Clocks, Popes and some smelly blokes!

We left Berlin on the morning of a public transport strike. This was announced only 2 days prior and we discovered it by chance and it was challenging trying to work out what was running and what wasn’t – god bless the U-Bahn!

We’ve been using Flixbus to travel around, we plotted out the initial three weeks so we were able to book these in advance for a good price. So far we’ve found them reliable, comfortable and the toilets haven’t been too questionable. We arrived into Prague mid-afternoon and we had booked an apartment outside the city centre but with good transport links so after a freshen up and costume change we headed onto a tram and into the main centre for our first explore. We were a little bit overwhelmed to be honest when we got back into the centre as the first thing we heard and saw was a bunch of very loud drunk British men on a stag do and it was very crowded. We arrived on a Friday afternoon which probably had something to do with it but we definitely needed to sit down with a Czech beer and mentally prepare ourselves!

Prague is a very pretty City with little cobbled streets and a very picturesque square that hosts the famous astronomical clock. We spent some time roaming around before figuring out the tram system and heading back to our apartment.

The next morning we got up really early and headed to catch a train back to the centre. We wanted to really explore the castle, the Charles Bridge and square before it got too busy. As it happened we arrived in the square just before 7am and there was a small crowd gathered round the clock waiting for the infamous chimes. If you don’t know then on the hour the twelve apostles appear through the wooden doors to a musical tune while a skeleton omnimously chimes a bell. We decided to stay and watch as you can’t not watch this when in Prague. Only the bell only produces this musical display between 9am and 11pm so there were quite a few disappointed people around! We really need to more research! We did make it back later in the day to watch it though and to be honest it was a little underwhelming.

We then headed to to the Charles bridge which even at 7am was busy with people trying to get an Instagram shot, it was very amusing to watch – there definitely were some very patient photographers on the bridge.

We headed to the castle and spent a couple of hours wondering around the grounds before we headed back to our apartment. As I mentioned we were staying a bit outside the centre but looking at the map there looked to be a park close by and the weather was finally sunny and 20 degrees so it was time to finally peel off the leggings and put some shorts on and head to the park for a spot of outdoor relaxing. Only what looked on the map to be park actually turned out to be beautiful countryside- an absolutely delightful surprise!

From Prague we were headed to Olomouc, in my research Olomouc was described as being much like Prague but without the tourists- this definitely sounded like our kind of place! We had to change buses in a place called Brno (pronounced Bruno), another place that I’d read about and sounded interesting so I suggested that we spend a few hours exploring and seeing some of the places I’d read about. Brno also has an astronomical clock, but it’s VERY different to the one in Prague. It is shaped like a large bullet (allegedly, but I’ll let you decide) and at 11am each day people gather round with their hands in various holes and try and grab a large marble that’s fired each day at that time. It’s unusual for 11am to be the time for this activity to happen, but it happens at this time thanks to an event during the Thirty Years War. During this time the city of Brno was under siege by the Swedes and a Swedish general promised to lift the siege if the city did not fall by noon, so the locals played a trick and changed the clocks to 11am meaning that the Swedes surrendered. A local girl caught the marble and promptly shoved it her mouth, which made us quickly back away lest she accidentally swallowed it and I was forced to use my ‘resus training for non clinical staff’ course that I’d completed at work!

There were two other things that we were interested in Brno, one was the labyrinth under the cabbage market, but being a Monday it was shut. Again our research failed us. The other was the Capuchin crypt which holds perfectly mummified remains consisting mainly of friars. Some of the remains are on display and it’s very tastefully displayed.

We then headed to Olomouc which was indeed as pretty as described without the crowds. We’ve been using the app GPS my city to do self guided walks around each place that we’ve been to but Olomouc didn’t have one, I had picked up a map from the hostel which had 30 places of interest marked on them and we did our own walk, and boy did we walk! We walked over 37,000 steps that day visiting churches, climbing their towers and seeing lots of fountains which seemed to form the crux of most of Olomouc’s sights. Olomouc also has an astronomical clock and this one did not disappoint – it chimes for a full five minutes and was utterly delightful. Olomouc is a beautiful city and the highlight was finding a little park with a rose garden where we sat for around an hour in the sun drinking some beer we’d picked up. One major motivation for doing so many steps was that we didn’t want to go back to our hostel! Yep, we had our first horror accommodation experience. On paper, and even in reality it looked to be a decent hostel, but as always, I was sharing with a bunch of men and these men smelt like they’d not seen a bar of soap for a while. We’ve stayed in dorms in South America, South East Asia and India and NEVER have we stayed anywhere that smelt as bad as this place. I was gagging everytime I went back into the room and it really made me question if I ever wanted to stay in a dorm again.

Other than the hostel we loved Olomouc but we were so happy to arrive in Krakow knowing that we had a little studio apartment booked. Krakow was again absolutely stunning city, the square was probably the best one we’ve seen- it was so spacious and utterly charming. We spent some time exploring the Jewish quarter and learning more about some of the horrors that took place there. We walked a lot that day, another 27,000 steps – over three days we walked 90,000 steps and my feet were throbbing and the only solution was to sit them in a saucepan and let them soak- its all glamour!

The next day it was time to do probably the hardest thing that we will do on this trip, and that was to visit Auschwitz. I found the whole experience very moving, walking the same path that hundreds of thousands of people had walked to their deaths. The whole thing was done in a very respectful manner but Joey and I both agreed that the thing that moved us the most was the huge pile of hair that had been shaved from victims. It’s important to do this type of thing to remember and try and stop these things happening again. However as our guide said, these things have happened since and are happening now, only a couple of hundred kilometres from where Auschwitz is in Ukraine. I find that very difficult to swallow.

After Krakow we definitely needed something to cheer us up and we headed to Budapest for a couple of days. We’ve been to Budapest before and had planned this stop to be a rest point after three weeks of being constantly on the move and planned to do nothing other than go to a ruin pub and the thermal baths. Only the day before we arrived in Budapest we found out that The Pope was also in town. If you don’t know my maiden name was Pope and Joey’s catholic, so when I turned to him, gave him a look and said ‘the Pope’s in Budapest the same time as us’ there was only one response ‘we should go see him’!

So our weekend of taking it easy actually meant getting up at 6am with a hangover after drinking more aperol spritz than I had intended, and heading to Mass. We queued for about 45 minutes to get through security and into the square. The square was more spacious than I thought it might be and we were actually in a good spot to see his convoy speed past (which we’d also managed to do from the balcony in our hostel!). We stayed for the first 30 minutes of mass which was in mainly Hungarian with a little bit of Latin thrown in. The first time we were in Budapest we accidentally saw the Brazilian president and his huge convoy and now we’ve seen the Pope here – we’ll definitely return and see who we can see the next time!

After this we headed off to the thermal baths for a few hours, making sure we visited every bath and we both agreed that we’d had one of the best days of the trip so far.

From now on we’re leaving the Schengen zone (although we do pop back briefly for a quick stop in Dubrovnik) which means hard border crossings- we’ve done a few land border crossings before so we’re excited to get back to these, sometimes they’re easy, sometimes they’re laborious and sometimes we do them whilst being really sick! Bring it on!


We get asked SO many questions whenever we tell people what we’re doing so we thought it would be fun to include a selection:

What are you doing about jobs? 

I am taking a career break, and am due back on 1 July 2024; Joey was working a Fixed Term Contract which is due to finish on 31st March, so will just look for another job when we get back. 

But you’ve just bought a house! What are you doing about that?

We’re letting it out – this will cover our mortgage and the majority of the storage costs. 

So what are you doing with all your belongings?

Some things will be stored at Joey’s parents. Some bulky furniture and kitchen stuff is being put into storage and we’re giving some bulky furniture to charity.

How much is this costing you and how are funding it? 

We’re planning on a budget of £50 each per day. Obviously some days we will spend less and some more. We have spent over 3 years saving for this trip – we were mortgage free for most of that time and we saved every penny we could. Our mortgage costs will be paid for by letting our house out.

How do you keep to your budget?

We use a travel budget app which we use to track all our expenses. We will cook ourselves where we can, choose reasonably priced accommodation, limit the alcohol we drink 😦 use public transport, taking overnight options where we can and they don’t arrive at 3am. We try and eat and travel like a local so we don’t eat out in swanky restaurants or every night. We’re happy to eat on the street and flag local buses down. We will walk for 30 minutes plus in 30 degree heat with our backpacks on rather than pay £2 for a tuk tuk!

How are you travelling around? 

The majority of time will be overland and we want to travel as much as we can overland using public transport but we will take flights where necessary.

What happens if you need to come home? 

Then we will come home! See Covid 2020 for an example of this 🙂

How much luggage are you taking with you? 

I’m taking a 40 litre bag and Joey has 60 litres. This is all we have! We’re taking enough clothes for 5/6 days. Other countries have washing machines so we will use them or do hand washing. 

Are you taking disposable underwear? 


NO. As above – washing machines are not exclusive to the UK. 

What happens if it’s cold where you are? 

Layers are your friend – a pair of leggings under a pair of trousers will be fine and I’m taking a shirt. We’ll be fine. They also have shops abroad. 

Are you staying in hostels?

Yes- hostels will be part of our accommodation options. Even dorms! We’ll stay in a mix of hostels (some private rooms, some dorms), guesthouses, apartments, air bnbs, hotels etc. We’ll aim to get the most for our money but we’ll not stay in complete dives (hopefully). 

How do you decide where you’re going?

We read a lot of travel books, watch vlogs, read blogs but our main source of information is probably Lonely Planet! Once we’re away we’ll talk to people and find out about places along the way. We generally have an idea of a rough route but often change as we’re going along. 

Where are you flying to first? 

We’re not flying! At the moment we don’t have any flights booked. We’re catching the Eurostar and our first stop is Bruges. 

Are you working whilst you’re away?

No. We want to enjoy the experience as much as we can. Our work will be this blog 🙂

How will you keep connected? 

Back in the dark ages of 2014 we solely relied on wifi and books. These days it’s very easy to pick up local SIM cards very cheaply, for example a month’s SIM card with unlimited data in Thailand costs less than £10. 

What about Christmas?! 

We actually have our plans for Christmas sorted! Joey’s birthday is 2 days before Christmas and we usually end up travelling on his birthday. Not this time though! We will be in Thailand, on our favourite beach. We have booked 10 days there and all being well Joey’s parents will be there and his brother and family will also join us for a few days. 

Do you have any questions for us? Stick them in the comments below!

Voyage 3.0 – the prelude

We have just over 3 weeks to go so time for an update!

For those new here we are Joey and Becca, we have been together for nine years and married for five years. Very shortly after we met (four months) we were on a plane to Buenos Aires and travelling around South America for 5 months, before we headed to South East Asia for three months. That started our love of long term travel and three and half years ago we set off for India for the start of what we had planned to be a 18 month trip. We managed six months and covered two countries (India and Sri Lanka) before we had to fly back thanks to Covid! This means that we’ve pretty much spent the last three years talking about and planning for when we could go again.

Mock pack – we are so ready for this!

So what’s the plan?

We’re starting in Europe, catching a Eurostar to Bruges, and we’re planning to canter (rather than meander) through Western Europe for the first three weeks until we reach the top of the Balkans. We’re planning on spending a bit of time meandering through the Balkans and into Turkey and onwards to Georgia and Armenia, maybe Azerbaijan if the land border’s open. Then it’s into the the Stans (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan before catching a flight to somewhere in South East Asia. We’ll spend a few months hopping round South East Asia with the plan being to make it to Central America and down to a bit of South America,

When we were away in India we came up with the idea of visiting 40 countries before we were 40, Covid stopped that and the new plan is 44 before we are 44 – we should make this easily but subscribe below to find out how it’s going!

99 Days to go

We’re back! We kind of left you hanging when we left India in a hurry at the start of the pandemic. At the time we hoped we’d only be back for 3 months, and yet here we are, almost 3 years later making the commitment to travel long term again. 

So here it is, we’re putting it out there – in 99 days time we will be hitting the road again for what we’re hoping and planning will be our longest travels yet. Before we tell you more of that, let’s take a step back. 

We raced back from India, leaving our last destination of Khajuraho on 16th March, we took an overnight train back to Delhi where we were due to arrive in at 5.25am and at 5am we booked a flight back to the UK leaving at 9am that day so we had a dash to the airport! We grabbed the first taxi driver we saw and made it clear that we were in a hurry so we piled the bags into the cab, hopped in and were ready to yell ‘go go go’ like we were in Race Across the World. Only the driver was outside, casually taking his time blessing his taxi. We’d spent 4 months in India and this was first time we’d seen this happen and we definitely could have done without it then!

We’d rented our flat out so Joey’s parents kindly took us in! Eventually it became clear that we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so we got jobs and saved saved saved. We also sold the flat and bought a bungalow! 

I think every single day since we got back we have talked about when we would go travelling again and where we would go. At one point we thought about leaving in September last year but decided with what we wanted to do it might be better to wait til Spring, that and wanting to get through one more winter to make sure covid doesn’t do anything stupid… 

So what’s the plan? 

Well we have a ticket booked…. To Bruges! Our plan is to travel through Europe overland, to Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and through the Stans. After that (in an ideal world) we would continue overland through China but if that can’t happen then we’ll take a flight and continue overland through South East Asia. We’d also then love to do Central America and we have the funds to be away for at least a year. So yeah, in 99 days time if all is well we will be on the road again. 

99 days isn’t that long and we have a lot to do before then, there’s jobs to be done around the bungalow to get it ready to be let and lots of planning and preparation to do. We have fitness and health goals to aim for as well. We want to keep this blog up to date and to share some tips for preparing for long term travel so we will be working on this blog as well. We also have full time jobs so the next few months are going to be jam packed but let the fun begin!

Coming home

This is a hard blog to write as we’ve chosen to cut our travels short and come home.

You’d have to had to have been in a hole to not know that the WHO has declared the Coronavirus a Pandemic and with countries shutting their borders and others imposing quarterines on arrival we feel that now is the right time to head back to the UK, for the meanwhile at least. I suffer from an autoimmune condition so if I get the virus I want to be at home.

This morning we arrived in Khajuraho, which is actually the last Indian town that we wanted to visit. Our original plan had been to stay two nights and catch a train back to Varanasi and cross the border into Nepal on Wednesday. Friday morning we woke to the news that Nepal were no longer issuing visas on arrival and imposed various conditions.

So we could still go to Nepal if:

  1. we got a visa beforehand
  2. We flew into Kathmandu
  3. We submitted a medical certificate declaring us free of Coronavirus
  4. We self quarantined for 14 days.

We had a flight booked out on 16th April and had intended to get a 30 day visa so we didn’t much fancy spending half of our time in quarantine. Or incurring the extra costs of a flight.

We ummed and ahhed a lot about what to do. We considered flying to Thailand but with everything so up in the air and the situation changing hourly we made the difficult decision to fly home.

It had always been our intention to fly home for a bit in the summer anyway, so we’re just coming home a little bit sooner than planned. Once things have calmed down and travel restrictions are lifted we will be off again to continue our adventure.

It’s obviously disappointing to not be able to carry on at present, particularly as I had been looking forward to going to Nepal and seeing some places that my dad had visited. It’s not over yet though and we will make the most of our time in the UK.

So instead we’re being positive and there are loads of things I’m looking forward to:

Catching up with friends and family and seeing babies who’ve grown in the last 6 monthsCelebrating my best friend’s 40th with her in personEating cheese Drinking wine Camping Flushing my toilet roll down the toilet! Washing my clothes in a machine
We’ve an overnight train booked to Delhi and whilst we are on that train we will book a flight and hopefully head straight to the airport. So we may be back as early as Tuesday! In the meantime, keep washing those hands!

Bye bye India (for now)

Well aren’t you all lucky, two blog posts in a week! Don’t worry this isn’t a New Year’s resolution to spam you all twice a week, it’s actually me wanting to tie up loose ends and finish blogging about India (for now at least) for tomorrow we fly to Sri Lanka, so this is an update on our last 10 days or so and some reflections on our four months in the subcontinent.

On Boxing Day we left our lovely posh treat hotel and travelled down to Kanyakumari. We were winging it on this occasion as we had neither a bus nor accommodation booked. The bus was definitely the easy part, it was very cosy with Joey’s rucksack on his lap for most of the journey. We alighted and set about trying to find some accommodation. We’d looked at google maps and identified a strip of hotels so headed there, the first one we tried turned us away as they were full, as did the next two. Ok, we’d now tried three hotels and kinda felt it was a little ironic that Joseph was a trying to find room at the inn on Boxing Day and they were all full. Thankfully the fourth guesthouse had a room which we snapped up at an overpriced rate, just thankful we got to take our rucksacks off.

The point of us being in this random town was that it was a semi pilgrimage – this was the southern most point of mainland India. We’d spent the last 110 days travelling south to reach here. It’s one of the few places in the world where thanks to the geography you can stand in the same place and watch the sunrise over the ocean in the morning and watch it sink into the sea at night, it’s also the place where three seas meet, the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. You can see the amalgamation of these oceans as the different colours swirl together and the waves travel in different directions. So we watched the sunset, then rose early to watch the sunrise. The sunrise was insane. There were so. Many. People. I have never seen so many people gather for a sunrise. I busted some Indian guys taking some sneaky selfies of us which annoyed me (just ask – though after four months of this I’m more than likely to now say no. Unless you’re a cute kid, then I feel like the Queen when they say ‘excuse me ma’am). So from here on in its north (or east) we travel.

Sunset at Kanyakumari
Sunrise at Kanyakumari

We caught a bus to Madurai, home to the Meenakshi Amman Temple, the pinnacle of south India’s Temple culture and considered as important to the south as the Taj Mahal is to the north. It was incredibly colourful and a very peaceful place to wander around. Best of all, no phones or cameras were allowed so we could wander without being pestered! We were both suffering from colds at this point and tired thanks to a dorm mate threatening someone else in the dorm the night before and not allowing us to switch the air con on so we’d had a very restless night. We took a short walk to the shop and Joey got touched on the arm by an old arm who then proceeded to ask him for money, this had happened quite a few times over the last few days but this guy was the straw that broke Joey’s back and he just said to me ‘I can’t do another temple town’ which was exactly what I had been thinking, so we started working on a get out plan. We raced back to the hostel and booked a bus for that night to Pondicherry, an old French Colonial town.

Meenakshi Amman Temple

We arrived in Pondicherry at 5.30am and couldn’t even gain access to our hostel to leave our bags for another two hours so we headed to the beach where we’d intended to hang out at a 24 hour cafe the hostel had told us about. Arriving at the beach though we stumbled across a Rangoli competition. Rangoli is an art form in which patterns are drawn on the floor using rice flour and is thought to bring good luck. It was fascinating to watch 400 women draw these incredibly intricate patterns on the floor just using their hands and we actually enjoyed being homeless on this occasion as we dropped our bags off and then went straight back to view the art. Whilst in Pondicherry I got in touch with an Indian family who owns the old family home of a friend of mine and we were invited to view the home and for lunch. This was such incredible hospitality from a family who didn’t know who we were, to invite us into their incredibly beautiful home, show us around and invite us for lunch. We have met some incredibly kind and generous people during our time here. As Pondicherry is a old French colony we were able to buy some decent cheese for the first time, and more importantly a jar of marmite! We haven’t actually opened the marmite yet, we are saving it for a really really bad day, the thought being that if we do have a bad day then we can comfort ourselves with the marmite. So if any of my friends get a message from me saying ‘I opened the marmite’ know it was a really bad day and I need you to be kind!

Rangoli in Pondicherry

From Pondicherry we took our last local bus to Chennai. Upon arrival we took a town bus to our Air BnB apartment. Local buses have been great and the conductor is always so helpful telling us where we need to get off. Until now. It was quite clear that they didn’t want us on the bus and kept trying to throw us off at various points. In the end when it became abundantly clear they didn’t want us on anymore we got off and walked.

We decided before heading to Sri Lanka, we really needed to rest and regain our strength and patience, so we arrived with the intention of doing nothing for a few days. Which is more or less what we’ve done. We have visited a shopping centre a few times and have been bowling. However bowling was the straw that broke my back! The day before we’d bought some ice cream (mint, obviously) and spotted some men taking our photo whilst I am trying to eat my ice cream! Then during bowling people kept coming over and watching, fair enough, we are in a random area of Chennai and there aren’t many westerners here, but I snapped when I saw a group of men filming us. I went over to them and absolutely lost my shit at them for about five minutes and made him delete what he had taken. It was clear he didn’t speak any English so I got the staff involved too and made doubly sure that he understood that it was not ok to film us without our say so. I think he got the message.

So after four months here it’s time to say goodbye to India, for now anyway. We are flying back in March and have a couple more places we’d like to see, but at the moment we can’t see us spending more than two or three weeks here. All the research that we had done prior to arriving suggesting that you will love India and you will hate India, sometimes both at the same time, and I would say that is the most accurate thing that I read about the subcontinent. I have tried to not sugarcoat our time here, but as well as frustrations, we have had some incredible times here and we’ve met some amazing, generous people. The last couple of weeks have been tiring as we have visited a lot of places in December alone and I feel as though I have been constantly ill with one thing or another in the last two weeks.

We’ve travelled 10,440 km in total from place to place (you can tell I’m international now as I now speak in kilometres!) and that only involved one flight! A third was done by rail and the rest spent on buses, probably get dropped in the middle of nowhere. India lives up to every stereotype image that you have heard about it – piles and piles of rubbish everywhere, cows in the street (eating the rubbish), monkeys everywhere, women doing their washing in streams and tuk tuk drivers everywhere. But far and away the thing we loved the most is how helpful and friendly the people are. You will always find someone to help you and to say hello to you.

Our top five experiences were:

The Taj Mahal

Backwaters of Kerala

The ruins of Hampi

Desert safari in Jaisalmer

Watching the sunset over the lake in Udaipur every night

A Cheeky sixth- The India/Pakistan border closing ceremony

So now it’s onto Sri Lanka and we have high hopes!

Canoeing and Christmas in Kerala

After some beach time in Gokarna we headed south to Kochi, in Kerala, one of the southern most states which is famous for it’s backwaters.

Gokarna station was tiny, but the train arrived only an hour late, and we’d opted for 2nd class as opposed to our usual 3rd class ticket. This looked really promising, there were only 4 berths in each section as opposed to 6 and each section was divided by a curtain for added privacy. The toilets were also remarkably clean so I was looking forward to getting a pretty good night’s sleep.

Our train arriving into Gokarna station

Of course when we boarded the train there was someone in our seat, there’s always someone in our seat, I have had to wake people to throw them out of my seat. I’m not sure why this is but he turned out to be pretty friendly and bought us Chai and snacks. He left us after about four hours and a family of three got on in his place. They were also friendly, offering us food again but as we started to settle down for sleep the baby started crying and this went on for about three hours. I say baby – he was actually three years old and he just would not stop crying. In fact he only stopped when I turned on my light, sat up and gave him a serious hard stare. I’m sure the rest of the train carriage will be forever grateful to me. (I’m sure none of my friends babies would have done this!) so we arrived into Kochi at 3.22am, shattered and homeless. Train stations in India are well set up though and you can pay for a dormitory bed or a waiting room. We opted to pay for an AC waiting room for three hours until we could arrive at our hostel at a reasonable hour.

In Kochi we’d planned to visit the Jewish quarter, taking in a synagogue. Kerala is a predominately Christian state so we visited our first Indian church as well, meaning that we had then ticked off religious buildings of 7 major religions in India. Kochi is also home to the largest shopping centre in India so we spent a day there, taking some time out from sightseeing to have some fun. It was a great way to take a break from feeling like you have to see everything. The other must see is the Chinese fishing nets – best viewed at sunset and quite a sight!

Chinese fishing nets in Kochi

After Kochi we headed to the mountains to a small town called Anachal, near to the more famous tea plantation area of Munnar. We’d booked into a hostel that had newly opened and was a little out of town. Who did we find staying at our hostel upon arrival but Ellie and Jake, the English couple that we’d first met in Agra and had subsequently bumped into in Goa (twice), Hampi and Gokarna! It’s a small world when you’re travelling. We took a trek to a tea plantation the next day which was good fun, with tea bushes as far as the eye could see. It was a hard climb but worth it. We went with two other British girls from the hostel, one of whom had cycled from Bristol to Kazakstan and flown to India from there to continue cycling. Just when you think you’re doing something extraordinary, someone else pops up to blow you out of the water! Along the trek as well as seeing tea bushes there were pineapple bushes. I actually found this to be the highlight of the day! I knew how pineapples grew, but I’d never actually seen a pineapple bush before so to see some up close was amazing and one off the bucket list! As we were walking I could see the guide staring intently at my trainer and it seemed it had spotted two little leeches on my foot! Something made me lift my trousers up and lo and behold there was a huge one on my ankle – cue lots of girly screaming and the fear for the rest of the trek!

The tea plantation
Pineapples – who knew seeing them grow would be on the bucket list?
Tea as far as the eye can see

The next day we took a bus to Alleppey, we’d set off early from the hostel with another girl and waited patiently for the bus. There was a quick toilet break, but the ladies was locked so I had to wait for the men’s to become free which delayed me a little longer and when I emerged the bus was starting to pull away so we had to quickly jump on. I got on first and swapped seats with Joey who had patiently guarded the toilet for me and who then ended up sitting next to the woman I’d been sat next to for the last two hours. Less than five minutes later the woman was promptly sick all down Joey’s leg and rucksack. Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up. I breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t me as that would have started a domino effect for sure! Luckily Lou who we’d travelled with from the hostel had some face wipes so we were able to clean up most of the sick before it dried.

Alleppey is a major gateway to Kerala’s backwaters and is known as the Venice of the East. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and it quickly started to pour down with rain and I mean pour down. It lasted hours and by the time we ventured out four hours later all the streets were flooded. The next day we arranged for a tour of the backwaters by bamboo canoe which was amazing. It was so peaceful and serene as you quietly sail past villages along tiny canals, rice paddies and people going about their daily life in the backwaters. We started the day being taken to an Indian family’s home for breakfast and chai which we had to eat with our hands. To get to the home we had to wade through water in the front yard. There was one stop along the way which was chance to go to the toilet but to do so you had to walk along a narrow plank to get there – it was harder than it looked and we were definitely all waiting for someone to fall in. After the tour we went back to the Indian family home for lunch, this time served on a traditional banana leaf! The backwaters canoe tour was definitely one of my top five Indian experiences.

Our bamboo canoe
The plank we had to walk to reach the bathroom

One thing that we also wanted to do was hire a houseboat for the day and sail on the backwaters. It was an expensive thing to do as it cost over half of our weekly budget for one night but if you are going to do something only once in your life, you may as well do it properly. The boat was amazing, luxurious with two sun decks and we had three members of crew looking after the two of us! We were served a welcome drink of coconut juice, followed by a huge lunch, then banana fry for afternoon tea, then dinner and breakfast the next morning! We docked up in a quiet spot which was surprising as earlier in the day we had seen so many houseboats it was akin to an armada! The next day we got up super early to watch the sunrise over the backwaters, such a beautiful setting.

The armada of houseboats
Sunset viewed from the houseboat

From Alleppey we headed south to Varkala, a holy beach resort. Varkala is also the only place in Kerala where cliffs can be found adjacent to the Arabian Sea. We’d book some pretty low budget accommodation here, it wasn’t the worst place we’d stayed but every night in the bathroom there was some sort of insect gathering. I wasn’t well during my time here and having to fight with army ants and cockroaches to use the toilet wasn’t my idea of fun. In fact it was so unpleasant I actually chose to find a spot outside to be quietly sick rather than use the bathroom!


It was a joy to move onto Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala. We had an initial two nights here and just visited the shopping centre where we found the Salvation Army singing Christmas carols which we thoroughly enjoyed and I found quite moving. We also took the opportunity to go to the cinema. We picked a film at random which was screened in Malayalam, the local language, with no subtitles. We got the gist of the storyline and there was some helpful sinister music every time the bad guy appeared on screen and some incredibly graphic violence. All films in India start with the national anthem and have intervals. Everyone gets terribly involved and shouts at the screen so it was definitely a fun thing to do.

We stayed within Trivandrum for Joey’s birthday and Christmas, treating ourselves again to a nice hotel with a pool where we did nothing but eat, drink and hang by the pool. Christmas whilst travelling is always a little odd, but we managed to have turkey and carols so it felt a little Christmassy but it seems that even if you have 30 degrees and sunshine you can’t avoid the Christmas cold and I spent most of the day feeling ill!

We’ve only a few short days left in India, how quickly time moves when you see so many new things and places.

For now it’s our chance to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Goa-ing to the beach

After Mumbai and a couple of weeks of moving from place to place in quick succession we were ready for a break and for Goa. We caught a day train and then an onward taxi to Anjuna. Anjuna is famous for its trance parties but we’d picked it based on some criteria that we’d put into a famous booking site and then just chose the cheapest, best reviewed place based on that.

The taxi ride did fill me with excitement (and it wasn’t just the adrenaline from the crazy driving) – Goa looked beautiful. There were palm trees with coconuts, the Portuguese influence was clear everywhere and was that a supermarket I just saw?! The hostel has also received great reviews which talked about a chilled atmosphere and people staying for days on end. We’d booked two nights to start but as soon as I walked in I knew I wouldn’t last beyond the first night. 

There were dorm beds in the reception area and the dorm areas appeared to be separated by a bit of netting. The dorm we were in was the crampest room I’ve ever seen. It was when a fellow guest greeted us with the words ‘hello beautiful souls’ that I realised how out of my depth with this hippie lark I was. As everyone else sat around in a circle playing drums and taking drugs I was working on an escape plan and frantically messaging friends to tell them the latest hostel horror story.

I booked a guest house in the same town and we exited stage left. This was a great move in the end as we ended up with a much nicer place and meeting some incredible people who became our Anjuna family for 5 days. Joey was brave enough to hire a scooter and so we set off exploring North Goa and it’s various beaches and supermarkets (did I mention Goa had supermarkets?!). We even went to a trance party which was probably the weirdest party experience I’ve had. Everyone seemed to stand in a line and barely move. Luckily the family all seemed relieved when we indicated that we were going to head back. Unfortunately no one seemed to know the way and it took about 3 hours to walk home. No one is entirely sure about what happened en route only that involved a herd of cows and a police car. 

Typical Goan sunset

When the time came to say goodbye it was sad, but we were ready to head to the next beach. We headed north to Mandrem which was one of the beaches we’d explored earlier in the week. It was a fairly quiet beach but popular with Russians. The only drawback was the aggressive nature of the beach sellers. I appreciate that they need to make a living but they surround you and won’t take no for an answer. I’d decided that at some point I’d like to get a henna tattoo so on the beach watching the sun go down with a beer seemed like a great time to do that. Unfortunately it turned into beach seller mafia warfare. Other sellers that I’d said no to that day were very affronted and another guy proceeded to lay out all his wares in front of me and try and guilt trip me into buying something which actually made me more determined not to buy anything. 

Surrounded by beach mafia in Mandrem

From Mandrem we caught a local train to Palolem right in the south, thereby going from one end of Goa to the other. Getting off the train was hilarious, it appeared that the train had stopped only there was no platform, it was only two locals telling us that it really was our station did I realise that I was going to have to jump 4 feet down from the train with my rucksack on. Then to exit the station we had to walk over the tracks and then clamber up to the platform on the other side. Bad day to wear my skirt! A tuk tuk was waiting and wanted to charge 200 rupees (just over £2) to drive us 2km. Given that we’d paid 60 rupees to go 100km on the train there was no way we were prepared to pay that, so we walked 25 minutes in 33 degrees with our 15kg rucksacks.

Palolem was lovely, so chilled, some great waves to play in and we bumped into a couple that we’d shared a dorm with in Agra. We’d actually seen them the previous week in Arambol and they started to joke that they were just checking my Instagram and following us. 

We knew we were getting cosy in Goa and hadn’t really done much other than laze in the beach and watch the sun go down. We were definitely finding things a little too easy so it was time to leave the beach behind and get back on the road.

We took the train towards Hampi which is one of the weirdest, surreal, mind blowing places I have ever been. It’s full of ancient ruins, incredible stone carvings including a stone chariot. The town is full of huge boulders whilst also being surrounded by banana plantations. It was Bedrock meets Ancient Greece in India. We spent three days exploring the ruins and watching sunsets and sunrises. It was quite a shock to be back amongst the hustle after Goa but we certainly needed to get back into that mindset.

A tiny selection of some of the boulders in Hampi
The Hampi Stone Chariot

We wanted to end up in Gokarna on the coast, a couple of hours south of Goa but unless you fancied getting a local bus that left at midnight from the next town the only option was to get one that arrived at 3am. We didn’t much fancy that either so decided to live up to our name and meander our way there. So we headed 420kms south on a night bus to Mysore. Mysore is the South’s yoga Mecca and it wasn’t a bad stopover point, there was a nice palace to visit and it had a Decathlon store which we got to play in on our homeless day. My back had been really hurting again, a combination of trouble from 3 years ago, hard beds and a lack of decent seating so I decided I needed to sort myself out and start stretching again. So I bought a yoga mat. When I do stretch it does help but it’s difficult to always find the space to do it.

From Mysore we got on another night bus and headed 450kms north again to reach Gokarna, at the respectable time of 8am. I was starting to feel a little bit ill at this point (as my lovely friend Clair put it, I had ‘Mysore tummy’!) and accommodation is best found once you’ve arrived in Gokarna so we headed towards Kudle beach to find a guesthouse. It’s not much fun traipsing around trying to find somewhere to stay when you feel rough so we didn’t really negotiate and plumped for the first place we saw with a western toilet and in our price bracket. 

Gokarna means ‘cow ear’ as it is where Lord Shiva is said to have emerged from a cow’s ear. We spent a lot of time just chilling here and planning our onwards journeys. We did receive a treat on our last day though when Raakesh, our Indian brother from our Anjuna family turned up to meet us. What a fantastic way to spend the last day on the beach!

We spent quite a lot of time planning whilst in Mysore and Gokarna and booked a flight to Sri Lanka, it’s hard to believe that we only have a few weeks of our first India leg to go having already been here three months!

Mausoleums, monoliths and Mumbai

Most people arrive in Agra from Delhi and head to Jaipur as part of the Golden Triangle, but we like to be different so headed there after Rajasthan. This was for two reasons, Agra was well connected on the railway network and we needed to start heading south and also it was approaching my birthday and we wanted to mark the occasion at Taj Mahal. 

Our arrival in Agra coincided with Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. We had booked into a hostel with a roof terrace with incredible views of the Taj and took part in preparations for the Diwali celebrations with staff and other guests. We prepared oil lamps and took part in prayers and blessings before heading up to the roof to light the lamps and set off firecrackers. All this was accompanied by lots of alcohol and the incredible discovery that if you try really hard you can fit eight people in a tuk tuk. Aside from the Taj the other big (and possibly only other) attraction in Agra is its Fort. Although large and intact it was rather lifeless and underwhelming and having visited several forts in Rajasthan it left us concluding that we definitely do not need to visit any more forts for quite some time.

Burning my hard work

After two nights in a hostel dorm, including our first encounter with inconsiderate dorm mates leading to a sleepless night we were extremely excited to check out and into a fancy hotel as my birthday treat. There we did nothing but hang by the pool and marvel at the luxury (There’s a bath! Infinite hot water! There are proper napkins! The bed has a duvet!) whilst laughing at ourselves and how grateful we were for small details such as that. 

We got up at 4.30am on my birthday to ensure we were amoung the first in line for sunrise. Obviously we had already seen the Taj from the hostel roof but to experience it close up was something else, particularly in the ethereal early morning light. It was so beautiful, I had never considered calling a building beautiful before but this the most beautiful, romantic building I have ever seen. The detail was astonishing and close up it becomes even clearer as the morning sun glistens off the jewels set in the walls. You’re only allowed three hours in the grounds and we spent a large part of that time just sitting and taking it all in.

We got lucky with this shot

After that we were back at the hotel and spent the rest of the day by pool. What a perfect birthday! When were travelling five years ago we visited Machu Picchu on my birthday so we have now decided that every five years on my birthday we have to do one of the new wonders of the world! 

From Agra we took the overnight train to Jalgaon from where we intended to visit the Ajanta Caves. These are a complex of 30 Buddhist caves made up of monasteries and temples and full of statues and wall paintings. These were just stunning. Some of the caves were so dark you just couldn’t help but be mind blown by the fact that this detailed work was carried out in the dark. How the accuracy of the Buddha statues and the details in the colourful paintings were achieved in the pitch black we can only imagine. We had caught a local bus to the caves and the roads were the worst we had encountered. They were full of pot holes following the monsoon and it took 2 and half hours to drive 60kms. We spent the whole journey being thrown around the bus and were dreading the journey back. Once we finished in the caves we stood on the side of the road waiting for a bus to flag down. Then a car stopped containing three guys who had asked us for the arbitrary selfies in the cave and offered us a lift to Jalgaon. We jumped in with seemingly no hesitation, grateful that we didn’t have to do the bus ride again. It was only when we were in the car that it dawned on me that we’d gotten in a car with three strange men. Everything your parents tell you not to do. I spent the journey in a heightened state of alertness making sure my metal water bottle was close at hand so I could use it as a weapon if required. Luckily it was fine and they really were just doing a nice deed. Not sure what it says about my cynicism or India as a whole.

Ajanta caves

The next day we caught the train to Arangabad to visit the Ellora caves. These were a set of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cave temples, equally as impressive as the Ajunta Caves. These are also home to the world’s largest monolith and a UNESCO world heritage site. Unfortunately for us, the world’s largest monolith on a weekend means hundreds of locals and that means hundreds of selfie requests. It got so overwhelming that I had to ask Joey if we could leave. Foreigners are charged 600 rupees and locals 40 so given that we were paying 15 times what they were I really wanted to enjoy the caves! We did find some quieter caves to enjoy which helped.

Tiny part of the world’s largest monolith

Again we found ourselves on the side of the road waiting for a bus. This time we were rescued by tuk tuk that contained two elderly Indian men and we shared that back to Arangabad. Joey was in the back with the elderly men and I was perched at the front with the driver who of course took selfies of us whilst driving. Upon arrival at Arangabad the heavens opened and we took shelter in a doorway at the station and waited for the rain to stop. And waited and waited. In the end as the streets were flooded and it was getting dark we decided to make a dash for it. We only had to go 300 metres but we were soaked by the time we got back. 

We were due to catch a bus to Mumbai at 11.30pm so we had a lot of time to kill and headed to a shopping centre with the intention of either going bowling or to the cinema. In the end we did neither, heading instead to McDonalds and Marks and Spencers. Sometimes you just need to be reminded of home. Upon leaving the centre we tried to get a tuk tuk and inadvertently got caught up in some tuk tuk mafia warfare. Other drivers tried to stop us getting into one particular tuk tuk and even dragged the driver out for a ‘word’ it was a little bit scary but we stood our ground and made it back despite his best efforts to divert us along the way.

From Arangabad we headed south to Mumbai where we were spending a couple of nights before heading to Goa. We were a little underwhelmed by Mumbai, it felt like just another hectic city full of scams (hello milk lady!). It was a good place to get some laundry done and stock up medical supplies but otherwise it left us jaded, cold and feeling like we would rather spend time in more interesting smaller towns. We did take a boat trip across the harbour to Elephanta island and caves, again a set of cave temples. This time there were only 5 of them so I left feeling very cheated at paying the same price as we did for Ajunta and Ellora caves but the boat ride there was pleasant and it was a nice way to escape the city. There’s also a hill on the island that you can climb which we did. As we started the descent down we met a boy who stopped and asked ‘Auntie can you see me down the hill?’ It turns out that he was scared of monkeys and didn’t want to walk on his own so we accompanied him down. ‘Auntie’ is a term used towards older women so I was a little bemused by this! I can definitely pass for 27 right?!

Rainbows in Rajasthan

We thought it time to give you a proper update about what we have been up to rather than me wallowing in the melodrama of my nits (which Joey has now declared me free of).

After the serenity of the north we headed west to the state of Rajasthan which is famous for it’s rainbow cities. We started in Jaipur which is known as the Pink city. It felt very frantic after the chilled vibe of Manali, but other travellers we met in Agra who headed there afterwards said it felt calm to them as they completed the traditional Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.

Hawa Mahal Jaipur

We planned a couple of days here to cover the popular sights of the City Palace and Amber Fort. Amber Fort is 10km outside the city and we decided to catch a local bus rather than splashing on a tuk tuk. This was hilarious as we rammed onto benches constantly getting stared at. Being ‘a foreigner’ in India does have its advantages sometimes, yes you will pay more but you generally get given a seat by the locals and people help you out by telling you when you need off the bus. Also stopping at ‘service stations’ (a very loose description of a toilet shack and food stall) means the driver isn’t too likely to drive off without the two white passengers.

The Amber Fort was just one of many forts we covered in Rajasthan. It was huge and very hot, but seemed unique in that in had a Fort and a Palace within in the grounds. Poor Joey had not been well again and there was a massive uphill climb to reach the actual fort.

Amber Fort, Jaipur

Our travels around Rajasthan were completed entirely on buses, some better than others but I began to realise how much I hated travel days. Well not the actual part of it, just the setting off. Upon booking a bus you are told that your bus departs from somewhere ‘near somewhere’ and from ‘near some hotel’. Sometimes you are text the bus number so you can find the bus that way but often you are on your own asking people who give you a vague wave in a vague direction. The bus to Pushkar from Jaipur was particularly stressful for that as we spent about 20 minutes trying to find the bus. But find it we did.

Pushkar was a fairly chilled hippie place with a holy lake. We’d read loads about various scams that happen alongside the lake and in the Brahma Temple. Scams make me mad, but none more so than those carried out by so called Holy Men! Luckily thanks to our research and my cynicism we avoided them and circumnavigated the lake and the temple without any issues. Pushkar also had a couple of sunset points to climb and watch the sun go down. Rajasthani sunsets were the best!

Pushkar Lake

From Pushkar we headed to Udaipur. This involved yet another stressful bus journey. We had gone into a shop to buy our ticket and were told to go to one bus station to catch the bus, only when we got there we were told it was the other bus station so we had to quickly get a tuk tuk. Upon arrival there was a bus there, we’re still not sure to this day if it was meant to go to Udaipur or whether they took pity upon us. The seats that we had booked weren’t available and we had to sit on a bench directly behind the driver so we could see every last detail of his driving. He did at least wait until he’d stopped though to take the not so subtle selfie of us sitting behind him. When we arrived in Udaipur we were the last ones left on the bus and we were dropped at a random petrol station which did make us think that we had been sold a pup. Luckily tuk tuk drivers are like rats and you’re never more than 5 metres from one and he appeared from no where to swoop us up and to the sanctuary of our hostel.

Udaipur turned out to be our favourite place. The hostel had a fantastic rooftop view over the lake and we watched the sun go down every night from there. We did the usual things like temple visiting, a boat trip and visiting the City Palace.

Sunset over the lake in Udaipur

We eventually had to move on to Jodhpur, the Blue City! This city actually lived up to its name of being blue! Jodhpur is home to the famous Mehrangarh Fort which was really good. You get a free audio guide which helped to understand the history of the place. That guide was probably slightly too long and by point 32 we reached slight hysteria about the whole thing. Our hostel ran a walking tour around the Blue City which was excellent and we were lucky enough to have the guide to ourselves.

The Blue City of Jodhpur

From Jodhpur we headed to the Golden City of Jaisalmer, which is home to, yep, you guessed it, another Fort. This Fort is unique in that it is one of the few living forts in India, which helped to bring it to life. Jaisalmer is also where we did a camel safari, which was such a unique, incredible experience. You start by taking a jeep into the desert (visiting a ‘ghost town’ along the way) and then you are given your camel. Camels are incredibly tall, way taller than a horse and also slightly uncomfortable the longer you are on them. We trekked through the desert watching the sun go down. We arrived at camp and slept in the open under the stars. There were SO many stars it was phenomenal. We saw so many shooting stars.

My camel had attitude

The next morning we watched the sun rise from a sand dune and then got back on the camel. My camel definitely felt a bit feistier after a night’s rest!

Sunrise over the Thar Desert

We took the night bus back to Jaipur where we were crashing for a night before heading to Bharatpur, home to a famous bird sanctuary. This involved yet another stressful journey as we tried to find the bus. The instructions on the message I had for this were ‘landmark M R Travels’ and that definitely didn’t exist. I didn’t have any qualms about calling the guy who had sold us the ticket at 5.15am to try and get further information and a bus number. Amazingly it all worked and we actually got dropped off within walking distance of our hotel.

The bird sanctuary was fantastic and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. We arrived for the sunrise opening and hired a guide who seemed to be eagle eyed himself and we saw so many birds that we wouldn’t have had a hope of seeing without him. As well as birds we also saw antelope, deer and jackals which was amazing.

From Bharatpur we headed 90 minutes east to Agra. We didn’t book a bus and just waited on the side of the road for one to turn up. We let one government bus pass us by as it had roughly 20 people sitting on the roof. This was actually the least stressful travel day we have had so far! Again it paid to be foreigners as when the bus stopped we were let on first and got seats. We probably paid thrice the price but you know what? I wasn’t sat on the roof of a bus fearing for me and my luggage.

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