A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Bensten

The Golden Gate Bridge

Making use of the travel insurance!

sunny 20 °C

Departing the greyhound bus station thinking it was a 5 minute walk to our hostel. How wrong were we, first of all our way is blocked by a 'gay pride parade' and lots of men in 'mankinis' running around. After watching the parade for a bit we continue on to the hostel, me using the compass on my phone to guide us which i thought was very intelligent. San Francisco has many hills and after about an hour of struggling and feeling like we are about to have asthma attacks we decide to stop for a break in a coffee shop. Again my phone comes in handy and i work out that we have just walked the route you would take by car down the one way streets, so it could have taken us 5 minutes. LOL. When we do eventually arrive at the hostel i notice that the swelling on my leg is getting massive, more painful and minging looking but am confident in the fact i will be home by the end of the week and won't let it interfere with more shopping. We decide the best way to view San Francisco is by tour bus so off we go after a nice lie in and masses of Nutella for breakfast. A tour of down town in the freezing cold followed by a trip over the Golden Gate bridge, being health conscious we opt to walk it which was really nice. Bump in to the fattest women i have ever seen (there is a picture on fb, at least she is walking still i suppose). That evening Bex and I realise that maybe there is something more serious wrong with my leg and after much debate decide that a trip to the doctors in the morning is in order. My foot and leg are horrendously swollen and it looks like my skin is rotting. Doctors trip turns out to be rather eventful, i have an infection in my lower leg which is really bad. Lots of tablets, dressings, an injection in the bum and $400 later i am free to go back and explore san fran. The doctor would have prefered me to sit with my leg in the air but i obvioulsy ignored this. Also no dairy products ment a hot chocolate was definitly on the agenda followed by a tour of Alkatraz prison which was really interesting. Our final day in America was spent doing more shoppiing, watching The Hangover etc. This was before getting on the bus to get oursleves back to LA airport for the homeward journey! :-/ Met up with Blin at LAX which was lovely to catch too! Anyways that rounds up my entire trip i think, all 151 days gone!

lots of love
Gaby xxxx

Posted by Bensten 12:56 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Gaby - Los Angeles

Star Spotting

sunny 25 °C

Firstly, apologies for the slight delay in me posting anything on my experience in America. 

Los Angeles - the land of Angels was incredible. Bex and I arrived along with others from Fiji as all those heading back to this side of the world were on the same flight. There had already been lots of goodbyes in Fiji and more in LA. However my friend Lucy was taken hostage by US immigration on the grounds they didn't believe she was travelling on her own passport so we never saw her again as we departed for Universal City! Taxi driver gave us a quick glimpse of the Hollywood sign before dropping us of at our amazing hotel. The thought of a porter to carry our things and people literally waiting on us hand and foot, (obviously thought we were famous) for our entire stay. They loved us! Obviously having only spent a mere 2 hours in the US it was high time for a shopping trip, which 2 hours in Abercrombie and Fitch totally sufficed followed by dinner in the Hard Rock Cafe. Only issue with LA so far was the apparent lack of a hot sun so we were freeeeezing. Or maybe I am just too used to the weather in Fiji?! Next day was Universal Studios were there were sonmany fat people followed by more shopping, dinner, free drinks and cheese board in the hotel then back out again for the 10.25 showing of 'Pirates of the Caribbean 4' which didn't finish till 1.30ish. Nightime at City Walk wasn't that great to be honest, nothing is open which is particularly annoying when your starving! That next morning we departed relatively early for the Warner Brothers studio tour which was really exciting! So much Harry Potter memorabilia, we also got to sit in the set of the coffee shop from friends! My favourite had to be walking down the streets that are used for basically every film, and you actually recognise buildings from films which is weird as they look nothing alike! I nearly cried when I saw the orphanage from Annie! Bit sad to find out that most films and tv programs never feature anything real. :-( 

After that we hopped on to LA's fantastic bus system ($1.50) to go anywhere and it's really reliable and quick down to Venice Beach! Bit of a shady area when we arrived but the hostel we were staying in was really nice! A tour of LA was on the agenda the next day and the kind man in the hostel booked us on to it and we got collected which was excellent saving us valuable time. The Hollywood Sign, The Walk of Fame and then onto Beverly Hills, home to the stars which was pretty surreal. Bel Air was next and a close up of the house from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air!! Soo coool! When searching for stars on the walk of fame Bex and I got a bit carried away and our tour bus drove of with out us. Never getting panicked we quickly pleaded with another driver to follow the bus up to the Hollywood sign and managed to get back in our bus, much to the drivers displeasure! I think he was trying to get rid of us. :-/ a trip to the wax museum after that, they are all a bit creepy though. I also don't think Selina Gomez has really done enough to get herself in there to be honest. Gave her a nice slap in the face didn't I. Lol. Getting the bus back turned out to be highly eventful. Thinking I know the way back to the hostel I start leading the way. Soon we are lost but I happen to recognise two buildings. Lindsay Lohan's house and Samantha Ronson's, obviously have to stop for a peak in, getting lucky we spy Lindsay, her sister and her mum. Continuing our walk I eventually except the fact that we are well and truly lost so flag us down a taxi. It takes us down the road for 30 seconds and then charges us 5 dollars. We refuse to pay so it starts to drive of with us, probably the most scary thing I have experienced!  

Our last day in Los Angeles was spent down at Venice Beach doing some sunbathing and then wandering through the shops, 3 hours later we find ourselves at Santa Monica pier which didn't seem that epic a walk at the time. When I looked up our round trip I discover we did  a full 9 mile circuit, I did however then notice that my leg had a slight swelling on the side of it but didn't think anything of it... That evening we made our way to the greyhound bus station to continue our trip upto San Francisco! 

Love Gaby xxxxx

Posted by Bensten 03:23 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Party in the USA

When Blin hit America..

sunny 47 °C

I've has the most amazing last week of my round the world expedition. I know it's impossible to decide your favorite part and place, but this week's defiantly been up there.

My last night in Australia was a special one. The girls (Lauren, Dara, Alex, Kajsa, Edith and Susie) came out and we had dinner at Pontoon Bar ($10 meals of course) on Darling Harbour. Afterwards we headed to the Pancakes on the Rocks restaurant for desert where they surprised me with cake and a card, the babes. Of course I was a crying wreck for the evening after that.. The thing about this traveling lark is the goodbyes are the most horrific thing, but I'm already planning my trip to Sweden to see Kajsa and Edith ASAP anyway so it's fine.

And so I left my little life in Sydney early on Tuesday 21st June and said my (emotional) goodbyes to the girls. We had to hide Dara in Laurens bed whilst our drug dealer landlord came round to inspect my cleaning of the flat and return my $140 bond (thank goodness). So I left for central station across the road lugging my backpack behind me, very anxious at the thought of a new foreign land which wasn't the babe Sydney that I'd got so comfortable with. 
After checking in (and being told that there definitely were not any free upgrades available) I headed through to the departure lounge in hunt of a sleeping bag for my camping trip. I was then told by the Lonely Planet guy that everyone, in the entire world, buys their sleeping bag before they get to the airport and of course nowhere sells them here. So I sat down for a couple of hours and Skyped my little mummy who's birthday it was that day, sad that I couldn't be with her. Moon pig is my best friend.
The flight was a very lonnngggg 14 hours and the food was minging, but I got to Los Angeles safe at the beautiful time of 7am on the 21st. After questioning and interrogation I collected my bag and wandered round for a bit. Not entirely sure what I was doing with myself or where I was going. I'd been warned by everyone that the public transport in LA is lame and you cannot get anywhere quickly and cheaply. But anyway I eventually got my act together and found myself on a shuttle bus to the Royal Century Hotel in Inglewood which i'd booked myself the previous evening after idiot Martin at STA travel said he couldnt find me a bed to sleep in in the whole of Los Angeles. 
It was very exciting when I got there because the receptionist couldn't speak English and the whole place was deserted and on the verge of derelict, and I was going crazy from exhaustion after zero hours of sleep. But I managed to wangle a room that morning instead of waiting till 3pm for official check in time, but I don't think this hotel was complying to normal regulations as the included breakfast was actually the dregs of a box of crunchy nut and some off milk. So I passed out in my room straight away and woke up at 3am very disorientated and confused, wide awake and terrified of gang central chilling outside my room on the street. But I struggled through and got to the Holiday Inn early that morning where we had the first night of the tour. Still having not seen anything of LA, the receptionist rescued me from emotional breakdown and sorted me out, booking me onto a day tour of the entire city with one of the german girls Anja from my tour the following day. 
We got collected by the tour bus at 8.30am and were off round the city with big beefy black man Donald the tour guide at the helm. The first stop was the Fishermans village which was sweet, a giant harbor with hugeeee yachts and other exciting sea vessels floating around. Then we hit up Venice, which had canals and was gorgeous. Venice beach was beautiful, loads of native indians mulling around and the smell of cannabis in the air. Next we checked out Santa monica, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, Sunset strip, Farmers Market (where I bought a sleeping bag) Hollywood and then Downtown where the Hispanics rule.  An amazing amazing, tiring day and I loved LA soo much. Despite it's pockets of poverty, crime and all round roughness.  
That night we returned to the Holiday Inn where I went up to find my room on the 4th floor. Opened the door to the most beautiful sight, two giant double beds all to myself and just general lushness. That night we hit the sack super early to combat the jet lag and were up at 7 the following morning to meet the rest of the group and get going!  
So there were 13 of us all together, including Eric (late twenties, california born and bred) from Intrepid. Everyone is so so fun and lovely, couldn't have asked for a better group of people I've been so lucky. 
We set off for Joshua Tree National Park, which was incredible. The trees are funny looking (google it) and are named after the prophet Joshua because when the Mormons went there originally they thought it looked like him speaking to God. So we hiked around for a bit and climbed up a giant mountain of stones, the sun was hot and it was just surreal. Then we headed west to Arizona, where we stopped at Walmart to see that they sell guns causally over the counter, like giant huge shotguns chilling on shelves. My dad would looooove it. Anyway we then came to Parker which is a town near Lake Havasu on the Colorado river. We set up camp and spent the evening in the river, the scenery was beyond belief (photos on their way, WELL worth the wait.) as well as the desert heat. That night the heat didn't die down and there we were attempting sleep in 40 degree saunas. But I've assured myself that all the sweat means definite weightloss! We woke up with the sun at 5.45 the next morning and packed up the tents like pros. Then hit the road down route 66 to the Grand Canyon. Came across the wall of shoes on the way (photos to come) and other crazy random stuff. Original towns from when the road first opened were so so cool, and the hells angels cruising on through were sweeeeet. 
When we got to the grand canyon around 3pm we set up camp, then headed to the airport for a chopper ride through the canyon. SO EXCITED. Of course I forgot all about my travel sickness issues and 20 minutes in, whilst cruising through the most AMAZING place ever, I found myself reaching for the sick bag. I tell you, helicopters shake you up like you're a cocktail in the making, or maybe it was pilot Steve's dodgey driving. But it was incredible and definitely wont be forgetting that quickly, for a number of reasons. 
We then explored the canyon on foot and got trekking through and in it. Weather was gorgeous and the amount of photos I got were ridiculous. We met Eric at 7.30 for sunset and he'd arrived with copious boxes of pizza for us. (we are LOVING Eric) the sunset was surreal and really ended the most amazing day on an even bigger high. Life is good in America. 
We woke up early again the following day (saturday) with the sun and packed up our camp eager for Vegas baby! 
After a long old drive we arrived at our hotel (Best Western Mardi Gras), then hit up the Strip. Amazing amazing, everything you ever imagined and more. Vegas is king. Checked out a few drive thru wedding chapels and then went back to chill by the pool before a night of carnage..
At nine on the dot a giant huge 4x4 limo pulled up and we piled on in. The music was pumping and we were high on life (and Malibu, jägermeister and vodka) amazingggggg. Actually not possible to describe the high. Jason was our driver (and my new best friend) and he catered to our every need providing hip hop beats by the bucket load. We stopped off at the Vegas sign for the obligatory photo and then old Vegas for the Beatles light show which was incredible. Basically I flipping love everything about Vegas the babe. Last and final stop was the Bellagio for the famous water show which defiantly exceeded my expectations! We were then loose to explore the Strip by night and on foot! The casinos blew my mind, I don't have a clue how to gamble or use the machines but I had fun pretending I knew what I was doing. Caesars palace was another world, it's just crazy. The night turns into a blur after that but the photos are priceless! I feel like I'll need a couple of weeks to digest the sights and sounds of Vegas, but i know for a fact that it was hands down the most exciting city everr. 
So on our last night here we decided to see a show, and obviously Holly Madison's (playboy bunny) Peepshow was top of our agenda. After spending the day recovering and soaking up the Nevada sun by the pool we headed off to the Strip to Planet Hollywood for the show. Our bags were searched and camera batteries removed before going in and it was all very strict security, but once Holly and the girls got going it was mental. Such a good show, loads of beautiful people. Girls swinging from the roof and giant swimming pools of milk, only in Vegas! It was an emotional goodbye to Las Vegas, but I'll definitely be back!! 
Next stop was Death Valley. We randomly stopped off at this place on the way. called Armagosa Opera House, its literally this white building in the middle of the desert. The story goes that some women loves singing and also the desert, so decided to build her very own opera house. Obviously as it's in the middle of Death Valley no one hardly ever comes to watch her perform so she's painted faces onto the back wall of the auditorium so when she's on she has an audience. It's all pretty freaky and it's been half converted into a hotel because tourists come to check it out as apparently it's haunted too. Anyway it was freaky as and just weirddd. 
The Valley itself was crazy crazy crazy. The consistently hottest place on earth apparently, it's reached 57 degrees in the past. The salt made the ground white which was cool, but after 20 minutes exposed to the heat I thought I was on the verge of collapse. I dont know how people do marathons in it! 
After that we set up camp for the night in Bishop, California. (I now have tent erection down to a tee) We chilled out for a bit and then rustled up some sausage pasta for dinner on the camp stove which was goood. Then went to the hot springs! 
I was expecting hot tub like things but when we arrived it literally looked like a swamp. Little pools of water dotted around everywhere in between long grass and mud but it was so amazing, the water was bath temperature. The stars were out in force as were the beers and it was an all round cool experience. Each thing tops the last on this trip!
On returning to camp after our communal bath we (the boys) stoked up the fire and we indulged in the American tradition of S'mores. This is marshmallow toasting to a new level, (biscuit marshmallow and chocolate sandwich) and England definitely needs to learn from this. 
After a good nights sleep we set off for Yosemite! Didn't realize that snow was actually an option, and was pretty shocked when the temperature plummeted and we were surrounded by icebergs and the most incredible scenery. I'd actually put it up there with the grand canyon. I spotted a black bear in the forest, and we have to lock up all food and toiletries in a bear box so we dont get killed. Had such a chilled afternoon relaxing in the valley with the girls, Rachel and Ollie.
That night was a cold one, but more importantly, wet. The rain descended as soon as we set off from the yosemite valley village up to our campsite in the woods. Serious rain, complete with thunder and lightening illuminating the entire wood. Pretty freaky. And to top it all off, us girls didn't put a tent up so were confined to sleeping in the van. When were dropped off at the campsite,  everyone else made a mad dash for their tents and we stayed put. This stint in the van lasted just under twelve hours as we were too scared to get out what with the weather and the bear threat. At 3am we woke up screaming as a bear (which turned out to be Geordie boys Scott and Shaun) was attempting a breakin to the van. That morning everyone piled in drenched from their night in the tent lake and the rain was still pouring. All the girls were desperate for wees and decided to wait it out till the first service stop. But the drive to San Francisco passed fairly quickly as we were all so knackered from a couple of hours sleep.
 It was amazing. I had no idea the whole city was entirely on water. Reminded me of sydney!! I spent the afternoon exploring and checking it all out, amazed at the cable cars and general lush weather. Really loved San Fran. That evening the boys decided to go out for a last meal so I tagged along. It was really nice, but the goodbyes were awful once again (I need to man up.) so that evening Anja and I snuck into Ollie and Rach's room for one last sleepover and it was really sweet. But I've just woken up and dreading the goodbye! 
My airport shuttle's coming at 8.30 and I'm flying into LAX then onto Heathrow. I am excited, nervous and sick. It feels like another world and I cannot believe it's all over. Already planning my next adventure! 


Posted by Bensten 07:48 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Fiji in a nutshell

The experience of a life time!

sunny 30 °C

Bula, sincere apologies for my lack of updates in the last couple of months. No internet access has somewhat hindered my ability to communicate with everyone.

I have lived on a beach that's about 200m long this whole time, we sleep in little huts called 'bure's' with thatched roofs. The first night was the worst when we all woke up drenched to our skin wondering why it was raining inside!!! This has since been fixed by covering the roof in tarpaulin. We have a sort of makeshift outdoor kitchen and our ingredients consist of 

  • 2 minute noodles
  • pasta 
  • rice
  • tinned tomato 
  • tinned sweetcorn
  • tinned tomato pure
  • tinned chicken luncheon
  • tinned tuna 
  • tinned corn beef 
  • baked beans

Every morning we have to eat porridge which was okay at first,  but I now never want to see porridge again and my teeth are rotting from the amount of sugar I used to make it taste slightly okay. Every few weeks we do get a delivery of fresh vegetables, potatoes, onions, green beans, aubergine and pumpkin for soup. Basically I have never craved fresh, normal food so much in my life, we all used to sit fantasising about what we are going to eat when leave the Island and get home. Can not wait to get into Waitrose, actually missing it lots especially as my thoughts of becoming a twig in Fiji have really not come true and I look more like i have been living in McDonalds. :,-( 

Camp life is really fun though, minus the outdoor toilet you have to manually flush with sea water, and the fact I have not washed, apart from in a bucket for 10weeks. My nails are ruined and my hair is lacking nourishment. Bring on the spa's of LA, and shopping. Shopping is not even an option here, best way to save money as there is literally nothing to spend money on, apart from church donations. :-( 

3 weeks in we all started to get very annoyed with the constant minging smell that was worsening in our Bure, distinctly near my bed. We thought it was just because everything was damp. Lo and behold, on closer inspection Emma and I come across a dead, Maggot infested rat on the floor.   Surprisingly once this was removed the smell left and all was fine, still slightly damp but what can you expect living so close to water in a very very humid country... O yeah, rats live in our room with us, hygiene is a big must out here, sanitiser is my favourite thing in the world, but you still never feel properly clean. 

Saturday night is party night, the rum here is 58% so pretty much knocks you down dead when  you can't even buy mixer for it. I always manage to forget it's church and a day in the village on sundays, so after dancing the night away to 'Saturday night) I nearly always manage to near chunder at Sunday lunch at my families house whilst they are all  watching me eat as I am a guest. I think I am always too grateful when the invite me to have an afternoon nap on the bed in the living room. Normally passing out for a few hours waking up dripping in sweat as it's so hot and we have to cover every inch of our skin in respect whilst in the village. Not good when you feel horrendously unwell. :-( 

Diving, the actual reason I am here in beautiful Fiji was initially the most horrible thing I have ever experienced. The constant sickness that hit me and fact I had a really bad cold so couldn't get bellow 7 metres then an infection in my ear. Anyway, when we went on our first boat dive in a place called shark attack I actually decided I liked it. We saw two sharks and 4 turtles which was insane, so much better than doing skills and stuff. I always manage to do full somersaults off the boat too which is fun! I am a rather shocking diver however. The funniest dive I went on was when I was a buddy with my friend Emma, whilst kitting up on the boat I manage to fall over into my back, with my tank on my back on top of everyone else. 18 minutes into the dive I suddenly spot Emma swimming ridiculously fast away from me, I persue thinking she's seen a shark, next thing I know she has one of the instructors alternate air sources in her mouth. She thought she had run out of air but she had actually forgotten to turn her air tank on. She obviously didn't trust me to save her despite the fact I was right next to her and her buddy. :-( next thing I know i trip on a piece of coral whilst 18m down in water ending up flat on my back on the coral unable to get up again. Emma thinks it's more fun to take pictures of me rather than help me get up. On this dive we also both broke profile as my buoyancy control is rubbish so I had to be the 'Tea Bitch' for a day which really wasn't fun and miss a day of diving as punishment. Despite the fact the water has never been under 27 degrees, I can't go in not in my wetsuit as I come out with hypothermia basically shivering and wanting to be sick. I've even taken to wearing hoodie and jeans the hole time I have become that acclimatised to the weather here! 

Most of the time on camp was spent sun tanning and eating snacks we got on ration run. Not really the weightless trip I anticipated but owell. :-( 5 weeks in my jeans that had fallen off me when I got to australia are far too tight so I started my extreme diet plan. Obviously days eating cake in the village could not be avoided and chocolate is a must when you are surviving off such a bland diet. 

5 weeks in the government also put a ban on the drinking of Kava due to a Typhoid outbreak which is one of the main things we participated in when in the village. Kava is a sort of narcotic drug that is made from a root, ground up soaked in water in a massive bowl at the centre of the Kava circle. The village elders are closest to the bowl then everyone else in circles back from it. It tastes revolting, makes your tongue go furry, you feel sick and often feel the same effects you get from alcohol. It also makes you have really weird dreams! Everyone here does it everyday and they are so addicted that they have secret Kava circles going on despite the ban. I am secretly glad that we had a few weeks of  Kava as it was truly revolting. Especially when one village decided they would also mix milk in to it. I was therefore being forced to drink milk for the first time since I was a baby basically, revolting. For Emma's leaving party in the village her mum Lasanni invited our Bure over for dinner and cake and we then joined an illegal Kava circle in a chicken pen which was such good fun. 

Living on an island only being able to wash in freshwater when it rains has definitley made me appreciate my home comforts. I have however got far to used to the fact rats run round my bed at night, eat my suitcase and even poo in my shoes that where inside my suitcase. Worst of all the rat ate mine and Emma's Betty crocker chocolate!! :,-( I think it also did a wee in my suitcase. 

Sunday church in our Bula dresses is always entertaining, especially in our 8th week when we went to a different village but our village came too. A 2.5 hour church service, we even had to move around whilst singing followed by dinner for approximately 300 people. Noodles, pork, chicken flavoured fish, taro, sausage stew (a step up in the world compared to camp but nothing compared to my beloved Waitrose), this was then followed by cake, jam sandwiches and lemon tea. Canada and I ran back from the village after seeing ourselves in a mirror for the first time in 8 weeks with no proper shower. The Fijian hair braids I now have cure my hair being a mess which is reassuring. :-) lol. 

So I managed to go the entire 10 weeks without getting any infected mosquito bites or cuts like everyone else who have basically ruined their legs. One day 8 weeks in I get out the water and feel my leg is slightly itchy... Over the next 2 days this itch changes to a full blown swollen knee which is clearly an under the skin abscess thing. Antibiotics fail to make any difference along with every other drug that the camp doctor Yaz can think to use. Taking the approach that it may be related to coral I am put onto some pills that are also used clymidia which I find rather amusing along with a friend Lucy who has a similar thing in her leg. This seems to make a little difference so Yaz attempts one morning to squeeze it out. She's half successful but it's still really hard and I'm finding it rather painful as I couldn't really walk it was so swollen. Next thing I know the biggest needles I have ever seen are shorted into my knee as she has decided to anaesthetise it. I can no longer feel anything so the needles start to go in trying to syringe it out/ make a better whole to open it up not really too successfully though as it's still to hard. So I am drugged up to high heaven after all this to deal with the pain as I feel I am going to be sick, can't walk and want to cry it's that bad. Bear in mind this is all taking place on a wooden bench in a straw hut on a beach. Lol. This day got better and better no joke! Paul who's in charge calls us all to a meeting, I hobble there in tears it's that painful to hear "would this be a bad time to tell you Gaby that we at all going to Namena?" (Namena is a neighbouring island which is home to a luxury resort and a marine park which is the 6th best place in the world to dive, you have to pay for a tag to go there and this is our only chance to go and I can walk) obviously I refuse to be left behind, so drugged up which isnt strictly allowed when diving and going down with no feeling isn't the best plan in the world but what the heck. My buddy and dive group on strict instructions if I passed out, started being sick etc under water to bring me straight back up but we would still be an hot from any help. A risk I would obviously take not wanting to miss such an opportunity, plus I had already payed for it. So it was amazing and I couldn't feel a thing taking far more strong and weak painkillers than should be allowed. 16 tablets in one day  and 2 injections is quite a feet I think. A bad day made amazing as the dive was incredible, obviously it only needed to get more stressful... Our boats engine totally dies half an hour from our beach, so we all hop into the village boat that also came with which is only designed for about 6 people but we get in 20, this is not that easy when you can barely stand so I sort of topple into the boat screaming in pain to be handed yet more pain killers that I had taken with me in case by Kai the Fijian who is hilarious. 

Diving has got better and better since being here, apart from the fact we have to do a few fish surveys. I am awful at these having never passed any of the tests on fish choosing to top up my tan instead. Hopefully nobody will be able to recognise me on my return I look that fijian.

Anyway this is the briefest update and doesn't really account for the last 10 weeks of my life. 8 weeks in was when I started to crave to go back to  civilisation and be reunited with SKYPE!!! lol. Also steroid my starvation die whilst in America so as not to be severely depressed when I return home in 2 weeks time. Bring on LA and San Francisco really. The best thing about America is that a friend Bex from here in Fiji has changed her flights to join me out there so we can experience normality together! :-)

Normality is amazing!!! Back in Savu Savu in my element! :-) never eaten so much in my life! 
Heading to LA tomorrow with Bex which shall be insane! Went shark diving and saw lots which was really good. Pretty entertaining as I ran out of air 20mins in so had to share a regulator with the man leading the dive which was rather funny but better than having to come to the surface and miss out! Also conquered my fear of swimming through small spaces as we did a cave dive which was really really cool and something new I hadn't tried before! 

Just arrived in LA now about head out to universal studios!!! :-) 

Lots of love 
Gaby xxxx

Posted by Bensten 17:10 Archived in Fiji Comments (0)

Goodbye Sydney

12 weeks been and gone..

rain 15 °C

I know it's been a while, let me fill you all in before I leave for Los Angeles tomorrow. 
On Monday 19th May we all went on a trip to Ikea in Rhodes with the swedish girls because it reminds them of home and makes them so happy. We ate meatballs and they got excited reading the Swedish everywhere. Afterwards i then snuck into the hotel next door to our flat to use the swimming pool and sauna which has now become a very common outing of mine. 
I was then back to work as I did Tuesday till Saturday at The call centre followed by babysitting all weekend at the Rathbones, desperately trying to get some money together. 
The following week was much the same, now I'm settled into the working routine the weeks fly by much the same. I pulled in a few sales and consequently some bottles of wine which went down a treat compared to the cheap boxed goon that has become our new friend. More babysitting followed that weekend and I baked peanut butter and jelly cupcakes with Phoebe and took her out to watch Rio at the cinema. 
The week after that was another week of work and that Wednesday (25th) was the State of Origin match between NSW and Queensland. So quite a big deal for aussies. This meant a BBQ at work (in the rain) and finishing an hour early (unpaid)! All for NSW to lose..
On Thursday Lauren, Edith, Kajsa, Simon and I went to the cinema to watch The Hangover 2. The cinema broke mid-film and after a fifteen minute gap (and alot of complaints) it resumed as if nothing had happened. We got a full refund after a bit of a run in with the manager which we were very happy about, considering cinema tickets, and everything else in Sydney are SO expensive. 
When we got out the cinema around midnight we all had missed calls from our drug dealer landlord Klodian. After ringing him back we soon find out that he's decided to move us out of flat 57 with one days notice and split us up! It was all very traumatic moving 4 floors away from Kajsa and Edith and Lauren and I are still adjusting, although our new flatmates Susie (English) Coralie, Aurilie, Roman and Jeremy (French) and Laura and maritzio (Italian) John (Korean) are all lovely. Flat 43 is alot cleaner, but it's just not the same! Although we do get visits often from the girls and Simon. That weekend I babysat again. 
Monday 30th I was feeling wild, and bought myself an IPad 2 with my savings. Lauren, Kajsa and I went to St Leonards for lunch at Edith's cafe that afternoon where she works and then I went onto work that evening at the call centre. On Wednesday i decided it would be good to transfer my money to my English account, and instead accidentally sent it to someone in New Zealand. Luckily the bank realized and, although I was sweating for two days, my precious money was returned to me safe and sound!
More babysitting that weekend and Ash and jack (from home) came round to the flat on Sunday as we hadn't seen them in ages. We cooked them dinner and they STILL owe us a meal.
On the following Wednesday I had another shift life modeling at the same place as before, all went smoothly this time and the pay was good after 6 hours of being still. 
Breakfast at the flat with Kajsa, Jack and Ash on Thursday morning which was nice, and the boys contributed eggs to the equation. 
It was the queens birthday on the 13th which is a public holiday here in Aus, which I cannot get my head round because obviously England doesn't love that. Everyone goes mad for it. Sydney came to a standstill so not much went down that day.
I booked a tour of California that week, so excited. It's LA to San Francisco via Las Vegas and all the national parks. very excited for 4 nights of camping in the desert! 
I bought a camera on Thursday so now I finally am able to document things for myself rather than having to depend on gabys camera! Anyway I got a good deal with memory card and case included so it's all good! First lot of photos from my last night out in Sydney are now up on Facebook. Last night was crazy, all the girls came out and we met up with all the boys from the flat later on. Such an amazing night, very emotional to be leaving my little life here in the cold Sydney winter! Just been packing my backpack ready for the final leg of our round the world trip. SO EXCITED FOR HEAT AND SUNNN. Lots of love, see you all on the other side!


Posted by Bensten 06:57 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Friday 6th May

Quick update..

overcast 16 °C

There is a family of cockroaches living in the microwave!

Posted by Bensten 04:51 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Getting into a routine

Everyday life in Sydney..


Ok so it feels like a million years ago that i last wrote, but i just consulted my diary and it's only been 3 weeks. (Apologies for the day by day account but i cannot remember a thing without consulting my diary so i'm going by that...)
Time is FLYING. So last i told you i had just got the job at OnePath for ANZ selling life insurance.. Absolutely loving it! i got a sale on the first day and you get a wine bottle when you get one, so i was happy. (very different to the door to door commission only job..) I work Tuesday to Saturday 10.30 til 8. Our commission (when you get a sale over $80) is given to us in Coles vouchers which isn't taxed so that's exciting too for our weekly shop which Lauren and I are getting very good at.
That thursday i was caught on the train by the (very scary) traffic police for buying a student ticket without any student ID. Very scary, but after alot of promsies to buy normal ones i luckily escaped the $200 fine which they love to dish out.. i'm now back to buying the full whack price but i invest in a weekly pass every week so that saves me a bit of money.
The tuesday after that i was up at the crack of dawn, trekking across sydney to the art school i was life modelling at for a couple of hours before work. After a lonnng walk and a very embarrassing tear in my dress i arrived at the studio to find out that i was just modelling for the artist Jean David on his own. HA. But it was all fine and very professional and his drawings were pretty good. So he gave me a break and went to buy coffee (something i've found sydneysiders love to do). Whilst he was gone a girl wandered in and asked me what i was doing. It soon turned out that she was booked in to model too and Jean David had double booked. He wasn't happy at the prospect of having to pay two models and it was all very awkward. He then came to the conclusion that he couldn't turn one of us away as he'd promised us work.. so we got into position (me and the girl) for an hour long pose. So funny and seemed a bit surreal but something i can add to my ever growing resume..
On Wednesday i had to back to the Door to door job offices to return the clothes that the Girl i worked with, Beth, had lent me. It was all very awkward and i felt like a right failure who couldn't hack the hard work. But it was fine and i found out that the office cat had died which was very sad.
Thursday was my last day at work as it was the easter long weekend, so after work i rushed back to catch the overnight bus to Surfers Paradise where i met Alex, who's been travelling the East Coast. It was so good to see him after the last time was in Thailand at the Full Moon Party. We spent the weekend on the beach, thank goodness the weather was awesome, and eating $5 fish and chippys. (i am getting very fat.) It was such a good weekend and Surfers Paradise was pretty crazy with all the easter goings on, lots of street entertainers and free ice tea stands. I got the bus back on tuesday morning, arriving back in Sydney at 1am with very swollen feet. (I am also turning into an old person.) Alex came down to Sydney too as his friends are here but he couldn't book on the same bus as me so his bus was like 5 hours behind mine. Loving having him here with me for a week until he flies to San Francisco on Friday!
On Friday i was picked up from work by Paul Rathbone, Gaby's family friend, who we stayed with when we first arrived here. It was so nice to see the Rathbones and i was babysitting that night whilst Paul and Sarah went out. I was SO excited for the royal wedding, and got a bit emotional! Kids didn't want to watch it at first but they were LOVING it by the end, shouting 'kiss kiss kiss' at the tv in anticipation! I got to skype my parents too which was so nice as it had been a while, although Pook didn't make an appearance :(
On saturday Alex and I went to the NSW Art Gallery which was HUGE and free to get in.. then we went to the State Library too and i've got myself a library card which i'm very excited about. We went to the free fireworks at Darling Harbour that evening (on every saturday) and they were amazing! Not quite on the level of the Singapore Universal Studios, but pretty good. We went out that night too with everyone from flat 61 and Lauren and Alex's friends and it was such a good night! Despite missing out on going to The Ivy because we got there too late.
Yesterday (Sunday) we went to Toronga Zoo! It really was cool, the bird and seal shows were awesome and the Ferry trip and everything was just amazing and the weather held up too! Despite us being very tired from such a late night. But i got a good night sleep last night and i was up early this morning cleaning the kitchen as our drug dealer landlord went mental about the state of the flat and said he was going to fine us today. But the kitchen was immaculate by 9am and the boys better have sorted the living room out or else i'll have to kill them.
Alex's doing the bridge climb today and i'm very jealous! I have created a list of things that i want to do before i leave Sydney and i WILL do them. Skydiving the harbour is #1
Lots of love from Australia! Hope i remembered everything!!

Posted by Bensten 19:31 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Bula Fiji


Hello from a very hot and sticky Fiji. Flight from Melbourne was highly entertaining, we were greeted by singing Fijians and they played a song on repeat for the entire overnight flight through the planes sound system. This welcome to Fiji was continued when my plane landed in Nadi, a Fijian choir at the exit. Had to wait for hours for my connecting flight but met a really nice girl called Emma who is also out here for scuba diving. Nearly died when our little plane landed in Labassa, bounced three times and I fell off my seat! Am still alive you shall be pleased to know! People in Fiji all seem very nice which is good, and managed to get Internet working for me on my old crappy black phone which I am still amazed at.

Meeting everyone else at the airport to then head to Suvasuva     I discover that our mode of transport is in fact a a huge open backed truck. So all 17 of us hop into the back, luggage and all to make the 2 hour journey. Staying in some luxury resort, before heading on to the island we are going to be living on for the next 10 weeks tomorrow. I have discovered that there is actually no Internet on our island(fb me if you love me), I have to look after children on Monday, (I have organised to have older children and potentially do cleaning of camp on Monday mornings). On the bright side the main food we have is super noodles and tuna so I am very happy with that!!! Lol! 

Spent the last couple of days buying last minute stuff as we are going to be so remote there is no electricity apart from a generator a couple of hours a day and we basically sleep on a beach. Had to buy mattresses, pillows, luxury food, and traditional Bula dresses which was highly entertaining! I HAVE TO ATTEND CHURCH!!!! maybe I will be religious when I return?! Currently trying to break our way into a coconut with a meat cleaver, as you can imagine not going so well. Food is good too, but apparently not so good on camp, 1st night together we were graced with a traditional BBQ and two boys doing Fijian dancing for us 'the song was about never finding a Fijian boy like him' haha. Today we went for curry, they haven't mastered removing bones from there food, so table manners went out the window. Every one was in the same boat so it wasn't too bad. It's 11.30 and I have yet to back anything apart from the 60% rum we have all bought called Bounty to take to the island for medicinal purposes. I may not live to tell the you tales when I return. 

We depart in our truck again tomorrow at 10am, a 3 hour journey then 20 minutes on a boat. I have been informed that we have to then carry all our stuff through the water to the camp. Total joke. My bag weighs 31kg. :-( 

Anyway hope to here from you all soon my Fiji number is +6798625420.

Lots of love
Gaby xxxxxxxxxx

Posted by Bensten 05:02 Archived in Fiji Comments (1)

Job Hunting

Struggling with money!

So after Gaby left for Melbourne i was living my life in the hostel ironically named 'home backpackers'. But i was up at 8 every morning and into the office down the road to be greeted by an office full of 70 lads and a giant gong which was ceremoniously hit every evening if someone achieved 6 sales or more that day. In the mornings we had 'pep talk' sessions in which we had to chant and shout and scream and get generally excited about Australian Power and Gas. But this turned out to be all a bit too much for me on the 6th day of 8-8 shifts where i found myself in a suburb of sydney in the pouring rain with a mere 1 sale ( not even enough to ring the bell..) so i resigned to the curb and sat there and had a little cry.. and swore to myself that i wouldn't be returning to the office ever again in my life. So that was the on Friday 8th and saturdays are optional work days so they didn't miss me too much when i didn't turn up that morning. Instead i hit Bondi beach with the girls from the hostel (Lauren, Sonya and Leanne) to get out of depression. A really nice day of relaxing but the sheer terror of not having money was really stressing me out. That night we decided to go out for the first time in Sydney and made a point not to take any money with us (not that we had any). So that was a cheap night out, where we came back to Jeff and Clive from Cameroon on the sofa at 2am in Man U shirts watching the game. The hostel turned out to be the most problematic place ever as bedbugs took over my body with bites and the itching became unbearable. Our beds in the morning when you woke up had them crawling over the sheets and it all got a bit too much. So on sunday morning i was dragged out of bed by Lauren and we stormed down to reception in our pajamas to complain and demand a refund. After being handed a can of insect repellent and told it would be fine we kicked up a fuss and finally we got our money and packed our bags, trekking off up to Quay Street to a block of flats where Jack and Ash (boys from school) live and told us there were space. We moved in and our new address is 93/59 Quay Street, Haymarket, Sydney, NSW, 2000 for all the post and food parcels everyone is desperate to send me!
Our flat is cosy.. there are 5 boys and 6 girls living there and it's very multicultural. One english boy, one irish boy, 2 boys from germany, Simon from france, two swedish girls, Shannon from canada and Sam from Holland me and lauren. The kitchen has about 5 cupboards and the space is limited but we have two bedrooms and two bathrooms, AND a laundry room!!!! we were made to promise that we'd disinfected our belongings when we moved into the flat as Claudian the flat man didn't want us infecting the flat. we're paying $140 a week which is cheaper than the bed bug hostel so it's win win. However i did hit a financial all time low at the weekend..
But on the monday after we moved in i dedicated the day to finding a job. Up early to type up my resume and sending it off to 400000 different jobs. Anyway after alot of phonecalls, i found myself in an interview that day at 4 with a recruitment agency and they put me on their books and told me to go to an interview for a call centre in Chatswood on tuesday at 12 (today). That evening Tim (a friend of my mums) took Lauren and I out to dinner. The most amazing view ever from Cafe Sydney in Circular Quay. Overlooking the harbour bridge and opera house it was the most awesome dinner ever, and the wine was so good!! Tim was so good to us and we were upset when he didn't take us up on our offer of coming back to our flat party which had been arranged for later on that night!
So off i went this morning and there were a big group of 20 people, we were told that only 6 would be successful and the pressure was on. We were set into pairs and given a random object to pitch to the boss. So me and the guy i was partnered with were given whiteboard cleaner and we sold it like pros in the boardroom. I felt bad when he wasn't called back for the job and i was.. but yeah 5 of us got it. An irish girl an english girl, me and two aussie guys. We were put straight into training of the product (ING life insurance) which we are paid $20 an hour for so it's all very exciting that i have money finally coming my way into my australian bank account!
Have to fly time on the internet's run out \

Posted by Bensten 01:36 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The Parting of Ways.

The end to a fabulous 10 weeks away.

semi-overcast 19 °C

Going our separate ways turned out to be okay, kept it short to avoid and tears, (I was asleep in bed as Blin departed to drop her bag at the hostel we had found her then to start get first day at work) We planned to see each other again before I left Sydney. We also decided it's best to keep using the same blog and we will drop in our various updates, mine from Fiji where apparently there is NO Internet and Blin's from Australia! :-)

My last few days in Sydney where not on the beach however due to poor weather, instead I...

Tuesday whilst walking across the Harbour I bumped into Jack Kilpatrick by accident (a boy from school for those who don't know) so spent the afternoon with him and a friend, saw the bats in the botanical gardens etc, nice to see a familiar face actually after so long of only meeting new people. I then went to the Aquarium, a good idea at the time, likewise was standing in the great White shark simulator, forgetting that the next ten weeks of my life are going to be spent under water with such animals. I get clostriphobic in the shark and tunnels, and the very thought of the fish being able to touch me makes me feel sick. Hopefully this will be cured in Fiji :-/ otherwise the trip may be cut short. Next was the wildlife centre next door in Darling Harbour which brought about my first sighting of a Kuala! I did refrain from paying to stroke it and have my photo taken with it however. Took a ferry home across the harbour which was exciting until I got off... My new earing's back decided to fall off outside the bus, so bus driver and to granny's all start aid me in looking. I got very dodgy looks when I have to explain it looks like a small silver spike, not your usual butterfly back. The granny's quickly give up looking and the bus driver, drives off.?! You'll be pleased to know that  the earing has returned to me ear, infection and all. Stupid skin disease. Antibiotics do wonders though, my arms, face etc are all healing well but looks like I may be left with some scars :-( 

7am wake up call on wednesday for skype to ensure nobody forgets me whist I am away, followed by watching Ben in his school display. Rapping to Eminem which was really entertaining and all were really good. County Upper needs to learn something about what standard of computer they should be providing us with from this school. Apple macs in bulk covered the school! Then to Manly beach for a bit before talking a walk around the northern head which has amazing views over the entrance to Sydney Harbour, it I huge, viewing the sea for miles knowing that Fiji was the next bit of lnd before America to my North East yet again made me feel slightly sick. My flight there is 4.5 hours so I really will be in the middle of no where. Lunch in Balmoral and then to complete my Zoo trips a trip to Toronga, with it's cable car Safari! 2nd place to Singapore Zoo though, Samui is still in last place, not a place I wish to ever visit again.  That evening Ben, Pheobe and I decided to go swimming in the pool, Paul finds it highly entertaining to find us all out there in our wet suits, shivering and it pouring with rain!!!! My last day in Sydney obviously involved more shopping after many failed attempts at trying to pack my new suitcase. My supernoodles are becoming quite a pain but are likewise the most important thing! I had to pay £40 extra for my overweight luggage on my flight to Melbourne which was a bummer. 
Blin came over for a dinner and sleepover before I left which was lovely and I wish her all the best conquering all the job ideas she has for the next 10 weeks! 

Arriving in Melbourne my new love of public transport. Not. Manages to get me a bus that takes me to any destination I like, I then have to drag my bag up two flights of stairs to my hostels reception, too lads appear inconveniently as I have reached the top, just a little bit late to help me, the damsel in distress trying to carry a suitcase that actually weighs over half my body weight. Hostel is nice though and I am in room of 6 girls who all seem to be living there more perminantly. They also all have massive suitcases which makes me feel slightly better about the size of mine, they don't have the excuse of scuba gear however. Lol. Spent all day on the beach here in St Kilda, managing to fall asleep for 3 hours with everything of any value, ie passport just sitting in my bag next to me, free for anyone to take... Not yet mastered the security of my passport and I no longer have Blin to retrieve it for me when I leave it on the floors of airports and such places. My phone however never leaves my side, which is stupid seeing as it doesnt even work properly and nobody messages me  anyway. :-( Haha. 

Yesterday I ventured in too Melbourne for shopping, tram system was something new to experience. Australia seems to be slightly backward in regards to it's public services actually. Sydney only had buses and Melbourne only has trams. This was followed by a night out in Melbourne with everyone from the Hostel, they've all been living here for ages so know each other which made it a bit weird. Fun all the same, especially as the Chinese girls in my room decided to buy loads of drinks before and let me share but didn't want any money. They were a bit weird but I wasn't going to say no to free alcohol. Today the weather is minging, sunny then rainy so I am just passing the time socialising until it's time to depart for the airport and head on to Fiji to be eaten by sharks and what not!!! Actually fell asleep for the best part of today in a girl called Leane's bed as she was out promoting 'Neighbours', I have managed to go from not being able to sleep to not being able to stay awake which is a pain. :-( 

Love from a very cold and wet Melbourne. 

Gaby xxxx 

Posted by Bensten 00:04 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Life Down Under!

General escapades...

sunny 25 °C

Sorry for the delay in our next instalment. As you are about to discover we have been very very busy! 

Turned out out plane was actually delayed by 4 hours as they had to land in Kuala Lumpur instead where it suffered from a 'bird attack', needless to say I have never been so eager to get in a plane when it finally arrived.  The flight was mediocre, the food bog standard and not really long enough to sleep. This didn't matter however as we were finally Australia bound. Paul Rathbone kindly picks us up from the airport and I can not tell you how nice it was to in a car and not have to think about where we were going. Not as nice however as going into a proper house for the first time in 2 months, an actual home, with a full fridge, sofa's, computers, beds, hot showers and so forth. Consequently we have spent the last week being spoiled rotten to which we are beyond grateful for! Lunch on Monday was Sushi, Blin'd first try and she is now hooked on the amazing revolving restaurants! Then home for a nap followed by games in the garden with Ben and Pheobe who seem to love having us to stay! Despite having visited England they do keep checking that we understand what we are talking about, have had to point out we are not aliens just live on the other side of the world. BBQ'd lamb for dinner is our first home cooked meal since our roast beef farewell dinner. We feel like we are in heaven! Struggling, we go straight to bed, despite being knackered I can't sleep till 3am which is horrible but the lie in makes up for it....

Missing the 10.30 bus Paul had given us all the information for we are left to deciphering Sydney's bus and train system. With the help of the bus driver we managed to make our way to the city centre for the open topped bus tour which takes us past all the sites and we stop for a bit of shopping and photographing! Yet again, Paul is remarkably kind and collects us from the centre taking us home in time for dinner and finally getting round to uploading photos to Facebook. (If anyone does not have fb but would like to see them please email me and I can copy you in with the folders, my email is gabysusannahelliott@hotmail.com)I then decide the way to cure my sleeping issue's is to stay up till 2.30am on skype. The next day I missed the entire bus tour to Bondi beach as I was asleep in it. Question Blin if you want to know any of the interesting information we were told. I then relocated to sleeping on the beach. Bondi beach is quite something and arguably the most famous beach in the world which is odd seeing as it's not that big and in a city. WE HAVE BEEN THERE NOW SO WHO CARES!?!?!  Slightly sun kissed we make our way back to the centre for a spot of shopping, Blin needed an outfit for a job interview and I thought it best to make use of the fact that Ugg's are from Australia and therefore really cheap!!!!! Choosing to explore the waters of Sydney we take the ferry home and then the bus. Public transport is definitely a new skill I have gained, still would have no clue about a bus in Bury however! 

Thursday brought around an epic shopping trip with Paul for all my scuba gear, i will look nice in my matching pink gear if nothing else. Whilst all this was going on Blin was at her interview for a Call Centre........(I think it best she fills you all in on this)....

I turned up to a door to a sexy massage parlour with the same address I was told, but was then told to make my way upstairs where things looked considerably more pro. Scarily so infact. I feel very inferior with my blouse hanging out the bottom of my skirt heading down the corridor to the boardroom for my one on one interview with the manager Tony.  After a few minutes grilling it turns out I have been invited back for another interview at 10. So in the break I go and find Gaby and Paul shopping and when they ask me what the job includes I could not say as I didn't think to ask this crucial question. I came back at ten to find myself dragged off with Tod the pro salesman for some 'on the job' observation. Here i find that we have to knock on doors and persuade people to convert their electricity supplier to Australian Power & Gas! 500 hours later (and alot of angry, door slamming Australians) I return to the office for 'devbriefing' with Tony where I am forced into agreeing to the job and a return to the office tomorrow morning for a 'training day'. Anyway, now on Monday and I can inform you that I am vaguely clued up on Australian Power and Gas and have my company shirt and lanyard on it's way to me (after a very hilarious photoshoot for by ID badge)
Also in the job pipeline, babysitting on a yacht, life modelling and call centre opportunities! Anyway back to Gabs..

On Saturday I took to the wheel and we 'road tripped' to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. (Ben is welcome to the car I think a 4by4 automatic suits my driving far better?) We arrive safe and sound, but soon realised we maybe should have booked somewhere to stay as everywhere was full and our non existent map reading skills/lonely planet providing a faulty map meant we had difficulty. Eventually the lady from the YHA rang around and found us a room which turned out to be very nice. Kitchen, sitting room and tv so we were equipped for the evening! Before that we took a walk down to admire the views and even thought it appropriate to tackle the 900 down staircase that you have to climb up again next to the famous Three Sisters Rocks (I'd never heard of them before but owell) The weather turning cloudy and cold we move into 'Aldi'... Yeah I know , not quite my beloved Waitrose but it does sell massive packs of the snakes by The Natural Confectionary Company and Blin stocks up on cheap cheap cheap super noodles, pasta, sauces and noodles, determined to make all $7 worth last 12weeks, ready to start her new life down under!!! That evening whilst watching TV I manage to land myself in conversation with a very odd man who is staying there. Apparently he runs hostels around the world but is working in a grocery shop in Katoomba at the minute where he is 'very well payed'?! He absolutely hates the Irish and according to him 500 Irish were deported in January and just all German visa's have been stopped for the last year. So yeah, not quite the long term friend people say you can meet whilst travelling, quite the opposite actually. Sunday was our horseriding adventure which was so so good! Picked up from our hostel at 12 by the stables run around boy who decides to take us on his run around job too, so we visit the petrol station, bank, pick up lunches and so forth which is highly entertaining! When we arrive our horses are distributed between us apparently on experience... Blin gets Jimmy and I am on Apollo. Jimmy likes to take it easy we soon discover whereas Apollo likes to keep right next to Jimmy at all times which can become quite difficult when Jimmy wanted to trot and Apollo wanted to canter... Nevertheless our two hour trek through the undergrowth at the base of the mountains was very relaxing and unbelievably nice to be back on a horse after 2 months. It's weird to think it is now April and we are still not quite half way through our trip!! Had my first subway for dinner after horseriding which was nice, managing to cause a lot of drama in the sandwhich shop, apparently Tuna and Turkey is NOT allowed together this side of the world... Through much persuasion I obtained one however. This morning we departed early for Sydney again, my driving now tip top and made it back in a mere 1.25 hours, no speeding!!!! 

Spent the afternoon in Sydney finding Blin a place to stay which was very successful, she is now in an 8 bed dorm, all very modern, free internet, breakfast and so forth which is very exciting! I managed to get accused of shop lifting in a Chinese run supermarket however which was not so amusing. They didn't have any suncream so we just walked out again, security pounced on us rooting through my bag of plasters and bandages etc I had bought for Fiji at the pharmacy but I have no receipt for it!!! Little Chinese man try's to confiscate it not believing my story and insisting he sells Hydrogen Peroxide and gauze plaster type things in his shop. Turns out he doesn't suprize suprize, but he does have some of the plasters I had. After lots of packet studying and barcode comparing with me demanding a CCTV search he decides I haven't stolen anything from him and that my story of there being a lack of sun cream in his shop may actually be true. All very much of a palava and a waste of time made worse by the grounds his English was shocking and he kept saying 'bandaid'. Urgh. 

On an even more minging note, I have managed to win the award for first person to get a proper illness whilst travelling. I have a skin infection which the doctors reckon is a 'Staff' Infection, basically any scratch, bite etc gets very badly infected and can't heal, so my arms and head are covered in bandages etc. Antibiotics are doing the trick however. We both also have colds as well, Blin's is far worse than mine but hopefully that shall clear up soon! 

Anyway, as of tomorrow Blin moves out into the big wide world of Sydney and 9-6 work, whilst I spend a few days on the beach before heading to Melbourne then onto Fiji with its lack of shopping facilities and Internet! (I have packed lots of supernoodles and anyone can have my postal address as all letters will be much appreciated :-) ) 

Lots of love and hope everyone is well?


Posted by Bensten 03:36 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Singapore Noodles.

Sentosa Island, Universal Studios, Shopping Centre Paradise!

sunny 35 °C

Our cheap flight tickets get us too Singapore safe and sound, the one missing passenger who had checked in was supposed to be sitting next to me so all for the win really! Arriving in Singapore we decide a night in the airport would save us money. I spend the night annoying the information desk lady by asking for new wifi passwords hourly. Blin manages to fall asleep but I think an all nighter may be more appropriate after a man from the Philipines ask me to come back and visit, all I did was ask where a plug was to charge my phone! Public transport opens at 6 so we are on the first train in search of Singapore's little India which is apparently the place to stay whilst on a budget! The sound of a return to India troubles us slightly... No hostels are open at this time apart from Dunlop 28 so this is obviously where we end up staying. No sleep and a trip to Singapore's world famous Zoo is agenda so off we slog, managing to navigate ourselves there by both underground and bus. The Zoo is definitely the best Zoo I have ever been too, that's for sure! I also manage to fall asleep on th floor overlooking the manatee which is found highly amusing by some local school children. I wake up to them photographing me! Lol! Blin grooms the Arabella ponies and looks at the giant rabbit whilst I have my power nap. Continuing on we ensure that we see every single animal the zoo has to offer, ticking then off on our map. After this extravaganza we think a spot of food down in the harbour would be appropriate... We think we should have had orienteering lesson before we left and brought a compass with us as we hiked around Singapore and ended up on a tour of the CBD finding ourselves in a car park of Lamborghini's! We get rescued by a lively Thai lady who totters out in heels who guides us to the cheap food Market we were after. It turned out to be shut!  So we went up to a food court in one of the 49000 shopping malls Singapore has to offer and managed to find some noodles and rice for $4. The shopping centres are insane, you would need about 2 months worth of non stop shopping to visit everyone of them and be able to look around. That is no exaggeration. However, food accomplished we made our sleepy way back to little India for bed, just in time for the Indian prayer songs to commence at full volume on the street outside and continuously throughout the night half-hourly. I take to making skype work, doesn't really happen apart from a weird man introducing himself to me, shaking hands etc, he then stopped me on the street this morning to check I remembered him and told us to have a good day!?! Anyway....  
After finally getting some sleep we wake up rather late at ten and stock up on the hostel breakfast which was included in the $28 a night price tag. Then decide to take the underground to Sentosa Island, which we've heard good things about. We caught the bus from the station which conveniently took us straight to the door of Universal Studios, which is where I type from now as I wait for Blin to get off the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure. We've taken to single rider so we can take turns guarding the valuables. The park is insane! The Shrek 4-D Adventure was very exciting! An interactive cinema basically and we were soaked with jets of water every time Donkey sneezed, also hit from beneath our chairs when the spiders appeared!! Blin was a little traumatised by this. We've been making the very most of our ticket and have been on every ride here, we came to the conclusion that the 'psychological thrill ride' that was The Mummy was the best, and have been on on it numerous times. Also the 2 Battlestar Galactica rides are amazing!! Google them, apparently the tallest upside down roller coaster in the world if you believe the flyer :-/ Food here is very expensive as you can imagine an we are kicking ourselves for not making sandwiches with the free food at breakfast this morning.. But we live and learn and will be making hampers for our day out tomorrow. Chips and burger it is, this time of slightly higher standard than McDonalds... Not really that hard actually but owel. Fireworks started at 9 in the park, we decided they have different explosive laws over here as neither of us have seen anything like before, for some of them you couldn't even look they were so bright and made such loud bangs that actually shook our bodies!!! 

Today has consisted of a return trip to Sentosa Island, this time exploring the beaches, very clean and rather man made looking but we weren't sure. Left for the airport at 4 and when arriving to board our plane we go into major panic as the gate has been closed!!! Thinking we have missed the flight despite having been in the airport for 3 hours I ask another passenger who kindly/not so kindly informs us that our flight has actually been delayed by 2.5 hours which is annoying. We have managed to grab some lounge chairs in a rest area so not too much of a hardship. Hopefully we shall make it to Australia soon! 

Lots of love 

Gabitha xxxxxxxxxxxxx 

Posted by Bensten 05:36 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Malaysian Mayhem

Cockroach galour!

sunny 30 °C

My phone starts ringing at 6.20, apparently our mini bus is early, we are no where to be seen and he is leaving without us. Anyway that is what I deciphered from the Thai being shouted at me! It all turns out fine and we are quickly branded with stickers yet again in Thai, and after a tour of the island we make it to the ferry which takes us to the mainland. I sleep the entire way and Blin is curled up in a ball on the floor, tiredness is already setting in. The thought of arriving in KL at 6pm is comforting however... After our ferry we board a coach and then suddenly it pulls up in the side of a motorway after about an hour and we are told to get off leaving everyone else to continue their journey. A small pick up truck is waiting for us, throwing our bags in we head off, finding ourselves dumped in a Cafe in the middle of a housing estate where we have to wait for 1 hour! Eventually another mini bus arrives and we cram in, the only seats left are the one with the luggage on! Our journey is understandably very uncomfortable made worse by the reckless driving, we see death flash before us many times! Yet again after about 2 hours we find ourselves being thrown out on the street. This time into a travel agents that is apparently about an hour away from the Malaysian border. We get told to return 3 hours later, it is then we realise that the promised arrival time of 6pm is not happening as we don't depart here till 7! Absolutely sickening but made better by McDonalds, Luxury ice cream and Mr Doghnuts with the company of a young English couple called Jo and Sarah who are also travelling. Their medical kit came in handy when I realised that my arm has swollen up and has some sort of pustules on it, potentially a reaction to spider bites we think! We choose to cart lots of medicine out here but leave it in our big rucksacks where it is of no use. :-( idiots. We are all in a state of excitement when we board the bus, the massive comfy chairs that recline to flat position seem beautiful, as do the cushions, blankets and water we are provided with. All goes swimmingly till we reach the border when Jo realises there is a cockroach running across the arm of his chair. Not thinking to much of it as he killed it we hop off the bus and sort our departure cards. Returning to the bus Sarah discovers a cockroach in her yoghurt pot so we all start to get a bit panicky. We quickly forget the cockroach saga as we are required to have all our bags searched at customs on entering Malaysia. This proves a very long and tiresome experience. We however avoid any searching as the security officers seem more occupied by listing english footbal teams to us and telling 'Belinda Corrie' that she is beautiful. :-) We set of on our journey again and all is lovely. Upon stopping for dinner we decided on the grounds we have no money to remain on the bus with another English boy James, we cause quite a stir when suddenly we are both standing on top of the seat backs screaming, upon realising that about 25 cockroaches are swarming over the window/chair/bus wall, needless to say we do not sleep well for the rest of our overnight bus journey to the big KL! Haha. 

Upon arrival, yet again we are thrown out on the street, failing to be told where we are, not best pleased in our tired state. Our tourguide friend James we made on the bus appears to know where he is going so we follow along with Jo and Sarah. Whilst Blin and I enquire about rooms at a hostel all hell breaks lose out on the street between our friends and a Malaysian. Bearing in mind it is about 4 in the morning and we all want to find somewhere to stay quickly. Turns out that James politely refused an offer to go to a gay bar, and too stay at this mans hotel/hostel/house. The Malaysian was throwing punches and shouting the odds midst doing laps of the street on his scooter as we were trying to all walk calmly away from the raving lunatic. The couple make a dash for safety into a hotel where there security quickly pops up, and we are beckoned off the street by an Australian also in this hotel. All very much of a palava, Blin is near to tears and we are both dead with tiredness. We decide to stay in the same place as James as he has been before and recommended it. Our room reminds me of a prison cell but it's all clean and nice, the staff are friendly and there is free wifi. What more could you ask for?!?! We are also now very good at scouring rooms for any evidence of cockroaches! 

After 5 hours of intermittent sleep Blin leaps out of bed, boobs flying free to go and pay the receptionist as we will be charged after 12. Not knowing a thing about KL we emerge with a map go discover we staying in china town next to the famous Market! Very very exciting! Taking a walk we find ourselves at the central  Market perusing the shops, earings are on the agenda, blind ears have been empty since England and my lesbian hoop needs to change. Here we bump into James who suggests a climb up one of the worlds tallest tours, so off we trundle!! 

Emerging from the under ground station we see the building straight ahead, an hour later we make it too the door after me, not feeling great, manage to lead us in the wrong direction :-/ not really sure how this was possible, we then opt to not use the free shuttle bus up the hill... Dripping with sweat we arrive at the ticket counter receiving many dodgy looks! Haha.   The view from the top is pretty sweet, and we can see the worlds tallest twin towers 'The Petronas Towers' without Queuing for hours to maybe not even be allowed up them! Upon reading our ticket we discover we also get a free pony ride, F1 simulator turn and zoo admission so down in the lift we go. After 15 mins of spinning around in circles on a race track (wish I had listened more when being taught how to play 'Gran Tourismo'?!?!?!?!) we think a pony ride may be more exciting... How very wrong, the dying moulding animal traipsed around the ticket counter for aprox 20 seconds with us on it's back. (picture of Blin is on Facebook to give you some idea of the hilarity of this venture but also very sad) :-( Next the three of us wonder into the zoo and there is mention of an elephant. No elephant but a 15 chicken a day eating snake, they wouldn't let us feed it however, we though this would have made great use of the eBay video camera! The Zoo was actually rather good, seeing some very entertaining animals like the two headed tortoise, chinchilla, monkey fight, chickens, rabbits, and odd chameleon type thing. Very very very exotic. O yeah and there was a very hungry looking snake that was making a great effort to escape from it's unlocked cage, we were the only ones to find this an issue however :-/ 

That evening was the start of refilling our newly emptied bags at the famous market. We are now the proud owners of:

  • 1x Chanel handbag
  • 1x Prada handbag
  • 1x Chloe handbag
  • 1x Anna Sui purse
  • 1x pearl earrings
  • 2x chandelier earrings 
  • 40x fake eyelashes
  • 1x Chanel watch
  • 1x Mac mascara
  • 1x t-shirt 
  • 1x torch 

As you can imagine we collapsed into bed yet again having to wake up before 12. This time we were however woken by the shout of 'get out' by the cleaner who obviously did not appreciate the fact we still had 3 minutes left in our room in which to pack our bags and return the phone charger to James as Blin did not think this was a necessary item to bring with, but the phone was... 

Breakfast on the rooftop was again entertaining. I opted for the full English whereas Blin went for an empty bowl and glass of milk. James, the waitress and myself where slightly perturbed by this. All became clear when she whipped out the dregs of her museli she has been eating for the past week whilst we were at the house! Lol! The day then consisted of more shopping, a trip to mcDonalds then the Reggae bar, then more shopping. All in all very successful, never managed to get a mulberry purse however. :-( 

Currently writing this from the air Asia bus which is taking us to the airport for our spur of the moment flights to Singapore. We couldn't handle another cockroach infested coach journey. This was all after managing to navigate the metro station with our rucksacks, handbags (we've laterd the mini rucksacks feeling we need to look more normal as we head back to civilisation) and fake eyelashes on. We shall be topping up our tans at a sun bed later! 

Another funny story we missed is whilst heading to the metro station a man stopped his scooter to say goodbye to us, so turns out it is the man from the fight when we arrived so we get slightly panicky. Especially as everything of value to us is swinging free from our arms in our new purchases! Scary stuff. The hostel we emailed about staying at this evening them emailed us to say they had given our beds away after Blin wrote a sob story about two girls turning up late at night, scared and tired lost in a big city. They obviously didn't care that much. :-( 

Anyways, much love, we'll keep you updated on Singapore (currently chewing my last bit of gum for the weekend in preparation.)


Posted by Bensten 06:20 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Full Moon Party Weekend


semi-overcast 32 °C

So basically the best weekend of our lives...

Day 1: to Koh Phangan
Departing at 8.30 we start the hour walk to Big Buddha pier with only our small rucksacks, so it's relatively pain free and we arrive in plenty of time for the 10.30 ferry. Blin is already starting to feel queasy at the thought of another boat. As 10.30 approaches we start to realise the scale of the weekend we are about have. The pier is packed out, taxi drivers are blaring the drum and bass across the car park, all in all it appears as though the party has already started and it's only thursday. Boarding the boat, we get squished in between many very tanned girls who seem to be comparing stories of whose had the most dramatic hospital experience since they've been travelling. This keeps me preoccupied whilst Blin focuses on the horizon, successfully managing to keep chunder at bay. Quickly finding David the Dancing Elephants hostel, we are awarded the prize do the smallest rucksacks he has ever seen before being shown to our bamboo bunk-beds (the ladder collapsed every time we climbed up)! All three of us then take up residence on an empty lower bunk in the dorm for the start of a 45 minute briefing that we later found out everyone else had managed to avoid. The outcome of our briefing was a map with all the best places to buy drugs circled on it, but with a warning that it shall be very expensive for us and time consuming for David if we get put in prison. We also have a list of places we get discount in Hadrin, it appears David has his fingers in all the pies, not to mention his two Thai wives, one with a baby and the other pregnant. Deciding to get some food and explore out new surroundings we venture outdoors . Turning the corner we happen to stumble across the 'Bury Lads' so it's lunch with Alex, Ollie, Jonny and Zac who are staying in the  neighbouring guesthouse and the rain sets in. :-( That evening we head to the beach for party time but the rain puts a slight dampener on this so we only stay out till 2.30. I manage to acquire some sort off lesbianesque hoop in my ear with spikes at the ends... a good night we could say! 

Day 2: The Pool Party
Awaking at lunch we head out in search of breakfast. We happen to find a restaurant with the moodiest staff imaginable, and after much hassle get some food ordered... My bacon and eggs arrives in the form of ham and eggs despite us having watched the bacon being cooked, (we have learnt not to question anything however). It starts to rain yet again so we start shopping purchasing a neon crop top for the full moon party and other such oddities before heading back to the dorm. Ring of fire starts at 9 and we are drinking rum and coke as it was the cheapest thing we could find and all seems to be going swimmingly. We made good friends with two girls, Kristie and Lydia from Oxford too. At midnight it is decided that the famous pool party at coral bungalows (it happens every night) is on the agenda so David and his wives flag down a free Tuk Tuk for us and all 25 of us pile in and on top, getting the body paint out for the journey so on arrival we are frankly glowing. This doesn't last long however as it's a 'pool party' . After obtaining some buckets of alcohol we make our way to a raft out at sea choosing to have our own rave for a while. The moulding wood is quite the happening place, we are shortly joined by some Swedish boys and my foot manages to go straight through the wooden boards so we  think it may be better to return to the actual pool party... After 3 hours of swimming, being thrown into the pool, falling into the pool and so forth Kristie, Lydia and myself decide to head to the beach whereas Blin stays at the pool with the boys. It appears my flip flops have gone missing at this point, but owell, I can't be bothered to look for them so we head off. The thought of paying for a taxi does not appeal to us so some poor people had hired a jeep got landed with the three of us clinging onto the open window demanding to be taking to the beach! They do so it's all good, being stopped by the police we get a bit worried so stop singing as loud but quickly start again as they wave us on laughing. Every dog on Koh Phangan has now been serenaded with our rendition of 'B I N G O'. We party on at the beach till 5.30 taking part in the fire limbo competition, (I have the burns to show for it) and just general beach partying behaviour before stopping of at Mr K's for 'cheesy chips, pad thai and nachos'. Mr K does not have any savlon but brings us bags of ice for our burns and puts some tiger balm on the table for us. Probably the best night out of both out lives, I don't think any party could ever compare actually. 

Day 3: The Full Moon Party
So when I wake up (just after lunch) the pain of moving my leg is beyond imaginable, a very very sore knee cap, throbbing toe and sore head brings back memories of how many times I hit the bottom of the pool when people jumped in with me, Blin is being sick downstairs whilst I am inspecting my injuries which yet again proves to us what a good night we had! Limping out for breakfast/lunch with our friends we tuck into hangover food before returning straight back to bed to ensure we are in our prime for the legendary FULL MOON PARTY! Stocking up on sugary snacks and devouring an entire packet of pro plus we go out to get more neon clothes and lots of paint, and so the preparations commence. Blin could win the contest for most amount of skin covered in paint, she even managed to whiten her teeth with it, ignoring David's warning not to put it near our mouths. How else would you achieve a splattered effect though?! As midnight comes close the company departs and we emerge on sunrise beach amongst the 30'000 others who are already partying with no intention of stopping until the sun has risen. I have never seen anything like it, basically a large beach with not an inch of sand free, bars running all the way down the side selling buckets of alcohol, and speakers filling every available gap, I wouldn't be surprised if you could hear it back on Koh Samui. The centre of the beach has hundreds of dance podiums, there are hundreds if stalls selling neon tattoo type things, so we obviously stand by the neon lights to inspect out own handy work. (lots of people kept asking which stall had done it for us!) Whilst dancing on a podium we spot the water slide with fire down the sides of it so we are off climbing the rope ladder up to it for hours. The landing onto the beach was rather painful after a while however! Still dancing the night away, the fire limbo was obviously another must as was tactically chundering into the sea at 2.45! We suddenly spot one of David's many enterprises '7 Burgers' so stop off for cheesy chips, he is there in his apron, wives chained to the cookers in the back of the shop. It all gets very entertaining however when a fight breaks out. David lifts his wives to safety, then goes back to break it up, they follow behind holding on to him fearing for his safety, rather cute but you can see why we found it amusing... (David is French). Going back to the hostel to make use of the free toilets we hitch hike across a massive puddle that has formed, in the road. When I say hitch hiked I mean we leapt onto the back of a passing vehicle and threw ourselves off it when we were clear of the water! Opting for a short nap on the floor of hostel, only myself and Lydia return to the party, Blin is still down there seeing in the morning. As dawn approaches, people start to flag, and the amount of people passed out on the floor is amazing. I again opt for a short nap to make sure I am still awake for sunrise. Nobody fret, there are people that check everyone is ok, and I am still alive. As 7 approaches it's back on the fire slide to celebrate and then eventually we wonder back to the hostel and don't get up till 6pm. (maybe YouTube the Full Moon party to understand how many people are there and how insane it is, I don't think this description does it justice.

Day 4: recovery 
Not waking till 6 obviously cut the days activities short, but hangover food was definitely on the agenda and then back to bed. However as midnight approached Lydia and Myself left the rest of the group to sleep feeling more partying was in order, we didn't want to miss out!! Returning at 3 we pick up Kristie and it's time for breakfast at Mr K's and we eventually go to bed at 5.30, after serenading the dogs of Hadrin, Koh Phanagan again. Lol. 

Day 5: Good Bye Koh Phangan
Getting up at 10 we head straight back to the ferry after an emotional goodbye to our new found friends. :-( Not fancying the walk back to the house we get a taxi and collapse in bed after packing out bags and selecting lots of things for the Baxter's to return home for us, (thank you so much Ruth, Paul, Megan and Sophie!) Our rucksacks now considerably lighter, mine actually shuts for the first time since leaving England, we dread the 6am wake up call for our bus to Malaysia.

Lots of love and hope your all glad that we are still alive after a crazy long weekend! 

Gaby xxxxxxxxxxxxx

P.S: Start saving for next years summer holiday please girls and boys. :-) 

P.P.S: our 12 hour bus journey too KL is actually over 24. It's yet again pouring with rain, we have a 3 hour wait in a random city near the border and feel like death. So not really going as well as the weekend did. :-( 

Posted by Bensten 04:02 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

We survived the Full Moon Party.. just!

Koh Phangan

storm 36 °C

Facebook album for those not on facebook!.....

Posted by Bensten 04:44 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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