So where to ?

So today we are going to talk about Where!

This is an important question for many reasons firstly and importantly for me, it is about desire and then about cost. For some people it is cost first destination second not for me though. If it was totally about cost I would go to Asia first. However I have always wanted to go to South America and have a desire to learn Spanish. I have been trying to learn for years but without using it on a daily basis I forget it within weeks. I want to spend a year traveling through all the countries of SA. Then I am torn I would like to then continue up through Central America transvers through USA up to Canada and into Alaska. Here cost is an issue because I feel I should do one continent at a time. This way not having to spend extra money on expensive airfares. However that would mean one year in SA and then I think another year doing CA, USA, Canada and the Alaska. I would like to come home and visit the kids in between. My thinking is perhaps keep an eye out for great specials on airfare and flying home somewhere in between. This of course is making the assumption that I don’t get totally homesick within the first three months and come home back to reality.

Once I have completed this in whichever way the universe dictates in the end, I want to go to Nepal, India and Bhutan. The reason for this is, at this time I already have a holiday booked to go to Bhutan/India/Nepal with a tour company, this has been in the making for about six years. However I have recently decided to cancel this tour and go to Nepal solo and then take a tour through Bhutan from Kathmandu. The tour I have booked now will cost me roughly $10,000 for six weeks that much money traveling solo would last me almost a year in Nepal and India. It will still cost me a considerable amount to go into Bhutan from Nepal as the Government of Bhutan have a tourist cost of $220.00 per day per person, and you MUST go with a tour company you are not allowed into the country as a backpacker. They have a desire to keep their country just as it is and not let us riff raff spoil it (good for them). This will mean paying about $3000 as most tours go for around twelve days. This is considerably cheaper than $10,000 for 6 weeks. I will lose the deposit I have already put down but I think it is a fair exchange to save so much and travel so much longer.

I believe after that another trip home to recharge, maybe work for 3 months just to keep my registration up, make a bit of money see my children and grandchildren. Then I feel Africa may call me back again. I will always and forever continue to return to Africa. I believe that you either love it, or hate it, and once it gets into your blood you will never stop going or wanting to go. I have been to most countries on the East Coast of Africa. I have not been to any of the West Coast and I missed half of SA. I have also not gone farther north than Kenya and have not really done Kenya justice yet. I may spend a year catching the bits I have missed and watching as many sunset as I can during my stay. TIA.

African Sunset

Okay now things get a bit fuzzy, I am talking about 4 years on the road now and I believe money may be an issue. I am hoping to have enough to travel for 5 years without having to stop and work in a real job for too long.  I am happy to teach English voluntarily but do not want to commit to a 12 month contract at this point.  Go home and work for a year? Or get a job in China for a year, this is my thinking. I can get a job teaching English in China very easily with my degree and a TESOL course. I could take a 12 month contract and see the country on my days off, try to save for my next destination. If I choose well in the contract I accept, the money can be good and accommodation may be paid for. It is however a very real commitment with long hours. I can also look at working in Asian countries closer to home and then be able to come home for a few visits along the way. Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia are good places to get TESOL jobs these countries are very cheap to live as well.

If I make it to my 5 years on the road without having to take on TESOL jobs that will put me at retirement age at home and I will get my super policy which will give me another 5 years on the road traveling.

So off we go again, the plan now is Greece, Italy and Turkey spending considerable time in all (I know you say you have already been to Italy but…..) and then into Europe spend as long as possible touring all these amazing countries. This will have to be timed well though everyone knows how I feel about the cold if it’s too cold I won’t go. I am thinking that will chock up another couple of years.

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Okay so I think we have now hit 7 years’ worth of plans, I know that is ridiculous as plans cannot be very solid for that length of time. This is a rough guide and I realise it may and probably will change. However this is what I will always come back to, I may throw in trips to places like Myanmar or Brunei and let’s not forget Kazakhstan or Mongolia these are all places on my list or any of the other hundreds of places I wish to go.  There are arguably between 194-257 different countries in the world and I have only the rest of my life to see them all. Like I said so many places to see and so little time, I should have started sooner.

I have not even mentioned things like, I have always wanted to follow the Silk Road or follow the path Jesus took on his last days on earth. Let’s not forget the epic beginnings of the modern day Marathon a 26km race from Marathon to Athens or walk the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Warriors.  See where Dracula once resided or to see the modern day Harry Potter Castle “Alnwick” in Northumberland, I know dorky. Oh and to see Hadrian’s Wall or what about ‘Stone Henge” The Hebridies in Scotland, The Northern Lights, although that one may be a wee bit cold for me. I would like to consider doing the “Camino” in Spain, although while in Spain I have said I will never do a bull fight, also the Trans-Siberian Railway trip. I have not even gotten to Japan and Mount Fuji or I have heard that Komodo Island is absolutely amazing. Up to this point I have only seen 13 countries. If we go with the USA count of 194 I have 181 to go, I may have left it too late to start.

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The list is endless, I plan to try to see as many as I can before I die.

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White Water Rafting

White Water Rafting

What is white water rafting you ask?  Well that is when a group of people climb into an inflatable raft and try to navigate a raging river and live to tell the tale. This raging river will have varying degrees of rapids that will challenge the occupants of the raft to greater or lesser degrees of risk and skill. The only way to get to the end of this challenge is to work as a team. White water rafting is considered to be an extreme sport and can have fatal consequences. If you are travelling you should always remember to check your insurance covers this kind of activity, if it doesn’t get extra cover.

The first time I went white water rafting was in Cairns Queensland on the Barron River in 2003, this was a half day adventure with a company called ‘Raging Thunder Adventures” http://www.cairnsrafting.com.au/barron-river-rafting/  The Barron River Gorge rapids are classed as grade 2-3 (see list below for grading) this is relatively easy learning curve and probably a good place to start. We got there mid-morning and they gave us the usual safety instructions. You are asked to fill in a liability and medical waiver and you and seven other excited inexperienced people get into the raft. Your equipment consists of an 80kg, 3 metre rubber raft, a double bladed paddle, a safety helmet and vest, you also have one experienced guide with a single bladed steering paddle at the stern of the raft. Once in the raft you are taught a few basic paddling techniques (about 5 minutes practice) and you are also told what to do in the event of a boat capsizing or if you are thrown out.

 

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What is that you ask, well that’s simple lay on your back, point your feet down river, cross your arms over your chest, and Pray. Oh and if you get sucked under the surface, start counting if your down for more than 20 seconds you may be in trouble.

The second time I rafted was in 2005 and the third time in 2007. I went rafting on the Zambezi River below Victoria Falls in Africa with a company called ‘Shearwater’, http://www.shearwatervictoriafalls.com.  This time we were serious, the Zambezi is graded a 5 extremely difficult  with violent long rapids that have big drops and pressure areas with steep gradients, there is no higher grading for the novice rafter.

This was the most scary and most amazing thing I have ever done in my life and I will do it again whenever the opportunity arises even at 52 years of age. I have done both the ‘low water’ run rapids 1-18 and the ‘high water’ run 11-23 of the Zambezi. I have never been in a boat that capsized, I have however been thrown out, but it was in a relatively safe area and had no problems getting back into the raft. My travel companion was not so lucky he did fall out, kicking another rafter in the face on his way out. We started counting as soon as he hit the water, and by the time he came up we were starting to get very worried. He was down for a long time, way more than 20 seconds. So what can you do? The answer is nothing all we could do was wait and watch to see if he surfaced, which he did eventually. The whole day was thrilling and scary and stunningly beautiful, it made you feel alive and free.  Anything that brings you close to death or scares you seems to makes you appreciate your life that much more.

Okay,  so you have rafted the most amazing river in the world, you have survived. Now time to relax, have some lunch and a drink and recharge. Wait, you are at the bottom of a gorge, that’s right- think about that for a moment. You’re tired and battered and bruised and now you have to climb out of this gorge. This is a very steep climb of about 250 metres almost straight up (or feels like it) do not be fooled this is the hardest part of the day. You will need a reasonable level of fitness to achieve this climb. When you finally make it to the top your guides who ran up the 350 metres, are there waiting with lunch and plenty of cold drinks and beers.

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Interesting facts about the Zambezi rafting trip:

  • The climb down into the gorge is on a ladder that is missing not only rungs but most if not all of the rails it is straight down in most places.
  • The river has crocodiles in it just to spice up the day, and if you want you can take a boogie board down the rapids.
  • Two young boys who help with the gear carry the 80kg rafts down to the bottom and back up again in record time and don’t even break a sweat.
  • The trip home in the back of the truck goes past a cemetery that is exclusively for victims of AIDS, it is a very large cemetery.
  • When I was there a group behind us ran rapid # 9 ‘Commercial Suicide’ class 6, it capsized of course and one man was down way too long and eventually came out way down river. It pays to go with a reputable company.
  • A Class six is commonly known in the industry as a ‘commercial suicide’, because people will die and your business will be shut down if you take clients down them.
  • The canyon has steep walls and there is no game within the gorge.
  • Due to the fast flowing water there is no risk of Bilharzia a disease you can get swimming in Africa.

The rapid names and grades:

  1. …against the wall” # 1: Class 4/5: The Boiling Pot. From here the river hits a wall forming a wild cushion wave and eddy.
  2. …the bridge” # 2: Class 3: A wild mixture of waves clearly visible to bungee jumpers and spectators on the Victoria Falls bridge.
  3. Rapid # 3: Class 4: A steep and radically fast wave with an easily avoidable hole.
  4. Morning Glory” # 4: Class 4/5: The first major rapid with an almost river wide hole at the top and a big hole at the bottom.
  5. Stairway to Heaven” # 5: Class 5: with an 8m drop over 10m, very steep and powerful. Avoid the waterfalls and a hole on the left called the “catcher’s mitt” plus a large pour-over on the right.
  6. Devil’s Toilet Bowl” # 6: Class 4: A Short rapid with a deceptively steep and powerful hole.
  7. Gulliver’s Travels” # 7: Class 5: A very respectful 700m of class 5 with high volume of white water. The run consists of a 4 channels called the “Temple of Doom”, “The Crease”, “Patella Gap” and “Land of the Giants”.
  8. Midnight Diner” # 8: Class 3/5: This rapid has 3 runs. The left is “Star Trek” with a hole about 5m reserved for the brave. The “Muncher Run” in the centre takes you through a window of “Star Trek”. On the right is the “Chicken Run” this is self-explanatory.
  9. Commercial Suicide” # 9: Class 5/6: The Zambezi’s most infamous. This is a river-wide pour-over with a very narrow slot of less than a metre on the right – commercial portage!
  10. Gnashing Jaws of Death” #10: Class 4: An easy run the name is deceptive
  11. Overland Truck Eater” # 11: Class 5: Watch out for the hole, eddy line and whirlpool.
  12. Three Sisters” #12A, B, C: Class 3/4: Rafters prefer the term “three little pigs”.
  13. The Mother” # 13: Class 4/5: A massive wave train at its best, first 3 waves are super-fast.
  14. Rapid # 14: Class 3: Big S-bend in the river. Center chute to be avoided at lower water levels.
  15. Washing Machine” # 15: Class 5: Simple wave train but un-runnable in the middle because of a huge crashing hole
  16. The Terminators I and II” # 16: Class 4: A massive wave train and trough at higher levels.
  17. Double Trouble” # 17: Class 5: A simple wave train but un-runnable because of 2 large holes – also known as “The Bitch”.
  18. Oblivion” # 18: Class 5: Three waves make up the rapid on the Zambezi. The 3rd crashing wave is responsible for more raft flips than any other in the world
  19. Rapids #19 to #25: Class 2/3: Easy runs.

Rapids are graded according to the degree of difficulty of the rapids.

Class 1: Very small rough areas, might require slight maneuvering.

Class 2: Some rough water, maybe some rocks, might require some maneuvering.

Class 3: Whitewater, small waves, maybe a small drop, but no considerable danger. May require significant maneuvering.

Class 4: Whitewater, medium waves, maybe rocks, maybe a considerable drop, and sharp maneuvers may be needed.

Class 5: Whitewater, large waves, large volume, possibility of large rocks and hazards, possibility of a large drop, requires precise maneuvering.

Class 6: Class 6 rapids are considered to be so dangerous that they are effectively unnavigable on a reliably safe basis. Traversing a Class 6 rapid has a dramatically increased likelihood of ending in serious injury or death compared to lesser classes.

Free Accommodation While Travelling

Okay so today’s blog is about how I am actually going to do this.

Today we will look at my first priority, I want to travel without spending any money on accommodation, this may be an unrealistic expectation but it is what I want.

So with that in mind I started researching “travelling overseas without spending any money on accommodation”. You would be surprised at how many websites and blogs there are on this topic. They don’t all jump out at you in the first web search but they are there if you dig a little.  Well actually if you dig a lot, but the point is they are there for anyone to find. I will give you a bit of a rundown on the ones that I have found and how they each accommodate you (no pun intended).

World Packers was the first one I found and it was like I had discovered the meaning of life, I was so excited. I thought I was the only person who had made this amazing discovery and then when I dug a bit deeper, I realised I was the last person to find out. The concept of World Packer is, backpacker accommodation around the world that you can apply to work for your accommodation and sometimes a meal and laundry. There are many different ways to do this depending on your experience and time. Some want you to stay for a couple of weeks, some would be happy for you to stay a year.

The work ranges from bar work to front of house to cleaning with some entertaining and tour guiding thrown in for good measure. You may have experience but if you don’t some are happy to train you. Let’s face it though how hard is it to clean a few toilets and make a few beds, if it comes with fee accommodation.

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There is an annual fee that applies that gives you access to all the backpackers that are available. You can however look at all these backpacker’s opportunities, without paying the fee upfront so you can get an idea of what you are signing up for.

 

From there I found another one that is along similar lines Work Away is the same concept however it works with family’s,  individuals or organizations. It is aimed at budget travellers wishing to enhance language and or cultural learning.  It has obviously got different and varied opportunities for work from babysitting to teaching English and even farming.

Woofing is agreed upon work for your accommodation and usually meals, however this is only within the organic growers around the world. It is farm work and all that goes with that, animal husbandry, fencing and planting etc. However be aware that Woofing is set up within each individually country around the world. So if you plan on going to Germany for example don’t join the Australian Woofing website.  There is an international website for Woofing that will tell you every country involved in Woofing. http://wwoofinternational.org/

Then of course there is the tried and tested House Swapping and if you don’t have a house to swap like me House Sitting. Swapping is self-explanatory you swap your house for theirs for an agreed length of time. This may also give you a pet to look after and access to a car, depending on the owners situation.

Sitting is only different in that the owner is going away and you are going to stay in their home while they are off on holidays or whatever. Again there may be a furry friend to care for and a car to use. There are numerous websites and they all come with varying degrees of security checks and annual fees. My best advice is to trust in google, read reviews look for forums on each one. Ask your friends also they may have used some of these or know someone how has.

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The next couple of options cross over into two categories, accommodation and non-paid /paid work. These are Crewing a Boat and Au Pair work, so let’s start with Boat crewing there is a Mooloolaba website that you can find a boat looking for crew members to travel from point A to point B. There are also boat crew needed to do day tripping work in a constant location. Obviously if you are traveling from point A to point B the accommodation comes with the job. It is agreed on application if you are paid for the hours you work or if you are a non-paid workers or even if you are to share in the costs of the trip. On the website they will tell you how long they wish you to stay with the crew, the destination, what kind of boat it is and if you need any experience and a few other housekeeping bits, there is of course the annual fee.

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Au Pair work is caring for someone else’s children while they are either at home or away at work. You usually live in the family home and have agreed upon days and hours of work, sometimes with an on-call option or date night option for the parents. This job is usually reserved for 18-30 year old ladies, however that is not always the case and sometimes gender is not an issue. Experience is preferred but again not always essential. There is usually a small wage that goes with this position but you must remember it is only small. You will not save much money doing this, but it will stop you from spending your own existing savings. Meals usually come with the position, you essentially become a member of the family for the length of your stay. There are numerous website covering this one, there are even some agencies dedicated to getting you work.

Lastly I am going to buy a very lightweight tent that I can use in an emergency situation when I run out of options, for whatever reason. I will try what is called wild camping which is free, tucked away from prying eyes camping. Or will stay at free camp sites when possible or if pushed will pay for a sight.

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At this point I will point out that I have not used any of these websites and have not joined any of them yet. That is something that I will wait and do closer to the time of my departure. Then I will choose which and when to join them at appropriate times. There is not point spending money for example on Boat Crewing if I don’t intend to do it in the next 12 months.

Africa – Antelope Park Zimbabwe

Antelope Park Zimbabwe

We came into Antelope Park late in the day as is usual when travelling on an overland truck, we had had a long day driving. We had dorm rooms available to us in this camp site, which was unusual, normally we had to put up the tents.  Here we also had an option to upgrade if we wanted. I was sharing with a girl called Sarah, every chance we had (if the price was right) we would upgrade. On this occasion we went from a dorm room to a tent, I know “a tent” Yes a tent. This was a tent with a difference though, it had a wooded floor with a proper bathroom and a flushing toilet. Two single beds with electric blankets and a fridge. It also had a veranda with a couple of deck chairs that extended out over the water, all for the ridiculously low price of $20 US. Small price to pay to sit on the deck with a sundowner and watch the evenings activities on the water.  Sitting there we listened to the Lions roaring in the distance. It is an experience you will never forget, to hear that primeval sound come out of the night. That deep resonating call of territorial ownership that can be heard from up to 5 miles away.

I mean really, close your eyes and imagine, – you are in Africa, and it is an extremely dark pitch black night. Across the water the sound travels and seeps into your body, instinctively your heart rate increases, your fight or flight mechanism is activated. The hairs on the back of your neck rise up and you listen intently, trying to locate the direction the roar is coming from.

Then you remember it’s okay they can’t get you, you are safe. There is nothing more stimulating, that makes you realise you are alive.

The next day we go for a horse safari, we ride out and become a part of the wildlife, the other animals ignore us thinking we are just another animal, all they can smell is the horse. You can get right up close to the animals before they realise and move on. The heat of Africa is all around you, the smells of the horses and the other animals is in your nostrils, the dust that is kicked up by the Giraffes as they take off into the distance. The grass is a honey straw colour, the same colour as a lion you realise.

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Camouflage

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Horse Safari

On awaking the next day we are all very excited, today we get to “walk with the lions”. We have a safety talk first telling us what to do and more importantly what NOT to do when in the presence of lions. The Lions that we are going to walk with are about eighteen months old they are fully grown, however they will fatten up with maturity. We walk for about two hours following them as they learn the stalking and hunting skills they will need to be released back into the wild.

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Walking with Lions

We get to interact with them and watch them play with their siblings. Later that day we also get to go and assist in the feeding of the older more dangerous lions. These are not free to roam the park they are fenced off from the rest of the Lion Park. It is a scary thing to watch a group of lions savaging a piece of meat these are the lions we had listened to the night before.

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Siblings getting up high

That afternoon we get to have an absolutely amazing experience, we get to cuddle and play with the baby lions, they are like big kittens except they can put their claws through your shoes and into your foot, these guys are around 8 weeks old.

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Cubs

Antelope Park has a breeding and release program, with the aim to set the lions free into wild life parks