End of a very good chapter

Trip Start Feb 25, 2004
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Monday, March 7, 2005

My name is Jeff and i'm a recovering traveller... there, i said it! I've now been clean for 3 weeks now but i know i will always be an addict... Just one look at my photos could well and truely push me over the edge!

Well folks, today is a momentous day in my life - i have returned to the UK after nearly 1 year on the road! I have to say, it's been an amazing experience, i've met some brilliant people and seen and done some truely superb things. I guess this entry will brief over the hightlights of the last year.

When my travels began and i arrived in Nepal i have to admit that i was scared. I guess it was more of being completely thrown in at the deep end of life. completely unfamiliar territory with a culture so different to that from home.

My travels got off to a shakey start, what with my mate Rob flying home after only 2 days of travelling with him, and subsequently his clicky group of mates and i not bonding. On the 17th April i was re-united with Derek, my friend whom i met on a bus in going to Pokhara and his mates at the time, Gary, Corrina, Helen and Brendan. Little did i know at that point that i would travel with these people across to Tibet, to Mt Everest and onwards into South East Asia. I last saw Brendan when he left for India in early May, and Helen and i parted company on 14th May, the date i left Nepal. I'm still in regular touch with both of them. I flew across to Thailand where, after 2 nights in Bangkok where i partied hard with a brilliant group of people and had my eye brow pierced, i re-united with Derek and Corrina in Ko Lanta. From here we headed across to Ko Phi Phi to enjoy the paradise island. Plans then took me back to Bangkok where i re-united with Gary where birthday and reunion beers were combined resulting in a mamouth session! For the next 2 months Gary and i travelled together every day notching up 5 coutries together.

Getting back to re-uniting in Bangkok. One afternoon i got chatting to an English guy by the pool on the Ko San Palace hotel. I heard his accent to be from London or the surrounding area and that was the initial talking point. Jerry was from Brighton, turning 30 soon and about to become a dad for the first time. I instantly felt and ease talking to him and after and hour or so, we had become mates. With Jerry was a dark haired lad who was wearing dark sunglasses, had his arm in plaster and looked hungover. I was introduced to this guy - Australian lad named Dan, or danger dan as he was fondly known - always injuring himself. His best injury was when he took a naked flame to a helium balloon whilst inebriated on the Ko San Road causing it to explode and burning his remaining good arm, eye brows and facial hair! The night that followed was memorable. What started off as a few quiet beers outside the 7-11 shop on the Ko San rd (always 9pm remember guys?) turned into craziness! Derek and Corrina joined us making the group now 6. We headed over to the less reputable area where Derek performed ballet and Gary wowwed the locals with his Harmonica skills. A local female borrowed Garys instrument and blew but nothing came out! Sadly, Corrina left a few days later leaving a big gap in the group. This was soon to be filled by Neta, an isralie girl who looked like a lost sheep in Gullivers bar. Gary and i were planning to go to Burma, but this plan was put on hold in order for the new group of 6 to travel to Ko Chang together. A week here saw our group have such great laughs. Here, we met a lad travelling on his own - lad named Matt whom we chatted to over a game of pool. I didn't know it at the time, but Matt and i were to go on to travel through Laos together

The group then returned to Bangkok with Gary and i having already booked flights to Burma, leaving the following day. It was at this point i said goodbye to Derek and Dan. Also to Jerry and Neta but our paths crossed again. Actually, I met up with Dan in Sydney loads too! A week later we were back in Bangkok having taught English and spent time seeing Yangons sights. After yet again booking into the Ko San palace we co-incidently bumped into Neta who had just returned from Ko Phan Yang. She conivnced me to pierce my lip - something i lived to regret! Gary and i had booked flights down to Ko Samui as i had to meet my good friends from home, Roger and Rob, who were flying to Thailand for a 3 week holiday. So, Gaz and i headed down to the islands where Rob and Roger turned up. Those 3 weeks were a highlight for me, re-uniting with friends from home, bumping into Jerry and his girlfriend Hayley on Ko Phan Yang and partying very hard. We also watched, cheered and eventually cringed when England were knocked out of the Euro Cup.

10th of July. That was the date that i was on my own on a bus heading from Kualar Lumpar to Bangkok. Having travelled with an amazing group for the most of my travels thus far, i felt very alone again. Within 36 hours i was on a bus, heading to Northern Thailand sat next to a girl who became my girlfriend and travel partner from that point on. Along with her brother, Richard, we spent a week in Chang Mai in which time we did a 3 day trek. With those 2 departed Sarah and i agreed to stay in touch as she was planning to be in Australia over xmas. On my own again, i travelled across to the Thai/Laos border where i promptly met and travelled with 2 lovely irish girls named Emily and Paula for the next week. Vang Vieng is the place where i bumped into Matt for the 3rd time (having previously met him in Ko Chang and Bangkok) I believe that you cross paths with people for a reason, and for the following 2 weeks, Vang Vieng was my home..... and we all had an excellent time. Vang Vieng is also the place where i met Rob and Guy who were later my travel partners through Australia. After Laos i endured a 36 hour bus journey to Hanoi in Vietnam. Sat next to me was James, a Geordie lad whom i'd previously met in Laos. We'd never really spoken before but had the next 36 hours to get aqquainted overa bottle of Jamesons! With James, seated further up the bus, was Gary, another fellow Geordie. Suffice to say, when we arrived in Hanoi our friendship had already begun and we all checked into a guesthouse together. Sarah then joined us and our group swelled to 6, with an Irish girl named Nik and a Lutonian named Charlie - see video of boat jumping in Halong Bay.

We travelled down Vietnam, Sarah and i parting company in Nha Trang seeing me headed, alone again, to Saigon and her returning to the UK. However, we were now meeting up in Australia to travel as boyfriend and girlfriend! i arrived in Saigon and bumped into a brazilian lad named Caio and chilled with him for a few days before returning, yet again to Bangkok..... the place truely is a magnet and if you want to get anywhere in SE Asia, you have to go through there! I bumped into Matt (YET AGAIN!!!!) and others where carnage ensued once again. I finally left Asia on 22nd September, notching up 10 countries in nearly 6 months. A term often used by travellers, and indeed by myself on occassion was 'i'm all south East Asia'd out' - literally meaning - i'm pissed off being here!!!!! Well, at the time, i was SE Asia'd out, but with hindsight, Asia is amazing and i have very fond memories of the place.

Next on the agenda was a tour of New Zealand and Australia which took me all the way round to Mid January. Sarah and i met up in Australia before heading to New Zealand via a 4 day stop in Fiji. Our mode of transport for NZ was a camper-van for the 6 or so weeks that we were there. We thoroughly enjoyed the freedom that comes with having your own transport, and saw everything we wanted to. Beautiful place, amazing scenery and nice people. Good adrenaline sports and good skiing. Although i mangaged to injure myself on most occassions! Highlights include a week in Queenstown, Milford Sound and generally everywhere in the South Island. Meeting up with Jules was also great and i enjoyed her courtesy and a decent bed for a few nights.

Flying across to Melbourne in early November saw me sending home all my cold weather gear, for good! I now had 4 months of travel left and it was never going to be in temperatures of less than 25 degrees! Result! So, after spending a week in Melbourne and enjoying Sals company for 3 or 4 days, Sarah and i headed North, to Sydney on an over night bus - with hindsight i would fly as cheap internet deals are in abundance. 2 weeks in Sydney was me hookin up with Mic and Nelson and on a few seperate occassions, Dan and Mac. Then up to Cairnes to make the slow journey back to Sydney for Xmas, now with Rob, Guy, Sarah and Nic. Many highlights over the ensuing 6 weeks, whitsundays, frasier island, Bryron Bay and all the legends we met en-route, most notably an Argentinian lad who we un-origionally named Argie! He was an absolute classic! Xmas and New Year in Sydney, full on Xmas dinner on the day and our alcohol fueled evenings were great. The flat we hired over the festive period came complete with piano, balony, bbq area and more importantly, the gentlemens room at the rear of the flat complete with sofas.

After the sad farewells, and there had been a few by now, Sarah and I flew to our last continent before home, Africa! The 5,000 mile overland journey we embarked on was, at times great but at others, very tiring and frustrating. Becasue we only had 2 months to make the journey, i felt that it was harder to meet people.. Actually, that's wrong, meeting the people wasn't a problem, but the fact that we were never more than 2 or 3 days in any one place at any one time meant that we usually left people behind. However, we did notch up 7 countries in the 2 months that we were there for, and when we arrived back in Nairobi on the 6th March, 2005, i don't regret our hasty decision to leave for Heathrow a few weeks early. We did everything we wanted to do (except to climb Kilamanjaro but my knee was recovering from a wakeboarding accident) and didn't particually want to stay in one of the most dangerous cities in the world for too long!

Arriving back in England was a shock. You know that sinking feeling you get towards the end of your 2 week holiday? A kind of depressing feeling. Multiply that by 26 and you may have some idea of how we both felt towards the end of the trip. Being re-united with friends and family was great but the novelty they felt wore off within a few weeks, but for me, a lot quicker.... try a few hours! You can only tell them same story so many times with the same degree of enthusiasm before it gets thoroughly annoying. Everyone asked 'what was your favourite place you visited?' I have leaned to give the required one word answers now, rather than explain that every country had its highlights. I am still addicted though, and i can only last so long before i yet again feed my desire to see the world. I'm not sure if my travels have changed me... Some people say i'm more chilled out, others say i've matured a lot. I'm not one of those travellers who thinks that i'm all deep, meaningful and spiritual just becasue i've been to a certain place. Some travellers come across as being arogant because they've been to places like India and Nepal. That's not for me. If i've been to place i like to tell people why it was so good, rather than saying it was amazing, looking longingly into the distance before saying some crap like 'i can't explain it, you just have to go there, but the karma is life changing'.

I would now like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for reading this, to my once in a while readers and to my 'every episode' readers. thanks for all the positive feedback and i am well aware that my writing enthusiam and skill took a nose dive towards the end but that's life. Hopefully i've inspired a few of you to travel, and if i have, my work is done. Life doesn't have to be all work work work. You can leave, you can travel and you can make a difference..... But you have to do it for yourself!
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