Saturday, 29 January 2011

18 Moments From 18 Months

The trip maybe over but the legacy is just beginning.

We are hosting a exhibition of a selection of our most memorable photos from the 4th to the 25th of February at Droitwich Library, Victoria Square, Droitwich, WR98DQ.

The photos are also available online at our web gallery -

please do feel free to check these out, and we would love your feedback.
M:07976 758523

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

World Trip Legacy

So the trip is over... but the legacy will go on!!

Urvi and I want this trip to be an inspiration to everyone, anyone who wants to fulfil a dream - You Can!!!

For ANY travel advice or guidance, don't hesitate to get in touch with Urvi or I on

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The final Blog post of the trip

I have thought for a while what and how I should write the last blog entry of the trip. I have pondered whether it should be a summary of things we have done and experiences we have had, or maybe something more emotional and reflective. In the end I opted for a simple download of thoughts. There are many thoughts I am having about this trip and its conclusion, so much so that I think it is best for me to simple begin typing a blog post and end when it feels right! I have no idea where this will go and how long it will be so apologies if the post is too long or boring!

The world trip, the life that Urvi and I have led for the last 558 days is over. I am writing this post in the departure lounge of Johannesburg as we wait for our flight to Mumbai. I recall the moment well when the idea for the trip was born. It was during the summer of 2005. Urvi had seen an article in the Sunday Times Travel supplement about the increasing numbers of Career Gappers - people who would decide to give up their jobs and start to travel, seriously travel and see the world. She thought it was an awesome idea, but as ever I was most cautious about it. We were just chit chatting about it and Dad was saying that it sounded like a great idea and that he would have loved to have done this earlier in life. The idea was born. Goodness only knows how this casual chat about travelling for 3 months or so evolved into an 18 month mammoth trip, but evolve it did!

The last firework went off on New Years 2007 and the plan was on, we had to work hard and get things sorted, for we were leaving on the 2nd May 2009! The date was somewhat random, but it was also related to the year end dates in the UK. That was a special moment, as from then on all our efforts were focused on working for the trip. We made a number of serious life compromises during the years building up to our departure and although at the time I had some regrets, the moment that we started on the travel trail all those regrets vanished. Really the moment we arrived in Beijing and checked into our hostel, I knew this was going to be some trip. Beijing was such a rich place full of people and culture that just got me going, got me excited about travel and made me really understand that people are so different as much as they are so similar.

I look back at the first few months, and the pile of things that we packed that we did not use even once, I look back at the gleaming ruck sacks, and freshly ironed cloths, and it makes me smile. Just how far we have indeed come in such a time. Back at the start, every day was a vacation and yet every day was a challenge. It was such an undertaking for us, despite my confidence about being independent. At that time I particularly found it hard to mingle and speak to random people, I found it hard to share, because I guess I don't think I had that much to share. Over the months our routine became more fixed, between us our roles became defined and things smoothed out. We were then left with the experiences of every day. Both Urvi and I grow in stature and confidence, we began to enjoy time, just for the sake of it. We began to calm down and really let the world soak in.

By the end of the trip I think that our mindset to travel, to challenges and to each other has changed so so so much. Urvi is so comfortable with being uncomfortable and never have either of us felt that we are being forced to live a life on the road that we did not want. That was a special point really that only at the end I can appreciate. Urvi has compromised and been so flexible during the trip, and really I don't think we could have travelled with anyone else. At this time of reflection the partnership was just perfect. It sounds a little patronising but I am so proud of Urvi for all that we have achieved and for all that she has supported me to achieve.

On a very personal note I have learnt a great deal about myself and I believe I have changed a great deal. I am not scared to work hard, to be uncomfortable and to really put some effort into things. What ever it might be. People work hard around the world and achieve things and seeing that is very motivating. I have been happy with second best much of the time, but this trip was nothing short of life changing, because we both worked really hard to make it so.

I have learnt that I enjoy the company of new people more than I thought, I have learnt that I know just a fraction of a fraction of what the world and its people can offer, and the most interesting thing is that the knowledge is all out there, in the people you speak with and spend time with. I have learnt this during the trip.

I know now that I can overcome physical challenges and that I in fact enjoy that sense of challenge and totally cherish the moment of achievement. I could go on and on, but simply put I have learnt that there is so much out there that we are foolish to be happy in our own little niche.

The people we met during this time away have been truly AMAZING. Each and everyone of the great friends we have made are inspirational in so many ways. For what they have done in life, for what they were doing, for the way they thought about things, for the joy and love they gave us, for how close we became over the space of hours or days. The friends we made are the real jewels that we have collected throughout the route. I am not going to name a single one, because to name one means I must name them all, but for them all, thank you, and go well in your future and current travels. You were all amazing.

That goes for the people who kept track of us to, cared about us from a distance and talked about us to friends and family. There are people all over the world now who have heard of our trip, and if even 1 person does something that they thought was impossible for them because of some inspiration we gave them, then I am so proud. To be honest I don't expect or want this trip to be replicated by others, but I do hope that people will embark on their own ‘world trip’ - in their own way, by setting out to do something big, something hard and achieving it.

As we all know only to well, time is such a thing that cant be bought, no matter how much cash you have we all have the same unit of time and none of us truly knows how much we are given. Therefore you cant wait, you cant put things off. Start the diet today, plan for your trek today, save for your TV today. WHATEVER it is, do something today. The sense of achievement I feel after this trip will keep me going for a jolly long time!

We touched the feet of all 7 continents, we have seen the sun rise and set all over the world. Would I take up this challenge again? Of course I would. Indeed I think that travel and the feelings that only travelling can give you are now fixed I my head. I want to progress in my life but, travel will be part of that life I am sure. In this regard I am soooooo thankful that Urvi and I just click totally on this. She is a total travel addict too, and I am sure the moment we get home the travel magazines will be out again!

I don't know how life will be in the next days weeks or months, but I know that we have this experience to hold and give us strength as we go forward. We have done and seen things that most dream about, we have had the chance to have many life changing trips, within this one trip. We are lucky but we have also worked hard for it and worked hard during it.

We have this to look back on and motivate our children to never shy away from any challenge.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The best of the trip...

These are some of the ‘bests’ of the trip...

Hostel - Sandalwood hostel, Kyoto, Japan
Nights Sleep - Lebua at State Tower, Bangkok, Thailand
Train Journey - Xining to Lhasa, The Tibet Railroad
Bus Journey - Bahir Dar to Lalibela, Ethiopia
Sunset - Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Sunrise - Poon Hill, Nepal
Cruise/Boat trip - ANTARCTICA!!!!
Street Food - Super Tacos, Mexico City
Swim - The Dead Sea, Jordan
Trek - Torres Del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
Mountain - Dhaulagiri, Nepal (Anand), Fitzroy, El Chalten (Urvi)
City - Cape Town, South Africa
Natural Experience - Leopard Seal Kill, Antarctica (Urvi), White Sharks, South Africa (Anand)
Cultural Experience - Hamer Tribe, Bull Jumping, Ethiopia
Thrill - Sky Diving
Day - Wine Route in New Zealand (Urvi), A380 Flight to NZ (Anand)
Diving - Coral Garden, Dahab, Egypt
Boat - Iceberg Alley, Antarctica
Drink - Coffee in Ethiopia
Religious Site - Angkor Wat
Best Architectural site - Potala Palace, Tibet (Anand), Petra, Jordan (Urvi)

Would go back tomorrow - Nepal, Japan, South Africa
Left Undone - Peru, Bolivia, Africa

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Cape Town - the most magical City I have ever been to...

I was very nervous about coming to cape town after 8 years, as I had such memories of the city and such admiration that I was really worried that these expectations would not be met again. A lot has certainly changed in CPT but I think that I have changed a lot too. Not least travelling here with Urvi, in a much more relaxed mood ha helped to bring out the best in tis wonderful, beautiful and alluring city.

We have spent a few days here now, and I must say all those great thoughts and images have come flooding back. People here are so relaxed and yet confident, the city is simply stunning and when the sun beams over table mountain there is NO city in the world more magical.

We stayed in the Gardens area of the City, which to be honest is just awesome for the flash packers like us! There are great coffee shops around and the views of the mountain are constant, we were also near by to long street and so never far from a great night out.

I have always said that Cape Town is the one place I would live, without question, the best thing about the last week in CPT is that Urvi feels the same now! We just lived our dream lifestyle there, lattes, dinners, friends, sun, shopping! I admit this was a dream time to mark the end of our trip, but even then I can see ourselves living here and loving every moment of it.

Heres hoping!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Thanks to all the tour and expedition guides!!

We are currently at Victoria Falls and getting ready to do a days White Water Rafting. I am listening to the briefing that Hippo our guide is giving and by this I am reminded about the various guides and drivers we have met, travelled with and relied on through out the trip. I think that these guys and gals deserve a special and collective thanks from us both

We have trekked in Tibet with Chung Dak; Bumped around Mongolia; driven by Nemo; Learnt diving with PADI instructor Tom; Walked around the rice fields of Vietnam with the young informal tour guide girls of Sa Pa; lost and then found my Walking boots with the guides from Greenland Adventures; Jumped out of a plane with our tandem Sky Dive masters in NZ; enjoyed a life changing trip to Antarctica with Sebastian and his team; Climbed Cotopaxi with climbing guide Guido; Sweated in the desert of Jordan with Abed and his son Neal; Visited the tribes of the south Omo valley with Daniel and got soaked while white water rafting with Hippo and his gang.

These and many many other guides and drivers, have kept us safe and more than that helped us have some of the most amazing experiences I could ever imagine. I know this is their job but these people have a love for what they do, for their country and this is really infectious, they have really enriched our trip and I am thankful to them all!

Urvi would not have made it over the Drom La Pass on Mount Kailash if it were not for our driver and Chung Dak. This was the biggest achieved of the trip for her and it was the support and dedication of the driver that gave her the chance. We interact with people all the time, but when we meet guides and support teams, we build a short but important friendship. This is easy to disregard but it is important to acknowledge - thanks All!

Next time your are taking a guided excursion or thrill activity, spare a thought for the people who are assisting you, they are special and fun people!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Returning to South Africa

Touching down in Johannesburg and taking a car to Blyde River Canyon and then Kruger gives me such a feeling that I am meeting up with an old friend, who I have not been in touch with for a while. South Africa was one of the places that I can say gave me a bit of the travelling bug. I came here for work almost exactly 8 years to the day, and travelled like a backpacker for the first time.

I was taken immediately by the beauty of the country and the warmth of the people. Despite the history and internal turmoil, the people I met then were so warm and welcoming. Nothing has changed, I have again been blown away by the natural beauty and diversity of South Africa, and once again can see why I feel in love with the people.

Ever since returning from South Africa last time I have not stopped talking about it. Especially Cape Town! And so we have decided that this would be the last country of the trip and Cape Town our last stop. I cant quite believe that we are here, at the final step, the final days. I am quite nervous after having raved about SA so much, I just hope that it will live up to the expectations that have been set.

South Africa is in fact the first country (excluding India) that either Urvi or I have been to before. This is a sign of just little we have travelled in the past and I guess something of a testament to how much travelling we have done on this trip! I was really keen to make sure that we don’t just replicate the trip I made all those years ago. Things have changed, we have changed and interests have changed. For example SA has some of the best National Park setups around, and last time I only got to 1 of the parks. This time we plan to go to many. In total we will be here for 5 weeks and I want to get to some new places, stay away from cities and make sure that we leave the trip with no regrets. This is a big ask but I think can be done in SA.

Cape Town should be the perfect place to end our trip, it has lots to do, great hostels and awesome food all set within one of the most beautiful cities in the world. There will surely be bittersweet feelings when we finally zip up our backpacks for the very last time but I cant think of a better place to be than SA for such a moment. The travel bug was seeded here and for me it will be renewed here. Maybe the next years wi just be a pause before another trip...

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Tribes of Southern Omo Valley

There have been times on this trip when we have debated about going some place or another, and most of the time we have not regretted the decision. During the Ethiopia leg of the journey the big debate was to head south or not. Whats in the South?? The Tribes are in the south! Ethiopia for the traveler is essentially split into discrete circuits covering the north, south and east of the country. The North is the Church and Historical circuit. The East has some amazing natural wonders, and the south has the tribes. The tribes of Ethiopia are varied and interesting, they hold much intrigue for those who venture down to visit them, and deciding to take this trip was the best choice of the whole african leg of the journey.

We were really debating this one hard, solely because of the costs - you have to take a 4x4 to visit the tribes, as the roads are even worse than the awful highway roads found around Addis! They really are African Bum massagers! The 4x4 guys have a great monopoly going on and the rates rarely drop below $100US per car per day. Sure for a group this might work out ok, but for us backpackers, thats a lot of Injera!

We were super lucky that as we were booking our jeeps we met a couple of guys from the Czech Republic and Slovakia - Ivan and Michel, they too wanted to do the trip and so we were set, 50% straight off!

I guess the first thing to say is that there are tribes all over Ethiopia, but the southern Omo Valley tribes have gained some notoriety as they have been cut off for a number of years (for main stream travelers, the villages were really only opened for visits 15 years ago), also they have maintained customs and traditions to this day that set them apart from what I or most others would know. They are intriguing and mind boggling in the way they live life. I think it gives some indication on how past generations may have lived.

Of course times are changing as these tribes are becoming more commercially savvy. There are new ‘better’ roads being built and villages are becoming easier to get to. There are park and village entrance fees, and I am waiting for the first tribal Starbucks to open soon!! Seriously I think that we had an experience that was somewhat staged, but as close to real life as I would expect. In the end we were visiting people in their homes and communities and jumping out of a non air-conditioned 4x4 to take photos and gawp at bull jumping and lip plates, is already pretty synthetic. This aside the experience was mind blowing and I am so glad that we decided to visit these tribes.

We were fortunate in that over 3 days we visited 4 different tribal groups - the Konso, the Arbore, the Hamer and the Mursi. Each were different. The Konso were most like conventional towns folk, the Arbore are famous for the beaded and metal jewelry they wear. The Mursi are rough, aggressive, savvy and plain weird! The ladies are famous for the huge lip plates the wear IN their bottom lips. These plate could easily hold my dinner on them and they are apparently a sign of beauty. I am not one to judge but the way that the ladies were taking the plates out and letting the resultant skin flap around was not too catchy for me!!

The Hamer were the most interesting and most welcoming of the tribes we met. We were super lucky to be in the area at the right time of year and the right day to witness and in some ways be part of the famous bull jumping ceremony they have. The Bull jumping is a coming of age ritual that any boy must perform before they can be called men. It is complex and goes on for many days, but the main highlights are as follows.

All boys must undergo the ceremonial process to become a man, indeed even if you leave the village for work or anything else, you must come back to your village for this ceremony.

All the ladies of the family of the boy perform many dances and performances to show their support to the boy. The greatest sign of their support however is that they are voluntarily whipped, by whippers for the area. These are no light dashes with a leaf, this whipping leads to blood. It is a very disturbing process to watch, but one can’t help being enthralled by the ruthlessness of the act. The more the whipping the more you are showing your support for your brother or cousin or son.

The boys family must arrange for many bulls to be brought to the village, the more bulls they can buy the richer they are and again the better for the boy. As you might guess there is whole marriage subtext to this whole thing, as once the boy becomes a man he needs a wife. As ever everyone is one to impress!

The concluding act of the bull jumping ceremony is exactly that. The boy must jump onto and run over the backs of all the bulls that have been collected. Other men of the tribe help him by holding the bulls by their tails and horns and her jumps on them and runs. He must do this non stop at least 3 times and he cant ‘train’ for it. More over as ever with tribes he is naked (why do they always do this!).

Seeing a boy grow in to a man by jumping over 7-10 angry bulls in a row is a sight to behold. This was not a show, it was not put on to impress the tour groups, these ceremonies are how life moves with the Hamer. I was taken aback by it all and it really was a privilege to see the events unfold. Sure I felt a bit uncomfortable as I clicked away throughout the ceremonies, but to be honest this was a time when the pics did not matter, having seen the tribes of the south Omo valley was an experience by itself and was unforgetable.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

What is the cost of a Photo

We have taken over 23,000 photos on this trip so far and many have been of people, of young and old. Indeed the people we have seen on our trip are the most interesting subjects for me when taking photos. To date most of these pictures were largely unstaged, in many cases spontaneous and in some cases, down right sneakily taken! So when we decided to come to Ethiopia and ‘visit’ the southern Omo tribes, Urvi told me of the custom of paying for all the photos. Villagers would be happy to pose for us (even what to pose) but insist on payment. There is no choice in this and in the end you enter into what feels like a mass portrait session, with numerous photo shoots taking place throughout the village.

I must say that this was very unforgettable for me, not least because although the tribes were in tradition dress and setting, most would pose for a photo, this resulted in staged looking photos, which I didn’t like. However we were fortunate to come across one tribal group that did not pose for shots. The Hamer are a welcoming and intense tribe with many distinct traditions. The reason that they were not posing for shots was that we visited at the time of a bull jumping ceremony. This is described in detail in a later post, but we were lucky that as the tribe were busy in this celebratory function, they were happy to invite us in and allowed photos. Indeed some of the tribe are budding snappers themselves, and loved to click away happily. I pondered what they actually thought of taking photos as they believe that when you take a photo it takes some part of the subjects soul away and captures it! Maybe they are right, paying for posed shots was a bit soul consuming for me!

Paying for photos is not in itself a bad thing, but the business transaction takes away all feeling that the photo you take is a glimpse in the real life of the subject. I didn't have the photographic skills to influence the situation, and I guess just photographing these tribes in interesting enough. General feedback on the shots was positive so something must have good right!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Visions from an Alien world

As we trundle around Ethiopia I am starting to contemplate what life will be like in a few short months when I will be back in the UK. So many things have happened in the last year that I am not sure what life will look life when I return. It is in many ways an alien world for me. I find it a very bizarre feeling that I am currently on never ending dirt road in Ethiopia, with farms all around me, chickens and pigs scuttling all over the place and in 2 months I will be back in a different world again. How will this be?? I have no idea. For so many reasons I am not sure I recall normal life. I know that things will settle quickly, but right now this thought is as alien for me as the tribes of southern Ethiopia will be!

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