EBC Day 1 – Surviving the World’s Deadliest Flight

Today’s the day! I’m embarking on one of the most popular, yet difficult treks there is. The Everest Base Camp Trek. I checked out my hostel in the morning, hoping to dump my bag and head into the busy, dusty streets again to purchase some last minute trek necessities. Once I found the hotel where I would be meeting my group, oh how my morning changed! 

We were booked into Fuji Hotel, which is on the outskirts of Thamel, in a quite street away from the chaos. As I approached the hotel, with sweat starting to drip down the side of my face I went to open the large wooden doors when they magically opened for me. I was welcomed by the flow of cool air and a doorman smiling at me. “Namaste” he said as he held the door open for me “Welcome to Fuji Hotel”

He took my bag, offered me a seat and asked if I was with G Adventures. Slightly dazed by the lovely welcome and the heat I stuttered a yes and he handed me a cool drink. “Your room is ready, when you ready please follow me” I got up, ready to throw my backpack back on when a porter appeared out of nowhere to take it. I  followed them to the elevator where they took me to the top floor and to my room. I wanted to double check that they had the right person, this treatment was a far cry from hostel life. He opened the door and in there was the backpacker version of nirvana. A comfy double bed with squashy pillows sat before me, a TV in the corner and an ensuite all to myself. Did they have the right Jess?

Thanking the porter profusely I fell onto the bed as soon as the door was shut! Out went all my intentions of achieving anything today. I’d only been back in hostel life for less than a week but this small slice of luxury felt like a huge win! I turned up the air conditioning, did some hand washing and settled back into my bed for a bit of Netflix and nap. After a couple of hours of slothing about in my double bed (it really was a great bed) I found some motivation to face the real world and pick up all the last minute items I’d put off.

It didn’t take long to barter and bargain my way to a new bag, scarf and beanie. The Nepalese are a really lovely breed of humans, I felt bad trying to squindle a massive bargain. A new cashmere scarf for $12AUD wasn’t too bad though! I grabbed a late lunch at a small curry house before heading back to my little oasis at Fuji Hotel.

That night I met up with the rest of the group doing the EBC. There were 15 of us in total. Four Americans, four Germans, two Brits, two Scots and three of us Aussies. We had dinner and a debrief at KTwo Steakhouse (who claimed they were ‘probably the best steakhouse in Kathmandu’) before catching some zzz’s to be ready in the morning.

We had to leave at the delightful hour of 4:45am, it was surprisingly light at this hour and the usually crowded streets were desolate and calm. We were driven to the airport and sent through the hilariously dodgy check-in and security process. We were driven onto the tarmac to the sticky-tape plane that would be flying us up to Lukla. The Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla has been nicknamed ‘the world’s deadliest airport’ in recent years due to the steep incline, shortness of the runway and the amount of deadly plane crashes that have occurred. At 500m long, the runway slopes down the mountain edge which was flattened by locals performing a traditional foot-stomping dance for two days. This was of course encouraged (and commissioned) by Sir Edmund Hillary who supplied them with the local liquor to enhance the festivities. At the end of the runway sits a perilous 3km drop in the crevices of the mountains. So basically if the pilot miscalculates the landing, we were done for. Our whole group knew about the dangers of flying to Lukla, yet we all stood on the Tarmac and waited patiently for the stewards to pack the plane. Adventurous you could call us.. or plan stupid. 



Finally we were ready to board and the lone air hostess welcomed us on to the narrow tin can of a machine. With only 14 people allowed per plane, we were split up into two groups. Thankfully I was in the bigger group so if we went down at least it would be with my new trip friends! We were told that the left hand side was the best for views so I was quick to get in line and scored the second row seat on the left hand side. Our carry on luggage didn’t fit under our seats so we tucked them at our ankles and strapped ourselves in. The air hostess gave us a very brief safety briefing. So brief that she just pointed to our tattered safety card s tucked into the seat in front of us and told us to read. She then shuffled the three steps to the end of the plane and buckled herself in. I guess it’s every man for themself here. The two pilots went through their checking off procedure and I was calmed by the professionalism of the pair. The co-pilot donned Top Gun style aviators and a suave haircut whilst the head pilot expertly adjusted mirrors, knobs and switches. Soon the engine rumbled loudly and the propellors whirred dangerously close to my window and we were off down the runway. 

The plane scuttled down the runway, exerting all the energy it could muster. Like a tired old man trying to get out of his lounge chair, the plane heaved and slowly ascended off the ground. We quickly flew up above Kathmandu and the city turned into Legoland, as the colourful, cube shaped houses became smaller and smaller. 

The flight lasted about 30 minutes, but felt like eternity. Every cloud knocked us sideways and every gush of wind pushed us up and down. Hilariously though, the seatbelt sign was switched off meaning we were free to wander around the cabin. If only we had some space to move! We ducked and dived between humongous mountain ranges, almost skimming the tops of the trees. We flew over tiny villages in the hills, where recieiving mail must be a nightmare. It was a stark contrast to overcrowded Kathmandu. Yet I couldn’t understand why people would want to live such isolated lives in these massive hills. It was a beautiful sight to witness however.

Finally we were getting ready to land. The seatbelt sign was switched back on and we all braced ourselves for the world. The head pilot and Mr. Top Gun directed us towards the runway and as I looked out the front windscreen – yes the plane was that small – I could see the incoming runway that they had to negotiate. It barely looked longer than a cricket pitch and had a worryingly sharp slope to it. We seemed to be getting faster but perhaps it was my racing heart rate that I was feeling. As the bitumen runway came closer and closer, the more I could see my life flash before my eyes. I blinked for a second and the next thing you know we had landed safely and the pilot had slammed on the brakes to avoid running into the rocky mountain face that ended the runway. We taxied to the end and made a sharp right turn in front of the airport entrance. We had survived!

Breathing a sigh of relief we all unbuckled and exited the plane as quickly as possible to kiss the ground below us. The efficiency of the Tenzing-Hillary airport staff was immpeccable. Within five minutes of us leaving our seats, the plane was unpacked, repacked and was jetting off down the runway to take people safely back to Kathmandu. Because of the unpredictable weather, they had to get flights in and out as quickly as possible when there are clear skies.

500m long – lets hope they’re quick off the starting pegs!

We were led to a lodge where we had breakfast and celebratory tea! Our guide Dawa led us through a plan for the next day and soon we were putting on our backpacks and heading out onto the EBC trail. The small village of Lukla was filled with shops selling hiking gear, as well as a ‘Starbucks’ and an Irish Pub. it took all of five minutes to walk through the village and we were on our way to Chomua, where we would stop for the night. 

The hike to Chomua was quite pleasant. We were about 2850m above sea level so it was still relatively easy to hike up and down the ‘Nepali Flat’ – which might i add, is not flat! We passed little villages tucked into the mountains, mainly filled with lodges and guest houses, all quiet because of the off-season. Prayer flags lined the path and huge prayer wheels sat atop of most sets of stairs. A good clock-wise push is supposed to bring good luck to those who do it. Carved into the mountains were Buddhist mantras of compassion. There were several swaying suspension bridges that crossed the gushing glacial river below. It was daunting enough crossing those, yet as we passed herds of donkeys being led across with their backs loaded with goods I felt a little reassured at the sturdiness. 

EBC trail traffic

Chomua Lodge – our home for the night

We reached Chomua in the early afternoon and all headed off for a nap. The early start and excitement of surviving the worlds deadliest flight was a little too much for us all. We met up again for dinner and were introduced to what would become the bane of our existence – the menu. Because of the limited supplies that could be brought up here, every lodge has basically the same menu choices. For Day 1 it was fine, all was exciting and new but please persist with me later on when I go on about the food. I ordered the recommend choice of Dal Bat which was a big plate of rice, lentils, curried veggies, spinach and a pappadum. It was delicious and filling and by the time I’d scooped the last bit of rice into my mouth I was ready to fall into a food coma.

We all headed to bed early, knackered from the day. Tomorrow we hike to Namche Bazar, the biggest village before Base Camp!

J. X

Culture Shocks in Kathmandu

After a bit of a restless night due to Mr Snorelax in the bed above me, I gave up trying to out sleep my alarm and got ready and headed to the airport early. Today I am off to Nepal, which is exciting but slightly terrifying! Before I landed in Nepal I had a six hour layover in Kuala Lumpur to sit through. I had plans to go into Kuala Lumpur and have a look around but my bad sleep last night and sore legs from yesterdays scooter efforts I made the executive decision to sloth about the airport.

Slothing about the airport is all fun and games until its four hours in and you’ve walked through the entire airport, listened to every song on your iPhone and sampled every single perfume in the duty free shops. Thankfully KL International Airport had unlimited wifi so at least I was able to waste time on social media. Finally,  at 5:30pm we started to board and the reality of heading to Nepal was becoming a little daunting. I was flying with the Malaysian airline Malindo Air, which was quite nice but I was deadset the only Caucasian on the plane. I think there is a lot to be said about the Western world and their standards of safety. Whilst I think some of the rules back home are a bit silly, my inner Westerner definitely felt nervous as the other passengers around me completely ignored seatbelt signs through rough turbulence, pushed and shoved to the front of the line and showed little respect for the air hostesses. Thankfully I made it to Kathmandu in one piece but happy to be on solid ground! The arrival into Kathmandu however was quite easy. Despite the constant stares, the Nepalese aren’t sleazy at all like other men from different cultures. They were happy to help me without trying to rip me off or make a pass. My guard was up from past experience but I think it was slightly unnecessary.

The drive to the hostel was a wild one, we had about four near head-ons but my taxi driver Rhajib was lovely to talk to so I let it slide. I got to my hostel, Alobar1000 Hostel and said farewell to Rhajib. It definitely was a change from the hostel in Singapore! Full of colour and graffiti, it was asthetically pleasing but it was a bit dirty and run down. Though for $7 a night I wasn’t expecting the Hilton, all I wanted was somewhere to be horizontal for a very long time.

I woke the next morning feeling better about life and where I was. After a shower and breakfast on the rooftop terrace of the hostel I was ready to take on Kathmandu. I headed out to the street and with the help of another girl staying at the hostel walked straight into the chaos of Thamel. This tourist neighbourhood was exactly what I expected Kathmandu to be like and suddenly I was excited to be here.  

Tiny spots of nature amongst the man-made

There are no other words for Thamel except chaotic. Actually dirty, busy and dusty come to mind but in all the craziness is there something so attractive about Thamel. It lures you in and you can figuratively (and literally) lose yourself there. Nepalese prayer flags hang from the streets, intertwining with the interesting power line situation that resembled a very messy tangle of earphone cords! Market stall owners called ‘Namaste’ as I walked past, trying to dodge the incoming traffic both on wheels and on foot. Nearly every shop sold some form of hiking equipment alongside the usual touristy trinkets and clothes. I eyed off the cashmere scarves and yak wool blankets which would definitely find a place in my backpack somewhere.

Waiting for work
Streets of Thamel
 

I wandered around and around Thamel until all the market stores starting blurring together so I took a break for lunch at Greens Organic Cafe where I feasted on Nepalese vege curry with fresh naan bread. (Honestly I would have been happy with just the naan haha, it was SO good!)
After refuelling myself I was ready for a bit more sightseeing. I took a taxi up to Swayambhunath or better known as the Monkey Temple for a squiz around. Perhaps a little more research wouldn’t have gone astray here as the windy taxi ride up the hill to the temple took me outside the tourist area and its the slums of Kathmandu. It was fascinating to watch the locals go about their everyday life. The run-down, partly built buildings were covered in old signs with a mix of English and Nepalese. Stray dogs slept where they pleased and small children ran around barefoot, with not a care in the world. We crossed bridge and i looked out to the river that flowed below. Debris and rubbish from rundown houses lined the river and the murky brown water definitely didn’t look appealing.


We drove up the hill to the top of the temple and promptly got caught in a traffic jam that didn’t look like it was going to move. Apparently Saturday afternoons were peak time to visit the temple! I got out of the taxi and made my way through the busy crowds. With not a single Caucasian in sight, my blonde hair stuck out like a dogs hind leg but it seemed to work in my favour as the locals made way for me to come through the entrance into the temple.

Swayambhunath is a beautiful Buddhist temple, prayer flags covered the entirety of the temple and swayed in the slight breeze. I walked first to a wishing fountain and watching little kids throw coins into the pile as their parents watched on. As I walked through the busy crowd I got stopped several times for a photo. Once I said yes to one that was the end of it. Out came everyone’s phone wanting a selfie with the strange yellow-haired creature. “One more, one more please!” They asked with a big toothy grin. I could hardly say no to their smiling faces but at this rate I’d be there all night. After what felt like a million selfies, I finally said no more and headed up the stairs to the highest part of the temple. 






Just as I finished walk clockwise around it, spinning as many prayer wheels as I could I felt a few rain drops on my shoulders. Within seconds the skies opened up and dropped a bucket of rain over us. Rushing to shelter, I huddled in someone’s market stall with about ten other people until the rain ceased.

Not wanting to get caught again I quickly walked around the temple a bit longer before making my way down the steps to the other entrance. I was glad the taxi driver hadn’t dropped me here because it was a steep ascent to the top. After a few more selfies with groups of school girls I managed to get in a taxi and head back to the hostel.


Suddenly feeling tired after my day of wandering around, I decided I needed a sweet pick me-up to earn back some of the calories I’d burnt. Cociendentally there happened to be a lovely coffee shop on the corner of my street so I took it as a sign as spent the remainder of the afternoon inside drinking coffee and people watching.

Tomorrow I move to the next hotel and meet my group for my Everest Base camp trek! I’m excited and nervous but have a good feeling about it all. Wish me luck!

J. X

Sweating it out in Singapore..

Here we go again..

After a long (actually I lie, it went bloody fast) 10 months, I am giving the trusty old passport another flogging. Where to this time you might be asking. Well loyal followers (Hi Mum!) I am in the clean, organised island of Singapore… For one whole day and a half. I had intended on giving myself more time in this lovely place, but I made a spontaneous decision to climb to Everest Base Camp hence cutting my stay in Singapore to the bare minimum, but that’s a whole other story to be told. Let’s focus on the present, the right here, right now.. The Singapore!

After a pleasant flight with Scoot where I had the whole row to myself (score) and extra leg room (double score!) and can safely say that this budget airline is not to be overlooked. Clean, new and painted yellow, Scoot Airlines definitely doesn’t put on a bad show. I arrived around 3:30pm and made my way into the city. It was overcast and drizzling with rain so my hopes of a sunny stay in Singapore were slightly deflated but I was also keen to use the bad weather as an excuse to write off the afternoon and settle into the hostel.

I was staying at the Inn Crowd Backpackers Hostel in the heart of Little India. It wasn’t a big hostel but the cosy feel was very welcoming. I was shown around and promptly headed for a shower to wash off the airport smell. The rain eased to a light drizzle so I ventured outside in search of food as I hadn’t eat since this mornings breakfast at Kirra beach with the parents. Now Little India is known for its delicious Indian food and I was determined to find some. After wandering around the tightly constructed streets, past brightly coloured shops full of incense, bindis and selfie sticks where my blonde hair stuck out like a dogs hind leg I finally found solace in a Indian restaurant on the corner of a busy junction. I’d gone past the hungry stage by this point so I just ordered some vegetable samosas and a mixed chaat to fill my stomach. This restaraunt seemed to be a gringo hotspot as the prices were a little more expensive and there were more tourists than locals but at this point in the day I didn’t really care. The samosas were fresh, delicious and hit the spot. I headed back to the hostel after my snack and spent the rest of the evening planning my next movements and catching up on zzz’s.

The following morning up early thanks to the guy in the bunk above me snoring like a boss, so I headed downstairs to beat the brekkie rush. Over brekkie I bonded with an Irish girl tha was in the same room as me who was up early for the exact same reason. We were joined by a German girl and made plans to visit the Botanical Gardens and Chinatown. We had all signed up for the free scooter tour later that afternoon so we decided to check out a different part of the city. Even though it was still early, the humidity was rampant and by the time we reached the Botantical gardens we were dripping with sweat.

Botanical Gardens
Cannonball Trees


We wandered through the lush, tropical gardens enjoying the serenity. The perks of going early was that the only other people in the gardens were fitness fanatics bouncing about and the elderly community doing their tai chi. It was a very pleasant way to start the morning! After a couple of hours the heat was well and truly getting to us so we caught the MRT to Bugis Junction for an icy cold beverage. Stumbling up a food market full of locals, we decided we were hungry and stayed for lunch. This was a stark contrast to the tourist restaraunt I ate in the previous night, today I spent $5 on a massive plate of noodles and iced tea. This felt more like Asia!

After stuffing ourselves we caught the MRT to Chinatown to have a look around. Like all Chinatowns, it was filled with red and gold, stacks of markets and weird food choices. Still full from lunch we had a wander around before heading back to the hostel to cool down before the scooter tour.

The colourful streets of Chinatown

When I signed up for the scooter tour, I envisioned buzzing around the city on a Vespa-type motorbike like a local, however the more people I talked to in the hostel, the more i realised this was a very silly dream. At 6pm one of the guys working at the hostel starting rolling out old-school push scooters, like the type we had in primary school. What had I signed up for?

Looking merry and not realising what we were about to face

There was about 15 of us in the group and after a quick brief by our guide (“You lose the group, too bad!) we were off and I was in shock at how hard scooter-ing is! By the first traffic light stop, my thighs were on fire! I guess you could call this Base Camp prep? We scootered through the city, getting our photos taken by laughing locals and recieving weird looks from other tourists. Our first stop was in Kampong Glam in the funky street known as Haji Lane. This is was a really cool street, full of funky shops and cafes and I was a little bummed that we didn’t get to stay here and have a look around. It’ll definitely be first on the list for next visit!

Funky graffiti in Haji Lane
Looking more pro than I felt

We whizzed on heading to rooftop lookouts, past the Marina Bay and the restaraunt and bars surrounding it, past the Gardens by the Bay to a big outdoor food court called Satay by the Bay. We we refreshed with cold drinks and let the sweat dry a little. I’m pretty sure there was a cloud of awful B.O following us because we were all dripping with sweat!

Marina Bay at sunset

Big city lights

After our food break we rode back to Supertree Grove in the Gardens by the Bay for the light show. This was what I had been wanting to see all day. The Avatar-esque ‘trees’ were absolutely stunning, especially at nighttime, where they glowed different colours. The light show was a Star Wars theme which was as entertaining as it was beautiful. As we lay there on the concrete, looking up at the giant metal trees flash different colours in time to the music, I finally felt that feeling that I’d been waiting to feel – appreciative. Appreciative that I am able to visit new countries, meet new people and see new things. It’s the feeling that makes all the crappy stuff about travelling worthwhile.




After the light show, we got back on the scooters and headed towards another view point to see the Merlion Statue and cool down with an ice-cream. It was about 10pm at this stage and the novelty of the scooter was starting to wear a little thin. Thankfully the ride back didn’t take that long and by 10:30pm we were back in the air-conditioned hostel. We were all knackered after the tour so bed was definitely on the cards straight away.

Tomorrow I fly to Kathmandu! Eek!

J. x

Machu Picchu – Finally!

Todays the day! The sun is shining , the tank is clean (actually it was pouring rain but I just wanted to use a Finding Nemo reference) and we were going to Machu Picchu! I had barely slept a wink all night because I was too excited. Before last night I hadn’t really thought about seeing Machu Picchu because we were doing some many activities but after wandering around Aguascalientes and knowing we were so, so close the excitement got to be too much.

We packed up and walked down to the meeting point about a 15 minute trek out of town. Despite the  pouring rain, nothing was going to ruin my good spirits – I was going to see Machu Picchu! At 5am they opened the entrance gate and we were off, it was a race to be the first up there. What I stupidly hadn’t realised that the hike to Machu Picchu would be a direct uphill ascent. I was still half asleep and my body couldn’t comprehend standing up, let alone tackling stairs! Within minutes I was out of breath and sweaty from the humid jungle temperature. Peeling off my jumpers and jacket, I hiked in just my singlet top and plastic poncho – it wasn’t exactly the most fashionable way to trek!

The hike took about an hour and I was one of the first of the group to get to the top to the next entrance point. It was such a relief to be there, despite my wet hair and soaked through clothes – the photos later on were going to look interesting! I met with some others from the group and we waited until the entrance point was open and the rest of the group arrived. The sun had come up by now but the morning air was still chilly, I rugged up again in what dry clothes I had left and we entered the gates to Machu Picchu.

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Walking into the Machu Picchu site

I can’t describe the feeling of seeing Machu Picchu for the first time. It was a combination of elation, amazement and excitement. It was like a scene out of Avatar, the massive mountains floated around the misty clouds and Wayna Picchu stood majestically in the background. It was funny because the most common touristic image of Machu Picchu is actually of Wayna Picchu Mountain. But it is such a grand looking bit of stone; so its understandable why they promote using this view. We had a two-hour tour around the Machu Picchu site but I didn’t take a word in, I was too busy soaking up the atmosphere. I was finally here! By now the sun had come out fully and the cool air had disappeared. My hair and clothes dried out and it was obvious that we had picked a perfect day.

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I’m here!
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Soaking wet and super excited!

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Beautiful, so beautiful!
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Machu Picchu

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Work of the Incas

We walked around the site for for awhile and I took more photos than necessary but nothing could capture how it really looked. The tiredness from this mornings hike started to kick so a group of us found a perch n the sun to lay down in until it was our time to hike Wayna Picchu. By now the sun had fully come out and the heavy clouds were now just small blobs of white fluff floating in the sky and the entire site was now clearly in view. We sat and people watched for an hour or so before putting our bags in the lockers and mentally preparing for the next hike.

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Excuse me sir, you’re in my picture!
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Having a break from walking

Wayna Picchu or Huayna Picchu means ‘young peak’ in Quechua and is 360 metres higher than Machu Picchu. Only 400 people a day are allowed to climb up the steep and dangerous mountain and after slowly making my way to the top using the cables provided I can understand why. It was a tough hike to the top but once we got there, the view was more than worth it. Looking out over the Machu Picchu site, we could see everything from a bird eye view and it was amazing to see how big the site actually was.

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Hiking Huayna Picchu
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All smiles at this stage!
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Rest stop

We sat on the edge of the mountain for awhile, letting our eyes take in the landscape and our heart rate to slow up. The people milling about below looked like ants and the heavy flowing river that we hiked along yesterday looked like a small creek. Even the zig-zag road from Aguas Calientes looked like a small path, it was unbelievable how high we were really were.

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Views from the top of Huayna Picchu
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Machu Picchu looks so tiny!

Climbing up further past the stone buildings, I sat on a rock at the highest point of the mountain and basked in the hot sun. At this point in time, there was no place else I’d rather be. The picture of Machu Picchu that I had seen for years was finally a reality and I wasn’t about to let that go quickly. As I made my way slowly down the small and narrow steps to the first lookout, I didn’t even want to blink so I wouldn’t miss any of the view.

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At the very top!

Hiking back down Huayna Picchu was considering quicker than hiking up, though it didn’t mean it was any easier! I’ve always thought hiking downhill was worse than going uphill – not only because you know how far you have to go but its also a killer on your hips and knees! (thanks Mumma for the dodgy knees! :p) We made it down to the starting point within an hour and by then the hunger pains were out of the world. With my housemates E and C, we took the lazy way and caught the bus down to Aguas Calientes, which went super quickly because I slept the entire way.

We were starving by the time we reached the bottom so we found the closest restaurant and ordered a feast of Mexican food. It cost a bomb but I wasn’t bothered, we deserved it after our massive day! After lunch we walked one street to a French patisserie and had coffee and chocolate cake to completely put us into a food coma. Luckily we didn’t have to go far to get to the train to head back to Cusco.

I was sad that the trip was over, we had seen so much and done so many cool things in such a short period of time. I’d made new friends and a bunch of new memories.. And I’d been to Machu Picchu – nothing was going to make me happier at this point! By the time we got back to our home stay it was 11pm at night and we all fell into bed without even getting changed. Real life could wait until tomorrow!

J. x

 

 

 

Aloha Hawaii! Day 1 in O’ahu

We arrived into Honolulu at 5:45am after a rather lovely flight from Brisbane. The plane was only about half full so as soon as the seatbelt sign switched off, K, L and myself dispersed and claimed a row to ourselves. For an el cheapo Jetstar flight that we’d been dreading, it was actually one of the easiest flights I’d been on!

The three of us made it through baggage and customs quickly and hailed a taxi to take us to our hostel in downtown Waikiki. We were staying at the Waikiki Hostel International, which was about a 25-minute drive from the airport. Even though it was nearing 6:30am, the sky was still covered in a blanket of darkness and we could only see the outline of the palm tress and skyscrapers. By the time we reached our hostel, the sun had made an appearance and the city started to come to light. We were way too early for reception to be open, let alone checking in time so we did what every self-respecting human would do. We went to find food.

Walking towards the water and the main strip, the city began to come alive with a mix of street cleaners, shop owners and early birds who came out to watch the sunrise. We walked right out to the edge of the sand and looked out at the blue water, relishing the fact that we’d arrived. Waikiki was exactly how I expected. Palm trees swayed in the slight breeze, surfers and paddle-boarders floating on the azure coloured water and high rises lining the beach from one end to the other. It had a similar atmosphere to the Gold Coast, but a little more island-y.

Instead of forking out a bunch of dollars on a restaurant breakfast, we had too much fun in an ABC store (like a 7/11 on roids) and picked out heaps of random things to sample for breakfast. Making a little picnic in a grassy area by the beach we devoured our food and watched Waikiki wake up. There was a slight chill in the air, which stopped us from jumping into the water then and there so we settled for watching the surfers catch the tiny waves until our hostel opened.

Around 7:30am we meandered back to our hostel and dropped our gear off that we wouldn’t need for the day. Going with the theory that if we stayed up all day we would miss the whole jetlag situation, we got changed into swimmers and headed for the beach.

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Streets of Waikiki

By the time we were down at the beach, Waikiki had truly come to life. There were people everywhere. We found a patch of sand to call ours and made a beeline for the water. The water seemed saltier than back home so we floated like buoys under the increasingly hot sun. We laid out on the beach, enjoying the sun until the itch for coffee got too much. Wandering down the strip to the nearest Starbucks we got our caffeine fix, we wondered why people were starting to line the streets with sun chairs and eskies. As it turns out, it was Martin Luther King Jnr day (ignorant Aussie right here) and the city of Honolulu was here to celebrate him!

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The beginning of the Martin Luther King Jnr Day parade

We watched the parade for awhile, impressed with the passion and vigour of these locals. They knew what they wanted and weren’t afraid to say it. Group after group of people chanted and marched down the busy main street, adamant in their beliefs. We watched the parade for awhile before heading back to the water to cool down again and deciding to do something productive for the day.

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L taking in the views of downtown Waikiki
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Ah the things you find in the ABC store – A Jagermeister lei!

Walking through the streets with the intention of finding stand up paddle-boards but this quickly changed to bicycles after finding a good deal. We took off in the direction of Diamond Head and hoped for the best. After working out which side of the road to ride on and a brief lowdown of the road rules from a local, we pedalled off on an adventure. What we found was a very steep hill, which just seemed to keep going. The bikes weren’t exactly Tour de France worthy, making getting up that hill a workout and a half! However we were rewarded with constant view of sapphire coloured water and swaying palm trees so it’s hard to complain. At the top of the hill, we found a path down to the water, which we gladly walked down and leapt straight into the waiting ocean.

This little beach was much quieter than the busy shores of Waikiki. Full of surfers and body boarders this seemed like a local jaunt as the gnarliest looking guys kept coming in and out of the water. We swam, sun-baked and checked out the surfers until our stomachs started to grumble.

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Our little secluded beach
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Much quieter and peaceful than Waikiki Beach!

Riding the bikes down the hill much easier and quicker and we reached downtown Waikiki in no time. Taking a different route to last time (not planned) we ended up finding an ocean blue food truck offering some local Hawaiian fare. Not one to pass up on freshly cooked food, we ordered coconut shrimp and salmon and shrimp poy bo and sat at the makeshift tables in the shade.

The food was delicious to say the least. The shrimp and salmon were fresh, crunchy and full of flavour. We devoured the food in minutes, totally satisfied with our choices. If this was an indication of the food we would be eating, I was absolutely okay with it.

Deciding to ditch the bikes for awhile, we got back on the foot falcon and walked around the streets a bit more. Ending up in the more upmarket part of town, we quickly discovered our sandy feet and wet hair wasn’t really welcome in the likes of Jimmy Choo and Tiffanys! Luckily it was time to properly check in to our hostel so we hoofed it back and had some down time in our room to recuperate a bit.

Wanting to catch the sunset, we showered and dressed up ready to watch the sun fall below the horizon. It seems like everyone else in Honolulu had the same idea as us, making finding a spot on the beach near impossible! We found a spot just as the sun dropped below the water line. It disappeared so quickly, but we managed to catch the final rays. The crowd erupted into applause and exclamations of the sunsets beauty. It was nice to see that in this crazy concrete jungle of Waikiki, that Mother Nature was still appreciated.

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Sunset at Waikiki Beach
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Looking out to Diamond Head
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Such a glorious end to our first day!

Just as quickly as the sun went down, the city lit up in blinding lights. Nighttime in Waikiki had begun! We searched the strip for somewhere to eat and ended up at a Mexican restaurant one street back from the strip. Cheers-ing to our first day in Hawaii we discussed plans for the next few days. Despite the fun and hustle and bustle of Waikiki, we decided it was too touristy for us. Making plans to head north a day early, we rearranged our plans a touch so we could escape the busy strip and discover some of the real Hawaii..

It sounded like a solid plan. I couldn’t wait!

Until tomorrow..

J. x

Birthdays, countryside and one really big pie.

This morning was a bit of a special one – my birthday! I turned the big 23, however I like to think of it as 21 + 2 years :p I actually wasn’t too fussed about my birthday, it just felt like another day. I guess that means I’m getting old! After a quick brekkie and Skype with my sister back home we checked out of the Farmyard Inn and drove onto Bakewell for a quick poke around the local markets. The small township was jam-packed full of people checking out the goods for sale. Because we needed a birthday cake (and caffeine), we dropped into the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop for a slice of their famous Bakewell tart and a coffee. If you ever happen to be in Bakewell, definitely get your mouth around one of these bad boys. The caramelly, cakey goodness is absolutely lekker! Definitely was a good choice for a birthday cake!

Happy birthday to me! Dad and I devouring the delicious Bakewell Tart
Happy birthday to me! Dad and I devouring the delicious Bakewell Tart

We continued onto towards our next perch for the night, Starbotton. Mum is a genius at finding cute little B&B’s in cute little towns and this one didn’t disappoint. The drive there was another bendy one with miles and miles of lush green paddocks and rock fences. The English countryside sure is growing on me!

This.
This.

 

..and this.

 

..and this.

Starbotton is a small blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type of town in the Yorkshire Dales but the stony houses, manicured gardens and random red telephone boxes made it memorable. We were staying at a place called the Sweet Briar B&B for the night, which was run by an youngish English man. We were literally staying in his house, but had a totally private section of the house.

Developing a bit of an obsession with these telephone boxes!
Developing a bit of an obsession with these telephone boxes!

There were all these painted yellow bikes hanging off buildings and on top of roofs. We couldn’t work out why there were so many, sure the roads in the Yorkshire Dales were reasonably bike friendly, but these people must be more bike obsessed than the Dutch. It wasn’t until we commented on the amount of bikes that we discovered Le Tour De France had been held in this very place just two months earlier! Apparently the race holds a stage or two in a different country and this year it was England! Well, the yellow bikes suddenly made sense!

Some of the locals recommended heading to the next town for dinner so we drove the 2 minutes down the road to Kettlewell to the adorable Blue Bell Inn. Dad was starting a trend of ordering a pie in every town so he went for the steak and ale pie. Mum and I went for steaks, though when Dad’s pie came out, we abandoned our steaks and helped him devour his. This was no problem because the pie was the size of the entire dinner plate and the best pie I’ve ever tasted! We rolled back down to Starbotton and passed out in another food coma. English pub food is ridiculous; I don’t know how much longer I can indulge in such goodness!

Yellow bike and giant pies. Welcome to Blue Bell Inn!
Yellow bike and giant pies. Welcome to Blue Bell Inn!
Just a steak and ale pie they said, you don't need to share they said..
Just a steak and ale pie they said, you don’t need to share they said..

Our next stop on our very rough itinerary is the Lake District. I’ve heard lots about the area and am keen to see what all the fuss is about!

J. x

Meeting the Folks – Back in London Town

My time in Turkey came to an end quicker than I had anticipated and before I knew it, it was time to leave and meet my parents in the UK. A solid 15 hours of travelling including three airports, five hours sleeping on an airport bench, two dodgy airplane meals, one expensive box of Turkish Delight and several screaming babies, I arrived into London Luton Airport.

It was noon once I got out of the airport and Mum and Dad were due into Heathrow at 2:50pm, I had almost two hours to find them. I caught the National Express to Heathrow and waited at Arrivals. Another hour later, I spotted their familiar faces in the crowd. After nine months apart, it was so good to finally see them again.

We headed for the Underground towards Hammersmith where our new home was for the next three days. After a wrong turn (first of very many!) we found our little AirBnb place, in a quiet street just five minutes from Hammersmith Station. We settled in and made ourselves at home by quite literally empting our bags everywhere. Not sure whether we just had too much stuff or we’re just messy, but we sure spread ourselves around! As it was about 6pm by the time we got ourselves relaxed, we headed out for dinner by the Thames River at a pub called the Rutland Arms. It was a typically English pub, with plenty of Union Jack flags and a menu full of hearty dishes, which delighted Mum and Dad no less. Mum and I shared a steak and Dad went for a chicken potpie and we washed it down with cider and beer. The jetlag was starting to kick in for all of us, so we headed back to our place and got ready for bed.

The following morning we all woke up early due to us coming from different time zones. After stuffing around for awhile, we set off into big old London town for a day of sightseeing. As I’ve been to London several times, I self-appointed myself as tour guide, which is potentially a scary thing. After getting slightly misdirected we headed for the Buckingham Palace, to see the much hyped changing of the guards.

M and D at Buckingham Palace
M and D at Buckingham Palace

Following the crowds to the Palace, we found a place between the Queen Victoria Memorial and the Palace and waited patiently for the guards to change. Honestly, it seemed to be a lot of fuss for what is was. A group of guards marched in with their fluffy hats and apple red coats, followed by a brass band and a few guys on horses.

Changing of the guards
Changing of the guards

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We didn’t actually get to see the changing because the crowd was too large. It may have been the lack of coffee in my system, but I wasn’t that fussed on the event. Mum and Dad seemed to be in the same boat so we pushed through the crowds into St. James Park and wandered through the much more peaceful park. Finding a little café in the middle of the park, we refuelled our caffeine tanks and continued on.

Walking along the Princess Diana Memorial Walk
Walking along the Princess Diana Memorial Walk

Heading in the direction of Westminster, we first stopped at Horse Guards Parade and got the obligatory photos with the guards on their regal black horses. Walking on, we reached the Thames past the Battle of Britain Memorial and to my all time favourite, Big Ben.

Battle of Britain Memorial
Battle of Britain Memorial
Oh hey there, Big Ben.
Oh hey there, Big Ben.
Just a bit more Big Ben appreciation..
Just a bit more Big Ben appreciation..

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I could have sat all day and admired old Benny Boy, but the list of things to see was far too long for dawdling. We made our way through the busy streets to Westminster and St Margaret’s, where we had a sticky beak at the old church. Finding a red double decker bus, we rested our feet and did some sightseeing from the bus. Stopping at St Paul’s Cathedral for another quick look before crossing the Millennium Bridge, past Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and found some lunch by the Thames.

Crossing the Millennium Bridge, looking out to the Shard and Tower Bridge.
Crossing the Millennium Bridge, looking out to the Shard and Tower Bridge.

Jumping on another big red bus, we crossed over the Thames on the Tower Bridge and stopped off at Tower of London.Another favourite spot in London, the grass surrounding the Tower was covered in red ceramic poppies for the anniversary of WWI. It made the Tower look like it was placed in the middle of a blood red sea. Both haunting and beautiful, the poppies represented every soldier who died in the war. It was a truly astonishing memorial.

The hauntingly beautiful Tower of London
The hauntingly beautiful Tower of London

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We had a stop in Starbucks before making our way to Trafalgar Square to see the blue rooster and watch some very talented buskers. Continuing on to Piccadilly Circus, I dragged the parents through M&M World, which I was much more excited about than they were and past the many, many posters of theatre productions.

The blue rooster in Trafalgar Sqaure
The blue rooster in Trafalgar Square
The good old London double decker bus
The good old London double decker bus

It was nearing dinnertime by the time we caught the tube back to Hammersmith. We met up with B, who was staying with us for the next two nights, and had a quick bite to eat at Tortilla, a rather delicious Mexican chain restaurant. Worn out from a hardcore day of playing tourist, we all headed off to bed early ready for another busy day tomorrow.  

 

J. x