Alaska, Canada, Peru, Boliviar, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Uraguay, South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Liechenstein, Austria, Germany, Belgium, France, England, Scotland, Tibet, Nepal, India, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Cook Islands, Hawaii, USA.
Start/Finish - WASHINGTON DC
ROUND THE WORLD
June 1998 - July 2000
Fly = 36000 miles.
Land = 65000 miles.
Boat = 2500 miles.
Walk = 3000 miles.
Below you will find 'updates' posted to this site as we progressed through our 2 year journey:
24th June 98:
Getting ready to leave the DC area this afternoon. Heading NW.
14th July 98 - Haines, Alaska:
We arrived in Haines (South Eastern Alaskan pan handle) yesterday from the Alaskan Ferry from Skagway. We had been in
the Skagway area for almost a week. Skagway is the point where the Gold Rush Stampeders started from
exactly 100 years earlier. We spent 4 days hiking the Chilkoot Trail which is the route the Stampeders took
to get to the gold fields. The hike follows the same footsteps and the trail is littered with relics
from the Gold Rush.
Prior to arriving in Skagway we travelled from Northern Virginia almost 5000 miles stopping
at Badlands National Park (South Dakota), the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore (South Dakota),
The Devils Tower (Wyoming), Custers Last Stand (Montana) and we spent about
a week hiking and camping in Banff / Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. We then
crossed into British Columbia and drove the 1500 miles of the
Alaskan - Canadian highway (ALCAN) starting at Watson Lake
stopping along the way in the very welcome Laird hotsprings. We
turned off the ALCAN just south of Whitehourse and headed into the
Alaskan panhandle to visit the Skagway area and then caught the
Alaskan State Ferry over to Haines.
23rd July 98 - Fairbanks, Alaska:
After leaving Haines, Alaska we travelled north back into Canada
(British Columbia and then Yukon). We spent a couple of days in
Kluane National Park. I went for a hike along a valley trail one
day and when I was returning in the afternoon I had my first bear
encounter!! I was about 8 feet away from a small 1 or 2 year old
cub. He was more scared than I was and promptly ran up a tree.
I was was more worried where his mother was so backed away and went
1/4 mile back down the trail!!!
We then travelled NW a few more miles back into the "interior" of
Alaska. The wether was not too good so we kept on driving untill
we got to Denali National Park in the central part of Alaska. We
have just finished five days in the park where we did a back country
wilderness hike / camp. The hiking is tough, there are no trails, you
walk through the bush and on the tundra. A mile feels more like five!
But the weather was great and on the third day we hiked up a 6000
feet mountain and had great views of Mount McKinley (Denali as it is
know in these parts meaning 'the great one')(which as you know is
the highest mountain in North America).
Today we are in Fairbanks waiting for the rain to stop! And where we
go next? Not sure!
7th Aug 98 - Anchorage, Alaska:
After spending a couple of days in the Fairbanks area, including
an evening swimming in a full size outdoor pool a few miles south
of the artic circle (the water was supplied by a nearbye hot
spring!), we travelled south to the port of Valdez. We spent a few
days exploring Prince William Sound where we were fortunate to see
20 or so killer whales along with plenty of sea lions, otters and
puffins. Glaciers are everywhere in this part of the world. We cuised
passed the Columbia glacier which spills out into the sea.
We left Valdez on the Alaskan Ferry to Cordova which is a beautiful
little fishing town that is not connected to the road system. There
is a 50 mile road that follows the old copper valley railroad which
was to have joined one of Alaskas main highways, but the 1964 Valdez
earthquake destroyed the existing rail bridges. The road stops at
the Million dollar bridge, a four span bridge with the last one
collasped into the copper river below. There are some wooden planks
that allow you to cross 'at your own risk' - don't even ask - of
course we did! Either side of the bridge are two fantastic glaciers,
the closest is Childs Glacier which is only 1000 feet across the
copper river. It stands 350 feet high and is about 3 miles long.
It was great to see football field size chuncks of ice crashing
into the copper river below.
After a week exploring the copper river valley region we headed
back to Valdez and drove north into the Wrangle-St. Elias National
Park where we did some mountain biking up to the old Kennicote
copper mines (and more Glaciers).
Today we are in Anchorage, Alaskas biggest city (250k), and we plan
to head south onto the Kenai Penninsula.
18th Aug 98 - Homer, Alaska:
We have spent the last 10 days or so down on the Kenai Penninsula
(south of Anchorage). For most of last week there was an Alaskan
heatwave with blue skies and temperatures souring into the 60's. The
Kenai Penninsula is famous for its heavy rain fall, so we were lucky
and took full advantage of it!
Our first hike in the area took us to the Kenai Fjords National Park
and to Exit glacier. A steep trail at the side of the glacier took
us to the top and to the massive Hardings icefield that this and
many other glaciers flow from. Mountains protrude from the tops of
the ice which covers an area 80 square miles. No one really knows
how deep the ice measures, probably 1000's feet.
Most of the last few days were spent hiking and camping around the
alpine mountains and lakes of the area. We completed the Reserection
trail (a 4 day trek) which follows a route the early gold diggers
followed to the gold fields of Hope. We spent a few days hiking
to a beautiful high elevation lake (lost lake). The wild berries are
ripe and plentiful and this being Alaska, so were the mosquitoes!
We then headed down to the fishing town of Seward where a Salmon
fishing derby was being held. The Salmon are leaving the ocean and
swimming up the rivers to spawn. There are fishermen almost picking
them out of the water at the inlets.
From Seward we drove down the western side of the Penninsula to the
Halibut fishing town of Homer. The views looking west across the
Cook inlet of three active volcanos are spectacular.
From Homer we plan to travel north ...... and ....well not sure!
27th Aug 98 - Inuvik, Northwest Territorries, Canada:
Heading east from Anchorage we eventually arrived at the small town
of Eagle on the Yukon river and then we travelled further east to the Canadian border.
We drove over the 'top of the world' highway into the 'gold rush'
city of Dawson on the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike rivers.
Dawson and the Klondike gold fields is where the gold rush stampeders
of 1898 were headed when they travelled the Chilkoot trail (which we
hiked earlier in our trip).
From Dawson we headed north up the Dempster highway through the Yukon and past the Arctic Circle into
Canada's Northwest Territorries and the Indian town of Inuvik (near
the arctic ocean). We were lucky enough the other night to see a
wonderfull display of the Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) - green,
red, yellow and white lights dancing around the night sky (an effect created by
solar particules coliding with the earths atmosphere).
8th Sept 98, Lillooet, BC, Canada:
We have just arrived here in Lillooet and recieved bad news from
home (email). Phonethips Uncle has passed away. She was very close
to him and we need to get back to Virginia for the funeral
which is this Saturday, 12th Sept 98. We are currently about 250
miles north of Vancouver. We were planning to spend
about three weeks on the journey back across the lower 48 but if we leave
now I think we can just make it for Saturday.
We left Inuvik and drove south on the 450 mile Dempster highway
(dirt road all the way) and over the last few days have basically
headed down the western coast of Canada. We spent an interesting
few days in the small town of Hyder which is in the far South
Eastern section of Alaska. Just north of town is a small creek full
of spawning salmon and many bears feeding off of the Salmon. The
bears are use to all the people (and photographers) being close and
don't bother you - we were within 10 feet of a huge 1000lb
24th Sept 98 - Reston, Virginia:
We arrived back in the Northern Virginia area on 11th Sept 98. After
leaving Lillooet we drove non stop all the way (about 3200 miles). The
drive took about 65 hours including two blow outs in South Dakota. We
are now getting ready for the next section of our journey. We have a
flight booked for Lima, Peru on 10th Oct 98 and plan to spend about 4
months back packing in South America.
Oct 1998 - PERU:
Our flight from Washington via Dallas landed in the Peruvian capital of Lima early in the morning. Rather than fighting our way through traffic to cross the city we decided to take a local flight to our desired destination high into the Andes mountains. Within an hour of landing in Lima we were taking off again heading for Cusco, the center of the old Inca empire and high in the Andes mountains at 3326m (about 11000ft).
We spent a couple of days in Cusco visiting old Inca ruins and the magnificent colonial buildings. We both suffered badly from altitude sickness for the first few days but soon got acclimated.
The whole region was dominated by the Incas until the Spaniards wiped them out in the 17C. All that remains of these people are the ruins, usually built high up the side of steep mountains.
We took the local train from Cusco which shuttled back and forth up switchbacks crossing the mountains and down into the Urubambe valley to a small town called Ollantaytambo. The town is surrounded by a massive Inca fortress. After a couple of days exploring the ruins we were back on the tracks heading further down the valley to start a 33km trek known as the Inca Trail. The trail took us four days. It was built by the Incas to join a series of temples and is basically a series of steep (very steep!) steps across mountain passes, the highest of which is 4200m. This was one of the toughest hikes I have ever done. We had plenty of rain and cloud cover so the views were few. But the swirling clouds created some atmospheric effects.
At the end of the trail are the ruins of Machu Picchu which was the center of the Inca empire. The ruins are perched on a saddle between two 1000ft high vertical mountains and are an incredible sight. We spent the whole last day of the hike exploring these ruins before descending down to the valley where we stayed a few days in the village of Agues Calienas relaxing in the hot springs that the town is named after.
The train journey back to Cusco became an epic. We were crammed (very tightly) in second class with all the locals and their worldly goods!
We took a long scenic train journey from Cusco, west along the Andes to Puna, a small town situated on the banks of Lake Titicaca. The lake is at an altitude of 3800m (about 12000 feet) and is said to be the highest navigable lake in the world (whatever that means!). Its a huge lake stretching over 120 miles. The thin air gives the lake a very deep blue appearance. A few miles out from Puno in the middle of the lake lives a tribe of people called the Uros, who for thousands of years have lived on man made reed islands. We took a
trip out to a few of these island. Everything is made from the reeds, the islands, boats and the houses.
Nov 1998 - BOLIVIA:
A few relatively short bus journeys from Puno took us out of Peru and across the border into Bolivia. We stayed a few days again on the shores of lake Titicaca in a beautiful and peaceful town called Copacabana. A short ferry ride then took us across to Isla Del Sol which according to Inca myth is where the first Inca king and Queen appeared and is where the sun itself was created. The Island is not very populated and the only means of transportation is by foot. Isla Del Sol is a very peaceful place that looks like a Greek island in the Mediterranean. Except of course it is 4km up in the air and when you start to walk up the steep trails you are reminded of that fact!
Lake Titicaca and the surrounding area is on what is known as the Altiplano (high plane). We then left the Altiplano for a few days and headed down an amazing road (dirt track actually) into the Yungas (an area situated between the Altiplano and the jungle). We dropped 1500m in about 3 or 4 miles down countless switchbacks to a small town called Sorata. The town is perched on a ledge in the shadows of three 6km high mountains. After a few days trekking in the area we headed back up onto the Altiplano and headed for the Bolivian capital of La Paz, the highest capital city in the world at 4000m (13000 feet). A surprisingly modern city filling a 5km diameter bowl with snow capped mountains all around.
We caught the bus out of La Paz up to La Cumbria (the summit) and started our next trek at 4700m. The weather was sunny and looked promising for once (didn’t last long!). The first few miles climbed to the summit of 4900m which meant the air was thin and it was very hard to breath. But over the next four days we then walked down an old Inca road and descended to 1000m. Sounds easy eh? It wasn’t! The weather quickly turned after passing the summit into hail and then into rain, rain and rain. We camped along the route and got very wet. The Incas did not use non slip rocks when building the road and many bridges across the rivers were long gone. Phonethip was up to her waist at one point!
The end of the trek took us to a beautiful little town in the Yungas (the jungle) called Corioco and we spent 4 days doing nothing. The town overlooks the mountains and for some reason it is a sun trap.
We headed south from La Paz across the dry desert of the high
Altiplano of Bolivia to a desert town of Uruyni. The bus journey from La Paz to Uruyni should have taken 12 hours but took 18 hours due to the driver getting us stuck in a puddle (large enough to be called a lake) and then he fell asleep crashing the bus
into the side of the road! From Uruyni we took an excellent
four day jeep tour across the desert and across the salt lakes. The scenery in this area is stunning with views of volcanoes, geysers
and multicolored lakes covered with thousands of pink flamingoes. The tour took us to the Northern Chile border which we crossed.
Nov 1998 - CHILE:
We drove down from the 4000m plus Altiplano and left the Andes behind
for a while and headed towards the Pacific coast. The northern part of
Chile is covered by the Atacarma desert (the driest place on earth).
We spent a few days in San Pedro, a small colonial oasis town, and
rented bikes for a day to visit some of the desert sites in the area
and the remains of an Inca ruin (the last well see as this is as far
south as the Inca empire stretched).
The next leg of our journey was a series of long overnight bus rides
south to La Serina and Santiago.
We then headed to the Lake District region of Chile (1000km south of
Santiago). The area is once again along the Andes but now they have
become a series of lakes and volcanoes. We completed a wonderful
5 day trek across a volcanic plane known as the Villarrica Traverse In total we spent a total of 3 weeks in the Lake district area mainly situated around Villarrica, Pucon and Puerto Varris completing many more treks around yet more volcanoes and
lakes before heading south onto the island of Chiloea.
Christmas in the town of Castro on Chiloea in someone’s house with a
room overlooking the ocean. We have been staying in peoples houses
most of the time in Chile to cut down on costs (a common practice
during the summer months in Chile). Just before Christmas we
completed a great three day coastal trek and for once the sun shone (a
rarity when we trek!)
From Chiloea we headed north again to the town on Puerto Montt. The
road south stops here. To reach the southern Patagonian part of Chile
one has to fly or travel by land across Argentina or, one can take a
once a week ferry down the fjords and canals of western Chile. We
selected the later. The ferry took three days and three nights and was
a wonderful experience. We were in the super El cheapo class and
although accommodation and food was basic we had a great time. We
arrived in Puerto Natalies on New Years eve. New Years day and
the next seven days were spent trekking in the Torres Del Paine NP
(one of the worlds most beautiful areas). This part of the world is
notorious for wind and rain and although New Years day was absolutely
beautiful the rest of the trek was typical for Patagonia (ie, wind
and rain!) but it still was one of the best treks I have ever done.
We left Puerto Natales and headed south to the southern most Chilean
city of Puerto Arenas where we visited an old Spanish fort and hiked
around a Penguin colony. We then said goodbye to Chile and headed
across to the island of Tierre Del Feugo. The island is divided half
into Chilean territory and half Argentinean territory.
Jan 1999 - ARGENTINA:
We headed to
the Argentine side of Tierra Del Feugo and the most southern city in the world, Ushuaia. The weather here is ‘bleak’ even in the middle of summer. The only thing south of here are a few uninhabited islands on then in 400 miles lies Antarctica. The next few days were spent trekking and camping in the beautiful
Tierre Del Feugo National Park (yes, in the cold, wind and rain!)
A short flight took us back onto the Argentine main land and the town of
Rio Gallaegus where we hitch hiked northwest back into the Andes and
Los Glaciers National Park. The park boasts one of the best Glaciers
in the world, the advancing Moreno Glacier. Also the park offers
towering granite peaks, the Fitz Roy range, which we spent three days
Next we hitch hiked the long journey north (2500km) to the Argentine
capital of Buenas Aires stopping for a few days about half way at
Puerto Madryn and the Peninsula Valdes where we got up close to
Elephant Seals and Sealions.
From the Peninsula Valdes we hitch hiked the long journey north to Buenas Aires. After a few days exploring this interesting city we took an overnight bus to the northern part of Argentina and crossed the border into Paraguay.
Feb 1999 - PARAGUAY, BRAZIL and URUGUAY:
We crossed from the Argentinean border town of Posada into the Paraguay town of Encarnacion on the banks of a flooded river (due to a Damn up stream)
We then headed north and visited
the incredible ruins of a Jesuit Mission at Trinidad and then headed further north to the border town of Ciudad Del Este close to the Brazil border.
We crossed into
the Brazilian town of Foz Do Iguacu and spent a
couple of days at the incredible Iguazu Falls which is probably the worlds most amazing series of waterfalls.
We then crossed back into Argentina and traveled south back to the capital, Buenos Aires before boarding a ferry to take us across the ocean into the country of Uruguay and the
colonial town of Colonial Del Sacramento some 40 miles across the Rio
De Plata from Buenas Aires.
After a few days in and around Colonial we headed back across the Rio De Plata to Buenas Aires for our flight across the South Atlantic to Cape Town, South Africa.
Feb 1999 - SOUTH AFRICA:
Our flight from South America landed in Cape Town, South Africa. On the way down to the airport the view of Table Top Mountain domineering over the city was spectacular. The first week of our African leg of our journey was spent in and around Cape Town. The crime rate is very high and we didn’t feel too comfortable but the climb to the top of Table Top Mountain makes it all worth while.
We rented a car and drove south along the Cape Peninsula visiting Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve giving us our first taste of African wildlife with plenty of Baboons and Antelope abound.
Once back in Cape Town we decided to join an ‘overland’ tour which gave us access to areas we otherwise would have had difficult travelling through. Our tour was with Nomad and would last 21 days.
We headed north from Cape Town following the western coast of South Africa stopping at Clanwilliam and Springbok. The terrain as we headed north became more and more bare and dry. We left South Africa as we crossed the Orange river.
March 1999 - NAMIBIA and ANGOLA:
We crossed the Orange river into the country of Namibia. This is a country the size of western Europe with only a million and a half inhabitants and as you can imagine there is lots of space which is mostly desert. The first few days were spent just across the border along the Orange River. We spent one day canoeing down a section of the river and incredible bird life was spotted on route.
We then headed north and visited the Fish River Canyon which is almost as big as the Grand Canyon in Arizona but here there are very few people around. Further north we stopped for a few days hiking and exploring at the Namib-Naukluft NP which include the highest sand dunes in the world. We rose before dawn early one morning and climbed to the top of one the dunes to catch the sun rise. The colors as the sun’s light hit the sands was incredible.
We then headed north and back to join the African west coast at Swokopmund, Namibia’s second largest city which still retains the old German colonial flavor.
Heading back in land we visited some incredible rock formations called Spitzkoppe out in the desert similar to the Australian Aires Rock. After sleeping out over night on the rocks we continued north visiting some 6000 year old rock engravings at Twyfelfontein and eventually headed into the Etosha NP.
The park was full of animals and we were fortunate to spot elephants, giraffe, Rhino’s and a pack of about eight Lions. We spent about three days in the part and then headed east to the Angolan border where we made camp on the Okavango River. We crossed the river and ‘illegally’ entered Angola for a couple of hours visiting local fishermen. Angola is in the middle of civil war and it is not wise to enter too deeply. We continued to travel east into the pan handle of Namibia called the Caprivi strip.
March 1999 - BOTSWANA:
We then headed south from the Caprivi strip of Namibia continuing along the banks of the Okavango river into the country of Botswana. Botswana is another large sparesly populated country.
A series of boats took us further down the Okavango river and eventually into the Okavango Delta. This river never reaches
the ocean but disperses and evapourates into a vast delta in the middle of the desert creating an area that is abundant in wildlife. The local inhabitants who survive off of the delta took us on dug out canoes which they ‘pole’ along further into the delta and we made camp on an island. The sounds of the animals and particullary the hippo's at night were incredible and during the day we hiked to see crocodiles and Hippo’s cooling off in the shallow waters of the delta. After working our way out of the delta we headed through Chobe National Park where we observed many herds of elephants and then we headed out of Botswana.
April 1999 - ZIMBABWE and ZAMBIA:
We entered Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls and this is where our 21 day tour ended. We said our good-byes and rented a car and headed south to Hwange NP. We did a three day self drive safari of the park and saw an abundance of animals including a close encounter with a Cheetah and nearly got run over by an angry elephant. We headed back to Victoria Falls and spent a few days exploring the falls themselves and cruising along the Zambezi river between Zimbabwe and Zambia. During the cruse we saw a herd of elephants swimming across the river, apparently to find more vegetation on the other side. We also got up close to a couple of Hippo’s cooing off in the river.
We then crossed over the Victoria Falls railway bridge into Zambia and the town of Livingston named after the famed British explorer. Zambia is a very poverty stricken country but we were surprised at just how green the country appeared. We headed north by train to the capital of Lusaka which arrived only 8 hours late, not bad by Zambian standards by all accounts! From Lusaka we took a series of busses further north to the border town of Chipata. One of the buses along this route hit an old man in the road completely chopping off his right foot. No one seemed to care too much. Death seems to be all around in this part of the world. Huge percentages of the population have Aids and other diseases!
April 1999 - MALAWI, TANZANIA and KENYA:
We then crossed into the small country of Malawi and headed
to the capital Lilongwe. We then traveled, squashed in a minibus, north to the shore of Lake Malawi which covers about a fifth of this small country.
After a few days swimming and relaxing in a small bamboo hut on the lake shore we headed north along the lake shore to the town of Karonga. From here we headed to the border and crossed into Tanzania and the mountain town of Mbeya before heading east to the coast and the capital, Dar Es Salem.
We then boarded a night ferry and sailed across the Indian ocean to the 'spice' island of Zanzibar which is famous for growing many of the worlds spice’s and is in-famous as the main port center of the slave trade during the 20th century. We then traveled back up onto the mainland and north west to the town of Arusha where we did a three day safari to the Ngorongoro Crater, which is an extinct volcano packed with wild life, and to Lake Manyara. We then headed north into Kenya and the capital Nairobi. To travel any further north by land becomes dangerous so we headed to the airport and flew north to Egypt.
April 1999 - EGYPT:
We arrived in the capital of Egypt, Cairo visiting the sights and the museums. The Egyptian museum is with doubt the best and the center piece are the articles and body found in the tomb of Tutumcamoon. Of course the highlight of Egypt has to be the wonderful Pyramids at Giza which are about 15 miles out of Cairo. We arrived early to miss the crowd but after a morning walking around the hot desert we headed back into Cairo. We then took a train south to
'upper Egypt' down the Nile valley to Luxor.
On the second day in
Luxor I stared to come down with a fever and quickly got a blood test
and was diagnosed with Malaria!! I must have picked it up in
Tanzania as it is not found in Egypt and it takes a couple of weeks to come
out. We had been taking anti malaria tablets which don’t stop it but
DO help to cure it when you get it! The doctor gave me some other
pills and after a couple of days I felt better. About the same
time Tip started with it!! It took only 3 or 4 days to get rid of it and we both recovered.
Once we were recovered we spent a few days visiting the Tombs in the Valley of the Kings and temples of Luxor before catching the train back to Cairo.
May 1999 - GREECE:
Our flight from Egypt landed in Athens, Greece and promptly jumped on a ferry heading to the
beautiful island of Paros. We spent a week exploring the island on a small motorbike and spent a lot of time relaxing on the islands many beautiful beeches. It feels good to be back in the western world again! The weather this time of year in Greece is perfect although we did have a few days of clouds which allowed us time to do some hiking around the rugged coast.
We then boarded a ferry for the short crossing to the neighboring island of Naxos. Close to the harbor are the remains of the Apollon temple as shown on the photograph that I took one morning. We based our selves in the capital and spent another week enjoying the sun and sand. Naxos is a very mountainous island which again we have
explored on a small motorbike.
The great thing about travelling like this is that you just don't know
where you will find yourself next. We were planned to leave Naxos and
head to another island in the Cyclades (the island chain that Paros and
Naxos are part of) but the choices of ferries were limited as we are in the off season so
we headed back to the mainland port of Paraeos (near Athens).
From the Athens port of Paraeos we took
the next train along the mainland coast to Patras which is where the
ferries to Italy terminate. Most of the ferries to Italy stop at the Greek island of
Corfu on route to Italy so we thought a few days on Corfu would be
nice. Eight days later we were still there. We found a really nice, cheap
hotel in a quiet bay and it was too nice to leave. From our hotel the war across in Kosovo was only about 100 miles away and the Adriatic sea between Corfu and Albania is only a few hundred meters wide. The peace of the island was disturbed frequently by NATO planes (on the kill) headed to and from Kosovo which was a strange feeling!
June 1999 - ITALY:
The long ferry crossing from Greece landed in the port town of Brindisi in southern Italy. We then headed north using the trains and hitch hiking along the Eastern coast. We headed for the beautiful peninsula of Gargano and camped for a few days in the small coastal town of Mattinata. The next few days were spent on the road. We hitch hiked and took the train into Northern Italy and the City of Milano and the further north to Como, a beautiful lake side town high up in the Italian Alps. We spent about a week in this area and caught the Lake Como ferry further along the lake to the town of Menaggio which became a base for various day hikes up into the alps.
June 1999 - SWITZERLAND and LIECHTENSTEIN:
We hitch hiked further north across the border in to Switzerland. A bad storm forced us to spend a few days camping in a small village of Bondo. Once the storm cleared it left some beautiful vistas of snow topped mountains. From here we hiked up into the Alps and to the Alpine town of Soglio.
We continued over the next few days to hitch hiked further through Switzerland until we reached the town of Chur. From here we caught the train to the border and crossed into the very small country of Liechtenstein. This small country has a population of about 30000 and is only 6 x 15 miles in size.
June 1999 - AUSTRIA and GERMANY:
The weather took a turn for the worst so we hitch hiked straight through Austria and crossed into Germany at the eastern end of Lake Constance. Due to the recent heavy rains and unusually high amounts of ‘melt off’ from the Alps the lake had burst it banks. We spent the next few days in the town of Lindau which is precariously situated on a small island in the lake. Much of the town was flooded but the weather improved giving us the chance to explore the area. We then hitch hiked north to Frankfurt where we spent a few days with friends before heading further north to the temporary German capital of Bonn.
June 1999 - BELGIUM and FRANCE:
We continued to hitch hike across the border into Belgium and to the capital of Brussels. We did not spend long in Belgium and headed west into France and the City of Lille. From Lille we caught the train down into Arras where we spent a week staying with relatives. Using Arras a s a base we visited Paris and many of the WWI battle sites situated in and around Arras. Arras lies on the western front, the line between the warring sides that moved a few feet back and forth between 1914 and 1918. From Arras we headed north to the port city of Calais.
July to Sept 1999 - ENGLAND and SCOTLAND:
Once in Calais we boarded a ferry across the English Channel to Dover. It felt good to be back in England again. We hitch hiked north to Leeds where my family live. Using Leeds as a base have toured England. A couple of weeks after our arrival we hiked one of England’s many long distance footpaths, The Dales Way. We started the hike in Ilkley on the edge of the Yorkshire dales and walked about 70 miles across the dales to Horton in Ribblesdale. The weather was unusually perfect. Another week was spent hiking in the lake district and we also spent a week on the south coast of England timed to catch the total eclipse in August.
After a short break we headed north to Scotland for a couple of weeks hiking in the Glencoe area and the Isle of Skye. The weather was perfect and we managed to clib to the top of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles.
ASIA (TIBET, NEPAL, INDIA, LAOS, THAILAND and SINGAPORE):
23rd Sept 99 - Kathmandu, Nepal:
A quick update - we arrived with no problems into Nepal
after brief stops in Bahrain and UAE.
Tomorrow we head across the Himalaya mountains to Tibet
for a week and hope to be back in Nepal next week for
some serious trekking!
1st Oct 99 - Kathmandu, Nepal:
We are back here in Kathmandu after an epic trip through
Tibet. We flew from Kathmandu to the Tibetan
Lharsa on what must be the worlds most scenic
The flight flew parallel to the himalayan
and around Mount Everest before crossing over the
Once in Lharsa we visited many
monestries and the Potala Palace which is still
official home of The Dalai Lama, the spiritial and
political leader of Tibet who is currently in
The Chinese brutally invaded Tibet in 1958
(part of Mao's cultural revelution)and have since
ruled over the country destroying as much of the
Tibetan culture and old buildings as possible. All
the country are placed military establishments and
Chinese have 'developed' the country in their own
tackless way. But still it is an interesting place
must have been incredible before the Chinese
After three days in Lharsa we boarded a bus for
epic five day, 1200km drive across Tibet and back
Nepal. I can not describe this journey! Tibet is
4000m plateau and we had to climb many passes over
5000m, the highest being 5250m. The road
were unbelievable, many times we were stuck and
be pulled out of the mud by a passing truck! But
scenary was magnificant with views of the
mountains as a back drop and nomadic Tibetan
herding their Yaks along the way.
Once away from
Lharsa and the larger towns the Chinese influance
away. We eventially came to the Nepal border and
dropped down into the Kathmandu valley.
The last few days have been spent wondering around Kathmandu ans visiting some of the interesting sights and temples.
Tomorrow we head back up into the mountains and
hopefully start a 22 day trek.
24th Oct 99 - Kathmandu, Nepal:
We have just returned safely after an epic 23 days
trekking in the Nepal Himalaya. Our journey started
with a 10 hour bus ride from Kathmandu to the end of
the road and the start of the trails in Jiri. The
Swizz built road wound itself around the low hills and
on a nice day probably gave some magnificant views of
the distant snow topped peaks. However, this was not a
nice day! Infact it poured down and set the pattern
for the first week or so of our trek. October is peak
trekking season in Nepal. The reason for this are the
clear, deep blue skies which occur after the end of
the monsoon season which is suppose to end mid to late
September. But not this year! The monsoon was still
going strong when we set off.
Our destination was the Everest region of Nepal which
is the second most popular destination for trekkers in
Nepal but it would take us a week or more before we
started seeing the large crowds. The first section of
the trek from Juri to Lukla, a six day walk, is
usually missed by the majority of trekkers who opt for
the more leasurly option of flying into the mountain
airstrip at Lukla (more about that later).
The first week of the trek took us up and down over
passes and into the valley's. The trail climbs a
number of times to 3500m and dropps down to the river
valley's of 1500m. By the time we had reached Lukla we
had climbed the equivalent height of mount Everest!
Nepal has a population of 22 million people, the vast
majority of which live in the mountains. The trails we
are walking on are the 'road' system for these people.
Every distance is measured in days or hours walk.
Everything that these people use from food, goods,
wood, and often even water is transported down these
'road' systems on somebodies back. It is quite
frequent to see someone carrying three or four times
their own body weight on their backs supported by a
strap around their forehead.
After six days of walking along the low hills in the
rain along leach infested, muddy trails we reached
Lukla and the weather started to improve. We could see
the small aircraft landing at the mountain airstrip.
We could also see for the first time some of the snow
topped high Himalayan peaks. We chose to walk the
first section for two reasons, one, its suppose to be
very beautiful and two, it helps you acclimatise. The
next section of the walk took us to the high
It took us two more days from Lukla to reach Namche, a
3500m high town surrounded by 6000m and 7000m high
mountains. The weather remained reasonable good,
particullary in the mornings. From here there are two
main routes the trekkers take. Most head up the Khumbu
valley towards Everast. We, in an attempt to avoid the
crowds, headed up the Gokyo Valley. To avoid altitude
sickness, which kills a handful of trekkers each year,
it is recommended that you only assend 300m per day
once you have reached 3500m. This meant that we were
only walking for a few hours each day. Although not
too far it took us three more days before we arrived
in Gokyo at 4800m. The first day after leaving Namche
we were fortunate with the weather and saw our first
clear views of Mount Everast. But the weather got
worse and for the walk up the valley and the first day
we were in Gokyo we were in the clouds with no
visibilty. But that was ok as on the second day we
woke to clear skies and quickly scrambled up Gokyo Ri,
a 5400m hill near the town. The views from the top
were the worlds finest with perfect visibility. From
the top we saw four 8000m plus mountains: Everast, Cho
Ouu, Lhotse and Makalu. The following day was another
clear day and we walked down the valley to the fifth
lake and climbed up 'no name' peak (5500m) with again
After two perfect days the weather changed again and
we descended and headed partly up the Khumbu valley.
The weather got worse and we were stuck for three days
while a major storm blew over. We had six inches of
snow but up where we had been in Gokyo well over a
metre fell and trekkers were told to leave due to
avalanche dangers. We were running out of time and
headed back to Namche and then to Lukla as we had
booked a flight back to Kathmandu. The airstrip at
Lukla has to be seen to be believed. Perched on a
ledge 2800m high and at such an angle that the end is
60m higher than the beggining. The flights only land
when it is clear as everything is done visually. We
were lucky as the last two days of our trek had very
good weather and so our flight was on time and we
arrived back in Kathmandu yesterday feeling very
strong and having both lost about 15 pounds!
We hope to leave Nepal in the next day or so and head
very briefly into India. We have a flight booked on
Nov 2nd from Delhi to Bangkok from where we hope to
head into Laos.
1st Nov 99 - Delhi, India:
After a long days bus journey from Kathmandu we arrived at the Indian border. The journey down was very spectacular as we left the Himalayan mountains behind and dropped onto the vast Indian plains. From the border, in the distance we could just see through the heat haze the snow topped mountains that we had been so close to just a few days before. Once over the border things started to change! India is a very hot and dirty place and everywhere is very crowded. This time of year is suppose to be winter but it is still too hot and sticky for me!
From the border another very long days bus ride took us to the holy city of Varanasi (Benares) situated on the banks of the holy waters of the river Ganges. The Hindus consider Varanasi to be the most holiest of cities and it is the place to come to die. We chose not to join in, but rather just watch! The deal is this, you die on the banks of the river, your body is immediatly burnt and what is left is thrown into the river. And in return, you go straight to heaven missing out on the endless cycle of reincarnation. This happens to some 500 people a day, well the dieing and burning bit does! Of course the river being a holy river it is also a cool place to bath and swim which 100's of thousands do everyday, especially when dawn breaks. All of this occurs on series after series of steps leading into the river, known as Ghats.
So early one morning we rented a row boat and set off along the river to see what was happening at the different Ghats. Believe me this river is not very clean and we saw one of the most discusting things I have ever seen in my life. There are five catagories of dead people who do not get burnt but simply get thrown in the river: young children, pregnant women, victims of snake bikes and leprasy and holy men. These people are considered pure and do not need to be burnt. So as we were rowing down the river lying on one of the stepps was a body of a young child, being chewed at by a dog! No one seemed to care. Infact about 3 meters away people were taking their morning bath in the river. Life and death simply go hand in hand in Varanesi.
From Varanesi we took a long over night train ride to the city of Agra. The main thing to see in Agra is the world famous Taj Mahal. Built by one of India's ruling Mohguls between 1631 and 1653 as a tribute and resting place to one of his wife's. The whole building is made entirely from marble and is very immpressive.
So today we arrived in India's capital, Delhi and we have a flight booked for tommorow over to Bangkok.
9th Nov 99 - Vientienne, Laos:
We landed in Bangkok late in the night. The
morning we boarded the train to Nong Khai at the
east of Thailand, across the Mekong river from Laos. And after a couple of days we crossed over the river into Laos.
Here we are in Phonethips birth place, Vientienne,
sleepy, laid back capital of Laos (or as it is
officially known these days Lao Peoples Democratic
Republic! - although it is not very democratic!!).
I was here 4 years ago when the exchange was 1000
to the US dollar, today you get 8000 kip! Inflation
at 150% per year and a typical monthly wage for a
proffessional is equivalent to 10 to 15 USD. Two
classes of people have developed since the
took power in the late 70's: one, who get support
relatives that excaped and now live abroad in the
Canada, France and Australia and two, those that
But, it is a great place to visit and this year it
become very easy to get into the country. We both
picked up visa's at the boarder between Thailand and
Laos on the Friendship bridge across the Mekong
We hope to head to the north of the country at the
of the week
22nd Nov 99 - Ayutthaya, Thailand:
Well a couple of weeks ago I was walking through the
market in Vientienne (the capital of Laos) and a girl
called out my name? It was a girl I use to work with
at my last company in Virginia! Small world?
From Vientienne we took a long bus ride through the
picturesque countyside of Laos to the northern town of
LaungPrabang. This is a very beautiful, relaxed town
situated on the confluance of the Mekong and a smaller
river. The UN designated the area a natural historic
site a few years ago with the goal of helping
development and tourism without harming the rich
culture and enviroment.
Phonethips family are
originally from here and as we were walking along the
street one day we saw one of Phonethips elderly uncles
whome she had not seen for twenty odd years. He was
easy to recognise as he looks just like her father. We
toured the area visiting some wonderfull waterfalls
and many of LaungPrabang's famous twmples (Wats).
On our last day as we were sitting eating noodle soup
with her uncle and one of Phonethips cousins from the
USA rode by (Noy - male). He was in Laos visiting his
mother and she told him that we were up in
LaungPrabang. Very small world!!
We then headed west along the Mekong on a (very) high
speed jet boat (and very noisy) to the border town of
HoungXie where we crossed back into Thailand.
We were now in the far north east of Thailand and we
couldn't visit this area without going to the 'golden
triangle'. An area infamous in former years for the
opium trade situated on the Thai, Laos and Burma
borders. We were hoping to cross into Burma but the
military government their have fallen out with the
Thai government and have closed all the borders for
the past few months.
So we headed south again and today arrived here in
Ayutthaya which is an island town surrounded by rivers
and is the former capital of Thailand dating back to
1350. The town has some of the finest ruins of this
period and the Khmer period.
29th Nov 99 - Trat, Thailand:
We left Ayutthaya and headed to the south western part
of Thailand close to the Cambodian border to the town
of Trat where we borded a boat and sailed over to Koh
Chang. This is a small island designated as a national
park so there is only limited development on the
island. The last 5 days have been spent relaxing on
the beach and swimming and snorkeling. We stayed in a
small hut which was right on the beach with the only
thing between us and the clear blue sea being a palm
tree (somebody has to do it!). We are now in Trat
again and head up to Bangkok airport tommorow for our
flight to New Zealand.
AUSTRALASIA (NEW ZEALAND, AUSTRALIA, FIJI and COOK ISLANDS):
5th Dec 99 - Christchurch, New Zealand:
Just a quick update to let you know we are now in New
Zealand. We flew from Thailand and stayed overnight in
Singapore and then flew to the south island of New
Zealand. We have just bought an old 1978 Hillman
Commer camper van which will be
our home for the next few months.
18th Dec 1999 - Christchurch, New Zealand:
We have now spent a couple of week living and driving around New Zealand in old 'Marly', our vintage 78 comby van! The name came with the van and we were told that it was bad luck to change it. The van drives very well, although there are plenty of squeeks and funny noises! The engine was reconditioned a couple of years ago and the interior was also refurbished at the same time. It came complete with everthing and has been a lot of fun living in it over the past few weeks. Although it seems to run comfortable at a top speed of 45mph (70kph)! and for me this means a complete change of driving styles! We have so far only passed one vehical and that was on old farm tractor! On the way back into Christchurch today an old lady passed me (waving a fist at me in anger!!!).
For those that do not know much about New Zealand; the country is mainly divided into two islands, the north and the south. We flew into the south which is home to about 1/3 of the three million population of New Zealand and is about the size of Virginia or England. So as you can imagine it is not very well populated. In my opinion (which I rarely voice!) it is THE best place on the planet to live.
Christchurch which is on the east coast is the largest town on the South Island and from here we drove to the near bye Banks penninsula which is a beautiful place full of small coves, mountains and beaches. We then drove west across the 'Southern Alps', a mountain range that runs the length of the South Island and unfortunalty hit some bad weather. This is a normal situation here in New Zealand, espially on the west cost. Moisture gathers across the Tasmin sea which is between here and Australia and the clouds hit the Alps and dump it. Arthers pass which we crossed over the Alps gets 5m of rain per year! Once on the west coast the weather improved and we headed back across the Apls on a more northerly route and managed a few days of hiking (tramping as it is known here) before arriving back in Christchurch. Our plan is to head to the south later today.
Update 1st Jan 2000 - Te Anau, New Zealand:
Happy new year to everyone - its 1pm on new years day here in NZ - we have just watched the fireworks over London on the TV (we are 13 hours ahead) - the US east coast will still have to wait 5 hours! Last night we went to a great millenium festival here in Te Anau with music and fireworks next to the beautiful lake here in the Ffordelands of south western part of the South Island of NZ. The weather over the past few days has been very nice for the Ffordelands but at 6pm the typical rains started! But stopped long enough for the festival last night - but started again this morning!
The last couple of weeks have taken us around the Mount Cook area of NZ, the highest mountain on NZ at 3750m. We then travelled south down the east coast spending Christmas by a secluded beach in the Catlins area at the very south of NZ. We have did may walks, collected muskels 6" long and spotted plenty of wildlife in this area (Albatross, Penguins, Dolphins and plenty of Seals).
We plan to stay in the Ffordeland area for a few days before heading north up the west coast.
Update 21st Jan 2000 - Westport, New Zealand:
We are still on the south island of New Zealand. The
first few days of the year were spent in the splendit
Fjordelands before we headed north to the Southern
Lakes area of Queenstown and Wanaka. The weather has
been generaly quite good especially the days we were
hiking in the Mount Aspiring National Park. We then
made our final pass over to the west coast and have
since been heading north along the coast. Half way
along the coast are two wonderfull Glaciers that spill
out from Mount Cook heading down to the ocean stopping
only a few miles inland. It was nice to be in Glacier
Update 10th Feb 2000 - New Plymouth, New Zealand:
We left Westport and travelled north to the northern
coast of the south island (the top of the south). On
the western side is Farewell spitt, named by Cook as
he sailed away in 1770 which we hiked along before
exploring the many coves and beaches of Golden Bay,
Abel Tasmin NP and the Marlbourough Sounds. From
Picton we boarded the ferry across the Cook Straits
seperating the North and South island and arrived in
the New Zealand Capital city of Wellington. We then
dove north along the wild and rugged western coast and
have just finished a hike to the top of Mount Egmont,
a 2700m high dormant volcano (which last errupted in
Update 26th Feb 2000 - Auckland, New Zealand:
We arrived here in Auckland about 10 days ago with the hope of quickly selling Marlie. However, the summer is comming to an end down here and it appeared that every one was in town to sell vehicals that had been bought earlier in the summer. So we finaly sold Marlie yesterday for about half what we paid for her. I was hoping to get more but it has still worked out cheap (about US$11/day).
Auckland is NZ biggest city by far with about 1/3 of the countries 3 million population living in the greater Auckland area. That said it is still a very nice place and right now it is the center of the world if you are interested in sailing. The America's cup which NZ currently hold is almost finished with NZ currently ahead of the Italian chalanger. America has traditionaly won the cup for the past century and when NZ won a few years ago it turned the sport of sailing into a national event.
Update 3rd March 2000 - Perth, Australia:
Arrived here in Perth, Western Australia a little
under a week ago. Perth is Australia's largest and
pretty much only city on the desert western side of
the country. We have just bought an old Mazda and,
fingers crossed, will leave Perth tomorrow to explore
the region and then head over to the east of the country.
Update 15th March 2000 - Walpole, Australia:
We headed north from Perth along the western coast of
Australia into the hot desert. The first stop was at
the Pinicles National Park, an area of thousandss of
limestone towers sticking out of the sand. Further
north we spent a few days in Kalibarri NP where we did
some bush walking, although it was far too hot with
temperatures up above 40C and the flies are far too
many to ignore.
Further north still we headed to Shark
bay where we were suppose to swim with dolphins. But
as we arrived from the south, Cyclone Steve arrived
from the North and we had to rent a caravan for a
couple of days until the storm had passed and by then
the dolphins were not interested in playing!
We then headed south about a thousand miles to the SW
corner of Australia and are currently in quite a
different area with towering Karri trees and beautiful
coastal scenes. After the cyclone left the temperature
became much more pleasant (but the flies were sadly
not washed away!).
Update 27th March 2000 - Adelade, Australia:
We continued east along the southern coast of the
state of West Australia until the road stopped. Then
we headed north to the small crossroads town of
Norseman and the start of the Eyre Highway. The
highway runs east to Adelade for 2000km across the
Nulabour desert (the treeless plane). Mile after mile
of bush (oh yes, and the flies!). The front of our
white car has turned yellow from the swarms of Locus
that we drove into! Imagine, we even passed two
hardened cyclists as we drove over (not recommended!).
Update 13th April 2000 - Canberra, Australia:
A few miles east of Adelate are the Flinders range of mountains, the first we have seen for a while, so we couldn't resist the opertunity to explore. We continued along the southern coastal road out of South Australia into the state of Victoria. The coastal road known as the 'The Great Ocean Drive' takes you through some great coastal scenary of rocks and caves, probably the most famous of which are a series of 12 sharp rocky islands known as the 12 Apposals. Eventualy we arrived in Melbourne where we stayed with friends before continuing east to the Capital of Australia, Canberra.
Update 2nd may 2000 - Nadi, Fiji:
After a week in the Australiuan capital, Sydney, we
flew 2000 miles across the Pacific to Fiji. Fiji
comprises of over 300 islands east of Australia and
crossing the International date line. We are on the
largest island, Vili Latu. Unfortunaly for the four
days we have been here it has not really stopped
raining but we are still enjoying being here.
British colonial days many Indians came to Fiji to
work in the sugar fields and today the country is made
up of almost 50% Indian which at times creates
problems for the native Fijians. In 1987 a Fijian led
military coup toppled an Indian elected government.
And even today the Prime Minister is Indian. This mix
makes the place quite interesting.
One week after we left Fiji the government was taken over in a coup!
Update 16th May 2000 - Rarotonga, Cook Islands:
Arrived here in the Cook Islands last week. Very much
a paradise. A country made up of 15 Pacific Islands
about 1500 miles east of Fiji with a total population
of under 20000. We are on the main island, all 6 miles
of it, of Rarotonga. We left Fiji last wednesday at
6pm and arrived here at 8pm on Tuesday! Time travel is
posible after all! Fiji and the Cook Islands are
either side of the date line.
UNITED STATES of AMERICA:
Update 29th May 2000 - Honolulu, Hawaii, USA:
After spending a couple of weeks relaxing on the
wonderful Cook Islands we flew a few thousand miles
north back into the northern hemisphere and have been
in Hawaii for the past few days. The Hawaiian Islands
is the last of our island stops across the Pacific and
unlile Fiji and the Cook Islands which are individual
countries, Hawaii is the 50th state of the USA.
on the island of Oahu which has a population of close
to a million and is about 40 miles long (a very busy
place!). We wasn't sure what to expect but really it
is just like the rest of the US complete with
"Interstate" highways! (Interstate on an island?).
We visited Pearl Harbour yesterday and the site of
the Japanese bombing of the US Navy in 1941 which
brought the US into WWII. The US Arizona still lies a
few feet under the ocean and is now a memorial to the
1200 sailors still entombed in her hull.
In a few days we will fly back to the US mainland. We
have been on the road now for over 700 days and have
visited 39 countries, the end is in sight (shame!).
Update 15th June 2000 - Kanab City, Utah, USA:
We flew from Hawaii into Los Angeles where we rented a
car. Our objective is to drive from LA to Washington
DC visiting as many states, that I have not yet been
to, and as many National Parks and areas of scenic
beauty along the way as posible. So we headed north
from LAX, quickly passing through Beverly Hills and
Hollywood, along the CA coast towards San Fran
stopping at the Pinnicles NP for an afternoon hike
along the way.
After a few days in San Fran [thanks Scott] we
continued north to Lassen Volcanic NP which at 8000
feet plus was still covered in snow. Before leaving CA
we visited Lava Beds NP for some lave cave exploration
and some interesting walks around an Indian War site.
Crossing the border in to Oregon we headed up to
Crater Lake NP. A huge volcano collapsed some 7000
years ago leaving the deepest lake in the USA. Again
we had plenty of snow up here which meant none of the
trails and most of the roads were still closed.
Now we started heading east and crossed into Nevada
and across the desert of the Great Basin. On the
eastern side of Nevada we stopped at the Great Basin
NP for some alpine hiking at over 10500 feet (no
We are now in the southern part of Utah, probably one
of the most scenic parts of the world. We stopped at
the Cedar Breaks NP and Zion NP which has some of the
most breath taking scenary you could imagine. Heading
into Arizona to see the Grand Canyon. It is very hot
and dry, over 100 degrees (F). A lot of areas are
closed due to fires.
Update 7th July 2000 - Reston, Virginia:
After a few days Hiking around the Grand Canyon we
drove through Utah, Colarado and New Mexico stopping
at as many of the wonderful National Parks and
National Forests before heading east across Interstate
40 and eventually into Virginia. We arrived back home
a few days ago after just over 2 years on the road.
I will develop and scan our photo's and add them to my
web site over the next few weeks.
BACK TO: PHOTOGRAPHS /