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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

5 Years as a Gypsy Girl

No child ever dreams of growing up to be a gypsy... In fact, personally I wanted to be a pirate... or a mermaid... or a, hmmmm, I forget ... PLANS CHANGE!

In fact, by the end of university I planned to start an empire and retire by 30 with 7 children and a white picked fence, a few llamas, and a husband who puts the Hoff to shame. 

Back in 2007 I agreed to explore deepest darkest Africa with a few friends - head out into the abyss and see what happened... 3 - 6 months MAXIMUM and then...

You experience all these weird and interesting cultures...

Bahar Darar, Ethiopia
You find ancient castle ruins

Gondor, Ethiopia
You  see snow for the first time in your life...

Mt Kenya, Kenya

Summit of Mt Kenya
You meet masses of incredible people...
Lake Malawi
 You sit for hours staring into beautifulnesses...
Malawi
 And although it happens every day, you're always breath taken by yet another perfect sunrise or sunset...

Sunrise over Lake Malawi
You learn how best to appreciate ancient relics...
Lallibella, Ethiopia (There's amazing rock-hewn churches too)
 And go to places most people only read about...

Lake Nakuru, Knya
Next thing you know, you've been contaminated by the innumerable wonders of the world, you've got a lethal case of the travel bug and you end up a gypsy.

I ENDED UP A GYPSY. 


As a gypsy, I followed my routes back to the start of gypsism, in Europe...

Paris, France
Venice, Italy

Stone henge, England
And then my baby brother was concerned that I'd acquired an Australian accent and talked me into a long drive. So we bought a car and started driving.


and we drove into Asia...


And we drove through Canyons....

Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan 
 And we drove through snow...
Mongolia
 And we accidently camped in animal graveyards...


And visited places that were illegal for tourists....

The door to Hell, Turkmenistan
 And every now and then we broke down...
3 flat tyres at once, Mongolia
 But we raced through 17 500 + KM of awesomeness....

And finally we made it to Ulaanbataar


And a flick of the coin dictated I visit China next...

The Night food market in Beijing
And an expiring visa led me to South East Asia...

Cambodia, 2009
 And I got a semi-addiction to hitch hiking....

And I hitched across Southern Africa and Australia

Lickng the Sydney opera house, Australia
And I aquired my longest standing travel buddy yet

The deterioration of a giant Teddy over 6 months of good life 

And I motorbiked across Vietnam


And cycled across South East Asia


And got lured into all sorts of wild adventures...

Buiding a raft, Malaysia

Sinking a raft

Shipwrecking on a deserted island

I've seen things most will never see, licked things most will never lick and had the best years of my life. But I never planned to be a gypsy...

At 27 I find myself homeless, unemployed, and single; and a lot of it's been tough, but I wouldn't change a thing. I have no idea what the next 5 years - or even the rest of the week - hold; But whatever happens, I plan to make the most of it... I hope you'll be doing likewise!


Sunday, July 22, 2012

To be [kidnapped] or not to be [kidnapped]

“If you travel by bus in the Zamboanga peninsula, you may not get kidnapped, but if you keep doing it, eventually you will.” 
 “The only reason I am alive today is because my family fled Zamboanga when I was young.” 
 “It is too dangerous for you, do not go there…” 
 “You don’t like your life then?” 


 I do like my life, I like it quite a very lot, but there’s only one ferry that runs between Borneo and the Philippines, and that ferry leaves from Zamboanga.

I’ve spent hours trying to find a ferry schedule for the crossing, and the internet and travel forums all list different companies… not only are there no schedules or contact details or even [in most cases] websites, but none of them seem to exist anymore. The only things that kept popping up were travel warnings and news on the most recent kidnappings and bombings. When I finally got through to the Zambo tourism board I was transferred and transferred again and then: “I am sorry to inform you mum (all woman are called ‘mum’, which is their way of saying ma’am) that ferry services have been suspended” - “For how long?” - “Until at least August mum, probably even September maybe” – “Is there any other way to cross to Malaysia? Fishing boats or private boats??” “Please wait mum” So I waited and waited and waited and then “Hello mum if you are still being there then you can be trying this number…” Transfer. Transfer. Transfer. “Ok mum, call +63 2 ……..” And then I finally had success.

S/V Damaica Joy
The economy class beds
Because there is NO other info on the net; if you’re planning to do the trip yourself, Aleson Ferries have two trips weekly – Monday and Thursday – Passport stamping at 8am (but in reality more like 11:30 or 1pm), departure 2 pm (Although the ticket says 12 and if there are a lot of illegals about, you'll only leave after 6pm and have to be locked into a room that closely resembles a prison). The trip takes 23 hours and costs between 3100 (for a open air bunk, or 3200 for aircon) and 3500 depending on your class preferences (Call 0063 (062) 992 5507 and speak to Mae) and for a change it’s more expensive (4700 and up) if you are local…


So last night, after an epic day of white water rafting in Cagayan Da Oro, I headed to the bus station and endured more “But mum it is so very dangerous for you,” “I will pray for you mum”, “Are you sure mum?” and I will admit being a little scared when strangers were asking “and what is your currency in Africa? The Euro?” “You travel alone?” “Will you be meeting anyone there?” “Mum, do you carry a weapon?” And it was even more scary when people asked if I spoke Basilica and then proceeded to talk about me on countless cellphones spotted across the bus. But, once again, when it is your time to go, it is your time to go.



And fortunately that 14 hour bus ride was not my time to exit the planet and the back ally hotel (L'mirage Pension House – P300 for a single, just up the road from Hermosa) that took me in was less than a third of the price of the others and they’ve assured me I’d be fine and welcomed me into their family, but they still make me wear a turban and pretend like I’m from Pakistan and they walk with me in the middle of them and it’s like I have my own personalized body guards for the first time in my life.

Only once did I have a gun pointed at me, right at my forehead, and my heart stopped for a while until the man smiled and said "it's just plastic mum."

 I’m proud to remain unkiddnapped as of yet (hoorah!!) and tomorrow (after an evening karaoke session) I set sail for Borneo (I think) and well, if all
goes according to plan, I’ll be converting to vegetarianism by the end of the week which is exactly why I’m ending this blog here and going to join my temporary family for Sunday roast chicken.

Just 5 of the family of 35 that I stayed with
I'd like to add that I did make it out alive but it was really hard to leave, I've never met so many lovely people (who have been the closest thing to family since, well, actual family, and the city is truly amazing - full of smiling people and churches and a "musically gyrating dancing fountain" and it's DEFINITELY worth a visit!


I've just arrived in Borneo, and this time I was NOT to be kidnapped and I seriously doubt you would have been either...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Losing my Asianity

It's normally easy to slide in and live amongst the 'natives' - Having dark skin and darker hair makes me practically Asian. By default. And some times I can even use chopsticks... But in the Philippines, all that's changed. I now stick out like a sore thumb - but it's mostly a sore foot that's done the damage!!


I've been 'disabled' for 2 weeks today and I take my hat off to people with real disabilities because it's not easy having people constantly asking "what happened to your foot?" and feeling sorry for you and it especially  sucks with a big backpack and a bigger teddy bear... To put it in perspective, I walk so weirdly that most people don't even notice the teddy... But if there's one place where you can rest and enjoy prettynesses, it's the Philippines... apart from all the walking and missioning and adventuring and exploring that lures you away from recovery!

There's the magical waters... and corals and clams and...


Rehab for clams


And a plethora of waterfalls...



And the people are nice and friendly....


The transport's ALL colourful...


And only a little uncomfortable... 


And karaoke bars can be found in almost anyone's back yard!



The landscape's absolutely perfect [for looking at, not s much for travelling over]

The chocolate hills, Bohol

  
Apart from the spiders, most of the animals are cute and cuddly!


The food's interesting and even when it's not particularly tasty, there's always fresh chilli about to help


You can get a massage just about anywhere for under $5 


They have real beer ... unlike China's 2.5 - 3.3% 


Philoppino's version of Maccers is the Jolibee and you can have great spaghetti for breakfast!


The beaches are perfect (both the black and the white ones - I'm not a rascist)


There's hot springs and cold springs and volcanoes and...


And other strange things you stumble across... (including the best fire poi I've ever seen, done by a 6 year old)

Miss teen

The sunken cemetery
And every day the sunset's more perfect than the last!



With my foot almost functional again I might even go ponder up a volcano in the morning (it's only a 7 hour walk) and then there's the other 7103 islands of the Philippines I have yet to see... It's the kind of place that can suck you in forever... At this rate, it might!