Published: November 14th 2009November 14th 2009
Coppers In the Morning
All started at 5.00 am. Our street blocked and lots of cops. Bedlam for a while when 600 fun runners had to be diverted. Lots of fun watching the traffic try to deal with it. Don't really know what happened.
Well we have been on the road for over a year! A year since we made the change from retirees/consultants/farmers to travellers. Comes as a bit of a shock. After all we are still getting organised and there is still much more to see and do than we had intended to have left after a year. But it is timely that we review our progress.
We have visited 21 countries in the last year, some more than once and that doesn't include 2 trips back to Australia. We have flown in excess of 56,000 kilometres, driven ourselves over 40,000 kilometres, been driven around southern India, Vietnam, some of Malaysia, around Turkey and a bit of England in cars and buses and travelled over 6,000 km on trains. All of this has cost us an average of $A200 per day between us, not counting designated 'major' purchases. We have sent back packages from Hanoi, Chennai, Delhi, Jodphur, Agra and Istanbul in addition to pretty full packs on our trips back from New Zealand and Frankfurt.
When we started serious discussions about this trip it was going to take perhaps a year. After reviewing our finances for the 35th time, we
stations are not that far underground. Neat electrical work though.
decided that we could basically continue to travel as long as we liked provided that we were prepared to stick to a careful budget and were able to sort out our affairs so that they would not need too much care while we were away. Deciding to sell our home was a breakthrough. It was difficult to make the decision. The house was a good one in a place where we have a lot of friends and were very happy to live. Renting would possibly have been a better economic option but leaving the house, gardens and orchards in someone else's hands for an indeterminate period was not a good option for us.
We started talking about being away at least 2 years and, by the time we actually left home, it was clear enough that even 2 years was going to be a little tight. The current plan will bring us back to Australia to start on the next project in a couple of years - from now. We have said we will be back around Christmas 2011. We aren't at all sure that we will have done everythng by then but then we can always go again,
Ugly building for a gallery but well worth a visit.
As we move around, the list of places that we will need to return to or pick up on another trip continues to grow. We would like to walk the Milford Sound and Cradle Mountain, visit Fiji, Samoa and Tahiti, move through Pakistan and over the Karakoram Highway into China, go through Afghanistan and Iran, visit Azerbaijan, travel through Mongolia, have a look at Ukraine, Lithuania … and we haven't hit the Middle East proper yet or Africa.
Africa is next, of course. We will fly to Egypt in a couple of days and then will travel basically down the east until we eventually hit Capetown. From there it will be either up along bits of the west coast or more directly back up to Europe or the Middle East. We hope to spend most of the summer of 2010 in Europe, with some time in Morocco and then to the UK to have a better look around the north of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales later in the summer, autumn and possibly winter before we head for the Carribean and Central America in the early part of 2011. From there it will be around South
Towards the Tower Bridge
If they keep building bridges at this rate the Thames will be paved in 50 years.
America and, finally, to North America for the remainder of 2011. All very straightforward.
All of this takes resources and this was a subject that exercised our minds before we left, and just a little since then. It would have been possible for us to travel pretty flash, doing a fair bit of flying, staying in better accommodation, taking well guided tours and eating (and drinking) in better quality restaurants and pubs. It would have been possible, but we would have had to cut our program substantially. At the same time we knew that the trip wouldn't last long if it was to be a succession of lousy hotel or hostel rooms where we were not particularly comfortable. Stumbling down a hallway in the middle of the night looking for a toilet in a strange place isn't fun after a while. So we have been determined to live in reasonable comfort as much as possible. Not a lot of luxury mind you, but, so far, most places we have stayed have been OK.
Food is an area where the budget can also take a hammering. In places like India, Vietnam and Turkey we ate out every meal as
The Globe Theatre
from the walkway bridge
a matter of course. The food was generally interesting and good. Costs are normally not high unless you eat where the higher priced tourists eat - and we tend to avoid those. In Europe, though, eating out can be costly, in some places very costly. Self catering is much cheaper and, frankly, is also a way to eat a little better. Cheap food here does tend to be pretty basic.
Amongst the best or most memorable meals, whether for the food or the place, we have had have been the catfish cooked in a clay pot in the Da Quy (Wild Sunflower) restaurant in Dalat, Vietnam, whitebait in the Criterion Hotel in Westport New Zealand, the tandoori ayam in Melaka (and the roti canai breakfast at the little place around the corner in Melaka) the Paper Dhosa in Mysore, India, the Savoy Restaurant in Ooti in India, Trish's birthday dinner in Pondicherry, every meal we ate with the families in Bangalore and Chondur, Mithran's restaurant picks in Chennai, the meal at Mithran's Mum's place in Chennai (and especially the cake), the Kashmiri Restaurant in Delhi picked by Pankaj, most Indian breakfasts, dinner in the desert in Rajasthan, lunch in
the little cafe near the fish market in Fetihye, Turkey, dinner at the pub in Innari, Finland and the first meal cooked on the new Trangia by a nameless (to us) lake in Finland.
India was not able to maintain its strong showing in the food department in the liquor department. New Zealand Black beer is up with the best tasted but there is no real question that English beer is the leader. Kingfisher is OK, Vietnamese beer is cheap and reasonable, the Czech and German beers were very good but a pint of Guinness does the job for me. Wine has not been a major highlight yet, except for Tokaj, Hungary where they insist that they actually invented the drop.
Our budget has been established within some pretty firm parameters. Our operating or running expenses need to remain well within our limit. We don't plan to save money on this trip but we don't want to come back broke either. Hence, the limit is set at a level that allows us to live and travel reasonably well but still come home with the chance to set ourselves up again. An amount, over and above our limit, has
Desert, Middle East, Cleopatra theme along here. On the Embankment
been allocated for the purchase of major goodies - carpets, jewellery, presents and the various objet d'art that pop up and cannot be classed as 'normal'. This bulk amount also has to deal with any trips home and any other unexpected major expenditures. We have said we will go back for births, deaths and marriages and we have already had to go back to shift our gear. There are two more trips in the budget, but then all budgets are notional after all. (So if grandchildren start to appear we could make an amendment!)
A key underlying assumption in our budget planning was that there would be cheap countries and expensive ones. What we 'save' in the budget in the cheaper places would cover the increased costs in the more expensive places. This has worked but not to the extent that we had anticipated. I suspect that there are a few reasons. First, because we have a pretty clear idea of what the daily budget can stand, there is a bit of a tendency, on my part only I stress, to spend to the budget (too much time as a public servant I suspect. If you don't spend it
then the next budget review will take it from you.) The second reason is that we have been able to find ways of keeping control of our budget even in the expensive places, so far. In Scandinavia, for instance, which was the most expensive place to date and where we were on the road most days for considerable periods, our expenditure was maintained at a little over $A200 per day, which is nicely within the budget. This was achieved by the purchase of some camping equipment and self catering for most of the way. The camping equipment cost a little more in total than one night's accommodation in a basic hotel. And if we had started camping earlier we would have done substantially better.
The most important contributor to our budget control is the great ability of one of us in searching for deals on the net. This does take time that might frustrate a less patient person but it reaps some very useful dividends. Over the course of the year we have exceeded our budget for the month in just two months and in 7 out of the 12 months we have come in well under the budget.
looking on to Cleopatra's needle which was loaded up in the 15s and carted over here.
Weight is a constant issue. Not our personal weight. That isn't too bad although mine does seem to move up and down with the availability of beer. No it is the weight of our packs that is the problem. You set out with a nice trim pack and a few months later you have gathered additional kilos. The moment of truth comes with a ticket on a cheap airline. Our packs normally sit at a little over the 15 kilogram mark. Then you hit a Ryan flight and need to get it down under 15 kilos and it becomes a bugger of a job because it is all useful.
Our gear has changed during the last year. We have both bought new packs recently. The new ones are better quality than the ones we set out with and they are not travel packs. We have found the hiking type packs a better proposition for us. Day packs have also been replaced. Again we have now gone for better quality day packs than the ones we carried when we left home.
Clothes are another issue. All of the advice is that you need 3 changes of clothes -
Must Have Been the House
that inspired them both. These little plaques are everywhere.
one on, one drying and one ready to wear. You can manage this without too much difficulty, if your clothes dry reasonably quickly. You can even mix them up a little and achieve a little variety if that is your desire and you ensure that they all match - or if you don't worry too much about matching. In the cooler places you don't need to wash every bit of clothing every day. But it can still get boring and tiresome. We continue to debate whether it makes more sense to have clothing that is quick drying, comfortable and pretty hardy - and that costs a bit and doesn't wear out quickly - or just continually cycle through other clothing that isn't necessarily quick drying etc but does need replacement a little more often.
So that is what has happened over the last year. The last week or two hasn't necessarily been the best of the trip. Getting crook while you are travelling is never much fun. It doesn't happen often but both of us have had colds or flu over the last couple of weeks. Luckily, we have been able to manage it without any difficulty given that
Scrubbing Up Westminster
Must figure that the new government needs to start out clean
we have been sitting in one place and haven't needed to move about much. It is obviously still a nuisance but at least the weather has not been so good that we have desperately wanted to get out too much.
We have been able to get to the National Archives. After hours working our way through the catalogue system and searching old records we have found details of the crimes a couple of my relatives. It turns out that my grandmother's grandfather walked away from his base of the British Army in Canada, made it as far as the border with the USA and was captured by 3 civilians who received a nice little reward for their trouble. He was away less than 24 hours. He had no priors so he copped a light sentence of 21 years transportation. Two of the other four with him went for life and the others for 21 years. Getting that took a solid 3 days work, but I now know a lot more about the way the British dealt with their troops in the early part of the 19 century. An interesting quote from one old general along the lines that the
difference between a soldier and a prisoner was simply that a soldier had a better chance of getting, whipped and/or shot and that he might, might just be paid something at some point.
The Tate Modern was worth a visit. Use of an ex-power station as a gallery of modern and pop art is a neat fit. There were pieces in the Tate Modern that we liked, very few that we understood, some that were off the scale of belief, others that convinced us that there is hope for people with bizarre sexual fantasies and some that inspired thought and reflection.
The Tate Britain has an exhibition entitled 'Turner and the Masters' that explored the competitive relationship that apparently existed between Turner and a range of masters. We emerged convinced that, while Turner could possibly be said to have won a few rounds, he generally came up a bit short in his attempts to demonstrate that he was number one. We enjoyed the rest of the gallery as well. There are rather a lot of paintings of English aristocracy mixed in with some very good land and seascapes. At one point I started to think that at least
The Oldest Tree in Kew
A chestnut if I remember correctly
the portraits were understandable, as opposed to the place across the river, but then, for some of it at least, that is a small mercy.
Kew Gardens is a bit more like it for me. 320 acres of gardens that have been under development for over 250 years. We spent the day there, took 2 guided walks around and had a very enjoyable time. Only a little damp from time to time.
In my continuing review of the news media I have become convinced that the BBC model of news presentation would be excellent if they actually provided more than 6 items of news in any 1 hour program. It might also be enhanced if they brought on one or two new items for, perhaps every second or third session of the news rather than just playing the same stuff over and over again. The Sunday Times restored some of my faith in the value of the London papers. The Guardian seems also to carry news although you could be forgiven for thinking that there is little that happens in the world outside Britain and the USA. This is a surprise. In other parts of Europe, to the
extent that we could understand the news, there seemed to be reports from a range of other countries as well as the county of origin. The Brits don't do that.
The media are still flogging poor old Gordon Brown. This time a handwritten letter of condolence he sent to the mother of a dead soldier looks as though it has spelling mistakes in it. The man has writing that is not so good, but which is considerably more legible than mine, and this has become a national issue. Interestingly, the Sun, which has been running a harsh anti-Brown line, has copped a backlash on the issue.
The have shops here. They are coming to grips with the idea of shopping malls with a big Westfield mall near Sheperds Bush. We haven't visited the mall but we have made a good attempt to check out Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, Regent Street, Carnaby Street and so on and on and on.
Off to Egypt now. That is it for the UK until later next year.
There are more photos below