Low Cost Holidays are running a competition for travel bloggers to write about their top 3 travel experiences (gold, silver and bronze …get it) before passing on the baton to tell about theirs and so on. I’m a bit late on the band wagon for this having only just discovered it but have chosen my top 3 travel journeys (so far).
In reverse order….
3rd and Bronze Medallist – Road Tripping Around the Southern US States
In 2011 to escape the endless obsession with the Royal Wedding and take advantage of the glut of British Bank Holidays myself and Katrina grabbed a cheap flight to Texas and a hire car to explore the Southern States.
I’d never really seen much of the real America, mostly just Washington, New York and Florida so this was a bit of new one to me. The America I knew was one of stereotypes from modern media but the America I found was so much different.
We took in Houston, New Orleans, Montgomery (well you’ve got to see the city with your surname), Nashville, Bowling Green, Memphis, Hot Springs in addition to small towns galore. We ate big plates of soul food, dodged huge tornadoes, cruised long interstates and explored backwaters when we tired of the highway. I discovered a love for American microbrews when before I expected to be inundated with weak light beer.
As a Burnley football (soccer) fan I took pleasure in watching minor league hockey and baseball games as well as the passion of the crowds attending them. We met some of the friendliest people on earth who were fascinated with all things British (especially Simon Pegg it seemed) in the same way we were becoming engrossed in America.
In short I saw a chunk of America and fell in love with it.
2nd with the Silver – Hitchhiking to Morocco for Charity
During my first week at University at one of the many freshers events I was asked a bit out of the blue “have you thought about hitchhiking to Morocco?”
Funnily enough I hadn’t but over the next couple of days I couldn’t get the idea out of my head which made the answer obvious, “I’d love to hitchhike to Morocco!”
The event is actually a little more common than you’d think. Organised by a charity, Link Community Development, students from all over the UK raise money thought sponsorship and over the Easter break (2007 in my case) set off with whoever is brave, crazy, stupid enough to give them a ride along the way.
In my case I hitched rides with truckers, OAP coach tours, train companies, French driving schools, and most weirdly a very romantic French couple on a second honeymoon – awkward!
My highlight wasn’t arriving in Morocco (although the 2 weeks I spent exploring there after was incredible) but a Moldovan truck driver who took me through the south of France while he was travelling to Portugal. At first sight he could have been an Eastern European gangster with scars and tattoos. He spoke almost no English and a very small amount of French – my Romanian and Portuguese weren’t very good at this point (and to be honest still aren’t great today :p ).
However despite this, I couldn’t have met someone more heartwarming. He shared his food, showed pictures of his children at home and souvenirs of his his days in the Soviet Special Forces. In return I tried to explain more about me but I don’t know if he understood so I tried listing footballers from Romania (close enough to Moldova right?) That said, he did get very excited about Dan Petrescu and Adrian Mutu.
Hitchhiking to Morocco was probably my first big travel experience and played a big part in me wanting to explore the world today, I think about how crazy an idea it was but how incredible an experience it turned out to be.
In 1st place to drumroll, cheers, applause and tears is the winner of the Gold – Sailing from Panama to Colombia
A more recent experience and part of the journey I’m currently on, from Cancun in Mexico to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. With it not being possible to cross the Darien Gap by road (the only gap in the Pan American highway) you need to look for alternatives – fly or one of a number of different boat crossings.
In Panama is San Blas or Kuna Yala, effectively a collection of paradise coconut palm islands, surrounded by electric blue sea and inhabited by a tribe that escaped other tribes in the jungle many years ago. Pretty much incredible.
To see these and get across to Colombia we booked 2 places on a sailboat to see the islands and make the 2 day crossing. To get to our boat we took a jeep through the jungle from Panama City and a small lancha out to where it was moored. The boat was called Sacanagem, which upon boarding we were told by the eccentric French / Colombian captain means a sex act in an orgy in Portuguese. Lovely.
As our lancha left to return to the mainland he also informed us the boat was currently broken and we would have to wait while he installed a part to fix it. Not a problem at all in paradise.
A couple of days passed, the boat was not fixed and a storm was passing through the Caribbean causing the solar panels not to work and meaning we had no electricity. Therefore we would have to abandon ship to a nearby island (it didn’t feel it as our little boat there crashed through the waves) and wait while the boat was fixed (a job that seemed to be getting ever longer).
With no idea how long we were to be stuck in paradise, those of us who decided to wait it out settled in for the long haul and plundered the supplies of rum – no burying it for us! 2 days later we were told the Sacanagem was still a week or so away for being fixed but we could ride with another lady making the voyage – saviour.
4 more days sailing around islands and 2 nights at sea later we were to arrive in Colombia. In that time we ate lobster, snorkelled to our hearts content, sunbathed on deck, staved off seasickness, tried our hand at sailing and marvelled at dolphins. The experience made all the more memorable by the extra days on our first boat and being stranded.
There’s a bit more about this journey from earlier in my current trip – here.
I’m going to nominate Katrina Mackey who writes Dollface Travel to continue what is currently a very short relay chain!