Friday, November 03, 2006


Well, Paul (the avid blogger) is busy with emails so it's up to me to post an update. I notice that our last update was from nearly three weeks ago in Beijing ... some of you must have thought we had fallen off the face of the earth. But no, our lack of updates has more to do with the corresponding lack of internet availability and our very relaxed 'can't be bothered doing anything in this heat' attitude! After shopping and eating our way around Beijing we headed to Hong Kong for an overnight stay on our way to Mumbai (Bombay). Hong Kong was extremely efficient and vibrant ... could have happily stayed an extra day or so. We arrived in Mumbai in the evening and were blown away by the heat, smells (not good ones!) and people ... everywhere. The taxi ride was an experience it itself ... the traffic is amazing - forget lanes, indicators and manners, it's every man (and cow) for himself and the more use of horn the better. Mumbai was a particularly interesting experience as our visit coincided with Diwali, Hindu new year celebrations, which involve everyone (including toddlers) letting off crackers and fireworks in the street (it's known as the festival of light). On the main night of Diwali we caught up with a colleague of mine from Mumbai who took us to a party where we saw the well-to-do of Mumbai wearing the most gorgeous saris and stunning jewellery. This was an amazing contrast to the 65% of the population living in slum areas and the many people we saw living on the side of the roads.

India is the most amazing place for people watching (whether you want to or not!) as many of the locals literally live their lives in full view of passing traffic ... bathing, washing and drying clothes, cooking, eating, playing, sleeping, working, and even going to the toilet in some cases.

From Mumbai we made a side trip to Aurangabad which has some amazing world heritage-listed caves nearby - Ajanta and Ellora. These caves, many of which are over 2000 years old, were built by Buddhists, Hindus and Jains and are quite spectacular. Rather than building something up from the ground they started with the enormous slabs of rock and worked down or into the side of a hill, removing the rock they didn't want. The main temple at Ellora is considered the greatest monolithic sculpture in the world.

After passing back through Mumbai we headed to Ahmedabad by train (where we learnt a lot about Gandhi as he spent many years here) then on to Udaipur. This gorgeous city, situated on a lake, has been a highlight of the trip so far. Its palaces were spectacular and it was exactly as I had hoped India would be.

My advice to anyone visiting India would be to brush up on your cricket knowledge as once they know you are from Australia, the locals reel off the names of Australian cricketers and want to chat about who your favourite Indian cricketers are etc. In fact we have found the locals like to chat to you about anything - they have been the friendliest lot we have come across on this trip so far. Sure, many of them are just nice as they are trying (desperately!) to sell you something but many of them just want to be friendly ... and they get super excited and proud (and do that cute head wobbling thing) when you tell them how great India is.

After Udaipur we visited Jodhpur (yes, home of jodhpur trousers and no, Paul didn't get a pair) which has an amazing fort. Then it was on to the desert city of Jaisalmer, where people still live within the city's amazing fortress, which looks a lot like a gigantic, elaborate sand castle. We climbed aboard a couple of camels (the Indian symbol of love) for a bumpy ride in the desert before winding up at a brilliant campsite where we had a plush 'camping' experience. Enjoyed the camel ride but probably wouldn't do it again (at least not until the wounds heal, if you get my drift....). We stayed in a tiny village after this and felt like movie stars when all the kids came out to greet us ... they love nothing more than having their photos taken and looking at the instant results on the digital camera.

Then it was on to Pushkar, home of the camel fair ... just an amazing experience to see the people bathing in the city's holy waters and the camels everywhere. But it was very hectic, with lots of hassle and confronting sights (every freak and his dog ... and cow ... had made their way to Pushkar). We're now in Jaipur which is a much bigger city but less frantic. The other day we went to the cricket to see West Indies defeat South Africa in the Champion's Trophy - great atmosphere as you can imagine as the Indians just love cricket, even if their own team is not playing.

And this morning we are off to Agra, where we will see the Taj Mahal ... can't wait!

So that's it for now, except to say that I have been pleasantly surprised to find that India and its people really are how we imagine them to be (in rural areas at least). For instance, the women really do wear saris or flowing Punjabi suits (that are always clean and beautifully coloured), they really do collect water from wells and carry in pots on their heads, they really do eat food (including messy curries) with their right hand (i.e. without cutlery), there really are cows wandering the streets which people swerve to avoid, many of the men do wear colourful turbans, many people can be seen doing their laundry on the banks of the river thrashing their clothes agains the rocks and we have seen elephants and camels wandering the streets. But it is very dirty, the poverty is heartbreaking and the rubbish everywhere is shocking. All in all I have never loved and disliked a destination so much all at once! Sally

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Beijing - Everybody is Kung Fu fighting...

Nee How - Beijing is great...I ate so much Peking duck last night I had to waddle home! Really have been enjoying Beijing though...if you like the movie BladeRunner, you'll love Beijing - wait until nightfall, wait until its raining then wander the back alleys imagining you're Harrison Ford and everyone else is cybernetically modified. I know, i know, I need to get out more.

They are gearing up massively for the Olympics in 2008 and are really keen to be perceived as a friendly, progressive nation - funny how something like getting the olympics can change the psyche of a nation. Population of 1 billion people though, unbelieveable, though I just read that today the population of the US will hit 300 million. We hiked 12 km of the 6000km Great wall yesterday - a million people died building it 200 years BC, and it really does defy description. Shame after all that effort that Genghis Khan just bribed the sentries to get through!

India next, can't wait. Looks like it will be the easiest to travel through in terms of language, as so many people speak English. Loving the travel, bring on the curries and hope you are all SUPER. Harrison.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


People smile. I'd forgotten that, being in Russia for a fortnight. And people in Mongolia even laugh - outrageous! The majority of the train journey is behind us now. The four nights and three days on the train were great, though cabin fever had set in by Night 4. There's only so long Uno, Scrabble, books and noodles can keep a human sustained before they start to crack. Thankfully we had a great carriage attendant called Sergei who was a gem. May have helped that he walked in on our compartment buddy Laureen with her top off too I guess. Landscape didn't change all that much really - the Section of the Urals we passed through was at night and low, there were lots and lots and lots of silver birches, snow, grim towns and industry - but it was still an unbelievable experience to lie in your bunk and watch it all slide by in moonlight thanking your lucky stars you live in Australia. There were many beautiful ranges, houses, lakes and frozen marshes and the list goes on.

Our couple of days out at Lake Baikal were awesome though - this lake contains 20 of the worlds unfrozen freshwater and is more than a mile deep. The first snow for the season fell while we were there and the place we stayed had good views of the lake and we just relaxed mostly. The next leg of the train journey from Irkutsk to Ulaan Bataar in Mongolia involved the border crossing and was a nightmare really. We ended up stuck in a stationary carriage for 9 of 11 hours with toilets available for 10 minutes of that whole period. Our attendant was an absolute horror and there where cheers when we finally left Siberia and hit Mongolia!

Today the sun is shining, people are smiling and laughing, there was snow falling earlier, we're off to a Mongolian bbq restaurant and then out to the Gers - the round felt tents so characteristic of these friendly nomads. Wish us luck...PAS>.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Farewell Moscow, hello Siberia.

Not much tim efor this blog we're onto the train for four days soon....through the Ural mountains that separate Asia and Europe and then into Sibneria heading for Irkutsk on the border with Mongolia. Quite happy to leave Moscow it is not a friendly place and there sure isn't a service oriented industry here! The underground was something though - more than 9 million people a day use it - more than the New York and London undergrounds COMBINED....

Thursday, September 28, 2006

From Russia, with Love.

One of the greatest joys is seeing friends overseas! Having just spent a grand time in Denmark with Rikke and Bo, we have just sent a splendid couple of days in Stockholm with good friends Adrian and Carina and their two boys Daag and Malte. Just wandered around enjoyed being in a home, not a hotel and all the normal things of life. Shame we didn't have time to get any sailing in this time...

In St Petersburg now and catching the midnight train to Moscow. Russia is amazing, we have just spent the afternoon looking at Rembrandts, Monets, Van Goghs and more than I can mention in The Hermitage, the personal collection of Catherine the Great. After a couple of days in Moscow we then have 4 days non-stop through to Irkutsk in Siberia on the border of Mongolia....that is the bit I cant wait for...just watching the world slide by - I love train travel so very much. Mind you, we just met the first pickpocket on the underground but he was pretty obvious and we're pretty safety pinned pocket is pretty cunning after all! The cyrillic alphabet here makes life hard, the women are stunning and the men horrendous. There's bound to be Yetis in Siberia. PAS.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Buenos Aires, a Danish retreat and on to Sweden

After the rest of South America Buenos Aires felt like Disneyland ... relatively clean streets, well-dressed people, hygenic conditions and new cars on the road (complete with seatbelts). Despite its European feel it did have a distinctly South American twist, which made it one of our favourite large cities. We explored it with Simone (girlfriend from home), who made an excellent guide given she had already been there a couple of days and speaks Spanish. We went to the colourful dockside area of La Boca with houses that were traditionally painted with whatever paint was leftover from the ships. Here, in the home of the tango, we posed with some locals who were pretty easy on the eye before heading to the fancy suburb of Recoletta. We wandered through the beautiful (if not just a bit spooky) necropolis where the Buenos Airies elite are laid to rest (coffins of entire families are stacked for all to see in elaborate little buildings) ... they say it is cheaper to live your entire life extravagantly than to be put to rest here. Explored the shops and cafes of trendy Palermo and ended up finding a traditional Parrilla restaurant (think meat fest) here as well.

20 hours or so after leaving Argentina we landed in Copenhagen, where we have enjoyed superb weather. It has proven to be an absolutely enchanting city, made even more memorable as we have been hosted by our dear friends Rikke and Bo. We have riden bicycles around the city (there seem to be more bikes than cars), cruised the canals, visited the historic and quaint Tivoli amusement park, walked and picnicked in the forest (complete with deer) and generally enjoyed being on our own schedule. The danes are amongst the most attractive, stylish, happy and wholesome people we have ever come across.

Off to beautiful Stockholm tomorrow...

Pictures - Amantani island, La Paz and Buenos Aires.

Amantani island homestay

On the road to Bolivia...

La Paz

La Paz square

Buenos Aires tango!

La Boca, Buenos Aires.

Pictures - Machu Picchu to the Amazon

Ok, where's the train?

..ah, there's the train.

Cute kids and cute puppies...

Corn beer

Boat to the Amazon.

Amazon monkey.

No one mentioned paddling!

No one mentioned Tarantulas either.

Friday, September 22, 2006

More pictures - Inca trail day 3 to the end

Day 3 was wet, but there were lollipops.

The other side of Pass 2


Trees also...spooky trees...

Always steps....

End of Day 3 - almost.

Did I mention there were steps?

On the approach to Machu Picchu.

Made it to Machu Picchu!

Machu Picchu

Inca stonework

More Machu Picchu...

Imagine discovering it.

Pictures 41 to 57 - Cusco and the Inca trail (to Day 3)

Leaving, on a jet plane...for Cusco

Cusco plaza

Cusco skyline

Start of the Inca trail!

Ok Hikers, we just have to walk up to THERE.

Simone and Lesley Ann

Simone and Sally

Lunch camp - Day 1. Plush hiking....

Wash up time.

Endless views like this one....

Camp - Day 1

Local kids keeping amused (?)

The porters.

Lunch camp - Day 2.

Above the tree-line, approaching Dead womans pass.

Camp view from tent - Day 2.