Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Riding With The Stockmen

It was of course nice to see my father again after a year and a half and it would be good to spend "quality time" with him. However I would, by necessity, have to change my way of travelling to accommodate him somewhat, as it would be hard to expect someone in their late 60's to hitchhike and sleep rough, which would have been my first resort if left to my own devices, out of necessity if nothing else (Australia was already expensive seven years ago when I was first here, but since then the Aussie dollar has appreciated in value by about 40%, whilst prices have simultaneously gone up too, on the back of a gigantic natural resources boom, so that a simple overnight bus trip now costs more than my entire monthly budget in most Asian countries). The first thing that needed to be decided was transport: how are we going to get about this not insignificant country. Since flying was out of the question some sort of vehicle was in order. We weighed the pros and cons of renting and buying and decided upon buying our own vehicle, judging it might work out a little cheaper and, more importantly, give us more freedom and flexibility. It is a dream of many to buy a van, to be fully self-sufficient, and head off into the wild blue yonder. The reality though was that most of the vans for travellers on sale were either wildly overpriced or in such poor mechanical condition that arrival at our intended destination was akin to a spin of Russian roulette. So after discarding the poor pickings of Darwin's van offerings we expanded our search to estate cars (station wagons) in which it would be possible, at a pinch, to sleep in the back. Here the selection was far greater and of better value as it was aimed towards a more discerning, local market, rather than gullible backpackers. And within a day we had found ourselves a 2001, 4 litre Ford Falcon (a decidedly Aussie model not found anywhere else) that had been converted to run on LPG (thereby hopefully reducing our upcoming running costs).

With our trusty car, just before setting off, that, in flagrant contravention of Aussie backpacker tradition, we have neither painted with flowers nor given a name to.

Friday, November 16, 2012

From The Beginning

I enjoy travelling greatly. Expanding my horizons, meeting new people and learning about new cultures keep me interested and on my toes. The itinerant life is not for everyone though. Living out of a backpack can be tiring, though for most people it is the lack of permanence, stability and long-term human relationships, be they friends, family, colleagues or a partner, that play mostly on the mind. Man is indeed a social animal. These aspects do not weigh so heavily on me (whether that is a social strength or weakness is up for debate); but relationships are reciprocal affairs, and however much I may be callously OK without my nearest and dearest the opposite is not always true. And so my father decided (rather spontaneously for him) to come out and travel with me whilst I'm here in Australia.

Looking out across the Kakadu forest from the top of the Arnhem escarpment at Gunlom Falls.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pics 2 (Asia)

It took me almost exactly 19 months to zig-zag my way from Turkmenistan through to Australia. As the largest continent, and cradle of civilisations there is plenty to see, taste, explore and experience. I have had innumerable encounters with unfailingly lovely people, made some life-long friendships, tried a plethora of strange dishes, witnessed some spectacular(ly odd) ceremonies, seen breathtaking landscapes, and learnt  much about culture and history that have allowed me to understand the world a little bit better (I hope). I also hope that this knowledge has made me a better, wiser person

Mushy introspection aside Asia has been an agreeably cheap destination (apart from North Korea) and I've managed to average a daily spend of £11, of which I'm quite proud. That average will definitely not hold out in the following months though. I've also picked out a selection of some of my favourite photos (in no particular order) from the past 19 months that I haven't previously used in any of my posts. Some of them perhaps have some deeper meaning or political significance, whereas other I just found beautiful. I hope you like them as much as I do (what are your favourites? are there any that you particularly like? If so feel free to let me know by leaving a comment.).

Mongolian girl.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

G'day Australia!

The boat was there on Friday afternoon; parked in the bay. It was a sleek, grey-and-orange catamaran called Cattitude. Dili doesn't have a marina so I asked a local with a small dinghy to take me across to it. As I boarded the skipper, a stocky man with a moustache and shortish beard, barked at me asking what I was doing on his boat. I pleaded my case as succinctly and eloquently as I could, saying that he was my last chance and putting myself at his mercy. He said sure, no problems, he was going back to Darwin in a few days and there was room on board ... but it would cost me $8000. That was obviously way out of my budget and I asked whether he might not consider lowering the price a little, to which he agreed and said that I could come with them as long as I gave him a decent bottle of rum. A deal to which I warmed far more readily. He then broke out a few beers from the freezer and insisted I stay and hang out with him and his mates for the afternoon, ominously asking me whether I "know what you're getting yourself into".

Our home and transport for the crossing from East Timor to Darwin: Cattitude.