Location: Sydney, Australia
I'm currently sitting in the departure lounge at Sydney International Airport waiting for my flight back to London Heathrow via Singapore and wondering where the last eight months have gone! I can't believe today's the very last day of my trip, the time really has flown, though when I think back to all I have done and seen it's really quite amazing.
Sydney has been an alcoholic (but extremely fun) blur, it was great to catch up with my friend Lottie, and I also managed to meet an old contact from my 2007 volunteering stint in Tanzania as well as my old housemate from London. I managed a few of the main tourist attractions (Sydney harbour, the Sydney Museum, a walk around the botanic gardens and Opera House, a ferry ride to Darling Harbour, some beach time on Bondi etc) and made a load of new friends in the form of Sydney's resident lesbian community (probably best not to ask..) - all in all a very successful last five days :)
Sad as I am to leave Australia after such a short time, I'm feeling ready to return to the UK, most notably because I'm excited to see my family and friends again, but also because I want to get my career back on track and find a job I enjoy. My imminent trips to Devon and Ibiza are also softening the blow of The Return somewhat!! I'm not sure it will really hit me that the holiday is over until I return from those at the end of September, but whenever reality bites, I'm determined to stay positive. I've had some of the best months of my life this year and have so many memories to treasure, but now it's time to knuckle down for a while - after all, how else will I save up for the next travelling adventure? ;)
Location: Sydney, Australia
Just a quickie to say I've uploaded a couple of new photo albums from my last few days in Indonesia.
Now in Sydney and loving it! Off to visit some tourist attractions now but will report back in due course....
Location: Canggu, Indonesia
On my last day in Kuta Lombok I picked up a nasty tummy bug, which laid me so low I was unable to leave with Alistair for Kuta Bali the following morning, instead having to stay another night by myself in a hotel room I could ill afford without my friend Charlie to share it with. Still, it proved a sensible move as, twenty four hours later, I was rested and well enough to make the eight hour journey back to Bali by myself. No sooner had I arrived in Kuta than I left, jumping straight in a cab bound for Seminyak, where Charlie was waiting for me.
I had heard nothing but bad reports of Seminyak, so was pleasantly surprised to find I absolutely loved it. On our first night we headed down to a gorgeous bar on the beach, La Plancha, with fairy lights strung up absolutely everywhere, and oversized bean bags scattered over the sand beside cubes of ever changing light. We treated ourselves to glasses of Chardonnay and seafood platters before turning into our lovely air conditioned hotel room - about as far removed from my backpacker roots as I could have got!
The next day we rather comically sunbathed at not one, not two but three different hotels (!), finishing at the indescribably stunning W Hotel in Seminyak which, at 350 US dollars a night WITHOUT breakfast, is not without its financial downside! Fortunately for me, my wonderful friend allowed me to tag along and give her what I could afford (which, believe you me, was significantly less than the cost of her room!!), so I was able to bask in luxury for a pittance, though I did splash out on the most wonderful afternoon tea (with chocolate cake, macaroons, marshmallows, the works-YUM), as well as one incredible evening meal and a strawberry and mint mojito (when in Rome...)
Yesterday I took full advantage of the amazing room (two double beds, enormous plasma TV, stone bath, skylight, two sinks, balcony...I could go on) by having a long bath and watching several episodes of Gossip Girl (my guilty pleasure) before heading down to the pool for some serious sunbathing. At the end of the afternoon we used the spa facilities before changing and having coffees and (free!) sushi on the terrace as the sun went down. It couldn't have been a more perfect couple of days, and I was genuinely sad when the time came for Charlie and myself to part ways; her to the airport bound for the UK, and me for my 'traditional Balinese' hideaway half an hour down the road in Canggu.
When I first arrived it was getting dark, and the screeching French children running around the pool area made my heart sink - I had, after all, come here for some quiet time before heading to Sydney. My room was nice, but it soon became apparent that the thin wooden floorboards that constitute a ceiling provide absolutely no soundproofing from the Italian couple staying above me. Every one of their footsteps sounds like a herd of stampeding elephants, and this morning I was rudely awoken from my slumber at 7am to the sound of their amorous lovemaking - far from ideal.
I forced myself to do my yoga and then had breakfast, but for the first couple of hours I felt on edge and struggled to relax and enjoy the surroundings. Eventually I decided to go for a walk to get my bearings, and on the way back I stumbled across a cute little family run cafe, where the children - three little girls - were fascinated by the western newcomer in their midst. Afterwards, feeling much better, I returned to the guest house where I discovered a fabulous sun deck on one of the upper floors. The rest of the afternoon was spent sunbathing whilst looking out over the paddy fields.
This evening I walked to a nearby warung (cafe) with an American girl I met whilst sunbathing. It was quite the place to be, judging by the number of westerners there, and the food was out of this world in both taste and price (finally somewhere I can afford to eat!) We're now back at the guest house, chilling out with a beer and catching up on our emails. She leaves tomorrow morning and I plan to embrace my penultimate day by hiring a moped, checking out Echo Beach down the road and then heading back to fire off some job applications and read my book in the sunshine. Then on Wednesday it's goodbye Indonesia, hello Sydney for five days of fun before flying to London on the 5th.
I simply cannot believe my eight months of travelling are nearly at an end. What an incredible ride it's been :)
Location: Kuta Lombok, Indonesia
Bit behind with my updates...
Doing my Advanced PADI dive course was absolutely the right decision; I had a fantastic three days of diving off GiliTrawangan and saw the most amazing marine life, including a two metre long white tipped reef shark and numerous green turtles. I also went on a night dive which was exhilarating and terrifying in equal measures!
After three days of diving twice a day I was pretty exhausted, so when my friend arrived from Madrid in full on holiday mode I was happy to finally slow down the pace and join her on the beach for some serious sun worshipping. Two days later we decided to move onto one of the neighbouring islands, Gili Air - having been on Trawangan for nine days I had started to take root, so it was nice to finally have the impetus to move on to pastures new.
Gili Air was even more beautiful than GiliTrawangan, though we had a stressful hour and a half of walking around in the baking midday heat before we managed to find accommodation we were happy with (my friend, being a holidaymaker rather than a backpacker, is on a considerably higher budget than myself, and has higher standards to match).
We finally settled on a ludicrously overpriced (Ive been told to contribute only what I can afford and shut up about the rest, which suits me just fine) but delightfully located hotel, right next to the harbour with a gorgeous pool area. We spent a happy two days lounging around by day and eating by night at a western run restaurant called Scallywags (think white décor, decking, candles on the beach and a nightly fish grill and you wont go too far wrong with your imaginings) by night, before taking the decision to move on to Lombok.
This morning we were up early to catch the boat over to Lombok and subsequent shuttle bus to Kuta beach on the south of the island. The journey was meant to take three hours but, in true laid-back Indonesian style, ended up taking four because the engine of the first bus overheated and our vehicle needed replacing before we could proceed. The driver of the second vehicle was particularly fond of his in-car entertainment system and spent the vast majority of the journey staring at the CD player rather than looking at the road. When we were three kilometres out of Kuta his young daughter wedged in the back of the car between my friend and one of our fellow passengers tapped him on the shoulder and he pulled over so she could vomit on the side of the road.
Eventually we arrived in Kuta, and whilst I cant deny I was blown away by the rugged natural beauty of the sweeping beach, I must also admit my first impressions of the town itself were not entirely favourable. We took a room at a place called the Surfers Inn, which is ideally located opposite the beach and has a nice pool area, but which also has a bathroom that smells offputtingly of drains. After nearly nine months of backpacking this doesnt phase me at all, but my friend is refusing to come to terms with the squalor and is insisting that we move tomorrow to somewhere nicer (clearly I am not going to refuse her when shes being so generous as to let me tag along).
The plan is to stay here for three nights and then head back over to Bali, where we have rooms booked in two (youve guessed it lovely) hotels in Seminyak, though my friend wants to fly back to Bali and Im going to have to take the (painfully slow) slow boat. Its possible I may stay a night in Kuta on Bali so I can meet up with some of the boys I stayed on GiliTrawangan with, but as Kuta in Bali is quite possibly one of my least favourite places in the world, Im not sure how keen I am on this plan (particularly when you consider I have the offer of a gorgeous hotel for the night in Seminyak).
It is definitely starting to feel like Ive moved out of backpacker mode and into holiday mode. In some ways I feel bad about this, because there is so much more to see and do in Indonesia than simply lie on its gorgeous beaches. That said, I think this twilight stage of travelling was always going to be more of a transition back to normality than an all-out assault on the senses and desperate last minute whizz around as many landmarks as possible. Im so glad Ive booked my little bungalow on the paddy field for my last three days in Indonesia; much as Ive loved having company throughout my travels, I feel it is important to spend a few days by myself in quiet contemplation of the last nine months before I go home and throw myself back into the real world.
I think its true what they say about not fully appreciating your travels until you return home. Right now when I look back I can hardly get my head around all that Ive done since leaving my house that cold January morning. Some things that were long ago feel recent, whilst others that were mere weeks ago feel like an eternity. I wonder how I will feel when I get back and actually have time to let it all sink in...
Location: Asia - South East
Location: Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
Where has the last week gone?! It's funny how when you approach the end of your travels it starts to feel as if they're suddenly going at warp speed instead of normal time...
My two days in the hellhole that is Kuta in Bali went by (thankfully) in a blur, though I did manage to meet up with my friends from the ashram as well as my friend from Raleigh, which made the trip worthwhile. On the second day an American guy I met in northern Thailand contacted me when I was in the supermarket buying supplies for my boat trip to the Gili islands the following day. I went to meet him and he decided to join me, so we booked the tickets and then went on a celebratory (and decidedly ill-advised) bar crawl with my other friends. This culminated in us dancing on the stage in a neon-lit club beside some hideous Australian chavs at 2am...not ideal for a 6am wake up and full day's bus and boat journey.
Needless to say the journey was pretty tough going, in part because of our hangovers and four hours of sleep, but primarily because the travel agent had completely failed to inform us it was not one six hour slow boat all the way to Gili Trawangan as we had been led to believe, but rather a six hour ferry followed by a two hour drive through Lombok, followed by a two hour wait and then another half hour boat trip to the island. I even managed to have an altercation with one of the touts when I made a joke about swimming to the island instead of taking his boat and he tried to withold my ticket because they did 'not like joking' there. Wow.
Fortunately we met two hilarious English guys on the ferry with whom I clicked immediately, so when we finally rocked up on Gili Trawangan as the sun was setting to find everywhere fully booked and the streets eerily deserted, we did at least have safety in numbers and a degree of residual (and much needed) humour. After wandering around in the dark for what felt like hours (I'm not even joking when I say I felt almost biblical the way everyone was closing their doors in our faces and telling us there was no room at the inn), we miraculously stumbled across a gorgeous bungalow near the beach which we managed to negotiate a reasonable price for with the owner, who also kindly provided an extra bed so the four of us could (just) squeeze in there. There's not much space in the room, granted, but we have a lovely porch complete with hammock and a gorgeous open air bathroom. I'm gutted that two of the boys are thinking of moving on tomorrow, meaning we'll have to give it up and find somewhere cheaper :(
The last few days have been a lot of fun, exploring the island and sunbathing by day and hitting the bars and restaurants by night. I'm sad that my little ready made group of friends (the three boys and two English girls I went to Bromo/Ijen with, who joined us two days ago) will probably all have moved on by Tuesday (not least because the cost of living here is high compared to other places I've been in SE Asia and I could really do with sharing a room!) but excited about doing my Advanced dive certificate here on Tues/Wed/Thurs, and about my friend Charlie arriving on Thursday. Tempted as I am to move on from here and explore the surrounding islands, there is a part of me that thinks it might be wise to just stay here until I head back to Bali on the 27th, primarily due to the cost of travelling around (though I suppose that is pretty much offset by the cost of staying here), but also because I feel I should be making the most of my final few days of relaxation before reality bites back in the UK and I'm working all hours to earn a crust!
Right, time to go and shower before dinner. Today we walked up to the view point in the middle of the island and, beautiful though it was, I'm covered in dust from head to toe! We also stopped for lunch at the most ridiculous restaurant on the beach - it took 45 minutes for our milkshakes to arrive and then our 'burgers' were an absolute joke (I will upload a pic soon).