#tbt Romania

After months of solo roaming, I’m chilling in Romania when I get a message from a school friend living in London.

“How much longer till you fly back to New Zealand? I might join ya.”

A few days later Michaela and I are wining and dining in Cluj-Napoca the infamous Romanian hub of the young and reckless.

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We start the night in true Balkan style, with shots of Rakija the local Brandy. From there everything is a blur of colour; from a surreal Bogan heavy metal underground club (the wrong sort of ponytails) to salsa dancing with a swoon-worthy Dutch man (good pony)

Fast forward a few nights and we’re trekking through Hoia Baciu deemed the world’s most haunted forest. Known as the Bermuda Triangle of Transylvania because of the harrowing tales of UFO sightings, disappearances, unexplained burns and feelings of nausea.

At midnight our group abandones us. Not because of eery happenings but as Google maps seemed set on us circumnavigating the forest only. Very suspicious.

Michaela, Dutchie, a Kiwi fella and I venture on, determined to find something remotely terrifying but after a few hours of lack lustre adventures we too make the long walk home.

Next day Michaela and I decide to Hitchhike east to Timișoara. I spend all morning crafting the perfect sign in my Rakija induced state. A Bla Bla car happens to be going our way, so we catch a ride with a few locals instead.

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Michaela is a sales woman by trade – all smiles, laughs and charm. From the back seat I can see a situation developing. Our Driver keeps bestowing us with gifts of home grown fruit. He starts casually touching her arm as he offers the fruit. And the offerings keep coming. Her laughs become feigned. Next thing he’s trying to book into our Hostel.

I’m no Sales Women, but I’ve mastered the art of elusive behaviour. When we stop to drop another passenger off in town we jump out graciously, bid our farewells and head on our merry way with fruit for days.

R o m a n i a. I went there in search of Dracula, haunted castles and Gypsies. Yet Dracula and Vlad the Impaler were long gone. And Gypsies was apparently a politically incorrect term. Sigh.

Instead I stumbled upon a colourful place enchanting in its own right. Mystical mountain towns. A lot of city slicking. One too many sleepless nights. A slice of old school Europe pastures. Copious amounts of coffee’n in hipster cafes. A chance encounter with a dodgy puppy dealer. And most importantly an accomplice.

 

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Nudity & Nature in Montenegro

“Super ste”
“You’re great” we were told by the 83 year old Montenegrin Grandpa. Day 1 in Montenegro. I had a feeling it was going to be a super stay.

A leathery brown blonde bomb shell in her fifties was stark naked perched on a cliff. Her downward dog beamed to the swimmers below. She slowly took a drag from her cigarette, her head resting on a pillow she’d brought from home. A 12 year old girl walked past nonchalantly, unfazed in the slightest by the extreme butthole tanning.

We were at Montenegro’s infamous “Ladies Beach” that proclaimed to be Europe’s first women only nudist beach. Good to see a country so aligned with women’s rights.

Its sulphur mineral springs were deemed to be an elixir of women’s health enhancing fertility. Women travelled far and wide to swim in the mythical waters, or more specifically to swim around a rock three times and leave a bikini piece on the rock’s swimsuit shrine.

The novelty of being completely naked and painted head to toe in the magical mud for €3 may have been another draw card.

But what struck me most about this women’s haven was the intricate tanning positions. Women’s of all ages would bend in all sorts of angles to get their crotch exposed to the sun. Did they put on sunblock down there? I dare not ask. I did however question a local on the bizarre tanning techniques.

“It feels good” she explained.
“There aren’t many chances to feel the sun there”

All was well in paradise until an elderly man accidentally snorkelled into the cove. I heard shrieks and looked over to see an older women hitting him on the head with his snorkel. He quickly swam off, a mistake he might be willing to make again.

Perhaps surprisingly this all took place in Ulcinj – a heavily Muslim influenced town close to the Albanian coast. Churches had turned into Mosques, and Montenegrin into Albanian.

Rewind a day, zigzag across the mountains and we were in a totally different world. Sitting on a lake side beach in the tiny village Godijne, listening to a symphony of crickets in harmony with a local playing his accordion.

No tourists seemed to make it to this quaint place set amongst Kiwi fruit and Grape vines. As we meandered about locals cheerfully called out:
“Dobre dan”
“Good day”

We were staying with Drazen and Sanja through Air BnB. His Grandmother cooked us the local speciality, a fish dish that was cooked for a casual 20 hours. Obviously I asked for the recipe. The Carp was dried overnight, then cooked for 8 hours. I felt no further instruction would be required.

Our feast was followed by shots of “Brandy of Kiwi” so strong it was hard to believe it was his 83 year old Grandfather’s recipe.

Fast forward through countless beaches, each more stunning then the previous, and it was our last day. We road tripped through Montenegro’s fiords, northern national parks, mountains and lakes.

My Belgian friend Valerie, a die hard New Zealand fan was even impressed by the scenery.
“Shit, this is f a n t a s t i c”
“As good as NZ?”
“Almost as good”
I sigh and laugh.

All the days in between were your usual travel tales.

Sharing a 12 bed dorm with 10 Australian guys, the drunken snoring symphony was fantastic!

Scaling hill fortress ruins in 36 degree heat with a 73 year old man we picked up along the way.

Perusing beautiful old towns and taking copious amounts of photos.

Complaining the food was too heavy every time we put on a bikini (everyday)

Montenegro is definitely a contender for my ongoing contest of favourite country ever (Valerie, always philosophising, tells me our generation make a habit of always using superlatives)

It was the best weather. The most beautiful beaches. The kindest locals. One of the cheapest countries. And because of its small size, in one week we saw a large and varied selection of the country.

Next stop, Croatia. We arrived slightly less glamorously then imagined. The air conditioning was broken on our bus, so the three hour journey was spent in near 40 degree heat sweating in ways I never thought was possible. I look forward to the looming heat wave, it’ll be the hottest ever perhaps.

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BUCKET.

This year felt different. I wanted to feel alive. Fresh. To explore. And so I wrote a list. I think I’ve done quite well.

 

TRAVEL SOLO TO COLOMBIA TO VISIT ONE OF MY BESTIES

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GET MY HAIR BRAIDED ON A CARRIBEAN BEACH

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CASUALLY FLOAT DOWN THE AMAZON RIVER

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BOAT FROM ONE COUNTRY TO ANOTHER

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DO SOME LONE WANDERING THROUGH CENTRAL AMERICA

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TOUCH DOWN IN THE USA

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In hindesight, I probably should have added these things to the list…

 

GET PAINTED LIKE JAGUAR IN THE MIDST OF THE AMAZON JUNGLE

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DRINK COCONUT WATER AU NATURAL

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POOP IN A TROPICAL TOILET

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MAKE A HUMAN PYRAMID ON A DESERTED ISLAND

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ACCIDENTALLY LIMIT ALL MY POSSESSIONS TO THIS

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ADOPT A KITTEN IN A CLUB

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TAKE A PHOTO LIKE THIS

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Life is short. Make it sweet.    peace-sign-hand-peace-sign-1

Sneak peak… the Caribbean

Day 5 in Cartagena, an old Spanish colony nestled on the Caribbean coast. Things are tranquillo. I don’t do a lot… beach, relax and wander inside the walls of the Old Town.

Of course eating is another favourite pass time – consistently primarily of fresh fish, coconut rice and the local artisan ice creams (am still working my way through the many delicious flavours)

Fresh fruit juice is served with every meal, coconut water is served by the coconut and the lemonades are made on the spot with fresh lime.

Oil massages are offered along the beach (usually with a free sample) and you can get your hair braided by a local strolling past if you fancy.

It’s bliss. Doesn’t exactly inspire blog writing or much internet time so here’s a little visual taste of Cartagena from my iPhone.

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1st World Chick Problems

So changing your car oil, it’s a seemingly easy task. Unfortunately it can require the assistance of 2 women, 5 men and 2 trips to the petrol station.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never changed the oil in my car. I like to think I have, but in fact I pay the mechanic to do it with my car service.

I’m not even entirely sure how to open my car bonnet. I of course know how to do it in theory, but we all know that that the reality of something can be very different.

The oil light on my dashboard had been flashing for 4 days straight. I could no long convince myself the oil light was faulty. I pull into the petrol station.

I try in vain to get the bonnet to open. I enlist the help of a capable independent women who is opening her own bonnet but she too fails. Next step, the gas station man.

I coyly enquire about which oil to buy. I buy it. I then admit I need help opening my bonnet. After some embarrassing questions about how long I’ve owned my car, he leaves the gas station unmanned and comes out. He opens the bonnet, gives me a lesson in filling the oil and dashes back inside.

I go to open the lid on the oil bottle. It won’t budge. I’m determined I can do this myself. Two concerned guys in a passing car have to stop to help me.

Finally, we’re winning. I pour the oil in and get the sweet satisfaction of a job well done. I give myself a pat on the back and assure myself I’ll know how to do it next time. The next day my oil light comes on again.

After 2 days I can no longer convince myself the oil light is faulty. I stop at a gas station. I can’t get the bloody bonnet to open, and give up trying when I get thick oil all over my hands.

I go into the gas station. I know which oil to buy. I enlist the man for help. He doesn’t seem impressed I can’t open my bonnet myself. I get this dreadful feeling as we open it up.

The oil canister has no lid on it. The oil has flown all over the inside of my bonnet. “That’s so weird” I keep murmuring, unwilling to admit I forgot to put the oil cap back on. The guy doesn’t seem convinced. I like to think of myself as an independent capable women, unfortunately I’ve now shattered this image for myself.
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It’s happening!

3 weeks today. Oh the excitement. That strange combination of nervous trepidation and exhilaration. Nothing quite feels like taking on the world, alone, and without a concrete plan. Just a lot of enthusiasm, hard earned cash and the freedom to float.

3 weeks today I’l be in Melbourne. Rate it. It’ll be cold. Brrr. Then I’ll be in LA. Los Angeles. I can only imagine. I’m hoping for Nikes galore, juice bars and I’m not sure what else. Colombia. It gives me great pleasure to tell people I’m going to Colombia. Their reactions are always so varied, and no one can ever quite figure out your motive. Then a speed boat to Panama shall be happening. And I’ll have to get to Costa Rica one way or another. And then there’ll be home again. I can imagine just what that’ll be like.

 

 

Hasta Pronto Colombia!

It is done.

I fly — AUCKLAND —  MELBOURNE — LOS ANGELES — BOGOTA — where I’ll spend arround a month in Colombia. The rest is open ended, but planning to sail to PANAMA and meander around there & COSTA RICA before flying from there back to LA, then home.

2 months. 8 weeks. 56 days.

I can do anything. It’s a liberating thought.

The Caribbean, the Amazon, colonial towns, tropical islands — it’s all going to be happening.

In 3 1/2 months I’ll be taking off on a trip I’ve been contemplating for years. Dreaming, pondering and finally the timing seems right. I’m not 14, but I am on the #YOLO band wagon. And while I haven’t conned anyone into joining me, there will be a few friends along the way.

This will be my 3rd time to South America, the love affair continues…

I never made it to Colombia, but it was rated by all the traveller’s I met along the Gringo trail. Central America also sounds my kinda place.

I love the Latino culture – the mix of passion and tranquilo. I feel at home amongst it, and with my curly brown hair and olive skin I blend right in until I speak. I definitely need to work on my Spanish.

Been that side of the world before? Love to hear your thoughts. For those readers who travel vicariously, MANY a photo to follow… Like my blog on Facebook for photos and posts along the way 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/keshafayblog

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