Friday, October 24, 2008

The Best Of...

1. What’s your favourite country?
2. What’s your favourite place?
3. Did you have any trouble being a vegetarian?
4. What are you going to do now?
5. How much money did you spend?

These are the most commonly asked questions we hear now that we’re back in the real world after nineteen months of living in an employment-free fantasyland. The answers are: 1- A four-way tie between Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico and India. Colombia, Nicaragua and Bolivia are also up there now that I think about it. 2- Laguna Apoyo, Puerto Chicama, Varanasi, Zipolite, Machu Picchu, Mancora and too many other places. 3- Only when we didn’t explain that chicken, fish, veal(!) and ham are not vegetarian foods. 4- Nobody knows. 5- I shudder to think.

To finish off, here’s a selection of our favourite posts from Trippinballs. We chose these because we like the photos, the stories or we just have great memories of the places. (Click on the titles to be taken to the posts.) And also, visit trippinphotos if you just want to see pictures, rather than read poorly spellchecked ramblings. We hope you enjoyed reading trippinballs as much as we enjoyed living it...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

This is The End...

At 10:30 in the morning we touched down and gratefully unfolded ourselves from a plane that made far too many strange clunking noises during landing. After a quick inspection from the immigration and customs people, we wheeled our bags into the clean, orderly country of Australia and were met by my very tired parents, who had come to the airport to pick us up at the originally scheduled landing time of 6:30 am.

Our nineteen month journey

We’d done it. We’d gone around the world and arrived back home the way we’d hoped to: in tact and carrying our original luggage. After over one and a half years we’d survived with no major dramas, no dangerous robberies and no serious bodily harm. The closest we’d come was the theft of $60 from a hotel room and a suspected collection of internal parasites (there was also the shipwreck, the birthday tumble from the moving truck and the Varanasi Experience - but those amounted to mere psychological damage than lasting physical harm).

We really feel lucky to have finished the trip with a minimum of bad experiences. We want to say a huge thanks to everyone who prayed for us, blessed us, talked to us, sent us birthday money, emailed us, didn’t rob us even though we were both asleep on the bus, helped us on our way or just thought of us as we trundled around the globe seeing some of the best, the worst and the most bizarre aspects of humanity and nature.

Back home

Finally, I’d like to give my biggest thanks to Angie. Angie is a wonderful travel companion, who isn’t afraid of an argument if we don’t get what we paid for, has no tolerance for any whiff of a scam and always finds the best hotel room for our money. If not for her, I’d probably be unconscious and face down in an ice-bath while some surgeon’s college dropout prods around my supple lower back looking for kidneys. I see him holding a never-returned textbook from the Bogotá library, his eyes darting nervously back and forth between my lumbar zone and a blood-spattered diagram of kidney. ‘Kidney: Ve como un frijole’ (looks like a bean) states the caption.

Even if it never came to something as dramatic as that, then I’d at least be much poorer and would have worn my way through several pairs of shoes after getting out of taxis way before we’re anywhere near where we’re supposed to be. She takes care of all that stuff, while I tighten loose screws that rattle in the window frame when the air-conditioning kicks in. We are a team.

Angie takes some time out from keeping us safe and waits for a sushi lunch

(Plus, she’s obsessed with food, which means I always eat well.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bad Travelers

For two weeks we lazed around Bali, swimming in pools, eating food and curling into a bedridden foetal position after consuming something dodgy, possibly from the egg-station at the daily buffet breakfast free-for-all.

It just wouldn’t have been right to finish this trip in a calm, well-planned fashion. We’d been traveling for nineteen months, and after all the mad rushes for busses, boats, planes and trains, it would’ve felt a little inappropriate to just wander up to our final transport and slide on like we’d been practising it for a year and a half.

Not that we wanted to be late; wandering up like a seasoned traveler would’ve been great, but in retrospect, it couldn’t have ended in any other way than this:

I was positive that the ticket we had booked months earlier had us flying out of Bali at 11:50 that night. Rather than double check that time, like sensible people, we decided to enjoy a long dinner accompanied by some sickly celebratory cocktails and a spot of reminiscing about the last year and a half. Nine o’clock rolled around, and on the way back to the hotel, we checked the ticket times on the internet. I was a little startled to find our departure time was actually 10:10 pm; about an hour from now, meaning the brutally strict Jetstar check-in had just closed and we were half an hour from Denpasar airport.

The most stressful taxi ride ever followed; it wasn’t stressful due to the fact that we’d paid the driver to get us there in record time (twenty minutes), it was the gut-twisting, plain embarrassing feeling that we might miss our final flight, for no good reason other than laziness and incompetence.

In the end, our beaming taxi driver got us there in time for the flight (‘Very good time! Very fast!’ he exclaimed as we pulled up to the drop-off point, eyeing my wallet). In a hilarious twist, the plane was three hours late anyway, so really we had nothing to worry about, except for the fact that even after nineteen months, we still hadn’t learned some of the most basic fundamentals of stress-free travel.

One Last Fitting

Spending a year and a half in hotel rooms means you start to find the little details fascinating (I did anyway). Here's the last hotel room shot from the trip, our framed air-conditioner controller in Bali.

For more photos of interesting/depressing/weird room fittings, see here, here, here, here and here.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Big Day

The chapel overlooks Uluwatu

Originally, we were supposed to fly straight home from India, but Eric and Leah decided to get married in Bali, so that gave us a good excuse to add three Indonesian weeks onto the end of the trip. The big day came, and the weather was good, and the setting was stunning, and it was a wonderfully happy way to finish off our trip.


Leah dabs away the happy tears, Eric wipes away the sweat.

Quite the setting

Angie in her sari, which behaved itself and stayed in place. Phew.

Friday, October 3, 2008


In lots of ways, Mumbai is identical to the rest of India. Morbid congestion infests the roads, hawkers harass on the footpaths, the number of people going about their daily lives is too large to comprehend, and the noise never ceases. In other, surprising ways, it is most un-Indian. The architecture has been lifted straight out of olde-England, with lots of big stone, big arches and statues. Red double-decker busses plod about streets with names like Henry Road and past buildings called Victoria Terminus (the busiest train station in Asia, which is really saying something).

Most of the younger women wear western clothes, and some even wear business suits. Men and women hang out (and talk) in restaurants and bars and everyone speaks English, even if they’re in a group made up entirely of locals. And there are comparatively obscene amounts of cash floating around. We saw plenty of people being driven around in expensive cars, and we were forced to pay over forty dollars for a hotel room, an amount that would have kept us bedded for a week in other parts of the country.

Most surprising of all – among the usual handkerchiefs, fake watches and sunglasses that are sold at stalls on the footpath, in Mumbai they sell sex toys, cunningly boxed as ‘massagers’.