my husband smirking. Yeah, I fell for it.
What a epic experience this was.
Not just the swim, but even getting there was an adventure - zooming across shallow waters, where we had seen a crocodile floating by earlier that morning,
let alone hippos and elephants.
Arriving safely on Livingstone Island, a tiny isle right on the edge of the falls, and here we were to enjoy a beautiful 3 course lunch afterwards.
To get to the pool, we trekked over rocks and swam through the heavy current that was heading right over the falls, till we finally got to the tiny swimming hole,
right on the very brim of the falls. Exhilarating doesn't even come close.
You get to lie on the natural rock formation that provides your safety, the ultimate infinity edge pool, and look over the falls, as the guides hold onto your feet. It's safe, I promise, as long as you go exactly where they say.
Witness the top of one of the mightiest falls on the planet, see the rainbow below you, and tick that one firmly off your bucket list with pride.
Great White Shark cage dive.
Still in Africa, this time at Gansbaai, which is south of Capetown, South Africa...
and known globally as 'Shark Alley'. Oh goody ~
Yep, not a thing Trev wanted to do with me at all, but kudos to him, he did, and guess what? We both loved every second of it.
This was on my top 5 bucket list, I have no idea how it got there, but I'm glad it was,
and I'm stoked we followed through with it.
We left our hotel in Capetown way before dawn, crammed into the almost full mini bus,
(yes, there are plenty of us crazies out there),
for the nearly 4 hour drive south to Shark Alley. The drive was spectacular, once you're past the informal settlements and away from the barbed wire, it was lovely seeing the vineyards and orchards as it was wine and cider country - our two beverages of choice.
The rugged coastline was picturesque, like something off a postcard.
Once we arrived, and were fully made aware of was lay ahead and signed the indemnity, (haha), in no time we were heading out over the waves to a spot where we could pick up our cage which they leave tied to a buoy, waiting for the next load of bait -
oops, I mean cage divers.
All kitted up in thick wetsuits, we chose to be part of the second dive, after seeing the first lot got through, as it was great to get a feel for it.
You get to stand about chest deep in the cage which is attached to the side of the boat,
just needing a mask,
as you don't go under water, except briefly when the sharks come at you, you grab a bar and pull yourself under for an 'up close and personal' view of these mighty creatures.
This was awesome as most of the action is right on the surface anyway, as the bait guys throw out large chunks of fish on hooks and drag it towards the cage,
luring the predators towards us crazy people!
We had about 7-8 bronze whalers around us for the duration of our dive, itself goes for about 20-25 minutes, which was great, but that was enough as it was pretty cold, being winter and all, and we got bashed around the cage a little in the rolling swell,
but it was an extraordinary experience. They even made a hot chocolate for you once you got out.
Best one ever. Watching all the others after us was equally as awesome, so if you didn't want to go in the cage, you still have an fabulous time watching and taking photos. If you decide to do it, take seasick tablets if you are prone, as there were quite a few adding burly to the water that day due to the swell. You'd hate to miss out due to seasickness.
No great whites visited us on our trip, sadly, they did get one before and after us,
but we lucked out. They do up to four trips a day. Oh well, we'll just have to do this again, and WE WILL!
And these guys ^^ are what we missed seeing...buggar.
But, as I said...hopefully we will next time.
Mad, I can hear you say!
The Taj Mahal at dawn.
In 2018, we did a 'Passage To India', itself being a trip of dreams...
Travelling from Santorini to Israel, The Pyramids, Suez Canal, Luxor, Petra, then cruising the pirated waters of the Red Sea with our ship wrapped in razor wire, then Oman and over the Arabian sea to Mumbai, India.
Leaving this wonderful adventure, we departed Mumbai for a quick 3 day loop, encompassing Dehli, Agra, and or course, ending up on our very last day of our trip,
at the world's best shrine to love,
The Taj Mahal.
We really enjoyed the short time we spent in India, OMG, the food...drool. We are currently planning with a friend to go back to Mumbai,
and invite ourselves to a local wedding that goes for a week! (Our friend has connections...)
Nothing like a challenge, and the colours of an Indian wedding, and oh boy, I can't wait to dress in a fabulous Sari and try to blend in with my fair skin and red hair.
Haha, like that'll happen. Blend in no, crash a wedding, apparently yes.
Watch this space...
Anyway, back to the Taj.
Our time in Agra leading up to the Taj, was special, as we learnt all about the legendary
Shah Jahan, and his love for his wife,
whom he lost most tragically as she bore him his 14th child,
7 who died in infancy. He promised her on her death bed to keep her close, and to built a shrine, and oh yeah, build he did.
Visiting this special place before the sun arose, meant dodging the crowds, and getting to enjoy strolling around this monumental structure with ease. Even the entry building is worthy of admiration with is 22 miniature domes (11 each end) adorning the roof, marking each year of construction.
And finally, sitting on the famous bench where Princess Diana sat alone,
one of her saddest photos ever in my opinion.
It is rumoured that on that day, she remarked that she would die happy, if someone loved her as much as the Shah loved his wife.
That one word says it all.
No cities, no culture, no food or music, no roads, and best of all, no civilisation.
I likened it to seeing planet Earth, as it was, billions of years ago. Before humans. Pure and natural.
Seriously, like no where else on Earth.
2019 saw us visit this great southern continent, our last of the 7 to set foot on,
and what an honour it was to be able to do that.
We cruised south from Ushuaia, at the very bottom of Argentina, departing from the legendary Cape Horn, crossing the dreaded 'Drake Passage', a passage that can be notoriously rough to say the very least.
The entire Pacific Ocean basically funnels through this very narrow channel, into the Atlantic, and whilst we thought it was crazy rough on the way down, nothing compared to travelling back, outrunning a storm and avoiding icebergs whilst shrouded in fog and sleet.
Oh joy, this is travelling!!!!
The one thing that resonated with me as one of the most extraordinary sights and feeling at the same time, was seeing the horizon, glimmering white, knowing that was the ice shelf, and we were almost at the bottom of the the planet. I'll never forget that sense of awe. We spent 6 glorious days down there, rotating between shore landings, where we often climbed steep hills for spectacular views, and cruising on zodiacs around blue icebergs, with leopard seals slumbering peacefully on top, whales breaching or sleeping on the water's surface, and coming up to say hello to us on a zodiac...to watching all the fluffy penguin chicks with their parents - almost ready to hit the sea until next breeding season, as we were heading into Autumn, and were the last ship of the short season to be there.
Nothing comes remotely close. Don't leave it too late to go.
So, out of that lot, 4 were ticked off my Top 5 Bucket List wishes:
Kili, Machu Picchu, Antarctica and the shark cage dive. The 5th is to witness the Northern Lights, a trip we had planned for March this year, but had to postpone.
It's nice to know my top dream experiences,
lived up, and clearly surpassed expectations.
I have now compiled a new list! One that includes a Halloween Party at Dracula's castle, joining the mail route on a small plane delivering mail to remote Alaskan properties,
and swimming with the pigs in the Bahamas... How fun!
We are excited to get back to it, once the world opens back up again. I only ever imagined a world war would be the only thing that would have
Moving on ~
Funniest and craziest moments:
I'll try to make these short and sweet. (There really aren't many photos that go with these anecdotes.)
Probably the loudest I have ever laughed in my life,
and I'm talking hyena/sealion kind of sound - the kind of laugh that made my stomach muscles sore the next day, happened when we were climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. You see, toilet stops are just a tree or 'hopefully' a large rock...but we soon realised the obvious place wasn't the best spot after all. Simply because we obviously weren't the first to think of it. Sooooo, when 3 of us girls needed to 'download', we found a huge boulder and one went high, one in the middle, and I myself went low. When one girl came down from the top, we said 'Oh gawd, you DON'T want to walk there..." JUST at the precise moment she...yup, walked 'there'. And slid, legs up, arms flailing trying not to land in it, but yes, fell into the runniest, most foul, orange puddle of human poop known to mankind.
(Hey, it wasn't ours by the way!)
It sprayed everywhere!
And you know how much tread is in hiking boots? Yeah, you get the picture. Luckily we were right by a creek to rinse! We literally bellowed with laughter, and she was such a good sport about it, she earnt her nickname of 'Skidmarks' that day.
Affectionately shortened to just 'Skidders' thereafter.
Why do we always seem to resort to poop stories when travelling?
I have more, but I might 'sprinkle' them between others...;)
Us Aussies, like our forebearing Brits, have a lot of colloquial sayings. (We'll blame the Brits shall we, or Cockneys to be specific)... But they often just spill out without thinking.
Rhyming slang and all that.
Well, on a bus in Estonia, Trev was paying for our tickets without looking up, and when we received them, he just automatically piped up with "Cheers, Big Ears." It's just what we say, and it's harmless...UNTIL you look up and as the ticket collector walked off, we saw that, sadly for him, his ears resembled that gorgeous Disney elephant. You know the one. "Do you think he heard me" asks Trev. "Um, yes, no, maybe - I bloody hope not."
So from now on, we make sure we don't drop that line, without checking first.
Foot in mouth again, sweet Trev. Bless.
Trev again, (sorry Luv.) When we were being fitted up for our wetsuit boots for our shark cage dive, Trev was quietly preoccupied with, let's say, 'nervous energy'...(aka fear), so when the girl asked him what shoe size he was, he simply replied "Good."
Oops, "Ah, he's a 9". "You ok there, Hun?"
It was adorable, and we use it all the time now when you don't know the answer.
Too good to let go, that one.
We were in Cusco, Peru, and were meeting a tour company in the main Square to take us to their office in preparation for our day of quad biking.
So when we were piled into an old, like REALLY old taxi, we just shrugged and went with it. That was until we nearly had to do a Fred Flintsone as this car's clutch went and
couldn't get out of first gear. Problem? Hell no, not in South America!
Bonnet pops, long piece of string comes out of his boot, and gets carefully threaded through from the engine, through to the next to the steering wheel. "No problemo" says our cabbie with a chuckle as we took off, in a low second gear, only for him to have to yank the string back to try to engage the next gear. Cheers of support was coming from us in the back seat when it worked, and all was good - that is until traffic slowed and we had to start again. Lots of arms waving, yelling and honking at us by cranky drivers, but we were too busy laughing and enjoying the experience to care.
We made it, in fine form, and we gave our creative driver a generous tip to put towards a new clutch.
Or at least some more string.
Sitting at the main train station in Cologne, Germany, we were just chilling, waiting for our train, and staring mindlessly at the tracks in front of us.
"That's a funny looking stick/log", I said. "That's not a log" says Trev.
OMG. And they were everywhere.
They empty the train toilets at the main station. Like, really?
Ok, on that same train, we had booked first class seating for our first ever ICE train, and were enjoying our 2.5 hour trip to Amsterdam in a private little room,
you know, like 'Harry Potter.' LOL.
After an hour and a half or so, Trev decided to go for a wander to find the food car. 5 minutes later he returned, and said, "Grab the bags. We are in second class!"
OMG, they were so lovely and comfy, we obviously thought it was first class.
Oh well, live and learn.
We learnt that day we could save money by purchasing second class tickets on these trains.
When we were in Florence, a tour operator recommended to us that 'Five Lions' restaurant was THE place to go, for the city's namesake meal 'Steak Florentine'.
There are HUNDREDS of restaurants amongst the labyrinth of cobblestoned lanes so for the few days we were there, we constantly kept an eye out for it, even making a solid effort on the last night to find it. After walking forever it seemed, we finally sat down at a cluster of outdoor tables, looked up, and read the sign "Cinque Leone."
Maybe she should have said to us to look for it in 'ITALIAN'! Dah. Too funny.
Okay, years ago, as in late '80's, Trev and I were on our first overseas trip together,
this time travelling in the USA.
Whilst driving through the Redwood Forest, we stopped at bar
called The Brass Rail for a bevy -
(yes, I still remember the name, hehe),
and when we do this, we usually would sit up at the bar, to chat with anyone who was there.
Well, this time we listened. There was an Aussie just near us, and we were quite surprised how much our
accent sticks out!
Anyhoo, once we started eavesdropping, we realised he was deadset spinning the hugest yarn about life in Australia. (AKA, bullshit.)
Yes, I have real wildlife stories that can make foreigners' toes curl in fright,
but this bloke thought he was the real Crocodile Dundee.
It was hilarious.
We just listened and listened, for ages, as his little crowd around him
sucked it all in.
The hole he was digging, in our opinion, was just getting deeper and deeper the more drinks they had. As we got up to leave, I thought it was high time to blow his cover so I stood there and said: "What a crock of shit, Mate!"
And he knew it.
It was gold. We'll never forget it.
Or how about the time we were on a short cruise down from Sydney to Melbourne, for the race that stops the nation; The Melbourne Cup.
We had managed to sequester 4 other friends to join us, and we all had the best time.
Particularly, when they had an '80's/fluoro Theme Night, where we went all out to dress up...
Thing was, we all wore it to dinner, and I mean FULL ON disco,
(even Trev wore a mullet wig)...
and we were the only ones who did.
Our friends could've killed me as I assured them everyone would be in costume. Nope, they all changed after dinner and hit the dance floor then...
Oh well, wear it with confidence I say!
Back to poop.
In Africa again, and a group of us who had just climbed Kili, were sitting at a bar in Tanzania, just outside a school where we were staying and helping out for a few days.
The bar and the bartender were safe in a cage, with a Maasai guard out the front.
Anyways, as it usually does when you're with a bunch of adventurers,
talk eventually gets around to 'World's worst toilets'.
One of them actually Googled it before he left Australia, just to prep himself. :)
Well, good news for African travellers - the top 10 are all in Asia! (Well, at least in 2007.)
The worst one was a long drop, and at the bottom of it were live pigs! " Yup. It happens.
Soooooo, later that evening we were at a hotel dinner buffet, when one of our team just held up a 'mystery' meat kebab, and simply said "Pork anyone?"
The rest of the restaurant didn't understand the joke that made us all laugh so much - and avoid the mystery kebabs too.
Or the time one of us girls on safari went to use the long drop, (after watching the meteor shower I talked about earlier), and just as she went to sit on it, a whole colony of tiny bats flew out of it! That sure was an incredible morning!
Oh this one is a cracker. Or at least it was to me...
Arriving in London, for a quick stay before picking up a cruise to the Baltics, we had a porter bring our bags to our room, then mutter something that I had absolutely
no idea what he had said.
Him: "Blah blah blah blah blah blah...."
Me: "Um, I'm so sorry, can you please say that again?"
"Blah blah blah blah blah bah"
"Nope, no idea, sorry, can you repeat that?" "Blah blah blah blah blah blah!!!!"
"Oh dear, I really am so sorry. I can usually understand most accents, and here I am in England, and you are speaking English (I think), but I seriously CANNOT understand a word you are saying..."
" Maaam - is - dare- anyfink - else - I - can - do - for - yas?"
"Ahhhh, GOT IT! No thanks, we are fine."
Sigh, that was exhausting, and embarrassing - for us both I imagine!
Singapore, and we had just finished a 2 week cruise and were enjoying a couple of days off ship before we flew home. On the last day we had called into Chinatown and ran into our newly made Dutch friends, whom we had so much fun with, and had decided to buy some street food for lunch. Our Dutchies are very experienced travellers, and quite careful where they choose to eat - for good reason.
So when they saw us later, chowing down on some local soup, they just patted our backs and simply remarked "Good luck on the plane with that," and kept walking.
We had 8 hours ahead of us, and thank goodness I had booked an aisle seat I guess.
All good. We were fine. But we think of them often, especially when we see street food.
Ok, these next two stories probably don't count as the funniest...maybe craziest, or could've even been scariest...
Yup, I'm going to tell this. A little 'R' rated, be warned.
I just know my Dutch friends are going to giggle at this one.
Getting off that ICE train, (you remember that one that started off with logs at the station)
- at Amsterdam's main station; we had no booking for a hotel
and had no idea which way to go?
Left over the canal, or right?
Left it is.
Well, that ended up an interesting choice.
The hotels were small, and now we would possibly say 'boutique' but there and then,
I think that was too kind. Trev and I had developed a routine in travelling - he would wait outside, whilst I went into an establishment, and would ask for a room key to check it out, to give it the 'yeay or nay'. We have had too many dodgy experiences, and we knew better. Or so we thought.
The first one I went to, and this is 2002 mind you, and the rate was 140 Euro back then, so not cheap, and the timber floors were all rickety and sloping towards the window, with the two single beds (ugh) that had old chenille bedspreads like the ones I grew up with in the 70's with both beds dipping in the middle from years of 'use'.
Yeah, nah, next!
Trundling our two suitcases each down the cobblestoned lane a bit further,
we repeated the process.
This time the hotel reception was the bar, and the person doing the dealings,
was what I could best describe as a Mumma.
Still, alarm bells didn't go off. No 'spidey sense' in those days. Mumma calls out to her 'staff' - one burly guy, and a girl you wouldn't mess with either..."This lady wants to see room. You take. " (This room was 160 Euro).
Okay, so leaving Trev innocently standing there with all the suitcases, I proceeded down the laneway, flanked either side by these two people, and kept going, and going, then finally turned left into another lane.
I turned to look at Trev, as if was for the last time, shrugging, thinking this was dodgy a/f,
as the moment we turned, I knew I'd be out of eyesight from Trev,
and he had no idea where I was going. (Plus, we had no mobile phones in those days.)
That's when it went pear shaped.
We stopped at an unmarked door on the left, which they opened to a very tall
and narrow staircase,
to which they both pointed and said, "You go up."
I looked opposite and there was a sex shop, with a floor to ceiling giant ahem, dildo,
filling the window. Ahhh, nice view I thought ~~~
Yikes. They insisted I go up the stairs. I just stood frozen, thinking of all those 'Hostel' like movies, where you wake up in an ice bath with a kidney missing, and I vehemently shook my head like a baby not wanting to eat their veggies. "You go up."
"Yes. Room at top." "I bet. No."
I claimed our suitcases wouldn't even fit up these narrow stairs, and I knew in my bones Trevor would NOT want me to enter that door. I apologised for their inconvenience, as I said I wouldn't take it, and turned around and headed back to Trev, with them furious at me. Trev saw me coming, and a look of relief swept over his face.
When I got to him, I just said "Let's get out of here, don't ask, we need to go. Now."
MAY have been completely normal, in fact I'm sure it was, but it totally creeped me out,
and it just didn't feel right. So we went across the other side of the canal, used a booking agency, and they got us into the Marriott, for 40 Euro less than the dodgy dildo view room was going to be!
We ended us having a marvellous 4 days there. All good.
Just don't turn left.
Okay, whilst I'm on scary moments, this one was recent, and goes down as THE MOST scared I've ever been whilst travelling.
Oh, aside from the couple of times we nearly got mugged in the States.
I digress, I forgot about that!
Not my favourite place, and here's good reason why. I knew from my first trip to Africa, not to let anyone help you with your bags at an airport, unless of course it was an organised transfer.
So, being experienced, haha, or so I thought, I bloody let it happen didn't I, and before we knew it, a porter had our bags and had hustled us into a private taxi.
NOT a taxi at the front of the queue, but one that had just nosed in. The driver spoke no English (apparently), and when we realised there was no meter, or credit card machine, or driver ID, we may have just been duped, and gotten into serious strife,
particularly after the fact we didn't tip the porter... (We were hustled, so we thought 'bugger off!')
The moment we realised we could have been in trouble, it was too late,
and he had taken off. I just wanted to get out, but couldn't.
Suddenly I felt this hot flush of fear sweep over my body, as I honestly believed he was going to pull into some dodgy carpark, and we were going to be robbed, bashed, raped, or murdered, or pretty much - all of the above.
Trev was being calm for me, but I was shitting bricks. I saw the sign on the highway for our hotel (a huge casino resort so not hard to miss),
and I prayed he turned towards it.
He did. OMG, phew.
Still not happy until we arrived, he then went somewhere different, pretending not to understand, so he went round and around. Never in my life have I been more relieved to arrive at our destination. We usually card taxis, so we only had US dollars in cash, which he wouldn't take. I had to run into the hotel to get some money exchanged pronto, to get rid of this guy.
And the kicker of all this?
We get a knock at our hotel room door, and I'm like "WHAT NOW?"
To which we had a delivery. Delivery? What the?
It was documents from our travel company, for the next stage our our trip, which showed us we could have caught the free shuttle from the airports to this hotel. THAT would have been nice to know!
Another 'live and learn' travel experience.
Last but not least, let's finish on something nice! Our favourite food, drinks, and other random things.
Lets start with food. I'll make this quick and easy. Most have a photo to go with them.
Favourite meal ever:
In the elegant dining room of the Palace Du Bussaco, Portugal. The most amazing (and expensive) meal we have had in our lives - it took fine dining to a whole new level. So mind-blowingly delicious, we had the same two nights in a row!
Fave Breakfast: Champagne breakfast on the Masai Mara after our sunrise balloon flight.
They told us the story, that one day - after a breakfast here, they were packing up, and a lioness popped her head out of the grass where she had been napping.
Less than 50 feet away.
Pisco Sour. Hotel Antigua, Miraflores - Lima Peru.
Didn't even touch the sides. Delicious.
May have had more than one...
Favourite chocolate/chocolate milkshake: Pepe's, Main Square, Cusco Peru. OMG, like drinking liquid chocolate. South American chocolate is to die for.
Favourite Cruise ship cocktail?
Me: Tuscan Lemon Drop Trev: Love Connection
Favourite Cruise line whilst we're at it:
VIKING. Without a second thought. Amazing.
Best hotel pool: Rooftop infinity pool, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.
Best Hotel Experience: Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya - Africa.
Favourite bridge photo: Suzhou canals, China.
Favourite animal selfies:
So that's about it guys.
For now. I'm sure I can add to this over time, lets hope lots more funny stories,
and less scary ones. And a LOT more new favourite places!