A Travellerspoint blog

USA

It's all over!

It’s with the inevitable sadness that comes with finally finishing something great that this will probably be the last blog for this tour. We’ve made it to our last destination and I’ve managed to somehow get a few hours on my own to reflect. P1010277.jpg Our last stop before home is hardly adventurous but it somehow suits us. We are on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. We have come here for a couple of reasons, firstly to see the big wave riders of Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay and secoP1010824

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ndly to try and calm down and relax before we get home. We have mixed feelings, happy to see family and friends again and have the familiarity of home but also a bit of melancholy that this really cool life we have led for the past 12 months is over. We had set out to see the world and have different experiences by trying to immerse ourselves as much as we could into the local scene wherever we went and often taking the road less travelled. P1010557.jpgP1010519

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We found that was always more rewarding and we managed to meet a lot of great people along the way. Sometimes that road took us in a minivan hurtling along dirt roads at breakneck speeds or four of us complete with packs squeezed onto a tuk tuk ( motor bike with side car) . We have slept on luggage racks on trains in India,P1030024.jpgHoli Festival

Holi Festival

Holi Festival

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taken seats that weren’t ours and then defended them only to find out we were on the wrong train….twice, slept on ferries, bancas buses, been run over by taxis, missed trains and planes, travelled by horse and cart, drunken taxi drivers, bicycle and dune buggy and lets not forget Princess, our 7 metre camper van that housed us for three months. We are masters of the Tube in London, the subway in New York, the metro in Beijing and generally any other public transport system that serves the city’s that we’ve been through. P1060646

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Hopefully that experience will serve the boys well when we get home and save Patti and I a lot of running around. P1040352

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We have stayed in some really nice places and the odd night in a dump when there was no alternative but I’d have to say we had no experiences with the dreaded bed bugs and apart from getting a “dose” of the runny bums’ now and again, we all remained extremely healthy. I think I could write a book on hostels and some of the characters you meet in them. There are people that upon arriving in South America go immediately out and find a street vendor and have dredlocks attached to their short back and sides hair cut, buy any pants that are drawstring, get some sandals and a hemp t-shirt and attach as many arm bands as possible to their wrists. P1020720

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They tend to have an aversion to soap and anything else that may be considered socially acceptable like buying food and drinks with their own money. On the other hand I’ve met people that have been travelling for years and just cannot give up the lifestyle. They are generally well educated but can’t bring themselves to join the rat race. Some of the hostels have been eye openers as well. We generally stayed in them for a bit of social interaction for the boys and mostly in South America. The Chill House in Cartagena, Colombia had a house rule of always having music playing. The cocaine dealers would call up to the veranda from street level. The Loki in La Paz, Bolivia was three stories of pumping house music and bar. The boys loved it and were regulars at 2 am, Patti and I not so much.P1060634

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We have been extremely lucky with safety and have not experienced one bit of threatening behaviour. Given that we travelled into some city’s and countries with terrible reputations and stayed in some pretty dodgy areas, we count ourselves as very lucky. Mind you, common sense goes a long way. At one point we did think disaster was just around the corner when we avoided a bomb in Manila, a Volcano eruption in Legazpi, a ferry disaster in Halong Bay and an earthquake in China. We managed to beat all by about a week but it was a bit disconcerting to read about these events exactly a week after we had been there.
We set out to try as many different experiences as possible without tiring ourselves out and also becoming complacent with our travel. Some experiences we have shared and others have been individual. The boys both gained their PADI diving accreditation in Coron, Phillipines. P1010038

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Brenton spent his Eighteenth birthday at the three day Oxygen music festival in Ireland with family he hadn’t met before. He has to take our word for it that he was there, some reason its all a bit of a blur. Matthew dared to jump from the highest cliff in Nerja, Spain and unsuccessfully tried to lure me in. He again terrified his mother by taking her driving a buggy in Banos, Equador. P1020395

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Patti and I had a beautiful couple of days on the west coast of Ireland. I managed a zipline that was nearly two kilometers long that screamed down a river. Brenton and I climbed a 6000m mountain not before both the boys threw themselves off a 120 m bridge swing. We learnt to ski and snowboard in Utah and surfed at Cocoa beach. We have trekked to the hill tribes in Sapa, Vietnam and watched Condors in the Andes of South America. It seems we have been to so many places and experienced so much that I have to wonder what will be next for us. How do you settle after this? We met so many great people that I hope will come and visit one day and although I can’t believe it is all over, I don’t feel we were rushed. We relaxed and laughed a lot. We are hoping that this feeling will remain with us.
I will sign off by saying that it was not all beer and skittles. We all had our moments and thankfully we had three other travellers who were very understanding and forgiving. Andiamo .P1010893

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Posted by mike1967 11:30 Archived in USA Comments (0)

South Beach, Miami

Tattoos to Transvestites and everything in between.

sunny 37 °C

One of the nicest things about having lots of time to travel is that your first impressions of a place can be replaced over time as you slip into the vibe and get used to the people and the pace of life. My first impression of South Beach, Miami was one of slight dread as the street scene was pretty seedy. It is obvious that South Beach is a party town and with that comes all the flotsam of life such as the usual drugs, alcohol and prostitution. P1050793.jpg The USA has always been a place that for me represents such massive differences in wealth and class, but normally they are clearly segregated. In most cities there are definite lines between a nice part of town and the ghettos and a traveller could quite easily pass through the USA without seeing any real rough neighbourhoods, however this is where South Beach seems to be different. P1050824

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The lines seem to blur and although luxury cars and beautiful people with super yachts and ridiculously big houses seem to be everywhere there also is the very poor that seem to be all a part of this crazy place. The restaurants and bars pump out house music from 11am and feature anything from dancing barmaids on bars to full drag queen shows ( Pricilla Style) up and down the footpath. The bars only seem to be outnumbered by the tattoo parlours. P1050794

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If you want ink, South Beach is the place for you. Although we had no trouble wandering the restaurant strip the place definitely has a dangerous edge. Being offered anything on the street is fairly common for the boys now and believe it or not they reckon the dealers are always polite…. Nice guys? The architecture is what South Beach is known for and for a couple of old antiques like Pat and I it was really well worth seeing. The style is Art Deco with a lot of curves and steel, marble and neon. P1050823

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The buildings are mostly preserved and are the restaurants,hotels and bars . After a while we settled into the swing of things and moved through the neighbourhood a little more and started to find the little places that can make a stay nice. We just about had a standing order with Tony the Italian for pizza and Pasta. I felt like a local when he started shaking my hand when I’d enter the shop. Although we kind of got used to the place we wanted out of there, it was like Surfers Paradise on steroids. We hired a car for the next leg and headed four hours up the coast to Cocoa Beach.
Cocoa Beach is renowned for its small but surfable waves ( home beach to Kelly Slater World champion).P1010893

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We were desperate to have some space and some home cooked food. We rented a unit right on the beach and headed straight for the first supermarket we could find. First night massive steaks and veg. Cocoa Beach was more what we were used to, a bit like a coastal town at home. We spent the week beachcombing and doing a bit of surfing and eating really well.
The last port of call for us was Ft. Lauderdale. It is a nice spot to spend another few days on the beach and ogle at the super yachts. Although there seems to be as much affluence here as in Miami, the lines are less blurred. The drug dealers wear suits. We were lucky to get a great deal in a nice hotel right on the beach with a great view. P1050854

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Finally we are ready to move on and a flight to Colombia is next on the agenda. Our time in the US was ok but really lacked the stimulation that we had been used to up to that point. We are all really excited about South America and everything it has to offer. Andiamo

Posted by mike1967 17:58 Archived in USA Comments (1)

New York, New York

sunny 30 °C

Well we wanted the big city experience so the biggest and the best of them is considered New York. P1050736

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A bit of luxury was also on hand as we had twelve days booked at the Marriot Times Square. It was as usual just one room so not a lot of privacy but the bed and pillows were very nice. Originally we had a month booked in an apartment in Brooklyn but cancelled so we could be a bit closer to Manhattan and closer to my fellow competitors and team mates for the world Police and Fire games.P1050573

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I managed to get a jersey for the dodgeball team, a sport that required absolutely no training, fitness or real knowledge of the game. Unfortunately all of my other team-mates had the same assumption and we were hammered a few times by the win at all costs American teams even if it meant cheating. We managed to have a great time, won a few games and stirred up the locals. Both Brenton and Matt even managed to get a run on one of the other Aussie teams who were short players until the Americans put in a protest. P1050575

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The city is what we expected, just a mass of traffic, noise, people, and lights.P1050692

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All pretty exciting but can wear you down with the constant stimulation. The park is one of the saving Grace of this city. Central park has to be one of the greatest city parks in the world.P1050700

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Smack bang in the middle of all the mahem is this massive space where it seems that all New Yorkers come to run or play baseball or like us have a picnic and a water fight. I managed a torturous run around the park but was very unspectacular with my times.

We managed a few tourist sites while we were in the city and managed to do a bit of shopping. The view from the Empire State building is spectacular. It just demonstrates how big this city is and how small our little city of Brissy is. P1050656

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I couldn't go to New York without seeing the World Trade Centre site. It was still a building site when we visited but we could see the new building going up and we payed a visit to the fire station that was destroyed in the attack on the trade towers. Heaps more seen and done but all just big city stuff so not very interesting. Counting down to Colombia. Andiamo

Posted by mike1967 07:17 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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