Tag Archives: round the world

Photo Friday – Sweet Treats in La Paz, Bolivia

31 May

We spent a few days in La Paz, Bolivia after our awesome salt flat tour, and every day we’d walk through a market near the hotel to find the woman who made these pastries.  She’d be there bright and early with fresh sugary goodness for us to try.  We must have eaten dozens of these treats over the span of four days.  Delicious!

The Australia Roundup

9 Apr

map_of_australia

The Statistics

Number of days spent in country – 48

Cities/towns visited – Bussleton, Margaret River, Alice Springs, Kings Canyon, Yulara, Cairns, Port Douglas, Sydney, Manly, Melbourne, Hobart, Sorell, Port Aurthur, Coles Bay, St Helens, Pyengana, Scottsdale, Launceston, Westbury, Deloraine, Meander, Chudleigh, Mole Creek, Gowrie Park, Strahan, Queenstown

Number of different lodgings – 20

Flights – 6

Bus journeys – 14

Boat rides – 6

Combi/collective/taxi  journeys – 3

Car rentals – 5

The Budget

Australia roundup

Australia was a challenge on our budget, partly because it’s really expensive, and partly because we were travelling with family for most of the trip.  We took a lot of cross-country flights, which bumped up our budget in a major way (you can see from the chart the travel costs were HALF our budget).  Our accommodation costs were also significantly higher than if we had been on our own, though we did share rooms or get family rooms most of the time and we had two weeks of basically free nights from time share exchanges and hotel points from my mom.

Total US dollar amount spent – $10, 121

Average cost per day, per person – $105.43.  We spent around $121 when we were travelling with our family, $70.53 when we were on our own.

Average lodging cost per night, per person – $39.10  We only had to pay for lodging for 25 of the 47 nights we were in Australia, thanks to some timeshare exchanges, loads of free-camping in Tasmania, some couchsurfing, and the generosity of a few friends of friends.  We stayed in motels with my parents, and spent a week in an airbnb apartment in Melbourne.  Australia had the most expensive lodging, even when looking at the cost of staying in hostel dorm rooms, that we encountered on our entire trip.

Most expensive lodging, per person – $76.50 at the Ayers Rock Resort.  Yikes.

Least expensive lodging, per person – $3.20 for a campsite outside of Strahan, Tasmania.

Average food/drink cost per day, per person – $19.20 With a few exceptions we self-catered. We did have quite a few fish and chips lunches, and a few very nice dinners out.

The Best

travacalmTravacalm – You may know that I have a bit of a problem with motion sickness.  And by a bit, I mean a huge problem.  This is particularly true when the motion involves water, and it is a rare occasion that I escape a boat ride without throwing up at least once.  So, you can imagine my delight when I was introduced to Travacalm, which appears to be the only motion sickness medicine that ACTUALLY WORKS!  I discovered it on our snorkel trip to the Great Barrier Reef (more about that below).  I spent the whole crazy choppy trip out to the reef literally willing myself not to puke as at least 5 people all around me were getting sick.  I could only hold out so long though, and ended up being pretty sick just prior to getting into the water.  Fortunately, being in the water really helps, so I was feeling much better by the time we were ready to head back to shore.  One of the crew members was handing out Travacalm  to those of us with seasickness and for the first time in my life I survived a really rocky ride of nearly an hour and a half back to shore without feeling so much as a twinge of dizziness.  You can’t buy this stuff in the USA, so I promptly went to the pharmacy and bought 10 boxes.  For real.

Wavelength Great Barrier Reef Snorkel trip – If you get all the way to Cairns or Port Douglas, you’d be remiss to not make it out to the Great Barrier Reef.  There are quite a few companies ready to take your money, so you need to really look around for what you want. For us, it was important to have a trip just for snorkeling, and we didn’t want to be on a boat with hundreds of other people who would then be crowding around us in the water and scaring all the fish away.  That’s why we went with Wavelength.  They take only about 30 passengers, are totally snorkel dedicated, and ended up being a great choice for us.  They give you a full-coverage stinger suit (to protect from jellyfish stings) and pool noodles to help you float lazily along.

SmithsSmiths Salt and Vinegar chips – We have a real weakness for salt and vinegar chips, and these were the best flavor we found in all of Australia.

$2 sushi rolls in Melbourne – Another way to ease your budget blues!  You can get cheap and tasty sushi rolls all over the city.  I only needed two to fill me up for a lunch!

Fish n’ Chips – As a former colony of England, Australia really has nailed the art of fish n’ chips.  We sampled this classic favorite all over the continent, and it rarely disappointed us.  It was also pretty easy on our budget, especially compared to the high cost of restaurant meals.

Bondi to Coogee Beach walk outside of Sydney – We spent the better part of a day strolling along this famous coastal walk, and it was totally worth it.  Especially when you end at a rooftop bar overlooking the ocean.  Bliss!

Getting out into the wilderness – Australia has some serious nature.  From the Outback to the Gold Coast, to the rugged mountains of Tasmania, to the wine valleys, to the rain forests north of Cairns… this continent has it all.  I highly recommend reading Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country
to get a real sense of just how wild Australia really is.

Wine Tasting – Australia is famous for a lot of things, one of them is fantastic wine.  You can visit a variety of different wine regions, but we spent most of our time in the Margaret River Valley, which is south of Perth.  It was awesome, and most of the tastings were FREE!  Just make sure you have a designated ‘skipper’.

Tasmania – If you like nature and hiking and camping and beautiful scenic vistas, then you should go.  Really, just go.  Make sure you have at LEAST 10 days to really do it justice.  We had 16 and we could have easily spent twice as long.

The Worst

Australia was great, and the only part we really disliked is that the US dollar is not so strong at the moment…which made it a very expensive trip.  Still, that’s not Australia’s fault, but just be prepared to drop more cash than you might have originally planned for.

Being Careful in India

31 Jul

Our mantra whenever we get off a bus or a train in India has been,

“Nobody here is trying to help us.  Nobody here is our friend.”

Do I like this mantra?  No, not at all.  Is it true? Yes. Absolutely.

We’ve had to be cautious upon arriving in new cities all around the world, but it’s really been taken to a whole new level in India.  We’ve never been so absolutely inundated by touts and scam artists as we have been here.  From the second we step off the platform, and in some cases even before we’ve done that, we are bombarded with cries of “Where you go?  You have a hotel?  You are going the wrong way! This way sir! Madame! Over here! You need taxi? Come with me! You need rickshaw? Exit this way!”

Rickshaw and taxi drivers will claim your hotel is full, roach-infested or burned down just to get you to go to a place of their choosing.  If you insist on your original destination, they often refuse to take you or double their prices.  On the occasions that we aren’t swarmed by drivers wanting to take us somewhere other than where we intend, we are quoted absurd prices for travel.  We once had a team of men attempting to get us to take a rickshaw to our hotel for 150 rupees.  After a few minutes of searching around, we found a driver willing to take us and use the meter for the rate.  The cost was 21.

At the New Delhi train station, one of India’s major transport hubs that has a fantastic foreign tourist ticketing office, the scams are so thick that the tourist office has signs all over the place warning you to not pay attention to those who attempt to lead you astray.

Scammers will attempt to steer you away from the tourist office and into a travel agency where you will be bamboozled into buying train tickets for far more than the actual ticket cost.  If you are particularly uninformed they may convince you that there is no train to your destination and you might wind up handing over absurd amounts of money for flights, luxury bus services, or totally unnecessary private car transport.  Another common scheme is to try to stop tourists at the security checkpoints and tell them that their train tickets need to be ‘validated’ for a hefty fee or you won’t be allowed to board.  There are dozens more tales of travelers being manipulated as they attempt to board trains – your train has been cancelled, your train is not longer going to this stop, your train is delayed 22 hours…come with me, I can help you make other arrangements!

Recently we had two separate sets of people attempt to tell us we were headed towards the ‘wrong’ exit for the train station upon arriving in Jodhpur, despite the enormous “EXIT” signs we were following, and the fact that literally everyone was headed the same direction.  Justin laughed heartily in the faces of these touts and we kept going our own way.

In another instance, we had gotten off a bus at a fairly large terminal, and I needed to use the bathroom.  As I walked up to the clearly marked women’s restroom, a man ran in front of me carrying a table.  He put it down right in front of me and demanded I pay him to go in.  I refused and walked away.  We’ve had to pay numerous times to use restrooms, but this time just seemed like extortion.  I really did need to go, so I went to the station manager’s office, asked where the bathroom was, and asked if there was a charge.  I was directed back to the bathroom I originally tried to use, and told that no, there was not a charge.  When I went back, the guy was nowhere to be seen so I went in.  As I was closing the stall door the man ran in after me and tried to come into the stall, demanding I pay him.  I yelled “NO! GET OUT!” and pushed back on the door harder than he expected, causing it to slam in his face. Justin came storming in as this was happening and dragged the guy out of there to the station managers office where he confirmed, no, we didn’t have to pay.

*I wrote this post and the next day we went to visit the Amber Fort near Jaipur and the bathroom thing happened AGAIN!  This time though, there was a huge sign right in front that announced it as a free bathroom, and a woman inside still tried to insist I had to pay her to go in.  Unreal. *

This kind of thing is both exhausting, and infuriating.

Hence our mantra.

One way to avoid the hassle of haggling with rickshaw or taxi drivers is to go to the pre-paid stands that are just outside most airports and trains stations.  Even then, you need to stay on your toes as we learned just minutes after arriving in Mumbai.  We had gone to the pre-paid taxi stand at the airport, where we were told it would be 480 Rupees to get where we needed.  It wasn’t until we were out of the terminal and into the taxi that we looked more closely at the receipt and realized it should have been 430.  The woman at the counter had written the ‘3’ so it looked sort of like an 8, and when we added up the charges, sure enough, it was 430.  Lesson learned – pre-paid services can be handy, but check the receipt CAREFULLY before you hand over your cash.

At this point, we try to always have a plan for where we are going before we even begin the journey to our next stop.  We contact local hotels and ask what we should be paying in a taxi or rickshaw to get to them.  When we’re in doubt or need help the ONLY place we go is to the police or the tourist office.  If someone tries to check our tickets, or charge an entrance fee for something, we only allow them to do so if they are in uniform, in an official booth, or if the guidebook says there is a fee.  If those things aren’t in place, we ask a security guard, police officer, or station manager if we should be paying extra.

It can be extremely aggravating, but by following these steps we think we’ve managed to avoid the worst of the scams, at least so far.

The Uruguay Roundup

6 May

The Statistics

Number of days spent in country –  15

Cities/towns visited –  Colonia, Montevideo, Punta del Diablo

Number of different lodgings – 3 plus a couchsurf

Local bus journeys – 8

Combi/collective/taxi  journeys – 0

Boat rides – 2

Bike rentals – 1

Days of rain – 1

Budget

Total US dollar amount spent – 1,228.50

Average cost per day, per person – 43.88

Average lodging cost per night – 38.40

Most expensive lodging – Hostel del Diablo – $41/night for a private room with bathroom and a patio looking out to the sea.

Least expensive lodging – Willy Fog Hostel and El Viajero  in Montevideo were both $13 per person for a dorm room, including breakfast

Average food/drink cost per day (per person) – $20.15  We ate out for pretty much every meal, and drank a healthy amount of beer and wine.  Lunches we generally had empanadas on the beach, but we went to basic restaurants most nights for dinner.  We could easily have spent a lot more on food and drink, but we chose mid-range restaurants with only a few exceptions.

Best:

Best. Empanadas. Ever.

* Empanadas – Kiosco Alba at the end of the ‘pier’ where there are trinket vendors.  These go down as the best empanadas we had in all of South America.  They are made fresh to order and are STUFFED with fresh fish, or ham and cheese.  They are fried, yet they aren’t greasy.  They are incredible, and there was always a wait, but it was well worth it.

Mmmmm…grilled meat….

*Parilla meal – Huge slabs of grilled meats are typical in Uruguay, especially in Mercado del Puerto.  It’s incredible just to walk around and marvel at all the grills going at the same time, and you have more than a dozen choices for lunch.  We ate at La Chacra with our couchsurf host, and had some of the best steak we’d had on the trip thus far.  A tad pricey, but well worth it.

We took a break from biking to take photos with the massive Montevideo sign

* Bike ride along La Rambla – Do yourself a favor and rent a bike at Bicicletta Sur on Aquilas Lanza and Durazno.  For a dollar an hour you can spend all day cruising up and down the coastline, stopping for ice cream, empanadas, and whatever else catches your fancy along the way (like the giant Montevideo sign above…).  There is a well maintained path for both pedestrians and bikes.

Playa Grande in Punta del Diablo

* Playa Grande in Punta del Diablo – It’s already a super chilled out beach town, but we hear it can get pretty crowded during high season.  To get away from the masses, head over to Playa Grande, just a few minutes walk up the coast.  You’ll find an expansive beach that you’ll have nearly all to yourself since most people don’t want to make the trek over the sand dunes.  If you walk all the way out to the end of the beach you’ll be at the beginning of a nature preserve where you can marvel at the foliage and maybe even spot some sea turtles.

Worst

* El Viajero Hostel in Montevideo.  It was clean, well located, and had a good breakfast but all of those things can’t make up for terrible layout and a bad staff.  The room we had didn’t have a window, which made it swelteringly hot in the night.  In addition, the rooms all faced the open courtyard where people hung out until all hours of the night – the noise was deafening.  The staff was indifferent at best, downright obnoxious at worst.  We left after only one night.

6 Months!

2 May

It’s our 6 month anniversary of being on the road!  Time certainly does fly…We’ve spent a half a year tromping around South America, yet we still feel that we’ve just barely scratched the surface of this amazing continent.  We could spend years here, but we’re heading off to explore another part of the world next week.

We still have some catching up to do on country-specific ’round-ups’, but in the meantime, here’s a quick breakdown of our travel stats from the first 6 months:

Average cost per person, per day (not including Antarctica) – $43

Continents – 2 – South America and Antarctica

Countries visited – 6 – Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and Ecuador

Towns or cities visited – 53

Beds slept in – 56

Bus rides – 101

Taxi or combis – 34

Boats – 25

Planes – 6

Swiss Army knives lost – 3

Random weddings attended – 1

Empanadas consumed – we should have kept track…the number is probably in the high hundreds.

Regrets – 0

Our next leg includes Turkey, Israel, Jordan, India and Nepal; if you’ve been to any of those places don’t be shy, leave us some tips in the comments!

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