An overland journey home

Kiwi journalists Mauricio Olmedo-Perez and Charlotte Whale are taking the scenic route home from London.

Wrapping up an epic overland journey

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Eating fish and chips at Bicentennial Park in Darwin - one of the few cheaper ways of eating out in the city. Photo / Mauricio Olmedo-Perez
Eating fish and chips at Bicentennial Park in Darwin - one of the few cheaper ways of eating out in the city. Photo / Mauricio Olmedo-Perez

Charlotte and I knew from the very start of our journey that we were once again going to have to use a plane for one of our last legs unless we found some sailor willing to take us across the Timor Sea from Indonesia to Australia.

It was such a stark contrast leaving the hectic bustle of Bali and arriving into Darwin, a very very quiet place. For the past three months we had got used to being amongst the masses, travelling through some of the most populated countries in the world. So it took us some time getting used to the lack of people, not being hassled by touts, not being constantly stared at by the locals.

We loved it. The silence was serene. But this lovely isolation comes at a price, a hefty one. After eating Asian food for weeks, we were craving some Western treats. It was morning and we were both craving our favourite breakfast, eggs benedict, but we were left in a state of shock as we eyed up the price, 18 Aussie dollars!

We were on a tight budget after so many weeks on the road, and this was crippling especially after just coming from cost-friendly Asia.

We had heard Australia had become expensive but the prices were ridiculous. For the next few days we were forced to buy food from supermarkets, we just had no choice on our budget.

From Darwin our plan was to grab a relocation rental car and drive all the way down to Adelaide then across to Melbourne. But the Gods were against us - a cyclone had torn through the area leaving the Stuart highway a couple of hours down country flooded, cutting Darwin off from the rest of Australia. It was such unlucky timing and we couldn't afford to wait it out as no one knew how long it would take for the road to clear. So once again, a plane was our only choice.

We managed to find a flight out a day later which meant we had time to kill in Darwin. It's quite a beautiful city, very laid back. We'd never been to a place with such a large Aboriginal population so it was great to visit a few indigenous galleries around the place and see some amazing art.

We also rented a wee hatchback to see some of the surrounding area. Mostly beautiful beaches that you couldn't swim in because of all the jellyfish. It was such a tease and - with temperatures almost reaching a humid and horrible 40 degrees - a real shame.

I have to admit most of the time we didn't venture far from the icy goodness of the air con in the car. Besides, we simply couldn't afford the huge entry fees to many of the local excursions to crocodile farms etc. We will definitely will come back again one day though, with more money to spend.

We hopped on a plane to Melbourne, our penultimate destination, and had a couple of days of pure fun. What a fantastic city. I could fill pages with why this place was so great, but I won't, it was just a brilliant way to finish our travels before the flight home. It seemed to be a melting pot of all the different nationalities we had experienced over the previous few weeks and it's no wonder so many Kiwis call it home these days.

On our last flight back to Auckland it was time to reflect on our overland gig. Although exhausting, it really was an experience of a lifetime that we recommend as an alternative for anyone heading to or coming back from London.

We'll leave you with a list of our highlights and lowlights of the trip. You may love some places we didn't and vice versa, but don't waste your time getting hot under the collar about it: in the end the world would be a pretty boring place to travel if we all loved the same things and thought everywhere was brilliant, wouldn't it?

It's all about experiencing it, good or bad, that's what travel is all about.

CHARLOTTE'S WRAP

Favourite country: Turkey - travelling through the guts of the country is a must if you visit, Cappadocia is a wonderland.

Favorite city: 1st Istanbul, 2nd Ljubljana - a pretty, quaint city with an arty edge.

Best meal: A local seaside restaurant in Alexandroupolis, Greece. Friendly Greeks and a gentle owner who gave us free wine and tidbits throughout our meal, which we ate as the sun was setting.

Worst travel story: Getting Delhi Belly on overnight train to Varanasi.

Favourite market: Modriani Market, Thessaloniki, Greece. Lots of raucous laughter and men singing and shouting out prices. We came out feeling exhilarated.

Best tourist attraction: Mount Nemrut and Goreme, Turkey.

Most humbling moment: Witnessing the rituals of the dead in Varanasi - the burning bodies and bloated corpses in the Ganges. I will never see anything like it again in my life.

Lessons learned: The importance of the kindness of strangers when you are in a foreign place. All it takes is a smile or someone going just a little bit out of their way to help you, it makes a world of difference when you're travelling.

MAURICIO'S WRAP

Favourite country: China - diverse, exciting, frustrating, lovely intriguing people.

Favourite city: Shanghai - a look into the future, vibrant and a real energy.

Best meal: Rustic, hearty eating in Shkoder, Northern Albania.

Worst experience: Delhi Belly in Delhi - dirty, dull and overpopulated, everyone should go to realise how lucky we are.

Favourite market: Bodbiskhevi Market, Georgia - this is the real deal, rural living at its most basic, very friendly people.

Best tourist attraction: The entire town of Goreme in Turkey - the landscape is out of this world.

Most humbling moment: Seeing kids living next to dumps and sewers in India - this place has a long way to go before I believe it's a future world power.

Lessons learned: Wear jandals in public showers, avoid night buses, take ear plugs, never trust taxi drivers outside airports in developing countries. And there simply is no place like home.

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