***Just for info, if anyone is interested, we have also posted the last section of our Canada to Mexico trip “A Couple Of Vistors”***
So here we are on the road again. We have just spent what is likely to be our longest spell in the UK for the next 5 years. Although it was in the main enjoyable, it didn’t quite go according to plan. We both ended up being quite ill for three or so weeks over Christmas. Whatever it was we eventually needed a course of antibiotics to sort out. That, coupled with a few other setbacks and a lot of running around backwards and forwards obtaining various visas, meant we were unable to catch up with as many people as we would have liked. Hopefully, we will be able to rectify this in the Spring.
Our plans for the next four months are to fly to Australia, spend a month or so there and then make our way slowly back to the UK following a route which takes us by ship to Singapore, then ferry, train and bus through South East Asia and into China. After a couple of weeks seeing the main sights of China we will then travel to Kazhakstan, Uzbekistan and into Russia before heading home through Scandinavia.
We have now spent a couple of weeks in Australia and things are changing by the day. We never thought the events in a fish market in a Chinese city (which we had no intention of visiting) could affect our plans so much. Coronavirus and it’s knock on effect looks likely to disrupt our plans. We are keeping our options open and formulating a plan “B” and maybe even a plan “C”! We like to think of ourselves as being flexible and I think both of us secretly like the idea of things not going quite to plan which then gives us the opportunity to do things we might not necessarily have otherwise considered. We will see how things develop over the next couple of weeks and go from there.
So what have we been doing in the last couple of weeks? Our first stop was three days in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Warm weather and blue skies was the order of the day. Abu Dhabi reminds us of what Dubai was like fifteen or so years ago, developing and expanding rapidly with more and more Western influences. It is an Islamic nation and evidence of that is everywhere with The Grand Mosque, the second largest in the world, taking centre stage. But there are shopping malls rivaling anything in the USA, there are waterparks, themeparks, jeep safaris and other trips, sporting events and concerts, nightclubs and bars which cater for tourists coming from all over the world. It is certainly at a crossroads and the message seems to be “Come here and enjoy yourself but remember where you are and abide by our rules” which I suppose is fair enough.
After our time relaxing in Abu Dhabi we continued on to Australia, with our first stop being in Brisbane. When planning for this particular trip was in its infancy we were initially heading straight to Perth on the West coast, but after meeting Glen on our trip around South America last year, we decided to take the detour and visit him. Glen is a top guy and we got on well in South America. We had a fantastic time with him here in OZ. He went out of his way to show us around and although we have visited this part of the world before it was so much more fun doing it with a local. We spent four days between Rainbow Beach on the Sunshine Coast and Byron Bay in North New South Wales.
Glen picked us up from the airport in his Toyota Landcruiser equipped with fridge!! and off we went North before hitting the beach and then driving almost 50 miles along the sand by the water’s edge. It was brilliant. Glen was sailing along picking the best routes making it look easy, and then Steve took over and made it look difficult!! Sliding through the sand, covering the truck in saltwater, he just started to get the hang of it when it was time for a spot of lunch. After lunch Glen got behind the wheel again and normal service was resumed and we ended up in Noosa. This is one of our favourite places in Australia. It has a great town and a fabulous white sand beach bordered by thick forest at either end. We finished off at a bar where Glen frequented many years ago and a couple of Schooners of “Toheys” finished off a great day!
The following day we went to Australia Zoo, of Steve Irwin fame. It was a great zoo with plenty of species with loads of space to roam. The main focus of the zoo is the re-homing of crocodiles who have been causing problems in the wild and are in danger of being hunted down. There are some seriously big crocs there weighing over 1000kg and there accompanying photographs of Steve Irwin in his attempts to catch them. Definitely not for the faint hearted!
This being Australia there were more than a fair share of venomous snakes knocking around which, along with the Tasmanian Devils, were Steve’s favorite. Sarah however was all over the kangaroos which were roaming around various parts of the zoo and armed with a bag of “Roo food” she was in her element feeding them. Glen however was not that impressed. “They’re bloody everywhere and a pest, there are hundreds of them not far from the house” was his take on the kangaroos. That evening we drove past a golf course less that a couple of miles from where Glen lived and there were at least twenty kangaroos all twice the size as the ones from the zoo just wandering around!
We stayed a couple of nights at Glen’s place with him and his fabulous wife, Kelly. They were so welcoming. The family came round for dinner, we had a couple of beers and reminisced about South America. We also chatted about Glen’s next trip as he and his brother-in-law are taking part in the Mongul Rally, driving a 1000cc truck from the UK to Mongolia, taking ten weeks. It sounds a logistical nightmare but great fun. Unfortunately we will miss the start in the UK but there is a check point and a party in Prague along the way so we are going to make every effort to catch up with him there.
Our final day was spent along the Gold Coast. Glen and Sarah dropped Steve off so he could run the eight miles along the beaches and through Surfers Paradise to a surf club for breakfast. By the time Steve arrived, they were already tucking into smashed avocados and eggs. After that we had a tour of some of the great beaches along the coast eventually calling in at Glen’s mum’s house, a lovely place in two acres just north of Byron Bay. She cooked us some lunch and we chatted with her and her partner Don about travel, which they have done extensively. We could have spent all afternoon there sitting on the terrace chatting, but our tour guide, Glen, had us back underway for a stop in Byron Bay. We first came here 20 years ago and although the place still has an unbelievable beach, the town has exploded and you could say it’s lost some of it’s charm.
With our time with Glen finished, and a promise to meet up in Prague in July, we were off across Australia to Perth and the West Coast. One of the questions we are asked most is “What will you do after the five years of travelling are over?“. That is a long way off and we know we can’t travel like this forever but we do intend to travel, to some degree, for as long as we are able. We can see ourselves spending more time in fewer places and without doubt one of those places will be Perth. We love it here. It has so much to offer. The city is relatively small and compact, yet it has everything we need. It is closer to Singapore than Sydney and consequently has an Asian influence. It has endless white sand beaches, some with every facility you could want like at Cottesloe and Scarborough, but there are numerous other undeveloped beaches accessed through paths in the sand dunes with literally no-one on them…… just watch out for the snakes in the dunes!! Perth also has an amazing array of accessible things to do including almost every sport and entertainment. In our first week we have been to the basketball, T20 cricket at the brand new “Optus” stadium, moonlight cinema in the park (we upgraded to a beanbag and an ice cream ticket there) and we were treated to a 30 minute amazing fireworks display over the city as we were fortunate to be here on Australia Day.
Perth is also an easy city to get around. Public transport is excellent, well designed and either cheap or free! We have also hired bikes for three weeks as there is a network of cycle paths to rival anywhere. We are spending our days backwards and forwards to the beaches, down to drink coffee on the famous “cappuccino strip” in the “cool” town of Fremantle, wandering around the 50 miles or so of cycle paths next to the Swan River. Who knows we might just stay here until May!!
Steve has also been trying to get back into his running but is struggling a little since we were both ill back in December and with temperatures sometimes hitting the 40’s he is finding it tough going. The other day he ran past the site of the Subiaco Oval. This was the main stadium before the new “Optus” was built and has now been demolished for the building of some swanky new apartments. We have had a few great nights there, including Aussie Rules football and for Steve’s 40th birthday we saw Rod Stewart and Brian Adams there. But for Steve, without doubt his best evening in Subiaco was seeing AC/DC blow 80,000 sets of eardrums 34 years after seeing them perform in Sheffield in front of 3,000! It was quite sad to see the old stadium pulled down but at least the toilets in the new stadium are better….that’s progress!
We are leaving Perth in a couple of days and heading south to the wine region of Margret River and more fabulous beaches before moving on to Singapore and then who knows…..definately not to a fish market in Wuhan though!