Antics of Earthbound Astronauts

Antics of Earthbound Astronauts

13 episodes

You have just come across the next generation of travel blogging. Following the adventures and exploits of two Aussies as they endeavour to conquer and explore the world one location at a time.


The Reunion Part II - Amman, Jordan to Cairo, Egypt

Published: Nov. 27, 2013, 8:19 p.m.
Duration: N/A
This is The Reunion Part II! Since leaving you at a drool-soaked table at Egypt airport, The Earthbound Astronauts have ventured through ancient Jordan, taken a spontaneous detour into the religious epicentre of Israel and were unexpectedly stranded in turbulent Egypt, the very place we were attempting to avoid! We hate predictability, so what comes next will not disappoint!

To listen to the Part II podcast click HERE!

Jordan – Amman & Petra – October 22nd – October 29th
Casey and I arrived into Amman completely exhausted after our restless night in the Cairo airport, so we headed to our prearranged hostel. This particular hostel had been so highly recommended by a multitude of people online, with all the comments including how wonderful the proprietor ‘Andrew’ was. The hostel itself was nothing special, quite rundown and minimalistic, but we did have the opportunity to meet this infamous Andrew, completely validating all the positive comments. We spent our first day in Amman recovering followed by dinner at one of the best restaurants in Amman, the Hashem restaurant. The Hashem restaurant purely served the mixed selection of falafel, pita, salad and two dips, yet it was easy to understand how it had earned such an outstanding reputation. We now have a new appreciation for falafel and hummus, and the variety of ways to consume said food, but more about that later. We spent a day exploring the Roman ruins and visiting the ruins of a citadel, which rest above the remainder of the city. It was intriguing to see the remnants of ancient civilisations that dated back over three thousand years, whilst tracing the progressive evolution of these civilisations and observing the variations in culture and religious belief over time. It was here that we started to realise how historically and culturally significant this entire area really was.

We decided we wanted to visit the famed Dead Sea, so Andrew organised ‘George’ to take us on a day trip to the area. George initially took us to Madaba to see the oldest known map of the promise land, which was an intricate partially preserved mosaic on the floor of what is now a Catholic church. We then visited Mount Nebo, where it is presumed 120-year-old Moses climbed so God could show him the Promised Land before dying there. The view from the top was truly impressive allowing us to appreciate all the elaborate rock formations and the Dead Sea, which was our next destination. We paid an exuberant price to enter a complex with pools and direct access to the beach of the fabled sea. Entering the water was a surreal experience, as you expect your body to sink as in all other water, but we defiantly stayed buoyant with no effort on our behalves. As we left the water, we could feel the salt now layered on our bodies, which slowly precipitated into large salt deposits. We observed a direct contrast between effortlessly swimming in The Dead Sea and the exhausting swim in the pure water of Crater Lake in Banlung, Cambodia. Returning to Amman, after helping George out by utilising our duty free privileges, we decided it was time to head to Jordan’s main attraction, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Petra. We caught the public bus to the town Wadi Mousa, which acts as the tourist base for people visiting Petra. Andrew had suggest a hotel for us to stay in while in the area, “The Valentine Inn”… Luckily, they had a twin room available even though there were still hearts on our key...

Just like Indiana Jones before us, we entered Petra through the ominous entrance, a relatively small division between two formidable walls of rock. We were humbled by this intimidating stone corridor before the channel opened onto the renowned treasury, currently the most exquisitely intricate building in Petra. It was unbelievable and almost implausible to conceive that people had built such an amazing structure into a rock face. As we continued into Petra there were numerous tombs and other buildings erratically scattered within the surrounding landscape, linked by hidden staircases leading to what were once possibly prominent areas. As we’d decided to spend two days at Petra, we used our first day to explore the major attractions such as taking the long trek to see the astonishing monastery (seen in Transformers 2), which rivals the treasury in its grandeur, and used our second day to go off the beaten track and find a great location to watch sunset. Whilst at Petra, we were completely at the mercy of the sun, so we tried to track shade at any opportunity. Even when we left the main trail, we were still coming across the remnants of life in the form of carvings, stairs and buildings. We were, and continue to be, completely in awe of Petra and the amazing artistry the founding civilization had masterfully utilised to create this former epicentre of trade.

After immensely enjoying Petra, we headed to Wadi Rum, an arid nature reserve approximately two hours south of Wadi Mousa, where we’d organised a tour for one day and a night. Jumping into the back of a ute, we were chauffeured around the reserve to various impressive naturally occurring springs and rock formations before we were taken to a Bedouin camp to enjoy the remarkable desert sunset. Having decided to avoid Egypt due to the enduring civil unrest, we had intended staying in Jordan for two weeks. However, whilst in Amman, the seed had been planted to visit Israel and Palestine. Catching a taxi from Wadi Rum to a town on the Jordanian-Israeli border, Aqaba, where we nervously prepared to cross this precarious border.

Israel & Palestine – Jerusalem – October 31st – November 3rd
We anxiously crossed the border by foot, passing the armed guards on either side. As we crossed into the Israeli immigration area we were welcomed by what seemed like endless photos of Bill Clinton… We were heavily questioned by immigration officials about where we’d been, how and for how long we’d known each other and our intentions in Israel. After being allowed to enter the country, we walked to the city, allowing us to observe the stark contrast between the small town of Aqaba in Jordan and the heavily westernized city of Eilat, where we saw a dramatic increase in infrastructure and overall wealth. From Eilat we organised a bus to Jerusalem, but not before we went to an upmarket shopping centre where Casey purchased an iPad to replace his water damaged iPhone.

Arriving into Jerusalem was a surreal experience, a city that has consistently been at the focal point of history and contributed to the evolution of countless religions. The city was such a blend of culture, with an obvious division demonstrated through something as simple as the architecture in differing districts. We had organised to stay at a hostel within the walls of the historical old city, near the Jaffa Gate. Joining a “Holy city” tour we were taken to the main attractions that have importance to the differing faiths. Initially, we were taken to the Temple Mount, which is now also the location of the building with the iconic golden dome and adjacent to the Western or ‘Wailing’ Wall. The Temple Mount is only open to tourists for a single hour everyday, and when we arrived people had already been waiting for hours. Luckily, our tour group was able to join the line with another tour group, which saw us clearing security within the allocated time. We had been in the site no more then ten minutes before they started aggressively ushering us out. We had been lucky to visit this site, but we did feel a twang of guilt for pushing our way into the line and robbing people of this rare opportunity. We later learnt (after continuously interrogating our guide) that the Temple Mount was part of the area controlled by Palestine and an ‘incident’ between Israel and Syria at the precise time we had entered the area partially explained our rapid expulsion. The presence of police and army members at various points through out the city really does contribute to the already prominent tension we were feeling.

After visiting the Temple Mount, we headed to a small portion of the Western Wall where we were able to write a ‘wish’ and place it into the cracks of the wall, replicating a Jewish practice. The remained of the tour predominately followed the assumed stages of Jesus’ crucifixion. As we walked the small alleyways, we were shown locations that coincided with events that were referenced within the Christian New Testament before we reached the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This church, which is owned by all the major denominations of Christianity, housed the proposed location of Jesus’ crucifixion (Golgotha), the place of his anointment and the place of his burial. The people that were there on spiritual pilgrimages greatly contributed to the ambience and authenticity of the site. We then headed to the proposed location of the Last Supper, which, like the majority of sites in Jerusalem, had been in the possession of, and therefore influence by, one of the three main religious groups at one time or another. The tour was quite overwhelming in a way as were taken to sites that are considered sacred to differing people for a multitude of differing reasons. Walking through the four quarters (Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim) of the old town was really an experience in itself, but it was fantastic to see such diversity within the small area. The following day, Casey and I headed up to the Mount of Olives; where in Judaism it is said the prophet will descend and walk to the Temple Mount. Many cemeteries rest on this mountain for this very reason with their feet facing the summit as we were told, “people don’t want to miss the show”. Other prominent sites that rest on this mountain are the Garden of Olives, where it is assumed Judas betrayed Jesus, and the tomb of Mary, mother of Jesus. We also got an amazing view from the top over the city.

Jerusalem, on a whole, was quite an expensive city, which made eating extravagantly difficult. We found a tiny restaurant next to our hostel that made the most amazing falafel sandwiches, so amazing (and cheap) that it became our staple food whilst in Jerusalem, so much so that we were consuming two on each occasion… We were originally so apprehensive when it came to visiting Israel and Jerusalem, yet we were shocked by how Westernized the city was in parts and how isolated, yet apparent, the ongoing battle for territory really is between the conflicting sides. As we headed to the bus station to leave Jerusalem and Israel, we were shocked by the presence of a metal detector at the bus interchange, yet the large number of 18 to 20 year olds on their military service arbitrarily walking around with assault rifles seemed to make this somewhat redundant. We headed north to a border crossing we were assured would not be an issue to cross and returned back to Amman where we were catching our flight to Egypt and then Argentina the following day.  We also had the pleasure of seeing Andrew again, who graciously sorted us out with a private room at a discounted price because “we were friends”.

Egypt – Cairo – November 4th – November 6th
As we were attempting to avoid entering Egypt, we had booked a flight to Cairo on the day of our flight from Cairo to Argentina. To avoid paying for an Egyptian visa to enter the country just to pick up our bags and check-in once more when we arrived in Cairo, we arrange to have our bags directly placed on our next flight. All smooth and seemingly easy... As we arrived into Cairo, we were ferried off to a room or ‘holding area’ used for transit passengers, having our passports confiscated. Feeling like were captives in this highly secured room, we waited for three hours to be presented with our connecting boarding passes, yet, we were ignored. Eventually, a man approached Casey and started asking about our visa receipt number. As Casey had travelled to Argentina before, where he had paid a reciprocity fee at the border, we were convinced that a prearranged payment was unnecessary. This situation continued, as we thought this seemingly less-then-official airport employee was taking us for a ride, before the man escorted Casey to the Qatar Airways desk. Casey then returned to the transit lounge, shockingly accompanied by our luggage. Unbeknown to us both, as of July, this fee must be paid online before departure to Argentina. They had refused to let us board the plane because we had not paid the fee, a fee that can be paid within minutes. I was also erroneously denied using my EU passport that doesn’t require a fee payment; we had been officially rejected from boarding the flight.

We were escorted back to the original terminal, Qatar Airways washing their hands of us, after what was quite appalling handling of the situation on their behalves. Unfortunately, the blame rests solely with us, yet I do not hesitate to partially condemn the airline for their disorganization and lack of knowledge and assistance in what should have been a recoverable situation. Being told we could pay to return to Jordan or enter Egypt, we, still in shock from our shattered reality, reluctantly decided to stay in Cairo. Our presumption of being in South America within 48-hours had been crushed in the space of minutes. We had arrived into Cairo on the day of the Morsi trial, so tanks and other armoured vehicles littered the streets. We had found a hotel, which, like many of the tourist-centric businesses, was feeling the effect of numerous governments condemning travel to this politically unstable country. We had to determine our next move.

As we were in Egypt, we figured that we should at least try to see the sights we could in the short time we were here. Fortunately, Casey had made a friend who lived in Cairo whilst on his course in Germany, Naggar. Naggar came to meet us, acting as our more then capable guide through Cairo, organising a cruise on the infamous Nile River, taking us to an authentic Egyptian restaurant before taking us to a hotel where we could look over the city by night. Telling Naggar we had decided to visit the Pyramids of Giza seemed to fill him with slight concern and he decided to escort us there the following day, which we were more then grateful, yet perplexed by his concern.

We fought through the incomprehensible Cairo traffic before we started approaching the ancient pyramids. The final approach to the pyramids was one of the most stressful situations we’d been involved in thus far. As we drove, people started to approach the car trying to secure employment as a tour guide. We initially experienced a man being denied by Naggar, yet he desperately continued to run next to the car as traffic progressed before he collided with a turning bus. We then came to an area where people were trying to jump in front of the car to the shock of Naggar, who was evasively able to avoid them. We arrived at the pyramids where Naggar secured our tickets and a guide, who was employed purely to prevent unwanted advances. The pyramids and sphinx were formidably standing before us, and it was more then obvious why the pyramids were considered an ancient wonder and also an honoury member of the current Seven Wonders of the World. Yet, it was hard to fully enjoy the experience, as we were the only tourists present, we were continuously harassed by people wanting money. Having Naggar with us to both drive and organise everything for us was amazing. We now know why he hesitated when we told him about our plans to visit the pyramids solo, and I think even he was shocked by the conditions we encountered. We are incredibly grateful he was willing to accompany us during our time in Egypt. The entire experience of visiting the pyramids really did reiterate the pressure the entire country has been feeling during this incredibly turbulent time, unfortunately it was evident that the country was struggling.

The main question we had to answer was, ‘What do we do next?’. Do we pay for a new ticket to Argentina? Do we choose a new destination? And if so, where? This debate continued as we frantically searched Skyscanner for the cheapest destination that would partially coincide with our already booked flights. I’m sad to say to all our diehard fans out that there that Casey and I chose differing destinations. The Earthbound Astronauts are splitting once more! I had found an incredibly cheap ticket to Toronto, Canada, so thought I would go on a journey to find a polar bear. Casey, thought completely outside of the box, and decided to head to Tanzania where he’d organised a work away! Planning to meet up in the US in about a month, we said our goodbyes and farewelled each other once more. We truly are unpredictably earthbound after all. Keep posted.


Listed in: Culture

The Reunion Part I - Geneva, Switzerland to Casablanca, Morocco

Published: Nov. 17, 2013, 8:12 p.m.
Duration: N/A
After three contrasting months apart, The Earthbound Astronauts have finally reunited! We’ve only been on the road for five weeks, yet we’ve had the pleasure of traversing through eight distinctly different countries. It’s been an adventure-filled reunion, so this is only Part I of our unpredictable voyage. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!

To listen to the Part I podcast click HERE!

Switzerland – Geneva – September 30th– October 1st
After being apart for three months, we were both enthusiastic to start the next phase of our journey. Meeting in Geneva was convenient for us both as Casey had been travelling with his parents in Switzerland, and Geneva was only a short two-hour train ride away from Lyon, where I had been stationed for the previous two months. We jubilantly met at a prearranged hostel both invigorated by the unknown of the coming months. Casey was excited to be no longer travelling solo, whilst I was ecstatic to be on the move once more. Wanting to celebrate our once again formidable duo, we ventured into Geneva to enjoy a meal. Having been forewarned of the exuberant pricing in Switzerland still did not prepare us for the blatant extortion encountered! Unfortunately for us, pricing was relative to the heightened salaries received in Switzerland, those with heavy financial restraints, such as ourselves, were reduced to the common European travellers meal: a baguette, cheese, salami and a lukewarm beer.

Meeting Casey’s parents at The European Organisation for Nuclear Research or ‘CERN’ was a very exciting occasion. We were able to join them both for a tour of CERN and find out about the enormous subterranean particle accelerator and the recently confirmed Higgs Boson, a concept that is still outside my scientific grasp. It was a great event to share with Casey’s dad, David, as he has a great passion for physics, and this facility is at the forefront of research in this area. As we sadly farwelled both Aleysha and David, it marked the true beginning of our journey.

A combination of rejuvenating motivation along with Casey’s resent success hitchhiking, spurred us on an adventure to hitchhike from Geneva, Switzerland to Barcelona, Spain. Catching public transport to the Swiss-French border, garnished with our packs, we climbed a small fence leading to the highway, casually strolled across the border checkpoint, placed our packs down for but a second, barely having time to lift the iconic hitchhiker thumb and a car pulled up. Knowing the broad direction we wanted to head in, AKA west, the driver asked us where we’d like to go, we said Lyon (a large city in the general direction of Barcelona), when he said he wasn’t going in that direction we naively insisted that any ride was a good ride, even one that smelt so strongly of cheese… We had a great time chatting to our new Hungarian friend about his new life in France; however, it soon became apparent that we were not heading in the direction we’d initially intended. We ended up in Chamonix, a small town in the shadow of Europe’s tallest mountain, Mont Blanc. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, luscious forests and typical French buildings, this charming town is what dreams are made of. Contemplating our new situation, we separately had the same idea of travelling into Italy. Astonished at our already distorted plan (a habit we cannot seem to break), we changed our tact and now waited on a highway, not so far away from the Italian border, waiting for our next willing lift.

Italy – Genoa & Cinque Terra – October 2nd – October 5th
We were eventually picked up by a really nice Italian-speaking Albanian, who was kind enough to drive us past his own small town to Aosta, a town with a main train station. We drove through an incredible part of Italy, with valleys dotted with various castles and villages, which seemed to be untouched by the progressive modernization witnessed in larger cities. Unfortunately, our new friend was unable to speak English, but this gave Casey an opportunity to put his freshly practiced Italian to use. He was incredibly hospitable; he even bought us a beer and refused to let us pay for it! From the train station we headed to Genoa, a port town, where we would enquire about a ferry to Spain.

We arrived into Genoa at night with no organised accommodation. Not believing this to be a problem, we were turned away from numerous hotels and hostels either due to unavailability or extravagant prices. We swallowed our pride and stayed at the cheapest we could find, even though it was considerably more then we were expecting to pay. When enquiring as to why there was such a shortage of accommodation, we found out it was due to the famed Genoa annual boat show. What would a trip to Genoa be without going to the fabled boat show! It was amazing to see the yachts that were on show. Casey and I definitely didn’t quite fit the part when it came to prospective cliental, yet we boarded some of the more modest yachts and were still able to dream about potential future travel opportunities.

Determining that we had a few days before we were going to board the ferry to Barcelona, we headed to Cinque Terre, a portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. Cinque Terre consists of five distinctively unique villages, all vibrantly coloured. Each village sits in a small cove, with the buildings carefully teetering on the sharp slope of the surrounding tumultuous terrain. It was beautiful to see these still lively villages in an incredibly well preserved and prosperous state. Returning to Genoa after a fleeting visit, we boarded the 20-hour ferry across the Mediterranean to Barcelona.

Spain – Barcelona, Tarragona & Granada – October 6th – 12th
As we arrived into Barcelona it was obvious that the city was going to live up to it’s impressive reputation as a culturally rich and vivacious city. Every street or small alley was bustling with life, a combination of luminescent light, erratically scattered boutiques and restaurants, and people eager to enjoy the temperate ambience. Having discovered that a friend from home, Sam, was going to be in Barcelona at the same time, we decided to meet. As Sammy had been in Barcelona for about a week before we arrived, he acted as our pseudo-tour guide, attempting to enlighten us about Gaudi, a famous architect whose eccentric and imaginative buildings have become icons of Barcelona. Shamefully, Casey and I were unaware of Gaudi before our arrival and were naively curious about this ‘Gaudi’ character people continually referred to as if it was common knowledge. As a trio, we trekked up to Montjuïc Castle, where we are able to see the incredible immensity of Barcelona and it’s surrounding satellite towns.

Even though Barcelona is well known for pickpockets and petty crime, we had no issues. The only act of theft that we experienced was due to a lapse in our concentration, forgetting to ask the price of mediocre paninis in what seemed like a legitimate panini business, which resulted in blatant daylight robbery! This was a sore moment for us both, especially when we sent Sam into the same shop a day later to enquire about the price, to find out there had been a significant price reduction… Having enjoyed our time with Sammy thus far, we invited him to join us through the remained of Spain and into Morocco. Even though there had been a slight ‘salting of game’ whilst we partook in the infamous Catalan nightlife, Sam whimsically decided to joined us.

We headed to the historical beach town, Tarragona, to see Margherita, a friend of Casey’s from his exchange to Italy eight years earlier. Tarragona is primarily a student town and Margherita, who was there on the Erasmus study exchange program, was kind enough to accommodate us for the night and expose us to the energetic nightlife of an Erasmus student on exchange. This was but a brief visit to Tarragona as we were eager to arrive in Morocco. Finding it difficult to plan a direct route to a port town where we could board a ferry headed for Tangiers, we organised an overnight train to Granada through Valencia, where we had the pleasure of waiting until the early hours of the morning for our connecting train.

Arriving in Granada with no idea about the city, we walked around attempting to find accommodation, which, again, was quite an ordeal. Eventually, we found a nice pension run by a very friendly elderly non-English-speaking lady we fondly nicknamed ‘Nonna’. The room was barely big enough for one person, let alone three, and this was before Sammy decided to covert the room into a Chinese laundry. Granada was quite an old town, and we had arrived (unbeknown to us) on National Day. This explained the lack of accommodation and the continuous parades consisting of marching bands and officials garnished with lavish medals and medallions. Granada was the point where we started to notice influences from North Africa. The main area of Granada was full of exotic stalls selling spices, clothes and various other memorabilia. Again, we were only in Granada for a night as we were attempting to arrive in a port town the following day and make our way to Morocco. We awoke the following morning marginally later then anticipated, which raised the anxiety levels slightly. Whose fault this was is an ongoing argument… However, we were able to board a train to Algeciras where we boarded a late, and somewhat delayed, ferry headed to Tangiers, Morocco. After about three and a half months we fondly said goodbye to Europe and were excited for the next stage of our journey, North Africa and the Middle East.

Morocco – Tangiers, Fes, Marrakech & Casablanca – October 13th – October 21st
The ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar was a swift yet symbolic passage from one continent to the next. As we left the Tangiers port terminal we were asked if we wanted buses or taxis into the city. However, we had done some research earlier and determined that a reasonable hostel was within walking distance and refused all offers. We started walking down a highway parallel to the port for what seemed like an immense distance before we started to question our whereabouts. It turned out that we had arrived into the second port of Tangiers, approximately 50 kilometres from the actual city. We swallowed our pride and returned to the port to enquire about catching a bus to the amusement of a collection of drivers that had offered us lifts earlier. It was nearing midnight as we arrived in Tangiers so we decided to stay in a quite reasonably priced four-star spa resort hotel. This luxury was quite a change from the accommodation we were accustomed. We had not intended on spending much time in Tangiers as we’d heard it was predominately a port town where Moroccans head to indulge themselves in taboo or illegal activities, so we decided to head to Fes.

Boarding the train to Fes was an experience in itself. We boarded an already crowded train with our large bags, the only remaining space was located next to the rancid bathroom at the end of the carriage, and this was filling fast. As we gathered in this confined space, we realised that standing for six hours in the sweltering heat was going to present us with another ‘unique’ experience. Obviously realising that the train was at capacity, they decided to add some additional carriages, and we were luckily able to secure a compartment before it too become obscenely crowded. Fes turned out to be what we imagined an incredibly authentic Moroccan city would be like. We had booked a hostel within the medina, the old town enclosed within a medieval fortification.

Within the medina, buildings were all constructed using the same yellowish clay into simple rectangular structures arbitrarily mounted upon one another. The small streets and alleyways were almost impossible to navigate as they unpredictably wound around and through buildings with smaller capillary streets branching of into small squares or to other indistinguishable locations. It turned out the train had been so crowded because people were returning home for an Islamic holiday, which became evident by the heightened activity within the medina. We were witness to donkeys hauling peculiar products into the labyrinth of the medina, sheep being delivered to a multitude of butchers and continuously directed to illusive tanneries. Seeing a sheep being delivered on the back of a donkey is an unusual sight at the best of times. Fes was also an interesting location as Sam and I were unlucky enough to encounter bed bugs, our first and incredibly unpleasant encounter with these brutal parasites. Casey was smugly impressed he avoided these macroscopic terrors, yet a few days later, to Sam and my enjoyment, a few bites did appear.

After we’d visited Fes, we headed to Marrakech, much more of a tourist-centric city, which did partially subtract from the appeal; however, the city was still an amazing spectacle. The highlight of Marrakech is a large market place that has numerous performances, snake charmers, orange juice stalls and restaurants. At night, the market was flooded by lights and truly came to life as people bustled between all the interesting performances, most of which seemed to involve men dressed as women… I, unfortunately, was slightly unwell during our time in Marrakech and didn’t have the pleasure of visiting some ancient tombs and a castle, but Casey and Sam visited the sights and raved about the intricacies and the impressive atmosphere of the structures.

Preparing to leave Morocco, we headed to Casablanca where Casey and I were going to catch our flight to Jordan and Sam was going to fly to Paris. Casablanca seemed like a very plain city, so we were glad we had not afforded it too much of our limited time. We headed to the Casablanca airport, said our goodbyes to Sam who we’d greatly enjoyed travelling with for just over two weeks, and boarded our plan to Amman, Jordan. We did get to enjoy a stopover night in Cairo airport that resulted in us both passing out at a table just outside of our boarding gate while we waited for a flight to Tunisia to board. An interesting image: Two westerners sleeping quite ungracefully at a table as a large group of Tunisians board their flight, many of them impressively carrying their possessions on their head…

And that is the end of The Reunion Part I! It is difficult to believe that this all happened within the space of three weeks. I’ll leave you with a quote by Ernest Hemingway that has helped me keep things in perspective, “Never mistake motion for action”. As we continue to travel I reflect upon everything we have done and everything we hope to do both while travelling and beyond. The Reunion Part II is only a few days away, so keep your eyes open and as always, keep posted.


Listed in: Culture

The long awaited podcast!

Published: Nov. 3, 2013, 5:41 p.m.
Duration: N/A

Listed in: Culture

Almaty, Kazakhstan to Istanbul, Turkey

Published: July 10, 2013, 3:33 p.m.
Duration: N/A

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Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to Almaty, Kazakhstan

Published: June 2, 2013, 11:35 a.m.
Duration: N/A

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Vientiane, Laos to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Published: May 13, 2013, 5:42 a.m.
Duration: N/A

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Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Vientiane, Laos

Published: March 27, 2013, 7:02 p.m.
Duration: N/A

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Published: March 7, 2013, 10:38 a.m.
Duration: N/A

Listed in: Culture

Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Published: Feb. 25, 2013, 1:24 p.m.
Duration: N/A
We are officially templed-out after exploring the temples of Angkor Wat and Vietnam is lingering in our sights.

To listen to the podcast click HERE!

15th, 16th& 17th Feb
We apologise for the time between posts, but it is purely due to the few days after our last post not warranting any real report. Unfortunately, we had our first run in with suspected food poisoning. We were too fearful to leave the room in Siem Reap and were living off a bare trickle of food, including tiny croissants, cheese biscuits and wagon wheel like biscuits called “choco pies”. This resulted in the Choco pie incident of 2013…… Even so, we were still in pretty high spirits and did enjoy the time relaxing (if you can call it that) even though the guilt of being so close yet so far to the temples was occasionally evident. In a way, we were lucky that we were both impeded by this illness at the same time. Sharing such a small room with a bathroom that seemed to amplify everything, has definitely cemented our friendship pretty solidly, unlike our bowel movements. Needing a reason to test our health, we felt it was necessary to visit “Pub Street” for a few drinks.

18th Feb
After feeling up to the challenge, Casey decided to ride west of Siem Reap to visit some small temples that are older then the temples at Angkor, yet due to their size, don’t receive the same level of relevance of the larger, newer temples. Unfortunately for Casey, the tickets to the temples were not sold in this general direction, so the ride towards the temples was partially in vain even though he did get to enjoy an introduction to the Cambodian countryside. I, however, still not feeling up to the task of endeavouring too far from the safety of the room/bathroom, stayed behind.

19th Feb
We both seemed to have recovered and decided to venture out towards the north-eastern temples, and following the suggestions of the Lonely Planet guide, would see the older, smaller temples first and leave the awe inspiring Angkor temples for the final day. After jumping on bikes and enthusiastically stopping off at every temple around the circuit and enjoying the individuality of each, the temples slowly started to morph into one, signaling an end to the day. After agreeing to meet a friend that we had made in Battambang on “Pub Street” that night, we again ventured out in to Siem Reap for a well-deserved Angkor beer.

20th Feb
The day had finally arrived! We were going to visit the Lonely Planet acclaimed eight wonder of the world! Angkor Wat definitely deserved this title. The sheer size of the moat that surrounded the temple of Angkor Wat was mesmerizing, as was the land bridge that was in place allowing tourists to cross the threshold. Obviously weathered through age, it was incredible to think about what these temples had been through on both a cultural and political level, and you couldn’t help wondering what the marvelous structures would say about the folly of man. Unfortunately, restorations were occurring at the entrance to Angkor Wat, which played a very spoiling role in the majority of the photos that were taken. However, we continued to traverse the highly preserved temples admiring the intricacies of even the smallest detail. We, unknowingly, had worn singlets and shorts that did not cover our shoulders or knees. This almost obvious point now, was the reason we were not allowed into the main temple. This prompted us to leave Angkor Wat at this point vowing that we would return to complete this pilgrimage we had charged upon ourselves. With a slight loss of spirit we continued onto the Bayon temple complex, which was a wonder in it’s own right. After watching sunset from this temple, we rode our bikes back to our hotel past the monkey-laden grounds and ruins that speckled the heavy foliage along our route. Looking forward to a dish I had seen in a menu the night before, a Khmer curry, Casey and I decided to spend a little more on dinner ($3.50 each) and try this dish that proved to be the most enjoyable we’d had in Cambodia thus far. Finding out that the bus to Kampong Cham City (Our next destination, designated the “Gateway to the North” by Lonely Planet) left at 7.15am the next morning, we decided to spend an additional night (taking us to the morning of the 22nd) so we could go back to Angkor Wat at sunrise and finish what we’d started.

21st Feb
After hearing Casey’s alarm go off at both 5am and 5.30am and observing Casey consider getting up both times and then returning to the fetal position, I was provoked to wake him up knowing I wouldn’t hear the end of his disappointment if we had missed his big opportunity for a photo shoot. We again hired bikes and raced to Angkor Wat, where we both got briefly separated as I took a slightly different turn, however, we both got there and got to enjoy a rather overcast sunrise. Of course we now had our shoulders and knees covered, determined to enter the temple that we had been denied entry the day before. The temple didn’t open until 7.40am so we decided to source ourselves some breakfast. Seeing a man selling bread, we decided to buy two incredibly fresh bread rolls and two coconut buns. Not such an interesting fact, but the comments we got from two locals must have been one of the highlights of our trip thus far. The first man said, “Hello sir, you want water, another bread?” (It was yet to occur to us that this man did not sell bread) and then a woman that shouted, “Hello Mr big bread!” before entering into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. This made our day and definitely gave us something to raise our spirits even though we were both exhausted from the early wake up. We finally had an opportunity to see the temple, which definitely reinforced the beauty of this almost mythical site.

One thing had crossed my mind over the last few days was where was the tree that Angelina Jolie was in front of in Tomb Raider. Unbeknown to us both, we had missed one temple! Ta Prohm was the temple that we had been imagining this whole time, a temple that had almost been lost in forest. This temple was beautiful and it was obvious why it was so iconic. Obviously this fact was known by about half of the tourist in Siem Reap, who were there in droves. Otherwise this place was truly magical, it was incredible to see the roots of trees intertwined with the temple structure, which had been so physically altered that each seemed symbiotic of the other. Feeling like we had finally seen every temple in the Siem Reap area, we called it a day and triumphantly returned to the hotel where we recuperated from our early morning and prepared for the journey we would undertake the following day. It would be sad to leave the hotel we had grown so accustom to, yet it was time to leave the room that hadn’t been cleaned since our arrival and was harbouring our filth. We’d also left a lasting impression with the hotel staff……

22nd Feb
Again, sleeping past the alarm, we were late to leave our hotel and reached the bus with a comment from the bus driver saying, “Come on, the party’s over!” Feeling a little guilty, we said our goodbyes to Siem Reap and prepared for our arrival in Kampong Cham City. After about a 7 hour journey we arrived in a town that was our first destination by the Mekong. It was completely empty and without much attraction, which was reflected by the single paragraph dedicated to the town in the Lonely Planet. We decided to go north the next day, which we were told left at noon.

23rd Feb
Waking up leisurely at 9.30am and leaving the hotel room at 10.20am, we decided to go and book our bus trip and then have a quiet breakfast before we boarded the bus for 8 hours. When we arrived at the bus company we were quite shocked to realize that the bus arrived at 10.30, which was, at the time, two minutes away. Running back to the hotel, paying and then running fully loaded with our packs and other items, which we lacked time to pack, we arrived at the bus stop and waited for a bus that was luckily 10 minutes late. The bus was very nice, enjoying the Cambodian countryside as we headed northeast to Ban Lung. Exiting the bus at a very bizarre bus stop a few kilometres from town, we, with some friends we had made, continued to walk down the main street until we eventually approached the centre where we found accommodation in a nice guesthouse.

24th Feb
Finding out there really wasn’t much to do in Ban Lung either, except to see a large volcanic crater lake called Boeng Yeak Laom. We set out to this lake with the two friends we had made the night before by foot (it was about 6km). It felt quite rewarding when we reached the lake and were able to enter the beautifully clean and refreshing water whilst marveling at the incredible formation of this crater. Casey decided to run back to the hotel from the lake as I returned with our evidently unfit friends, who really struggled with the elevated slopes returning us to the main road that returned us to town. We then organised a 6am bus to Phnom Penh, which is going to be our final destination of Cambodia before we progress into Vietnam.

25th Feb
The bus to Phnom Penh must have been the most enduring so far. Not only was the bus not properly air-conditioned, but we both felt that they were employing some form of torture in the form of a Cambodian comical singing duo or Cambodian soap operas that involve someone either getting run over every few minutes or love triangles. We have, however, arrived in Phnom Penh in high spirits. It is completely different to any other Cambodian town we have visited and definitely has a high degree of western influence. We were elated to know that the room we booked actually included an air conditioner, a luxury usually declined due to the high price mark up of the room. And that brings us up to now. We officially feel we have seen enough temples to do us for a while and we are ready to leave Cambodia and experience a slightly different country. In saying that, we still have found the Cambodian people incredibly friendly and have definitely enjoyed our time here. We will spend the next day exploring Phnom Penh and seeing what it has to offer in contrast with the other Cambodian towns.

We’ll be in touch soon. Our love goes out to our family and friends, please let us know how new jobs and moves are going via Facebook, you’re all never far from our thoughts.

Keep posted.


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