A Travellerspoint blog

ole

To Mexico, via fiji

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We just made it a bit over a week ago over to Mexico and are completely loving it. Even the beer comes with chilli sauce so P is a v happy man. It’s really strange to be cold again though – we’re around 2km elevation here in St Christobal. It’s beautifully sunny in the day but feels freezing at night. England is going to be a big shock.
I started writing this the other night – and I guess all my overdue blog entries got bunged up and spat out in this big chunk. Are you sitting comfortably? Well, I’ll begin.
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Vanuatu was fantastic. We weren’t so sad to leave the ‘civilisation’ of Australia and get back to the wilds. The diving on Santo on the Coolidge wreck from WWII was awesome, and the john frum cult and volcano walk – literally gazing into the hissing angry maw spewing guts of the earth, were all so otherworldy!
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Fiji seemed a little droll by comparison, but i guess this is a statement of the overindulged! We went from shark diving at beqa lagoon to the most beautiful island which you could walk around in 20 mins. Admittedly this was via Suva, Fiji’s capital city with no so much to recommend it. Our colonial ‘heritage’ means that the Indian population nearly equals the Fijian population, but still to paul the curry wasn’t quite up to par. Actually, to be fair, it was a very authentic Indian curry – more bone than gravy or meat.
Although it was still very hot it was not as intolerable as the heat in the Gili Islands in Indonesia, and the snorkelling again was awesome. We did some dives there that were practically uncharted territory, and getting back into a 10’ fibreglass boat with no ladder in 7’ swells with fins of a length suitable for those 3’ or shorter actually proved not so bad.
We also shore dove from there, which was really nice too – some great hard corals and nurseries. Such abundant and beautiful underwater life, we have been so spoilt!

From there (via Suva again, ugh) we surprised ourselves and took the overnight ferry to Kadavu, a journey which the lonely planet explicitly does not recommend. The divemaster in the tiny island, Calaquai, used to work on a resort there and arranged us a great deal. We were so glad we took it up in the end – despite their being out of season we were able to dive with manta rays, up to five at a time. So beautiful and graceful. We were so lucky.
Manta_close_up.jpgI spy a Manta

I spy a Manta

Feeding Puffer

Feeding Puffer

Banking Manta

Banking Manta

Manta Silhouette

Manta Silhouette


From there we went up to the Yasawa islands, which is where many tourists and backpackers go. It was very lovely, but very hot, and after the secluded quiet of Kadavu we were slightly perturbed by the backpacker flesh parade, with the daybed around the pool etc. It was an absolutely beautiful setting, but I am a little disappointed that we didn’t make it up the blue lagoons or over to the dateline to do the one foot in today, one in yesterday.

Infact it was especially annoying that when we did finally cross the dateline we did it on a day of transit – so had an extra 24hrs of airport lounges, plane cramp etc, but not only that, we also had the misfortune to fly with a coughing traveller. Not really just coughing, really coughing his lungs up. So surprise surprise we got his bug, and instead of gaining a day we have lost a bit of time overcoming it (or maybe getting used to Mexico City’s smog).

The capital city was great, and from there we travelled further to the colonial towns of Puebla, Oaxaca and here, St Christobal. The history is great, the people are great, the food is great.. Over the next few days we are looking forward to seeing more natural beauty in the Cañón del Sumidero, and visiting Mayan villages before heading up to Merida, the Yucatan and on to Belize.
Must go now – it’s getting late and I’m sure there’s another hot chocolate out there with my name on. The Oaxacan Chocolate Mole (sauce) was great to try, and is deservedly famous, but my mind it’s even yummier hot in the cup.

Hopefully we'll catch up with putting our pics up now we have a good internet connection! Tansy here are your promised wotsits. They have green and red and white ones, as well as the huge and minute. Book your flight immediately! One_for_Ta..ersmith.jpg

hasta luego

SnP

Posted by scurried 05:48 Comments (2)

Halo

That's Bislama for Hello

semi-overcast 31 °C
View small jaunt on scurried's travel map.

Hello, sorry for the silence! Australia was great, but internet (and everything else) cost a bomb! We really enjoyed a blast of civilisation though.
We are off to explore Efate in Vanuatu today, and are buzzing off to other islands of Tanna and Santo over the next week. Vanuatu is absolutely gorgeous, and the people are really welcoming. Full update to follow (hopefully!)
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Ale Tata (yep, that's Goodbye)

Posted by scurried 23.01.2010 17:39 Comments (0)

Welcome to the Jungle

semi-overcast 25 °C

Well, now we’ve left the jungle. Here is P’s description of it: hot, humid, green, monkeys, orang-utans, frogs, mosquitos. That kind of sums it up!

On boxing day we succeeded in our mission to see an orang-utan, at the brilliant Sepilok Rainforest Discovery Centre. It’s a great site, with lots of trails, a canopy walkway and some elevated hides. We were hiding from the rain up one of these when Paul noticed some leaves rustling not far away, and our patience watching them was rewarded with our first sight of the ‘old man of the woods’. Leap.jpgHiding_from_rain.jpgThis was a little one though, and he was pretty much doing the same as us – hiding under some leaves, munching on some fruit, literally hanging around. We saw some great rare birds too – rhinosceros hornbills & bristleheads.
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The following day we joined Uncle Tans jungle trip and travelled on to the Kingabatagen River area and jungle where we safaried through and around the jungle on foot and by boat, not to mention sleeping in it! We’re really looking forward to a proper wash, but our nights in the jungle were great fun, surrounded by frogs, gloworms, monkeys & more. We saw more organutans, probiscus monkeys, long and pig tailed macqaques, huge monitor lizards and more.
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Posted by scurried 29.12.2009 15:32 Comments (4)

Merry christmas!!!

Hello and Merry Christmas!!!
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We are in Sandakan now, and the 6 hours on the bus to get here weren't too painful this morning! Sandakan is a hip town on the NE coast of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. http://maps.google.com.my/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=sandakan&sll=5.420404,116.796785&sspn=3.44468,7.064209&gl=my&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Sandakan,+Sabah&t=h&z=9

We're hoping to do a little rainforest exploration tomorrow before our jungle adventure along the Kinabatagan river begins on the 27th.
We really enjoyed the diving in Sipidan/Mabul - despite having terrible luck with visibility - a big storm the night before we went out dropped visibility from 20m+ down to around 5m in places. So sadly the only Rays I have seen have been cut up on for sale in the wet market. The diving in Mabul was absolutely amazing though - so many rare and beautfiul fish - the life underwater is so colourful and spectacular, especially here. Glad to see the orangutan crabs we'd just looked at in a book - they're tiny. Hope we are lucky enough to see the mammal version too.

The people are also tremendously friendly and welcoming, despite living in challenging conditions on islands like Mabul - tightly packed stilt houses and no amenities to speak of.

We have been reflecting on the first half of our trip, missing our family and friends, and generally thinking how lucky we are.

Krismas gembira semua orang - Happy Christmas everyone!

xx

S&P

PS do comment when we post so we know we are being read!! xx

Posted by scurried 07:10 Comments (6)

Thailand Islands and beaches

[sorry this is old now] - **** see previous blog for most up to date info***

We’re back on land! We spent the last three days on a liveaboard dive boat on the Similan islands completing the PADI advanced diver course, a week after finishing the open water one on Phu Quoc island in Southern Vietnam. The Similan islands were absolutely beautiful, and we’re both glad we did it, although it did feel v much like we were ‘out of our depth’ at first. The islands are up near the Myanmar coast, so to get there from Phuket you have an early start, long coach, then over an hour in a bumpy speedboat. About 15minutes later you’re in the sea and going down. The islands are beautiful and we were spoilt underwater too – lots of sea turtles, a leopard shark, nudibranches, coral garden, boulders walls and swim-throughs.

Now we’re trying to plan our route south to Penang in Malaysia, and it looks like we can go all the way by ferries – more white sand beaches, and hopefully progressively less touristy islands. Phuket is like an asian Malaga – full of farangs (foreigners) and prices and food just like home.
It’s hard to believe that we’ve been away for three and a half months. We both really miss family and friends now, We’ve met some great people along the way, but it’s not the same. It’s so nice to hear news from back home – please write to us lots!

As I never get time to finish writing a proper account of what we’ve been doing, here’s a speed update to hopefully fill in some blanks.

Chaing Mai finished massage school, did a day hilltribe tour – better than anticipated... Many ‘new’ hilltribes refugee from Burma. Overnight bus back to Bangkok – worse than I anticipated. Feeling older and not so good at overnight buses any more. Sleeper train up was more fun!
Did some Wat hopping then took early bus to Siem Reap. Up early to make the most of highly anticipated Angkor Wat, cycled around the ruins for ten hours. Sore bum cycling back in the dark (with our headtorches on to keep stray motorbikes away!).

Bussed on Phnom Penh & found the most cheap (& horrid) accommodation yet – followed LP advice to stay in backpacker area/ghetto at lakeside before it’s razed. At $3 with internet access and a lake view we did well! Spent a great morning lounging with sister-in-law Gayle’s best friend Georgie, who is packing up now to move back to the UK after 5 yrs away. Really nice to stop, relax, and enjoy a home made cheese sandwich!
Bussed on to Kep on the South coast near the border with Vietnam. Beautiful unspoilt little place with great restaurants by the crab market, a little beach and a very relaxed vibe. Enjoyed cycling around to see the local sights, admiring some incredible villas abandoned during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, swinging in the hammock & also exploring nearby Kampot old colonial town, and limestone caves. Arranged onward travel to Vietnam through a local agent and set off in trepidation for our journey to Phu Quoc.
After a dusty bumpy journey to the border and on to the port town of Ha Tien we were delivered to a ferry office and told that the ferry was at 8am not 1pm, then we were told that the ferry was broken. We were taken to another office, where they had a ferry at 1pm, but there was no reservation made for us and the ferry was full.

Everyone but us thought it would be a great idea to stay in Ha Tien overnight and take the ferry the next day. We thought that it would be a great idea to travel as we planned so we could start our dive course the next day. After some fraught conversations and calls back to our travel agent we were no closer to a solution. They’d said we’d be able to take a taxi to the next port town along, then they tried to leave us on a bus which we knew would arrive after that ferry’s departure time. Eventually they deposited us and our bags at the ferry office we’d first arrived at, with the fare and no definite outcome. The staff spoke no English. and, no French. After hanging around and looking very upset for more than an hour some sympathy was roused and they allocated us some ‘seats’ on the ‘full’ ferry. Both of us in seat 00 – actually a tiny plastic stool. Then they found some more sympathy and allocated us real seats. Hooray! Not so great a journey in the end, although the hydrofoil was definitely more modern and safe than the slow ferry, which we’d heard was barely seaworthy, it was what you could call a bijou boat. Our allocated seats were of SE Asian not Western proportions, and unfortunately the lady sat next to us was not of Asian proportions either. And she elbowed and shouted a lot. I glowered at her with all my might after she poured water down my leg and laughed. Paul then laughed inwardly as I fell as sleep with my head practically on her shoulder.
Finally the ferry arrived at the island, and we transferred to the main town - Duong Dong. It’s a beautiful island, which sadly they intend to turn into the next Phuket. We travelled the hard way though!

Posted by scurried 13.12.2009 07:45 Comments (0)

Beautiful Ko Lanta

land of the Swedes.

sunny 37 °C

We are making our way southward along Thailand’s beautiful Andaman coast islands, and finding it a mix of strange and wonderful. Much of what we have seen has been geared towards those on a two week winter sun break, be it from the UK (Phuket & Ko Phi Phi) or Sweden (here)!
After deliberation we chose to explore over-ground not under water, and underground (modern-day womble wannabes that we are). And we think we made the right choice. Since finishing our open water PADI course it has felt like we should be ploughing our budget and bodies underseas. So glad today that we did not. Thankfully got advice from a dive shop yesterday to hold out for the Sipidans in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Happy to chill out, relax, and enjoy beautiful beaches. V unspoilt, low count of Scandinavian or other bodies!!!

Posted by scurried 07:30 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

We love diving

sunny 32 °C

And now we have completed our advanced divers certification at an amazing dive site - the Similan Islands. The 3 days and 2 nights on a liveaboard trip was a full-on dive experience. The daily routine was sleep, dive, eat, dive, swim to the beach, dive, sunbathe, night dive, eat, sleep, dive, eat, dive etc etc. You get the idea.

Posted by scurried 11.12.2009 18:53 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Woo Haa we're certified...

divers

semi-overcast 32 °C
View small jaunt on scurried's travel map.

P and I just finished our Open Water PADI here on Phu Quoc, Vietnam, nr Cambodia. Most chuffed!

Posted by scurried 01.12.2009 08:05 Archived in Vietnam Comments (3)

Quick update from Chiang Mai

semi-overcast 29 °C
View small jaunt on scurried's travel map.

Hello at last! We have happily spent the last few days in Chiang Mai completing a short Thai massage course and gorging on Thai food! We stayed far away from the touristy area and suburban CM has a very different feel to Bangkok. V green and leafy, big houses, huge cars.

Yesterday was our second visit to the all you can eat for £3 buffet so I stuffed myself with all the things I didn’t try last time, and some I did. The clams, cockles, oysters, prawns, beef, tripe, chicken and pork resulted in strange dreams! Touring around today, back to Bangkok later. Saturday morning we’re off to Cambodia, Siem Reap...
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We’ve put lots of pictures up without words so take a look at the photo gallery if you get a chance... words hopefully will follow... no time to write!
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Posted by scurried 18.11.2009 17:09 Comments (0)

India/Nepal

Sorry for the silence, we’ve been far away from internet, and otherwise too exhausted to post! Today we are two months in, I can’t believe it! Hopefully now we’re back in India we’ll have a chance to fill in some gaps and maybe post some of the bits that were written but never uploaded...
We’re on the road from Jaipur to Bikaner now, in the luxury of a private car arranged by Destination India (see www.indiatripmakers.com). Having been misdirected by an autorickshaw and a passerby to various ‘Government Tourism Offices’ which weren’t the Government Tourism Office we appreciated all the more that to get the best of our final 20 days or so in India we’d be better off to arrange our transport and accommodation in advance and save ourselves much confusion and scamming!
Delhi was loud and chaotic & we were glad to have been ‘warmed up’ for it by our brief stints in Kolkata and Darjeeling/West Bengal. Nepal is also very similar to India in some ways, (I think some say it has India’s nice bits!) but keen to emphasise their difference they insisted on having a 15minute time difference!
Having taken the slow slow slow (12hrs journey rather than ~1hr 45!) route out of Bhutan as a result of the national airline’s having changed the flight time without advising us, we opted to fly from Eastern Nepal to Kathmandu. It was incredible to arrive there – somewhere we’d heard so much about over the years and that had always seemed so exotic. We spent our first night at the very luxurious Hotel Sankar (arranged by Pradip from www.MountainMonarch.com) and it all seemed like the hippy dream – incense, ohms, beads etc. The next day we moved to our more budget accommodation and it suddenly seemed like Kathmandu was full of scammers. Having spoken to Pradip in more detail about our plans we decided to ditch the trek we’d originally hoped to do (Jomson to Pokhara, 9 days, not too strenuous, now has a road through it), for the other half of the Annapurna circuit (Bubule to Jomson, 11 days, ascent up to 5400m). On meeting our guide we realised that we would need to get some more kit. On speaking to some of the shopkeepers we realised we’d need more kit than the guide had said.
Of course the nature of the mountains is unpredictable, but it did feel very much like we were launching ourselves into the unknown. We weren’t really sure what we’d need or what to expect, or what we should be paying for things. Shop space in the Tourist centre of Kathmandu seems to be at a premium – any request for anything not on show resulted in bags being dug out of bags or people darting off to retrieve more stock, which then left you feeling guilty or confused if the ‘north face’ item or whatever was not what you’d hoped for.
Finally we figured that at most places you’d pay around 60% of the asking price, and with some stern words from a grumpy brum shopkeeper we bought more than we thought we’d need & finally set off on our way.
The group we joined was of two English couples and a lovely Canadian Lady, Ahn. Spirits were high as we left the dust and plastic smoke of Kathmandu and joined the traffic jam of buses and coaches on the road East. Six hours later we were still chipper, and the final hugely bumpy stretch on a public bus still didn’t manage to knock our cheer. A 45 minute walk on through the drizzle took us to our first tea house stop for the night – a basic place with wooden rooms & a metal roof for the rain to bounce off all night, but with electricity & apple pie!
Day two: rain. We were still chipper – disappointed to be unable to enjoy the mountain views, but from what we could see the scenery was very nice. It rained and rained and rained though, and after a very long morning walking continuously through flooded paths, being attacked by leeches and generally feeling v sodden the cheer began to fade. The ‘45minutes’ our guide had said we were from lunch turned into more like two hours as the paths were washed out. We finally arrived at lunch and were parked outside with a lovely view of the waterfall. If there’s one thing we didn’t need it was a view of a waterfall! Just before we began to turn hypothermic we managed to move ourselves into the kitchen & dried out a bit around the fire. When we moved on we found that the rains had washed out some of the briges, and we were very grateful for the help of the guides leading us through fast flowing waterfalls & on exhausted to our tea house and rest.
I can’t tell you how pleased we were the next day to wake to blue skies and finally, mountain views. Our rainy start helped us appreciate all the more the good weather we had & thankfully the rest of the trek passed without major incident. We covered a tremendous amount of ‘Nepali flat’ – a little bit up, a little bit down & were all tremendously grateful and pleased on the tenth day to warm up and start our descent from Throng La pass at 5400m. The days trek had begun at 4am, following the procession of headlamps up the incline to the pass. The temperature was -15 celcius, before the windchill.
A few days later we left the other members of the group to press on for our flight from Jomson. We were sent off in great style with Yak steak and cider (yes, cider!!!). The yak steak was so good I tried it again in the evening and had something v different tasting. I will have to keep sampling yak wherever I can to try and find out which steak was the imposter.
From Jomson our flight to Pokhara took 20 minutes, it will take the rest of the group a further 8 days. Pokhara was great though – a really nice town on a lake & we enjoyed nosing around and some of the best Momos we’d had (a great plate of Tibetan steamed dumplings with spicy soup, v delicious, 60nrp approx 50p). Then, in my wisdom, I suggested we hire bikes to visit the bat caves. The bikes were rubbish, and after more than an hour of uphill cycle with paul feeling full of cold we still seemed to be miles away so returned, dusty to the tourist side of town. Diwali celebrations were really warming up & we passed through areas of frenzied celebration shopping & many areas where people were dancing in the street by enormous speakers. It was really interesting to see the non traveller side of town, but we were back by the lake and the happy hour beer deals for sunset and enjoyed the open views of the mountains as the light faded.
Bumpy arduous buses took us from Pokhara, to Chitwan, and on to Kathmandu. In Chitwan we also managed to enjoy dugout canoe, hiking, elephant and jeep modes of transport. Elephant was definitely the best fun – taking us upclose to 2 enormous adult one horn rhino and one baby. Our safari was at sunset too, and we were thrilled when we finished that our jeep was nowhere to be seen so we were returned to our lodge on elephant back.
Elephant bathtime was tremendous fun too. I was concerned about elephant welfare, but as well as a successful elephant breeding centre many of the lodges produce baby eles too. They were pretty frank about the methods and process of ‘training’ the elephant. While it can’t be anything like the freedom they’d like, they were pretty happy. Helping our scrubbed ele scratch his leg after his riverbath felt good. He’d used a branch in his trunk until i volunteered my services.
During the day one the guides took us to his home to share the tiko ceremony. It was the brothers and sisters day, so the women then the men in turn scattered petals over then painted the forehead of the other with colourful powder. It was a very special experience and we felt very privileged to participate.

Posted by scurried 20:37 Comments (2)

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