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Michael’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 25 Jan 2007

Location: Southampton, UK

MapOkay, so I know it's a bit late, but I thought I'd have a crack at trying to sum up my year as best I can. This won't be the smallest summary of all time – but then again, it was far from the smallest year of all time too!

In order to best run through the events, I am basically going to do this in point form, and it will be basically be a summary of the highlights and lowlights for all those of you who gave up reading the website, started after everyone, didn't know about it, or just want a summary of how grand a year I had!

*Start the year with a bang on Bondi Beach in Sydney watching the Fatboy Slim concert. Funnily enough he actually did a concert of Brighton Beach this New Year's, but I am sure the weather was much friendlier at the Bondi concert last year!

*Mid-January, wrote off Dad's car on the way to work at 515am, out the back of Wonga Park in what was the first day of rain since the new year. That was a fun message to my folks who were in Egypt at the time. Ironically, I was driving Dad's car while my car was getting fixed after he dented it.

*Thank f--k It's Summer Party – Well, 100+ people, biggest suburban back yard bon fire ever, most booze I've seen downed – at least at any party I'd been to in a while – and of course the spa incident.

*Finished working stupid 7 day weeks and 12 hour days at Toyota – at least the work enabled me to go overseas!

*Quiet month aside from Jan and Michelle's wedding. Dandenong Ranges, on what can only be described as a day of pissing down rain.

*Handed in work resignation!

*This is where it all started... March 5, departure date for the 'trip of a lifetime'.

*Missed my outbound flight from Melbourne. What a way to start the trip! My tickets had been printed with a flight time different to my itinerary. Nice stuff up.....

*Singapore – Can't go past the “Four Floors”, or as we later found it to be called, “Four Floors of Whores!” That was an eye opener... watch for the large hands and Adam's apples.

*Indoor skiing in Dubai. Then 30 minutes later at the craziest waterpark that I have ever been to in my life – Wild Wadi's Water World.

*4x4 desert driving outside of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

*Cairo – what a city. Never before, and not since, have I not been able to enjoy walking round a city on my own. Thanks to Gabby and Paulie for showing me the ropes.

*Held at gunpoint (AK47) buy an Egyptian security guard at the Cairo Museum – seems he wanted a few extra dollars for nothing. But what a museum – all of Tutankhamen's stuff, not to mention the mummies. Well worth the extra money.

*Abu Simbel – what a monster bus ride to get there, but definitely one of the monster sites of Egypt.

*Valley of the Kings – awesome, aside from the donkey ride, which hurt my ass, and splattered my legs with dihorrea!

*Queen Hatchepsuit's Temple. Again, oh, so cool...

*Sailing up the Nile on the feluca – aside from the worst 24 hour stomach aches I've ever had in my life... and the running to the 'toilet' that goes along with it.

*The Giza Plateau. Wow, that was cool, 3 monster pyramids, another 6 pyramids, and the sphinx, even if it was covered by scaffolding.

*Dahab – aside from the 10 hour public bus ride (what a nightmare) what a gem of a place. Love it. The diving was incredible – The Blue Hole, The Canyon and my first wreck dive, the SS Thistlegorm.

*Mt. Sinai, the coldest night of my life to date. And an odd one too... The 'burning bush', home of the '10 commandments' and so much chanting as the sun rose. What a walk and what a sun rise.

*Bus ride from Dahab to Taba – and spending the second half of the trip thinking there was a bomb left on the bus.

*Petra – The Rose City. Oh my god, what a beautiful place, and so big. Had the Indy tune in my head all day long.

*Playing “4 on 4 with a half court” in Athens with 7 Greek guys who didn't speak English.

*Parthenon, covered in bloody scaffolding. Why is there always scaffolding.

*My first Earthquake while in Olympos in Greece.

*Delphi – incredibly beautiful... INCREDIBLY.

*Kicking back for week in Thessaloniki with Stefanos.

*Being lead to a hostel in Istanbul, to find shit floating in the foyer due to a backed up toilet! NEXT.

*Pulling pints of beer (and giving them out for free) at the backpacker pub in Istanbul.

*Ekol Travel – Worst tour ever, but best tour group. You guys know who you are.

*Dawn at ANZAC Cove. New coldest night ever. But what an amazing experience.

*Aya Sophia in Istanbul – beautiful looking building, especially looking down from some of the roof top eateries.

*Watching Kristy belly dance on stage at dinner, and later, amongst others, dance on stage at a strip club, unbeknown to themselves.

*Samos on a Sunday. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. 4L of Ouzo later, and we JUST manage to make the ferry the next morning. But the room didn't look as good. Broken beds, and the TV on the balcony? And feeling rough the entire ferry ride.

*Datarock concert in Kilburn, London – so good (and cheap) I went and saw them again.

*Spending 10 hours in a Copenhagen hospital, because Clint thought he had DVT. Blood test, blood thinners and a Cat scan. Total cost - $0. If I'm getting sick, get me to Denmark!

*First night in Sweden on the Contiki tour and one of the cabins get broken into. Money and cameras stolen, and no one hears a thing? Inside job?

*Absolute Ice Bar in Stockholm – pretty cool, excuse the pun.

*The Vasa Museum – the size and beauty of this Viking Ship sitting in the mud at the bottom of the harbor for who knows how many years was incredible.

*Bobsled ride in Lillehammer Norway. That was one of the craziest rides I have ever taken in my life. And way too much fun too. 60 seconds of flat out bone shaking speed.

*The beauty of Camp Andalsnes, the avalanche whilst drinking round the campfire at night, the snowball fight as we headed towards Trollstigen Pass.

*Swimming in the Ramfjord Fjord. That was cold, but it was just the beginning!

*Nuding up at Norkapp - The Northern most point of Europe.

*Seeing the midnight Sun. Possibly the most incredible sight of the trip, at least as far as natural beauty goes (The Sun that is, not a naked me...).

*Swimming at Hammerfest – inside the Arctic Circle. Well, wasn't exactly swimming, more like having a seizure as the freezing cold water grips your chest.

*Drinking White Russians (Vodka and Champagne) in the middle of St. Petersburg.

*Peterhoff Palace and Gardens outside of St. Petersburg. One of the most incredible buildings I have ever seen.

*The monument to the WWII siege at Leningrad – really moving story, and monument.

*Being 'stalked' outside the St. Petersburg Casino. I love to gamble, but when I'm dealing with mob money, I'd rather not risk life and limb!

*Red Square in Moscow. St. Basil's Cathedral, The Kremlin, GUM Department Store and the Lenin Mausoleum. An incredible site, beautiful and so rich in history.

*Boar House – A night on the town in Moscow. A bar complete with Russian hookers (The Lonely Planet didn't mention that part), blackjack tables (or that) and my quick winnings bought us 2L beers all night!

*Katyn Village and Katyn Forrest, as well as Brest on the Belarus/Poland border. Incredibly moving sites.

*Warsaw for my birthday! The first Aussie World Cup match with a win over Japan, 3-1. Followed by my birthday drinks, and finally followed by a redecoration of the hotel suite.

*Berlin during the World Cup – incredible party atmosphere. More so, the night of the Germany v Poland game where Clint & I left the tour group and partied with the locals watching the game!

*Amsterdam – well, there was an eye opener. Sex, drugs & soccer goals.

*Confusion between Clint & I over the payment of a hostel room in Germany results in me skipping town on the bill!

*Paragliding and canyoning in Interlarken, through the Swiss Alps.

*Watching the Aussies get back to draw Croatia, and make the World Cup Finals. What a buzz.

*Panicking in the late hours of the evening trying to find accommodation in Cinque Terre, then spending the next day, on a scorcher, swimming in the towns.

*The downright gut wrenching heart ache of watching the Aussies get absolutely robbed by the Italians and referees in the World Cup Finals at Wayne's Bar in Nice.

*The Grand Casino in Monte Carlo, Monaco. Thanked by some guy who I poured drinks for in Istanbul. Lost around 200 euros in under 2 hours. Watching Clint spend 15 euro on 2 bottles of Coke. That was an expensive night.

*Nothing but huge nights in Barcelona. That is a town that I can honestly say that I love. And the Gaudi architecture is out of this world.

*Mum panicked that I had died in the Valencia train derailing.

*Having someone try and pick pocket me whilst I was in Valencia, just as I jumped on the train to leave the beach.

*Catching up with Kristy and Shernell in Pamplona.

*The opening festival of San Fermin. The biggest food fight I've ever been part of, biggest mosh pit I have ever been in, biggest party ever, had my Oakley's stolen, had my nose broken.

*Encierro 1. There is no way to describe this event. The build-up, the adrenaline, the confusion, the fear, the excitement, and the shear joy of living to talk about it.

*Seeing a 30 year old, father of two, standing six feet away from me in the bull ring, get hit by an adolescent bull. He goes up over the bull, and lands square on his head. He couldn't feel his legs - paralysed from the waist down. Scariest (possibly saddest) thing I have ever seen.

*Clint and I getting suited and booted in Lyon. We must have spent 3-4 hours suit shopping! Walked out with a solid chocolate brown suit and a gray suit with white pin stripes.

*Stuttgart Mercedes Benz Museum. That was an incredible museum and a place you could easily spend half a day.

*Crashing out in the small town of Tubingen at Gabby and Paulie's place. Thanks for the hospitality! Such a nice little old German town.

*Topping out at 198km/hr and being over taken, without hesitation, by a Mercedes, whilst driving solo from Frankfurt to Bremen.

*Crashing out in Bremen for the best part of week with Scottie. Perfect time of year to visit the city. Thanks for the bed, and showing me round town and Airbus chief.

*Rocking up to a posh ass, 5-star hotel on Rue de Rivloi in Paris, sweaty as sin after an overnight train ride, and a backpack on. Then crashing out on a cot for three nights in my cousin Ray's hotel room. Cheers mate – still owe you for that one.

*Seeing the final stage of the 2006 Tour de France from the streets, and from the hotel balcony looking over the streets of Paris. Thanks for that too Ray!

*Seeing the Mona Lisa (overrated) Venus de Milo (overrated) and getting to the top of the Eiffel Tower (not overrated).

*Getting frustrated in London looking for work. Thanks for letting me stay there so long Sarah.

*Getting propositioned by an Italian bloke on the way home from London one night.
*Competing in the first ever World Strip Poker Championships. That was one of the funniest things I have ever been involved in.

*GKN Interview – nothing for a month and I finally get a chance at a job. Just happens to be on the day of a South West train strike. I left London at 7am, said I'd be there at 1130am, but didn't get to the interview till after 1pm. Somehow managed to get the job still!

*Moved into the new house in Southampton. Isle of Wight where I work is just WAY too quiet, even if it is a pain in the ass to travel there every day.

*Oktoberfest. They say two beers and you'll be dancing on the tables, and singing along with the brass Oompa Bands. When they are 1L each, and 5.7% alcohol volume, the problem is trying to stop after two! Incredible atmosphere, love the Hoffbrauhaus on the first day of the festival.

*First day of work – man that was tough. Having a hang-over on the Tuesday after Saturday and Sunday in Munich, and starting a new job... all too much.

*Jay-Z concert in Royal Albert Hall in London, with special guests Beyonce, Nas, Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow.

*AFL and NRL Grand Final weekend. AFL was way too early to be drinking – 5am game start, by 6am, I (and most people there) was pissed. What a day. And then watching the abomination known as the NFL Grand Final... what a joke of umpiring.

*Guy Fawkes night – man, so many bangs, so much smoke and it was so thick the following morning that I couldn't see the water from ferry on the way to work in the morning.

*United Airlines – how in the world did they loose my bags between Washington and New York? Anyway, arrive in NYC, where it is 31 degrees (that's below freezing), with only what I was wearing. I had packed my jumper in my checked baggage. A top, scarf and gloves.... not fun.

*Seeing Richie and Ash, for the first time since March, crashed out in the hostel, and greeting them with “Wass up bitches?”

*Going straight to Knicks vs. Bucks game at Madison Square Garden, hassling Andrew Bogut, and asking a cop where the best bars where, all in our first night in NYC.

*Christmas with the family, having seen my folks not since March, and further family since 2003. Others even still since 1992 when I was there for my cousin Tina's wedding – who all pointed out I'd grown so much since then. Hahaha, no kidding....

*Chicago Bears vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Great day at the tail gating, and also a great day at the game, with the Bucs coming back from a long way down to send the game into overtime.

*Firing my first gun in Las Vegas – a Glock 9mm. After that I had the bug and quickly dropped money into firing a police bolt action .308 sniper rifle, and then off-loaded 25 rounds of an M-16 in under 30 seconds.

*New Years Eve. Helicopter ride through the Grand Canyon, followed by a monster night in Mandalay Bay, and along the strip. What a way to finish the year!

What a monster day - have a great 2007 people, I'm hoping that I can step up to the plate and get half way close to repeating the performance.