|A Melbourne tram|
On the way here we passed through Germany, Poland and Lithuania, we travelled almost the length of Russia, on through Mongolia, spent 3 months in China, 2 months in Vietnam, 7 weeks in Cambodia and 7 weeks in Indonesia (a visa stop in Bangkok doesn’t count as part of the “travelling” but I suppose it's fair to say we passed through Thailand).
|The Victorian kiosk at the end of St Kilda pier|
Personally I have conflicting emotions on reaching the end of our journey. It has been challenging, exhausting at times, rewarding beyond belief and it remains to be seen whether or, maybe the correct question is how much, our life paths will change following our experiences.
We tried to learn some Russian and Chinese to get help us survive in those two countries and I learned some Indonesian in an effort to make life a bit easier in the remoter areas with a little success. An attempt was made to learn a little Vietnamese but, frankly, that proved too much of a challenge beyond the niceties.
|Our new neighbours|
|A rather unfortunately|
worded poster in
We were charmed by lesser known places and enjoyed exploring many places that I personally had not known existed 2 years ago when our plans were in their early stages.
We have been overwhelmed by the natural beauty of Russia’s Siberian forests and deserts, Lake Baikal, the awe inspiring vastness of the landscape of Mongolia, the northern deserts of China, the other worldly stunning scenery of Wulingyuan National Park, the karst mountains in Yangshuo and the watery equivalent in Halong Bay, white sandy beaches and turquoise seas in Cambodia and the tangled jungles in Indonesia. We have cruised along the Mekong and between Islands in the Togeans, all the while trying to impress these images and experiences onto our memories.
|Looking down St Kilda pier to the kiosk|
Paul learned how to scuba dive and subsequently dived on over 40 occasions in 6 different locations, exploring both WW2 US Bomber and an old US cargo ship underwater, as well as encountering friendly sharks. I learned to love snorkelling without panicking every time I saw a fish bigger than a large goldfish swimming towards me (although my fear of most things underwater remains healthy and, I would argue, completely rational). I also loved the underwater camera which sadly stopped working when we arrived in Bali, which was ironic because the fish actually pose for you in Bali's waters!
|Central Melbourne as seen from St Kilda|
On two occasions we stopped for 2 weeks but usually we stayed between 5-7 days before moving on to our next stop. Being constantly on the move wasn’t a huge upheaval and it was only towards the end when we were psychologically preparing ourselves for the end of our trip that we started to look forward to having a base again, at least for a while.
|St Kilda's Lunar Park viewed from St Kilda pier|
I have also kept a diary in the form of this blog. This was partly to record our visit for our own use, the fear that we would easily forget much of what we had experienced as constant travelling does not give you much of an opportunity to digest your experiences and as you reach each new destination, you are steaming ahead, planning what you are going to do and see. You simply don’t have the time to reflect so writing the blog meant that I sometimes I to dig deep to recall events and experiences, particularly when I found myself weeks behind!.
|St Kilda beach|
Writing was time consuming and but I enjoyed it although sometimes I was a little verbose for the purposes of a blog (ignoring all advice to keep entries short and sweet and interesting). I often said far too much although on occasion I couldn’t find very much of interest to say at all.
|Sunset from the pier|
Updating the blog also took hours. We couldn’t access the blog site in China for 10 weeks out of the 12 we were there (some Google sites are considered evil in that neck of the woods for some reason) and so from there I could only update the blog by email with one photograph which I am sure must have been incredibly boring for anyone trawling through a post.
When we did have access to the internet in the rest of Asia it was often slow or unreliable. Uploading photographs took an age in most places and, of course, most people (quite rightly) just want to look at the pretty pictures (me included!).
|Watching the Sunday arts and crafts market|
from our balcony
It often made me think in a different perspective because it was always in the back of my mind that I was going to try to put into words and pictures something I had experienced so I sought for ways in which to try to do that and I believe this shaped the way I observed and experienced certain places because I took a partly objective view.
|A pair of friendly neighbourhood Rainbow Lorikeets|
Many people inspired us, both local people and fellow travellers alike. We found ourselves mesmerised by the natural beauty of the countries we visited and overawed by some of the magnificent man made feats of engineering and splendour we were fortunate enough to see with our own eyes, particularly legendary places such as the Great Wall and Angkor Wat.
|Further down the coast of St Philip Bay|
So we are finally in Australia. We stopped off in Adelaide to catch up with Paul’s family and a couple of friends and now find ourselves in Melbourne ready to start a new life. It took us 5 days to find and move into a beautiful one-bedroom apartment in a perfect location in eclectic St Kilda. We have a balcony where we can sit and see the sea, and where we can grow some vegetables. The beach is a 2 minute walk away, as are the trams which take us into the city within 15 minutes. We are about equal distance from Acland Street centre and Fitzroy Street. We could not ask for more.
|A boat out on the Bay at sunset|
We cannot wait to be working again, and I personally am enjoying having a base to call home without packing up every 5 minutes. We are able to eat cheese whenever we feel like it, fry bacon to our hearts’ content, and eventually when the dust really settles we will ponder what the long term future holds.
In the meantime, thank you for reading (I could probably name all 5 of you!), and for putting yourself through the torture of ploughing through my diary in the vague hope of finding something interesting! I hope it wasn’t too painful and that you enjoyed the pictures!