KODAK PAGES 61-70
Kylie and Leanne finally turn up at 11.30am. Both were hung-over after having spent till 5am at the Shepherds Bush Walkabout. This didn’t deter us from heading to Lillywhites and Harrods to do some shopping. Unfortunately they had to go back to Ireland tonight.
Andrew and I had the next day going all over London ending up with a lie down on grass near Canary Wharf. We were like 2 kids with a box of candy. This was the first bit of grass we had had under our feet in months. Funny how little a thing like grass brings back some lovely memories.
The next night Andrew, Katie (Canadian), Paul (Kiwi) and I got totally hammered at Belushi’s. After crawling out of bed at whatever hour the next morning we hit Petticoat Lane and Baker Street. Tonight we again hit Belushi’s and after getting 3 hours sleep I am up and at Regents College to do a TEFL course. I had done research into this earlier in the week and booked to do my certificate. Great group of people I am doing my certificate with from Ireland, England, France, and me from NZ.
So that I don’t have to go all the way back to London Bridge I have booked a hostel close by and after ending the day near 7pm I catch the train for 2 stops and stop off for takeaway then walk in the hostel. As I walk in the door I see a notice. ‘Who can drink the most? Aussie’s or Kiwi’s?’ Stupid me had to just go down to the bar to see how it was all going didn’t I. Big mistake!! At 3.30am or thereabouts I finally got to bed very drunk again. (The Kiwi’s won!!!)
The next and final day on the course goes well and I manage to stay awake despite the fact I have only had around 6 hours sleep in the last 2 days. God talk about a tiger for punishment. I’m loving it though. We finish around 7pm again and Andrew meets me and we all head to the closest pub for farewell beers. After getting back to St Christopher’s Hostel we put our nose in the Belushi’s bar to find that tonight is ‘Wet t-shirt and 6pack’ night. Don’t need to say any more do I – drunk – late night – dancing……
I woke with such a hang-over the next morning that I went back to bed until 1.30pm. Finally got up, had a shower and headed to Notting Hill to catch up with Andrew, Katie and Tamara. They had been at the Notting Hill Carnival all day. Andrew is well on the way with the alcohol. This is like a trash fest. Rubbish for miles, people, flags flying from all over the world. Great time to let your hair down.
Ok on the tube again and off to check out Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park. It was a nice day so Andy and I go walking in the Park. We spot these deck chairs everywhere and people just go along and sit down in them. We did the same. After a few minutes this guy comes along and says we both owe him £1.50. Oh yea. There are no signs anywhere telling you you have to pay to sit in them. Had I known that I would have sat on the grass. Look out for that one people.
I got to bed at 3am. Andrew went early as he has his first day of teaching at his new school tomorrow.
I have met another Aussie at the hostel (Adam) so Katie, Adam and I end up in Belushi’s for the night. I don’t think this bar closes ‘cos we all went to bed at 4.10am and we weren’t the last to leave! Adam and went to the Camden Markets the next day and the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square the following day.
On Friday night Katie, Tamara, Andy and I decide to try getting into the Ministry of Sound. What a waste of time unless you had the patience of a saint and wanted to stand outside for close to 2 hours. That’s how long the line was! Not to worry, let’s just go back to our regular watering hole. We all go the Borough Markets for breakfast in the morning. In the afternoon it’s to a stadium to watch a football match.
Tonight we meet another Aussie couple – Brendan and Mel. They are on a round the world one year trip. So the next day Andy, Brendan, Mel and I go to the Brick Lane markets. These are best markets we have come across so far and there is no shortage of markets to choose from in London. I went back to Petticoat Lane markets the next day and after Andrew finished school I help him move a heap of his stuff to his new flat. Now he has really settled himself into London and work.
So time to think about my next move. I get on the net and join the workaway website in the hope of getting something. I have also made contact with a friend of my mum and 2 days later I am on the train to Bournemouth. Not long after arriving there Jamie and I go for a walk along the beach and go to a pub. While we are there it starts raining hard. It’s a cold day and by the time we get back to his place we are half frozen. Jamie is a postie so he has time in the afternoons and his wife Gali worked 9 – 5. I quite like Bournemouth. It’s right on the coast in Southwest England.
Jamie and Gali give me spare keys to their flat so in the morning I go for a look about. They live right in the centre of the city and less than 10 minutes to the beach. On the weekend Jamie and I go to Winchester. Places to visit in Winchester – of course Winchester Cathedral, The Great Hall and King Arthur’s Round Table , City Museum, The Westgate, Winchester Military Museums and heaps more. We went to the Ghurkha Museum.
Another day Jamie and I went to Museum House in Bournemouth. Fascinating and interesting. On a cold and cloudy day we get a bus to go to Stonehenge. This has been on my list of ‘must see’ places. The mysteries of ancient civilisations will never cease to hold my interest. We had timed our visit rather well as they were do more archaeological digging. We did a short tour with one of the archaeologists giving us information on what had been dug up and where and what their interpretation of it was. (They actually now think Stonehenge was like a church and all important people were brought to Stonehenge to be healed in the centre of the circle before their burial.) Of course no-one is ever going to know what it was erected for. Back in Salisbury we went to the Cathedral before catching our bus back to Bournemouth.
I am back in London a few days later and have agreed to house-sit for Jamie and Gali as they have a visit back to Gali’s homeland of Bulgaria. Andy and I join up and go to the Thames Festival. It’s held all along the river and goes for a considerable distance. We then get joined later in the day by Katie, Tamara and Graham from South Africa.
So Tamara, Andy and I have been wanting to go through the part of Buckingham Palace that is opened to the public for tours for a certain number of months each year. We get there early so don’t have to wait long and we are in this marquee waiting for our tour to start. While we just are sitting there we think it would be a good idea to take photos of each other – as you do. I pull out my camera, get Andy in the frame and suddenly get a tap on the shoulder. Security! No taking photos. I’m just looking at this guy in amazement. It’s a marquee, all white, full of tourists, people from the street can’t even see us. WTF.
When that happened I knew I was then going to get pulled out when, in the next marquee we were moved into, had the security equipment like that at airports. ‘Watch this you guys’ I warn Tamara and Andy. Next thing all the sirens are going off and everyone is looking at me. God it was embarrassing. I knew it was going to happen as by this stage I have been through some 20 security airport checks and set them alight!! Anyway I think it was worth the money to go through that rooms we were allowed to. They didn’t rush us, but get this, when we excited out the back onto a lovely veranda and courtyard that looked out of the back garden and grounds area beyond – which is a large area – we were allowed to take PHOTO’S. It didn’t make sense. Can’t take photos in a marquee, can’t take them in the palace but hey lets go crazy and photograph all of the palace back door and all the gardens. Shot me – I just don’t see the logic and nor could Tamara and Andy.
A day or so later I had another ‘please shot me’ moment. I get up in the morning and this Irish girl asks where I am from. On replying NZ she then asks me what it is like to be standing all day and not getting a head rush. I knew what she was getting at but the fact she was deadly serious*?!”!?* I just looked at her and calmly said ‘It’s called GRAVITY darling’ in a sarcastic tone. She didn’t even pick that up and calmly replied ‘I know but now you aren’t upside down anymore you won’t be getting a head rush all day’. F…k shoot me, shoot me now!!! ‘It’s called GRAVITY DARLING!!!’ This time she just looked at me as if I was really thick, shrugged her shoulders and walked out the door. No sooner the door had shut and everyone in the dorm just burst out laughing. That is the dumbest question I have ever been asked. It takes all sorts doesn’t it!!?
After a few more days in London I get the train to Bournemouth to go house-sit for Jamie and Gali. It’s now September and the weather is rather cool especially on cloudy days. I spent 2 weeks house-sitting, doing my own thing, painted a back fence, flushed one dead fish down the loo, became the parent of a baby budgie and had to visit the osteopath for my back which had gone out. Nice to have a place to myself for a short time.
The day after Jamie and Gali’s return I go back to London. Katie and Tamara are not having much success at getting a flat. London letting agents leave a lot to be desired when it comes to turning up and showing people through flats and the girls are getting really frustrated at their lack of progress. So a note to anyone moving to London. You will probably have more success going through Gumtree if you are looking for accommodation. Another to try is Roomster.
Talking of Gumtree. I went into it one day just seeing what was what and came across a website where they want volunteers in Spain to teach English to Spanish business people for a week. I filled in the info and sent it off. 2 weeks later I still hadn’t heard anything but decide to head off to Spain anyway. I pack a bag and leave it at Andrew’s. No need to lug stuff around that I won’t need. I meet up with a guy named Patrick and buy myself a small Dell laptop. By now I’m sick of the money that internet cafes are sucking out of me for internet use and the hostel charges are steep but wireless is free. That sorted, Kodak and I catch a flight to Alicante from Gatwick the next morning.
Alicante has got to be the cleanest city I have ever been in, wow! I am a little north of Alicante in San Joan. Its spotless, quiet and close to the beach. Unfortunately for me I woke up sick the next morning and spent 2 days in bed. As I have booked my next hostel in Malaga I decide to go and will come back to Alicante another trip. Kodak and I catch the train to Malaga which takes us all day. It’s a long way to Malaga and we don’t reach our hostel until 9pm.
I am back in shorts and t-shirt. It’s warm. I like Malaga. There is a retired Welsh teacher here at the hostel and we get talking. He has been in Malaga for some time deciding whether to move to Barcelona or Malaga. This is great for me and the next day we walk to the train station and go down to Torremolinos. This place is a tourist mecca and lots of English people have businesses here or have retired here. Beautiful beach until we lay down to get some sun. What is that smell? Well a few days before there had been a storm. Seeing as Spain dumps all its raw sewage into the sea, when the storm hit of course, all the sewage got washed back and up onto the beach. Laying down and smelling this sure put me off. Glad I got all my jabs before leaving home. To this day I still don’t get why Spain dumps it in the sea. Hell in the 3 world countries of South and Central America they don’t dump it in the sea and they are a lot poorer than Spain.
Despite this I do like Spain. After walking here, there and everywhere, seeing the bullring from up on the hill where there is an old castle, seeing the diggings of the remains of an ancient city, finding some good restaurants, shopping in Torremolinos and enjoying the sun again, I am now going to take the train to Cadiz. I liked the train ride there. We go up and through some massive rock gorges, and come out to fields and fields of olives, lemons and what I think was cotton. There is a whole new highway that is being built from what seemed like one end of the country to the other. I worked out from the time I was travelling and the average speed of the train at 196kmph that the road was over 400km long. They must build it completely then open it. Wish they would and could do this in NZ.
Its late afternoon when we pull into Cadiz. My hostel is a short walk from the station and I drop off my bags and go to the nearest supermarket, bring my food back, then off out the door again to go exploring. Cadiz is the oldest and continuously inhabited city in Spain. It’s a lovely town. The original wall is still standing and surrounds the old city. There are heaps of narrow winding streets. I picked out a tall cross on top of the Cadiz Cathedral as a mark to find my way back.
The beach stretches for some kilometres and even though it’s warm enough to go swimming when I spotted this massive culvert with all this sewage coming out I turned away and went back to the hostel. There were even guys fishing down there. Right at the culvert exit, and more amazing was the fact that there were heaps of decent sized fish swimming there and getting caught. Thank god I am allergic to fish ‘cos the thought of eating fish in Spain makes me want to throw up.
The next day 2 English guys come back to the hostel all chuffed and proud of themselves. They had been swimming. I then took the wind right out of their sails when I told them about the culvert. The poor guys couldn’t get in the shower fast enough and to top it off they had these panicked look come over their faces when I went a little further and asked if they had had their jabs for typhoid. Get your injections for everything if you are going around the world and especially if you plan on swimming several times on the Spanish coast.
After another couple of days in Cadiz Kodak and I are on the bus to Tarifa. This is the most southern point of Spain. We have to take the bus as there is no rail system to here. On the bus I get talking to a young girl from Israel. She is doing some travelling now before going into the army for her compulsory 3 years. She is not in my hostel but manages to get in the next time. We ended up spending a lot of nights talking as we immediately clicked with each other and with 2 German girls.
Tarifa has a fantastically long and wide beach, with very clear looking water. Most of the tourists have gone when I visit but in the height of summer I can see this place being packed. This is the opportune place to relax for a few days and leave the world behind and when 2 days of rain hit I had no option. I have time to do a bit of thinking about where to go next and have decided on ……… Andrew, in the meantime, has been getting drunk and feeling the need to ring me and inform me of this fact. By now I have gone for over a week without hitting the booze! Yea, I know – what a revelation.
Kodak and I go on the bus back to Malaga so we can catch a flight to…
Mallorca. We have to fly to Madrid and catch a connecting flight to Palma de Mallorca. We are staying in El Arenal. What a beautiful spot and most of the tourists have gone home. I head for the beach. It’s warm, sunny and the water here reminds me of Ecuador, Belize and Mexico. Long beach which stretches right from El Arenal around to the city of Palma de Mallorca. There’s plenty of shops and restaurants, a lot of which are owned by English people. Mallorca has a huge influx of German tourists every year but when the majority of them leave the hotels close for winter.
I catch a bus just around the corner from where I’m staying and go to the Caves of Drach. This is to the east and about 2 hours on the bus and takes this amount of time as we stop off at each little town on the way. These underground stalagmite and stalagmite caves are great. There is a huge underground lake in there. No photos allowed as they want you to buy the postcards on the way out. No one does as the prices are horrendous. People put their cameras on silent and happily snapped away. Would have done the same but didn’t realise till in there that I couldn’t take photos and thought it would be a little too obvious dicking about with my camera. The hostel owners has warned me that getting a bus back might be a problem as they just tend to run when they want. How true. After waiting for over 1 ½ hours I catch the next bus that comes along as its now getting late in the day. This meant I had to go to the centre of Palma and then catch a taxi.
After another few more days Kodak and I get a flight to Seville. The hostel is packed. I have to visit a local shop to get the wifi reinstalled back on my laptop. The guy in the shop had a hell of a time and seeing as mi espanol es mal we had an interesting and amusing time sorting this out. I decide to change hostels. The one I’m in is full and most of the occupants are not friendly. I have only struck this a few times on my travels.
The next hostel is good. Everyone is talkative and friendly. They also have events organised for you to do at night. One of the nights I went to a tapas restaurant then onto a flamenco show. I love tapas. I was to spend a lot of time with Jo, a young girl from Sydney and met Mostafa from Morocco. He has invited me to stay with him and he will show me around Morocco. Maybe I will take up that offer next year.
I also like Seville. I haven’t taken a map with me at all when walking about here and I am now patting myself on the back as I haven’t gotten lost. When I decide to move on, after a few more days, Mostafa accompanies Kodak and me to the airport. We are now flying to …..
Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria. I am south of the city in a tiny town called Pozo Izquierdo. It’s in the middle of a wind farm but the closest ones are far enough away that you can hear them and its right on the coast. The nearest town is Vesindario. There is a local bus I can to get there but the hostel staff have pointed out this is totally unreliable and only runs when the driver can be bothered which is not very often – once a week sometimes.
There is an Irish girl Trish, staying here and we get on great, thankfully, as we are the only 2 people in the hostel! This is a first. Only 2 people in the whole hostel and this hostel is big. Each year they hold surfing events and a surf school here and this is when it is overrun with hostellers.
Trish has worked out which buses to catch and we walk to Vesindario the next morning to go down the coast to Playa de Ingles. I am back in the heat and sunshine again and the beach is full of sunbathers. Loads of tourist shops, bars and restaurants. I like this place. Before catching the bus back outside the tourist centre I buy a ticket to do a day trip into the centre of the island. I am up early and have to walk fast into Vesindario to catch the bus to Playa de Ingles. I have no idea where to get off but the guy who sold the ticket to me has said to look out for the first amusement park after the tourist centre and get off there. I was practically on the doorstep when I got off the bus.
We are sitting in the jeeps waiting to go and I have an American lady and her daughter sitting next to me. In the last 24 hours Barrack Obama has been elected President of the USA. Most Americans that I was to meet from this point on seem happy with this result.
The interior of Gran Canaria is very barren and dry with little villages dotted here and there. A dam which we went to was only at ¼ of its usual capacity. We had camel riding along the way, lunch in an air-conditioned restaurant way up in the hills and a bit of off-roading. Before finishing for the day we come to a place where we get to try the soft middle part of the cactus. (The flower part) They are bright pink in colour and taste really nice. I really enjoyed the day.
I went with Trish into Vesindario to see her off, spend some time at an internet café and catch a taxi back to the hostel. Can’t be bothered walking as it takes ¾ hour. When I get back to the hostel an American girl, Jackie who is studying in Seville, has arrived. Great – I still have some company.
When Trish was here she had told me about Puerto Mogan. Jackie and I get the bus and go there for the day. It takes an hour on the bus. We wind around rocky hillsides that drop of into the sea. The greenest spot along the way is the golf course. It stood out so bad and was the greenest patch I have seen in weeks.
Two days later Jackie left but as she went out the door two guys arrived. One from Germany and an English guy. Both where a little weird. The German guy was in the dorm next to mine and I swear he was sawing up the bed that first night. The English guy kept having a shower every 2 hours. Weird, really weird. From that first day on I didn’t see them again. They weren’t very friendly so it didn’t worry me.
I spent the next few days hopping on the bus and go to Puerto Mogan. It wasn’t as overrun with tourists and I liked it here. The bus ride each day gave me the opportunity to see different things each time and meet different people.
Midweek I went back to Playa de Ingles. After shopping and pretty much all day on the beach I was walking along the path at the back of the restaurants and see this truck unloading produce for one of the restaurants. As I got closer I was thinking that these boxes looked familiar. Sure enough when I get even closer I could read Affco New Zealand Beef. That was it. I was around the front and into the restaurant for a meal. I miss NZ beef and lamb. Best in the world and you can get it in the Canary Islands. YES!
While I have been in the Canary Islands I have finally had a reply to my application to teach English for a week so I book a flight back to Madrid and set off 3 days later for my next experience. The metro trains in Madrid as very easy to work out and my hostel is easy to find. I am right in the heart of Madrid.
All the English teachers have a tapas evening we can attend and get introduced to each other so I go to this. I immediately hit it off with this London lady and we end up teaming up with her cousin who has come with her and a young American backpacker. We find a local bar and only leave when we think that if we don’t we will find the metro closed. We have an early start the next morning with our buses pulling out at 8.30am. I am now off to Gredos. I have no idea where Gredos is. As it turns out it is in the middle of nowhere about 4 hours from Madrid.
This was to turn out to be one of the best weeks of my whole life. I was to meet and spend time with lawyers, accountants, pharmacy reps, a Vodafone rep, and more, a guy that worked for the government drawing up international investment agreements and contracts between Spain, USA, and other countries. And there was the money man, Jose. I call him the money man as he is the guy that organised the printing of the money on plastic paper all around the world. By plastic money I am referring to the currency of such countries as New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Guatemala and lots more. We had some real characters in our group and had some hilarious moments.
It took the Spanish nearly 3 days before they could understand my accent. We have people from England, Ireland, USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia and me. They could understand everyone else but not me. Two things that really stick in my mind was the accountant whose pronunciation had us laughing. He would say ‘accuntant’ We had him being an accountant by the end of the week. One of the ladies liked to take her children to the ‘bitch’. Now they go to the beach.
I had such a great time that, if possible, I will do a Vaughantown English week once a year. Doing this week has left me with some of the best memories for this first year of travelling.
After the week in Gredos I am back in Madrid. I am only spending the one night then going to Ireland to see Kylie again as I don’t know when we will catch up after this visit. As soon as I got there we were off to the woolshed to watch Australia play France in a rugby test. It is really, really cold in Dublin now. I receive a phone call from Spain from one of my new Spanish friends with an offer that I can stay next time I am visiting there. (My money man, Jose) I will take up that offer up one day as this guy is so interesting.
So what did I do this time around in Dublin? I caught up with Alan, who I met when drunk, and we went about an hour out of Dublin to a really nice pub. This brought about an offer of staying with his Mum in Trinidad should I ever get there. And what is a guy from Trinidad doing in Ireland. Well his mother had decided he was getting in too much trouble and so she and his uncle sent him to Ireland to study. He was studying business and when he gets finished wants to go back to Trinidad and open a surf shop. I shook my head and burst out laughing. Boy is his mother in for a shock as he hasn’t told her yet of his plans. Love to be a fly on the wall when he tells her.
So the following night a go to the gym with Kylie and Rowena. I head for the rowing machine and that’s where I stay. I love them. Leave me there all day and I am happy. The next day is freezing but Kylie and I catch the train and go to the town of Bray. There is a walkway along the coast where you are looking right down into the sea. The wind coming off the sea was so cold. By the time we turned around and got back it was dark. By now it’s the end of November and darkness sets in so early. If I remember it was about 4pm.
I am now on a flight back to London. Was I ever so glad I flew back. I woke with a stomach ache and felt sick the whole flight and that was only an hour. I get back to Katie and Tamara’s and head for the toilet. 3 days later I am finally starting to come right. Of all the places to end up with food poisoning I wouldn’t have thought it would be Ireland! I didn’t even have the energy to go out and celebrate Tamara’s birthday.
A few days later Kylie is yet again back in London to watch Australia play the Barbarians at Wembley so there is a group of us going. I would have put more clothes on if I could but I wouldn’t have got my jacket over the top. Boy am I feeling the cold. Time to get out of here. So Kodak and I board a flight the next day for…….
Perth, Western Australia. It was like hitting a brick wall, but oh so nice to be warm again. I have family in Perth so that’s who I am staying with for a few days. After 2 days of sleeping most of the time to get over the jetlag I spend a day with my nephew and have time to adjust to the heat.
Perth is a nice relaxed city. Had a good wonder about, went Kings Park and down by the wharf on the Swan River. You can catch a free bus which takes you around most of the things you will want to see in Perth. I catch the train down to Fremantle and then the ferry over to Rottnest Island. The hostel here is at an old army barracks. I hire a bike, which is the best way to see the island and set off. I have only 2 in my dorm. Chris from England and Frankie from Sydney. The first night there we all hopped on our bikes and went to Governors Bay for dinner.
Frankie and I hit it off immediately and spent some time each day exploring a different part of the island. And I got to see my first snake up close. God I hate them. In order to see more of Western Australia while I am here I go back to Perth after 4 days on the island and have the one night in a hostel before setting off on a 3 day tour which will take me down to the southern most point of this state. Again I have stuck a great group of backpackers doing this trip.
Our first night is in Augusta. Along the way we do some wine tasting, hit a beach for a lunch break and see the most southern point. The water along this coast is a nice turquoise colour, very similar to that of the Caribbean. We stay at hostels on the way and everyone mucks in to prepare dinner, get dishes down and pack everything for the next morning.
Our next day we visit blow holes, the natural bridge, do a tree top walk, elephant rock and the green pool before we pull into Albany for the night. In Albany we visit the ANZAC memorial. The irony did not pass me by as today it is raining and cold. A website for more information to read about Albany is; http://www.discoverwest.com.au/western_australia/albany.html I could put a lot more in here but wont as there is a lot and simply too much that I could put.
After another night in Perth I do a day bus tour to Wave rock. This is quite a trip and takes all day. We also did Elephant Yawn and a cave. The whole of the bus trip down here takes you through the wheat belt of WA. A vast expanse of flat land and wheat crops. For more info go here; http://www.waverock.com.au/travel_on.htm or Google ‘wave rock’.
Tonight, and even though it is late, I catch the train to stay with my nephew for a few nights before catching that final flight which will take me full circle and back to my departure point over 11 months ago, but not of course before getting swabbed for chemicals, explosives and drugs at Melbourne airport where I catch my connecting international flight.