Tag Archives: Money

Voyage home: boat-hitching to Oz

All journeys eventually end in the same place, home.”
– Chris Geiger

Fletcher ship

The bank balance was telling us what neither of us wanted to believe: the journey was coming to an end. Time to think about heading home…

It had been an expensive few months: purchasing visas, long distance travel, a parcel home, new DJ equipment and a visit to Angkor Wat. 50 and 100 baht notes coursing through our fingers, flowing out like folded paper boats on an outgoing tide. And not just baht: riel, US dollars, Lao kip and renminbi: tiny slips of colored paper with embossed kings’ heads and national monuments – bound for other places, other peoples’ pockets. It was as it should be. Flowing out, flowing in.

Despite the recent bout of spending we were still proudly more or less on budget: roughly 140 pounds (AUD$200) p/week for the two of us – gas, food and lodgings. In this way, we’d managed 14 months of travel in 15 countries: by our standards, it was a triumph!

With less than one thousand pounds remaining we decided to turn all our energy toward what really matters: completing the journey overland from England to Australia without flying, at the least cost, maximum fun and adventure.

Problem = solution!

The answer was simple: boat hitch-hiking.

A friend of Richie’s had made the reverse journey a few years ago, travelling from Hobart to Bangkok, via New Caledonia, Vanuatu and the Soloman Islands: looking after children, scrubbing decks, cooking and keeping lookout. It was possible. It had been for her, and it would be for us.

We put out our feelers. Phuket and Langkawi sounded like the most probable destinations from which to hitch a ride. Our friend Bonnie, a seasoned sailor, recommended a number of crew-seeking websites, and Dad forwarded links to cargo ships plying the route from Singapore to Sydney. We ruled nothing out, piracy and people-smuggling included!

Today you can find us shacked up in old town Phuket, waiting for the tides to turn: haunting marinas, liaising with salty-dog sailers, eavesdropping on itinerant surfers, and taking advice from yacht-club veterans who have seen more than their fair share of vagrants and hopefuls board ship, bunker down, and sail home.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
– Ernest Hemingway

CREWAD 

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The Many Temptations of Dali Old Town

Dali, in China’s Yunnan province, is a pleasant place to connect and re-root. There’s plenty of sunshine, good food and a multitude of comforts: hot showers, western loos, pizza, cake and coffee. Invasive foreign species like Brits, Aussies, Japanese and Canadians have long found a toehold in Dali, grafting themselves onto the cultural landscape. Yunnan is, after all, China’s most biodiverse province.

The melange of east and west, old and new works magic on Chinese tourists, who flock from all over the country to experience a neat and palatable version of their history. Trailing like unruly schoolchildren behind garishly dressed Bai cheerleaders, they traverse the city form south to north, parting enthusiastically with money for broiled Dali cheese, roast chestnuts and bolts of blue and white hand-dyed batik. Chinese tourists with oversized Nikon cameras startle hippy travellers, who make faces behind cocked pints of beer. “5 kwai a photo,” the reluctant models joke.

Bai tour guides, representatives of one of the region's ethnic minorities

Bai tour guides, representatives of one of the region’s ethnic minorities

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Tale of two cities

View of Astana from steps of Khan Shatyry

Acquiring a Chinese visa has become a tale of two cities: Tbilisi (Georgia) and Astana (Kazakhstan).

Hapless bunglers that we are, we had hoped, indeed expected, that the wide world of borders would stay open to us even after we left Europe. As it turns out,  Georgia is the last ‘easy’ country for holders of a British or Australia passport to enter. Since crossing the land border between Turkey and Georgia at Sarpi, border-hopping has become increasingly difficult, time-consuming and costly.

A word of advice to the brave-hearted: it is possible to travel by land from Georgia toRussia, Russia to Kazakhstan and Kazakhstan into western China. The route that we took (we’re not as far as China yet) is as follows: Tbilisi to Kazbegi (mashutka), Kazbegi to Vladikavkaz (private vehicle), Vladikavkaz to Mineralnie Wodi (train), Mineralnie Wodi to Volgograd (train), Volgograd to Aksaraiskaia (train), Aksaraiskia to Atyrau (train) and Atyrau to Astana (train). HOWEVER, if you haven’t already acquired visas for these countries in your home country, then count on it taking some time and a reasonable amount of expense.

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Hossin’ it to Venice

Richie and I have been known to attempt rash and zany things, especially whilst on the road. A whiff of adventure, a challenge, a dare, and we’re off, scheming of ways to reach B from A; testing the mettle of our spirits and the imperviousness of the soles of our hiking boots.

If they were made for walking, what’s the point in standing still?

It was during a particularly low moment during our stay in Barcelona that we decided to intercept Richie’s parents on their 18-day cruise of the Mediterranean. We were lonely and could do with a merry rendezvous. On the 14th of April Kay and Steve would be disembarking the Queen Victoria in Venice. Why not surprise them there, and spend a memorable 6 hours walking the streets; lagoon water lapping at our toes and the taste of gelato in our mouths.

Reaching Venice on the 14th left us with a window of 4 nights to get from Figueres (in the northeast Spain). We considered flying, then thought better of it. Why not hitch?

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The Wonder of ‘Alhambra’

Richie and I tend to eschew the type of tourist ‘experiences’ that require you to part with fistfuls of money. Waiting in line at the Alhambra ticket office in Granada was a fairly joyless experience. Richie fidgeted with his respectably hairy chin and seemed as likely to bolt as a colt after its first taste of the bridle bit.

I watched enviously as tourists who’d had the prescience to buy their tickets online breezed toward the open gates; silk shawls fluttering and leather sandals slapping the hallowed earth.

Eventually, after nearly forty five minutes of waiting, we acquired two tickets. Audio guide NOT included. “You’re kidding,” Richie breathed as he inspected the tickets. 2 hours to fill before the allotted time.

We walked back downhill over the saddle of Sacromonte where the sound of flamenco heels rapping on timber floors was almost sufficiently enchanting to disperse our penny-pinching fugg.

Through white streets; past portholes leading into mountain dwellings (the interiors of which we were never likely to see), we succumbed to the sadness and dislocation of being gypsies… of sorts…

Back up on the Alhambra we made ready to enter with our ticket and tourist map. “Choose wisely which monuments you visit,” the guide warned us, “save your legs.”

Richie’s permaculture perversion did the talking as we followed the shaded cyprus walkway to the gardens of the Generalife.

With the first glimpse of terraced gardens, fountains and scalloped bowls of trickling water everything was forgiven.

Richie was rapt by a series of channels and cisterns transporting flumes of water from terrace to terrace.

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‘Bye Bye’ Maroc – ‘Hola’ Espana

It took a massive effort of will to leave Marocco. We’d been there 8 weeks and had a hell of a time (in a good way!). We weren’t prepared for the strangeness of re-entering Europe.

By morning: Tanger.

By mid-afternoon: Algeciras.

Morocco.

Spain.

Two cultures with much in common (but world’s apart) separated by the narrowest stretch of water. We were flummoxed!

Europe posed new problems for us – like how to keep from munching through our meagre budget in a matter of weeks. A combination of Wwoofing, hitch-hiking and Couch Surfing was the key. Within the space of 2 days we’d tried all three of these money-saving/people-meeting techniques and were pleased with the results.

Bouncing along in the backseat of a Toowoomba couple’s mobile home we grew confident that we could overcome our Euro-dollar poverty (1st world problem!) without missing out on exciting new experiences and the odd ice cream or cold beer here and there.

In spite of our feelings of deep love and fealty to Morocco we opened ourselves up and let our new host culture do its work on us. Bull fighting colosseums, gelato, catholic fervour, flamenco fever, and gorgeous houses with fine balconies and timber shutters won us over.

This was not Morocco. This was something different. A different aesthetic. A new way of behaving. A different climate… a new opportunity. I christened myself anew: ‘Nina of Espana’ by bathing in the Mediterranean. It was bloody freezing!

It seems fitting to say ‘goodbye’ to Morocco and ‘hello’ to Spain with a flutter of photos. Can you spot the differences?

p.s Family and friends are on our minds every step of the way – we’re coping daily with homesickness and the desire for togetherness. We carry you with us at all time. Love you!

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