Welcome to Coles’ New World - the amazingly imaginative titled account of the Coles’ trip to...the New World. And the Old World. And a bit of Asia.
If, like us, you’ve read any other travel blogs, you’ll know that we’re supposed to “quit our jobs!!!” and “all our friends told us we were crazy!!” and “my mom was crying and saying we’d have our faces sewn onto a soccerball in Mexico..”
Well, not for Aussies. Not uncommon, actually (although we’re not doing the year in the UK thing). Klaire’s a lawyer, so will get a new job no dramas (probably her old one back), I’m a slack arse public servant so didn’t even have to quit (although I didn’t manage to convince them to keep paying me while I’m away), and not only are my parents not upset - they beat us to it.
So, after quite a few months of staying in and watching telly, eating rice, growing our own vegies and not drinking nice beer we’ve got a reasonable chunk of dinero built up. The mega-budget (TM) (aka. spreadsheet of doom) reckons this will be enough for 10 months worth of beer, wine, souvenir t-shirts, dodgy street food, with a couple of pesos/quetzals/quid/bottletops left over for a bed in a fleabag hostel.
Only one way to find out.
September 8th 2011
The drive out of Croatia was long. Croatia, while not that big, is longer than you think – almost 800ks as the crow flies along the coast. We got away from the excellent campsite by ten, farewelling our German friends and the super friendly old couple that owned the place. Heading north we avoided the motorway and associated tolls, and this took us through some fantastic country. Similar to parts of Spain, the low sandstone hills had a very Mediterranean look to them, dry, spotted with small villages. Different to Spain, however, was the occasional bombed out house. Not as much damage here as in Bosnia and Hercegovina, but you could still see where fighting had happened. The road followed the coast for much of the way, then we cut inland, slowly increasing in altitude. We ... read more
September 7th 2011
So, drive up the coast we did; the 90 euro price tag for the Dubrovnik campsite making us choke more than cat hair ever could. We didn’t really have a particular destination in mind, so we resolved to keep an eye for places to camp that looked all right. We figured we couldn’t really go wrong as long as we kept the ocean on our left and kept driving on the right. So, back into Bosnia for the blink of an eye, the Bosnian border guards too busy chatting and drinking Turkish-style coffee to even bother checking documents. A slow drive past what looked like miles of oyster beds or something, then back into Croatia. Every so often there would appear a whole bunch of cars randomly strewn along the sides of roads as sunburnt Europeans ... read more
September 4th 2011
Now, where was I? Suitably relaxed, we packed the Berlingo, said our goodbyes to the campsite fella and his cat, and headed south-east-ish. We had decided to head for Dubrovnik, and the usual way to get there was to head southwest, straight towards the coast. We decided to take the advice of Nedzo from Blagaj and hang a left on highway 6. As is usual, taking local advice paid off. Not only did it reduce the number of border crossings (the normal way required driving into Croatia, then back into Bosnia, then into Croatia again) but it took us through some quieter, dry Mediterranean type countryside. The road wounnd its way through some lovely country, through towns with great names like Stolac, Ljubinje and Trebinje, all a bit bucolic in a dry sort of way. Not ... read more
September 2nd 2011
We’d had quite a good few days in Sarajevo, and leaving was hard; the stunningly beautiful drive through the mountains of Southern Bosnia made it that bit easier. The bloke on the cruiser in front of us thought the same, repeatedly risking his life to take photos while leaning through the corners one handed. We headed more or less south, towards Mostar. As we drove, the country dried out, becoming much more Mediterranean, rougher, dustier, more to my taste, less to Klaire’s. We passed through Mostar and headed for the tiny nearby town of Blagaj, about a ten minute drive. There were a number of campsites around. And half of them were shut for the winter. It was the first of the month, and that signified the end of summer for many. We started to get ... read more
September 1st 2011
It was past time to get out of Serbia. Our GPS had only main roads, and the paper map we had wasn't detailed enough to help us that much but we eventually made it to a border crossing, a small one. We decided that the small ones are the way to go – no queue of cars and the guards a tiny bit less sullen, if not actually cheerful. Up until we crossed into Bosnia the scenery had been nice, if not exactly spectacular. Border formalities done with, we continued along the road, soon coming to a tight mountain pass. We drove out from the shadow of the mountains into the bright sunlight and….wow. Spectacular mountain roads, deep gorges, incredible views. A blush of autumn on the surrounding mountainsides (which I must admit just looked like ... read more
August 29th 2011
We had lingered a little too long in Romania. It was time to head back west. We had a vague idea of a destination – somewhere in Serbia – and knew that was to the west. What we didn’t know (but maybe should have) was that getting there was easier said than done. The problem was that, like stupid train lines in stupid cities, the Danube was in the way. So, we drove along it. A lot. For a large part of the day we could see Serbia – green and Serbian looking – over the river. But couldn’t find a way to cross it. Surely, there would be a bridge or something somewhere. There was. You can drive across the top of the massive Iron Gate dam. But not if you get there too late. ... read more
August 26th 2011
Then – Bucharest. We made our way, gingerly, down the fantastically bad Romanian road system, marvelling at the only length of motorway in the country. A decent part of the road this, and it really didn’t go anywhere. We had decided to live it up a little in Bucharest after a few months of camping – we booked a pretty flash room at the NH Hotel Bucharest. A bathroom, aircon and telly – it even had tea and coffee making facilities. Fighting through the Bucharest traffic was easier than I had anticipated. Or perhaps I had simply grown used to the peculiarities of Romanian driving. Romanians, I had discovered, were really pretty ordinary drivers. Sure, they made it a matter of pride that they can pass on a blind corner, or aiming straight at the Tatra ... read more
August 24th 2011
We headed south. Then east. Then West. Camping is free in Romania. This means if you want to find an actual campsite you have to know where one is. A six year old Lonely Planet is probably not the best source of information, and this is what we had. We drove through Sibiu – couldn’t find the campsite. Couldn't find the campsite in Curtea de Arges either, and the campsite another 50ks down the road looked truly ordinary. A brief stop at a random servo for diesel and beer. We bought some dark beer which is dangerous – a lot of it had turned out to be sickly sweet malt based stuff. In the lolly section at the same servo though - truly excellent liquid rum centred chocolates. These would have to wait until the evening ... read more
August 22nd 2011
We had a grand total of one night in Hungary. We had heard a lot about Budapest, but really didn't have enough time to make it. Instead, we simply cut across the top of the country, hunting for a place to camp. After a day driving past girls on the side of the road selling melons. Or at least they were making an attempt. They seemed far more interested in working on their tans on a summer holiday than making a sale. We found a campsite, not far from the Romanian border. It was largely full of large Hungarian men and their larger wives on their summer holidays, plus a few busloads of raucous teenagers, but they had room for the Berlingo. We passed a sleepless night, parked beside the highway, and decided to give this ... read more
August 17th 2011
We headed South. Ish. Dodging an a unmarked police bike – a black R1 cruising up and down the highway, trying to tempt young folk into competing, then giving them a ticket, crappier roads and crappier driving. The Tatras loomed majestically – I'm not sure if you can loom majestically, but there they were, looming away, and there was a definite sense of majesty, so there you go. The craggy peaks were covered in cloud, on the road to Poprad. The foreground littered with rolling hills of barley and hops and little white villages. It looked like a beer ad. We rolled into the campsite at Trencin. The lady was cheerful and spoke zero English, but we got by with single German words. It's not real hard to say 1 tent and 2 people. When Klaire ... read more