Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Perfect days are to be remembered

Sometimes the stars align such that you think the world is conspiring against you, everything seems to go wrong and the news just gets worse and worse. These are the days that make you yearn for a bit of luck in life, a bit of a helping hand. For me the perfect days are my helping hand, these are the days that you look back at and smile. Smile at the things you did and people you were with. You smile at the smells of that day, the warmth of the sun, or the sway of the wind. Perfect days are keepers and you should lock them away in your head with a smile.

We had just such a perfect day a few days ago while travelling in the south island. I would like to tell you about it…

To be honest it was a perfect few days really, but the main day shone out! We started really early at 5am, when we went for a dolphin swimming experience in Kaikoura. Kaikoura is very rich in marine wildlife, and in particular marine mammals such as whales, seals and dolphins. This swimming experience is not like the fake, slightly tacky ‘swim with A dolphin in a pool’ things you can get in Mexico and other places, here you are in the open ocean. The boat took us out about 30mins from shore into the ocean where we were following a large pod (group) of dusky dolphins as they returned from their nights feeding. The swimming experience is where you snorkel with, in and around the pod of dolphins that are totally wild but still so playful and interested in you! I can’t describe the feeling of exhilaration when you swim out to a group of 300 totally free beautiful, amazing dolphins. They are jumping out of the water all around you, darting through the water at amazing speed, but never knocking you or making you feel vulnerable. It is magical to enter a world we normally don’t experience, but then to share that world with these awesome creatures gives you a thrill like no other.

We swam with the dolphins for about 45mins in total, which is great as it really gives you time to get used to the chilly water and also play/watch a huge number of dolphins.

The company we went with were so professional that you never felt unsafe or worried about anything and this also really helped with our enjoyment.

After a hearty breakfast at our hostel (which was an awesome, funky place also! Run by a great Aussie couple from Western Australia) we drove on north, past the stunning coast of the south island, our plan was to go through to Nelson (about 4 hours) but we broke the journey up by stopping for lunch in a Winery in the Marlborough region. The day was sunny, the driving was amazing, and I was loving being back in a car after our slightly rickety camper (we loved her really!). Stopping for lunch at a gorgeous restaurant was lovely; we sat out in the garden and enjoyed a wonderful lunch including their famous blue cheese soufflé. This brought back memories of eating dinners at the Zodiac Grill, at the Taj Mumbai. They have a killer soufflé too!

Driving over to nelson we passed through more amazing scenes, this time inland and through alpine forests and wonderfully windy roads that give the driver a thrill to whiz around and the passenger a reason to cling onto the door!!

Nelson is really quaint historic port town, with wonderful scenes all around (as so many towns in NZ have) there is a great art set here and they are also famous for food and produce. Just around the town are acres and acres of fruit growers, farmers, vineyards, fishing towns etc etc. it is so nice to be in a place that feels so connected to nature in this way. Walking around the central parts of town we decided to keep the eating out theme going and agreed to have a nice meal to top off the day…! I am sure by now no one is surprised by that! Urvi and I certainly like our food.

Walking around we met a charming American couple who were living in NZ now, and they suggested a restaurant they loved – Hopgoods. I have to say the choice was bang on; it was the most amazing meal and such a perfect way to round of a perfect day.

We had booked into a camp site for the 1st night in Nelson, and had bought a tent in Queenstown (we hope to sell it in Auckland) so we pitched up our tent and looked forward to a bug free night!

The day doesn’t sound much more that swimming, eating and driving, but it was perfect. Above all our time together was perfect and we enjoyed great conversations.

It is important for me to hold on to these days, but also understand what made them special. Above all the great food and the swimming, what made it special was who I was with and the fun we had. Thank you to the dolphins, thank you to the scenic driving and thanks to Tim and Laya, who gave us the great suggestion of restaurant. But mostly thanks to Urvi!

(Aweeeeeeeeeeeeee…..Thank you too…. it was truly a wonderful day and holds a special place in my heart (Urvi))

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Swimming with Dolphins – the list of unforgettable experiences gets longer...

The next entry gives some explanation of our dolphin diving/swimming experience, but check out these videos of the amazing creatures we swam with.

I am so glad I bought the underwater housing for our camera! The picture quality can be a bit iffy, but just to record these shots for the future is amazing enough!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Mozzies of the West coast

So we had been in the camper for about 10 days now and things were going pretty well, sleeping in it was really quite cosy and comfortable, so we had no problems with our nights rest. However we had not encountered the west coast sand flies and mosquitos. Over the last 2 nights we have had the wake up call that made us realise that campervans do indeed have negatives! Enroute to Fox glacier, we encountered really bad rains and had to stop overnight in the middle of a storm. As ever we freedom camped (stopped wherever it was safe to do so) and up to this point we were blessed with AMAZING locations, right on cliffs, with amazing coastal views, or near lakes etc. this day however we had to stop on the forest road in the middle of Sand Fly country.

The moment I got out of the car to check we were parked ok I knew we would have a problem. There were flies everywhere and they all seemed to latch on to me. Jumping back in the camper we shut all the windows etc and settled in for the evening, we made dinner (pasta) and then went to sleep….

By about 2am I think that we had about 100 mosquito’s and flies IN THE VAN, all enjoying the warm climate we had created and all readying themselves for when our repellent wore off! At about 3am, it did and they all engaged in bombing raids on us and gorged themselves. By the morning we woke to a sight just like a Hitchcock thriller, or horror, for all these mosquitos’s resting on the ceiling of the camper! It took us the whole day to get them all out.

It was just horrible; we still have the bite scars! Worse than this even, was the fight we had with the darn mosquito’s getting them out of the van, trust me, they are persistent things!

The worst thing is that the next night we camped at Franz Glacier (further up the road) and we had the same experience, by that time we were so frustrated and Urvi decided (quite rightly) that we would dump the camper for that day and check into a youth hostel. It is funny that we considered a hostel an upgrade but trust me it was heaven, to not stay away all night with the incessant buzzing of the mozzies.

I can’t blame our van, she was a bit old and had some leaky seals, but the funny thing was, we have a tent that we had bought in Queenstown, and for the second night at least we could have used that!

I am praying that sand flies are only a south island west coast phenomenon (as we were told) because otherwise I can see us ‘upgrading’ to dorm beds more often!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Walking the Fox Glacier

20100121_066346_DIG_NZD_RTW_9999_A200_NZ South Island Fox and Franz Glacier

Following our amazing experiences in Queenstown we moved onto the wet and wild west coast. Here the highlight of the trip was ice walking on Fox Glacier, this ancient glacier is one of 2 forms in New Zealand. They are retreating glaciers and walking on them really provides an insight into the world geology and movements, and also the enormous scales that nature can work in.

The glacier is 14kms long, not the biggest by far but still huge, when we were walking on it we were on water that was thousands if not millions of years old, and standing on a glacier 300m deep. The weather was just horrible, with us caught in a violent rain storm, however I got a real sense of adventure from it, we had to hike about 2hrs and pass through major rock fall zones before even getting up to the ice. Once we were there you are just taken aback by the scale of the glacier. Also the geology of it is amazing and our guide did a great job to explain features of the ice forms. What we didn’t realise before we got on the ice is just how harsh and dangerous the environment was. The ice form has many crevices and caves, and at any time there were places where we could have fallen through. The really scary thing was that as the ice changes all the time, with bits melting in the sun, and gaps forming, even the set out path the tour guides make can change and pose dangers to you. Combining this awareness, with the difficulty of actually walking on the ice (even with ice boots) and the weather, and I would say this is one of the most dangerous but exhilarating things we have done.

Nature is so varied but constantly amazing, it just blows your mind!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Skydiving – the most unbelievable experience EVER….

I had already put the video of Urvi’s jump but I thought I would share the feelings we had about this jump, and just how cool it was. I wont bore you with the full itinerary and the fact that we were delayed because of the weather etc etc! So the only practical things I want to say are:

We felt that sky diving ANYWHERE will be a tremendous experience – Queenstown has wonderful lake, mountain and country scenes going for it but jump wherever you can

Try and jump from as high as you can afford, the free fall is what you want to last the longest!

The company we went with – Nzone were AMAZING, and have a great setup and team, if you are in NZ go with them

So the experience! Basically taking off in a tiny plane with a plastic sheet for a door sounds like hell for some people. For me it was as exhilarating as taking of in the super jumbo, just different. The plane is totally cramped with skydivers only, no seats no nothing. So when you go up you feel see and hear everything. You also know that you are not going to be landing in this thing which is kind of a freaky feeling too!

When the plane gets to the right height things move pretty quickly so I tried to take in as much as I could for the experience. Basically at the right altitude you have to jump jump jump! And so you scramble to the edge of the plane and as you are in front of the tandem jump master you are seeing and feeling the wind and the force of the plane - it is just out of this world. You then hang there, outside the door of the plane for what feels like and eternity, but it isn’t even a second, and then…. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! You are free falling, a human stone (and for me a heavy one) jetting to earth at 200KMPH!!!

It is the best rollercoaster drop ever, in fact it is nothing like a roller coaster, it is far far better. Your stomach enters your mouth and you feel like this is end of the world. For the first 3-4 seconds you are literately tumbling head over feet before a little parachute opens to stabilise you, and from there on it is straight down! I really am struggling to describe it accurately and probably should bother to try, but put it this way for 3 days after our jump, Urvi and I couldn’t stop smiling and even laughing!! So much so that we agreed that if either of us were in a bad mood, we should do a sky dive, to get us out of that mood!!!! Even thinking about it now, a few days later I am smiling and smirking. It is UNBELIEVABLE. The parachute flights after the freefall is amazing in a different way. The canopy opens and there is silence. The only sounds were the wind flapping in the parachute and the occasional WOW from me. It takes about 5 mins to finally get down to earth after the 65 seconds thrill ride of the freefall. It sounds short but it will never leave my memory. A truly unbelievable experience.

How to jump out of a plane at 15,000ft !!! - Good one Urvi

So, they say when in Rome do as the Romans... therefore when in Queenstown NZ do as they do - Bungee jump, powerboat, fly in a acrobatic plane, paragliding, hand glide, trek, etc etc etc and of course SKY DIVE. This was on our list of things to do from the beginning, and today we did it, we got in the plane, flew up to 15,000ft and then jumped out...

check out the Video

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Disaster averted! how to not tip over your campervan

After a week or so of perfect campervan touring we were bo0th pretty much in the routine and feeling confident with the camper, sleeping at remote roadside spots and generally handling the van etc. we had a good routine of filling petrol regularly, making sure the water was always topped up and we were having showers from the camper and everything. So you can image the scene when we pulled into the beautiful Lake Gunn camping site enroute to the enchanting Milford Sound. This part of New Zealand is spectacular. The drive takes you through winding roads passed awesome mountains and through forests. When you get to Milford sound (actually a fjord) you take a cruise onto the water to sample the magical scenes and check out the wildlife.

Back to the story. We arrived into Lake Gunn camp site in the evening after a great days driving and enjoying the amazing scenery etc. This spot is a really popular site as it is cheap (only $10NZ), right on a beautiful lake and also close to Milford sound. The entrance to the site is through a forest road which is not really wide enough for 2 cars, let alone 2 campers. As my luck would have it there was a car wanting to get out and despite me clearly driving in he try to come the other way. I stopped and ‘reversed’ to give way, cursing at the rudeness of the driver while I did so.

Suddenly the camper seemed to lurch to one side and slowly sank a bit more. Urvi looked at me and I looked at her “its ok, we just turned a bit to much and got a bit stuck, I’ll just drive it out now that dumbo has passed”…. Oh dear, no movement the camper is stuck and worse still is tilting at an angle that is worrying me and scaring Urvi. We can’t get out and if I move it any more we WILL topple over.

I will be honest this is the tensest I have been in a car ever. I tried to see how we were placed but there was nothing I could do. I jumped out of the car telling Urvi to lean towards the driver side (like that was going to help!) I ran into the site to find help, fully expecting the camper to be on its side and Urvi screaming when I returned. I found some guys who looked like they would know what to do and we got back, ‘luckily’ the camper was not on its side.

The plan we made was simple, try and yank the camper somehow to get some grip and then drive it out. Simply put it didn’t work; we were stuck in the mud and not moving. By this time we had collected the whole campsite around us and people were all collectively scratching their heads. Towing the camper was our only hope. Obviously no one had a rope, but just as things were looking lost, out of the mist came our knight in shining armour – a guy in his 4x4.

Now I am the first to complain about the Chelsea tractors that clog up the urban streets (posh families, who have never ventured into the country but still have 4x4s and SUVs), but this was a case when one was actually useful. The guy stopped and he soon had us roped up. About 7 other guys then climbed ONTO the camper and lent on it, pulling it the right way, so that when we got towed the car would not topple, still a real possibility. Finally with all our fingers crossed the jeep got us moving and the camper was freed of the jungle it was caught in.

There was spontaneous applause and everyone felt great. Later I mentioned to Urvi that we should have taken photos, but I said this with hindsight, as we were cooking dinner in a perfectly straight camper! If we have toppled we would have been taking pics anyway... for the insurance company!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The penguins of the Otago peninsula

As you travel around New Zealand’s south island there are 2 major vistas that you see, the amazing scenes of rural life and the ocean. The coastline is varied but consistently beautiful. The beaches are awesome and there are so many lovely fishing villages dotted around the coast. New Zealand’s coastline is also blessed with outstanding flora and fauna, and there is no better place to witness this than the Otago peninsula. Just 30mins from the centre of Dunedin, you are at a point that feels like the edge of the earth – the wind swept cliffs of coastal Otago.

This place is rugged, pretty and darn windy! It is famous for being one of the only places in the world where there is a land based albatross colony. Albatross’s are huge, elegant sea birds that have the longest wingspans of any bird. I remember reading about when I was a kid – when I was really into ornithology. I remember thinking that they were such majestic birds and mysterious – they spend most of their time out to sea, riding the air currents and fishing. I imagined them being out to sea, all alone, kind of sad really, but just another example of nature’s extreme life stories. Here on the Otago peninsula you can watch these birds right from the cliff edge, which was such a thrill.

Funnily enough the real stars of the peninsula aren’t the albatross’s but actually the penguins that live there. One species in particular – the blue chested penguins – are very interesting. They are pretty much the smallest penguin’s species in the world, only 20cms tall. We spayed out on the peninsula until 10pm, when it was getting real dark to watch these amazing birds return from a days feeding out to see. They basically have nests above one of the beaches on the peninsula and every morning before light they waddle out to sea and go fish all day. They then return at night to feed their young and generally chill out for a bit, before returning to see for more feeding.

These penguins are really sensitive to light and are generally really delicate guys, hence the major care the national parks people give them. Wardens supervise their return to their nests each night, and generally make sure they are all ok. It was really hard to see them in the night but in the moon light you could see the gang of 30 or so penguins swimming in formation up to the beach, all jump out and then rest for some time. They then all started tramping up the cliff and before we knew they were right by our feet trying to get home. It was a bizarre feeling to witness this natural phenomenon, and as with all these kinds of experiences, it makes your really appreciate the amazing variety there is in the natural world. From the huge albatross, to the diddy little penguins the Otago peninsula has the lot!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Hitting the road in our campervan

Like backpacking itself, taking a major road trip is a classical and fun alternative to the conventional options for travelling through a country by coach, flights or trains etc. Having your own wheels and getting out and about gives you a real sense of freedom as you can literally go wherever the roads will take you (and off these if you are really ambitious!) Of course the problem of making sure you arrive at somewhere to stay for the night takes something away from the total sense of freedom. The only way to be totally free is to carry your house with you! So this is where the idea of the campervan (camper) came from. It is really fun and hugely popular way of travelling the car friendly country that is NZ. We picked up a camper for 2 weeks and tramped around the whole of the south island, just the 3 of us!!!

Campers come in many shapes and sizes, but in essence (to avoid this getting boring!) there are 3 main types. The real budget campers, are based around a large estate or MPV (people carrier) type car, that has had the back converted so that at night you can lay a mattress out. There is a camping stove and some way of carrying water, all of which you have to take out of the car to use. It is basic but real cosy and cheap. The second option is what people call high top vans. These are vans that have had the roof cut off and an extension put on. They have better sleeping and better cooking facilities, and the main thing is that you can stand up and cook inside(hurray!!). The final option is the full blown campervans. These are mostly dedicated vehicles, fully equipped and often pretty luxurious. They will have a toilet and shower inside and also loads of seating, fancy kitchens and all the gadgets I could dream of. The problem with the last option is cost of rental and cost of fuel. It is good for families but was too much for us. Also we wanted that slightly more rustic and uncomfortable feel, I mean what’s the point of being able to lounge in your camper, and watch TV while Urvi cooks a slap up meal on her mega kitchen???!!!

In the end we went for the middle option of a high-top camper. We went with basically on price and reputation of service. Cruzy is a real small company in the world of campers in NZ. When we were driving around there were hundreds of campers from Kea, Jucy, Britz and Maui, but only a few Cruzy. It’s a husband and wife combo and they offer a really nice service. Sure the camper was an older car, but we grew to love it… read on for some funny anecdotes.

The layout of our camper was just right for what we wanted:

Converted seating into a double bed
Table for eating
Full size fridge
Gas rings x2
Sink with hot and cold water
Toilet inside
Shower to be used outside the camper
Loads of storage space.

What more could you need! The photos don’t really help you see it but it was lovely to drive up somewhere and simply jump in the back for a snack or dinner etc! We spent the first 2 days looking enviously at the other campers with air-conditioning and showers etc etc, but honestly by the end of the trip we really grew attached to TOADII (the campers name) and were sad to see her go…

Sunday, 10 January 2010

New Zealand – did we do a round trip to the UK??!!

The flight from Sydney to Christchurch is basically straight across the Tasman Sea, over the south island and then onto the city. When we got over New Zealand land, the view looking out of the plane was remarkably like the UK! The skies were grey and the ground full of the greens of the fields, it really felt like we had taken a return flight back. Were our senses deceived??!!

20100109_065492_DIG_CHC_RTW_9999_A200_Christchurch City

Strangely though, on spending a few days in Christchurch I think we felt even more like we were back in the UK. Of course language was no longer an issue for us, but places, customs and even the general style of the people, architecture and even the prices of goods made us feel like being at ‘home’. I am sure the Kiwi’s would not like me making such a close connection and resemblance, but the fact is that there is a connection and it is mighty strong. History, family links, trade and law – everywhere you can feel that things have originated from the UK. Even the road signs and the driving is same same (other than the lack of traffic!). we were listening to a radio programme about place names and most originated from England, so go figure...

You walk around Christchurch (named after Christ College, Oxford) and it feels in parts like being in Cambridge (ironically!). Some of the buildings are built in a similar style to that in the UK, but the main similarity is very much the people. We were in Christchurch over a lovely summer’s weekend, and took the time to walk the craft markets that run in the centre. It was just great, people were all out with families, and music was playing everywhere. It really was just like a summer’s day in the UK (when there is a summer!!) in Christchurch the other similarity is that there is punting. Punting is basically boating on the river, with a guy using a long wooden stick to push the boat along. It is the ultimate way to take a relaxing journey. In Christchurch the river winds its way through the city and the botanical gardens, so on a warm summers day there is nothing better than going for a punt. Punting originated in Cambridge, and so punting on the river really did remind us of days spent in the UK University city.

Aside from everything feeling like England, spending just a few days in New Zealand, 2 things clearly struck us – just how few people there are, and just how low key everything feels. Christchurch is easily the biggest city on the south island and there are just 300,000 people! This makes UK cities feel big and bulky. The moment you get out of this city, everywhere feels so empty of people. Don’t get me wrong this is not at all a bad thing but it is a notable difference to the other places we have travelled thus far. There is space everywhere, and people really do spread out! Again outside of the city people are all totally relaxed and people are always making a conversation. It is nice to feel a different pace of life, such as the one in New Zealand. Could we live here? Not sure about that. The isolation from ‘things to do’ is a major issue for us, and would need to be seriously considered, however this is probably more about mindset. There are loads of things to do in New Zealand and with such a passion for the outdoors one would never really feel as though they could be bored. Therefore keeping busy is really an issue of looking for new opportunities rather expecting them to be fed to you. This is one thing I think that I have personally learnt from the time in NZ, you can always look for new and exciting ways to pass time, the thing is that you have go look for them. There are so many exhibitions, concerts, art galleries etc that offer interesting retreats from the tourist trail – it’s a great way to get out and experiences something different.

Our plan for New Zealand basically means that we will travel for 3 weeks around the south island, first by campervan, then by car. We will then cross the cook straits to the North Island and drive around there for 2 weeks or so.

The first leg after settling from the jet leg in Christchurch was the 2 weeks of campervan touring on the south island!

Friday, 8 January 2010

London to Christchurch in Style – the Emirates A380 Super Jumbo Business Class

It was a total dream of mine to fly on the biggest commercial jet ever to take to the skies – the airbus A380 – and that too in business class. Originally this dream was to be realised by flying Singapore airlines business class from Delhi to Sydney, but due to the events late last year we had to change that plan.

20100107_065368_DIG_DXB_RTW_9999_A200_LHR to CHC A380 Dream Flight

It was therefore with something of a heavy heart that we then rebooked our journey and embarked on the longest series of flights you can make from the UK, all the way to the South Island in New Zealand.

Our flights would take us on Emirates Business class from London – Dubai – Sydney and finally Christchurch. Total flying time is 24hrs and total journey time over 37hours!!!! Although its pushing it to say that this would have been totally unmanageable but for the luxury and comfort of Business class, I am really happy that we opted to go for comfort class. This is our story of the trip thus far (I am relaxing in my business class suite on the Dubai Sydney leg as I write!!)

We left from home on the 6th Jan early early in the morning (6am), due to England being caught in the grip of the coldest winter for 15yrs, the roads were horrendous and there was snow and ice everywhere. It was really tough to leave home, and despite my excitement of the flight, the luxury of the travel and all that was to look forward to I felt so bad about leaving mum and the kids and family, however this blog post isn’t about my emotions on the topic so I want to try to focus on the journey and our experiences.

Jijaji (Brother in Law) dropped us off about half way to Heathrow and we were collected from near his office by an Emirates chauffeur. Reynold (our driver) sped us through the snow and ice the airport where we were met with a strangely quiet Heathrow airport. After checking in we whizzed through security in about 3 minutes (I guess this was due to being in business class and also not flying to the US!!) and were relaxing with coffee in the emirates lounge in about 10min!!!

The lounge in Heathrow is practical and nicely appointed, but no where near as funky as the virgin Atlantic lounge, where you can get a haircut and play on video games. However the view is totally stunning. As with many major airports, A380 jets all come to the same group of gates. So I was greeted with the view of the Singapore airlines and Quantas super jumbos arriving and leaving. I can honestly say I was totally like a child on Christmas day – I was full with excitement at seeing these beautiful machines. Urvi is probably like most people reading this blog, in that she thinks that a plane is a plane, and who cares how big or quite it is. But I am a plane geek, and to me this trip is like winning the lottery.

We grabbed some food from the plentiful buffet, and sat down to relax, call family etc and for me to stare out of the window in awe!!

On the Emirates A380, business and first class cabins are both on the top deck of the plane, and you can board the plane directly from the lounge. It was a slightly strange but fun experience, trotting onto the plane while you see the huge line of people struggling to board economy. I truly felt that the moment we checked in we were in a different and parallel world; security staff were seemingly more friendly, and you just whiz through passed queues that would normally take ages. I felt a bit uncomfortable but it is also a bit shocking as to how quickly you get into the swing of things and expect premium treatment all the time.

The flight in from Dubai was late, and so we also got to see our plane arrive. Seeing the plane parking at the gate right in front of me I realised just how large this aircraft is – it is HUGE!! Other planes which generally have never felt small, felt tiny next to the super jumbo.

The moment the boarding announcement was made, as we started the short walk to the plane, my excitement really kicked in. I could not stop smiling and totally felt like a little kid.

It is safe to say that the business class product on this plane is just awesome. I won’t bore people with all the intricate details but here’s a summary of the best bits!!

17inch TV, with total on demand programmes (1000 channels)
Mini suite seating, really private and loads of great space
Fully automatic seat with full massage and a totally flat bed – the best sleep I have had on any any moving vehicle!
Mini bar for each seat, with endless food options
AMAZING 5 course meals and loads of other food as you go
The most comfortable plane ever – with better air quality, much much quieter, and loads of natural light
Windows in the Toilets!!
Three separate tables for you to work on your laptop, eat you dinner and read you paper at the same time!!!
A lounge bar, to walk around, sit and meet people, share stories etc

The flight to Dubai was 7 hours, but the time literally flew by, we were sitting in the best seats for a couple, private and together. It was great having a full dinner, just like a fine dine restaurant, together, and intimate.

Urvi slept well and I watched a few movies and generally tried to relax and collect my thoughts about the event of the last months.

We arrived into Dubai and had 10hrs before our next flight, this would have been totally horrible if we weren’t flying business class, and even then I was daunted by trying to spend 10hrs in the lounge – they’re not designed for that length of layover. Thankfully I asked for an upgrade at the lounge, and got Emirates to book us a hotel room at the Le Meridien they have next to the airport. So 15minutes later, and with a transit visa sorted we were kicking back in a 5 star hotel room, and looking forward to a nice nights sleep.

This was perfect for us, and when we emerged from our room at 7am, we were refreshed, bathed and ready to face the 14hr flight to Sydney. We had a hearty breakfast in the Emirates lounge, including Urvi eating idli and sambhar!! I thought this was really funny, as after having all this luxury available to us, we trumped to have a dish we can have at home!! Its kind of cute really.

The second A380 flight was a mega 14hr jaunt to Sydney, for this I had picked the really comfortable and private window seats. The only problem was that we weren’t sitting directly together. However Urvi had said she wanted to sleep as much as poss, and succeeded to do this for about half the flight.

This flight is an example of where the lounge at the back of the plane for first and business class passengers really comes into its own. After freshening up we sat there for some time and got chatting with a whole range of people, including the coach of the Australian Soccer team. The team had being playing some games in Kuwait and were returning from there. It was really nice how people can socialise, mill about and just stretch their legs. It totally doesn’t feel that you are on a plane at all, and everyone is really friendly and chatty.

All in all the experience was absolutely 100% fantastic. I have fulfilled a childhood dream and totally loved it. I understand how lucky we are when we do these types of things, and feel that I need to understand about how to be humble in life. Our trip has restarted in an amazing way and I just hope that we can continue to do all the things we wanted to, and achieve the goals we have set.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

We start the New Year and restart the world trip…

The end of 2009 brought news that rocked my world and it is still tough to see how I will get over the passing of my father. Maybe you never do get over it, or maybe you never should but what I know is that the world carries on as normal and life moves at the same pace, the question for me is whether I let my life move on or hold back.

Right now we have made the choice to move on and get back on the world trip. We start tomorrow when we leave London for New Zealand, where we will be for 5 weeks or so. I don’t know how I will really feel about being away, but I know that we have to give it a try. Tomorrow sees us take the long awaited A380 super jumbo from London to Christchurch. As you may have read before, I always wanted to travel business class on a jumbo and when the A380 came out, I was all for travelling on it. Originally we were to travel from Singapore to Sydney on the A380 – a flight or 8 hours. Now due to the change of schedule we are flying from London to Sydney, and then to Christchurch, a total of 24hrs. Should be fun!

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