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harripix's Travel Blog
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Made in China... broken then?

Lijiang, China

Hello everyone!

Hope you're well. Time for me to write my first messij in about a month, I hope it does the trick.

The past fortnight has seen us change our plans more often than we've changed underwear (completely true). We had a few lazy days in the south of Hainan island, sleeping on beaches and generally trying to forget about the existence of coats. Drinking from cocunuts is a great way to accompany this, but also our hostel had a little store 10m away where a 660ml bottle of beer set us back 25p so drinking was very much back on the agenda!

NYE saw us drink lots with other travelllers, then run down onto the beach to get excited about some awful fireworks, before heading to an even worse club. Sanya, the city we were in, wasn't really what we imagined for a tropical beach resort. It is a huge (by european standards), concrete, toxic city with someone beeping their car horn every second you're outside. The Chinese have a habit of beeping the horn as soon as anything steps within 20m infront of their slow moving vehicle, and we needed the beach time every day just to forget about this, let alone just to relax!

We left Sanya on New Years day, after ditching our plan to rent a scooter due to ridiculous hangovers (well, L aside), and headed into the tropical rainforest in the mountains on the island. We had a day exploring here, where I introduced Lauren to the art of getting lost in the jungle and just bashing your way through the plants down the mountain till you find a road. However, we probably would have prefered the jungle and the mosquitos to the road as every few seconds a motorbike would roll past with staring Chinese ppl and their mandatory hellos. After a few minutes this lost all novelty...

Leaving the mountains, we found ourselves on a 5 bus ride to Haikou in the north, that turned into a hell ride due to the insanely awful cheesy chinese music blazing above our seats the whole way. Couple this with needing the toilet the whole way as well I think its a miracle that there wasn't a massacre that day. With some more difficulties in Haikou, we decided that maybe China was becoming a bit much.
So we have decided on going to Laos instead at the end of our 30 day visa, and not extend our stay. The thought of constant warmth and less crowds is amazing!

So, with 10 days left on our visas, we voyaged to Yangshuo where there is some amazing scenery (although we were back to the cold again...). The whole area is covered in huge rocky lumpy mountains that just sit on flat plains, like someone's just dropped them there. The first day we went to see what was billed by everyone as an 'awesome light show' set on the river with lot and lots of local 'actors'. After what we thought was some hard bargainaing, we got tickets for about 8GBP each on the other side of the river, 'its for locals, the view's just as good' Turns out we were miles away from the action, and had to really strain to see anything :(

The next day we cycled round the area along the Yulong river and through rice field paths definately not designed for bikes (our falls can vouch for that!). It was incredible to feel we were 'away from it all', until a huge cycle tour group passed us the other way. After 4 hours cycling, we went on to climb one of these lumpy peaks, and were thoroughly knackered. That night we went round a hostel's bar, and got our arses thoroughly kicked in beer pong.

Next we went onto Dragon's backbone rice terraces, which are an amazing collection of rice terraces built into the side of the mountain like steps. We only had a day here, but it was really peaceful and everything was covered in a layer of ice, including every individual tree leaf, due to the night fog and the cooooold. Finding a hotel there with electric blankets we snapped it up almost instantly, and due to absolutely no heating we got the weird sensation of a burning back and a freezing front when we woke up.

Another long train journey (which only took 1.5 hours of queuing to get the tickets), brought us to Kunming in Yunnan where we pretty much did nothing for a day. From here, L and I are having a holiday from each other and exploring different places. I'm gutted that I'm not getting any of Lauren's leftovers when we eat now, but hopefully a week apart will stop us merging into the same disguisting person (and not just from the traveling sweats)

Are you still there?!


Stay in touch everyone, and a belated happy 2011 to you all!

Lots of love


PS Just booked our flights to Seoul having discovered Air Asia (Asia's Ryan Air) and it is confirmed, we have 30 days to spend in Laos and Cambodia, and then a couple of days stopover in Kuala Lumpur, leaving us just enough time to arrive to arrive 9pm the night before our first training day in Seoul!

permalink written by  harripix on January 10, 2011 from Lijiang, China
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"In china.. you will never walk alone", Phillip ( German).

Sanya, China

nǐ hǎo

So it’s been a while since the last blog, we last wrote after an exausting couple of weeks in the mongolian wilderness. We then spent 6 days recovering in Ulaan Bataar, didn’t get up to too much since the temperature was about -25, and we could stay outside a maximum of an hour; covered in several layers with just our eyes showing, my eye lashes and Harri’s glasses froze! We visited the local museum full of some very amusing stuffed animals with googly eyes stuck onto them. Harri went Skiing for 4 pounds ( everything included), hitch hiking there and nearly driving over the ski run. Nearly made it to a giant monument on top of a nearby mountain, but the cold as too much, headed for a bus, but every window was frozen we weren’t sure when to depart. And were the only tourists in the winter palace. Also before we left the temperature drop to – 40.

So we eventually got ourselves out of the Golden Gobi coma and caught a train to the border town to China. A few hours later caught a bus over the border, had our first chinese meal, that was Mongolian, then on our way to Beijing, had our second chinese meal, also Mongolian- where is our Peking Duck and sweet and sour chicken??!! We arrived in Beijing in the wonderful hour that is 4am, just as the local clothes market was opening and we were surrounded by thousands of women shopping. An hour later we gave up and got a taxi to the nearest metro. Our Cser host worked for google, even though google china has been banned. We slept most of the first day. During our time in Beijing we visted the Summer Palace, which we were lucky enough to go early and walk across the frozen lake before the chinese ( or lemmings) piled on. It’s really hard to describe how many people there are in Beijing, so think like a where’s wally puzzle. I’m also not sure about how chinese people think yet, they are very influenced by western culture, but it’s all still chinese. We also visited the forbidden temple with Mark, a guy we met in Mongolia, which was very pretting buildings, but busy and all a bit samey. While looking for the famous snack street we were unfortuanly met by a very friendly chinese couple, who took us to a tea house… too much money later we were walking out stunned and wondering what just happened… Scam! So never go invited into a tea house in Beijing! Also watch your pockets because Mark lost his wallet too.

One day we met up with Harri’s old friend from Morocco, Hassan and his chinese friend and had a good tour around the cute shops and ate Peking duck! We opted to go to Mutianyu, a not so old part fo the Great Wall of China, as the part we wanted to go to was closed for only 3 years. It was quite an easy trip by bus then a guy on th bus taxied us the rest of the way. We clambered over 22 offical watch towers and wandered off to a couple of un restored towers too, away from the tourists and guys selling over priced water. The wall was a great walk, quite steep, but so peaceful and made Harri very thoughtful for the day.

We stayed in Beijing for Christmas. Chistmas in China is very strange, very glittery and shiney! Malls stay open for 24 hours, and the young kids go in dates and exchange apples in boxes… our CS was amused when we told her we had never done this ever. We stared the day with a chinese breakfast fo rice and dumplings, then headed to the supermarket to buy as much chocolate as we could for 50 yuan. Yum ^_^*. We met up with Hassan again and lots of other Csers and went iceskating on a lake in the middle of town. Five hours late we went for a meal with the group, too tired to eat we made it back home and called home via Skype, it was very sci-fi as I sat there at the dinner table watching my family eating the best meal of the year!

Boxing day we heading down south for Guangzhou, it was beutifully warm and we could walk around withour coats. We stayed with a CS called Lisa and her Gf Echo. Lisa had been living in China for 5 years and didn't really know much chinese, inbetween jobs and lacking in local friends, a bit of a reality check before we reach Korea. There were lots of cool markets here and bought flip flops :D We then quickly headed further south to Hainan, a small island of only 8 million chinese. We’ve spent the day by the beach and enjoyed our 70 degree change in temperature over the last 2 weeks.

We also found out today that we are definitely teaching in Busan, South Korea, by the beach. YAY!!!

Sorry if you need to nap after all that.. I think I do!

Lots of love, Lauren and Harri xxx

p.s forgot to say we saw half a crocadile at the market.

permalink written by  harripix on December 29, 2010 from Sanya, China
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Mongolia in a rather large meaty nutshell

Nalayh, Mongolia


Hello everyone, I hope you're all well. I'm just thawing out in front of the computer, its -25C by day here atm so walking outside is inadvisable (and yeeeeees I know it got cold in Europe recently, but its gonna be -35C tonight so I have no sympathy).

Since we last messaged you an awful lot has happened, so I'll try and stick to the best bits. We spent a few days in UB, recovering from our time in Russia with a lot of vodka and cheap cheap restaurant food (about 1.50GBP a meal). It was amazing the first few days in this hostel, the Golden Gobi, as there were so many people around we didn't really leave the building for 3 days. We celebrated Mongolian independence day here, and we were treated to free mongolian dumplings and vodka by the hostel, and ended up in a night club at the end of the day regretting drinking such a cheap bottle. The best, and most prestigious vodka here is called simply 'Chingis Khan' after everyone's favorite all conquering Mongol, you might know as Genghis. In fact, he still pretty much dominates everything, he has a huge statue in the main square, and the best beers and hotels (and most pubs) are named after him.

We had 6 days in UB, where we've gone to a cool puzzle museum (aka the international intellectual museum) where we broke our no buying things rule, but lauren's already lost the instructions for her horse and we cant reconstruct it now! We also stocked up on extra warm gear at the black market (which is essentially a massive ice rink where you have to push everyone you walk past). Also, we visited our first temple of the trip, with, what I'm sure we're gonna get sick of, a massive Buddha in the middle. Religion was pretty much outlawed under communist rule here, so most temples in the country are reconstructed after they were destroyed in the 1930s by Stalin.

Luckily, a couple of guys (Mark, Australia and Philip, Germany) turned up in the hostel and wanted to do a tour with us. To save money, we just hired a jeep and a driver (the amazing wrestler Erkha, with all the English and Russian we needed: go, eat, finish etc), which cost us $20 each a day including all petrol. The jeep is more of a soviet version of the VW combi, uses a litre of petrol every 5km, had crap suspension and we managed to break a door, but it did more than the job for us.

Every night on the trip we stayed with locals, as hotels don't really exist away from the capital. Mostly, we stayed in gers, which is like a big teepee with a stove in the middle. The first day we visited a national park with a reintroduced breed of horse, apparently the last remaining wild horse (it has two more chromosomes than other horses, oooohh). It was a bit like a safari, with our guide for the hour with her binoculars searching for them (oh look horses), but we saw the alpha horse getting on its back legs to teach a lesser horse something. After some expert driving through snow drifts we arrived far into the country where we did some horse trekking. I was thrown off the horse in the first 10 mins, but as I had so many layers on I pretty much bounced off the floor. We explored a frozen waterfall, and carried on plodding along on these small horses, they ignored our constant 'choo' and only sped up when our guide would come in to give them a whip.

Here we were introduced to the heart of Mongolian ger cuisine, meat on a bone. It turns out that all everyone eats in the country is boiled meat, with at least 50% fat content, and maybe a bit of pasta or rice. After 2 weeks on this diet, without any fruit/veg/variation I've decided that this isn't the diet for me. Unsurprisingly we didn't meet any Mongol vegetarians.

After the horse riding we headed south, and on the way to sand dunes in the Gobi desert we visited a market where it was possible to buy flatpack gers, with all the 'traditional' ornamentation a mongolian would need! At the dunes we had some birthday drinks for Mark, the typical 'drink a big shot of vodka, pass it on' game . There we rode some two humped camels, and climbed some hefty dunes (about 200m high), which in the cold felt impossible as every deep breath you took was like breathing ice. After walking the camels over a frozen river on the way back, (which cracked at footstep they took), we had a camel race. Camel racing is probably the most uncomfortable thing I've ever done, for the record.

Almost all the 'roads' we traveled on were just paths in the desert that other jeeps had took before, sealed roads are a luxury here, so on many days it would take us all day to travel a very bumpy 300km. Everywhere around us would always be empty, except for occasional herds of animals.

The next few days we visited Yolun Am, which is very famous for the amount of dinosaur fossils found there. The setting and the wind were amazing, but we didn't find any dinosaurs. We also stayed by a couple of cool rocky mountains in the middle of nowhere with some nomads. It turns out, when the sun goes down and all the animals are safely nearby the ger, one great way of entertaining yourself is to grab a big bag of ankle bones and play one of many great games. We were shown how to play a flicking game, and a catching game, but I'm sure that they would have shown us even more if our yawns weren't so exaggerated!

The final port of call was Terelj national park nearby to UB, where we stayed with some Kazaks who are originally from Kazakhstan. What made them so cool is that they use eagles to hunt. We got to hold one, it was amazing to feel the extreme power of its claws through a felt glove, and then the Kazaks set up a demo of how they use it. With a fox's hyde they pulled along they got it to swoop down from above, but it ended up attacking the guy pulling along the bit of fur. It was pretty absurd, and they did their best to impress us, but as our feet were so cold we just wanted to go inside! We finished that day in the best way for any Mongolian tour by visiting a humongous statue of Chingis and heading back to UB.

We're now looking forward to China, its 5C in Beijing by day, a crazy 30C warmer than here so we're looking forward to getting out our t-shirts!

If you've made it this far through the message, congratulations! Check out the photos, theres some pretty cool ones up.

Lots of love to everyone


permalink written by  harripix on December 13, 2010 from Nalayh, Mongolia
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I think my eyeballs are freezing

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Hi all!

A Pre-warning before reading this... it may be long because I may get too over excited and tell you stupid details you don't need to know. I've fell a month behind writing my diary so this is our only records now apart from memories and of course I'm writing it and not Harri. Please switch on the kettle now.

So I'll start with Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal- out nearly deserted paradise. We arrived after a normal russian bus journey with a flat tyre, a dead engine and towed by the bus in front. We were then swept into the nearest babuska's house where we spent 3 days trying to speak russian! Olkhon Island was such a good break from the Russian cities we'd visited along the way and it was fantastic to be able to breath again :) except for the frozen snot. We also met our first big group of travelers at Nikita's a local hostel. We even met a couple who went to Brum uni and studied Physics- but a little older than us. We toured round the Island in an old Russian mini bus that I swear defied gravity and I fell out of my seat and rolled across the floor. It was definitely the coldest weather we had experienced- I had only my eyes showing and thought they were going to freeze. I found some natural sponge.. but its now stinking out my bag!

Back in Irkutsk we picked up our Mongolian Visas without any problems – very happy. We met up with a few people we met on the Island and a local girl we met on the train. She showed us a bit around the city and took us to try local Buryati food. Late at night we caught a train to Ulan Ude and slept.

Ulan Ude is west meets east. The town wasn’t too different from most cities we’d seen but the people were changing and the gers had started to pop up everywhere. We stayed in the outskirts with our cser Vlad, who lived in a classic wooden russian house… with no running water and an outside toilet. I forgot to mention we had an outside toilet ( or hole in the floor) for our time on Olkhan too- its an interesting experience going to toilet at – 25 ° , things freezes very quickly. We didn’t do too much in Ulan Ude as it was too cold so spent our time doing the essentials, food, internet, coffee, museum.

We were up at 6 to catch our bus to Ulaan Bataar in Mongolia, annoyingly not one bus would stop for us, so we ended up walking/ jogging for 40 mins to get there. I’ve found out I don’t deal well with jogging at -25 at the side of a polluted road. Anyways.. we made it :).
The bus was quite comfy but all the windows were frozen on the insides for the whole day so we made a peep hole to see the beautiful landscapes we were passing. 14 hours later we arrived in the capital, met some other travelers and got to our hostel, golden gobi. This hostel is pretty cool, lots of vodka and musical instruments. We are now planning our tour around Mongolia we just need to find other people who are crazy as us to spend a few weeks here.

Also mum don’t worry about korea. We had a email from EPIK and they said it wont effect us.. the media blows things up a lot more…

Lots of frozen love.

p.p.s i forgot that we saw a truck dragging two dead carcasses horse/cow... only in russia.

permalink written by  harripix on November 25, 2010 from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
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Asia, sideways and inwards

Irkutsk, Russia

Hello everyone, hope you're all doing well

Since we last messaged you, we've spent 56 hours on trains (over 3 journeys), and also 14 hours on buses, and loads extra on lovely regional transport. But, we now find ourselves here, in Irkutsk, besides the worlds largest freshwater lake, at a timezone 8 hours in front of the UK!

Our time in Perm, with Guzal and Max, was amazing and easy. After the Banya experience, we went to the Opera for both of our first times, and found that we acually knew a song in it! The Opera was called Rigoletto, (Lauren does a terrific version of thу 'famous song' that goes something like 'lalala poop today, lalala poop tomorrow'). We also went to visit the 'magnificent' Kungur ice caves, which turned out to be an hour walk through a bunch of dark, damp places, in the cold, after a 2 hour bus ride to get there. Pretty crap really.

But, moving on, we crossed the famous Urals (which are no more than hills really) into Asia! It would have been more exciting if we'd have been able to see the continent marker, but we were asleep. We had a night then in Novosibirsk, where we partied with super chilled Katya and her housemates. The next day we went up to Tomsk, ONLY 5 hours away by bus (pretty much next door for Russia), where we were stayed with Nikita and his wife Marina for a couple of days. Tomsk was really pretty, not at all hindered by the first big snowfall of our trip. We dutifully made our first snowman, maybe a whole 12 inches high, and spent the days playing in the snow amongst Russians who were pissed off the snow has arrived. It got to about -10 while we were there, and it looked like it was gonna get really cold, but that threat thankfully didnt materialize. Lauren was given a secret present from Marina (which turned out to be jewellry she had made) for her birthday before we left.

We went back to Novosibirsk, where L got a spontaneous haircut while socializing in Katyas kitchen. She even got a long awaited dreadlocks, and is defo going for that traveler style!

Next stop was Krasnoyarsk, where we stayed for a couple of nights in an old soviet hotel (the cheapest thing we could find) to give us some lone time for L's birthday (we'll put a pic up of the 'party'!). The hotel was a bit like a prison, and the beds probably were exactly the same ones used when Communism fell in the country. We chilled out a bit here, and had some amazing stolovaya (russian canteen) meals, before climbing a mountain at a nearby ski resort. The weather was warming, and the snow was so slushy walking up, definitely not the weather for L's new fur birthday hat. The views at the top were amazing though, and we ventured onto a risky icy ridge to get some pretty amazing views.

We moved on then to Irkutsk. the train journey here was a load more interesting, playing games and drinking vodka with a couple of young russian soldiers who spoke no english. Communicating with them did the usual trick of having half our train carriage gather to listen, and we found some people who spoke english, and amongst them even some current world champion aerobic gymnasts!

We're now at Arsenay's place, and we're headed off to Baikal's biggest island tomorrow, Olkon, for some time 'at one with nature' for a few days, where we will hopefully be staying in something away from the traditional smog of Russian cities. We leave Russia in a week, and hopefully our Mongolian visa will be ready before we go...

Missing you all loads!



permalink written by  harripix on November 17, 2010 from Irkutsk, Russia
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The Russian experience

Perm', Russia

Hi all!

Hows everyone doing? Has it snowed yet?

We're been in Russia now for just over a week and survived Moscow and St Petersburg. We arrived very early after our over night bus journey to Moscow, confused and slightly overwhelmed, since Im suppose to know a bit of the language. We managed to navigate ourselves into the centre and leave our bags somewhere which was a big relief! Next mission- find food! It turns out most food is terrible but we are bias as we have mostly eaten street food, but there's also not much choice in the supermarkets either. Although, we did find an old soviet style coffee shop which sold coffee with condensed milk and donuts :P

Our first day there the snow was pouring down and we thought this was the beginning of winter, apparently still autumn. We visited the Red square, St Basils cathedral and Nevsky Prospekt on the first day and then went to find our CS. We stayed with a woman called Zhenya who taught English at the university and also translated so didnt have too much time for us. Also, inside every russian building its about 30 degrees! We weren't too late to bed after our disrupted bus sleep. The following days we were up early with our host, managed to buy the rest of our russian train tickets to Irkutsk, registered our visa ( which you have to do in every city you are in over 72 hours.. but we haven't been checked once!) and saw the standard st Petersburg sights - vodka museum, which was a one room tour and a gift shop. The Hermitage was a life saver, it is one of the biggest museums ever and apparently takes 11 years to look at everything in detail. But it was free for students and warm. Our last day we visited Pushkin and a palace, but it was quite over priced and we were getting a little bored of the gold! Our final night before our train we met up with lots of CSers in the area for drinks. It was quite cool to meet real people who could tell us about russia.

I was a little worried about what we had let ourselves into buying third class tickets all the way across russian, Harri's already done this in India so its nothing compared to that. We had a carriage that was made of doorless compartment each containing 3 pairs of bunkbeds. We had 2 upper bunks which is slightly annoying as you cant sit up. But the journey went quickly and we arrived more prepared in St Petersburg.

Our host, Ilya met us for lunch and helped us buy a russian sim card- so much cheaper than uk. He lived in another Communist style block and only had 2 rooms. Its very expensive to live in Moscow. We lazily spent the rest of the day planning our time there. In Moscow we visited all the sights.. just write 10 ten things in Moscow and we propably saw them. Some of the building are so big and impressive it gives the city alot of attitude. Our host had a party the second night we stayed, but not one drop of vodka was drank! It was a little surreal with all the russian being spoken, broken English, lots of singing, guitar playing and twister! And lots of cake and fruit! We fell asleep before the end only at 4 am. In the morning they took us up to the roof which turned out to be a pretty nice day. Russia doesn't look as grey in the sun. We spend that day walking around the parks and Olympic grounds, which was one of our best days and its not even in the guide book. We visited Sergiev Posad which is a holy place in Russia, our guide book said it was worth a visit even if your all churched out.. we found out we are officially all churched out! Our final day we went to the university as guest of our hosts Mum, Mia, to talk to the son of the dean, but he got stuck in traffic jam, so we just chatted and had coffee with Mia. It was nice to talk about the UK and life.

We prepare ourselves for our 24 hour journey by stocking up on add water noodles and mashed potato. The train departed at 3pm and we got on and spent a good half hour trying to explain who we were and where we were going to the people on the carriage. Then everyone went to sleep! It was funny during the stops to see babushkas selling food at the stops along the way. But Harri's paying for it now, no further comment.

We are now in Perm, the last European city staying with Guzal and Max, cat and puppy. We were treated to a Banya last night too, its the cleanest Ive been the whole trip! The real russian experience.

Very sorry for the length again.. if its too boring just look up banya and have a laugh!

Lots of love, missing home a little now, Lauren and Harri xx

permalink written by  harripix on November 4, 2010 from Perm', Russia
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The Baltics, a job and no more hitching :'(

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Priviet priviet!

How is life everyone?

Since we last spread our news like pesticide over ravaged crops, we have been to 4 more countries, so there's a lot to tell so im gonna do some summing up. We hitched from Warsaw fairly early on the monday before last, after an interesting skype interview about our Korean jobs, our destination Kaunas (Lithuania's 2nd city). After one short wait, we then had 2.5 hours in our first freezing cold conditions besides a road. It was pretty horrible, and as the days are getting short we were worried. But another set of miracles meant we arrived in style in a huge gasoline pulling truck right by our host Alburtus' place in Kaunas. We spent a day with him and his family (who have definitely left an impression of Lithuania...) and then hitched up to Riga.

This time we had one lift, and waited 15 mins for it. We were pretty knackered that night so gorged on a pre roasted chicken in the hostel we were staying (friendly franks fun backpackers). After more wandering around the next day, we went on a bar crawl with our hostel, for us it was also a celebration as we found out the day before we have our jobs in Korea, with an unmissable deal: 7 Lats (about 9 quid) for 5 drinks in 5 different bars. The other ppl from the hostel all turned out to be brits too, and I think that the over familiarity of the situation (after a month of pretty much not drinking/speaking proper english) meant that we were wasted and regretted it the next day (Lauren spent a considerable time looking down the toilet :D).

We again had a hefty wait in the cold, but we made it again in good time to Tallinn, where we were staying directly in the 'old town' with our host Ade. The city, and the house were incredible, relics of 300 years ago. It felt like wed stepped back in time that first night, with 'monks' selling roasted nuts in the street. But, the weather was to much, so we decided getting to Tallinn was enough, it was time for public transport. We had a couple of days in the city, then took a night bus to ST Petersburg.

Going over the border, and a kilometer of armed security was an experience. IT took an hour, and involved a lot of checking of passports and general disruption of sleep. But we made it! Russia!

We've been here 4 days, and got our tickets for almost all of Russia now. We're heading for Irkutsk, where the biggest lake in the world is, which I'm hoping will be frozen over so we can go on it in snow mobiles....

BUt anyways, that is enough for now

Hope everyone's smiling, at least a bit. I can guarantee you the weather over here is worse than there!


permalink written by  harripix on October 28, 2010 from Saint Petersburg, Russia
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Turtle with tail

Warsaw, Poland

Ok, so its been awhile again since we last wrote and I'm starting to forget little bits of the trip especially since I'm 10 days behind on my diary too!

So Berlin was a huge chill out session, amazing place full of art, culture, history, music and easy going people ( and currywurst- sorry david I never bought a McRib!). We fell in love with Berlin. So leaving Berlin was an emotional time, Olaf our host was great too, so we decided an extra day was a must!

Eventually we decided to leave and head for krakow in Poland. We were kind of adopted my Polish Lorry drivers for the day, each driver used his radio to find the next hitch and we were passed on. We also experienced maybe one of the worse motorways in Europe! The bumps were soo big the lorry nearly took off into the air. Our last hitch of the day didn't speak a word of English and we couldn't even figure out his name. He also dropped us off further out of the city than expected, but luckily our couch surfing host had a car and found us hiding from the cold in a huge spar. Krakow, known as the new prague, is maybe a hen/stag night heaven. It has over 200,000 students, so theres more of a night life than a day life. We decided to escape to the country side for a couple of days and went to Zakopane near the Tatra Mountains and stay in a hostel.. woop! Its the first time I've properly met other travellers on this trip and it was nice to swop stories; and I've realised how different our trip is to the usual... mainly because of the budget - 15 euro a day. Anyways in the tatra mountains we climbed up Kasprowy Wierch 1987m, and saw our first snow. The sights were beautiful, but we were a bit careless about the time and it ended up getting dark on the way down. Thankfully we had a torch on our phone.. which saved us! We're still aching from this venture.. 4 days later.

Back in Krakow we decided to stay in a hostel again - Dizzy daisy. But when we arrived they had already given away our beds! Grr! And yes , I stood up to them, Nana would be proud, and managed to get us 2 sofas to sleep on for just under 4 pounds, included washing and breakfast :)

We then took only hitches to Warsaw. A lot more going on here than Krakow. We are also staying with a very cool host and slept in until 11.. luxury. But its now winter, and its gonna get a lot colder from now on! And we have our Korean interviews tomorrow eek.

Speak soon.

Lots of Love

Lauren and Harri xxxx

permalink written by  harripix on October 17, 2010 from Warsaw, Poland
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Munich, a frenchman and the East

Berlin, Germany


Hows it going everyone? We're in Berlin, and I've finally given into Lauren's continuous "write the blog" remarks.

The last week has been pretty nuts again, we left our lovely campground in the black forest last Friday after a 6.30am start, which made sure our hitch was fairly stress free to Munich. We arrived at about 5pm at Janet's (a friend of my mums) and were treated to an ace bed, warmth and the luxury of a washing machine. The next day we went into the city center and met Antoine, our ever faithful fenchman from uni, whod come on a 14 hour bus journey from Lyon to join us for the weekend. We only had one agenda for the day, Oktoberfest.

I dont think we really knew what to expect, but, quite simply it was nuts. We arrived about 1, and already there were loads of people lying around completely wasted on the floor. It was so busy, we couldnt get into any of the beer tents, but had some beers outside, where we made several new drunk friends, who could barely talk/stand/make sense in any way. It was pretty extreme, just like Fab n Fresh, but in the middle of the day, a lot bigger, no music, and lots of older people. We ended up buying loads of beers from a supermarket and just wandering about. We took a train back in the evening, and had a 20 minute bike ride to where we were staying, with 3 people and 2 bikes, and us plastered, we couldnt hold a straight line, and had to ride back through a dark forest road. It was pretty fun!

We tried to go to Neuchwanstein castle the next day, but naturally missed our trains due to the previous day, but went into the city and wandered around before 'slack lining' and lying in the sun in a park in the city. We returned to the Oktoberfest later, where it was less busy, and gt into some tents. They were full of people dressed in "traditional" outfits, with lots of beers, dancing on benches and tables. Antoine, on a couple of these strong 1L beers and no food, went mental, and on the way back puked loads on the train back. So I rode him home, and we even got a teling off from the cops.

We finally got to Neuchwanstein, which is what the Disney palace is based on, the next day. The day was amazing, so beautiful and autumny, and we walked around the hills nearby. The next day we got a lift from Janet out to a nearby petrol station, and hitched to Leipzig. Antoine started hitching from the same place as us, and managed to get to Lyon hitching, arriving at just 1am! Our day was pretty uneventful, except for a massive undercover drugs bust 5m away from one of our hitch spots. The guys had clearly been trying to sell something and looked well dodgy, and then all of a sudden there was a lot of shouting and people being led away.

We stayed in Leipzig with Anne, who had couchsurfed with Lauren back in June, and spent the evening in a really cool smoky bar and meeting her housemates. The next day we had a spotless tour of Leipzig from Anne, the first East German place we'd been (ex communist, and quite different to what wed seen before, and most importantly cheaper!), and then went off hitching in the afternoon. We had a bout an hour wait before an engine maintenence salesman drove us to the exact door we wanted in Berlin. We're staying here with Olaf, someone I lived with in Melbourne, and have had a couple of lazy days biking around the city with him seeing a few sights and museums. Its an incredible city, with so much going on, a bit like London but with a lot smaller prices and a lot more grit (we went to a really cool independent art collective building in an abandoned east german shopping mall). We're gonna try and find some live music later, and we're finally leaving Germany on monday, heading to Krakow.

If you read this far, sorry for the length. Next time will be in mini parts, promise!

Lots of marshmallowy love


permalink written by  harripix on October 9, 2010 from Berlin, Germany
from the travel blog: harripix's Travel Blog
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Black forest Cuckcoo!

Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

So I think we last left a message in Koln. We stayed with a great host, Inga , who took us out for a traditional german beer and to chat about stories of traveling. Koln is a really cool city, not very touristy. We climbed the giant tower up the cathedral... both getting quite hot on the way up, we weren't the only ones- the stairway smelt of sweat. Worth it though! I then couldn't resist the Lindt chocolate museum.. and dragged Harri round the history of chocolate for a thimble worth of chocolate.

Hitchhiked down the Bacharach the day after. Took us a while and had a long walk up to the castle hostel we were staying in with our giant bags on. The view at the top was amazing. WE could see for miles along the Rhine and the full moon illuminated the whole place. Harri had a good nights sleep above a elderly man with a machine helping him breathe that sounded a bit ghostly.

The next day was the start of the bad weather. Too tired to hitch further we decided to stay in Bacharach and camp by the side of the river. Made friends with a very old german woman who brought out deckchairs every time we approached the tent. For tea we tried to try out the local german bratwurst. But it melted into a mushy mess when we cooked it on the camping stove- still tasted good.

The next day we had been invited to see Seb and Ann in Saarbrucken. Seb and Harri met in Morocco volunteering together. The hitch from bacharach was easy to the next service station. But being to hasty we went further than we needed and found ourselves in quite a bad service station for the direction we were going. Four hours later Seb came to our rescue! And drove us back to his Girlfriends flat - some very interesting decor. We had a very nice chilled couple of days out, having a few drinks which is what we needed after the hectic first week of our trip. We had a really cool time with them. They drove us to Luxemburg and we made them some traditional fish and chips.

Back on the road we headed down to the black forest region to Frieburg. We decided to take some chill out time and stay here for 4 nights in a campsite in Kirchzarten. The weather hasnt been too great but we#re keeping warm and dry- no hypothermia yet :P Had a spontanteous night in Basel last night - switzerland. Done lots of walking on forest 'paths'. Well me following Harri to the peak dodging branches and toadstools - fun :)

Today not too much hard walking, went to see the highest waterfalls in Germany in Triberg. Had a nice picnic and wine at the top and the sun peaked through the clouds. Then had a lecture on cuckoo clocks from a salesman in the town.

Next stop Munich on Friday to see the crazy Oktoberfest and meet up with Antoinne :D

Lots of love Harri and Lauren xxxxxxxxx

permalink written by  harripix on September 30, 2010 from Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
from the travel blog: harripix's Travel Blog
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