A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: charlieandross


sunny 42 °C

Hello readers one last time (booo hoooo :-)))),

Well, I'm not going to summarise every event and detail and how it made us feel because anyone who has travelled out of the same bag for as long as this and met the people we have along the way, and counted Rupees, KIP, Dong, Dollars, Bahts, Ringgit, Quetzals etc in the way that we have to eat, sleep, enjoy & escape will know that this would be impossible. It's all part of the joys and trials of travelling.

Every country we visited gave us something...even if that something was not to our taste, unenjoyable, shocking or sad...it gave us memories and tiny, tiny moments that, partly with the help of this blog, will give us memories to live on with tea and biscuits when we're old.

Most people have asked us what our favourite country is...this is impossible to answer because India was probably my favourite in terms of stimulating the senses (and the guts) for something completely utterly different, as well as an education in a religious and cultural perspective (the Caste system) that runs so deep and creates the rich/poor divide that will forever be. But let's be honest, we barely enjoyed it. For that reason alone, I would recommend everyone to try it...as backpackers of course!

Mexico, Hong Kong, Laos and Thailand are highlights for us to kind of answer that question. But it's the experience of getting to each place, travelling around, not knowing if in the morning you are taking a bus to El Salvador or a boat to Colombia....not knowing until a day before that you'll be flying back to London...and having the freedom to just bail out of Mumbai when you've run out of Immodium.

It's also the experience of who you are travelling with. Ross and I could have taken the same route, seen the same places and done similar things with other people and had a completely different experience. Then again, he and I could repeat it all and still have a different take on everything. I feel very lucky to have fulfilled one of my life goals with him...we have spent a total of 242 days and nights together continually, which is far from our natural routine, coupled with the constant decision making, navigating, organising and protecting that goes on. I think that is pretty damn special and a good start to our married lives together.

We have not cured our wonderlust....it's now worse! We already know the next two destinations we want to visit, and there is still the small matter of Colombia and Bolivia (those salt plains are still calling for me to drive and spin across them, top gear style!). But we know we never, ever want to stay in another hostal again!

A big part of our travels has been this blog. We started it so that we would have a momento of our experiences and also to keep our nearest and dearest aware of our rough location to stop them clucking! We never realised just how much you would all enjoy the blog and in some cases you have said that it has been inspiring. That has really been incredible to hear and on days when we are really shattered, flea bitten (literally) and overwhelmed from the days events and sights, the comments encouraged us to keep going with it, we didn't want to let you down.

A quick note on Spain...a beautiful country it still is with some of the most preserved, small Adulucian white villages you could imagine. We spent some wonderful days in Seville with my Mum who joined us for just under a week, lots of laughs, red wine, delicious tapas and a chance to practise our Spanish which has really improved in the last three months....she was impressed!! The last two weeks we have treated as a holiday...I'm sure you'll all laugh at this, but we really felt we needed it after the travels!!!

One last word: Anyone can see part of the world, at any age, in any way they choose fit, depending on their circumstances & budget....whether it's for a month, 6 months or 3 years. We saw people with kids backpacking, we met golden oldies in hostals and everything in between. We met people horseriding, quadbiking and cycling from Canada to Patagonia alone. We are both skint but I feel incredibly rich from the experience and we both know we'll be back to the grind in one way or another on our return. For anyone with an inclin to do this, the only thing I'll recommend is not to put a barrier in the way. You won't regret it, I promise! And we have a tent if anyone wants it, as Ross and I don't do camping anymore!

Failing that, it's 46 degrees at 19.30 in the evenings in Seville at the moment if you're craving some sun!

Thank you all for reading and writing to us, it's been absolutely brilliant, and Thank you World!

I will leave Ross to add the photo's over the next few days, as there are plenty more to come.

Much love,

Ross & Charlie

Posted by charlieandross 03:48 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

Costa to Costa

sunny 38 °C

Our travels since the Pyrenees have taken us along the coast from Tarragona all the way down to Granada - where we currently reside. We have covered about 1800km so far and, as we have previously discovered during our earlier road trips, have managed to see so much more of the remote parts of the land by driving the miles ourselves.

Tarragona, the first port of call after our Pyrenees adventure was somewhat odd. Nestled about 60km South of Barcelona the town is centered on the walled old city, the rather impressive cathedral, and Roman amphitheatre. Narrow cobbled streets, charming buildings and the obligatory town square give the old town a cosy feel. Outside of the old city walls though, the town is very much an over developed industrial monster. A thriving cargo port, coupled with recently constructed 'seafood sauce' colored living accommodation really gave us a stark contrast to the old part of the city. The small beach nestled to the left of the port was also rather unattractive and uninspiring. After a couple of nights we decided to head further South along the coast.

A full days driving took us to Cabo De Gata in Andalucia where we were keen to see the stunning beaches that we had read so much about. I was also curious to see the baron spaghetti western landscapes in the region - these were used as the backdrop for most of Clint Eastwoods famous films in the 1960s. Unfortunately though the rather uncomfortable campsite and lengthy trek that was required to get to the better coves and beaches through the surrounding swampland scuppered our plans a little.

So again we decided to drive for the whole day - hugging the coast we continued to drive through a multitude of towns, cities and villages. Many of the smaller tourist resorts were eerily quiet and had an abundance of property for sale. The stark reality of the financial crisis that this country is in is clear to see and it really is very sad. The early signs of future ghost towns in the making is all the evidence you need, as a non-Spaniard, to get a jist of where this country it at and also where it is heading.

Granada was the next destination on the trip and a city that Charlie had been longing to visit for some time. The magnificent Alhambra Palace, was the focus of the mini city break and it took us a good day to explore the immaculately manicured lawns, tranquil inner courtyards and the actual citadel itself. The panoramic external views from pretty much anywhere within the Alhambra are breathtaking. The surrounding countryside and the multitude of white wash villages create picture-postcard scenery that is as beautiful as it is tranquil. We have enjoyed the majority of the Granada province, it's villages, as well as the City itself.

We actually meet Lee (Charlie's Mum) tonight before heading together onto Seville - where Charlie will give you our next update.

Ross and Charlie

Posted by charlieandross 03:48 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Hot Barcelona to camping in the Pyrenees

sunny 30 °C

Yes, you read that right....camping in the chilly Pyrenees...completely ill-prepared of course. Ross mentioned that we decided to just treat this as a long holiday but after a few days living it up (kind of) in Barcelona (which I won't describe as most of you have been and those that haven't, should ...it's as cool as London, but with a beach and some weird and wonderful Gaudi), we found ourselves in Decathlon buying a two-man tent, a blanket and some bed linen. I had an urge to see the Pyrenees, get a 'lakes and mountains' fix, and Ross was lovely enough to humour me despite his craving for the sun & the coastal route.
So our road trip began with an immediate detour North, heading for the Parc Nacional d'Aiguestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici (imagine trying that one when navigating...I just pointed at the map). As we climbed altitude, the scenery just got better. We passed through lots.... nondescript poor- looking towns - probably once prosperous but now riddled with closed-down units; arid farm plains; vibrant fruit farms and vineyards; on to magnificent mountain landscape clad in pine trees. Blue skies and warm sun, yet the air smelt of Christmas. Neither of us had visited Alpine territory outside of the ski season but it definitely won't be our last.
After driving through several ski resorts and alpine villages, we arrived at the town of Espot and decided to camp (don't laugh). The sun was still out but it was getting chilly and we wondered how we would fare being such amateur campers. We found a fantastic spot next to a roaring river. I knew we were privaledged to be able to camp at such a spot and in fear this may be our only chance, we / I thought we would ignore the fact that it gets cold in the Pyrenees at night! Dinner was a tin of sardines, a french stick and a bottle of red wine (we lacked equipment). Freezing it was, (and silly) but the only thing we lost was sleep, and to wake up to the river in front of us was worth it.
The village of Espot is quaint, afluent and historic with some great walks, but we headed up to the Sant Maurici for a trek. This place is amazing, and certainly gave us a lakes and mountains fix. Waterfalls, freshwater streams, salmon rivers, beautiful azure blue lakes, pine forests (Ross spotted deer), awesome peaks and some very cheerful ramblers on the way made for a fresh interlude.
After all that we are back in the baking hot sun driving South along the coast, currently in Tarragona (but very ready to be leaving tomorrow morning). Next stop, Valencia.
Love to everyone,
Charlie & Ross

Posted by charlieandross 09:54 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

From Southend to Barcelona

sunny 18 °C

Charlie and I have been back in the UK just over one week now. Aside from catching up with family and friends (which has been brilliant for both of us) the continual rain and wind, coupled with the reality of the UK daily grind, has left us both feeling a little flat. It is a bizarre feeling really - the bubble that we have been traveling in for the last seven months has suddenly (temporarily) popped. However much you prepare yourself for this reality before you return to the UK the mini low that follows is quite surreal. On the upside though; BBC 6 Music, the Euros, seeing my nephew Ollie, and my Mum's cooking have all helped distract my attentions somewhat!

As ever with us though our vague plans have already changed. Rather than buying a car here in the UK and driving through France down to Spain we have decided to fly to Spain and rent a car there. I think this seems to be the sensible thing to do with the money we have left. Had we bought a cheap car that broke down within the first week or so then our travels would probably come to a complete halt. Obviously neither of us want that, also the potential thought of ending this incredible adventure in such a way would undoubtably leave a bitter taste in both our mouths.

So, next Tuesday morning we fly out of London(?!) Southend airport to Barcelona. Southend airport is literally ten minutes down the road from my parents house and will be the first time either of us have ever flown from here. We spend three nights in Barcelona before hiring a car and following the coast all the way down to Portugal. This last hurrah is going to be more like a budget holiday than a continuation of 'backpacking'. Don't get me wrong, we are not in 4 or 5 star accommodation (unfortunately!) but we will be looking to enjoy our last few weeks back on the road without 'roughing' it too much. Also, as Charlie mentioned in the last blog entry, we will of course continue to update the blog, the map, and photos as we progress throughout Spain and keep you all abreast of our final chapter!

Ross and Charlie

Posted by charlieandross 04:20 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

The Darien dilema!

overcast 28 °C

Hello Readers,

A lot has happened to us since the last blog update. In fact in many ways the last week or two have been the most pivitol of the trip so far. Upon leaving Isla Bastimentos we were due to head to Santa Fe for two days before our trip to Colon to catch the ferry onwards to Colombia. Rather alarmingly though we had started to hear rumours from fellow travellers that the ferry had been delayed once more! The original launch date was May 10th, postponed to May 16th and then finally May 31st (the date we were hoping to travel on). Alas, these chinese whispers proved to be true. Various political permit problems on both the Colombian and Panamanian sides have scuppered the launch date yet again. With much embarrassment, little communication, and lots of money floating about in the ether the Greek shipping company that had built the vessel in question were trying to retain as much credibility as possible from the ensuing fiasco - whilst we were left to piece the news together for ourselves via hear say, internet forums and lots of speculation!

Aborting our trip to Santa Fe we headed straight back to Panama City to claim a refund on our tickets and find a plan for our onward travels. You would think that getting your money back from a service that has clearly not been provided, and for which you have the tickets and receipt, would be fairly easy. Think again! After locating our rather embarrassed tour operators, Adventuras 2000, in the Multicentro shopping mall we were told to go to the Head Office to claim our refund. Clearly the 'alarm bells' were starting to ring for both Charlie and I now and in the back of both our minds was the possibility that we may not get our $388 back! Fortunately for us, and after some very active and persuasive action from Charlie, we were handed a cheque for the full refund amount and subsequently cashed this in at the nearest Banco Nacionale.

So now we were back to square one. 35 days and two countries (that we didn't plan to visit) later, we were no closer to getting to Colombia. We were a lot poorer and also getting short on ideas. The cheapest flight to Bogota from Panama City was now in the region of £500 each and the cheapest yachting option was now about $450 each!! With much trepidation we decided to cut our losses with South America and head home before going back out on the road to Europe. It had become fairly clear that whilst we could still afford to fly to Colombia, the remaining money left in our accounts would no way cover the experiences and adventures that we had left to see and do. However, we knew that the European leg of our trip was very much still alive and financially viable...

...With a swift call to our travel agent, LIz, in London, we actioned our last free flight change and brought forward our flight from Buenos Aires to Sunday 3rd June. All we had to do now was get a flight from Panama City to Buenos Aires at the cheapest possible price. This turned out to be a complete nightmare!

On the morning of June 1st Charlie booked two flights with an online booking company - Rumbo, which were confirmed. Having mentally got prepared to see black cabs and red buses again; and of course family and friends, we got to Panama City airport early. Things went wrong at the check-in desk - they had no account of our booking. After much confusion, spanglish conversations and time ticking, Charlie was asked to go to an office and call the agent for the booking. No response. Emails with passport details ensued, back and forth using a defunct scanner but their response was too slow and we were going to miss our flight, which we did. Phonecards, phone calls to banks, phone calls to other agents....8 hours later, we were still in the airport with no apparent problem with our cards. We tried to book two more flights overnight but we had the same problem. By this point we knew we wouldn't make it to Buenos Airies to get our flight to London, so we would have to cough up and pay about £1300 to get home from Panama City. The booking situation was impossible. It turns out that several companies are willing to 'sell' long haul flights that are due to take off within 24 hours of booking, yet they are unable to offer a 24/7 service to confirm the flight with the airline within 24 hours!! How ridiculous! We could have gone around in more circles like this for days. By this point Charlie was on the red wine and I was downing Panamanian lager in an overpriced airport restaurant we had become far too familiar with. We cut more losses, called another company the next day and booked a flight to...

...Madrid of course!

We are currently a quarter through our journey at Cali Airport, Colombia (how ironic!), waiting for our third flight of the day, to Madrid (the fourth is on to London). We have been living in the 'airport environment' for 30 hours now with another 33 hours to get to London to have a shower. As you can imagine, we won't be making many friends on the plane...or in Madrid.

Aside from the last few days, the last 7 months has been amazing, and while we are sad to be sitting in a Colombian airport without seeing the country we've spent 6 weeks trying to visit, hopefully this blog has made our senseless decisions make sense! Expect the unexpected we were told!

Well, we are now getting really excited about an adventure we didn't think would be possible in this year off. After about a week in London, the journey will continue with a roadtrip through Spain and we will keep going until the wheels fall off....and so will the blog.

Sorry the blog has gone on and on ... it's been groundhog day for a while now and we wanted to paint the picture!

Lots of love to you all and hope you're enjoying the Jubilee weekend,

Charlie & Ross

Posted by charlieandross 11:05 Archived in Colombia Comments (3)

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