Situated on the westernmost part of China, Kashgar is unlike any other Chinese city in language, culture and ethnic makeup. Historically a major Silk Road trading post and the gateway between China and the West, I was intrigued by how little I knew of modern day Kashgar and the Xinjiang region beside the occasional headlines of protest and unrest.
Three days after Christmas we set off on a big bike tour around Timor. From Dili we rode south to Same, along the south coast to Viqueque and back up to Baucau, covering approximately 450 kilometres over 3 days. Some roads were great and others more rough, but 450 kilometres was enough to leave us heavily sunburnt and sore, requiring 2 solid days of recovery upon return (before any attempt to remove ourselves from the couch).
I arrived in Dili two weeks ago dreading the heat, mosquitos, odd-smelling shower water, lack of food options and everything else Joris warned me about in my pre-departure briefing. (His words were – ‘you just need to be more chilled and ok with it’). All the same, I had been looking forward to a new adventure for a long while and was very excited about the new land, culture and cheap Nasi Goreng.
Taking on Mount Solitary was a last minute decision fuelled by our complacency with campground bookings. We had to give up our original plan for the Royal National Park Coastal Track as North Era Campground was all booked out by 9pm the night before. Lesson learnt.
Fifteen days of driving around Italy has been absolutely incredible. Unfortunately, just when I’ve gotten used to driving on the wrong side of the road, sitting on the wrong side of the car, and waving my wrist madly shouting ‘che cazzo’ (at appropriate road rage moments), we’ve had to bid a sad farewell to our trusty little Fiat and re-accustom ourselves with the concept of backpacking.
Afloat in midst a lagoon, Venice is known as one of the most extraordinary cities in the world. Unfortunately sinking away slowly, the entire city is listed as an UNESCO site (though much of Italy seems to have made the UNESCO list).
Its numerous bridges and canals, and overall architectural impossibleness leave you in awe and distracted from the frustration otherwise felt in an attempt to navigate the windy little laneways and chase the inconsistent signs towards “Per Rialto”.
So I may have slightly under-budgeted the last three months by a tad. And by a tad I mean, well who am I kidding, I don’t mean a tad. With fantastic friends offering accommodation from place to place, I honestly believed 20€ a day (give or take a bit) was easily achievable.
One of the best things about doing this pilgrimage is the ability to see a great deal on a tiny budget.
Starting out in Santander, we are following the route along the North coast (Camino del Norte) one of numerous Camino de Santiago routes. In my very simple head I had the romanticised idea that this meant walking along beaches and long stretches of sand.
So we didn’t take the Inca trail. Met many people along the way who advised against it because it was overpriced and touristy. Instead it was recommended that we get into Cusco and find ourselves a local guide for a better experience – advice which we immediately found compatible with our cheapness and lack of pre-planning. Sure enough, the Classic Inca Trail was completely booked out by the time we reached Cusco.
We spent an amazing two days on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world. For 70 soles we took a tour from Puno which included one night on Isla Amantani with a local family. Known best for its floating islands (numbering approx 50), the lake is a truly breathtaking sight.