Post 28 Last Thoughts!

40,214 miles 64,343 kilometres!

25 flights, 11 airlines.. all on time

13 countries

11 different currencies

11 Languages, some indecipherable!

A lot of amazing food, extensive use of chopsticks.

Amazing historical sights, cultural encounters and wonderful scenery and nature.

Being on Christmas Island and Cocos islands was magical.. truly in the middle of nowhere!

A few hitches with delayed luggage, lost passports etc but all were overcome with the help of kind people.

Choose your toilets wisely.

We had just 1 tummy problem and 1 insect bite between us in 12 weeks of travel, despite eating street food and in local cafes, and visiting jungles!

Careful planning, probiotics and good insect repellent pay off!

Everyone asks us these questions so we will answer them here!

Which was your favourite country?

Chris – 1. Vietnam 2. Australia 3. Sri Lanka

Anne – 1. India 2. Vietnam 3. Sri Lanka

Where would you most want to go back to?

Chris – Vietnam, Sri Lanka
Anne – India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and for both of us, always, Australia!

Anywhere you wouldn’t go back to?

Maldives and South Korea.. unless Menna and Jen were winning medals in the Paralympics!

Where was the food best?

Japan, Sri Lanka, India, Borneo

Best single experience

Seeing the Taj Mahal… for both of us!

Seeing Mt Fuji was a close second! Plus nature encounters like Leopard, Orang-utang, Wombat and crabs!!

We pushed our personal boundaries, visiting countries and cultures that were very different to any we had been to before.

Some places where English was a rarity and we had to use imagination in communication.

We were happy driving and navigating in some countries …but we would NEVER consider driving in others… notably Sri Lanka and India!

We were able to successfully master mapping systems, metro systems (including Tokyo), and Menus, and ate virtually everything we were offered, often without knowing what it was!

Japan has the most wonderful toilets in the world and has spoilt us forever more. If only chilly British campsite toilets had hot seats!

We never once felt threatened or unsafe.

Most people are very friendly and helpful.

Our age was not a barrier to anything we did.

Many cultures had experienced periods of violence, war and oppression. Their stories were humbling. But positivity and generosity shone through.

People are proud of their countries and what they have, however humble it may seem to us.

Often, the people with least were the most generous.

That there are many people who overcome enormous barriers in life… every one of those Paralympians deserves a Gold medal in our book!

This was a huge trip, and we know that we are very lucky. But exciting adventures can be had in your own neighbourhood. We marvelled at beautiful temples or a great view. But tiny things were equally special.

For me, the beauty of a shell, or life in a rockpool; for Chris, picking up a coconut on a beach in the Cocos islands, opening it and drinking from it like his dad had done, were really special moments.

For all of us, there are beautiful wonders and scenery within reach of our homes, we just have to make the effort to look for them and appreciate them.

We arrived home on Thursday night.

We spent Friday walking close to home on the Dorset coast path at Durlston near Swanage.

The scenery was as ‘Wow’ as anything we had seen on our trip (ok the weather was colder, but we did bring some sun with us as promised!). We also had another magical ingredient which we did not have on our trip. We were with Peter and Tracy celebrating Peter’s birthday. That made it extra special. This weekend we also get together with the whole family and close friends. No amount of travel can replace them, and we treasure them all.

Will we travel again?

Well, as Chris knows well, he married a nomad … I have planned at least 2 more trips while we were away on this one… closer to home this time, and in Boris!

But we know that the greatest treasures in this world are not things, but people and freedom.

Thank you to everyone who has followed these ramblings, supported us and been interested in what we do.

It has meant a great deal.

Now watch this space for the next trip!!

Bye for now. Anne and Chris x

All the photos in all the blogs are mine, and were taken with my phone, hence the variable quality!

Post 17 Cocos and travel day (also known as ‘Anne’s swimsuit finally gets worn!’)

Not sure what happened here.. this should have been attached to post 16!

Our last day on Cocos was spent doing the wonderful Canoe safari with Kylie and Ash. We had motorised canoes and 10 of us set off to explore the uninhabited southern islands of the atoll.

The first beach stop saw us literally surrounded by hundreds of advancing hermit crabs as our champagne breakfast was unpacked!! We hadn’t seen that in the advert so it was a nice surprise! An impromptu hermit crab derby was set up, in which my crab scored a notable second place!

Then on to the next island, seeing turtles swimming in the clear water as we went. A walk on this island to a former military lookout, where the birds were within a few metres of us, and there was no land between us and Antarctica. Beachcombing turned up some stunning shells.

More exploring and into a crystal clear beach where sharks about 1 metre in length were swimming in the shallows. This coffee stop… well, wine and beer stop, included lessons in speedy coconut husking! Finally the highlight..even for me! Snorkelling between 2 islands. Finally, after 7 weeks, my swimsuit was required! Ash stayed with me and, despite my fear of deep water helped me experience snorkelling through a drift between the islands, letting the current carry me along. So many pretty fish of a myriad of colours shapes and sizes, an underwater cave full of large yellow fish and lots of sharks and different species of sea cucumber. An awesome experience.

Next morning we waited both sadly and anxiously for our flight. Today we had 3 flights to catch. The first to Christmas island where hopefully Steve would have our passports. However this flight frequently fails, because if the cloud comes down, the pilot cannot land, and heads straight to Perth!! Aaaagh. Our confidence wasn’t helped by a massive tropical storm which broke just as we taxied to the runway , and delayed our departure by 20 minutes! The second flight was to Jakarta Indonesia which was notoriously tricky for immigration and customs, which could delay us for our flight to Singapore!

Phew.. sunny on Christmas island, passports waiting. Hurray! Thank0 you so much Elaine and John.😀Jakarta flight on time. Brand new deluxe terminal in Jakarta, and we sailed through (if you can sail in an airport). They did have some rather strange products on sale… this is supposed to be one of the most revolting tasting fruits in the world!

Flight to Singapore bumpy due to thunderstorms, but that was the least of our worries. We made it. We stayed near the airport at Changi cove. Lovely spot, so did an enjoyable early morning coastal boardwalk.

This was in stark contrast to its former life as the site of the British army barracks which then became a Prisoner of War camp when the japanese invaded. It was where Carol’s father was stationed when he was captured and subsequently sent to work on the notorious Burma railway.

Finally, off to Changi airport for our flight. This huge airport is amazing. Fully carpeted, playing soothing jazz music, it is full of beautiful sculptures and areas to explore. Even the car parks are bedecked with flowers!Highlights are the butterfly gardens, orchid garden and sunflower terrace!

So much decoration everywhere for Chinese year of the dog!

Now onto tropical Borneo!

Post 15 A tale of drama, angels, and a nature lover’s paradise – Christmas Island.

Our trip out to the remote islands was slightly traumatic! Firstly a 3.30am alarm; secondly the announcement that we had an extra stop in Learmonth to take on fuel because there was a cyclone forecast and the plane may need to divert, but mainly because we were in mid air flying out to the middle of the Indian Ocean when I realised we had no passports! We think they had slid off the seat in the departure lounge at Perth! Credit to Virgin Australia staff. The pilot called Perth and an anxious hour went by (when the staff brought us extra refreshments to cheer us up!). Then we got the news the passports were at Perth airport! Next we had to persuade Christmas Island immigration to let us in with a photo of the passports and our driving licences! Finally, we hoped that Virgin would fly the passports up on their Tuesday flight, but because passports are legal documents, someone had to collect them in person. We decided I would have to fly back to Perth on Tuesday and return on the next flight Saturday! Then 2 angels came to our rescue. Elaine and John went to the airport with an authorisation letter from us and were able to collect the passports. They then posted them express delivery to hopefully catch the mail plane on Thursday!

Christmas Island itself is an awesome old volcanic mountain, now covered in limestone derived from ancient corals, sticking up 1200 feet out of the Ocean and covered in equatorial rainforest! It descends nearly 5000m to the ocean floor, and is located 1,600 miles NW of Perth and 250 miles south of Indonesia.

It is lush and verdant with an array of birds and crustaceans, many of which are found nowhere else on earth. A 4wd vehicle is essential to explore, and we bounced merrily up and down steep, and overgrown tracks to find tiny beaches,

amazing rock formations,

blowholes

and nature galore. Nothing like a bit of grass down the middle of the road!

The crabs are the stars. The red crabs are famous for their massive migration in November, when 45 million crabs (yes, you did read that right!), leave their forest burrows and head for the ocean. Roads are closed, and tunnels and bridges provided!

We missed that, but still saw lots of red crabs. You had to avoid stepping on them or driving over them. Signs tell you to stop or swerve, so if you are weaving from one side of the road to the other, just say you are avoiding the crabs! They ranged in size from 1 inch to 9 inches wide, each with its own unique artwork on its shell.

The other crab superstar is the robber crab, often the size of a football, and beautifully coloured and patterned.

The blue crab is saucer size and such a pretty colour!

The birds are stars too. With huge wingspans, Boobies and Frigate birds float soothingly above us, while beautiful Tropic birds twist and turn and display to each other, using their striking long tail plumes.

There aren’t many places in the world where it is appropriate to call out ‘wow, look at those Boobies’ as you are walking down the street!

Sunsets have been awesome,

but the star of the show for colour goes to a popular local drink – Jack fruit and pineapple juice with ice!

We also did walks to pretty waterfalls,

a grotto with a beautiful pool in the bottom and various viewpoints.

We paddled in the Indian Ocean, our feet close to fish, corals and, you guessed it, crabs! These are stunning corals.

All done in 30 degree heat and high humidity… phew, and we scarcely saw another person!

Paradise does come at a price! There are HUGE spiders

The inevitable cockroaches appear occasionally. We are quite adept at dealing with them, but tonight Chris discovered one had decided to hitch a lift in his suitcase! We had to unpack everything, shake it all out and then evict the little blighter out on the balcony!

Our final day was spent on a tour with Lisa who showed us Chinese temples, and took us on a hike to an amazing viewpoint where we watched the birds soaring below us. A Christmas island pigeon – once endangered, came and posed right next to us!! Look at that blue!

This magnificent island is however, fighting a battle between the phosphate miners who want to keep looking for more sources, and those who would like nature tourism to become the key source of employment and income for the island. It is an amazing destination, with great diving as well. Access is tricky due to remoteness and weather, but it is unlike anywhere else we have been. We loved it. Now we fly to the Cocos islands! We won’t know until Saturday whether a) our flight out will be able to land on Christmas Island for our connection to Jakarta, and more importantly, to let us pick up our passports, which hopefully will have arrived!! 😲 Watch this space!!