Uganda: Pearl Of Africa

A chimp gets stuck into some figs in Kibale National Park

Winston Churchill probably summed it up best in his book “My African Journey” when he said of Uganda “For magnificence, for variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life — bird, insect, reptile, beast — for vast scale — Uganda is truly “the Pearl of Africa.”

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Kenya: Wildlife Paradise

A zebra stares across the plains of the Mara

Suffice to say that as the plane banked over the Nairobi national park just outside the aforementioned capital of Kenya, we had mixed feelings, well, we would have if we weren’t sleeping on account of the 0320 departure. Everything we’d heard or read replaced Nairobi with “Nairobbery” and Mombasa with “Mug-basa” and made it seem like a formality we’d be robbed in broad daylight by a glue sniffing youngster. Couple the recent terror attacks and the fact we’d already had to fly to avoid the border tensions so we were unsure what to expect.

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Ethiopia: Coffee with Lucy and Hiking With Monkeys

Sunrise at Blue Nile Falls

As the plane banked for its final descent into Addis Ababa, we looked down at the dry arid landscape below, with a mixture of excitement and apprehension at what might greet us on the other side of the immigration queue. What we found was a country bustling with a sense of eager anticipation about what might lay ahead. Friendly people with big smiles, whether you’re wandering into a shop, attempting (badly) to dance the local dance, or attempting to squeeze into a minibus meant for 12, but has double that, (naturally, everyone will know your name by the end of the journey). Open and inquisitive locals who want nothing in return other than to say hello while you sip on your aromatic coffee, freshly brewed before your eyes. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its challenges, but would we come back? In a heartbeat. Welcome to Ethiopia!

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Into Africa

First stroll in Addis Ababa

It isn’t a leap to say that Africa is a captivating continent, a place that can’t be pigeonholed, as diverse as it is vast, and believe us it’s large, able to fit the US, India, China and most of Europe with a few gaps to fill for good measure. Looking at maps when we were young there was a pull to find out about this huge landmass, get beyond the unfortunate headlines and stereotypes and see what it’s (at least part of it) is like. From desert to verdant green tropical rain forest, man eating lions to the gentle mountain gorillas, the worlds newest nation to the oldest civilizations known to humankind, it is a truly magical place.

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Sri Lanka: The Real Deal

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Traditional Sri Lankan fishing stilts 

Sri Lanka is a country on the rise, and in terms of tourism going through a bit of a boom period. Thanks to its lush highlands where scenic hiking spots compete with 100m waterfalls for attention, world-class tea estates giving tours and free samples, sights like the cave Buddhas and Sigiriya, plentiful beaches perfect for relaxation or surfing with beach side restaurants delivering fresh seafood. Add to that the seemingly endless line of Lonely Planet, Tripadvisor, BBC travel or just about any other travel magazines Must visit in 2018 lists, Sri Lanka is home to people spanning the spectrum from wealthy resort seekers to families, backpackers on their first trip to seasoned veterans and more frequently people over-using #wanderlust and claiming to be an “influencer”. Sri Lanka has something for everyone, so you might as well get your credit card out now and book a flight. Continue reading

India: A Sojourn South

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The Southern most tip of India, Kanyakumari

Sighing a breath of relief after we had to race to the station in Mumbai, owing to Mark’s clerical error, we made the platform just as our train came into view we were able to sit back and relax, we had no other choice really, we were going to be stuck on a train for the next 30 hours after all. Taking in the ambiguous culinary options on offer and washing them down with a chai are among your only recourse. But heading to the south of India brings with it a sort if wind change in operations, things immediately seem to be more relaxed, the food changes, the people seem to be laid back and it is instantly noticeable how many more women are involved in civic life through your interactions with store owners through to station managers. Kerala is, as locals will proudly point out, the most educated part of the country, not that that mattered to us as we pulled into Varkala, we were just looking forward to hitting the beach. Continue reading

Mumbai: Maximum City

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Marine Parade, a favourite for sunset

“More dreams are realised and extinguished in Mumbai than any other place in India” – So said Gregory David Roberts in his famous novel Shantaram about India’s largest city. Officially home to roughly 19M inhabitants, although estimates vary, locals will tell you there are upwards of 22M people in Mumbai. It’s a city with an energy that can be sensed as soon as you punctuate it’s outer suburbs which turns into a heaving mass in the inner city circles, before giving way to a somewhat regal aire in the downtown Fort/Colaba area. The latter being steeped in history with evidence of its former colonial master, also, enriched with craft beer, fancy eateries with no tuk tuks and no cows. It’s for this reason Mark really wanted to make sure Martina checked it out. Continue reading

India: The North to The West

p1120162Our trip across the north would take us through from the spiritual hub of Varanasi, to see monuments of love and war, the mega city of Delhi to a desert outpost in Jaisalmer, a Pink city, a Blue city and a city by the lake. India is a never ending sea of change to keep you interested, at times it will test you but India is never boring.

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Into Incredible India

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Blessings for sale, Varanasi.

India, it really is a land of extremes and contrasts. Extreme wealth contrasted by extreme poverty, the highs of the Himalayas to the beaches on the Indian ocean, lush rain forests to bone dry deserts, chaotic cities to chilled out towns or villages and the majesty of the Royal Bengal tiger to the common run of the mill street dog. Although there are some constants, great food, great people and you can be shocked, enthralled and entertained in the same moment, it has a way of getting under your skin in ways other countries don’t. The other constant is a gaggle of fellow travellers who dress in a manner that is to say “I’ve found myself, and have found enlightenment you will never know, now if you don’t mind I have to check on Facebook and post this killer selfie on Insta” – India, as the tagline goes, really is incredible. Continue reading

Bangladesh: River Sides and Bus Rides

 

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The rare Hoolock Gibbon

Bangladesh, often over shadowed by its largest neighbour and, lately at least, in the news for the wrong reasons, is a land criss-crossed by rivers and at times strikingly beautiful is an up and coming tourist destination. We were asked many time why we were heading here, and if we are honest, mainly out of curiosity – curiosity that is reciprocated by the locals. Bangladesh gained independence in 1971 after a bloody war with its erstwhile overlords Pakistan. With a population somewhere around 168m people, it is the most densely populated country on the planet, cramming  in a remarkable 1252 ppl per sq.km! (By way of comparison NZ has just 14 ppl per sq.km). That means we’ve now been to the most densely and most sparsely populated (Mongolia) countries in the world on this trip.  Continue reading