So we made it – January marked the anniversary of us spending 6 months travelling the world together! As always, I can’t quite believe we made it at all, let alone that we made it this far. Originally when we decided to travel we’d planned to only be away for 6 months… but this soon extended to 8 months as we added some destinations we just couldn’t miss… and is now looking like at least 10 months since we added yet more places we felt we had to squeeze in. If we could I think we’d be on the road for at least another year to tick off our immediate travel bucket list but sadly it looks like we’ll have to head back to real life at some stage.
The last couple of months have been pretty hectic as we’ve fought to fit in enough work to help us stay on the road for longer, whilst not missing any of the ‘must-sees’ in the countries we’ve visited, which has been a pretty exhausting combination at times. We’ve spent the two months since our last Reflections post finishing our tour of New Zealand, spending a month travelling Australia’s East Coast, and making our way back to our beloved Asia for an extended trip around several new countries. Our first stops here were a few days to revisit Bangkok, a favourite city of ours, followed by a two week journey through Myanmar which we’re now halfway through.
Our 6 month travel-versary was actually spent taking a leisurely cruise along the Irrawaddy River from Bagan to Mandalay, relaxing, reading and catching up on some much needed sleep. As we floated down the river taking in the sights, we chatted about the last 6 months, playing our usual game of ‘top fives’ – challenging each other to name our top 5 cities from our travels, top 5 people we’d met, top 5 meals etc etc. This provoked a discussion on whether we could remember what we’d been doing on each of our monthly travel-versaries to date – and we flipped through our pictures and notes to find the following:
Month 1 – 21st August:
On the anniversary of our first month travelling, we’d reached South America and specifically Ilha Grande, a paradise island off the coast of Brazil not far from Rio. We enjoyed a hike to a local waterfall before the island was hit by a tropical storm, leaving us with no power for the next 3 days!
Month 2 – 21st September:
We celebrated our 2nd month on the road on my birthday in Bolivia, where we trekked through the hillside to discover dinosaur footprints and had a amazing party in Sucre with our G Adventures travel crew. These guys were the absolute best and we’ve already met up with Kirstie in NZ and Alex and Lucy in Oz since leaving South America!
Month 3 – 21st October:
This anniversary was spent in the Galápagos Islands – hiking on the island of Fernandina surrounded by Marine Iguanas and fields of lava; snorkelling with sea lions and sea turtles off the coast of Isabela and whale watching from the deck of the yacht we called home for a week. Pretty much paradise!
Month 4 – 21st November:
Month 4 was spent in New Zealand, one of our favourite places on our trip. We were relaxing in Wellington while we waited for the ferry to South Island which was disrupted by the earthquake that had just taken place, and on this day in particular we visited Te Papa Museum – one of the world’s top rated museums.
Month 5 – 21st December:
5 months on the road was spent on Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world off the coast of Australia. Rob drove a 4×4 at crazy speeds down the beach (which doubles as a runway for planes!)x, we visited Eli Creek for a swim and saw a pretty cool ship wreck.
Month 6 – 21st January:
And as above, our 6 month anniversary of leaving everything behind to travel was spent on a rather rickety looking boat cruising through Myanmar after spending 3 perfect days chasing sunrises and sunsets in Bagan.
Crazy when you look at it like that – and hard to believe how many incredible experiences we’ve actually had. We’ve not made a special effort to do exciting things to celebrate each month on the road so I imagine we’d have an equivalent list for any date we’d chosen to look back on over the last 6 months. It reminds us again how ridiculously lucky we are to have been able to travel long term, and also what an amazing time we’ve been having and continue to have on our journey.
Heli Hiking Glaciers: the pinnacle of our amazing hiking adventures in New Zealand, this was top of the list for both of us when we were planning this post. Not only did we get to take our first trip in a helicopter but it was to a glacier! Seriously awesome to set foot on one and spend several hours hiking around and exploring this incredible landscape.
Milford Sounds Cruise: we were so lucky to get good weather for this and it made the day all the more memorable. We saw so many beautiful places in New Zealand and this was definitely one of our favourites.
Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef: I was nervous about this one to say the least – hearing horror stories about sharks and stingers had put me off swimming in Australia at all and our first time in the ocean was out in the middle of nowhere on the reef. Turns out it was one of the best snorkelling experiences ever – we saw sea turtles, giant clams and more tropical fish than you can imagine. Best of all we got a free day’s hire of an underwater camera so have some amazing photos to keep as souvenirs.
Sailing the Whitsundays: another incredible Oz experience, we took a 2 day tour of the Whitsunday islands on an old racing yacht from the 80s, exploring beautiful coves, snorkel spots and getting to see Whitehaven Beach, one of the most beautiful spots in the world.
Balloons in Bagan: more recently we had the chance to spend 3 days in the ancient city of Bagan – home to over 2000 pagodas and temples in the heart of Myanmar. We hired a scooter and spent our time finding the perfect spots to watch stunning sunrises and sunsets and exploring this amazing place. Watching the hot air balloons floating over the city at sunrise is one of the most amazing sights we’ve seen.
It’s not all excitement and good times and the last couple of months have been no exception!
Night ferry Wellington to Picton:
I can’t remember why we decided to take the night ferry, I think it was a bit cheaper and we assumed we’d not waste a day crossing the strait I guess – big mistake! It was shattering and we got no sleep whatsoever, effectively knocking us out for 2 days when we arrived on South Island when we were on a pretty tight itinerary to begin with.
Wisdom tooth playing up AGAIN: yet again, for the 3rd time on this trip, I ended up with a tooth infection. A manic couple of weeks where we didn’t stop in Australia, poor eating and too many bad night’s sleep left me run down, and resulted in another bout of toothache and antibiotics. Really need to get that sorted when I get home.
Rainy Christmas Day in Byron Bay: this wasn’t too bad a day, but kind of depressing I suppose when you consider all those stereotypes of happy Aussie christmasses on the beach. Luckily we’d made it to the beach for breakfast and Prosecco early on, but around midday the heavens opened and it literally chucked it down for the whole of the rest of Christmas Day – hiding out in our hostel wasn’t quite how we’d imagined spending the day.
All the rules in Australia: honestly, and I feel bad about admitting this, it took us a while to learn to love Australia. It’s got a reputation as a backpackers’ paradise, with wall to wall beaches and a haven for relaxation. However, we found ourselves at the mercy of bossy tour guides, a serious amount of seemingly bizarre rules, and many a telling off for the most innocuous of reasons. This is a country that will tell you off or fine you for what seems like anything. Chances are the rules are because of all the annoying backpackers who travel there and act like dicks, but until our last week we really weren’t keen on the place.
Sickness in Myanmar: travel diarrhoea and bouts of sickness are fairly standard occurrences while backpacking but the poor hygiene in Myanmar managed to surprise us. I’ve been ill pretty constantly since arriving, Rob’s not been at his best and pretty much everyone we’ve met has experienced sickness here. Whilst it’s an amazing country and I’m loving our time here – there’s not many places where you’ll see more rats than cockroaches.
Overall, the good continues to far outweigh the bad – and really, the bad hasn’t been that bad at all for this stage of our trip. The next two months are going to be an absolute blast if everything pans out as planned – we’ll be exploring Northern Thailand, crossing through Laos on the notorious two day slow boat before spending a few weeks in Vietnam, then heading to two more counties that weren’t part of our original plan; Malaysia and Taiwan. Fingers crossed it all goes as smoothly as possible and we’ll aim for another round up when we hit 8 months on the road!