Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Been There, Done That

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

So that’s it then. We’re done. Eight months have passed in what seemed like the blink of an eye and as we write this we’re at 35,000 feet above the Atlantic aboard our nineteenth flight, our last flight, and in the final leg of our complete circumnavigation of the globe…the conclusion of our around-the-world adventure.

What a trip. It has been a truly memorable journey and an experience we will cherish forever.

We’ve seen some amazing places…

We’ve watched the sun rise over the ancient Temples of Angkor in Cambodia and watched it dip below the trees in the African bush. We’ve seen snow-topped mountains, verdant rolling hills, and white sandy beaches. We’ve been lost in the chaos that is Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, we’ve chilled out on deserted beaches in Thailand. We’ve visited some of the most amazing historical sites in the world and seen more World Heritage Sites than you could shake a really, really old stick at.

We’ve done some pretty cool stuff too…

In New Zealand we held on for dear life in a white water raft on Grade 5 rapids and then jumped out of a plane. We camped with dingoes on the largest sand island in the world and then wiped out learning to surf in Australia. We dined on insects in Bangkok and went on an elephant trek in Northern Thailand. In Laos we jumped into a waterfall, went tubing into an underground cave, swung into a river, and fell off of a motorbike. We had our feet cleaned by fish in Cambodia. We motorcycled along the coast from Hue to Hoi An in Vietnam and partied all night with the locals in the tiny fishing village of Mui Ne. In South Africa we went wine tasting on bicycles, tracked the big five on safari, and watched our boys compete in the World Cup Finals.

And along the way we’ve met some wonderful people…

During our trip we’ve visited over 50 places in 11 different countries. Although we were only really passing through on many occasions, we were fortunate enough to meet some amazing people. Like Pop (P-O-P as he would say) the 8-year-old street bookseller from Cambodia who goes to school in the morning and then sells books in the afternoon to help make money for his family. He had the biggest smile you’ve ever seen, a great little personality, and he could teach you more about world geography in 5 minutes than you ever learned in school! And the Vietnamese woman who, after chatting with us briefly one day, invited us back to her home to meet her family over some tea and coffee. We met her mother and father and some extended family over a cup of strong Vietnamese coffee and she told us how she’s trying to help put her daughter through college in Danang by selling nuts and coconut treats that she makes in the streets everyday. And then there’s the 25,000 South Africans that we danced and sang the night away with in Rustenburg to celebrate the opening match of the first ever World Cup Finals in Africa. Black, white, rich, poor all came together to celebrate the World Cup and get behind the Bafana Bafana. Magical.

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill

Of course, the trip wouldn’t have been the same without some of our fellow travelers that we met along the way, like the slow boat crew in Laos who helped make Lee’s 31st birthday one to remember, Chris, Sarah and Shop-run Gary who we chilled out with in Southern Thailand and who inspired Lee to get some new body art, the cyclists who cycled the length of Africa and then boozed their way around South Africa with us, Foxy/Moonhead/Taff/et al who made the football much more enjoyable even though our teams were terrible, and last but certainly not least are our favorite travelers – our partner’s in crime, our trip buddies, our travel companions, Kate and Lizzie, who we’ve had some brilliant times with over the last 8 months and we feel like we’ve known them forever (we mean that in a good way guys ☺)

It really has been the trip of a lifetime. We already feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to do this but it will be over the coming weeks and months, maybe even years, that it starts to sink in how enriching this experience has been for both of us.

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Heeey buuuudddddy!

Last weekend we went to sunny Brighton on England's south coast for a fun-filled, booze-fueled reunion with Kate and Lizzie.  Kate lives with boyfriend Chris down in Brighton and she invited all of us down to visit for one of the biggest events on the Brighton calendar - Gay Pride Festival!

We had a great time.  Kate and Chris' place was lovely and they were the perfect hosts.  Kate cooked a special Thai meal for us when we arrived on Friday night (a rare treat apparently according to Chris) and we got to meet the famous Foxtrot, Kate's massive rabbit...more like a small dog really.

Heeyy buuuddddyy!

On Saturday we started early with breakfast cocktails before heading down to watch the parade.  There was something like 160,000 people at the event and as you can imagine, there were some real characters!

Lady Gaga?
What can you say about this?

After the parade we followed the crowds down to the park to continue the festivities.  We rounded out the night at one of Kate and Chis' local pubs where more alcohol was consumed, some drunken singing took place and Lee made several attempts to dance with an old man who was having none of it.  What a weekend!

The perfect end to a perfect day.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Who comes on the big bus??

This past week we've been up in Wales visiting Lee's sister Kylie, husband Huw and the little ones James and Eliza.  The weather wasn't as agreeable this time which put a bit of a dampener on things (literally) but nonetheless we still had a great time.  Little James was quite excited for our visit this time as he knew from our previous visit that we would lavish attention on him the entire time we were there.  When coming to pick us up from the bus stop Kylie asked him, "who comes on the big bus?" to which he replied "Courtme!!"  Aww (Uncle Lee has still got some work to do to win him over apparently!)

Uncle Lee doing his best to impress James

Even though the weather wasn't great we still got out and about.  Among the highlights were a visit to the "woolly mammoth's house," also known as the National Museum Cardiff (or Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd for you native Welsh speakers), a walk along the barrage at Cardiff Bay, and a visit to historic Tintern Abbey - founded in 1131 it's one of the most spectacular ruins in the country and has inspired poems by Wordsworth and Tennyson.  Yea, we were impressed too.

James at the Woolly Mammoth's House.

Riding the horses at Cardiff Bay (much more impressive than shoulder carries clearly!)

Lee putting his backpack carrying skills to good use.

At the playground with little Miss Eliza.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The beginning of the end

This latest update finds us back in jolly old England and at the final stop of our trip around the globe.  We're spending five weeks or so in London, with a few side trips, before taking one last flight across the Atlantic back to Philadelphia...and (cue sad music) the real world.

On the bright side we've still got over a month to go before we go from world travelers to unemployed good-for-nothings so we plan to make the most of it.

First up is a trip Wales.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

On Safari

There was no way we could go all the way to South Africa without going on safari.  During the World Cup safari tours were, unsurprisingly, a bit pricey.  So, the thrifty explorers that we are we decided to wait until after the tournament had ended to book our bush adventure.

We decided to go to Pilanesberg National Park in northern South Africa, about 2 hours north of Johannesburg.  Pilanesberg is a massive park (about 220 square miles), has plenty of lodges to choose from and, most importantly, has "the BIG FIVE." Courtney found a game lodge called Pilanesberg Private Lodge (very original) which was located in the northwestern corner of the park on a private reserve called the Black Rhino Reserve.  The price was very reasonable and their website looked great so we decided to give it go.

The lodge was great. It had a main lodge building that included an outdoor deck complete with hot tub and swimming pool and five smaller buildings where guests stay.  The lodge only sleeps ten people so it's quite intimate.  Our stay was even more cozy as there was only one other person staying there during our visit so we were treated to some personal attention from the game rangers.  On our second night there we even had two private game drives.

We came across this herd of elephants heading for an early evening visit to the watering hole

This black rhino almost charged us.  Some quick thinking from our game ranger spared us from a trampling.

We interrupted this little guy's breakfast.

Enjoying a beer after a day tracking game in the bush.

We did four game drives in total and although our first outing was fairly quiet overall we were not disappointed.  We saw elephants, zebra, black rhino, white rhino, giraffe, wildebeest, impala, kudu, jackal, and steenbok.  We even saw a pair of porcupines.  Doesn't really capture the imagination like seeing a pride of lions would but apparently they are a pretty rare find.  The most exciting sighting of all though was the leopard we spotted (I had to) with a fresh kill in it's mouth...very cool.  Unfortunately we only caught a brief glimpse of it and then it vanished into the tall grass before we could get any pictures.  On our last drive we tracked a lion for a couple of hours but unfortunately he eluded us.  Overall we had an amazing time and it was a great way to end our stay in South Africa.

Monday, July 12, 2010

South Africa - World Cup 2010

So, the 2010 World Cup Finals are all done bar the shouting, Spain have been crowned World Champions for the first time ever, and England once again were crap.  And yet, still not one single blog post on the whole thing from Lee and Courtney.  We know, terrible.  We've been completely and utterly rubbish at updating the blog while in South Africa.  There's no excuse for it really.  We could tell you that we left our laptop in Joburg while we traveled around the country because we were worried about it being lost/stolen/damaged.  We could also tell you that there aren't that many internet cafes in the places we've visited and the ones we have found are a bit pricey for our backpacker budget.  We might even say that we were attacked by a group of psychotic emus and, although we managed to fight them off with our bare hands, we lost all but two of our fingers and a thumb on our left hands which has reduced our typing ability significantly and we have therefore been unable to write about what we've been up to.  Well that last one might be made up but you get the idea.

No, the truth is that we've just been having such an awesome time going to games, partying with other fans, meeting tons of great people, and exploring South Africa that we have really neglected the blog.  Having said that, we have been taking notes along the way so we don't forget anything and we've taken plenty of pictures that almost always say more than the words do.  We've been here almost 5 weeks now and with one or two notable exceptions (England's woeful performances and England and USA's early exits from the World Cup being the low points, but the less we say about that the better) we've had an amazing time.  Here are some of the highlights.

(make sure you go all the way to the first South Africa post (dated June 08, 2010) as we've sneakily back dated each post to make it look like we actually did these blog posts along the way and not all at once last night.  ssshhhhhh...)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Garden Route

The Garden Route is a popular route on the south-eastern coast of South Africa and one of the most scenic parts of the country.  We spent two days driving the route and taking in some of the scenery along the way.  We stayed overnight in Knysna before carrying on to Port Elizabeth, where we would ultimately return our rental car.  Along the way we stopped in Mossel Bay, Plettenburg Bay, The Crags, and Stormsriver.  Two days is really not enough time to see this part of the country.  There are so many things to see and do, especially outdoor activities.  The Garden Route is definitely on the list of places we need to come back to.

Indian Ocean in Knysna

Cheeky monkey at Monkeyland in The Crags