Sri Lanka. Empty beaches and crowded cities. Terraced tea plantations and wild jungles. Elephants and leopards, whales and monkeys, friendly people and incredible food. Ignored by travellers during two decades of civil conflict, tourism is only now starting to reappear on this teardrop-shaped island off the bottom of India.
While package tours are popular,they’re far from the only way to see the best of what the country has to offer. I spent three weeks travelling independently around the southern and central parts of the island by bus, train and tuk-tuk, and the experience put Sri Lanka firmly near the top of my list of favourite destinations.
If you’re considering budget travel in Sri Lanka, here’s what you need to know.Continue Reading →
It’s a natural tendency to want to know what happens next. That’s why people read horoscopes, mindlessly scroll through Facebook for hours and binge watch every episode of Friends during one inglorious rainy weekend.
Apparently, though, it’s not just Ross and Rachel’s future that interests people. In the last few months, I’ve found myself being asked a single question much more often than before.
“Are you ever going to stop travelling?”
While six, twelve or even 24 months of wandering is somewhat acceptable, people seem to find more than that a bit strange. As my three year travel anniversary draws nearer, friends, family, taxi drivers, random strangers on the Internet have all started asking if this trip is going to end one day.
Aren’t I sick of it yet? Isn’t Lauren? Don’t we want a house? Normal jobs? Kids? 2.4 puppies and a white picket SUV?Continue Reading →
After a quick side trip to Tikal, we returned to Belize and headed for the coast. What it lacked in jungles and ruins, it seemed to more make up for in beaches, and that was just fine by me. Plus, with distances being so short, we figured it was relatively easy to get from one place to another without taking all day to do so.
Apparently, we figured wrong. The 200km trip from San Ignacio to Placencia ended up taking over nine hours, involving three buses, a long and miserable wait and a kind-hearted water taxi driver who saved the day.
I’ll admit that wasn’t quite how I’d imagined things would go when I’d woken up that morning… but on the upside, there were fewer dead bodies this time around.Continue Reading →
We’d only spent a few days in Belize, not nearly enough to get a feel for the place, and already we were leaving. It wasn’t a problem – we’d be back again in 48 hours – but it felt strange to be swapping currencies and languages yet again. We were off to Tikal.
Arguably the most famous of the Mayan ruins, Tikal sits around 100km into the northern part of Guatemala. There are stupidly-priced day trips that leave from various points in Belize, but (a) they require spending all day on a bus for a few hours in the park, missing sunrise and all the good bits and (b) did I mention they were stupidly priced?
So we opted for a more interesting plan.Continue Reading →
After the bloody introduction we’d had to Belize, I figured our time in this small Central American country could only improve. We’d marked out a vague itinerary for our two weeks, allowing plenty of time to not do very much – to ward off exhaustion, we’d finally learned to reign in the ambition when it came to exploring somewhere new in a hurry.
Sticker shock had made itself known even before we arrived, however – a quick glance at accommodation prices told us that Belize wasn’t going to be cheap. A decent double room, often without air-conditioning, typically ran upwards of $40/night — without even the benefit of breakfast to take a little of the sting out of it.
Food, too, was expensive – maybe we’d just been spoiled by six months in Mexico, but cheap and delicious street eats seemed in short supply. Public transport, however? That, at least, was a bargain – the rickety old Bluebird buses bounced and rocked their way all over the country for a couple of bucks.
After half a day on one such bus from Belize City, we arrived in San Ignacio sleepy, grimy and with stomachs complaining loudly. A jerk chicken restaurant near the bus stop dealt with the intestinal cacophony, and when we finally tracked down our hotel, a shower removed most of the travel stink as well. Sleep, however, was going to have to wait. We had rocks to look at.Continue Reading →
With Lauren recovering from mono and the rainy season already starting, trekking was off the cards. No Everest Base Camp or Annapurna Circuit for me, at least not this year.
Nepal is plagued by chronic electricity shortages – scheduled power cuts happen every day for several hours, not to mention the unscheduled ones. Unless you’re using cellular data, internet speeds are glacially slow as well. It’s a terrible place to try to get any work done online.
For three weeks, then, I couldn’t do what most visitors do in Nepal (trek), and I couldn’t do what I usually do anywhere else in the world (work). What on earth did I actually do, then?
I stepped away.Continue Reading →
“What the hell?”
The bus lurched to a stop, passengers scrambling over each other to press their faces against the grimy windows. Sweat dripped from my forehead as the fickle breeze disappeared, while loud voices competed with distorted hip-hop from a dozen mobile phones.
In my exhausted state I could understand little of the heavily-accented Creole, but eventually a single word started to make itself heard over and over again.
A few people snapped photos on their phone as the bus eventually started to move, police waving the traffic on past what looked like a bundle of clothes in the middle of the road. Drawing closer, I realised that what I’d thought was discarded clothing was nothing of the sort.
The body of a man lay face-up on the highway, the broken remains of a motorbike scattered up and down the road. Thick, dark blood lay pooled around his head and body, baking in the heat of a tropical morning. The white towel over his face explained why I couldn’t hear the wail of an approaching siren.
There would be no point calling this man an ambulance.
The murmurs from other passengers increased in volume as we passed, that single word being passed around like a football once again.
Dead.Continue Reading →
For someone with a history degree, I really didn’t know much about the Mayans before I arrived in Mexico. I mean, it’s not like they’d exactly had a huge impact on my home country of New Zealand – but you could say the same about the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, and god knows I spent enough time studying the minutiae of what they got up to.
I was vaguely aware of a few stereotypes – ball games, fondness for animal and human sacrifice, a well-known calendar – but knew little detail. The few pictures I’d seen of Mayan pyramids didn’t seem that impressive compared to those that housed the pharaohs, and all in all, I just didn’t expect to be particularly wowed by the historical sites on the Yucatan peninsula.
And then, well, I went to them.Continue Reading →