As is only appropriate, within the first 6 days of our arrival to SA we went on a safari to take in the beauty of the Pilanesburg National Park and to ogle at all that is wild. Wow! It was as thrilling and gorgeous as I had imagined a safari to be. Seeing African animals in the wilds (of a game reserve, probably the closest they come to being free in SA these days) is scary, exciting and wonderful. They aren’t caged in small spaces and they aren’t fed by humans or rely on humans for anything. The animals are allowed their own herds, mating partners and territory and are free to live and die as they choose. I’m no animal activist but that sounds pretty all right to me.
After the 8 hour flight due south to the land of the RSA we arrived in the afternoon and were welcomed in by Leizl, Hendri and Zante. It was so nice to meet them after hearing so much about everyone from Sue and Andrew! They took us to ‘Adieu’ which is the volunteer and organizational centre for Joburg sponsored by the WCF (Williamsburg Christadelphian Fund) and home to the Scheepers and the Viljeons. We had a really nice dinner of pup and voughst all together chatting and getting to know who everyone was before we crashed out pretty early. The wall in the kitchen has pictures up of all the previous volunteers, awesome to see our family up there and lots of other friends from all over the world.
The border crossing from Israel to Jordan was surprisingly super easy. The taxi driver dropped us off on the Israeli side and we walked over the no mans land. Jono thought the area between Israel and Jordan would be a fantastical place to try and take a quick photo. The guy with the machine gun didn’t agree. I guess decisions like this come from the same part of Jonos brain that think it’s a good idea to pack fireworks into his checked-in plane luggage and drive a car that’s not his into a muddy slurry pool in the middle of nowhere (but that story comes later).
We were all sad to leave the beautiful Galilee area and the north of Israel. We took one last look at the Sea before we dragged our eyes away and headed south down towards the Dead Sea.
The airbnb apartment in Jerusalem was on the 5th floor and after a full day walking around it was nice to use the lift. But the lift was pretty slow and one of those old school ones where you open a door, get in, press the button, wait for 3 mins before a gate would fold close, then the door would shut and you could move. The lift was tiny; you were pushing it having 2 people in there, especially if you didn’t know each other very well. If you, while trying to maneuver yourself in the small small space got in the way of the gate it would open and you’d have to wait all over again. It was so annoying you’d usually just walk.
As we flew down the coastline of Israel and over the bright lights of Tel Aviv my heart could have burst with excitement! After a long day of flying from Portugal to Israel via Cologne with a random German airline we arrived in the promised land.
Once again the bus was easy, we arrived and checked into our airbnb room with our male model host “the winking Hugo” (which oddly Jono never saw). Cool room in a great part of town, literally across the road from the Bairro Alto!
Mum and dad have arrived!!! 🙂 🙂 It was so exciting to see them pull up at the house in Nett’s little red car. It’s crazy how as they hop out they look just as if they’ve come to visit us in Newie and it feels like it was only just a few weeks ago we saw them! Mum and dad have a month holiday here in the UK and we get to spend about 2 weeks with them. That night we had a lovely family dinner (one thing I do miss about being away), a catch up on all the goings on back home and travels and planned the next few days trip to Wales.
When you’ve been travelling for so long and have arrived at an innumerable amount of bus stations, ports, train stations, and airports with not a familiar face in sight it is exceedingly wonderful to walk through the doors to where your beloved aunty is waiting with a warm hug and a big smile! We had arrived in Manchester on the evening of the 30th of July ready for a full month of being spoiled by our family, lovely catch ups, beautiful road trips and good food, not to mention the ease of English speaking shopkeepers and drinkable tap water.
As you may be aware, I love mountains. I love the challenge of hiking to the summit, I love the wilderness and lack of people, I love staying out somewhere where the only way you can see it and experience it is to have hiked up on your own two feet and most of all I love the view from the top.
Once Ibrahim had managed to navigate the craziness of Marrakech traffic with apparent ease and we were out of the city we stopped by the roadside to check out the day’s game plan.
“As I lie here on the vinyl mattress in our tiny train cabin I have become acutely aware that there is nothing quite like the flavour of an unshowered man after a full day in the Moroccan sun! I stink, but have had an awesome day!” Jono Russell, 21st July 2013.
For the first time on our travels we are staying closest to Nath, Tara, Jess and Steve! The evening flight saw us land tired, weary (ha, the flight was only 30mins) but wide-eyed at the wonders of inner city Barcelona!
After a very short and uneventful flight we landed on the Spanish island of Mallorca! Upon landing the whole aircraft burst into applause, I’d been asleep and it made me feel as though I’d missed something. Had there been, at any stage, a strong possibility we weren’t going to make it??
Feeling surprisingly spritely after sleeping on a bench for 6 hours we hopped off the overnight ferry and found a cafe. This was harder than you’d imagine for some reason nothing was open! Eventually after leaving our bags at the train station we spied a little cafe down a side street. Nobody spoke English and none of us really spoke a word of Italian.
From Zablak we crossed the border into Bosnia and by mid arvo we were in Sarajevo the capital. We’d booked into a ‘hostel’ and the guy had sent us a very average map with a warning that it can be difficult to find. 3 hours and 2 buckets of sweat later we agreed with him. The most frustrating part about finally getting a taxi driver who knew were it was was that we had been about 1 street away several times.
After checking into the trip’n hostel in Tirana we left to wander the city. To our surprise everyone here is very well dressed and the young women are all really pretty! Don’t really know why we expected it to be a bit of a backward country but Albania has surprised us immensely – and pleasantly!
After the ferry debacle and we finally got to Athens from Mykonos we made our way to Pagrati where we had booked an airbnb apartment. We were met by Kostas – the keenest host out there. It was late and we were sweaty, tired and hungry but he stayed and gave us a long run down on Athens – what to do and see. He even offered to take us on a tour of the area right then and there…we politely declined. He was awesome and super friendly!
After an amazing time in Santorini we caught the ferry to another Greek island for more of the same. Naxos is the largest of all the Cyclade islands and is also the greenest and most fertile. We loved it here! We’ve had an amazing relaxing beach holiday – within – a – holiday. Nothing to do all day except lie on the beach, go for walks and eat out every night. (more…)
We had decided to head south to the beach to lap up the sun for a few days before leaving turkey. We needed to take the ferry from Marmaris to the Greek islands but really didn’t want to stay in such a tourist mecca. With that in mind we booked to stay at an awesome hotel on the beach in the next town called Icmeler. Our plan to avoid tourists failed miserably. While Icmeler was lovely and we enjoyed the beach there were tourists everywhere. It is seriously the English version of Thailand.
We caught the morning bus here from Istanbul which took around 7 hours. The bus dropped us off in the tiny town of Eceabat and our hotel was literally 100ms away- stoked. We stayed at The Crowded House Hotel, supposedly an aussie run hotel though we didn’t see anyone who worked there who wasn’t Turkish, no matter. It’s pretty basic but also really cheap.
We travelled by train down to Biarritz from Hossegor, which was probably our shortest travel day ever. We are staying in an airbnb room in a family’s house in Anglet/Biarritz and since they’re super nice we were met at the station by Patricia’s mum. She didn’t speak a single word of English but we managed and she was really sweet.
Paris is an expensive city for sure but you can actually holiday (and really experience it) without feeling like your missing out on anything or having to sit at home and eat toast. We have been living and loving Paris for under AUD $70 a day (including accommodation).
For Nett’s second Parisian night we did what we do best…packed a big picnic and headed over to the Champs de Mars and the Eiffel Tower at sunset. We had a lovely picnic and watched the tower light up then sparkle as it does every hour on the hour. As we were chilling on the picnic rug we even witnessed a man get down on one knee and propose to his lady friend under the tower! How awesome is that!!! Everyone clapped, she squealed and then they made out for at least half an hour. On the way home we took a stroll down the Champs Élysées and around the Arc de Triomphe. We even stopped for a coffee on Paris’ most expensive street and yes it was Paris’ most expensive coffee.