Facts and Figures

Modes of transport: 10.  (train, bus, car, bicycle, moped, motorbike, tuk-tuk, horse, camel and elephant)

Longest journey: 42 hours (train from Chengdu to Lhasa)

Shortest journey: 3 minutes (rip-off Mumbai taxi driver who charged quadruple the going rate for the pleasure)

Best journey: Bullet train from Qingdao to Beijing.  The future beckons.

Worst journey: Train from Beijing to Pingyao.  Get me a bullet in the head.

Worst food: Chicken’s foot on Beijing to Pingyao train.

Best food: Tandoori Kingfish on the beach in Palolem, Goa.

Craziest drivers: Nepalese bus drivers, like being in the movie Speed but with extra cliffs.  Closely followed by G on his 500cc Royal Enfield.

Most expensive: Tibet (£500 for a week!).  Closely followed by eastern China, they’re getting rich fast.

Cheapest: India (£500 for the first month)

Friendliest people: Tibetans

Worst people: Chinese troops in Tibet

Nicest town or city: Jodhpur, Rajasthan.  Truly mesmerizing.

Worst town or city: Aurangabad, Karnataka.  Truly, mesmerizingly awful.

Most disappointing scenery: Kerala backwaters.  “The highlight of India.”  Really?

Most amazing scenery:  Hampi boulders?  Annapurna high-pass?  Gobi desert near Dun Huang?  Tibet?  Don’t know.

Number of times Spinks defecated himself (all through sickness I may add): 4

Number of times G crashed or fell off something: 2 (horse, motorbike)

Number of times we fell in love (not with each other): Too many.

Home and Dry(ish)

The plane journey home kept the tone of the trip fairly well.  Spinks pretended to do the Austin Powers “going down the stairs” trick behind Saudi immigration officials as G and I had our passports checked.  This didn’t go down well.  Spinks had to perform press-ups in front of security guards as he lost a silly game we’ve been playing all trip (I’d explain the rules but you’d judge me).  With a choice of various recent blockbusters on offer during the flight we opted for the hard-hitting thriller ‘Mr Popper’s Penguins.’  Then all our screens broke and we had to read books like cavemen.  Upon arrival in London we rushed on to the tube (after saying goodbye to G who nipped to Berlin for a party and was promptly rushed to hospital with an infected knee) as Spinks had a job interview.  He then realised he’d forgotten his sister’s Christmas present and there followed a raging argument where he tried to convince me to go back for it.  I didn’t.

Phew.

But the rush wasn’t over.  It was discovered that my bank card had somehow been damaged in transit and I therefore had five solitary English pounds to my name.  I called the Bank of Scotland people who told me I had to make my way to the only branch they had in London where I could claim some cash.  It was a five pound tube journey away and my phone didn’t work.  I realised that if I didn’t manage to find the branch I may be in a spot of bother.  Building up the bravery and tenacity that I’d accumulated over the previous few months traveling I marched on to the underground and crossed my fingers.  It took me over an hour to find the bloody place.  The teller informed me solemnly that I could’ve gone to any Halifax branch (of which there was one back where I started).  I nodded knowingly, muttered something about only wanting the Bank of Scotland and left with my head held high.

That night we partied.  The next morning we boarded a megabus to Glasgow and partied some more.  This lasted three days.  I now find myself in my parents’ new abode, a large cottage 2 miles outside  Stonehaven.  The first night I couldn’t sleep as it was too quiet.  Really, quite bizarre.  You can hear crows flapping through the windows.

Oh, and on the flip side I’ve been nursing an infected burn on my right calf that has now equated to two trips to the doctors with more to follow.  My dressing fell off it today and mum had to help me re-apply.  She dry heaved when she saw the wound.  Not a good sign.

So, back to reality, to job-hunting, to weekends, weekdays and chatting about last nights’ TV.  But first, Christmas, New Year and a few more re-unions.  Big trip synopsis still to come…

PS – Scotland is colder than I remember.  And I remember it being rather cold.

The Final Hurdle

Well this is it. Mumbai. A city we’d been to before, but with the promise of adventures southwards. Now it’s with the promise of a long-haul flight home. First things first, we arrived at the train station to pick up our big bags. Despite arriving 2 days past the date we’d agreed upon (more on that later) the luggage was still there, untouched and ready to go. Next up, I had to find a tailors. I’m heading to a black-tie dinner as soon as we get back, see, and slightly lacking anything quite so smart in my bag, it was fairly imperative I find one. Thankfully, Mumbai is packed with them and I managed to find the most expensive. However, the suit will be ready just before we leave for the plane and will no doubt last me all of 5 days. Excellent.

So the reason we were so late for Mumbai was Goa. And the beaches. And the bikes. And the girls. And the rum. The reason I’ve been quite quiet on the blog-front recently is because I’m aware no-one really wants to read about a lads holiday, and quite thankfully a lot of the antics were not really blog-suitable. My mum reads this. Needless to say we made friends for life, I have a job offer in Cambridge punting if I want it, a trip to Barcelona planned to see Carlos the King and I would like to say that yes, Swedish girls are as attractive as they’re cracked up to be.

I was actually over-awed by the beaches in Goa. Riding on pristine smooth roads on my super-cool pink scooter to find them was also part of the joy (mad buses careering round blind corners were not), but the white sand/blue sea/palm tree combination was hard to resist. We stayed in beach huts 20 metres from the sea, ate freshly caught fish every evening and drank 60 p beers at night (and some afternoons). As I said, you don’t really want to read about this do you. It’s all a bit smug.

Never mind, snowy Scotland awaits. I’m looking forward to the reunions but I’m currently in a state of early mourning for the end of what has been a truly epic trip. A big synopsis to follow….

That’s Where I want to Goa

We’re not in Goa yet.  But after today it’s become quite imperative that we make it there.  For one, we’re running out of days.  For two, today was an astonishing mass of disappointments.  We started by arriving in the foothills of a mountainous Kerela nature reserve early, at 4am (thanks speeding, mental bus-driver).  We continued by heading to a fabled cave in the hills, that turned out to be a complete fable as it was basically an over-crowded crevice.  Following this we made a jaunt to a safari park, that took an hour and a half to organize (again, Indian bureaucracy is like a bad Fawlty Towers episode) and on upon which we succeeded in seeing some deer and a peacock.  There was more wildlife in the car park.

Never mind, we got a crew of eight (3 scots, 1 spanish, 1 english and 3 girls from jersey) on a house boat in the kerela backwaters.  We were promised a tranquil once-in-a-lifetime adventure down serene palm-fringed canals.  Instead we dressed up as pirates, packed some rum and took to the water with jolly aplomb.  It was a fantastic day, and despite the silliness, I must say the scenery was pretty special.  During the frivolities however, one of the jersey girls produced a henna tattoo kit.  I now sport a palm tree on the back of my calf that looks like a poo-volcano that shall remain there for up to three weeks.  Additionally, there is a watch painted on to my other wrist, numerous smudges that make no sense and a willy (thanks spinks) on my leg.  Sunbathing in Goa should be interesting…

And a final thank-you to Varkala.  It took me 12 days to escape and it could have been many more.  Onwards and upwards!