June 25, 2006

Back to the Lab Again

OK ok, so we have been back for 5 months now, and I've only just got round to putting up the last set of photos... Special thanks to "the kids" for organising our welcome home party - it was wonderful to see everyone, we had missed them all very much.

We're going to keep this website here as a diary of our trip but we won't be updating it any more. So, all photos from now onwards will be put here: http://www.urbanwide.com/photos/.

Rob's website can be found here: http://www.monkeyhelper.com/
My website will eventually be here: http://www.urbanwide.com/.

We've also been known to add the occasional photo to flickr:
Rob: http://www.flickr.com/photos/monkeyhelper/
Deb: http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanwide/

[UPDATE 06/08/06] I've disabled comments to cut down on the spam so if you want to contact us - then mail debandrob at travel dot urbanwide dot com

[2 Welcome Home galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 10:33 PM | Comments (1)

February 07, 2006

Better Late Than Never

Well as you may have guessed by now, we've been back in the UK for well over a month and have at last got round to putting up the final photos from the trip.

We had a fantastic time in Saalbach - we pitched up very early in the ski season (and in fact we were the first guests of the season in our apartment block) and were incredibly lucky with the snow even before Deano and Paul turned up. When they did get here later on in the week, it snowed heavily for the whole weekend and created the largest amount of fresh powder I'd ever seen! We had loads of fun surfing through the powder and Rob took loads of photos and a few movies too: Paul | Deano shows off his skillz | Powder Hounds | Rob's camera skillz

Our very last stop was Vienna - a very brief visit. We just had an evening to look round, but it was enough to get the general feel of the place and of course take a few more photos. The architecture was fantastic and we had time to take in just a few more Christmas markets and our last taste of Gluhwein.

[2 Saalbach galleries here and here]
[2 Vienna galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 09:41 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2005

Europe on a Shoestring

Time travels fast doesn't it? You wouldn't think that 10 months has passed since we left for Canada but it has and we will be flying back to the UK tomorrow! Rob and I are very much looking forward to coming back and not because we haven't enjoyed ourselves but because we miss our friends, family and home comforts (that we apparently have got attached to without realising). So anyway, we are a bit behind on the photos due to not having to suitable internet connection for the last 10 days in Saalbach but we should be able to rectify some of that now.

Thanks to all you kind chaps at Energis, we finally got round to spending our lastminute.com vouchers on a top hotel in Munich. We did occasionally leave the room but you wouldn't guess from the fact that there are only about 10 photos to show for our visit. As well as seeing some of the sights of Munich we wandered round many of the Christmas markets there and drunk yet more Gluhwein.

In Prague we met up with Claire, my big sis, who we hadn't seen for 9 months so it was rather good to see her. We stayed in a nice apartment in the old town (thanks Mum and Dad!) which meant we could cook and relax infront of the telly for a change as well as easily pop out and see the sights. In our time there we did see a fair bit of Prague (and drink Gluhwein) and in contrast to the last set of photos you can see this from the volume of photos (the new camera helped)!!

[2 Munich galleries here and here]
[2 Prague galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2005

Rockin Rudolph

We had a great time with the parents last weekend, not least because we were put up in a lovely hotel (and got a free upgrade to a Junior Suite !) but we also wandered around a very christmassy Heidelberg. The first snow of the Season fell just as we arrived (surprise surprise !) but apart from the chill around my toes due to the flip flops, it was really nice to feel cold again ! We wandered around the Christmas markets, drinking Gluhwein and buying various presents. We also visited the castle and took a ride on the Funicular - all very pleasant ... Thanks Mum and Dad :)

[2 Heidelberg galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2005

Hong Kong Phooey

Actually, some of you techy types (you know who I mean) might be interested to know that I'm blogging this from our very long 12 hour flight to Germany. I am rather disproportionately excited about this, even though in reality you only get as long as your laptop battery can take (in our case a combined 4 hours) for US$30.

Hong Kong has been excellent - I've seen Rob shop more than I have seen him ever shop before and apparently enjoying it too (something to do with normal shops being inter-dispersed with gadget shops). In between shopping, we've also seen a little of Hong Kong. We went to the Space Museum and took a bus over to Stanley to wander round the market there (hmm this this might class as more shopping) which were both good fun. We've also been taken out to dinner by Sauming (who used to work at Energis with us) to a very impressive resturant called Aqua at the top of a very tall building.. we had quite possibly the best sushi meal I have had ever with the most fantastic views (thanks Sauming!).

Some of you will be pleased to know that gadgets out here aren't actually that much cheaper than in the UK. If you hunt around you can find cheaper prices but it often doesn't outway the warrantee you don't often get by buying it in HK. Having said that, Rob has bought himself a gorgeous new Compaq laptop and I've got a stunning new Nokia 6170 (Nokia is such a sweet partner after having used a Sony Ericsson for the last 12 months - but thank you Mattb, it's been a very useful phone!). Oh mustn't forget the new lens that I've bought for the DSLR I don't quite have yet...

[2 Hong Kong galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 06:43 AM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2005

The Times They Are A-Changin

Another open tour bus journey took us to Dalat - 'The Romantic City' in the mountains according to all the locals. Deb wanted to hire motorbikes again but it started raining again so we decided to try a different approach and hire a car, driver and guide to take us to see the local sites. It was a glorious day when we went out and we had a really pleasant time. One of the first things we went to see was the Lak Village which whilst not steeped in local customs and ancient ways, was quite interesting and we got to see the old style of houses on stilts that the ethnic minorities used to live in and also the sacrificial altar for the buffalo. We also went to visit the 'Crazy House' and it certainly lives up to it's name - very obscure architecture. Other places of note included the Dalat old railway station, Chinese pagoda, Datanla falls and last but not least the 'Valley Of Love'. The last one was quite an experience as it's how Dalat got it's name for being a romantic city. The 'Valley of Love' was originally a picturesque place by a lake on the side of a mountain in forestland and was used by students from the local univeristy there for 'late night research'. However once the tourists found out about it and more and more people wanted to go the Government 'landscaped' the area covering it in concrete and provided delightful swan pedalos for the lake, needless to say the locals found another beautiful spot and never tell the tourists about it ...

After the fun of Dalat we made our way to the final destination in Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City (or HCMC from now on). This was a really nice suprise as we were expecting it to be worse than Hanoi when in fact it was pretty relaxed and we only recieved a minimum of hassle. Our main goal was to go and see the Cu Chi tunnels which the Viet Cong used against the Americans (and the French before them) in the war. The tunnels we saw had been expanded so westerners could fit in them as before this I wouldn't have made it through them. Deb also got to fire a semi-automatic rifle with live ammo - although I don't think she hit any targets her ears were surely well protected by the quality ear defenders they supplied - oh no actually - they were headphones !

We also visited a number of museums in HCMC which were all interesting and exhibited various spoils of war which were fun to go and look round, however, it was all put into perspective by the War Museum where there was a large amount of photojournalistic content including graphic examples of the use of napalm and white phospurous (and they used it in Iraq as well) - not pleasant viewing at all but very powerful nonetheless - highly recommended.

[2 Dalat galleries here and here]
[2 HCMC galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 07:46 AM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2005

Vietnam Blues

After fleeing from Hanoi we took the Reunification Express that links Hanoi to Ho-Chi-Minh City. We stopped in Hue - a UNESCO world heritage site that has amongst it's relics a citadel. Hue was more relaxed than Hanoi but still had a huge number of annoying Cyclo drivers hassling you every 2 minutes. The citadel was quite impressive and the Thai Hoa palace inside was pretty cool. The most fun we had was feeding the large numbers of Koi carp in the lake inside - the fish literally jumped on top of each other to eat it !

The next stop on the list was Hoi An - the best place to get tailor made clothes in Vietnam. We took an open tour bus there - they are incredibly cheap usually less than $10 to travel between large cities and the larger distance you travel in total the cheaper the cost between places becomes. The only disadvantage is that they take you to a set of 'partner' hotels and try (usually quite hard) to convice you to stay in them (kickback is the word you're thinking of). So battling between the hotel touts we eventually managed to find our chosen hotel and settling for an incredibly relaxing 4 days in Hoi An. It has a french colonial feel to it's buildings and style and everything is a lot more laid back. It was the first place we stayed that you could walk along the street and not be hassled. The town may be a little manufactured for tourists as I'm not sure the locals stayed there and there are over 200 tailors in the town but it was a really pleasant place to stay. Deb obviously started foaming at the mouth at the thought of being able to buy tailor made clothes for a few dollars a garment so 1 suit, 1 shirt, 1 coat, 1 skirt, 1 dress, 2 sets of trousers, 1 top and a set of shoes later we were able to rest. I also had two suits made ($30 US each) - I just need a job now ;) If you need a suit making and you happen to be in Hoi An then I have to recommend Mr Xe on Le Loi Street (where most of the 'better' tailors are located) as he did a great job, wasn't too pushy and seemed to enjoy measuring me far too much ... Another honourable mention goes to Yellow Star Cafe where they did a good bangers and mash - or so Deb tells me.

[2 Hue galleries here and here]
[2 Hoi An galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 04:22 AM | Comments (3)

November 13, 2005

Good Morning Vietnam (it had to be done !)

The last couple of weeks in Vietnam have been quite a mix. I think our first experience sums up a large part of our Vietnamese experience. We had just arrived at the airport and were absolutely knackered after the trip from Laos (as we were both a bit off colour). We decided to jump in a taxi and get him to take us to the hotel we had picked in the Lonely planet - he asked us if we were sure we wanted to go there and he knew somewhere better etc ... but we told him we had a booking and off we went. A 1/2 hr journey later and we were at the hotel - it had the sign outside and everything - the only thing was we couldn't see the cafe that was supposed to be across the road - strange but we went inside (as the guy from the hotel grabbed our bags and ushered us in). It was a reasonable hotel - a little pricey but fine and recommended by the Lonely Planet. The only thing was it wasn't actually the hotel we had asked to go to - it was a fake with the same name !

To be fair I had read about this in the LP and I guessed we were being scammed so only booked in for one night, and the room wasn't too bad if a little expensive. So how does this relate to our experiences of Vietnam - well I guess basically the majority of people who try to offer you a service are out to scam you in some way but overall the experience won't be too bad - if a little expensive ...

I think my favourite thing was seeing the water puppets in Hanoi - it's like punch and Judy but on water ! I managed to capture the best part on video (water dragons playing with some impressive effects). Unfortunately we were sitting at the back so the pictures don't do it justice. Hanoi was probably our least favourite part of Vietnam as you couldn't walk down the street without at least three or four VERY persistent people trying to get you to buy/book/rent/eat something. It meant you couldn't enjoy the city as you were dashing from place to place trying to keep off the street - we've experienced tough hawkers before and I thought I'd perfected my 'Get Lost' stare but apparently thats not understood in Vietnam.

After recouperating in Hanoi (and moving to another Hotel), we travelled onto Ninh Binh where we experienced another tornado ! It was a bit unfortunate as the day we booked our trip to see the Tam Coc caves, some ricefields and the Kenh Gah floating villiage the Heavens opened - not good when you're driving round on motorbikes ! The interesting thing about visiting the caves wasn't the caves themselves but seeing the rowing boat women rowing with their feet - and damned fast too ! If you go to Ninh Bin then stay in the Thanh Thuy as the guys who run it are really friendly and run good tours - hire a motorbike and get them to do a motorbike tour with you - just try to avoid the rain ...

I've also added some motorbike videos to one of our Thailand posts - if you want to see some hot biker action then have a look (good camera work Josie !)

[2 Hanoi galleries here and here]
[2 Ninh Bin galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 08:49 AM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2005

Motorcycle Emptiness

Typhoon Kai Tak has meant that Rob and I have been stuck inside a bit more than normal so I've had a bit of time to put the Laos photos together for the site. Also have a look at the photos from Khao Yai - some comedy frog eating photos have been added (plus some other ones) that were missing before.


After a stealthy shopping session in Bangkok (getting a new camera and Rob's phone fixed amoungst other things) and the fastest packing session on record, we arrived at the airport at a healthy forty minutes before our flight was due to leave - I had been pretty sure we weren't going to make it to Laos when we were still checking out of the hotel at about 1 hour before take off time but we had Mr Wheeler's expert plane catching luck on our side this time. We arrived in Vientiane by prop plane - two seats each side and much louder than a normal jet plane but still ok.

In Vientiane we rented motorbikes again so we could get round the city with some speed and also go to the Buddha Park which was about 25km away. It was almost like we knew what we were doing this time, until we forgot that people drove on the right not the left side of the road as in Thailand. Doh. Once we had sorted out that minor hitch, we rode to see Pha That Luang (the gold stupa, symbol of Laos), Patuxai (Victory Gate - very Arc de Triomphe looking) and then to the fantastic Buddha Park which also has a huge pumpkin than you can climb up inside.

On the way back we stopped at what we thought to be a shop selling drinks and we only realised later that infact it was actually someone's house. It must have looked quite strange, us stopping at their front door asking for a drink of water, them kindly offering us filtered water or beer and then us saying bottled water will only do. doh! Anyway as punishment/reward, that evening we stopped for a beer in the nightclub next door to our hotel, which was rather like we had stumbled upon a Lao wedding evening do.

The next day we took a bus to Vang Vieng - it kept stopping to load on/ off more stuff (mostly sacks of rice I think). Dad would be impressed - stuff was piled on top of the bus, between the seats and any other spare space, sometimes a motorbike or bed would be on the roof-rack too.

Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng is a kind of Khao San Road of Laos but on a much smaller scale. We hired bikes again and rode out to some of the villages, it was cool to see the kids ride past waving and shouting Sabbai dee (hello)! The scenery is around Vang Vieng is beautiful - small villages set against limestone peaks next to the Mekong.

Luang Prabang

Next we took a minibus to Luang Prabang. We stayed in a great guesthouse (called Sysomphone Guesthouse) where Steve had stayed last time - it was run by a friendly old couple who fed us lots of Lao Lao (Lao whisky) and bananas.

We were going to hire bikes again in Luang Prabang but it turned out that the city now no longer allows bike rental for tourists. Instead we hopped on a boat which took us to see some of the sites (eek, non of which I can remember the name of) but the boat ride itself was pretty cool :). The last morning Steve and I got up at a shocking 5-30am to see the alms procession of the buddist monks. There were at least 100 monks lined up and being given food by people on the streets.

The journey back from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng was a pretty long bumpy one and we had to get up early the next day after a late night to get the first bus back to Vientiane for our flights. The bus stopped an amazing 3 times to change the wheels (Lao roads are not finished quite to UK standards) and eventually we changed buses and managed to get to the airport at least an hour before Steve had to catch his flight :).

[2 Vientiane galleries here and here]
[2 Vang Vieng galleries here and here]
[2 Luang Prabang galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 05:56 AM | Comments (2)

November 03, 2005

Fire Starter

Still a few sets behind with the photos, this is the last set from Thailand. We were sad to see Mr Wheeler go last week - we've had a wicked time wandering round Laos & Thailand with him & especially some top fun with the motorbikes. Tried to repeat the motorbike fun yesterday in what turned out to be Typhoon weather, but more on that another time!!

It was a long bus journey down to Chumphon and even though we arrived at about 2 in the morning, the lovely lady from the guesthouse Josie had phoned earlier (Anyone help me with the name?) was waiting there for us to pick us up. Early the next morning we caught a ferry over to Koh Tao where we spent the next few days...

[2 South Thailand galleries here and here]

We hired bikes again on Koh Tao, although this time the roads weren't up to much which made our ride around and eventually up to the lookout/resturant point a very tricky one. The view at the top was worth it, as was the food and now we can all now qualify for the TV program Kick Start and probably actually do quite well :)

Josie and I also had fantastic Thai massages (by two very nice ladies) which although pretty brutal (we didn't really know what brutal meant until the next one - see later) at times, worked wonders on my shoulders which have been much better since.

It was also Rob's birthday on Koh Tao; as you can imagine this was celebrated in true Rob Lee style. The chaps enjoyed the cigars, thank you Shaun & Sarah! Cards and pressies were also very much appreciated too!

With a "Rob Lee drunk" hangover of doom we headed over to Koh Phangan for the Full Moon party. We decided to stay on the other side of the island so we didn't have to worry about our stuff getting nicked while we were at the party. It turned out to be quite fun to get there.. a 30 minute ride in a truck across very unfinished rocky roads (with hangover not good) or a boat ride where you get quite wet. (more on this later).

So we decided to get to the Full Moon party by boat which we didn't realise would mean getting most of our bottom halves wet in order to get in the boat. Result: pockets full of toasted gadgets. My camera was fairly stuffed anyway but this finished it off along with Rob's phone (number 2) which is now being fixed by a nice man in Bangkok for hopefully not too much money. My compact flash card with all my photos on has somehow managed to revive itself now (yay!) and we bought a cheap camera in Bangkok which is similar to the old one and will do for now (will be treating myself to a nice new on in Hong Kong!).

The Full Moon party was actually pretty cool - lots of huge sound systems and lots of buckets of vodka/redbull drinks. Josie and I got glowing things painted on our shoulders, I am sure we must have looked cool :) hehe. We got a boat back at about 6 in the morning and had to leave for Koh Samui the next day in order to fly back to Bangkok. Josie and James had to fly all the way home too, it was a long day!!

Oh I almost forgot about the sand massage (actually Josie I never gave you money for that!). Josie and I thought we would get another massage on Koh Phangan as the last one had been good. What we failed to appreciate was that we had spent the morning sunbathing and had got particularly sunburnt and still had sand on our legs from being on the beach. This resulted in the most voluntarily painful hour ever. The ladies rubbed oil into the sand on our legs and then rubbed it very hard into our sun burn. Ouch, I do not recommend it one bit!

Rob says Hello to all the Nans out there!

Posted by deb at 08:20 AM | Comments (2)

October 23, 2005

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Josie and James have now returned home after an excellent 3 weeks in Thailand, it was really cool to see them and it was sad to see them go. We're a bit behind with the site at the moment, mainly to do with the increased amount of beer drinking with the Kids, so were now in Laos (which is lovely by the way), but next up for photos is Kanchanaburi.

We took a train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi - it was a proper old style train with wooden seats and windows you can pull down and stick your head right out of which was quite cool. The next day was pretty much dedicated to having a nosy at the Kwai Bridge, the War Museum and main Memorial which was all quite an eye opener for someone like me who never really listened in history lessons but wished they had now. Oh and on that evening me and Josie took rickshaws back to the place we were staying (hurty feet after a long day) and the boys got motorbike-taxis. Looked like hard work for the poor rickshaw drivers though.

The next day was more light hearted, and I know Mum won't be very happy about it but I am going to tell you anyway. We hired motorbikes and rode out into the countryside, it was top fun though. Under the guidance of Mr Wheeler, we managed to find a fantastic unlisted temple with a huge glistening Budda and we met a friendly monk who chatted to us for a while and seemed to spend most of his time in a cave, I think blessing people.

A quick addition - videos of us all on bikes - here and here.

[2 Kanchanaburi galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 09:40 AM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2005

Do do do the funky Gibbon

Today we are taking a break from blogging and have a special guest poster in the form of Miss Josie Smith...

Ok, here goes! We arrived in Bangkok after an 11 hour flight, just about made it. It's been great to see Deb and Rob again and when we met up at the hotel I couldn't keep the tears back. Bangkok is a great place. We've been to Khao San Road, full of bars and market stalls. Rob and Wheeler have even tried Scorpion, well we all tried a bit in the end. We have also been to see the Emerald Buddah with temple buildings full of colour and got some great photos. Shopping is very good here and we have all done really well bartering with the stall holders and getting good discounts, which was fun.

After a couple of days seeing the sights in Bangkok we travelled north to Khao Yai which is a national park. We stopped off for a night in Pak Chong a town near by and after a lovely dinner and a few beers, got brave and tried fried frogs! They, of course, tasted like chicken...We stayed quite close to the park in lodges fully equiped with air con, it's unbelivably hot here. We have completed 2 day treks and a night trek, unfortunatly not actually sleeping in the jungle, which would have been fun. Treks came fully equiped with leech socks, which worried me. Wheeler was the first to get one on his arm and instead of immediately helping we all got our cameras out! We have seen quite a few animals, deers, monkeys, weird looking spiders, gibbons, seen elephant tracks and also treked and swam in a waterfall after crossing a knee depth river on foot. What a fantastic couple of days.

[2 Bangkok galleries here and here]
[2 Khao Yai galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

September 30, 2005

Postcards from China

11 days is not long to get a good picture of a country but in the traditional style, here are my thoughts anyway...

"Toilets" - silly me getting all shocked about Japan's toilets. My favourite toilet experience so far has to be in Xi'an's train station - the cubicles were waist height with no doors for all to see, and the toilets of the squat variety. I am sure they will get worse in Thailand.

"The Great Firewall of China" - we were fairly worried when coming to China that we wouldn't be able to access our website and I was also quite curious to find out the extent of the said Great Firewall. From an initial poke around the internet it looked like it was just the BBC news website (and Nige's website possibly) that's blocked with no other British newspaper sites having the same restrictions. However on further research it is actually much worse. The English TV station CCTV9 (which is government run/controlled) have just casually announced that the government have introduced new laws to help regulate "misleading" news websites, internet gambling and pr0n by stopping the use of group sms messages from websites and also message boards. It seems to be aimed at bloggers (Blogger is already blocked); anyone wishing to host a website in China must first register with the government or face the concequences. Interestingly enough, I looked at this the other day (am no longer able to access it now) and the UK doesn't come too close to the top of the list.

"Spitting" - it is very common to hear Chinese men and women having a good loud spit. I do realise it's a culture thing but to the untuned western ear it's quite odd at first.

"Tunnel Vision TV" - Chinese TV is about promoting that everything is shiny and good about the country (well the English channel anyway). Everything seems to get a positive spin - e.g. A news report about a potential 100% rise in tax features interviews with people off the street only saying that they think that it's a great idea and infact they don't think that a 100% increase in tax is enough. Of course there will be people who don't think it is a good idea - where are they? Anyway, it reminds me of a certain teleco that used to send out group wide emails putting a positive spin on everything. Not that I'm bitter or anything :)

"2008 Olympics" - You can't miss the fact that China will be hosting the Olympics in 2008, there are signs of it everywhere.

"Tracksuit School Uniforms" - Was trying to work out why all kids wore matching tracksuits but then we worked out that it was the school uniform. They look like big Olympic squads walking round.

"Streetside Activities" - It all happens by the side of the road - ballroom dancing lessons, tai chi; you can even get a hair cut.

"Crazy Roads" - A good time to remember the green cross code is in china. Don't bother with crossings, or anything traffic light related - the drivers often don't either so it is a life in your hands type activity.

"The people" - The Chinese language does at first sound very harsh (even coming from Japan) and first assumptions can be that the people aren't all that friendly. On the train back from Xi'an I realised it was quite different, a guy sitting opposite me offered me some (unknown) spirit and sandwiches & opened my beer for me, some other people talked to me (in Chinese) trying to work out where I was from and a nice lady sat and talked to me for ages (patiently, knowing very little English).

"Vast Wide Roads" - Am not sure if they have always been like this, I suspect not, but most of the roads in the parts of China we have been to are very wide to make way for all the traffic. We didn't find many small winding streets that you almost expect to see.

Posted by deb at 10:30 AM | Comments (2)

September 29, 2005

If I could walk 500 miles

Actually we walked more like 10km but if felt a bit like what I imagined 500 miles to feel like. So many steps and steep climbs but we thoroughly enjoyed our walk from Jinshanling to Simatai apart from a minor hiccup but I will get to that in a minute. Most people go to Badaling which is the restored section of the wall + very busy so we opted for the quiet, more rustic version.

[2 Great Wall galleries here and here]

Along the way we got chatting to a guy who seemed experienced in seeing China sites etc so we didn't bat an eyelid when he refused to pay a fee midway through the treck as he said that it was a con and he'd experienced this kind of trouble in China before. The guy stood his ground and nearly ended up getting thrown off the wall (quite a drop) and had a bit of a scrap with the fee collector guy. Still, we stood by the guy and also didn't pay our fee (the collector was far too busy to bother with us). So the ticket collector followed us all the way back to the bus and refused to let the whole bus leave until this guy paid. As you can imagine, this was a very angry bus of tourists. Once the guy reluctantly paid the fee (which incidentally should have been paid it turns out), further money was demanded of him for hitting the ticket collector, which he didn't do. Eventually they agreed to an apology from the guy and we were all able to leave. As both set of people were correct (and incorrect) in their different ways, Rob and I spent most of this time hiding in the back of the bus hoping not to be spotted by either the wall security or the guy.

Posted by deb at 07:13 AM | Comments (3)

Summer Lovin'

As if the Summer Palace wasn't enough to see, it also has huge gardens and a lake to the rear. We had a wicked time in our own electric powered 1 mile an hour boat exploring the lake. As it was quite relaxing, neither of us ended up in the lake which was a bit of a relief. Actually I can see why it is called the Summer Palace, its a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Beijing. Plus it's not being rennovated which made it all the more charming.

[2 Summer Palace galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 07:08 AM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2005

Ming the Merciless

You'll notice Rob smile with glee as he rides round on his pink bicycle around the walls of Xian. A mixed bag of a weekend in Xian, the highlight being the Terracotta Warriors, the lowlight being the lack of decent cycling and a laclustre guide. Still, Rob enjoyed his bike even though it was raining. The sleeper train was actually quite good fun (even though not much sleep was had) and we met lots of nice people on the tour.

We do a 10km hike along the Great Wall tomorrow as long as the typhoon doesn't stop us :)

[2 Xian galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 11:35 AM | Comments (1)

Ni hao

Ni hao is hello in Chinese by the way. From Beijing we bring you a glimpse of Tianamen Square (currently being decorated with flowers for the Olympics 2008 - a little early perhaps), the Forbidden City (also being heavily rennovated for the same purpose) and around and about in Beijing (yes being rennovated too). Beijing is very much on the rebuild in general for the Olympics and it is happening on a large scale everywhere you look. We are yet to find what we assumed China to be, but I suspect it is hidden in the depths of the Hutongs which we are yet to see. Still, travelling is a learning process and if you see what you expect to see then where is the (Rob and Debs big) adventure in that? Actually, I lie, there are as many, if not more bikes than I imagined. The Forbidden City and Tianamen Square were both very spectacular to see and did give us an excellent glimpse into old China.

[2 Beijing galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 09:56 AM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2005

On Yer Bike!

We've just booked ourselves on a trip to go and see the ancient city of Xi'an... by bike! Actually the only cycling bit is on the old city wall, but we get to see the Army of Terracotta Warriors and the Chinese Pyramids!

Posted by deb at 05:19 AM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2005

10 day takeover

It's not long now until we reach Thailand where our internet connectivity gets better but until then we're stealing ideas left right and centre to get content on the site. The idea is - you get to let us know what you've been up to while we've been away. If you have a fancy MMS enabled phone then add pics@urbanwide.com to your contacts and send us an MMS with a picture and a descriptive subject (to pics@urbanwide.com !). It will then get posted to the takeover page (it's also linked off the main page side bar). I've posted a picture from Tiananmen Square to get you all started.

Then, if you do anything interesting over the next few days send us an MMS so we can see what you are all up to - easy really :)

In other news we have updated our itinary page so it provides a more accurate picture of where we are going - you'll notice a few new destinations ...

Posted by robl at 07:06 AM | Comments (6)

September 18, 2005

Postcards from Japan

A few words to remind me of Japan:

"Bullet trains" - woosh, one of the trains we travelled on told us that it was going 285km/ hour. I think some of the newer, more expensive ones go at 400km/hour+ (but I worked that out from Japanese TV so am not exactly sure if I guessed right). The trains were always on time too - if only British Rail could take some efficiency tips (but not costing tips) from the Japanese.

"Toilets" - Really they go from one extreme to another. Public toilets away from tourist attractions are generally hole in the floor types and the toilets in hotels are usually western toilets with some electronic extravagance like a heated toilet seat or 5 ways to wash your bum.
"Sushi" - we did eat quite a bit of sushi, and ate out at a place with a sushi train one day which was quite an experience. Of the non-raw fish kind, strangely we found tuna mayo maki rolls in a corner shop, which is Rob's preferred sandwich flavour.
"Style" - wow, the Japanese are a noticibly sylish lot & Rob and I were very messy in comparison (more so than normal :) ).
"Safety" - never felt safer - no evil intimidating chavs running around causing chaos.
"Baths" - Japanese baths are about 2 thirds the length of a western bath and a little higher so there's no baths for two.
"Bright Lights" - you have to wonder what vast quantity of electricty Japan's neon lighting obsession uses up.
"Vending Machines" - 4 million of them selling drinks, beers and cigarettes. If you put stuff like that in vending machines at home, it wouldn't last 5 minutes before getting broken in to.
"Typhoon" - first time I have been in a country which was having a typhoon. We weren't near the typoon but we got the weather...
"Thin-ness" - everyone is sooo slim (apart from the Sumos who have to work very hard to get fat I'm sure), but Japanese people tend to have small frames so I guess that could explain it. I am sure the diet helps too and the fact that there is not much junk food in the shops.
"Pachincho/Games Parlours" - 5+ floor buildings jammed packed with game and slot machines. In the entertainment quarters, these are everywhere and pretty busy too.
"Temples & Shrines" - how many? wow we saw quite a few and we just scratched the surface.
"Slippers" - what a complex set of rules there are for slippers in Japan. I stopped wearing them when I was about 10 and all of a sudden we are within a whole society based around slippers.
"Service" - Even though we were staying in cheap hotels (these were very expensive by travellers standards for other countries), the rooms were always very clean, the service good and the staff polite & accomodating.
"Bikes" - people ride bikes on the pavements and not on the roads in Japan which is very confusing when you first arrive as you are constantly having to adjust your position on the pavement for passing bikes. I think Rob saved my from collision on a couple of occasions.
"Politeness" - its true, the Japanese are on the whole a very polite lot.
"Mobile phones" - mobiles phones are even more of an obsession here than at home. The phones are different, they are more of the clasp variety with internet and email
"Replicas" - not the Rolex variety, more the mini Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty.

Posted by deb at 08:50 AM | Comments (3)

Lost in Translation

This set of photos is from our last week or so around Tokyo, so its quite a large and varied set. It shows our adventures round Akihabara, the electronics district, Ginza, the swanky shopping district, Tokyo Bay and the Rainbow Bridge, Shinjuku, where all the bright lights can be found and Harajuku, the Camden Town of Tokyo. There's also lots of photos of the gadgets we have hunted out, mainly from our visits to the two Sony Centres and Apple store. Not sure if the Ipod Nano is out at home, but it's on sale here and available to play with. Ohh they are soo small.

We're off to China tomorrow for 11 days, where we'll be mostly hanging out in Beijing before heading off to Thailand. Not sure how restricted the internet will be but we're hoping out phones will work.

When we get home, I'd quite like to watch Lost in Translation again and compare it to the Tokyo we've seen.

[2 Tokyo galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 07:51 AM | Comments (7)

Tokyo Game Show 2005 Roundup

We visited the Tokyo Game Show 2005 on Saturday, billed as being the first real viewings for the next gen consoles (PS3 and XBox 360). The show itself was a great mash up of Videogame and Japanese culture. The main points of interest (apart from the game show girls !) were the Sony and Microsoft stands. The XBox 360 stand was definately a big hit where there were about 10+ actual playable XBox 360 games whereas the Sony stand, whilst having a big presence, didn't actually have any playable hardware. The pre-renders on the big screens showing the next-gen graphics were expectedly impressive (but you have to take them with a pinch of salt !). Overall Microsoft won it for me just because they had everything ready to go and they are also heavily concentrating on the Japanese market where they failed last time with the XBox - we'll have to wait and see how being late to market for Sony affects the PS3 takeup.

The other stand that looked interesting was Sega (believe it or not) where they seem to have a good selection of upcoming games - Phantasy Star Universe was one we played and it was a third person RPG style game that was fun to play (coming to PS2 I believe).

Finally - the best swag of the show - it goes to Microsoft and N3 (Ninety Nine Nights) where if you played the game (and we did - it was really easy to pick up and contained lots of fun slash n kill style action) you recieved a mini maglite style torch which when you turn on has an N3 logo in the beam !

[2 Tokyo Game Show galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 07:47 AM | Comments (2)

September 15, 2005

Picture Perfect

It might not suprise you that as we've been working our way around the world we've actually been working on a few little projects here and there. The first one that has come to fruition is my MMS::Mail::Parser library. They basically let you recieve MMS messages from people and manipulate them within Perl (so you can do things like the MMS strip above). Generally each network provider (e.g. Vodafone) encodes their message in a slightly different fashion so I've only got a Vodafone message as an example as thats the Network I'm on.

If you have a fancy MMS enabled phone and you're not on Vodafone then please, please, please send an MMS message with a picture and some text to mms@robl.org.uk and help me out so I can add support for other networks to the library.

Thanks !

Posted by robl at 10:24 AM | Comments (6)

It's a small small world

It's funny when you travel all the way round the world and you end up meeting someone who lives in Hyde Park. It's even funnier when you talk to them and find out they also work with computers. It's even funnier when you mention that you used to work for Energis that virtually the first thing they mention is the Planet Gateway (and not in an entirely complemntary tone funnily enough).

I suppose this one is for POL people only.

Posted by robl at 10:18 AM | Comments (4)

September 14, 2005

I think I'm turning Japanese

A few days ago we went for a wander around Kyoto. It was a very hot day but we persisted in our Temple spotting along with hundreds of others. We thought the crowds might scare the temples away but apparently they are very domesticated in their natural habitat and were happy to pose for pictures. Deb spent hours working out a walking tour and we faithfully followed it around the Sanjusangen-Do temple (where we weren't allowed to take any photos !), the Kiyonizu temple and the Nanzen-Ji temple.

The Sanjusangen-Do temple was probably the most impressive with 1001 statues of the 1000 armed Kanoon (the budhist Goddess of Mercy).

We've been in Tokyo for a few days now and we have been visiting the various districts within the city. We have elongated our stay in Tokyo so we can take in the Tokyo Games Show and take a peak at the new XBox 360 and maybe even some PS3 games. We'll now be leaving for China on Monday.

[2 Kyoto galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2005


Yesterday we took the bullet train over to Hiroshima. The A-Bomb dome was really quite something to see, it was just metres from where the bomb hit. We also had a look round the Peace Memorial Museum which gave you a very good overview (if not quite gruesome at times) of how it all happened and the effects that the bomb had on the people and the area. Peace Memorial Park showed the Statue of the Children - quite heart wrenching, in memorial of one particular child who died of leukemia. The statue is surrounded by thousands of origami paper cranes made by the children.

[2 Hiroshima galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 07:53 AM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2005

Culture Club

Japan, really has to have been one of the most amazing countries I have been to in terms of culture, social graces - in fact pretty much everything about it really. With it all being so different, primarily the language, it has meant that the simple day to day things like eating, finding accommodation, transport have been much more difficult; however I do think that this is what makes it all the more of an adventure. The main problem we have had is getting our mits on some nice hot take-away Japanese food (we decided to try and eat Japanese food where possible and not go for the easy option of Mc Donalds). With Japanese restaurants being very expensive for your average traveller, it is not possible for us to eat out (ok maybe once or twice during our stay) and so we've been on the hunt for a good take-away which has the added bonus that we can take back to our room and fumble with chop-sticks in private.

So after walking around for hours trying to find a Japanese take-away we realise that perhaps Japanese do not really have the concept of take-away, (the closest thing we found is ramen bars where you go in and eat at a bar) maybe because (we read in the lonely planet), the Japanese people do not like to eat food in the street and so perhaps there is little demand for it. So what about Sushi then? Well we've both been dining on sushi here and there, but sometimes you just want a nice hot meal. Bento boxes? we've only seen them in restaurants. So we discovered that you can walk into a seven-eleven type shop and pick up a nice looking boxed noodle meal (that you can almost guess what it is) that they warm up for you when you pay for it - winner, these are a very cheap way of eating and pretty tasty too.

Just as we thought we had mastered it, we picked up 2 of these boxed meal things and gestured to the lady behind the counter to warm them up as we had done previously and she seemed to understand what we meant and then proceeded to pack the un-warmed noodles into the bag along with the drinks we had picked up too. So we gestured again towards the microwave and she took the drinks out of the bag and put them next to the bag and handed us the bag of cold boxed noodles. So we took our noodles back to the Ryokan and ate them cold and left the lady behind the counter thinking that we were anal enough to make her take the drinks out of the bag for us. I really wish I had seven years to learn Japanese.

Just so as you don't think we are starving ourselves, yesterday we managed to locate a less intimidating noodle bar with at the train station and we managed just fine, and we've also re-mastered the boxed noodle buying. In fact our chop-stick skills are coming on in leaps and bounds. Really, it is just a matter of going for it and trying stuff, but with my lack of chicken eating and our general fear of getting something we might not like, we are taking it one step at a time, but we are getting there.

Toilet Training

Everywhere we have been so far we've been lucky enough to be blessed with western toilets, even in the Ryokan, you can choose between a Western and a Japanese hole in the floor affair. Yesterday, however, when I really needed to go, the only option was a hole in the floor toilet - not a pleasant experience when you are in a rush, however perhaps a good way of forcing you to learn how to use them.

BTW, many of the western toilets over here have heated toilet seats, even in the Ryokan, where you must put on a different pair of special designated "toilet slippers" to enter the toilet!

Hurricane Update

You may have read about Hurricane Nadi that has been striking destruction upon southern Japan over the last few days. Thankfully, we have avoided the turmoil, as we have been staying in Kyoto which is north of there, however we were told by the nice lady at the tourist information that we should expect "hurricane weather" (not something Rob or I have experienced before, so as you can imagine, a little worrying) and were to get back to Kyoto before dark last night and not to stray far from our accommodation today. So today we have been wandering round Kyoto town and the weather actually is better than it has been for the last few days, blue skys and scorching hot so it looks like we can go to Hiroshima tomorrow and all is ok once again, yippee!

Today we had fun exploring the department stores food halls, which is an experience in itself, plus we had a wander round one of the huge gaming/amusement arcade 6 floor building with a whole twenty or so machines dedicated to networked Counter Strike - Rob's dreams come true. Plus we won some pac-man soft toy things which are rather cool. The Japanese really seem to love the pokie machines, we saw loads of men queuing outside to get in at about 10 in the morning in Tokyo. There are gaming and pokie halls everywhere with lots of glowing lights, it really is something.

The Ryokan

Staying in a Ryokan isn't just about sleeping on a futon on the floor, it's more than that, there's a whole set of social graces you have to understand. Firstly, slipper wearing, which I touched on earlier.. you must take off your shoes and put on your designated slippers before going anywhere beyond the front step. You must not wear your slippers on the Tatami mats in your room (easy to do when you are used to walking round the house in shoes). You should really wear the special toilet slippers too. Also, there's bath time. Bath time is between 5pm and 11pm and you must tell them when you come in what time you want your bath so they can run it for you. You must wear your robe to the bathroom (left side over right side, as the other way is dressing the dead). You must wash yourself thoroughly before getting into the bath. It's like staying in someone's house I guess really, and, like many things, it doesn't exist just because of the foreign tourists.

Posted by deb at 07:15 AM | Comments (0)

Castles in the sky

In case you were wondering we seemed to have survived Typhoon Nabi. In Kyoto it meerly seemed to bring lots of rain and some gusty winds. We braved the elements yesterday and travelled to Himeji-Jo one of best (still standing) examples of a Japanese castle. Again, it was a huge piece of architecture with a gigantic wooden frame. It dates back to the 17th Century and the Shogun period and is seven stories tall.

[2 Himeji-Jo galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 03:26 AM | Comments (6)

September 05, 2005

Singing in the rain

We had a nice day out in Nara today (with a huge number of UNESCO sites). We visited the amazing Todai-Ji temple and the worlds largest Buddha (the Daibutsu). It's a shame the pictures don't do it more justice but it was huge, no actually it was HUGE ! We also visited some other temples it the area including Kasuga Taisha which had loads of stone lanterns dotted around and was the embodiment of a Japanese temple. There were also loads of deer roaming the park area around the temples - very friendly too - one tried to eat my t-shirt (probably the soy sauce I spilt on it trying to use chop sticks ...)

As you'll notice from the pictures it was raining - we seem to be in the grip of typhoon Nabi. The only weather warnings appear to be for rain and gusts where we are so we should be okay now we have our trusty umbrellas.

[2 Nara galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2005

Why does it always rain on me ?

I'm getting a little paranoid that I'm actually a rain god (see Dirk Gently for details) after our 3 weeks of rain in Auckland and now we're in Kyoto and it's started raining after the blistering sun in Tokyo. From what we've managed to gather from TV there seems to be some bad weather coming our way but hopefully it should blow over in the next few days.

Anyhow, we're staying in a lovely little Ryokan and we're out on the road for the next few days visiting some shrines/castles/big buddhas. Tokyo was fun but we only had a little taste so there is lots more to see and do there - I'm most excited about seeing the Godzilla statue ...

Oh and bullet trains really do lean and they go very very very fast !

[2 Tokyo galleries here and here]

[2 Ryokan galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 11:11 AM | Comments (1)

September 03, 2005


Just a quick note to say we have made it to Japan. Our flight was delayed by three hours which meant the subway (the only practical way to get to Tokyo centre - a 1+ hr journey) was just closing - it actually shut down as we were riding to Hotel Sakura so we never made it there and ended up staying in a small hotel in Ueno. We are back on track now though however and we've been to a local park this morning and we're in downtown Tokyo now. We are jumping off to Kyoto tomorrow for 6 days for some temple and castle gazing and then we come back to Tokyo for the remaining 6 days. Our phones don't seem to work so it's contact by email only and the number of web cafes seems pretty thin so we're not sure how easy it's going to be to get the pictures up - but we'll try our hardest - my sign language is growing in leaps and bounds !

Posted by robl at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

August 31, 2005

Little Tokyo

Well it's fast approaching the end of our stay in New Zealand - we've been here for three and a half months and will be flying out on Friday morning. We've had quite a relaxing week; most of you will know by now that we have sold Colin (sorry guys, couldn't afford to send him home), so we've had about a week staying in a hostel to prepare for the next leg of our trip.

Next up is Japan where we will spend 2 weeks, followed by 2 weeks in China and then 3 weeks in Thailand where we will be travelling with "the kids" (Josie, James and Steve)!

Today we bought our Japan Rail vouchers for a weeks travel around Japan and we somehow managed to book ourselves into the pink-ist hotel we could find in Tokyo without realising, it's called the Sakura Hotel. The (very rough) plan is to spend the first couple of days in Tokyo, then we will head in the direction of Kyoto & Kansai where we will find a variety of ancient gardens, shrines and castles. We will also be heading to Nara to have a look at one of the world's largest Buddhas. On the way, we are hoping to get a good view of Mount Fuji and not actually climb it. After all this we will head down to Hiroshima, the site of the world's first nuclear bomb attack (note to parents: it is safe to visit)

The rest of our time will be spent in and around Tokyo where I am convinced we will find plenty to do. I wouldn't mind trying the following: staying in a Ryokan, bathing at an Onsen, obviously eating lots of Japanese food and maybe dining in a Ninja Restaurant (cheers Nige) ... any more suggestions?

Actually, any suggestions for China will also be very welcome!

Posted by deb at 07:42 AM | Comments (2)

August 05, 2005

Pipe Dreams

Firstly a big thanks to "The Kids" at home for the birthday presents - we finally arranged for our post to be forwarded to Wanaka and picked up the large package yesterday! The presents were so cool that we took photos of them for everyone to see! Even Colin got a present - fluffy dice... they really suit him!

I was a little worried about the T-shirts though. "The family" - i.e. Pikachu & Vince seem to be out of control in the lounge of our place, I thought Wheeler was supposed to be keeping an eye on them :) If anyone can shed some light on what else is going on in the photo, please let us know!

... and how did you know that I needed a new set of clothes... lovely tops, cheers guys. And my hair is loving the new shampoo & frizz-ease , can not normally afford such expenses :)

Thanks also to my Nan B for the letter, it was lovely to hear from you!

On the snowboarding front, this last week has been a very hectic one but we've both really enjoyed ourselves. Rob's snowboard camp started at 8:30 on the mountain which meant a very early start for the both of us to get up there in time. 3 hours half pipe riding in the morning followed by 2 hours private training in the afternoon.

I spent my time with a 2 hour lesson in the morning and practice in the afternoon for 3 days which was the best thing I ever did (snowboarding related anyway). I was taught to ride switch, to ollie, to manual (wheely), to ride boxes etc... and ironed out some of the bad habits I picked up from boarding without lessons for so long...

This week will be our last in Wanaka, in fact we are planning on leaving on Thursday for Christchurch so we can officially start selling Colin. We'll be sad to leave Wanaka... and sad to see Colin go too (although fingers crossed eh!)

[2 InThePost galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 03:45 AM | Comments (6)

July 31, 2005

The final curtain

Deb has finished the mamoth task she started two months ago - she has finished the Curtains ! I think we've pretty much completed our mods to Colin now - consider him pimped.

I think the list of mods is:

- Removed great big cupboard
- Added new fold out bed
- Added 240v power
- Added battery charger to charge house battery from 240v
- Fixed sticky locks
- Added new tyre
- Fitted and sewed 12 new curtains
- Added new fridge
- Fixed the horn
- Fixed the windscreen washers
- Added 6 new shelves
- Added a mini B/W TV (not quite the dropdown LCD's !)

So have a look at the fitter healthier Colin and see what you think ... (and compare with the original Colin here).

[2 Colin galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 07:18 AM | Comments (5)

July 28, 2005

Snow worries mate

We finally got a little bored of just snowboarding every day and decided to go on a quick jaunt over to Queenstown (only an hours drive away). It's like Wanaka but bigger and with more shops - you should have seen Debs eyes light up (I also wasnted to go and pick up the latest Harry Potter as it had sold out in Wanaka !). We spent a day in Queenstown and went up the Gondola - which is the spot most of the pictures are taken from and were lucky enough to see a nice rainbow poking out of the lake above Queenstown.

After a days rest we decided we needed to get back on the slopes again - this time we've taken a few pictures and we're going to keep adding and removing pics from this gallery as we improve and get better snaps ... We've only got a month left in NZ now and only two weeks of that on the slopes - it's gone so fast !

I'm practising my Japenese already ....

"noodles please"

[2 Snowboarding galleries here and here]
[2 Queenstown galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 10:02 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2005

PPP-Pick Up a Glacier

This weekend we took a break from snowboarding and took Colin on a trip to see some of New Zealand's finest glaciers. We also went on the hunt for penguins but they must have decided to take a holiday to the UK (where apparently the weather is much finer this time of year) as they were nowhere to be seen.

Tramping is the rather affectionate sounding name that Kiwis use to mean walking or hiking; our weekend involved quite a bit of this too, Running Richard would be proud/ shocked.

After a quick stop off at Thunder Creek Falls and Knights Point, our first major stop was to see the penguins. We walked for 1 1/2 hours in the hope of seeing them but all Rob ended up with was wet feet as he got lured into the sea by the promise of penguins hiding in the rock pools. Still, it was a fine day and a pleasant walk.

After spending the night at Franz Joseph township, we started our day by walking to the glacier terminal front. From a distance, the glacier looked a bit like a lump of dirty snow but it was worth the walk to stand right next to the glacier where you could really see it's humungous size.

Next we drove to the Fox Glacier where we embarked on another 1 1/2 hour walk to the Fox terminal face. Not having seen enough glaciers we then decided to try and see the glacier from a different angle and drove up a road apparently not fit for campervans (it was nothing after having driven up Cardrona mountain) to the start of our hike to the chalet lookout. This walk was rather good fun as there were a couple of largish streams that we had to cross and Rob was a complete gent and carried me across.

We got up early the next day to embark on another walk, this time around Lake Matherson to see unforgettable views of Mounts Cook and Tasman reflected in the water.

[2 Glacer Trip galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 07:31 AM | Comments (1)

July 10, 2005

Beautiful Wanaka

Afternoon! As predicted, Rob and I have spent quite a bit of time snowboarding, however we have managed to get a few photos in for the chaps at home. More about these in a bit.

The mountain is getting to be loads of fun - snow is predicted for every day of next week and they have now opened the remaining chair lift (which also happens to be the biggest and fastest one) so things are getting rather more interesting... this coupled with the fact that we've bought ourselves new helmets, our snowboarding styles are getting more adventurous and actually, I think we both may have even improved a bit.

Anyway, some more about helmets; Rob has bought himself a rather funky one called "Bad Lieutenant" - and it is actually a Lieutenant style helment which sounds cheesy but it looks rather cool. Mine is a more of a traditional style which makes my head look more alien shaped but really this is the only look I can get when wearing any helment. It has already saved my head about 4 times already so I am as happy as larry.

Back to the photos. This first set is a mixed bag from around Wanaka and up the mountain at Cardrona. On one of our days off from boarding, we took a walk around the lake (which really is beautiful by the way, I can't stop looking at it/ taking photos of it). The other photos are from yesterdays trip up the mountain... New Zealand Ski resorts are not like European ones, you have to drive up a mountain road every day to get there which is an experience in itself (an 8km gravel track mountain climb - Rob).. There are also a few photos of the campervan site where we are currently staying. Naturally you would think that staying in a campervan and snow do not mix that well but this park makes it all ok - it has a spa, sauna, great lounge and kitchen area with log fire and lovely views of Wanaka...

The next set of photos are from Puzzling World where we visited today. Must say I wasn't expecting that much from this place but it turned out to be loads of fun. We spend about an hour and a half trying to find our way out of a maze, most of it involving me chasing Rob who kept trying to find his way out/ lose me, I wasn't quite sure which. There was also a room called the "illusion room" which is tilted at 15 degrees but the furniture etc isn't which causes your brain to get very confused indeed. I still can't quite work it out.

Also, if you are wondering why the segway photo has jumped so rapidly to the top in popularity then see here ...

[2 Wanaka galleries here and here]
[2 Puzzling World galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 04:54 AM | Comments (2)

July 01, 2005


We've finally made it to Lake Wanaka where we will be based for the next month and a half for snowboarding at Cardrona.

Our first stop on the way down here was at Nelson where we had a nosey at the Art-Deco Cathedral and a quick stroll around town.

Next was Blenheim, vineyard country, where we both enjoyed some wine tasting at the cellar doors. We dropped in on the Cloudy Bay Vineyard where we sampled practically the complete range and Rob ordered a case of wine for his dad. Then we went on an excellent tour of the Montana Winery where we saw wine being brewed on a large scale (non of this single demijon stuff we do in Otley) and we sampled yet more wine but this time we were instructed on how to wine taste in a more civilised fashion (so we gurgled it round in our mouths and spat it out).

Next, we headed for Christchurch and on the way we stopped off to see a huge colony of seals which we spotted on the beach at the side of the road. We stayed in Christchurch for a couple of days - it's a lovely city, reminded me a bit of home (probably because there were some actual old buildings there).

Also, we've added a quicknotes section in the side bar of the site as we're not going to be updating as quick and fast as we have in the past as we're pretty much snowboarding now (however we've got a few weekend trips planned that should provide some stunning photos). So for those of you who like to know we're still alive and kicking, you should be able to get a quick update of what we are up to.

[2 TripSouth Galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 06:30 AM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2005

What's Up Down South

We've had a great time in the North Island but now are anxious to get down South to Cardrona for the snow so in the last week we have travelled from Taupo to the South Island visiting quite a few places on the way.

In Taupo we had a look at the thermally active area called "Craters of the Moon" - it does have big craters as the name suggests but the ground was literally steaming and bubbling away and we were able to get a good close look (personally I find it all very fascinating as this stuff would never happen at home). We also popped in at Huka Falls and the Volcanic Activity Centre.

We then drove through the mountains (Colin just loves those hills) to take us to Wellington where we reunited with the barmy army. The game was apparently average but we enjoyed it regardless. Being my first proper game, I found it odd to see that fans from the different teams share the same seating areas and actually being quite pleasant to each other.

While we were in Wellington we met up with Rik (who Rob and I used to work with) & Vicky for a few drinks, Matt (who I used to work with at PA) for lunch and Lu (who we met in Fiji) which was all rather quite pleasant although hopefully next time we can spend more time with people. Wellington as a whole was a lovely city and the people were remarkably friendly and chilled out too.

After our fleeting visit to Wellington we took Colin on a ferry to the South Island and landed in Picton where we were once again able to split from the barmy army. We have already visited Nelson and now are in Blenheim where we plan to hire bikes and cycle round the Marborough Wine region sampling wines!!

[2 Taupo Galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 06:42 AM | Comments (10)

June 15, 2005

They dont like it up 'em

So as you might have gathered from the camera piccies we're going to see the British and Irish Lions play a prep game against the Wellington Lions tonight ! It's strange being couped up with all the other Lions supporters at our camp site - they have their own little world of camper vans and matching Lions clothing ...

There also seems to be a touring stage show of Dads Army - how strange.

We've spent the last few days travelling down to Wellington and visited a few spots along the way - I think the most impressive have been the Glow worm caves (which we weren't allowed to take pictures of !) and also the Aranui caves that were nearby. The glow worms really had to be seen to be believed and I'm glad we weren't able to take pictures as it would have spoiled the effect, we were taken underground and then placed into a boat and told not to make ny noise - the boat was then pulled along a rope into a pitch black cave where the glow worms were waiting. It really was like seeing thousands of stars above you ....

We also passed through Rotorua which is an incredibly active geothermal region, you could just walk down the street and there would be steam venting out of the ground. We visited a few places here and also saw a Maori concert that turned out to be a lot more fun than I initially thought - the people performing it really appeared to be enjoying themselves and there didn't appear to be anything forced about it. I think the most impressive thermal area we visited was Wai-O-Tapu and saw a Geyser errupt.

We'll be heading over to the South Island in the next few days - yey !

[2 Caves galleries here and here]
[2 Roturua galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 05:08 AM | Comments (4)

June 08, 2005

Postcards from Northland

We've been in New Zealand about 3 weeks now and I feel its about time I made some sweeping statements about the country based on evidence collected from our travels around Northland.

"The Roads" - a portion of ninety mile beach is also actually a highway and it has a 100km/hr speed limit. What NZ call highways are mostly like B roads in Wales (2 lanes, bendy and of varying quality) apart from in Auckland where Highway 1 is 8 lanes wide. We had to stop on a more remote portion of highway 1 due to a farmer herding some bulls. The roads are generally quiet which is good as it means we don't tend to collect a trail of cars.

"Boy Racers" - take Otley boy racer population, multiply by 10 and you get how big car pimping and cruising is over here (mainly in the towns in the middle of nowhere). I have not spotted any chavs yet but there is definately an equivalent.

"Warehouse" - a huge shopping phenomenon in NZ - you can go to one of these megastores and buy a cheap version of anything. Mainly you come out of the store with things you never even knew you needed, a bit like Ikea I suppose.

"The Towns & Suburbs" - I guess partly due to NZ being such a young country, some town centres and Auckland suburbs specifically seem to have an industrial estate (containing 1 or 2 huge supermarkets, Auto Warehouse, DIY store and a Warehouse) as the town centre. It reminds us of why we should be supporting local shops in Otley.

"The Scenery" - on the surface the countryside looks very much like the UK. When you look closer, the hills are definately more pointy, the trees more tropical looking and there is certainly more of it.

"British Lions Tour" - the first Kiwi we saw after landing in NZ asked us if we were here for the Lions Tour. People have not stopped asking us that since... I wish I understood rugby.

"Simpsons" - we have actually seen several new (as in new to us) episodes which has been quite a shocker. Perhaps FOX sold one half of all episodes to the UK and the other half to NZ which could explain it. I am sure that is it.

"Rainbows" - very likely to be because of the rain that follows us round, we've seen an unusual amount of rainbows since we got to NZ - sometimes up to 4 a day.

"Ducks" - at many holiday parks we are greeted most mornings by a collection of ducks. Maybe they have been installed especially to wake people up in the morning to ensure they leave by 10am.

"Pedestrian Crossings" - on some crossroads with pedestrian crossings across all 4 sides you are also encouraged to cross diagonally. This makes perfect sense and I am not sure why other countrys don't do it, it was a little confusing at first though.

"Kiwi Fruit" - apparently originated in China not NZ and got renamed Kiwi Fruit by the Americans in the 60s.

"Kia Ora" - I thought it was a soft drink from the 80s but apparently it is also a traditional Maori greeting.

Posted by deb at 11:55 PM | Comments (8)

June 04, 2005

Horse Play

A few things to update you on this time ... We've made it back to Auckland as we did a flier of a journey down the west coast of the Northland (350+ km's) which we thought that in a van that only has four gears was quite a good achievement ! Before we undertook that lightning run we visited the northern tip of New Zealand - Cape Reinga and got there via the Ninety mile beach. It was an unseasonally sunny day and we went on a tour bus that drove a good way up ninety mile beach where we saw wild horses on the sand dunes (very picturesque) and I showed everyone how to Sand Toboggan (see the picture sequence !) We also visited a restored Gum Diggers park and saw some of the old sink holes they used to dig to retrieve the Gum from the ancient buried Kauri trees. All in all, it was a really enjoyable tour and we're really pleased with the pictures as they have a certain 'moody' quality - have a look and let us know what you think ...

In other news, the masses have spoken and we have a name for our Camper Van - Colin, so when you here us refer to Colin from now on you should realise we are talking about our large four geared friend.

As for our plans next, we're currently looking for second hand snowboards, laptops and we're buying our Snowboarding passes for Cardrona and maybe planning to do this ...

P.S. I've also added captions to the previous set of pictures in North NZ - they'll probably shed some light on the pictures so you might want to have a look at the set again.

[2 Cape Reinga Galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 04:16 AM | Comments (3)

May 31, 2005

It's grim up North

We've meandered our way up North through very changable weather and we've made it to the Bay Of Islands. We spent a week or so around Whangarei and went to see the Waterfall and the Kauri Memorial park with some impressive Kauri trees (and tropical forests) and also celebrated Deb's birthday with a lovely Japanese meal. Today, we went on a boat trip around the Bay Of Islands and went through the 'Hole In The Rock' which was quite impressive. Tommorrow we head for Cape Reinga and Ninety mile beach - lets just hope it doesn't rain !

We've almost finished the camper (just the curtains to go) so we'll put some pictures up and announce the name soon.

[2 North NZ galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 04:15 AM | Comments (2)

May 25, 2005

Fiji Time

Fiji was a total shock to the system for me and Rob: limited electricity, no hot water, no mobile phone reception and certainly no internet :) Once we had got over the initial shock however, we had a cracking good time.

The first island we headed for was Nanuya Lailai to visit the Sunrise resort. From here we visited the Sawailau caves which were featured in the film: Blue Lagoon (Looks a bit saucy if you ask me). We refrained from going in the Blue Lagoon itself not because of the saucy film, but because a) our first attempts failed and we didn't find it, and b) because there was a guy who had earlier got severly stung by a sting ray there that morning and his screams could be heard for miles! He got taken away in a sea plane, we saw him later and he was not screaming any more but his foot was swelled up like a melon.

We also met a couple of cool Kiwi girls (Lu and Rachel) who I reckon we will go and say hi to in Wellington.

All in all we weren't that impressed with the Sunrise resort although it was a nice island to look at.

Sunset resort on Waya was so cool we decided to stay an extra night, plus they were putting on a Lovo for the guests the next night which we thought would be rude to miss.
Our time on Waya was action packed, we never even had time to get bored sunbathing. We went on a mountain trek, went line fishing (I caught 2 fish, yipee, with total equipment of an empty coke bottle, fishing wire, hook and bate), I weaved some bracelets while Rob was made to weave a basket (you can imagine the comedy), watched a coconut being husked, went snorkelling along the coral reef (better if you have decent equipment I think) and took part in a couple of Kava ceremonies (Kids we were going to bring some home but it tasted a bit like muddy water).

The mountain trek was a lightweight roundtrip of 5 hours which Rob mostly undertook barefoot due to the number of mosquito bites on his feet. Of course everyone else thought he was crazy and was just walking "Fiji Style". During the walk, we stopped off at a mountain spring, walked through lots of grass taller than head height, and indulged in a small amount of unexpected rock climbing. However it was all worth it when we reached the top of the mountain and saw the Yasawa Island group spread out in front of us. On the way back our guide (Poni to his mates) took us via a Fijian village where the locals harvested coconuts for us to drink (very refreshing and not at all milky as expected). Everywhere on this island people were so friendly (and genuine about it too) which really made the trip for us.

[2 FijiSunrise galleries here and here]
[2 FijiSunset galleries here and here]
[2 FijiWayaTrek galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 07:03 AM | Comments (1)

May 18, 2005

Pimp My Ride

I know we've been a bit quiet for the last few days but thats because we've bought a camper van ! We're really busy sorting it all out at the moment but I thought I'd post a few of the pics that we had from the couple who sold it to us ... It's a 1984 Bedford CF 280 with Hi-Top and custom interior ! It's also got a manual choke :(

We're going to the DIY store tomorrow so we can do some pimping of the van, so in the meantime to keep you busy we need a name for the van - leave name suggestions as comments to this post and I'll create a poll from the best ones so people can vote for their favourite (rhyming entries will probably fare best ...)

[2 Camper galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 11:18 AM | Comments (5)

May 15, 2005

Baaa !

We've made it safely to New Zealand ! It's actually a lot like England in Auckland - mainly wet at the moment. We've got lots of Fiji pictures to put up but we'll be busy searching for a camper van to travel around in so it might take a few days. Did you know there are approx 11 sheep for every Kiwi ?

Posted by robl at 06:51 AM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2005

Bula !

We've made it safely to Fiji, however the web access here leaves
something to be desired so we probably won't be posting again for the
next few days, maybe not until we reach New Zealand.

We're going Island hopping tomorrow, we start off on Viti Levu which
is where we are located at the moment - this is the largest of the
Fijian islands.

We then take a boat to the Yasawa Islands group where we stay for two
nights at Nanuya Lailai and then jump to another island by boat where
we stay for one night - Waya

After that we transfer back to Viti Levu for a couple of days
site-seeing around the island.

(Posted via gmail - one of the few sites that seems to be accessible)

Posted by robl at 05:29 AM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2005


Yesterday we made the hour and a half boat trip out to the Barrier Reef. The journey out there was an experience in itself, all of us very greatful of the sea sickness tablets we had just taken! Once we got to the Reef, we were based on a pontoon which was a little more stable - much to Mum's relief.

The snorkelling out there was fantastic, and we spent a good few hours in the water before noticing it was time to come in. We took a cheap underwater camera with us and got some reasonable shots of the reef. We also took a helecopter ride over the reef - a once-in-a-life-time-type-experience... I guess the photos explain all.

Myself and Rob leave Cairns tomorrow and fly back to Sydney then head over to Fiji for a week and Mum and Dad will be staying here for another week before travelling back to the UK.

Its been great seeing Mum and Dad, almost like a mini holiday within a big holiday!

[2 Barrier Reef galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 09:09 AM | Comments (1)

May 03, 2005

Why did the Koala fall out of the tree ?

For those of you that didn't know, we've been in Cairns (North East Auz) for the last few days. We've actually seen some rain which was a bit disappointing but at least it's given us some time to sort out and caption the pictures from Sydney. There are pictures from the Blue Mountains National Park, around and about Sydney, views from our apartment and our visit to Bondi Beach. Sydney was a real suprise in what a great city it turned out to be - I'd easily recommend it to anybody visiting Australia - we'd definately consider coming back ...

I also promised a great video of Deb - David Attenborough watch out! (mp4 format - sorry)

A late addition here are some panoramic views of Sydney and the Blue Mountains ...

Whilst in Cairns we've also managed to get out and see some of the indigenous wildlife of Australia - admittedly in the safety of enclosed environments but still it was great to see some of the local wildlife in (relative) freedom. Koala's really are very sleepy animals, Kangaroos really do box and snakes aren't slimey !

[2 Blue Mountains galleries here and here]
[2 Bondi Beach galleries here and here]
[2 Around Sydney galleries here and here]
[2 Sydney Apartment galleries here and here]
[2 Cairns wildlife galleries here and here]
[2 Panoramic galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 08:14 AM | Comments (2)

April 29, 2005

Hop to it

We've not posted anything for a little bit and thats because we've been dashing round Sydney for the last week madly tring to take in all it has to offer .... We've seen the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, been to a national park to see Kangaroos in the wild, visited the Blue mountains and seen the famous three sisters, been to the Powerhouse museum, swam on Bondi beach and much more. This has presented us with a little bit of a problem as we've got too many pictures to put up and caption. So we're going to release them slowly - I've also got a great video of Deb to put up - she talks to the animals ...

You'll notice there is now the 'top 5 pictures section' rather than the poll in the top right hand corner - unless we have an active poll that's what is going to display there - looks a little less stale I think. For anybody who is curious, the answer to the question of 'What do you call a group of people riding Segways ?' was 'A gaggle' (32.25%) - which seems appropriate.

Anyhow, the first set of pictures are the ones people will recognise the most - of the Opera house and the Harbour bridge, we've played with the camera a bit on some of these so there are one or two that we are really pleased with. Again, let me know if you spot any errors while viewing the new gallery format.

[2 Sydney Harbour galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 02:11 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2005

G'Day mate

A quick post to let you know we suvived the 20hr round trip and we're in Austrailia, despite the best efforts of the Mexico city taxi drivers ! (They make french cab drivers look like driving instructors) ... We've seen the opera house and it looks beauty in the sun - I'll post a camera pic of the view from our apartment (floor 48 !)

Posted by robl at 08:25 AM | Comments (5)

April 19, 2005

Souvenir of Mexico

Words and phrases to remind us of being in Mexico:

"bus journeys" - long or into the middle of nowhere, there´ve been many.
"Daddy Yankee" - his latest tune is played loud and frequently throughout Mexico
"Beetle cars" - they are plentiful & the car of choice for taxi drivers in Mexico City, which seems odd.
"la policia" - wolf whistling macho policemen sporting guns.
"sombreros" - didn´t see a single Mexican wearing one.
"hi honey!" - going anywhere without Rob on my arm was a whole different experience

"hawkers" - persistently they sell hammocks, jewelry, sweets etc. We say "no gracias" frequently.
"Corona with lime" - I always thought Sol was the Mexican lager and Corona was the immitation. Turns out they are both quite Mexican. It is sometimes served with a small plate of limes & salt, although I´ve not quite worked out the salt bit yet..
"cliche American tourists" - esp round the costal regions.
"cold showers" - some lodgings had cold water only..
"book exchanges" - we discovered them in Zihuatanejo.
"bandidos" - Peurto Escondido, first and last time I heard the word.
"Maya" - we visited lots of Mayan sites
"Mosquitos" - they like Rob lots.
"Quesidillas" - plain cheese ones are like a Mexican version of "cheese on a plate"
"Burritos" - don´t seem to be eaten in Mexico
"audio books" - great for long bus journeys where there is no light and so unable to read. "Last Chance to See" narrated by Douglas Adams & Going Postal by Terry Prachett were both fantastic.
"tree bases painted white" - I don´t know why but they do this to lots of trees in Mexico, maybe cus it looks nice.
"proper salsa" - salsa (the edible kind) in Mexico is different everywhere you go.. and certainly different to the stuff we get in the uk.
"the trotts" - say no more.
"fragalino" - absolutely gorgeous fresh fruit strawberry milkshakes
"inverse cash machines" - they spit the money out first, then your card.
"iguanas" - I was shocked the first time I saw an iguana wandering round near the swimming pool
"colourful fishes" - Isla Mujeres was my first snorkelling adventure

Posted by deb at 06:29 PM | Comments (3)

Temple Time

In our final Mayan ruins visit in Mexico we went to see possibly the most famous ruins site - Chichen Itza. It isn´t as impressive in terms of it´s ruins as sites like Palenque and Uxmal but it´s main attraction El Castillo (and also the observatory) show an amazing appreciation for astronomy and an understanding of mathematics. At the equinoxes, a shadow of a snake can be seen ascending (and decending) the stairways via a clever arrangement of the edges of the temple.

Anyhow, this is probably the last post in Mexico as we are embarking on a 20hr bus journey to Mexico city later and then we fly to Austrailia the next day - Adios Amigos !

[2 ChichenItza galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 06:27 PM | Comments (0)

Yucatan fool some of the people some of the time

As our last destination in the Yucatan region, we have been staying in Merida for the last few days. It has a lovely feel about the place, similar in a way to San Christobal in terms of the architecture and pace of life. We`ve taken the standard set of tourist pictures of the Catedral de San Ildefonso, Iglesia de Jesus and Paseo de Montejo amongst others.

[2 Merida galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 03:20 AM | Comments (2)

April 15, 2005

Fishy Business

We´re on the Island of Isla Mujeres which is off the coast of Cancun and we´ve spent the last four days here. It´s nice compared to Cancun - a little more relaxed and slightly cheaper. It has lovely white beaches and blue water. We went out on a snorkel trip yesterday and ended up swimming through shoals of tropical fish!

We´ve also put up a new way of displaying the images go and look at an image gallery and you will see that it has a neater layout now, if you get any errors in your browser leave a comment saying what it was as the javascript is a bit hairy ...

Posted by robl at 10:09 PM | Comments (4)

April 12, 2005

Iguana go to Tulum

We stopped off in Tulum today on our way to Cancun. It's one of the smaller Mayan ruin sites but gets a lot of press due to it's beachside location. It's not as impressive as Palenque, but it's still quite pretty (and also iguana infested as I found out to my horror as one jumped out of a tree).

[2 Tulum galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 03:53 AM | Comments (0)


Yesterday we visited the ancient Mayan city of Palenque which is set in heavy jungle. It is a lovely setting for the ruins, but it is also very humid and sticky & harbours some vicious mosquitos as Rob found out - we can now play join the dots on his back (which is always fun). Once again my long black draping trousers didn't seem all that practical, but I bought myself a practical hat to compensate.

There are over 500 buildings that make up the site but only a handful so far have been excavated. They were very spectacular so we couldn't resist taking lots of photos.

[2 Palenque galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 12:52 AM | Comments (2)

April 09, 2005

Village People

We went on a tour of some of the indigenous villages around the San Christobal area. The two villages we visited were Chamula and Zinacantan. At Chamula we learned something about the Mayan heritage such as the Mayan Trinity and it´s relationship to the Mayan Cross. We also visited a local village "Church" and saw how some aspects if Catholosism had been absorbed into the Mayan rituals of worship. I was also shocked to find that Coka Cola forms a major part of these rituals, replacing a traditional ingredient! Other than that, it was quite an amazing scene in the church with the candles placed on tables and over the floor - used as part of the rituals. There were also bells on the floor from another local church which burnt down 100 years earlier - these were placed on the floor to punish the Gods they represented.

We then went onto Zinacantan and saw some of the traditional weaving (as it would have been done by the original Mayan people) and got to taste some freshly made tortillas with beans and also sample the local tipple - called "posh", made from sugar cane.

I also got to try on a traditional Mayan wedding dress (which actually came from the Aztec culture) [insert typical jokes from Rob about this being the dress for our wedding day! hehe]

[2 Mayan Village galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 09:10 PM | Comments (2)

April 07, 2005

Mayan World

San Christobel is a refreshing change in many respects - having the aura of being less touristy than the coastal towns, even though much of the town seems to built round the tourist economy. I guess the lack of "hawkers" and the general laid back attitude helps give that impression. It also has quite a history and some interesting architecture - much of the architecture in the South Coast of Mexico seems to be limited to concrete blocks. So anyway, I am quite liking it. Plus everything here costs like half as much - internet 40p an hour, accomodation 8 quid a night.

[2 San Christobal galleries here and here]

We arrived here at about 10-30 this morning after another long 13 hour bus trip overnight... The bus was quite new and also spacious so we managed to get a some sleep.

The one good thing about travelling on a bus so early in the morning is that you get to see the sunrise (if you are awake anyway Rob :) ) and this morning it was particularly spectacular as we were travelling through the mountains. Plus the vegetation here is much greener and we went through a few "indigenous" villages which were also pretty interesting to look at.

Tomorrow we are going to see a couple of the local villages - hoping it wont be too much of a tourist fairground (which we will help create by going) but will see. Looking forward to it anyway.

Posted by deb at 02:47 AM | Comments (1)

April 05, 2005

Copa Cabana

We've almost finished our beach bum ways (well for a few days) and we head to San Christobel tommorrow so we thought we´d put up a collection of pictures for the South Coast of Mexico - it´s not all sunny beaches (just most of it !).

[2 Mexico galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 02:35 AM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2005

Mexico Bus Trip

We've decided where we are going in Mexico now as we've figured out how the buses and transport in general works so we've created a little map to illustrate where we've been and are going.

It breaks down into these basic destinations :

We decided not to stay in Mexico city as we´d heard a lot of bad things about it and we also wanted to get to the beach :) so we booked a flight at Mexico City airport to Puerto Vallarta (about 100 quid each) and stayed overnight at a hotel near the airport.

Mexico Roadtrip

The green line round the coast is the aproximate route we should be following starting in Puerto Vallarta and finishing in Mexico City. I´ll add some commentry as Net access permits :)

Posted by robl at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

April 03, 2005

Way dude !

We've made it to Puerto Escondido which is the Surfing part of the south coast of Mexico, naturally we've given it a go and had a reasonable amount of success ! It was another long bus transfer from Zihuatanejo about 12 hours this time (we caught a Futura bus at at 7:20pm - only one runs a day for about 15 quid each). There is not much at the Puerto Escondido bus station - pretty much a dust ball so don't count on being able to stay there for a few hours overnight - it didn't look too safe !

We have a lovely Cabana just set back from the beach complete with a pool and lounging area - all for 9 quid a night. The place is called the Hotel Rockaway and is by the Zicatela beach.

We're here for another couple of days and then we move up to higher ground to San Christobel where we abandon the beach and see some more wildlife and Jungle ! As our Net access is limited I think we will post a mexico south coast montage of pictures in one go, so you'll have to wait to see the beach :)

Posted by robl at 02:20 AM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2005

Lonely Plonkers

We've made it to Zihuatanejo, although it was a little touch and go as to whether we'd find a bus or not - mainly thanks to the Lonely Planet Guide to Mexico. It's been our main planning bible for Mexico and we couldn´t have got around without it (unlike canada for example where we just winged it) however it sometimes can be a little misleading (or just wrong). For example, we wanted to get to the Long Distance bus station which is a couple of kilometers outside of Puerto Vallarta so as the lonely planet advised us we got one of the local buses that 'are marked Ixtapa and Juntas (that) go to the bus station'. However, it turns out the bus station is actually set back a block or two and you have to get off at the 'Global Gas' station as the bus station isn't visible from the road and the buses don't actually stop there - we ended up 20km North of Puerto not exactly sure where we were :) At least we saw some of proper Mexico and the locals got to laugh at the stupid tourists! haha

Anyhow as I´ve mentioned we've made it to Zihuatanejo from Puerto Vallarta which involved a 14hr bus journey ($100 US for the two of us) - the Elite/Futura bus leaves the main bus station at 1pm and arrives in Zihuatanejo at about 3am, so after hanging round the bus station for another four hours (which you are fine to do as the weather is pleasant and there is a 24hr shop) we went and found some accommodation right by the beach. Zihuatanejo is a lovely little resort, smaller than Puerto Vallarta and less touristy/more relaxed - I´d definately recommend it over Vallarta any day. It seems warmer here and Air Con in our room would be lovely but unfortunately we're saving our pennies so we're only spending 20 quid for a room a night. We're going to book a boat trip for tommorrow and do some snorkling so we don't have to lay on the beach, and we'll try and put some pictures up tomorrow too.

Posted by robl at 05:49 AM | Comments (2)

March 23, 2005

Beach Bums

We're now in Peurto Vallarta (pronounced by-arr-ta) after grabbing a flight from Mexico City.

We haven't found any kind of free internet/ wireless (as expected) so it's internet cafes for now. Rob is rather frustrated cus GPRS doesn't seem to work here, so he can't post photos instantly/ use the internet via laptop. However this cafe should allow us to post some photos (when we have some) so you'll see the beech soon.

Oh, our plan is mainly sun-bathing for the next couple of days :)

Posted by deb at 10:03 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2005

Goin' Loco

Well we've made it to Mexico but we've decided not to stay in Mexico City and we're flying out to Puerto Vallarta tomorrow morning - that way we can get straight onto the beach ! We'll be following the coast around to Cancun over the next couple of weeks and then making our way back to Mexico City for the following two weeks ... I think the highlight of Mexico so far has to be watching Godzilla - Japanese dubbed to English and then subtitled in Spanish !

Posted by robl at 04:01 AM | Comments (1)

March 21, 2005

A flock or a gaggle ?

We just can't agree - what do you call a group of people riding Segways ? We've decided the question is important enough to have a poll on it - see the right hand side of the page !

We've made it to San Francisco despite a three hour flight delay due to bad weather and the strangest sight of the trip so far has to be a group of people taking a guided tour on Segways ...

The weather so far has been a bit overcast/rainy combined with Sunny spells - fortunately it was quite nice when we went to see the Golden Gate Bridge - a highlight of the trip so far. We've wandered around China Town, North Beach, Fishermans Wharf and seen the Bay (and Golden Gate) bridge.

As it appears to be spring break we couldn't find any budget accomodation, so we're staying in the Club Quarters hotel which has complimentary wireless and an authentic English pub - the Elephant and Castle !

[2 San Francisco galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 03:56 AM | Comments (6)

Gr-Gr-Granville !

On our last day in Vancouver, we decided to have a litle walk round the city and also visit the Granville island area. Granville island (it's not actually an island - just on the coast) is most well known for it's food market which was pretty expansive when we visited (although probably only the size of Leeds Market) but the fruit and veg looked great as did the sushi (or at least according to Deb - I enjoyed a nice curry). We also took a few pictures around the city while we were there and found a uniquely named hotel ....

[2 Vancouver galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 03:33 AM | Comments (1)

March 18, 2005

Souvenir of Canada

It's our last day in Vancouver (sniff sniff) before we depart for San Francisco. I jotted down some words & phrases earlier to help remind me of being here:

Slurpies, St Paddies week frenzie, Time Crisis, otters, long bridges, free Seven Eleven vouchers, neon, no half pints, American Apparel, crazy tramps, 1$ pizza slice, exact change on buses, Wendy's, Douglas Coupland, sushi, 7/11 hot dogs, blue skys, hypermarket sized outdoors shops, Hyundai Tuscan.

Then I got onto general Canada:

Ice hockey, loonies and toonies, walk/ don't walk, tipping everyone, long straight roads, the grid road system, detatched wooden houses, Rocky Mointains, the feeling of extreme cold, real cowboys, Molsen & Kokanee largers, pickup trucks, lots of snow & ice, diners, iced up lakes.

I am sure there are more :)

Posted by deb at 12:51 AM | Comments (4)

March 16, 2005

You talkin' to me ?

We've been on a little trip to Victoria over the last few days, a really nice city with gorgeous weather on the tip of Vancouver island - also the provincial capital of B.C. - I never knew ...

We've got a few piccies although they're mostly of the harbour and the Ferry journey and a few of me bird watching - the avian variety :)

Most of the time was spent just wandering around Victoria grabbing a bite to eat and generally relaxing although we couldn't resist one really touristy opportunity - You talkin' to me ! They've got a couple of these places in Victoria - We went to the smaller of the two (hidden away on a side street) as the couple who ran it took time over getting the pictures right.

Victoria is a bit more pricey than Vancouver for food and the accomodation is more limited but still it's not bad value.

On the first night we stayed at the Turtle Refuge hostel which sounds cool but the reality turned out to be slightly different - more on that in the soon to come hostel reviews section but it was cheap at $35 for a private room with TV.

The second night we spent at the slightly swankier Strathcona hotel pretty much in the centre, at $69 it was close to our nightly limit for accomodation but was a nice change from the average hostel fair. It also has it's own themed Hillbilly bar, like the bowling green but with bra's :)

We've got a couple of tips for eating, most places are pretty pricey but the Smitty's down towards the harbour from the Strathcona Hotel was $11 for a steak dinner which was a nice change and there is a great sandwich shop named the 'Bun Shop' (I think) which made good sarnies for about $4, it's just down a side street by the Strathcona.

We got to Victoria on the Pacific Coach which runs from the Pacific station (get the Granville station skytrain eastbound to the science world stop - you can see the station from here) and then bought return tickets to Victoria for $65 each. You can do it cheaper (about half the price by the ordinary bus services) but with the backpacks and everything it was nice just to be able to stow them on the coach and not have to worry about being a foot passenger on the Ferry etc ... The journey took about 4.5 hours in total and you get to navigate between the islands on the ferry and there's plenty of birds to watch.

[2 Victoria galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 01:08 AM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2005

Otterly Brilliant

The Jeep has now been prized out of our mits and we are now car-less, wandering around Vancouver. We've been here for a few days now, the city is fantastic and the weather is great for the time of year. We've managed to find ourself some cheaper accomodation and it's only $1 for a big slize of pizza so our food bills have gone down considerably :) We've also found a good place for free wireless (well, if you buy a coffee), Blenz Coffee House on Bute St/ Robson St.

Yesterday we took the bus over to the Aquarium in Stanley Park. I'm not a big fan of Zoos etc but these guys did seem to take care of the little critters and lots of the animals had been rescued.

The highlight of my day was seeing the Otters - they just reminded me so much of Rob - in a nice way of course. They feed to satiation and they are very furry! hehe

[2 Aquarium galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 12:20 AM | Comments (4)

March 07, 2005

Rockies and Roll !

We're on the last day of the roadtrip now - we've made it safely to Kamloops and we've got free wireless again :)

We spent some time in Banff and saw some great views from Sulphur Mountain via the Banff Gondala and had a nice soak in the Banff hot springs - I'd really encourage people to do this as the springs have views over the Rockies and it's incredibly relaxing. We also saw the Banff Cave and Basin but only wandered around the area rather than went in as it seemed a bit of a nonentity but the surrounding walks are nice. The Banff hostel was fantastic (although a bit more expensive than normal) - it was log cabin style and as good as a quality hotel with free wireless (which probably sold it to us!!).

We were around and about in Banff for a couple of days and then went on to stay at the Lake Louise Hostel. We took pictures of Lake Louise in Winter, the last time I saw it, it was a blue lake - a bit freaky to see it frozen over and to walk on it !

The next day saw us drive to Jasper along Highway 93 which includes the very impressive Icefields Parkway. We saw the Columbia Icefields, Crowfoot Glacier, Mistaya Canyon and the Athabasca Falls. It's amazing that there are so many impressive sights along one Highway, although I've got to say I was glad to have 4WD as it got a little hairy in a few places. These sights are normally photographed in Summer so it's nice to see them caught on picture during Winter/Spring - especially the Athabasca falls - they look spectacular frozen.

We stayed in Jasper after the drive and went on an evening Ice Canyon Walk - lots of interesting Geological stuff and some icey walks even with Crampons on.

[2 Banff cave and Basin galleries here and here]
[2 Sulphur Mountain galleries here and here]
[2 Lake Louise Galleries here and here]
[2 Icefields Parkway Galleries here and here]
[2 Columbia Icefields Galleries here and here]
[2 Crowfoot Glacier Galleries here and here]
[2 Mistaya Canyon Galleries here and here]
[2 Athabasca Falls Galleries here and here]
[2 Maligne Canyon Galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 05:43 AM | Comments (4)

March 04, 2005

Yeeeehaaaaaaa !!!!!

We've had a fun time getting from Fernie to Banff - on the way we've seen stripping cowboys, a science museum and lots of Rocky Mountains - Deb said she preferred the first one :)

In Calgary we saw a few of the local attractions, including the Calgary tower and a bit of the local nightlife at 'Cowboys' night club where it was Ladies Night.

We picked up our new car yesterday - we were expecting the bargin basement sub-compact but we got upgraded to a Jeep Liberty Sport - Deb says it's a really big red one.

We're just about to leave the Banff hostel now - but we're taking advantage of the free wireless :)

I need to think up a new poll too. We'll probably post one when we get into Vancouver - any suggestions are welcome ...

[2 Calgary galleries here and here]

[2 Rockies galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 06:12 PM | Comments (5)

Roadtrip Diary

I thought I'd put some notes down on how we got from Fernie to Vancouver to try and help any other weary travellers out there :)

I'll update this with useful info on the journey as we progress ...

For reference, the notes relate to this entry.

Transfer from Fernie to Calgary

There are a few companies out there that provide a shuttle service to and from Fernie - we used the Rocky Mountain Sky Shuttle. It's about $62 for a one way transfer and takes about four hours. They only drop off at Calgary International Airport.

Transfer from Calgary International Airport to Calgary Downtown

The cheapest way is the bus/c-train - go down to arrivals and go to bus stop 20 and jump on the #57 bus and get off at Whitehorn station. It's $2 for a ticket (make sure you have the exact change and that you get the ticket from the driver as you need it for the c-train).

Calgary downtown to Calgary hostel

Get off the c-train at City hall and head out of town a little (not into town - it's a little confusing from the website/hostel leaflet) and you should come across the hostel - if you're heading towards the tower then you are heading the wrong way. A private room at the hostel is about $60.

Car hire getting on the Trans-Canadian 1

There are about four or five major car hire centres about a five minute walk from the hostel - all on 5th Avenue SE. We got our car via a broker from Thrifty (£116 for five days). From there, you need to take three rights and go over the river onto sixteenth which joins the TC1. There are looooads of places to get food from on sixteenth so stop off and grab a bite as there isn't much between Calgary and Banff.

Calgary to Banff

The drive takes about one and a half hours and has some lovely scenary as the Rockies come into view. The parks toll needs to be paid - it works out about $10 a day up to a maximum of about $90. If you see Sunshine Village then you've gone too far (like we did !).

[More to come]

Posted by robl at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

Photoshop Friday

We spent the final day in Fernie playing around in the terrain park and thought we'd try and create some pictures like you see in all the snowboarding magazines. We both spent a bit of time taking pics in the park and after Deb applied some photoshop magic this is what we came up with ...

[2 galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 04:54 AM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2005

Dude, Where's my car ?

Well - we're just about snowboarded out for now. We've got the hire car booked for Thursday and we're going to make our trip from Calgary to Vancouver hopefully seeing some of the more scenic bits of British Columbia. We've cobbled together a routemap from the votes in the poll and have a brief description of each of the legs that we'll take over the five days.

Days 1 and 2

The first leg is a quick trip from Calgary downtown to Banff (about 2 hrs) where we can have a look around Banff (hopefully the bears should be hibernating) and jump in the hot springs. We're spending the nights at the Banff Hostel (apparently one of the best in Canada).

Day 3

This is the big drive up through the Icefields parkway and up to Jasper National Park all of which should be a pretty spectacular drive (about 5 hours). We'll also stop off at Lake Louise on the way. We spend the night at the Jasper Hostel.

Day 4

Another big drive down to Kamloops (about 5 hours again) where we can stop over for the night and have a few beers on the Beach :)

Again we stay in the nicely priced Kamloops Hostel.

Day 5

This is the final drive down to Vancouver where we get to see some lovely rockies scenary and stop off at Hells Gate where the Fraser river runs fastest - we won't be able to take the airtram but it should still be pretty impressive. We then finish the drive into Vancouver and drop the car off.

Here's the map of the Journey :-

Posted by robl at 10:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2005

Snow Buddies

Here's some pictures of Rob showing off and erm, me just boarding ;) I actually spent some time in the board park this time, mainly taking pictures of Rob of course, and when I finally plucked up the courage to get on a rail, the camerman didn't catch it :(

... and here's a movie of Rob neatly taking a jump :)

[2 galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 02:58 AM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2005

Snow Patrol

We've found somewhere with a card reader so we can put up our first set of pictures from Fernie ... There's a lot of mountain pictures and not many of us - probably for the best :)

[2 galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 03:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 22, 2005

New Poll

Since we're going on a roadtrip from Calgary to Vancouver I've put up the new poll - have a look at the BC website and see what looks good - I've put up some suggestions but if you see any that are better then suggest them and I'll add them to the poll (and remove the losing entry). It looks like I lost the previous poll by getting 42% of the vote but I'm not convinced Deb didn't enroll some help ... I've also changed the recent entries section to recent comments as they can be a bit difficult to find. Anyhow we're going up the mountain now to have a look at the terrain park - enjoy work :)

Posted by robl at 07:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 20, 2005


Well, it took 22 hours in total for us to reach Fernie bit it looks like it was worth it ! We've been out on the mountain today and ridden for about five and a half hours. We're staying in the Raging Elk Hostel for the next three days - it's a nice place with good people , in fact the whole of Fernie seems to be full of nice people (Stepford Wives music begins). We're having a little trouble finding wireless hot spots so our connectivity is limited to web cafes (Mug Shots currently). So it might take a week or so to get some pictures up on the site. We're going to be spending the next few days on the mountain so we'll post after that ... Oh and I'm going to put up a new poll then as well - I'm fed up of losing !

Posted by robl at 10:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 18, 2005

Bye Bye

Mum's photos from the Airport. Cheers everyone for pitching up, was really nice that you were all there. It was all too early to get sad, but we will miss everyone...

Lovely set of T-shirts though :)

[2 galleries here and here]

Posted by deb at 03:17 AM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2005

Party People !

Well, I had a fantastic time at the leaving party - thanks to everyone who came along, hope you all enjoyed it. We haven't got loads of pictures - we seemed to forget the camera somewhere along the way :)

[2 Galleries here and here]

Posted by robl at 06:11 PM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2005

Plans made !

Well, we've booked our trip (or at least reserved the tickets). The itinery is linked from the sidebar on the right. I thought I'd give a quick rundown on how we decided where we wanted to go ...

The first thing was deciding on how long we wanted to go for - this came down to us wanting to be back for christmas 05 so we were limited to a maximum trip of about 10/11 months. Other factors are obviously cash and optionally how much time you can get off work (we just decided to quit - yey !).

Once you've figured out how long you want to travel for the next part is the most difficult one - the destinations !

One of the things we've tried to do a lot of on our holidays recently is snowboarding, we've both got reasonably proficient so we decided to make a large part of our trip involve it. I've been to Canada a couple of times and I've loved Vancouver and B.C in general so we wanted to take a little tour if possible. It also happens to be a great destination for Snowboarding which is handy :)

Deb has always wanted to go and see Japan/China (being the sushi master and all) and I wanted to see Hong Kong so that was another set of destinations added.

We both wanted to go to New Zealand and spend a good amount of time there (again another great location for Snowboarding !) - another key destination.

To fill in the gaps between these countries we spent an afternoon looking through various travel books - The Travel Book and One Planet (thanks Deb's Parents and Steve). We marked all the places we wanted to go and see and fit them in between our key destinations.

We then whittled them down - there were a few we would have liked to have seen like Chile/Easter Island and Nepal. Nepal was a possibility but the US Government travel warnings didn't look too friendly so we decided against it.

We wanted to see some sun between the snowboarding so we tried to pick destinations with a bit of Sun (Mexico, Bangkok, Japan, Fiji) at the times between the snowboarding countries.

Then there were some places that were 'jump points' to get where we wanted to go - San Fransisco and Austrailia being the main ones so we decided to hang around rather than fly straight through.

The last thing - booking the tickets. We went to STA travel and talked to a nice man called Bob who took us all through it.

The only problem with all this - people can't vote where we go next - it was something we really wanted to do but the cost was prohibitive - although I still think there are some Poll based things we can do as we've got a month in Mexico where we're not sure what we want to do and over three months in New Zealand.

Posted by robl at 11:20 PM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2005

Follow up to First GPS Journey Map

Well, I received the Euro Metroguide and I plotted the track from Otley to Manchester and it was a lot more detailed. I've plotted the detail from moving out of the house to getting out of Otley so the street level detail is shown. I've also shown the equivalent map to the one I posted from the basemap. I might give City Navigator a try next ...

The detailed street map:
Detailed streetmap

The overview map:
Overview map

Posted by robl at 06:09 PM | Comments (3)

January 22, 2005

First GPS Journey Map

We used the GPS (properly) for the first time today, Richard took us shopping to Manchester for the day and I used the GPS to record the route he took. I've only currently got the basemap loaded into the unit (I should be getting the latest Euro Metroguide in the next few days) so I was interested in how accurate the basic worldmap loaded into the unit is. It turns out it's not that bad but not much use for road navigation :)

The 'track' is below. It's not terrible but thats as detailed as it gets .... When I get the Euroguide map I'll plot it on that for a comparison.

Otley to manchester

Posted by robl at 09:11 PM | Comments (3)

January 19, 2005

Garmin etrex Legend C arrives

I've finally got myself a GPS reciever, so we can update our position on the map in the sidebar as we travel round the world. I really didn't know too much about GPS receivers when I first started looking round but I had a few criteria that it had to meet :

Also I would have liked :

After searching I originally came up with two (cheap) choices :

I was initially quite excited by the Fortuna as it was pretty much the only unit with both a handheld display and bluetooth (and was available on ebay for less than £100). After some thought I decided I didn't really need bluetooth as I'd probably buy a dedicated sat nav system for the car when I got back and there wasn't any decent GPS software for my P910i. If I was going to use it with the laptop then I didn't really need the bluetooth connectivity as we're not going to be walking with the laptop out :)

This left the Garmin eTrex which more or less fitted my basic criteria but only supported a serial port connection to the laptop - you can buy serial to usb adaptors but I'd read some posts saying they didn't always work (as Garmin Mapsource software only looks for COM ports 1->4). Thats when the technolust hit me - I saw the new Garmin eTrex Legend C ... It was basically like the old Garmin etrex Vista (top end of the garmin outdoor line) with 24Mb of mapping memory but without the compass and altimeter and this one had colour and did autorouting for when you're in the car ! It also supported USB out of the box ...

So £245 later I've got a brand spanking new handheld GPS ...

Here are a few pictures - deb's the photographer (this way I can test the photogallery functionality too !)

Posted by robl at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

Realwood Furniture & Joinery Launched

Apart from watching "Charmed", since quitting work I've been mostly spending my time finishing off a few sites. So on Monday we launched the first, Larry's new site: realwood.co.uk

There's still a little more content to go up there, but it's generally complete - yay.

Posted by deb at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2005

Letters to the Editor

With all this time on our hands, and with the help of Mr Running Richard himself, I had my debut in the local Newspaper (Wharfedale and Airedale Observer) letters section last Thursday. We did write this after a couple of beers, but I feel it expresses some of my views on when is going on in Otley at the moment.

Look under (our mirror) "Plans run-in" for my letter...

Posted by deb at 12:22 AM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2005

First Post !

Well, we've finally taken the plunge and jacked in our jobs. We've saved our pennies and now we can afford to lounge at home, err, travel round the world. For those of you who know us well it will come as no surprise to learn that we've not quite finished the planning yet - however what we have done is developed this web site to log our travels :) We'll be putting up a new poll every so often, in theory we should be allowing you to vote for where we travel to next - there's a certain lack of flexibilty due to the nature of round the world tickets but we'll see how it goes but I think we'll probably have to pick the first destination. The first poll is up now - although it's not destination based - Go and vote !

Posted by robl at 01:30 PM | Comments (6)