Top 3 Travel Journeys (so far)

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.

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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.

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I’m going to nominate Katrina Mackey who writes Dollface Travel to continue what is currently a very short relay chain!

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My Travel Inspirations

While fooling around on Twitter the other day I came across this blog by Paul Corbett talking about travel inspirations. EasyJet Holidays are asking travel bloggers the who, what, where and when as part of their Inspiration Initiative and given I find the idea quite interesting I thought I’d give it a go.

Who – Michael Palin

I remember watching Michael Palin shows like Around the World in 80 Days and Pole to Pole on rainy school holidays at my Aunt’s house in Glasgow. I was completely addicted to them, they made me realise how different other places and people were which I’ve wanted to explore ever since. I’ve been hooked on all his other travel shows ever since as well as comedies such as Monty Python and Ripping Yarns, at the release of the latter I was lucky enough to meet him! That’s why it’s all his fault I’m writing this blog 😉

When – Hitchhiking to Morocco

My first real adventure was in my first year of University. I’d seen somebody advertising a charity running a hitchhike from Nottingham to Morocco and was hooked straight away. The trip took about 5 days (including a day off in northern Spain) while I encountered crazy Romanian Truck Drivers, blagged a lift from an OAP coach tour and even got a lift from a French driving school. The trip felt like my first real adventure and raised about £600 for Link Community Development supporting education projects in the UK & Africa.

Congratulating my arrival in Morocco!

Where – the old city of Fes

Fes was the highlight of the hitchhike to Morocco. After arriving in Tangiers and travelling to Essaouira and Marrakech, Fes was the last place I visited in Morocco. I’d read a few articles about Morocco before setting off and it was always Fes that stood out, many of them romantically describing the traditional nature of the old city. The experience really didn’t disappoint, I fell in love with the traditional craft work taking place including the potteries, street food but especially the tanneries where you can still can watch the whole ancient process of the animal skins being washed and dyed in the sun. I’ve been looking for the heart and soul of locations ever since, it’s so much better than a museum!

The tanneries of Fes

What – Manas figure from Kyrgyzstan

Another one from my childhood when my Dad did some project work for the World Bank in Kyrgyzstan. One of the souvenirs he brought back for me was a small wooden statue of a warrior called ‘Manas’. My Dad told me the background of the story about how he fought off  the Uighurs and was considered a hero in Kyrgyzstan and a strong part of the national identity, similar to Ghenghis Khan in Mongolia. Barely anyone had really been to Kyrgyzstan back then (not many people have even now) so I value its uniqueness to me and how it has made me bring back exotic travel ornaments as souvenirs of my own journeys.

Manas

Legendary Kyrgyz warrior

As part of this initiative, EasyJet Holidays want me to nominate 5 people to write their own travel inspirations. I’m going to nominate my girlfriend, Katrina, as this might make her start the blog she keeps saying she will do. I’m also going to nominate a friend, Hazell, who’s been writing this blog over the past year or so.

To bring it up to five I’ve been following these guys on Twitter, have enjoyed reading their stuff and think they should join in!

Our Oyster

Bucket List Publications

Malllory on Travel