70 Facts: Our Four Month Backpacking Trip

backpacking, couple, Travel, Travel Tips

It’s hard to summarise in words everything we’ve done so the best way to showcase it is through some facts… 

Travel

 
117 hours of self driving
44 hours of coach journeys
26 public bus rides
15 flights
14 boat trips
12 rented bicycles
11 train journeys
1 crazy tuk tuk

Accommodation

21 Hostels
15 Hotels
8 Air bnb’s
2 Boat sleeps
1 Sleeper train
1 Airport sleep
1 Tent

Highs

42 cities/towns
29 beaches
16 amazing sunsets
15 lakes
12 waterfalls
7 countries
7 temples
6 museums
5 kayaking trips
5 snorkelling trips
4 rides down the luge
3 caves
2 paddle board sessions
2 mountain bike rides
2 shooting stars
1 surfing lesson
1 shot over jet ride
1 cliff jump
1 whale watch
1 black water rafting experience
1 mountain climbed
1 game of mini golf
1 trip to the zoo
Infinite amounts of walking and hikes

Lows

13 bug exterminations
3 bouts of The Bali belly
2 bouts of The Thai tummy
2 bouts of The Saigon squirts
2 packets of Imodium
2 scars
1 foot wound
1 leg wound
1 earthquake
1 missed flight
1 monsoon
1 migraine
1 lost bum bag (later found in a basket)
Infinite insect bites
Infinite repacking of bags

Miscellaneous

109 days without any major fallouts
60 litres of sweat
60 unnecessarily bought protein bars
19 nationalities befriended
18 dogs we named Alfie
14 books read
14 bottles of suncream
7 vodka buckets
6 massages
4 haircuts
4 near death experiences crossing roads
2 kisses from a ladyboy
1 new year in Thailand
1 birthday
1 anniversary
Infinite amounts of street 

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@broganharker

@jamiedenison1993

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The Gili Islands

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel

​Chapter 1: The good 

As mentioned previously, our Ubud driver fixed us a cheap deal across to the island of Gili Trawangan or ‘Gili T’ as it’s informally referred as. This magnificent island has a population of about 3500. It also has laws forbidding any engines on land. This means the only form of transport is via horse and cart or bicycles! We settled for the latter to avoid placing any further strain on the already over-worked horses. Biking was brilliant, you can cycle around the entire island in less than an hour and it is also a lovely loop hole for drink driving! The constant hassling from businesses remained as constant as ever but instead of taxis you are offered magic mushrooms (legal on the island). For the first 3 nights we stayed in the luxurious Villa Nero, way beyond our budget but Brogan paid for it as my early birthday present which was an awesome surprise! The second three nights we were back to budget accommodation in a hut (but it had air con so who’s complaining?!) On Gili T, we went on a full day snorkelling tour in the crystal clear waters (cost £6 and the safety definitely reflected this). We saw sea turtles and a surprisingly good amount of fish considering the price we paid. We also stopped at the quiet Gili Air for lunch which is even smaller than Gili T.

We ate at the fly infested night market (incredible food), drank beers on the beach while watching the sunset from the tiny island. We got drunk, went paddle boarding, had a laugh with the locals, encountered another batch of Bali Belly but it’s all part of the fun! Yep, a dreamy island, what could possibly go wrong you might ask…?

Chapter 2: The bad

On the day of our departure, Brogan and I were woken up by a strange shaking sensation. After confirming I wasn’t having one of my monthly nightmares, we established that we were actually awoken by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake which was moving the hut side to side and shaking the curtain poles. It was quite scary as anything over a 6 can instigate a tsunami (with a tiny island being the last place you want to be for such an event). We thought the earthquake may have affected our fast boat back to Bali to catch our flight the day after, but in true Balinese it was business as usual. It’s difficult to describe the boat journey other than absolutely crazy. The crew did not hold back at all on speed and given the sea was seriously rough from the quake, this led to some pretty risky travel. Every minute or so the boat would leave the water and slam back down with a lot of passengers screaming out each time. The sick bags were out and people were throwing up left right and centre. The whole floor of the boat shook and made some worrying noises each time we plummeted back on the sea. I found the whole thing brilliant (you pay good money for rides like that at Disneyland) but Brogan was less impressed, and I don’t blame her, the journey was genuinely dangerous looking back. An hour and a half later we made it back to Bali, ready for our flight in the morning. 

Chapter 3: The worst

So for 3 months, we haven’t made one mistake. Flights, buses, trains have all been caught with no fuss and we’ve planned all our days and budgets with very few issues. Why should the most important flight of the travels to meet our two friends Dan and Leila be any different? After establishing the flight departed at 13:00pm, we had a relaxed morning and began to pack. At 9:45AM, we rechecked the flight schedule and to our horror the departure time clearly stated ’10:45AM’. Perhaps inevitable at some stage, we’d misread the arrival and departure times, which almost instantly caused a severe influx of stress in the room.

We raced around, threw some clothes on, dragged our bags downstairs and managed to convince the receptionist’s husband to ‘fast drive’ us to the airport. The time was 10:25 when we arrived at the airport and our flight departed at 10:45. Drenched in sweat, we sprinted through security, made it to the check-in desk and after arguing for 10 minutes…… we were not allowed to board. What a disaster I know. We have now booked onto another flight and with a lovely 8 hours of airport time to waste, what better time to write a blog hey?! If you thought it couldn’t get worse, our friends who we should now be with are chasing down their main luggage which has arrived in Pakistan!!!

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The Real Bali

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel

Although our time in Seminyak has been brilliant, tourism has continued to boom and has gradually overshadowed the culture of the Balinese. We did however stay in a place called Ubud which resides near the centre of the country and is much less touristy, meaning it still maintains much of its natural beauty. As Ubud has so much to offer in terms of visits, the best way to maximise time was to hire a private driver for the day (it cost £30 for a full day 8-5pm). This was such a good decision as it meant we got to hear about the traditions from the perspective of a true Balinese, and he also acted as a tour guide throughout our many stops during the day. 

First we visited the rice fields where much of the countries supply comes from and learnt about the process of how it is all made (no machines in sight). 

After here we took a trip to the main temple which our driver was not allowed to go in (due to some complex rules on female menstruation – I won’t go into it, and sadly his uncle passing away recently). There were several areas to the temple and a special cleansing bath which is supposedly to ensure God keeps you in good health.

From here, Awan (our driver) drove us to a coffee plantation which was again, very interesting. The whole process of picking the beans, hand roasting, and grinding the beans was shown to us, finishing with a ‘free’ tasting session (with the option to buy of course – they have their business heads screwed on over here, I bought the coconut flavoured one).

After the coffee tour, we went to the biggest waterfall in Bali. The pictures don’t do it justice but the power of the water was dangerously strong, we both agreed something like that would not be publicly accessible in most countries ! Our final stop was the most anticipated one. The famous monkey forest, home to the sunglasses stealing, bag opening, food pinching primates! Within ten minutes of us arriving, the heavens opened and we were absolutely drenched, we had to buy two ponchos (still haggled them down though which in torrential downpour is a serious commitment to a bargain. Some time later we entered the forest and it was as good as we expected. Monkeys traversed people’s bodies to steal orange juice and bananas, we managed to get them to climb on us by by holding dried sweetcorn. Brogan had a little painful encounter as the monkey decided to use her ponytail as a swing for the exit on its way down! It was genuinely a really good day and we got to know all about Awan’s beliefs and his family, he even sorted us out with a massively discounted boat ride to get to our next destination and blog… The Gili Islands. 

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Sunsets in Seminyak

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel

So with the expensive destinations out of the way, our next step of the adventure was to touch ground in Asia, specifically Bali. Given we have arrived from the developed likes of New Zealand, Australia and of course England, Bali was quite a contrast to where we have been exploring up until now. 

Perhaps magnified by the fact we left a deserted Cairns airport, we entered an extremely frantic Bali airport. More or less from exiting the aircraft, people were trying to take our bags (for tips), surrounding us shouting taxi quotes at us, looking at our phones ‘claiming’ our plan for a taxi was not possible, basically finding any way to make us part with our precious Pennies! After a lot of negotiating and a fair degree of stubbornness we jumped in a taxi and made it to our budget hotel in Seminyak. We weren’t actually booked in for the first night which caused a few issues, not to mention the huge cockroach roaming the walls of reception! The joys of Asia!

Seminyak was really cool, the food is so cheap (dinner for two = £8, beer = £1), and the beaches are nice (although not quite on a level with Australia). We both loved Bali as soon as we got here, once you get past and ignore the constant haggling and touting at every step you turn, realising that these irritants are only trying to make a living, it’s hard not to love the friendly Balinese, their green beautiful country, and of course their awesome cooking skills. 

Towards the end of our short time in Seminyak we visited our friends down in Uluwata who we met up with in New Zealand some time ago. After a short walk past several drug dealers, and then ironically a swat team with semi automatics (one of them was genuinely on candy crush), we arrived at a place called Single Finn beach club which was a really good (albeit sweaty and overcrowded) drunken night. Heading home in a taxi was a bit of a nightmare (you’ll see why at the end) and rather irresponsibly, we paid a random old Balinese couple to take us on an hour and a half journey back to our hotel in a banged out car featuring cockroaches and some weird noises coming from the boot mid journey (we were too drunk to care). On the subject of taxis, the local drivers in Bali HATE Uber with an absolute passion as it is so cheap (a half an hour journey is around 98p), and the hostilities have turned quite aggressive as of late (local drivers have been following uber drivers and beating them up – not the customers). As a result of this, Ubers will either not pick you up, or will WhatsApp you first ensuring that there are ‘no dangers if I pick you up sir’. 

During our time we were lucky enough to have a clear night and watch the incredible Bali sunset. It was pretty perfect, lounging on the La Plancha bean bags at the beach, beer in hand watching the sun go down… pretty sweet right? We also spent a day at the popular Potato Head beach club, which although pricey was a lovely afternoon for a spot of lunch and swimming (cool place to go). 

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