Saturday, 22 September 2012

Awesome Australian Adventure - Days 6-8 - Esperance to Eucla - The Final Frontier



Distance covered:  2,154km (1,340miles)
Location:  Eucla
Date:  5 February 2012
Days: 6 - 8 
Places Stayed: Margaret River, Karridale, Walpole, Cape Riche, Esperance (Cape Le Grand). Fraser’s Range, Madura

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Awesome Australian Adventure - Day 5, 'Walter, we have a problem'



Distance covered:  1,200km (745miles)

Location:  Esperance

Date:  2 February 2012

Day:  5

Places Stayed: Margaret River, Karridale, Walpole, Cape Riche, Esperance (Cape Le Grand).

Awesome Australian Adventure Days 2-4 - South Western Australia! Margaret River to Cape Riche

Distance covered:  720km (450miles) 

Location:  Cape Riche, Albany

Date:  1 February 2012

Day:  4

Places Stayed: Margaret River, Karridale, Walpole, Cape Riche,

Things done: Beer, wine and Cheese tasting, Stingray spotting, swimming in reservoir, climbing bicentennial tree (me not all the way… screw that…), camping by the beach in Cape Riche.

Monday, 20 August 2012

On the road - Day one of the Awesome Australian Adventure - 29 January 2012

My hand swipes the beads of sweat that are increasingly developing on my forehead as the sun forces itself through the window.  I lie there for as long as possible reliving everything that’s happened over the past seven months until the heat becomes too much to bear.  I open my eyes to see the golden rays shining brightly illuminating our once lively room.  Now it’s bare.  No posters or photos on the wall or objects on the floor.  Sergeant Spliff sleeps in her cage on the desk top peacefully shaded by a piece of card.  Mike and Tanwyn are still asleep.  I get the feeling as though it’s going to be difficult for Mike to get up due to last night’s festivities at the Civic Hotel.  

TimTam - Navigating
I couldn’t believe the time had finally arrived.  Excitement filled the stifling midsummer air as I forced myself to get up and begin loading the stuff into the car.  The mercury in the thermometer was hitting above 40 degrees, so we were happy to jump into the cool air-conditioned car and hit the road.  We said an extremely quick and shallow goodbye to our housemates, secretly celebrating never to live with them again and fired Walter up.  I know it’s highly unorthodox for a car to be called a man’s name but it had a resemblance to a middle aged man, still going but not with the power of a twenty year old.  The purr of the 4-cylinder engine vibrated through the laneway behind our house as we navigated our way onto Beaufort Street and headed towards the city centre for one last time to bid farewell to the streets we had grown to call home.  Beaufort Street is one of those streets that offer everything that one could possibly need in life.  It traverses through many suburbs and houses many boutiques, bars, cafés and shops.  It’s a street that I would want to live on again should I return to Perth.  As we diverted to Northbridge, where the partying and art happens, there were celebrations going on for Chinese New Year and the gold decorations glinted strongly in the afternoon sun.  We preferred to think it was a goodbye gesture for us.  Mike, Tanwyn and I continued past the Heath Ledger Theatre and over the railway bridge that acts as a dividing line between the Northern suburbs and Perth CBD where the business happens and where I had spent six months worked.  We were heading towards King’s Park to shoot a final goodbye message to the city and set out our plans for the next couple of weeks.  King’s Park is an iconic location in Perth as it was here where I visited on my first day in Australia and got my first real glimpse of the wonderful city of Perth.  It was cold and largely deserted back in July but in January, the sun brings locals and tourist to the top of the hill for sun bathing on the grassy slopes or to kick a ball around.  

 

Loose.  That’s how best to describe our plan.  We knew that our final destination was Tasmania where we were going to find work on a farm and to get there we were going to travel across the Nullarbor via the South West.  But where we’d stop along the way was to be decided on a day by day basis.  Most people have pessimistically anticipated Walter’s demise before we even leave the Perth metropolitan area.  Having had older cars in the past, I am only too aware of the anguish breakdowns cause and the post-breakdown nervousness it causes.  The last thing we would want, and our worst nightmare, is if the car brokedown in the middle of the Nullarbor plain.  With our final message recorded, we took our last glance at Perth, hopped into Walter and drove off towards Margaret River.

Bussleton Jetty
Perth’s cityscape slowly disappeared from my rear view mirror as we made steady progress towards our first stop, Busstleton.  The strong sun was getting lower in the sky as the afternoon went on and it began to scald my right arm and cheek forcing me to find some sun screen.  A couple of hours later, we pulled off the freeway and into Bussleton where the longest timer jetty in the southern hemisphere stretches out into the Indian Ocean.  I had previously walked the 1.8km jetty with Matt Duncan but thought Tanwyn and Mike would appreciate it and what a beautiful day it was to walk along the wooden planks suspended above the shark infested ocean.  My walk was interrupted when I tripped over a fishing rod and got my flip-flop tangled with the wire.  As I was thinking to myself how inconsiderate the fisherman was to leave his rod in the walkway and began to open my mouth to make some smart sarcastic remark, I looked up and noticed a familiar face.  It was none other than Paul Del Prete, one of the managers at Health Corporate Network whom I used to work with.  What are the chances of that?  I swallowed my retort and instead had a brief conversation and bid each other farewell.  The end of the jetty arrived soon enough and we congratulated ourselves with a humorous video of Tanwyn kicking a dead fish of the end, a pastime he had grown quite accustomed to ever since the filming of our Christmas video on the banks of the Swan river.  

Pay attention to these signs... they're not messing!
We returned from our walk and decided that we needed to get back on the road as the light was fading quickly and we still had a way to go to get to our first camp spot in the middle of the South West Region.  As we got to Dunsborough the light had almost gone and we entered the Danger Zone!  The worst time to drive in Australia is dusk as the Kangaroos wake and become the biggest moving obstacles on the roads.  With our eyes peeled we turned left onto Caves Road which winds its way from Dunsborough southwards to Augusta on the Southern coast.  Mike had been saying that he really wanted to see a…  SCREECH!!!  My right foot quickly slams down hard on the brake pedal as two kangaroos jump out of the trees. “There are your kangaroos Mike!!!!” I said as we narrowly escaped collision.  If we hit a kangaroo, it is unlikely that we would survive without a ‘Roo bar’ it would most likely come straight through the windscreen.  The rest of the journey to the campsite was slow and careful.  I have heard stories of how people have been killed by the car in front or the car coming the other way hitting a kangaroo and it rebounding into their car.  It’s highly dangerous and my heart was in my throat the rest of the way to the campsite.

Following a few wrong turns and moments where we thought we were going to be killed by Wolf Creek mimics, we arrived at the campsite, it was completely dark and the only lights that illuminated our surroundings were our own.  It took us a while to figure out how we were supposed to pay for the campsites, but after a hunt around the dark, lifeless visitor centre, we found a small shack where you fill in a registration card and put some cash in an envelope.  We drove through the open boom gate into the trees and navigated quietly around the site trying to find a spot that would accommodate us for the night.  It took us two rounds and a stop at the toilet but we found our perfect spot.  Mike got out of the car to direct me in as it was pitch black but unfortunately within only a few hours into our trip I had put the first dent in Walter as I overlooked a short post which got very intimate with our left side skirt…  Oops, that’ll knock a couple of dollars off the selling price!

With Walter in his spot for the night, we opened his rear end to retrieve our homes for the next few weeks.  We had bought some bargain tents from K-Mart for $15 and were about to test them for the first time.  Since we hadn’t put them up before, it was certainly an interesting experience putting them up in the dark.  After about half hour, the tents were erected, our sleeping bags were in and we were ready for our first night in the wild.  Our dinners were retrieved from our IGA bags and opened with a swift tear, Cheese and Bacon Balls for me with a dessert of Jaffas.  It didn’t take us long to turn our attention up to the sky where nature had laid out a magnificent display of stars for us to gaze at and ponder the meaning of life. 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

How to prepare for a road trip across one of the most vast and sparse countries of the world - January 2012


Set a budget and stick to it.

Getting your hands on the perfect motor is perhaps one of the most challenging experiences of your road trip before it even begins!!  The first step to buying your motor is set yourself a budget and very important, a realistic budget.  Don’t think that you’re just going to spend a couple hundred dollars and head off into the sunset on a magnificent trouble free journey.  The phrase, ‘you get what you pay for’ comes into mind.  Having said that, you could spend $20,000 on a car for it to breakdown two miles down the road or spend $1,000 and never have any issues, sometimes it’s luck but just be careful.  Have a look around in the papers, on the internet and most importantly talk to the locals who have been brought up with these cars and know the market a lot better than a foreigner.  My friends and I had lengthy talks with a lot of Mike’s regulars in the Civic Hotel and a colleague of mine and finally settled on a budget of $3,000 which was low but seemed to be reasonable for what we were looking for. 

There are other options too.  One is to rent a vehicle to travel across the country but this is out of the question for many as the cost is terrific.  It is, however, a good idea if you are just planning to travel from Melbourne to Cairns over two weeks as you don’t need to worry about selling the vehicle or maintenance etc.  The other option is Relocation Deals from companies such as www.standbyrelocs.com.au who offer rental vehicles that need to be transferred to other locations around the country.  The costs can be as low as $1/day and have all the fuel paid for.  We seriously considered this option as it is cheap and we wouldn’t have to worry about selling the car at the end.  After consideration we decided that for our purpose we were going to need our own car.  Owning your own car gives you the freedom that rental vehicles don’t.  Plus we were going to be looking for work and having our own car would help no end.

Type of motor

This step can come either before or after your budget setting.  Normal 3/4/5 door car, station wagon, campervan or van.  Have a look at the pros and cons of each including size, fuel economy, practicality and of course style.  Talk to other backpackers about their experiences as it is highly likely that you are buying a vehicle at one of the points where people either begin or end their trip so will be able to give you good advice.  We decided before what we wanted due to recommendations from previous travellers who had travelled Australia before.  Most people had praised station wagons as they have the size to store all your belongings and are small enough to travel efficiently and through cities too.  Depending on whether you’re claustrophobic or not, you can even transform your vehicle to house a mattress in the back to sleep in.  I personally didn’t want to do that as cars get stuffy far too quickly and I like to stretch out when I sleep.  So we decided on getting some small tents which we would erect beside the car at night. 

Once you have decided on the type of motor you want.  Get more precise about the details.  Make/Model/Transmission/Engine Size.  You’ll find that the most popular choice amongst travellers and locals are Holden or Fords as they are extremely common which means should anything go wrong, parts are easy to come by and anyone will be able to fix them.  Try to avoid Korean/Japanese/European cars as parts won’t be easy to find and repairs could cost you more than you bought it for.  That’s not saying those cars aren’t any good as we know Japanese cars are indestructible, or at least were until the last few batches of cars had severe braking issues!!  It is just a ‘worst case scenario’ risk you have to factor in when buying a car.

Find the car

Now that you have a good understanding of the local car market and your ideal specifications, it’s time to begin the search.  We bought countless copies of the Quakka, which is a free ads paper which comes out every week and highlighted all those vehicles that came in within our budget.  Then we went through and crossed out the ones that did not adhere to our specs.  It’s a lengthy process but it’s worth doing.  Also the internet has some fantastic websites such as www.gumtree.com.au and www.ebay.com.au.  The other option is to go around the local backpacker hostels and look on their notice boards for cars for sale.  A tip that my work friend Gavin gave me was to completely ignore the ‘extras’ that backpackers list with their car as they want to entice more people and make it seem like an irresistible deal.  Just remember that camping equipment is dead cheap when you split it between a few of you.  Focus on the vehicle and that’s it.  Don’t take peoples word for it, for example, if they tell you the timing belt has just been changed or the head gasket has just been done.

My friend Rory, broke the news to me one day following several weeks sweating over the papers and websites that his Uncle Andy is a car dealer and specialises in cars under $5,000.  Mike and I were excited by the prospect of buying a car off a person whom we kind of knew as it’s more trustworthy.  We turned up to his dealership on an absolutely sweltering day to be greeted by Uncle Andy, an enthusiastic ex pat from Leeds.  He promptly took us around his lot and pointed out the cars he had for us and knocked off a $1,000 from the marked price.  Wow, this isn’t the way it’s done.  Shouldn’t it be us who knock the price down?  Anyway, we looked at the cars he had and picked out the only viable option for us.  That was a Hyundai Lantra Sportswagon.  We took it for a drive and checked out the engine and how it drove.  Of course you cannot check 100% of the engine when you test the car and it may be worthwhile paying for a professional to check it over for you before you buy.  You can do a few things before this though and The AA have a fantastic guide to assist you here.  Take your time and don’t feel pressured into buying until you’re ready.  It’s your right to know what you’re buying before you do so if they don’t like the idea of your mechanic looking at it you know it’s probably a bad deal.  From what we checked, the car was in a very good condition and was driving really smoothly.  One thing that people tend to forget when testing a car is the air conditioning.  For god’s sake, don’t make that mistake in Australia as you will need it at some point!

Hyundai Lantra, AKA WALTER
Mike and I discussed the pros and cons of buying the car for a while.  It wasn’t necessarily what we were ideally looking for in so far that it wasn’t a Ford or Holden but then decided that we trusted Uncle Andy more than we could an average Joe on the street or another dealer.  At least we knew him and he knew that we knew him and if anything happened we’d find him!  We took the plunge and sealed the deal with a couple of beers as we handed the money over to Andy.  In addition to the sale, he signed us up to an Australian wide warranty which would help us out a little if we got stuck.  Of course these warranties are littered with get out clauses but it’s better than nothing!  Within a couple of hours, we had bought a car and were driving back to Inglewood with massive smiles on our faces.  The trip had become real, we had the means to do it!

Knowing you’ve done all you can

It's not a V8 but it will do the job...hopefully
With any journey, you need to reassure yourself that you have done all you possibly can to overcome any potential issues should they arise.  In the case of a vehicle, you must ensure you know as much about the engine condition as possible.  We took it to a mechanic whom Uncle Andy had recommended to get engine oil, transmission oil, coolant flush and change.  In addition to this we wanted him to look over the engine including timing belt to ensure there were no pre-existing problems before we left.  In the meantime, we had also discovered that one of the rear passenger doors didn’t lock with the central locking system and that one wheel nut had been damaged so we could get it off should we need to.  Mike and I fixed the door locking situation with a bit of ‘Heath Robinson’ style by taking the inner door panel off and disconnecting the central locking solenoid actuator which was stuck open meaning the door lock wouldn’t engage.  Now it locks but only manually.

The mechanic unfortunately came back with some rather distressing news that the timing belt did in fact need to be changed.  He gave us an absurd quote which we dismissed and immediately called Uncle Andy for advice.  Andy just told us that he’d deal with it.  That’s what he did, he footed the bill for the work and we soon had a car perfectly fit for the journey ahead.

Which way cobber?
Plan your journey.

Planning your journey is an ongoing process and should, by all means, never be set in stone with no space for variation.  Just to know which way you’re heading is important.  For us it was North or East.  Unfortunately the journey we wanted to do was now impractical as we originally wanted to head North to Darwin and then South through the centre but January is in the middle of wet season.  Driving in wet season can be extremely hazardous with flash floods and roads getting cut off.  So across the Nullabor it is towards Adelaide and Melbourne.  As we needed to do three months regional work to qualify for our second year working holiday visas, we also needed to include this in our plan.  We decided that we were going to head across the Bass Strait to Tasmania where we could pick apples.  Then we’d cross back over and head up the East Coast.

Equipment

Having bought your vehicle and planned your journey, it is now time to decide what equipment you need to take with you.  We had decided that we were going to camp our way around in tents.  As the Nullabor is one of the driest landscapes of the world and it was the middle of summer, we thought that some cheap tents would do, so we bought three two-man tents from K-Mart to suffice.  To cook, we bought a single Butane gas burner and Billy Can.  My work colleagues bought me a cool box, or as they call it, an Esky.  Survival is also an important consideration and having enough water and fuel is without a doubt things you need to get you across the country as you don’t know where the next running water is, so we bought a Gerry can and also a water butt.  We also bought a power inverter for our car so we could charge our electrical devices as we were on the road.

The week before we left, we decided that it would be a good idea to have a test pack where we would put all our things in the car to see if they would fit and the best way to pack the car.  Thankfully it all fitted.

Set a date

Unfortunately our date of departure kept being put further and further back.  Our original plan was to leave in October, then November, then just after Christmas but with our jobs, friends and desire to save enough money before we left it got pushed further to the end of January. 

Get a Mascot.

Tanwyn and Mike were onto this task with open arms when they visited a local pet shop to buy a mouse for the journey.  They had originally tried to capture one of the many mice that ran around our house but they kept escaping.  So the only way was to buy a domesticated mouse.  Her name was Sergeant Spliff.

With all the above completed, we were ready to hit the road!!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Perth, A Home Away From Home, 2 July 2011 - 29 January 2012

Perth's dramatic cityscape during Australia Day celebrations.


The sun floods the buildings of Perth in a deep red glow as it quickly and solemnly disappears marking the beginning of our final night in the city as the Awesome Australian Adventure commences the next day.  Our bags are packed and memories of the fantastic six months we spent in the wonderful city of Perth came flooding through my mind.  Not many travellers make it over to Perth as they only spend their time on the East coast where the major cities of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns are and the natural attraction of the Great Barrier Reef.  That was one of the main reasons I came to the West coast, the other was that I have family over here. 

Getting Employed

My colleague Vicky and I with HCN's Salvo's donation
As soon as I hit the ground I began hunting for jobs through websites, newspapers, shop windows and singing up to every employment agency in the city.  Adam Yaxley, a school friend of mine had suggested that I tried Integrity as he had got a few jobs from them when he was in Perth.  Ally, who was my consultant at Integrity Staffing was fantastic, she had offered me a position within the first week as an Administrative Assistant within the mortuary at one of Perth’s largest hospitals.  This position fell through and I am now relieved that it did as the job would require me to deal with the dead bodies, organise viewings of the bodies which includes Sudden Infant Deaths which I don’t know I could have coped with.  It would have certainly been a depressing job.  Nevertheless I continued my hunt until I received a phone call from Ally saying that she had found me a position at Health Corporate Network which was part of the Department of Health.  I went for an interview and was employed. 

A view from my office on a dramatic day
My work at Health Corporate Network (HCN) couldn’t have been better.  I started with the company as a Personal Assistant for the Directors of Finance and Supply and providing administrative assistance to the Communications Coordinator.  The executives I was working with and the wider team were a fantastic group of people who I shared many laughs with during my time.  Despite my contract initially finishing in October, it got extended until the end of the year and with my line manager, Monique leaving in December to get married and go to follow her dream studies at university, I stepped up into her position as Executive Assistant for the remainder of my time there.  I was with HCN for my total allowance of six months and left behind a completely new team whom I had the pleasure to meet and handover. 

Matthew Duncan Esq

My official photographer arrived!
A few weeks into August saw a reunion as Matt Duncan joined me on my Epic Voyage for the third time.  Rather symbolically he had begun the voyage with me in Tallinn, experienced the middle when he joined me in Hong Kong and China and now joined me for the end of the first leg of the Voyage.  I saw landing in Perth as the end of a rather long firs leg as I had managed to follow the land and sea route all the way across to Singapore until I had to fly.  The second leg of the Journey is aptly named ‘Awesome Australian Adventure’ will begin as soon as we hit the road again.  Whilst Matt was visiting, we hired a car and drove down to the South West, Margaret River.  My first trip of many to the region and I absolutely adore the place.   The sun was shining over the wonderful green landscape, the turquoise ocean as the whales come up for breath during their migration to Antarctica for the summer and most importantly the numerous wineries, breweries, chocolate factory, cheese factories and ice cream factories.  


Whale spotting at Cape Naturalist
The weekend began a little strangely as the hostel I wanted to stay in was fully booked so we ended up in another which was filled to the brim with what we called ‘angry grape pickers’ who had marked the walls counting down the eighty-eight day regional work sentence to make them eligible for a second year visa.  Not one person spoke to us, not one person responded to our presence it was as though we weren’t there.  Not very much like hostels we had experienced in other countries.  We were fed up almost straight away so decided to go to the bottle shop and buy some beers and grab something to eat.  With the beers in hand, we sat down at the burger/kebab place where we started talking to a couple of blokes that were in there.  They had been mates for a long time but were down in Margaret River to see a hip-hop band.  They invited us back to their hostel to drink beer which was a little strange but with the option of going back to the hostel, we decided to just go along with it.  Once we were in their room, they began to get out their stash of drugs.  Began on the splifs and then the crack pipe came out.  They could do those drugs but when it came to drinking beer were absolutely useless.  Anyway, we drank our beers and pretty much left them crashed out to find the hostel pretty much deserted.  The following day we moved to a beach house in Dunsborough which was fantastic. 

Tanwyn Smith-Meek and City West Receptions

Reece, Juliana and me
In the midst of September, Tanwyn joined us in Perth.  I have known Tanwyn for a few years as we have worked together at the Maddermarket Theatre back in Norwich.  He had finished college and struggling to find employment as many young people in the UK are.  I had invited him out before I left and he took me up on the offer and flew out to Perth.  Within a week both Tanwyn and I had found a job (A second job for me to pay for my dental treatment) at City West Receptions where we were waiters, bar tenders and assisted in the setup of functions.  I had previously done a trial at an Italian restaurant in Mount Lawley as a runner.  That was hectic and needless to say they got someone with more experience than me… thankfully.  City West receptions was a little less hectic as it was near enough all standard and you knew what you had to do.  I stayed there for a couple of months before leaving as I felt I needed more time for myself, especially over the Christmas period and with the pay rise at HCN, I didn’t need to second job anymore.

Housemates from Heaven and Hell

Our house on Beaufort Street
Our time in Perth was fantastic, the sun mostly shines whether it’s winter or summer and the laid back atmosphere has you calm the moment you step onto the streets.  The only downfall with Perth was our accommodation.  Two weeks after moving into our comfortable flat in Inglewood, we had to move as the landlady wanted to rent the place out to four people instead of just two.  Mike and I really didn’t want to move to her other property next door as it was clearly cramped with six people staying in three rooms.  The room which was earmarked for us was more like a broom cupboard.  No matter how hard we tried to find another place to stay, we couldn’t and had to decide whether we should move back to a hostel or move temporarily into the house next door.  Needless to say we chose the latter and it wasn’t temporary.  Our original housemates were fantastic, Frenchman Vince and his Australian wife Kylie and an Irish guy called Daniel.  Daniel was only there for a couple of weeks before landing his dream job in the mines and was off which was a shame but also good news for us as we got to relocate out of the broom cupboard into a bigger room with a window.  With the departure of Daniel opened up two beds that two more Irish people filled, Eoin and Kate who were both superb. 

Us with Kylie and Vince on our tree swing
We were only going to stay in the house until Mike found a job and we had enough money to afford something a little better but with Mike finding a job literally two minutes down the road at the Civic Hotel as a barman made it a little more difficult for us to find another as we had to search for accommodation around the same area.  We thought it didn’t really matter anyway as we were planning to leave in November anyway.  It was fine until the end of November when Eoin, Kate, Vince and Kylie all moved out paving the way for three more Irish people to move in.  It is incredible how many Irish people there are in Perth.  With the three girls came their friends whom stayed over for days and were incredibly inconsiderate.  We felt as though we were being forced out of the house and several times I had to tell them to ‘shut the funk up as I had work in four funking hours!’ Needless to say we were so happy to get out of there away from those and away from the landlady who took it upon herself to rip anyone off she pleased.

Old Friends and New Friends

Tahir, Tanwyn, Mike and I on Mustang Wednesday
We had many nights out with my friend Tahir, whom I had taught with in Poland back in 2006, now lived and worked in Perth as a Hydrogeologist.  Wednesdays were our special nights, Mustang Wednesdays!  First to the Couch Surfing meet up at the Brass Monkey in Northbridge followed by Mustang where there were jugs of beer for $10 and a live band.  Not forgetting the odd Tequila which always seems like a good idea in the evening but is definitely regrettable when your head is slumped over the desk at work foggy and aching.  The worst hangover was during my final week at HCN were Tequila was certainly not a good idea, my eyes were straining, gut wrenching and head banging as I facilitated a meeting between the Communications Coordinator and new executive support team.  I will never drink before work again!!!!  It was great to see Tahir again and without him Perth wouldn’t have been the same.  Cheers mate!

I had met so many awesome people in Perth who are now friends.  Too many to mention here but you know who you are! 

Me, Suzanne, Lou, Mike and Matt during their tour of South West Australia


Christmas with Family

Us with the Surf Life Guards at Cottesloe during the making of our Christmas message
Christmas was a strange time of year for us as temperatures pushed up into the forties, it certainly couldn’t have felt any further away from the cold and snow at home in the UK.  Christmas Eve was completely different to what we were used to.  Back at home it was Crispmas eve, where Mike, Mark, Luke, Kev, Duncan and I would hit the pubs of Norwich for a few drinks and celebrate by buying a huge number and variety of crisps to share with the pub.  Here in Perth, we sat in Tahir’s Jacuzzi and swimming pool drinking beer out of champagne glasses soaking up the beautiful weather.  It didn’t feel like Christmas though, at all!  The next day, Christmas Day, we went up to Lesmurdie to spend the day with my family.  We sat outside by the pool, drinking cold larger and eating cold meat with salad.  Absolutely bizarre.  Christmas had its memories.  Mainly Nerf guns.  For weeks after I woke up sweating with fear as I imagined those foam bullets hitting my head every two seconds.  It was absolute carnage as Dave’s kid’s guns were taken over by the adults who raged all-out war against each other.  It is certainly a ‘You don’t know man, you weren’t there’ memory. 
Celebrating Christmas Eve in the Jacuzzi

One of my most treasured memories of my time in Australia was having the chance to meet my family out here.  They all showed me such generosity and helped me settle into Australia and for that I have to say thank you, I really appreciate it.  You’re all absolutely fantastic!

Final Goodbye

Nick, me, Ash and her friend playing Shithead
It was the night before we were leaving on our journey to nowhere, and we had arranged a gathering at the Civic Hotel to say goodbye and celebrate our time in Perth with friends whom we had met in the fantastic city.  Among those friends were Ash and Matt whom I met in Vietnam over a year previous.  You may remember me mentioning them in one of my blogs as I had an awesome time drinking with them in Hué and they had beaten me so many times playing ‘shithead’ it wasn’t funny.  Especially as shots of arse was the penalty.  It was due time for a rematch and that we did!  The bonus being, I didn’t lose!!!  Matt and Ash had continued travelling after Vietnam and had ended up working in the UK for a few months before heading back home to Perth.  I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with them and it was immediately like old times… without the shots of arse!

As the night came to a close, Tanwyn and I sat in our back garden with a drink and some food to soak up the alcohol before heading to bed.  Suddenly we heard a scream and what seemed like a girl screaming for help.  Tanwyn and I stood silent for a moment until another scream was heard and we ran towards it and found a guy pinning a girl up against the wall.  It turned out that they were in a relationship of sorts and she had just broken up with him.  Once we intervened things turned ugly, his defences went up and obviously just wanted to let his frustration out on someone.  Tanwyn and I began the dance and tried to calm things down as much as possible but he was too high on adrenaline, wasn’t listening to us and just thought we wanted a fight.  I retrieved my phone from my pocket and call ‘000’ and lodged a call with the police.  It took ages for them to arrive and we didn’t know whether we could keep the peace for much longer.  A lady and her son turned up in a van and joined the peace keeping force.  I phoned the police again and told them that they really needed to get there as soon as possible because a fight was about to break out.  The guy was not getting anywhere with the girl and his anger was boiling out of control.  He came at all three of us trying to intimidate us into a fight, but thankfully nothing happened.  The police arrived and stepped in.  The guy wasn’t going without a fight which was unfortunate for him as the police weren’t going to take any shit from him and planted his face into the ground.  He was stuffed into the back of the police vehicle and unfortunately the girl seemed as though she didn’t want to press any charges, so he probably got out the next day.  It wasn’t the perfect end to our time in Perth, that’s for sure!

Us at Cottesloe, forgive the stranger's finger over the lens...

Monday, 30 April 2012

An old friend arrives - Perth, Australia

Mike and I in Lacker's Grill, Northbridge - Mike's first meal in Australial!
Just under two weeks ago I walked through the automatic doors which stand motionless in front of me.  My eyes wonder from the television playing news constantly, to entertain me and the others waiting either side of me, over to the board which gave me slightly frustrating news.  The flight that Mike was on from Hong Kong was delayed by around thirty minutes.  Great.  I inhaled and exhaled a disappointed sigh and turned away from the arrivals area for a look around the terminal’s shops.  Like most airports you have your duty/tax free shop selling you all the perfume you could ever need at a ‘discounted’ price and the extortionate newsagent which double the price of everything from the high street value. 

Every couple of minutes I raise my left wrist and pull back sleeve with my right hand to reveal the time.  It was moving slowly.  I heard an announcement over the intercom.  It wasn’t Mike’s flight from Hong Kong but a flight returning some debauched Australians from their two week holiday on the Indonesian island of Bali.  As it’s the closest foreign land to Australia, so many people head over there to drink themselves stupid on the extremely cheap alcohol.  I have yet to grace Bali with my presence, so will hold any further ‘high horse’ judgement until I do.  His flight finally arrived and after eight months, Mike and Andy were reunited on the other side of the world, or as some say….  Down Under…


Thankfully we only had to endure the hostel for a couple of nights before we were handed a get out of hell free card.  Although I find myself wondering whether my negativity is a result to comparing The Billabong to the amazing and cheap hostels I stayed at in Asia where you were always greeted with a smiling face as you stepped through the door and fellow travellers invited you over for drinks.  A friend of mine whom I had met in Malaysia had warned me about the travellers you find in Australia.  They’re a different breed.  Most come over purely for work and find themselves living in the same hostel for months on end, thus making friends with other ‘long-termers’ and not interested in meeting anyone else. Language also plays a massive part in the travelling community.  In non-English speaking countries travellers tend to find each other through the masses of locals and grab hold of each other as they understand what you’re going through and you can talk to them.  In Australia, you can go anywhere and have conversations with anyone you want to thus making it unnecessary to make an effort.  From my first couple of days in the hostel I could tell that most of its inhabitants were long-termers.


Chloe, Jess and Steve
On my first weekend in Australia it was Jess’ birthday and Steve had planned an amazing day of activities for her ranging from Camel riding, Supa Golf to the AQWA, Western Australia’s superb Aquarium and not forgetting the Margaret River Chocolate Factory in Swan Valley.  As I had little money and memories of all the pain from riding a camel through the Sahara in Morocco a year before, I decided to sit on the side line with their friend Chloe and watch as they climbed atop of the magnificent camels and strode off into the bush.  What a fantastic day I had and it was a great chance to get to know Steve, Jess and their friends.  Supa Golf will always remain an awesome memory as it quickly turned from serious golf to a mass putting war at the end as we all embarked on the green from all sides smacking the ball to get into the hole…  perhaps a few fouls were committed and a few hand throws were made.  If you remember back to my blog on Phetchaburi, Thailand where I was extremely excited to find Cadbury’s chocolate, well I had exactly the same experience in Australia.  Cadbury’s is only fantastic in Britain!  To remedy my disappointment and also expand my chocolate palate, Steve and Jess took me to Margaret River Chocolate Factory which make supremely delicious chocolate and provide free tastings…. Heaven…

Mike and I in Ledge Point
This weekend Steve, Jess, Chloe, Ed and Tess (the dog) took Mike and I to tony and Marilyn’s beach house in Ledge Point which is a hundred or so kilometres north of Perth.  It was our first real journey out of the city, into the bush and our first sight of the great Australian wilderness.  As soon as we got to Ledge Point, the alcohol came out and the drinking began.  Mike and I were on our beer but were stupidly convinced to mix it all up with a few cocktails… Bad mistake!  The morning after was painful.  My stomach retched as I tried to force down bacon and eggs.  It was no good but three rounds on the white telephone later, I was feeling better, although with a slightly blurred mind.  With my head pounding, Mike and I hopped into the car with Steve and Jess.  Ed and Chloe followed as we drove to the sea front.  As it was the middle of winter, it was cold outside as the fresh wind blew off the Indian Ocean.  The beach was full of commotion as a man’s car had got stuck in the sand.  The sea was quickly swallowing it up and a man tried vigorously to try and free the vehicle.  Just as we thought it was a gonna, the mans pumped the accelerator of his four wheel drive one last time and to the owner’s relief his car was free.  With that excitement, Steve took us to the sand dunes at neighbouring Lancelin where dirt bikes, quad bikes and other vehicles stormed up and down the exciting terrain without a care in the world.

Tess
Our weekend in Ledge Piont was unfortunately over and we soon found ourselves sitting in front of the internet computers back in the Billabong checking our emails.  One email in particular took my interest.  It was a response to the advert I placed on Gumtree requesting a shared house to rent.  A lady named Pip said that she may have something for us, so we gave her a call and she promptly turned up to show us the flat.  It was quite far out in a suburb called Inglewood, not too far in hindsight but an hour’s walk from the city centre.  The flat was awesome, with a bus stop outside which goes straight into Perth ever ten minutes and IGA and Coles (supermarkets) nearby.  We agreed to take the flat and with an exchange of deposit, she gave us the keys for us to move in the next day.  Perfect….  Now it’s time to Get a Job….   

Our flat, Parri Towers Beaufort Street, Inglewood

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Back in the West, Down Under - 2 July 2011

Perth; a view from King's Park

I can’t help constantly looking over my shoulder in bewilderment as my ears and brain strain with the constant understanding.  Behind me is a group of people in their early twenties talking quickly with excitement over their Saturday dinner. Waiters rush past our table whilst serving food.  My presence seems alien.  I feel as though I don’t belong.  I haven’t been in a place where everybody was white and speaks English since home.  On my table were Tony, Marilyn, Steve (Mum’s cousin) and Jess (Steve’s partner).  I hadn’t seen Steve since he was on holiday with his parent in the UK many years ago.  My eyelids are extraordinarily heavy and my mind struggling to process the easiest of things due to sleep exhaustion. 

At five o’clock this morning I walked through into the arrivals hall, dazed and my tired eyes straining with the bright lights.  I look around for Tony and Marilyn, my Mum’s Uncle and Auntie, with slight guilt as they’ve come to pick me up so early as they had very kindly offered to let me stay at their house for a while.  I see them sitting over by the window and I go over to them.  I have only seen them a handful of times before and I was surprised that I recognised them. 

The automatic doors open into the dark wilderness of Australia and to my surprise, and a certain amount of relief, cold air rushed past me causing my muscles to shudder.  I was in Australia and it felt strange.  Flying cheats the feeling of distance and doesn’t allow your mind time to adjust to the subtle changes between countries and climates.  Over the last twelve hours I have been on two aircraft, in three countries and in three airports.  For what took me months of travel could have taken me 20 hours to fly.  It doesn’t feel right.  I feel cheated.  I can’t help but think of that marvellous land that passed 40,000 feet beneath me as I tried my hardest to sleep whilst the bathroom door behind me was slammed shut over and over again. 

Following our meal and my first Australian beer, my family took me on a drive through the bush but my eyelids gave way to the movement of the car and all I remember is a variety of moments where the bumps on the dirt road woke me.  The little trip culminated at King’s Park, sitting high above the city of Perth overlooking the Central Business District.  The cold July air raced through my nostrils giving me a second burst of energy.  I realised that this was an iconic moment of my Epic Voyage around the world.  Phase II, The Awesome Australian Adventure begins in a new city, hopefully a job and in a couple of weeks my friend Mike will be flying out to join me down under.  I was also in the Southern Hemisphere where people walk upside down and take a Kangaroo taxi to work. To my surprise, this turned out to be a falsity.

Over the next few days I met Tony and Marilyn’s oldest son, Dave and his soon to be wife, Stacey and their three children who live close by.  Then we took a drive out to York where I met the remainder of the family, Jill, Sean, Casseda and newly born Ebony.  My arrival in Australia was apparently unfortunate timing with the new baby and Tony and Marilyn were heading over to Europe for a few months.  It was wonderful to finally meet the entire of my elusive Australian relatives as I had only, as far as my memory goes, met Tony, Marilyn and Steve during their holidays to the UK. 

The Bell Tower, Perth's Esplanade
They say ‘there’s no rest for the wicked’ which means I must be devilish.  I have been in Australia for two days but am not waiting around to look for a job.  They also say ‘there’s no time like the present’ and with that in mind and my CV in my hands I head into Perth and to Aussie Jobs, an employment agency specialising in getting work for the transient backpacker.  Andy and Emma who I met on a rough bus journey in Northern Vietnam between Sapa and Dien Bien Phu had recommended.   I was not impressed as I was met with hostility from the moment I stepped through the front door.  In actual fact I already disliked the agency as I had emailed them several times alerting them to my impending arrival in Perth and asking them what I needed to do to get work.  I received no response.  I sent them a follow up email.  No answer.  I called them and received “We don’t deal with anyone over email or phone.  You must come in.”  My issue with that was why they didn’t just respond to one of my multiple emails just telling me that.  Their attitude towards me made me weep for Asian friendliness.

Despite a couple of trips to Aussie Jobs, I got nothing and actually didn’t want anything from them.  I was also in a situation where I needed to wait for a couple of weeks until Mike turns up.  To be honest with everyone here, I have never had the inclination to travel Australia.  There’s no central reason to it, there are just other places in the world that I want to visit first.  Just like the United States, doesn’t currently appeal to me.  My preconception is that travel through these countries is relatively simple and there are no real challenges plus western cultures are too similar to each other for real interest. 

For a week I wandered Perth visiting countless agencies, searching shop and café windows and souring the internet for jobs.  Nothing came up and my determined mood turned downtrodden.  I decided that I was going to take some time to rest and postpone my hunt for a few days until Mike arrives as Tony and Marilyn will be leaving on their trip over the other side soon too.  Lesmurdie was nearly a two hour round journey on the bus so once Tony and Marilyn left on their trip, I was going to head down to Perth and stay in a hostel which would make it easier to look for a job.  Mike had already booked a room in The Billabong which was a hostel on the outskirts of Perth and so I checked in to that same one on the day he was scheduled to arrive.  My mind creaked as I walked through the blue doors leading into my new home.  I had grown comfortable and attached to the wonderfully soft double bed and warm surroundings up in Lesmurdie, that the thought of going back into a dorm room caused great anguish running through my body.  I had heard stories about Australian hostels and preconceptions were duly created in my mind of dirty, cramp and unfriendly places who charge an incredible amount of money for nothing.  I shook of the feeling and forced positive thoughts through my mind.  The concrete floor felt hard to walk on and as I placed my luggage on the floor, I felt as though I was standing at the reception of a cheap gymnasium rather than a hostel.  I reluctantly handed over the twenty-eight dollars plus another twenty for a deposit and made my way up the stairs to find my room.  I had chosen to pay an extra two dollars to stay in a four person dorm instead of a six and I’m glad I did.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The End of the Road, Singapore - 29 June - 1 July 2011


I see trees of green, red roses too,
I see them bloom for me and you,
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white,
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night,
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky,
Are also on the faces of people going by,
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do,
They’re really saying I love you.

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow,
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know,
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Just over seven months ago I picked up my bags off my nice comfortable bedroom in my family home in Norwich.  The house was warm but outside it was a typical wet Sunday in November.  My nerves were awkward.  Was I really about to do this?  Am I really going to be travelling around this world of ours?  It didn’t seem real.  I felt as though I was just going on a weekend away and would be back in a couple of days.  Now I’m sitting on Singapore’s Esplanade staring across the water at the city scape.  The day was quickly turning into night and lights over the city were flicking on creating bright reflections across the marina.  My heart was beating strangely and I breathed deeply with a variety of emotions running through my veins.  I did it.  I travelled overland from Estonia to Singapore.  An epic 24,000 kilometre journey which took me through the vast Siberian plain on the iconic Trans-Siberian Railway, taking a right onto the Trans-Mongolian line which was built by the Russians to create a trade route between Russia and China where I experienced the -40 degree Mongolian wilderness.  I finished my first stint of rail journeys in China where I sampled dog in weird and wonderful China as I made my way to survive many Vietnamese motorcycle journeys and agonising bus experiences through Cambodia and Laos.  I found relief in Thailand and went elephant trekking in the northern mountains of Thailand and marvelled at the marine life of Malaysia.

Marina Sands
Over the last seven and a half months I have met so many people and seen some unbelievable things.  Now my mind is jumping into the future with more than an ounce of apprehension.  The road and rail have become my friends.  Although sometimes agonising, I have become addicted to the constant onward movement onto new places with new people, an addiction I can only relate to Stockholm Syndrome.  There’s nothing like the feeling of arriving in a completely new city not knowing who you will meet, what you will be doing and where the next destination will be.  People often ask me whether travelling alone is hard.  The short answer is no as you are never alone if you don’t want to be.  Admittedly there were a couple of times where I was ready to pack it in and go home but instead of dwelling on that depressive feeling, I picked my bags up and simply moved onto the next town.  I can count on my hands the amount of days I was completely alone.  Travelling alone truly gives you the freedom to explore the world.  I met and travelled with many wonderful people who I can now call friends. 

Memories flash through my mind and I feel my facial expression change as I laugh, smile and nostalgically frown as I remember those companions I had met, got to know well and bid farewell.  Such a torrent of memories sometimes becomes incomprehensible to distinguish without exceptional concentration as one memory leads onto another and another and another.  All my memories of the past seven months are valuable and will always comfort me in my most desperate moments.  Standing upon a snow capped mountain in the middle of the Terelj National Park in Outer Mongolia was where I felt most freedom.  Silence and miles of nothing spread out before me.  The road has literally come to an end at the southernmost point of the Eurasian land mass just 85 miles north of the equator.  There was nowhere else to go as I unfortunately had no money to continue through Indonesia so the day after tomorrow I will make my way to Singapore Airport where I will board an aircraft bound for Perth, Australia. 

My thoughts turn to the future.  Following months of travelling through Asia, I was soon going to be thrust back into the Western world.  Apprehension flooded my mind with so many questions.  How will it feel?  Will I find a job before my money completely dries up?  There were no answers to these questions and I am sure I will find out soon enough. 

What a wonderful world. 

My sentiment and self-congratulatory mood subsides a little as darkness finally engulfs Singapore and the sound / light / fire show begins in the bay.  This is a magnificent show which is performed in an intriguing way.  Jets of water spray up into the air creating a fluid canvas for the projected film to appear.  Music blasts into life with an apt version of What a Wonderful World whilst the images depict a human’s life from birth to magnificence.  This nightly show certainly beats that of Hong Kong’s comparatively meaningless light and music show.  The rain began to fall shortly after the show finished and people took cover in the astounding Marina Sands complex which hosts a shopping centre, casino, theatre and hotel which stands prominently opposite Singapore’s central business district and become an iconic piece of architecture.  The shopping centre beneath is, as I can only compare, an indoor Venice complete with canals, bridges and waterfalls.

Singapore has come a long way since Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles landed on the sparsely populated island in 1819.  It now has 5 million inhabitants and has the fourth biggest economy in the world.  Singapore is an excellent city which provides a diverse cultural experience that no other country has.  The mixture of Chinese, Malay, Indian, English and other nationalities has surely placed strong influences in art, architecture and food.  Raffles certainly started something magnificent.  The highlight of the city for me is the stunning Esplanade Theatres on the Bay whose architect was influenced by the Durian fruit.  Inside it’s just as awesome and most of my time in Singapore was spent there enjoying the free concerts in the foyer out of the rain.

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP… BEEP-BEEP-BEEP…  The day had arrived.  At 7:10 this evening the pilot will push the throttles to full and the aircraft will leave the ground.  It feels strange knowing that this was my last day in Asia.  When I booked the flight back in Phuket, it seemed trivial as though it was never going to happen.  But reality was staring me directly in the eyes as the lady behind the reception at Footprints Hostel handed me my boarding passes she had just printed off for me.  There was nothing for it but to enjoy my last meal and grab the MTR to the airport.  I spent a couple of hours in the hostel foyer writing and watching some Big Bang Theory which I had only recently discovered thanks to Jay in Langkawi. 

I stepped out of the hostel’s front door and as usual was hit by the humidity.  I have learnt it’s not worth complaining about the climate as it doesn’t change anything.  I embrace the humidity as my thoughts are focused on flying into the Australian winter.  I received an email from my Auntie Marilyn just yesterday telling me that the parcel I sent from Saigon had finally arrived.  This was good news as it’s all of my warm clothes which I will need.  It will be brilliant!  As the hostel is in Little India, I feel it’s only right to enjoy a freshly made curry from the local restaurant before I make my way to the airport.

With the curry sitting heavy in my stomach and a tingling tongue from the spices, I grab my bag from the hostel reception and make the walk to the MTR station.  This will be my last open air walk until I reach Australia.  The metro system in Singapore is one of the best in the world; fast, efficient and clean.  I step onto the train with a smile.  The apprehension I was feeling has given way to excitement.  The first leg of Andy’s Epic Voyage is coming to a close and a whole new chapter is about to begin. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Marvellous Malacca... enough said - 26-29 June 2011


The late afternoon heat was relenting as our bus to Malacca opened its doors and invited us in.  Jackpot, I thought to myself as I saw wide reclining chairs.  I excitedly found my seat and got comfortable for the relatively short journey ahead.  As the bus was moving out through the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur my mind was running with the thought that in only a few days I would be on a plane flying towards Perth.  Everytime I think of the flight, I get a little anxious and remorseful as I feel my journey by land and sea failed and I missed out Indonesia.  I did not have any money to continue on my journey through Indonesia as I was already in debt on my credit card, so I had no choice but to give in and fly to Perth where I would hopefully get a job and pay off my debts.

We arrived in Malacca just before sunset.  I retrieved my handwritten notes from my bag which I had copied from the Old Town Guesthouse website.  The directions told us to get the number 97 from stand 13.  Unfortunately when we asked the bus driver at stand 13 whether he was going anywhere nearby, he said no and told us to go to another stand who in turn told us no and proposed a completely different stand.  A local lady watched us running from stand to stand in utter confusion and offered to help us find the right bus.  She asked a few drivers and also got no conclusive answers so took me to the bus station office where they discussed and finally gave us an answer.

It was dark by the time we reached the guesthouse.  We entered through the doorway on street level and climbed the stairs that led to the guesthouse which was spread out on the first level above an Indian restaurant and a Malaysian café.  The gueshouse was run by a Frenchman and his wife who were very welcoming.  They showed us to our room which was a simple twin with a tall window and importantly two fans.  We were lucky that the night market was on in China town so we took a walk, ate some delicious food at a small Chinese café and wondered aimlessly through the market browsing at the vast merchandise on sale.  The highlight to the market was the karaoke in the centre where people took turns on the big stage singing their songs.

St Paul's
Malacca was an important Portuguese trading town whose port linked the Malay Peninsula with India, Indonesia, Thailand and China.  Due to its past, Malacca has an extremely diverse culture and architecture which is apparent through every turn.  Churches and temples stand side by side and the area around the 18th century Christ Church is magnificent and truly a remnant of Portuguese architecture and colours.  Upon a hill overlooking Christ Church and the rest of Malacca are the enchanting ruins of the St Paul’s, which was originally built in the early 16th century.  This poor church has gone from small beginnings, enlargement whilst the Dutch were around and finally being used as an armoury for the British army.  The views from above were fantastic and stretched all the way to the coast where you can clearly see the container ships steaming through the Straits of Malacca which were once notorious for pirates. 

Following our walk around town and up the hill to St Pauls, we decided to take the weight off our feet and enjoy a boat tour down the river through the heart of Malacca.  It was pleasant but not relaxing or informative at all as we were surrounded by an extremely large Indian tour group who decided they needed to converse as loud as possible.  I’m sure they were in a competition who could make the most annoying noises at the loudest possible volume which completely outdone the recorded tour guide.  Even though we couldn’t hear the information being provided, we could see that there wasn’t actually much of interest to see on the way apart from the extraordinary painted building stretching up one side of the river and a rather depressing looking fairground. 

This was my last day in Malaysia and my onward travel was yet to be decided.  I knew that I was going to head to Singapore but how I was getting there was the issue.  I really wanted to take the train as I love trains and it would have been nice to finish my overland journey off with a train journey.  Not only that, but it would have be a historic journey as the Malaysian and Singaporean rail networks have decided to cease the journey from Malaysia into the central Singapore Railway Station and stop trains at Woodlands station at the Northern frontier.  They hope that this change will speed up the immigration process and from Woodlands you can hop on the MTR which will take you anywhere in Singapore.  The last journey into the centre was planned to take place on 1 July 2012.  Getting the train from Malacca isn’t that simple as you have to get a bus to Tampin which is 38km north of the city.  It was either the train or the bus.  My mind was torn between the two but was eventually settled when I looked inside my wallet and saw only enough to get the bus, no more.

The day had come to move on after a fantastic few weeks travelling through beautiful Malaysia, seeing some pretty awesome places and meeting some wonderful people.  It was also time to say goodbye to my Malaysian travel partner, Barbara, whom I had met on the ferry between the islands of Langkawi and Penang and had travelled with throughout Malaysia.  She had been a fantastic travel partner but it was time to go solo once again as she had a couple more months of travelling South East Asia and was heading back up north to Ipoh.  Our last journey together was the bus journey to the bus station.  As we arrived at the station we headed to the relevant ticket offices which were actually next to each other and were lucky enough that our busses were both leaving within minutes.  Our goodbye was quick as we both had to rush to catch our onward buses. 

I was on my own again.  Travelling is a fantastic experience however, travelling alone means you have to often say goodbye to people whom you have become good friends with.  I knew that this was the last time I was going to say goodbye to anyone as I was only spending one and a half days in Singapore which meant it was unlikely for me to make any decent friends.  I sat in a seat towards the back of the bus with my bag behind me, fished out my MP3 player, reclined my seat and relaxed whilst watching Malaysia fade away behind me.