Uganda was beginning to feel more like South East Asia as Big Yellow putted up steep winding roads enclosed by abundant tropical rainforests, banana plantations, heavily cultivated fields and rice paddy farms. We noticed women everywhere working in the fields, shops and markets, doing the heavy lifting and carrying impossibly large bundles on their heads while the men sat around chatting, or pushing bicycles wrapped in bananas up the relentless hills. With the wet season approaching the bad weather made the already bumpy, terrible roads into a muddy obstacle course. Half dirt, half bitumen, broken and crumbling, we peered out of the front window nervously wondering who gets the right of way when everyone just drives straight down the middle. Never-ending road works made the drive slow going, thankfully with Patrick at the wheel we never felt unsafe, with his 15 years experience driving these trucks we new we were in safe hands.
Hugging the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in western Uganda is Queen Elizabeth National Park, a vast wilderness including one of the largest concentrations of Hippo’s in Africa. As Big Yellow bounced along Ntungamo Road in the distance we could see the West Rift Valley, a fantastic geological trench stretching all the way from Syria to Mozambique, and the expansive plains below of the National Park which we were on our way to visit. Standing at the viewpoint admiring the incredible vista extending all the way to the DRC on the horizon and the spectacular Rwenzori Mountains, we spotted our first wild African Elephant, miles away feeding beneath an Acacia tree, a tell tale sign of the animal adventures that awaited us in the valley below!
Finally, on day 367, our African Overland Journey was underway as we left the bustling capital of Uganda, Kampala, joined by two of our fellow overlander’s who had arrived late, New Zealanders Craig and Michele along with our Kenyan guide Kanyo destined for Jinja, a town on the banks of the raging Nile River, to meet the rest of our group. Our anticipation was growing as we tackled the traffic and passed by lush green fields and forests of the Ugandan countryside, through ramshackle towns and onto the bumpy dirt roads to our peaceful camp overlooking the White Nile in Bujagali Falls.
Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. When traveling it is good to have a flexible itinerary so if things come up, or complications arise, you can just move on to somewhere else. Our entire trip we have just planned as we go, always with a good idea of what we want to see and do. Originally we had planned to visit Jersey and afterwards embark on an expedition through Eastern Europe, across Russia and into Mongolia and China on the Trans-Siberian Railway, a journey which is slightly more difficult without a little prior planning. This whole leg of the trip was becoming quite problematic, when eventually we decided to just change course all together and travel somewhere slightly more exotic, like Africa, our seventh and final continent of our superamble about the world!
If Turkey is spoiled with beaches then it is absolutely inundated with some of the world’s most historically important ancient Greek and Roman cities in the world. Hierapolis and Ephesus are just two such sites in a country brimming with archaeological gems, most of which are barely uncovered. Making a stop to at least one of these sights is crucial if you want to learn about Turkey’s vivid past. And if a surreal landscapes like the dazzling white Travertine’s at Pamukkale just happen to be on the way, then it’s vital to make at least a brief stopover.
Turkey is spoilt with some of the most remarkable coastline in the northern hemisphere. Sharp jagged cliffs meet white sand and brilliant sparkling blue water, with cute fishing villages and remote beaches along windy roads following the sea. They don’t call it the “Turquoise Coast” for no reason! Picturesque seaside villages like Kalkan, with its fusion of Eastern European and Turkish buildings adorned in colourful flowers, and stunning beaches such as Kaputaş and the Butterfly Valley with their glittering white sand and superb turquoise waters, help to feed this romantic vision of the Mediterranean. Then there are seedy towns like Hisarönü and its overcrowded beach Ölüdeniz, which remind you that not everywhere can be so perfect.
There is nothing that quite captures our imaginations like peculiar and extraordinary landscapes. We have been very fortunate on our adventure, plonking ourselves in some pretty bizarre and unreal places like the moonscapes of the Bolivian Salt Flats, the vast quiet of Patagonia, the pristine in Antarctica, the untamed in the Amazon, the loneliness of the Guajira Peninsula, and the surreal lava fields of Iceland. Landing in Cappadocia, off the overnight bus from Istanbul, we were thrilled to have landed ourselves in Turkey’s most enigmatic environment: the curious Cappadocia, where troglodytes inhabit strange rock formations, and underground ancient relics dot the voluptuous landscape, just waiting to be explored.
Travelling is all about learning and exploring places unlike your own. It is about experiencing the world from another perspective. When we were trying to decide where to go after France and Jersey we decided we wanted to go somewhere like we have never been before; somewhere culturally diverse, historically stimulating, architecturally captivating and gastronomically delectable. Turkey has all of these qualities and more; an epic history spanning many great Empires, breathtaking landscapes, spectacular beaches, a fascinating Muslim heritage, inspiring architecture and mouth watering food. We were quick to buy up last minute flights to Istanbul, the pulsating cultural capital of this massive country on route to the next leg of our superamble about the world.
Only a short ferry ride from Jersey, on an enormous beast of a catamaran, is continental Europe and the port of St. Malo, our jumping off point to the spectacular countryside of Brittany. Rolling green hills, farmland, quaint towns and opulent Chateau’s abound in one of the most beautiful regions of France. Growing up, Iain spent his summers piling into the family car towing along the caravan exploring this stunning country. One day his parents Kathy and Alan decided to purchase an adorable cottage on a quiet lane in the heart of Brittany to turn into a peaceful holiday retreat for the family. Being just a two and a half hour trip between home in Jersey and the Cottage in France we couldn’t resist Kathy’s suggestion of a leisurely week in the French countryside, doing what we do best; plodding about, eating delicious fresh French food and sampling their finest wines.
Have you ever heard of a little island called Jersey? Don’t worry not many people have. If truth be told Treeny didn’t even know of its existence until she met Iain. Meeting people while travelling is always interesting for us when introducing ourselves. If it is not the confusion of how to pronounce Iain’s name – that second i really puzzles people – it is trying to understand where he is from. When Iain would say he is born and bred in Jersey people would reply “But you don’t have an American accent”, or most horrifically “Oh, like Jersey Shore”. Iain’s homeland Jersey is a charming little island in the English Channel, only 20km from the coast of Normandy in France and 160km from the south coast of England. This is the REAL Jersey, the 100% original. This is not New Jersey or America. You will not find Snooki here! Only cows, farms, off-shore banking, REAL Jerseymen and Women, castles and some adorable seaside villages. Finally after three and a half years of living in Australia and gallivanting around the globe, Iain made it home!