Don’t miss the train

There was one train that stopped in Broken Hill, Australia and it only came a few days a week. I missed it and I was crying to the ticket agent while she was giving me options I couldn’t afford on my backpacker’s budget. I was in the middle of Australia’s outback and I guess I was going to be staying for another day or two. At the time it seemed like a horrible day, but these are the things that can happen while traveling.

To be fair, this was my fault. I arrived at the train station on time and waited for nearly an hour. There was an announcement over the speakers saying the already late train was broken down and they believed it would be an hour until it arrived at the station. It was early morning in Broken Hill, so I left to get a cup of coffee a few blocks away. While at a cute cafe I hadn’t visited during my time there I looked over the menu and ordered a small breakfast. I waited with my coffee for my carryout order to be ready and boxed up. It took a total of fifteen minutes and I started back to the station. I heard train noises coming from the station. I went running with my not very light backpack, coffee and bag of freshly cooked food to the Broken Hill train station a few short blocks away just in time to run up the flight of stair to see the last of the train pulling away. I yelled out and began to cry, a reaction I do not normally have when things turn upside-down on me. The ticket attendant tried to comfort me and give me options to get out of this lonely outback town. These options included buying another ticket leaving a few days later or getting a taxi to drive to the next town the train was stopping at and asking the train conductor to wait. The cab ride would be cutting it very close and the train would only be able to wait about fifteen minutes. I did not have money to pay a taxi to speed to the next stop a few hours away. I was also not able to get my money back from the train I had just watch leave without me. Still very upset and felling defeated I left the train station and walked down the road still with hot breakfast in hand. I Found a parking lot with a space for me to sit unnoticed under a ramp and called my mom. She did what all great mothers do and told me it was going to be all right and there were other options for me. I knew this to be true, but I was just so mad at myself. I let my mother talk softly to me as I ate my delicious breakfast still sniffling. With my head hanging low I went back to the small hotel I had just checked out of and explained my situation and asked for another night. The owner was so kind to let me go back to the same room which wasn’t yet made up.

I did make plans to leave and I was only delayed a single day. I caught a bus very early the next morning and said goodbye to Broken Hill once again and watched out the bus window a beautiful outback sunrise as the bus drove down Barrier Highway back towards Sydney.

The pink dolphins of Hong Kong

Away in an old fishing village, there are regular tours of something I have never heard of before, pink dolphins. More commonly called the Chinese White Dolphin but affectionately called pink dolphins for this unusual pink and white-colored dots making themselves stand out against the dark water. I found this tour in Tai O village, a once-thriving fishing community, now being overshadowed by a giant bridge connecting the Hong Kong cities of Zhuhai and Macau. It is the longest sea-crossing bridge spanning the Pearl River Delta. Tai O has been an attraction to see the local fishing culture and to catch a glimpse of the pink dolphins, but now the village has an added feature on the boat tour, to see the new record-breaking bridge. The bridge construction has been a threat to the rare pink creatures. Marine experts say the dolphins feeding and communication activities of these very social animals have been distributed. Hopefully, now that the construction is about over and the bridge is waiting for its grand opening the sea life will be left alone.

The Dolphins start their lives as dark calves until they grow into the famous pink spots. The pink spots are from blood vessels beneath the skin of the dolphins. There isn’t a great deal known about these pink dolphins of Hong Kong but the numbers don’t lie. The animals in the Pearl River Delta areas have seen numbers drop by eighty percent over the past decade.

Try as you may, but you will not find any pink dolphins in my photos. Like many others on the boat, I was never ready when these creatures would jump up to say hello. After many missed shots, I simply sat back in the first of the boat and watched pointed pink heads pop up and splash away just as quick. It was a calm end to a busy Hong Kong day.

Food Roulette

Walking into a restaurant in a foreign country with no English menu and only a few pictures scattered around you and must make a decision by pointing and hoping for the best.

This is a photo in Hong Kong at a window kitchen from the bottom floor of a large apartment building in Kawloon. There were different shops and other selling food out the window. The window I picked had a few people waiting in the line for the while I watched it. As one person walked away, another stepped up to wait, so I felt it was a popular and trusted enough place to eat random and in some cases unknown selections. I walked to the counter with money in hand trying to order in English to Chinese only speaking locals. After I failed at asking for whatever they will give me for $20. Finally the woman running the cashbox told a man something as she pointed to the back and then she called for the person behind me to come forward to select fried goodies and pay. As I thought this wasn’t the way to order foot and I should go back to the pointing and grunting method, then a younger man came forward from the rear of the kitchen. He spoke in very good broken English and asked what I wanted and with a smile, he filled bags and bowls full of things on sticks and some fried balls of something with spicy sauce on them. I could figure out what some items were and others I didn’t have a clue. I sat in the hostel balcony and tried everything loving some and not too sure on others, but it was amazing gamble that I think is a great way to try local foods.

If anyone knows what I was eating in the photo above please let me know, because I still do not know.

This amazing dish is kangaroo and I can’t rave enough about it.

Solo, one way, extended trip

Coming back after a extended trip can be hard for anyone. There are many emotions evolved in the days before you leave and the trip home. Weather it is a few hour car ride or a full day flight, the travel beings the emotions of home very real.

My latest trip was almost eight months long and I learned a lot about the world and about myself as cliche as that may sound. For me it was after the first few months I adjusted to life on the road and out of a pack. I started my trip in Auckland, New Zealand and stayed in most of the major area of the city for the first three weeks, and man did I ever get my bearings of a city then walking it everyday for three weeks for most of the daylight hours. After the innatinal first weeks my mother took the twenty something hour flight to come see her globe trotting daughter. My mother, being the planner she is, had all of our ten days filled with things to see and do on this once in a lifetime trip for both of us. We travled from north to south island and back again. When I finally had to tell my dear mum goodbye I had to be on my own again and for this trip my defining moment. Having to plan where you will sleep and how you will get to that bed you booked in the most beautiful picture the hostel can create, you learn how quickly judge pictures and rating. Which I feel I had learned from hostel hopping in Europe on a tight budget. After a few mad hostels in New Zealand and one or two in Australia I learned quickly that five US dollars could mean the difference between a small or out of the way compared to toilets soaked in drunken pee from the bar hostel downstairs. Reviews are worth the read and also worth the time to write.

  • Www.Booking.com always gave me the most results generally in my International travels
  • Www.hostelworld.com come up with much fewer results but are all on a backpacker/ budget level.
  • Www.couchsurfing.com is a way to meet locals that are willing to open up their home to you after registering and filling in important details to the website and matching with locals that want to show you their city. You may have to do dishes or keep clean in exchange for a very local tour,home cooked local food, and a place to lay your head.
  • Www.YHI.com comes at a price of a year membership at a very reasonable rate. I have found over many counties that this organisation have overall the best accomadation at comparative prices. The rooms are always clean and the location is usually near the things you came to that area for. I have nothing but nice things to say about Hostel International.

Like in most things, the people in each place can make or break even the nicest hostel. Community living isn’t for everyone.

After getting used to this life of everyday new city, new people, and new

Doubtful Sound, New Zealand 

To get to this magical place called Doubtful Sound is a long journey. There are only two boats that go out into this beautiful area, one is a day cruise and the other is an overnight cruise. Like the bulk of people visting the area, Queenstown is the closest and most practical town to book a trip like this. If this is true then there is a long bus ride, followed by a ferry to get to the island, and another bus, then your cruise threw the sound. Don’t forget you must make it all the way back also. It is a full day to say the least but worth every jaw dropping moment seeing the aww of the landscape come straight up out of the water all around the boat.

Tonga 

If you don’t know where Tonga is, no worries, neither did I before I started planning. It’s not glamorized like Fiji is or built up with name brand stores.

Vavau like most of Tonga is not filled with hotels or shops. The photo above is The Vavau International Airport. The security check is nothing more than a bag scan and the locals sitting around talking and joking and pick a few people out to check their bags the rest of us walked by. All very relaxed and casual. There were a handful of locals, a professional photographer, and the lone traveler, me. Tonga has been recently featured in National Graphic Magazine for there amazing whale encounters. I won’t call it merely whale watching because you are feet away from these giants with snorkel gear on as they lumber to the surface and breach the surface. As opposed to what I think of traditional snorkel, floating on the surface looking down to the ocean floor far below, maybe diving down a handful of times.

Such an amazing experience and one I will never forget. We were able to get so close and see the heat runs all around our boat. There were seven of us on the boat, one guide, and the caption who was a local legion of spotting whales. Our caption had an older diesel boat which made a much deeper hum in the water then the other boats running the area and we were told the deeper noise of the boat attracted whales better. I am not sure if it was folklore or truth but it sounded plausible. The other boats running the water with us were all related to our caption in some way. Tonga, as it was explained, was divided into territories or sorts. One family group of whale chasers won’t go into another’s area.

As our saltly caption and guide spotted something stirring, we took turns in two groups when the boat spotted the whales we slipped in the water and swam over just as they were rising from the deep.

Monkey Temple in Kathmandu 

After climbing up many, many steps to the top of Monkey Temple, right at the very top when you can see the end, there is a small ticket window where visitors pay a small fee. ($2-3 USD) I knew there was a fee, but on a hot sunny day and seeing the end so close I didn’t notice the office window off to the left and an officer flagged me down to directed me over to pay the fee.

After the ticket window, there are still a few more flights of stairs of the 365 step to make it to the temple at the top.  When you do get to the to, buy a bottle of water to catch your breath.  From the top of  Swaymbhunath or monkey Temple, you can see most of Kathmandu valley and all the beautiful colors making up this vibrate city. As the name implies, there were hundreds of monkeys running and climbing around. Tibetan Buddhists and Hindus consider monkeys holy and offerings are left for them.

I didn’t have any trouble getting here. I could see the temple peeking up above the city and simply walked from my Zostel. It was a 30-minute walk from the city and just to make sure I asked a few locals along the way and followed the pointing fingers onward. Getting taxis are very easy is Kathmandu, usually getting ripped off a bit every time. The roads are narrow and wild in Nepal, especially after the recent earthquake. Piles of rubble still laying of street corners a year or so later. Riding in a taxi is a very exciting process but I generally walked because I felt safer and I saw more.

 

There is another way up to the top of Monkey Temple. When you walk up to the front of the temple there will be three statues and the start of the stairs leading up. If you walk all the way around to the other side, the back there is another shorter and much easier way to reach the top.

There is so much to take in around Kathmandu, Nepal.

Elephant Nature Park

The Elephant Nature Park in Chang Mai Thailand is a no ride all love animal park. Close to one hundred elephants, water buffalo, and countless dogs have been taken here for a better life. The staff is amazing to the animals and were able to answer all of the questions that came up. I stayed at the park for the 2 day – overnight in my own large room with shared back porch. The room was beautiful and large,not at all what I was thinking when the paperwork said I would be sleeping in a hut. For two days my group of new friends from all over the globe helped feed, river washed and loved on elephants on the large parcel of land. The elephants are locked up at night to protect them from things that go bump in the night in a secluded area of Chang Mai. Just an amazing place to be for a few days, I cant say enough good things. Elephant Nature Park Click on the link to set up your own amazing encounter.

Kangaroos, it’s what’s for dinner!

Yummy! Don’t worry there are a lot of them hopping around. The meat is available at the supermarket and on a few restaurant’s menus. When it’s cooked correctly the meat tastes amazing with rich flavors. People often compare the taste to deer meat. It’s always worth it the risk to try new food where ever you go.