I work as a town planner in London, and have always enjoyed travelling. I also love photography, and in June 2009 I decided to take a year off work to travel the globe. This blog recounts that trip.
I left London on the 14th June 2009. My trip divided roughly into four legs. The first is in Africa, from Kenya to South Africa, starting in June and finishing at the end of September. I then flew to Mumbai, for a three month trip through Central Asia taking in India, Nepal and Tibet. Next up was Southeast Asia, where I travelled through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, arriving in Singapore in early March 2010. The final leg took me along the east coast of Australia, then across to New Zealand and finally Fiji, before returning to the UK in June 2010. In total, I visited 23 countries on three continents.
Please check out my blog... hopefully you'll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! If you really like it, it's now available in book form. Check out the first two volumes of my book, One Year Out, at Blurb, here: http://www.blurb.com/user/SmithyWWide.
June 6th 2010
Island hopping on the Yasawas is similar to backpacking along the East Coast of Australia... every time you get back on the Big Yellow Boat you bump into somebody you met on another island. Getting back on to head to Wayalailai, I actually bumped into friends from Oz - Rachael and Charlotte, who I'd been to the Whitsundays with. We chatted for a while, then it was time to board our small boat to our last stop in the Yasawas. Unlike Mantaray, Wayalailai Eco-Resort was a locally-run operation, with a distinctly Fijian feel to it. Located on a golden beach right next to the village, at the base of a large and imposing mountain, the setting could hardly have been better, and our welcome was as warm as ever. Tash and I struck it lucky and ... read more
June 2nd 2010
We were greeted at Long Beach, tucked into a sheltered bay at the southern tip of Matacawalevu Island, by Andy, Kate and Helen, who were lounging on the beach as our boat pulled in. Their promised welcome dance didn't materialise... apparently they'd exhausted themselves on a school visit and needed more down time. Also there was Andrea (a Canadian girl who we simply called Canada) and a group of British girls - Charlotte, Ella, Victoria and Laura). Long Beach was a small, unassuming resort, comprising a small huddle of beach bungalows, hammocks and a volleyball court set on the longest beach in the Yasawas - a sweeping curve of golden sand, looking out over a wide shallow bay. As with most backpacker places here, food was included so we all ate whatever was served. After checking ... read more
May 28th 2010
And so to my last port of call, the Pacific islands of Fiji. Part of me was ready to fly straight home from Auckland, but my friend Tash had booked to come and spend two weeks with me in Fiji, so I was excited about seeing her and having one final bout of down time before heading home. Tash greeted me at Nadi airport and we took a taxi to our hostel, then caught up over a cold drink. This was Tash's first time travelling as a backpacker (i.e. no package tour), and she'd agreed to dive in and leave everything open other than our first night's accommodation - in a mixed dorm (very much new territory!). We hatched a plan to island hop on the Yasawas, a chain of islands to the west of the ... read more
May 20th 2010
My last stop on the way to Auckland was at Waitomo Caves, where I'd been for a standard gloworm tour on my first visit to NZ. There are thousands of caves at Waitomo, all carved out of the limestone by water over thousands of years, and most discovered in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, some by accident. As this was my second visit, I wanted to do something a bit more adventurous, so I booked onto a caving tour. Now I've never been one for squeezing myself through tight gaps in dark caves... in fact the thought of it fills me with dread, but this trip would be mainly abseiling down waterfalls, rock climbing and looking at gloworms. The trip was called Haggas Honking Holes, Haggas being the name of the lucky landowner below which our ... read more
May 18th 2010
So, this is the deal. You start at an altitude of about 1,100m, ascend about 500m up the Devil's Staircase, across some old lava flows, then cross a crater and ascend to another crater (except this one's red), slide down some scree to three emerald lakes, past some hot vents, up again to a big round blue lake, then zig zag your way down through grass until you reach a forest, then walk for about 7km through dense vegetation and across several streams until you reach the car park at the end. Total length is just over 19 kilometres. Not enough? Ok, then how about tacking on a 600m ascent of an active volcano. But no, there's no path... you have to scramble up loose rocks and scoria, then run back down all the way on ... read more
May 14th 2010
The drive from Napier to Taranaki would essentially cross the North Island from east to west, so I decided to do it over two days with a stop off at Wanganui. But on the way to Wanganui, I called into a small town called Dannevirke, for lunch with Lina, the guide for my overland trip through Africa. How bizarre to meet someone who guided me through ten different African countries, negotiated border crossings and bribed police officials whenever necessary, in a small farming town in the middle of New Zealand! But I'm used to randomness now, so it was all good. Dannevirke is actually in a part of the North Island where many settlers were of Scandinavian descent. They celebrate Norway Day here, and the town hall at Dannevirke proudly sports a cardboard cut-out Viking, posing ... read more
May 11th 2010
I left Whakatane on a beautiful sunny day, which as New Zealand's sunniest spot, it has a lot of. The drive south to Gisborne took me through densely forrested river valleys and, as I neared the coast of Poverty Bay, farmland made starkly beautiful by the autumnal colours. I stopped off in Gisborne only to stock up on food, but this town holds an important place in NZ's European history, as the first spot where Captain James Cook (here he is again!) came ashore. There's a small statue to mark the event, as well as a more enigmatic memorial to Nick Young, the lookout who first set eyes on the landmass and won himself a load of booze and the honour of having a nearby chunk of rock named after him. But aside from that there ... read more
May 6th 2010
For the third time in my life, I landed at Auckland airport at about half past midnight excited about seeing the land of the long white cloud. Annoyingly for Clubby, who'd kindly agreed to collect me from the airport, I was late landing after fog saw me diverted through Brisbane instead of Sydney. It had been two years since I'd been to NZ, and in that time my friends Clubby and Stan (aka Mike and Rochelle!), who live in Auckland, had produced young Jacob, who was now six months old. Jacob was all smiles when I was introduced the next morning, but unfortunately for him, his vaccination was due, so Stan dropped me off at Ma and Pa's (aka Christine and John) while she took Jacob for his jabs. It was nice to have some time ... read more
May 1st 2010
Zak is a pretty small car, so it was with some effort that we squeezed in four six-footers and all our luggage. Things were a bit tight for Sophie and J in the back! We had decided to drive to Townsville, where J would go to Magnetic Island and the rest of us would carry on to Cairns. Our first stop was at Bowen, a small town known for growing mangoes. There's also a member of Australia's 'big things' here in the shape of the Big Mango, which happened to be opposite a Driver Reviver stop which we happily utilised. There's not really much to say about a giant fibreglass mango, other than that it was quite big. From there we moved on to Bowen and a beautiful beach at Horseshoe Bay, where we sat and ... read more
April 27th 2010
Arriving in Airlie Beach at a little after 9am didn't provide much hope for my forthcoming trip to the Whitsundays. It was grey, rainy and generally miserable... just as the weather forecasts had predicted. But it had a day to clear up, so I was hopeful. I'd booked onto a three-day cruise around the Whitsunday Islands on a boat called the Anaconda III. It's one of only a handful of boats that goes beyond the islands to the Great Barrier Reef itself, so I'd have an opportunity to snorkel on the main reef as well as some of the fringing reefs. After a day doing tasks in Airlie, where I met up with Rich (and had a bit of a 'This is Your Life' of my time in Oz, as I saw so many familiar faces ... read more