Travel Stories

This is a work in progress, if there isn't a link to a story, It's probably because I'm yet to write it!!


AFRICA

TANZANIA


AMERICAS

USA


ASIA

CAMBODIA

In February 2009 I flew from Pakse in southern Laos to Siem Reap in Cambodia. With only a few weeks left of my trip I concentrated on seeing the famous Khmer ruins of Angkor Wat, as well as the many other nearby temple complexes. Then I took a boat ride to Battambang where I cruised the countryside by bike before catching a share taxi to Thailand.

CHINA

In March 1989 my mother and I spent a month in China. This was my first overseas trip. We organised the trip in Australia, with the first 18 days fully supported with daily tour guiding. From Hong Kong we crossed by train to Guangzhou, went cycling in Guangdong province then flew on to Guilin and Yuangshuo, visited the warriors in Xian and finally arrived in Beijing and did the usual tourist things, including visiting the Great Wall. Our final 10 days we added further destinations: Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou to our itinerary but without the tour guide. These posts have been written recently, using my old travel journals as reference and my 20 odd years of experience to temper some of my youthful rants. I've scanned what photos we took so apologies for the poor image quality of some of them.

After a random encounter with a travel brochure in a guesthouse in Sumatra, I returned to China in November 2008 in order to trek the infamous Tiger Leaping Gorge. However, with a month in Yunnan Province I took the opportunity to also visit the rice terraces of Yuanyang, the cities of Kunming and Lijiang, and check out the scenery in Shangri-La. I climbed my first glacier - and managed to avoid paying some exhorbitant entry fees as well. I then chilled in Shaxi before journeying further south to Jinghong, visiting various small villages and checking out the ethnic minorites that populate these areas.

For the full story on my 2008 China adventures, start here.

INDIA

Ah India 1989. I was on a three month overland tour, 13 of us, 2 drivers and a big truck. We free camped where we could, cooked our own meals, and visited a few grand sights. Varanasi, Khajuraho, Agra, Taj Mahal, Fatepur Sikri, Jaipur, New Delhi. Oh yes, Delhi belly, my very first experience of a wet fart! Then there was the hill station of Dharamsala, home of the exiled Dalai Lama, and a memorable few days on a houseboat in Kashmir. Finally, a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar before heading west to Pakistan.

INDONESIA

I've been to Indonesia many times. The first few times I went to dive, including trips to Raja Ampat off Irian Jaya, Komodo in Nusa Tenggara and twice to Lembeh Strait in North Sulawesi. In 2007 I combined a Lembeh trip with a week touring Tana Toraja and Mamasa in South Sulawesi and the backpacking bug came out of the bag. I've never been the same since!

In Bali I've been to a few temples, water palaces and beaches, hung out in Ubud, and gone trekking through verdant rice paddies. I've also spent a few days up on the north coast at Lovina, and many days hanging out with friends in Sanur.

In August 2008, after burning out spectacularly at work, I left for Sumatra. I arrived in Padang, where I hung out with the surfie crowd for a few days and met some Surfaid International staff who showed me a fantastic pop-up fish restaurant. I then spent a couple of weeks around Bukittingi, visiting local villages and checking out large smelly flowers and the worlds' best coffee. I climbed my very first volcano, chilled out at Lake Maninjau, and was awed by the cliffs and jungle at Harau.  I also went on a little adventure inspired by some research I'd done before I left. Returning to Padang I spent a week with a stranger in the Kerinci region, climbing the tallest Indonesian peak outside Irian Jaya, as well as exploring a beautiful volcanic lake. It wasn't the most pleasant week of my life due to the atrocious company I kept, but a flight to Medan lifted my mood, especially when I got to fly over the mountains to visit Ketambe and see wild orang-utans. Further north in Takengon, in central Aceh, I met the wonderful Alex and Nudia, who I will always remember for their hospitality during Ramadan. A long bus ride to Berastagi in North Sumatra saw me exploring old villages, marvelling at the produce growing everywhere and the wonderful markets, and climbing yet another volcano. Next was Lake Toba, where I learnt to ride a motorbike and explored the locals' fascination with death. Then I flew on to Malaysia.

This adventure starts here.

In March 2010 I flew to Jakarta, and spent 3 weeks making my way east to Bali. I began with a train trip to Cirebon on the north coast, couch surfed in a batik town, then took a bum numbing ride on the back of a friends motorbike to Semarang. New friends showed me around before depositing me at some mountain temples, from where I journeyed on to the volcanic heights of some ancient Hindu ruins. Next I visited Borobodur at sunrise, cycled to Prabanam outside Yogyakarta, and enjoyed the Ramayama performance complete with cheeky little monkeys. A short train trip to Solo found me couchsurfing again, then heading back into the mountains for more old temples and a pretty weird volcano experience. In Malang I hung out with a famous musician, and then left to traverse the back route to Bromo. I unfortunately didn't see a thing! Then I confused many a bus tout by heading off to the rarely visited island of Madura, where the hospitality is second to none. Finally, I spent an entire day negotiating transport up the mountain to Ijen, then walked right on down again. The full story starts here.

April 2014, and I'm back in Java for 2 months, starting at the western end of the island which I missed out on last time. I couch surfed in Cilegon, taught English to teachers, went to find rhinos, got rained on in Bogor, explored Jakarta, found a waterfall all to myself, and then discovered Atlantis! Then I went and did a little volcano walking and camping, checked out how people used to live, then returned to a favourite haunt in Dieng. Chilled by the cold I headed north to steamy Semerang, zoned out on tropical islands for over a week, learnt about the furniture trade, and then immersed myself in Java's second city. Finally, I went to Africa. The full story starts here.

March 2016 I headed east from Bali to Maumere on the island of Flores in eastern Nusa Tenggara. From there I continued east to Larantuka to experience the remarkable Good Friday Procession, then began a series of island hops by ferry. Bad timing affected my experience on Adonara, but Lembata delivered, complete with whale fishing villages and a nice big volcano climb. A week in Alor brought new friends and great experiences, before heading to West Timor for an immersive experience learning about weaving and textiles, as well as visiting traditional villages. Then it was back to Flores, to spend a week in the hills before a flight to Labuan Bajo, a motorbike tour of the western region and another traditional village, and to pick up a visa extension. Lastly, a ferry to Sumba brought more textile exploring, villages, and beaches.

LAOS    

Late December 2008 I headed into northern Laos from southern China, and over six weeks made my way south. I went for an awesome trek in Phongsaly province, went boating for a few days, took some long bus rides out to textile villages and learnt all about the secret bombing of Laos by the US. I soaked up the culture - and culture shock - in Luang Prabang before taking an alternative route to Vientiane. Further south in Tha Khaek I did some more trekking, went on a motorbike tour and explored some limestone caves. Then in Champasak, south of Pakse, I encountered my final Khmer ruin before heading south to Angkor.

You can read the entire adventure by starting here.

MALAYSIA  

Malaysia is the home of  asian fusion cuisine. With its mix of cultures it can't help it. A few days in Penang is never enough to try all the delights on offer, but I can highly recommend the night markets and suggest you make an effort to find some traditional Nonya cuisine. The butterfly farm and the spice garden are also well worth a visit.

I may also have done a rather speedy train trip down the eastern side of the peninsular on my way to Singapore.

NEPAL

May 1989 saw me in Kathmandu, although my arrival was a bit of a blur after passing out on the flight there. Somehow I made my way to a guesthouse in Thamel where I spent the next few days recovering, seeing a few sights and meeting my erstwhile companions joining me for a 13 week overland tour to England. We headed out of Kathmandu to Chitwan National Park for a wildlife tour, then continued to India.

PAKISTAN

Late May 1989 we arrived in Lahore then headed north to Islamabad to try, unsuccessfully, to get Iranian visas. We then veered off the main road to visit a quiet little valley called Swat. Still run by tribal chieftains and completely lawless we were held up at gunpoint, but escaped unharmed and hightailed it to Peshawar, where we visited Afghan refugee camps and tried to venture a little way towards the Khyber Pass. Afghanistan was still under Russian control, so we headed south to the gun town of Darra, then west through some of the most surreal landscape on the planet to the quiet little town of Quetta. There we split up, with a small contingent of Kiwis with Iranian visas continuing overland whilst the rest of us headed to Karachi and flew via Dubai to Istanbul

SINGAPORE 

My first jaunt through Singapore was only in transit, but my second trip I took a few days to have a look around. I don't think I've even scratched the surface, but it's a transport hub I have no doubt I'll be returning to.
      

THAILAND   

After China in 1989 I flew to Bangkok, and began a 21 month backpacking trip across Asia and Europe. I visited the Royal Palace, got soaked to the skin in Khao San Road at the annual Songkran Festival, and took a tourist bus to Koh Samui. From there I went on a dive trip to Koh Tao, before it became the dive mecca it is today, and almost lost my life. I stayed to recuperate on the island before returning to Bangkok and flying on to Nepal.

In 2008 and 2009 I made Bangkok my base, as I had a friend living there who kindly let me stow excess luggage in his flat. I explored a bit more of the city, headed west to the WW2 war cemeteries on the Thai-Burma railway, and delved a little deeper into the plight of the modern day Burmese refugee. I headed north to the ancient capital Ayutthaya, and east to Isaan, which is off the beaten path but has some impressive Khmer ruins,  a prosperous silk industry, and some lovely scenery for bike touring. But my night out in Bangkok in an alternative universe is one of my best stories!

I may also have taken a train trip through a terrorist zone.    

VIETNAM    

2002 was my first trip, which coincided with my birthday and a chance encounter with a sexy stranger on a plane. Cyclo touring in Saigon was followed by boat touring in the Mekong Delta, then a short flight to Danang and the city of Hoi An. A day trip into the jungle to visit Mi Son was almost marred by running aground on the boat back.  Hue was a whirlwind trip from the backseat of the original motorbike tour guides  before I endured the torture of my first ever long distance bus trip to Hanoi with a bunch of whingeing foreigners. Hanoi was yet to be overrun by motorbikes, and had not yet gained its reputation for hard sell. I visited the ethnic minorities museum and vowed I would return to explore further north.

In 2008 that opportunity arose when I answered a Lonely Planet ad for a travel compadre. I met Joe in Hanoi after I'd told a few pushy locals to fuck off and had topped up my education at the aforementioned museum. We headed out to the north west, stayed in quaint local villages, dressed up in quaint local markets, learnt about Vietnam's brutal colonial history and it's fight for independence, and were gobsmacked continuously by the stunning scenery. Then we climbed a big mountain in the rain and mist, and Joe came down with Dengue fever. He cheered up a little with the lovely ladies in Sapa and decided to continue on our second tour, this time to the North East. The spectacular Dong Van pass, totally authentic local markets, and fairly intoxicating local rice whiskey could not lift Joe's fatigue, and he retired back to Hanoi, leaving me to explore the lakes, and take an 8 day trek through the countryside alone. My three Vietnamese companions had me drinking like the locals in no time!

For the 2008 adventure, start here.

AUSTRALIA/PACIFIC

AUSTRALIA

Unlike many Australians who have travelled extensively overseas, I've also travelled almost everywhere in Australia. I've lived in 5 states and territories, driven many of the long distance outback trails, and I've even been to Tasmania, twice!! But it's a huge country, and I don't think I've yet done it justice.
In October/November 2016 I walked The Bibbulmun Track, a 1000km bushwalking from Perth to Albany in the south west of WA. That story starts here.

FIJI

In 2008 I went on a dive trip there. I'd love to return and see more of this lovely friendly country in the Pacific.

NEW ZEALAND

Mostly I've skied. But I've done a little bit of sightseeing during breaks from the white stuff.

VANUATU

Another dive trip, this one to Santo, to dive The President Coolidge. Definitely a diving highlight.

EUROPE

AUSTRIA

From Vienna I cycled along the Danube, with a memorable headwind the entire way, to Passau and then headed uphill to Salzburg. Then, because I was mega fit, I climbed up over the Alps to Berchtesgarten in Bavaria.

CZECHOSLOVAKIA

In 1990, just after the fall of communism in the east, I visited Prague. It was a magic time, before all the rest of the tourists turned up.

ENGLAND

Working in England and Scotland in 1989/90 I went on a bunch of cycle trips. Salisbury to Lands End, a weekend in Kent, walking the Lakes District, and to Hull to visit a friend.

FRANCE

I only visited the south east of France, cycling through the Alsace to Strasburg, over the Vosges, and then I had bike trouble. So I jumped on a train and headed to Luxembourg for repairs.

GERMANY

The Berlin Wall had just come down. So me and a friend cycled from the UK to Berlin. Through a newly liberated east. Then I headed south to Dresden, on my way to Czechoslovakia. Later, having cycled over the Austrian Alps from Salzburg, I headed to Munich for Oktoberfest and then further south west to Switzerland.

HUNGARY

I arrived in Budapest by train, and after a few days cycled north west along the Danube to Vienna.

IRELAND

Buy bike, well, put down a 20 UKP deposit on one, borrow some panniers, take 300 UKP in cash, no credit card, and go cycling around Ireland for a month. It could be done back in 1989, though there wasn't much Guinness being drunk!

NETHERLANDS

Cycle touring began in a hungover state off the ferry in Rotterdam. We headed north to Amsterdam, because, coffee shops!! Then headed diagonally through the country to Roermond and on into Germany. Greatest discovery: Holland is incredibly flat!!

SCOTLAND

2 months cycle touring around the west coast and islands of Scotland. I was finally defeated by the rain and midges in the highlands as I headed east. Still have many whisky distilleries to visit...

SWITZERLAND

Staying with friends 7km up a hill, I instead went train touring for a week whilst also hitting the French embassy in Bern to get a visa. Yes, back in the day...

MIDDLE EAST

EGYPT

6 weeks backpacking and diving, from Cairo to Aswan, a felucca trip that went not quite to plan, a camel market, an almost mutinous ferry crossing, a magical camel trek through the Sinai desert, a little visit to see what that Moses stuff is about, and some great diving in Dahab and Ras Mohammed.

ISRAEL

Just a few days visiting Jerusalem from Jordan. We were there for the first ever intifada.

JORDAN

Roman ruins, diving at Aqaba, the incomparable Petra, and camping in Wadi Rhum.

SYRIA

The magnificent covered souk at Aleppo, the Hama waterwheels, being in a time capsule at Crac des Chevaliers, the desert ruins of Palmyra, and the glorious Damascus. All gone now....

TURKEY

Turkey is the transition country. It's half Asian, half European, so I'm sticking it here in Middle East.
After flying in to Istanbul from Pakistan, we jumped on a bus to Ankara, then spent a leisurely week along the southern shores of the Black Sea before hightailing it to the Iranian border town of Dogubeyazit where we met back up with our overland truck and crew, listened enviously to their stories about Iran, then headed to Lake Van. We crossed the Euphrates, visited the amazing Easter Island like Nemrut Dagi, and bought the world's best baklava in Gaziantep. Then left it on the wheel arch...Too bad, we were crossing the border to Syria.

After our sojourn further south, we re-entered Turkey and travelled to Cappodocia, where we snuck in to the Roman pool at Pamukkale, and one of our fellow travellers fell backwards down a hole whilst trying to take a group photo in an underground city. One broken arm later...

We next hit the Turkish Mediterranean, were surprised at not being able to hire a sailing boat, had some fun haggling over apple tea, and decided to get drunk on cheap vodka rather than visit yet another bloody Roman ruin: Ephesus! Ouch.. But I was sombre and sober for our next sight: Gallipoli. Finally, a few days in Istanbul being pampered, then a one week hightail through continental Europe to catch the ferry to England. Getting through customs was a story in itself!


No comments:

Post a Comment