The Last Post

I write this having been back in the cold, wet and windy UK for a couple of weeks. This has given me time to adjust to what is, quite frankly, a far more mundane existence. It has also given me time to reflect on my trip.

My trip has been an amazing experience and I have many memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Pretty much everything I have done on the trip has been fantastic but there have been two real highlights that stand out.

The first is the 6 days I spent on the South Island of New Zealand. I loved the wonderful scenery and doing some amazing things including whale watching, a heli-hike onto Franz Josef Glacier and jet boating.

Whale watching at Kaikoura

Whale watching at Kaikoura

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Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

The second highlight was the week in India touring the “Golden Triangle” with G Adventures. I loved travelling through such a vibrant country seeing some amazing sights, experiencing the culture and eating some absolutely fabulous food.

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Jaipur

Jaipur

Palace of the Winds

Palace of the Winds

Trying to make a puri

Trying to make a puri

Amber Fort

Amber Fort

I have seen some amazing sights Including:-

Uluru

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The Taj Mahal

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Sydney Harbour

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The cricket obviously didn’t go according to plan. I watched every one of England’s losses to Australia and became increasingly resigned to the entirely predictable nature of these defeats. Disappointing as the cricket was it gave me a base to explore the great cities of Australia. I was part of the world record attendance for a test match at the MCG on Boxing Day.

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Some stats!! My trip took me away from home for 79 nights. I travelled in 5 countries – Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, India and the United Arab Emirates. I went on 17 flights and travelled with 8 different airlines. I stayed in 20 different hotels. So making all these flights certainly means I have had an impact on the environment. All the air miles equate to 4.85 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The driving I did in New Zealand, 1095 kilometres, added a further 0.26 tonnes of CO2 emissions. I am investigating what I can do to offset this.

Best airline – QANTAS. I flew with them more than any other airline. Great service delivered by “real people” not the archetypal young “trolley dolly” you find elsewhere.

Best airport – Dubai. Space age. Roomy. Waterfalls!

Worst airport – Goa International Airport. Dirty toilets and rowing cleaners. Make sure you scan your luggage first! I also had issues at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport with baggage coming off the wrong carousel and lengthy queues for biosecurity checks.

Favourite hotel – The Point, Brisbane. Great service and a room with a fantastic view. Well located for the Gabba and the free boat service into central Brisbane. I also had fantastic service and food at the Resort Terra Paraiso in Goa. Excellent towel and pillow art by housekeeping!

View from my room at The Point, Brisbane

View from my room at The Point, Brisbane

Free city hopper boat service in Brisbane

Free city hopper boat service in Brisbane

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Housekeeping art at Resort Terra Paraiso, Goa

Worst hotel – Great Southern Hotel, Sydney. Room very dated and felt claustrophobic

Favourite cricket stadium – Sydney Cricket Ground. Blends futuristic new stands with well preserved old pavilions.

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Worst cricket stadium – The WACA, Perth. Little shade and needs urgent redevelopment.

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So would I do it again??? The trip has been very much a once in a lifetime opportunity. It has cost a pretty penny and I now need to start earning again. 11 weeks away is a long time and there were times particularly around Christmas and New Year when I was really starting to miss family. Keeping in touch through instant messaging, email, FaceTime and Facebook has been invaluable. When you can talk to somebody and see them on screen the world does not seem such a big place.  I have loved experiencing the different countries and cultures and a much better climate. So yes I would definitely do a big trip again but not for as long.

Has the trip changed me??? Well I don’t feel any different. It may have given me a different perspective on a few things. The trip has definitely given me the desire to travel more and explore further some of the places I have been to.

A successful trip can only take place with help from others. I have had great support from friends and family. They seemed to think my trip was a much bigger deal than I thought myself and showed this with a great send off before I went away. I was worried about my house being left empty for an extended period of time. Thanks to Mum and Dad and my next door neighbours Kathryn and Steve for keeping an eye on it for me whilst I was away. My house remained totally intact whilst I was away but ironically suffered storm damage within a week of my return!

A big thank you to my travel agents, Round the World Experts, and in particular Nigel Wright for turning my dreams into reality.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog. I have enjoyed writing it and it is something I can always look back on. The blog seems to have generated quite a lot of interest – It has had over 4300 views and over 100 comments.

Finishing the blog helps me put the trip “to bed” and allows me to focus on the next phase of my life which starts with the search to generate an income.

My first ever camel ride in the Dubai Desert

My first ever camel ride in the Dubai Desert

Travelling to Dubai and a trip into the Arabian Desert

So as my week in Goa ended it was time to move on to Dubai. I was entering the final stage of my trip. I had now been away for nearly 11 weeks and in 3 days time I would be home.

Sam, who had been my personal taxi driver for the last few days, drove me to Goa International Airport. As at Delhi I had to produce travel documents to enable me to gain access to the airport. It’s fair to say that my experience of Goa International Airport was not a good one. Any resort airport that has the word “international” in the title should be treated with caution. I didn’t have a great experience in Krabi either. To summarise my experience at the airport in Goa included:-

  • the check in desk being closed on my arrival 3 hours before an international departure
  • watching cleaners rowing with each other. It was quite entertaining to watch but I wish I could have understood what they were arguing about
  • having to scan my hold luggage before check in. I did not realise this was the case until check in and was I was then confronted with a massive queue/scrum of Russians. Thankfully the Air India “baggage man” helped me jump the queue.
  • Immigration desks being closed leading to a further half an hour delay before I could go through security. When the desk reopened there was a long disorganised queue.
  • The immigration man queried whether I needed a visa to enter Dubai. I said to him I didn’t think I needed one but this placed a seed of doubt in my mind about whether I would be able to enter the UAE.
  • Getting “told off” when going through security for wanting to place items such as mobile phone, wallet etc in a tray which is what you do everywhere else. I was required to place these in my hand luggage.
  • Really dirty toilets in the departure lounge. Presumably the cleaners were too busy arguing to clean them!

So it was a shame that my last experience in Goa was such a bad one.

The Air India flight to Dubai was fine. The airport in Dubai is mightily impressive. However there are obviously a lot of people flying in here. On my arrival at around 11pm on a Sunday evening there were long queues at immigration There were loads of immigration desks and most were open. All were manned by men in traditional Arab dress with long flowing white robes and heads covered. I queued for around half an hour and then got through without a problem. So the concern about needing a visa was unfounded. I understand the delays at Dubai airport are being addressed. There is a new iris recognition system being introduced which should mean for returning passengers it will take less time to pass through the airport.

Having arrived in Dubai quite late the previous evening I had a relatively lazy morning. I was staying in an apartment hotel fairly close to the Burjuman area. After a late breakfast I went for a walk to get my bearings. Temperatures were a very pleasant mid to high 20’s. It wasn’t the best area for sightseeing but I was struck my how clean and orderly everything was compared to India. I felt like I was in a completely different world. A world of finance, technology and high end shopping. I walked into a shopping mall. It was quite a small place relative to many others but I was gobsmacked by a floor which had shop after shop selling gadgets and IT peripherals. I lunched at another nearby shopping mall. The cafe had a very westernised menu. I ordered a tuna sandwich. It felt like I could almost have been in the UK.

Mosque in Dubai near Burjuman

Mosque in Dubai near Burjuman

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In the afternoon I was booked onto a tour out into the desert. So at around 3.30pm I set off from the hotel having been collected by a Pakistani tour guide working for the Arabian Adventures company. He was driving a lovely Toyota 4×4 vehicle which accommodated 6 passengers. The other members of the tour were a couple from Delhi who are doctors and three nurses from the US. We drove on motorways for an hour before entering the Dubai desert conservation reserve at which point we had a brief stop whilst our driver reduced the tyre pressure.

The first part of the evenings entertainment was a falconry display. This was followed by a thrilling drive through the sand dunes. I had a great view as I was sat up front with the driver. At times you almost felt that the car would topple over but these 4 wheel drive vehicles are excellent. In addition to us there must have been another 50 vehicles full of tourists doing the same as us. The tour runs 365 days a year so it’s a big business. After the drive through the dunes which probably lasted around 15 minutes we had a stop in the sand dunes for a photo opportunity as the sun came down. After the sun had disappeared below the horizon we drove to the village where we were to have dinner. But first there was the opportunity to ride on a camel. Now I have to say that I am not a big fan of camels and I did turn down the opportunity to ride one in Australia. But here it was included within the price of the tour and all the others members of the group were going to have a go so I went for it. I had a camel to myself and sat in the rear of the 2 seats. It was a fairly short ride but my camel was very well behaved. I was told to hold tight and lean back. The only slightly dodgy moment was when it was time to get off the camel when I could feel it’s movement may launch me forward. I ensured I kept my weight back. The camel driver took some photos of me for which I tipped him.

Falconry display

Falconry display

Deflating tyres

Deflating tyres

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We then entered the village. I am not sure of its authenticity given this was essentially a tourist business but we had a very pleasant evening enjoying a buffet dinner whilst kneeling on cushions. The evening ended with a fantastic display of belly dancing and then some stargazing.

It had been an excellent tour out into the desert and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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