Tag: Travelling Insights

Hilary’s worst moments

Hilary’s worst moments

We thought you might like to read about some of our less glamorous moments. Here are Hilary’s six worst so far:

Meltdown in Puerto Iguacu, Argentina

As it was a Saturday night we had booked a hostel in advance, but booking.com let us down; when we turned up, our room was taken. It was the end of the day, very hot, I was tired, my backpack was heavy, I hadn’t eaten and meltdown happened… Roger became the hero of the hour and carried both backpacks as we tramped around trying to find somewhere else!

Shitting in my pants in the street in San Pedro de Atacama

After a long journey, we were starving and tucked into a hearty pizza for lunch at what seemed to be a nice restaurant. But within hours my stomach was feeling dodgy. Later, whilst out for an early evening walk, the worst happened! There was no controlling it, just a quick dash back to our hostel…

A massive argument with Roger in Quito about our return date

Roger wanted to extend our year of travelling because he loves it so much, and we can’t get back into our house until mid-December. I enjoy the travelling but I am missing my children and friends and I’m also totally exhausted and know I cannot last beyond 12 months. After an hour Roger agreed.

Night in a cheap hotel in San Rivas Gerardo, Costa Rica

Being built into the rock face, it had seemed quite a wacky place when we checked in… but when we switched the lights off in our bedroom at night, a whole swarm of noisy insects came out of the corners of the room and attached me! A massive moth got caught in my hair, another large buzzing  insect hit my face and everywhere there was a loud drone of others. I freaked!

Bus ride to Iquique in Chile

It was always going to be a long 28 hour bus trip, but then it got even longer. The bus broke down at midnight on a two-way highway sided by cliffs. To save the battery, the driver then IMG_3096switched off all the lights whilst we had lorries hurtling by in the outside lane. Roger and I got off the bus and stood in the freezing cold for two hours, lest it got run into. The other passengers thought we were mad! Suffice to say, a replacement bus turned up two hours later and we all got to Iquique safely by 11pm the next night.

Losing my favourite scarf on the bus to Paraguay

How I loved that blue and black scarf; I wore it everywhere for five years because it was so practical (see photo taken in Chile). It didn’t show the dirt, kept me warm as a scarf and cool as a headscarf and went with virtually every top in my wardrobe. But alas. On a long overnight bus journey from Formosa my scarf must have fallen onto the floor, so I didn’t see it when we left. I realised about an hour later and tramped back to the bus station in fierce heat, but it was too late, the bus had already departed.

Guest blog from Stephanie

Guest blog from Stephanie

We were delighted to be joined for ten days by Stephanie, Hilary’s sister. Here she writes about “the truth behind the blog”.

I was happy to join Hil and Roger in one of the gentler stages of their round-the-world tour. Not just for a nice holiday in California and an opportunity to see my dear sister and brother-in-law again – but also for a chance to study the day-to-day mechanics of their trip. Because let’s face it there’s not IMG_6561much personal info coming across in this blog is there folks? The decision has been taken at some stage to target it at that elusive creature the interested stranger. Well sorry, but my post is not for her fickle glance (yes, Hil, I am trying to stick to your feminist preachings) but rather for those who know and love Hil and Roger.

They did one personal post last month about how they were still friends – and some practical tips on how they stayed that way. What struck me anew is their basic compatibility. They are both morning/daytime people. They like hiking, they’re prepared to rough it and are quite happy living spartan lives. They are both positive, energetic people who like to plan ahead and organise. They search out above all the grand wonders of nature. Of course they are interested also in man-made landscapes plus all the human elements, but I think it’s fair to say that above all they like the great outdoors. That’s true especially for Hil.

IMG_4766When I first suggested joining them in California I had planned a couple of days in San Francisco and then chilling out by the beach the rest of the time. But Hil and Roger are really not chilling-out types of guys! I quote Hil’s email: “We loved the look of the Airbnb in Monterey, but just wondering if you want this for so many nights? We could do 4 nights there and perhaps 4 nights somewhere else. Do you want to spend all your time on the beach, once we leave San Francisco?”. Obviously “yes” was not an option here! And in fact I’m glad we went inland and saw the wild interior of California as well as the civilised coast. As well as the wonders of Yosemite.

So a typical day with them is as follows:

1. Rise EARLY – 6.15 am was the earliest – shower and dress
2. Porridge and fruit for breakfast then prepare packed lunch (sandwiches containing avocado and peppers, peanut butter and bananas – plus fruit)
3. Then set off for the destination planned the previous night, taking in all the sights en route. Mode of transport: car if necessary, but preferably foot and/or bike.
4. Frequent stops for photo-shoots. Roger doesn’t hesitate to rope in passers-by to do group photos – normally they seem happy to oblige.
5. Lunch doesn’t usually last long before we’re off again
6. Journeys home are always interrupted by more photo-shoots plus detours
7. Arrive home as late as 19.30 having been on the go all day
8. Supper is quickly prepared. Typical meals are rice or pasta with beans and veg. (though I pride myself on introducing couscous into their diet: even faster to prepare), then fruit. Roger will drink a beer but Hil mainly eschews alcohol now.
9. Not surprisingly after such a long day they rarely go out in the evening as well but Roger settles down to editing his photos. He is a passionate photographer despite being limited now to iphone and ipad, and does wonders with the inbuilt editing tools – though Hil also has taken some great shots under his tutelage. Fascinating to be with someone who obviously looks at the world from the view of potential photographs.
10. Other evening activities: catching up with news and emails, reading, skyping children, updating blog, planning the day ahead
11. Then it’s bedtime around 10.30 – 11pm. I would be impressed if they also fitted sex into their schedule. Roger claims they do, but he would, wouldn’t he?

IMG_4872And this is only a typical day for the easy stages of their trip where they hire a car. Hil pointed out how this changes the whole dynamics. Without a car they are limited to their back-packs and cannot carry food around, so are forced to eat out and live quite differently – and less easily.

“We wanted to push ourselves outside our comfort-zone” is a remark of theirs which remains with me.

Dear Hil and Roger, thanks so much each of you for acting variously as companion, sherpa, planner, driver, navigator and cook: you helped me have a great and memorable holiday.

Bonne continuation to you both.

Stephanie

Into California

Into California

Our twelfth State. Crossing the State Line we were asked “Do you have any produce?”. Roger answered “What do you mean by produce?” and we were charmingly waved through.

The more you get to know America, the more you appreciate the edgy differences between the States. It’s more than slogans proudly displayed on number plates. Different laws, different cultures, different accents and very different political views.

Ask an American travelling abroad where they come from, and they’ll always reply with the State first. They’ll get emotional standing for the Stars and Stripes but are very proud to be an Iowan, an Oregonian or a Texan. Looking into America from the outside, we can often forget that.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and a world of faith

Jehovah’s Witnesses and a world of faith

Throughout our travels, we have seen Jehovah’s Witnesses standing on street corners. They are everywhere in North and South America; a colossal effort to spread word of their faith.

But surely Donna, Terra and Tom have the prettiest place – sitting in the riverside park at Bend.

It was interesting to talk to these lovely people about their belief and how it acts as a pathway in their lives. We also realised if we took up their faith we could get free accommodation all over the world!

And Roger later read the book What does the Bible really teach? Understanding others people’s world views is surely part of the travelling experience. And even secularists need to appreciate that faith is a key driver in the world today.

Over the past six months we have seen many extraordinary buildings celebrating religious faith. But it is always the people worshipping, or praying, or crying inside – that makes us reflect most.

Canadian round-up

Canadian round-up

Canada is only 150 years young and we are struggling to find its identity.

The Queen is still on the banknotes but half the population in the western provinces look Chinese. They have one big land border but the only thing that unites Canadians is “we are not American”.

The cities we stayed in (Vancouver, Calgary) scream global, but some of the rural towns visited (Revelstoke, Jasper and Vernon) were the opposite; here people simply want to watch ice hockey and dig their allotments.

In Europe we constantly discuss the Europe v Islam divide, here in Canada it’s the Europe v America v China debate.

But maybe all this is a bit deep. We came for the big landscapes and got them. Imposing, beautiful, dramatic. It’s a scale that Europe can only imagine.

And it’s this scale that perhaps masks for now the changes taking place here; environmental damage, rapid immigration and global capitalisation. Without a clear identity, which way will Canada turn?

And if you are British and thinking of emigrating here to escape Brexit you may not find it as easy as hoped. We hear that Asians and others now get priority. Also don’t forget the long, cold winters.

We’ve reached six months travelling

We’ve reached six months travelling

Today we have been travelling around the world for exactly six months. We’ll celebrate in Vernon, the British Columbia town in the Okanagan Valley.

We’re pretty chuffed with ourselves. We are on plan, on budget (well nearly) and fit and healthy. Also – and this is probably the best achievement – still talking to each other.

We’ve met inspiring people, seen incredible sights and got outside our comfort zones on numerous occasions.

Many people have asked us how we have changed.

Hilary’s been reminded that 99% of the world consists of good people who are living happily and at peace and we should focus on this, not the depressing news we get each day. She’s also been surprised at how she can survive without a daily routine and home comforts. Roger feels an increased drive to make the most of each day – after all life is not a rehearsal and we are not getting any younger. He is meanwhile planning to do his bit for climate change and go vegan. Also, our children tell us we’ve become more interesting to them since we’re now doing lots of exciting things.

Here are six of our favourite experiences – one for each month – click on them to be taken to our blog post….

November – Sleeping in a Trulli

December – Walking the Amalfi coast

January – Climbing Torres del Paine

February – Cycling in the Atacama Desert

March – Living in a cabin in Costa Rica

April – Visiting Graceland, Memphis

We hope you will continue to enjoy the journey with us. And we’re so grateful for all your encouraging comments.

Thoughts on the US southern states

Thoughts on the US southern states

Over the last 2 weeks we’ve experienced life on the road in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Here are some observations:

  • The people are very friendly and helpful
  • The many Trump supporters we met were nice people – we expected to meet horror show characters
  • There are churches everywhere; many big, brash and very lavish
  • Driving and parking in cities is very easy. We saw no road rage in 2,500 miles of driving
  • The countryside is beautiful; much of it unspoilt apart from advertising along the Interstates
  • Staying in motels is a bit of a lucky dip
  • We saw no open carry guns, except the police of course
  • April is the perfect time to go before it gets too hot
  • We were often the only people walking in a town
  • There is patriotism everywhere – large flags line the roads

And here are images not yet shown on this blog…..

L – Roger being silly in Vicksburg R – Hilary at the Mississippi

L – With Caroline and Will in Houston  R – Watching the rodeo in Fort Worth

L – Field outside town of Stotesbury R – Natchez Trace Pathway

We will return to the States in a few weeks, but first we are off to Western Canada.

Paradise lost

Paradise lost

This sign made us smile, but it also got us thinking. When does a touristy beach town lose the feel of being “paradise”? Maybe it’s when the tarmac arrives, or the first fast food outlet or even a tattoo parlour.

With no planning laws, an eyesore can be quickly created instead of just natural beauty. Here’s what we mean – a scene at Bahía Drake where we’ve just stayed.

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When ugly, cheap point-of-sale and shacks get thrown up to attract tourists and make money, how should we react?

Should we view this critically as killing the “tourist experience” and despair? And in future, seek out expensive places designed and built by corporates who have the money for aesthetics. Or just arrive by cruise boat.

Or should we leave our “designer eye” in the first world, and continue spending our money at the shabby places run by locals? If we do the latter, whilst it may lead to less than perfect results, it is a sustainable approach that nurtures local communities.

South America – parting thoughts

South America – parting thoughts

The above photo shows us in Chile’s Atacama Desert. It sums up the great experiences we have enjoyed during 11 weeks in South America.

It’s been about amazing natural landscapes. The Beagle Channel, Valley of the Moon, Perito Moreno Glacier, Torres del Paine, Iguacu Falls, Tierra del Fuego, Cotopaxi, Mount Fitzroy and the Amazon Basin Jungle to name a few.

These are the reasons to take the all-night buses, stay in dodgy rooms and put up with the crowded polluted cities. We’ve found it tough going at times but can now look at a map of South America and recall so many wonderful natural sights.

But the same can’t be said for manmade sights. Except for some colonial buildings that had the fortune to escape the wrecking-ball.

In our travels from Quito to Ushuaia, we were constantly reminded that this is still a continent that’s suffering from poor leadership and woeful civil community. Locals talked to us about ongoing government corruption. Towns were haphazard and ugly. And everywhere litter.

Indeed it’s difficult to think of two more different travel experiences than our two months in Italy and our three months here. Culture v nature. Style v clutter. Order v chaos.

Yet for all that, South America was exhilarating. The people are so young. It’s clearly changing so quickly. And given the right leadership it could have the potential to be a bastion of western values in a difficult world.

Talking of which we will soon be blogging from deepest TrumpLand. But first some beach time.

If you plan to do this You’ll need lots of energy to do the 5000 miles we covered in 11 weeks. So don’t delay. Do it now. Also best to learn some Spanish or get proficient in using Google Translate.

Living with guinea pigs. How should we feel?

Living with guinea pigs. How should we feel?

It was dark and damp. Across the mud floor scuttled dozens of guinea pigs. In the corner a basic wooden platform was pointed to. This is where the couple sleep.

Hilary and Roger spent some time last year in The Scottish Outer Hebrides and visited a Black House (see picture below) museum. Sanitised for the tourist it was almost romantic to imagine families living in such ‘rural charm’ a hundred years ago.

Now here in Ecuador two indigenous people – a weather-beaten couple in their 60s – were showing us their home. It’s the other side of the world but it still came as a shock. After all, 50km up the road the elite are relaxing in their Quito mansions.

How should we feel?

You can’t escape the fact that it’s a travelling highlight to see such a scene. You can’t ignore the fact you want to see these indigenous houses still lived in rather than replaced by soulless concrete.

But how do we expect to sleep tonight? Not surrounded by mud, damp and guinea pigs for starters.

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A Scottish Black House. Today they are typically museums, art galleries or derelict