Terracotta Warriors

On Tuesday, I went on a tour organised by the hostel that I’m staying at to see the Terracotta Warriors around an hour and a halfs drive from Xi’an – included with an English speaking tour guide.

The site was discovered when a farmer was digging to make a well for water in the 1970s and the warriors have since been dug up by archaeologists, pieced back together with glue and put on display. It is thought that the collection dates back around 2200 years ago, storing more than 8000 soldiers as well as horses.

As it’s the middle of summer it was forecast to be 38 degrees, unsurprisingly it was very hot and extremely sweaty, but luckily it was not as packed as anticipated.

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Beijing

After upwards of 20 hours of travel, I arrived in Beijing. I found the hostel and went for a bit of a walk around.

My first full day I wanted to go to the Forbidden City, having queued up (I use the word queue lightly) to get through security, the tickets for the day had sold out. Instead, I went to the Temple of Heaven, but it was so crowded I just wanted to nap. After an hour and a half there I went back to the hostel to catch up on my sleep, as travelling every day since I’d left Australia was something that I needed to recover from.

The following day I made it into the Forbidden City, with what seemed to 80,000 others at the same time. I used an audio guide as it was something that I wanted to take the time to enjoy, but couldn’t go ten minutes without being pushed or navigate my way through hundreds of people, and I ended up wanting to get it over and done with which was a shame. Ironically, there’s a temple there called the Temple of Earthly Tranquility – nothing about being there was tranquil.

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During the evening, I went on a food tour with the company Untour with five others. The first stop was a Mongolian Hot Pot place, where the locals were surprised to see a group of foreign people. It was mainly vegetarian, though we had some mutton which was alright. We then moved onto a rice wine bar after where we had a paddle of six shots, including two of a regular batch, two rose flavour, peach and a flower native to China. I’d be concerned coming to Asia that my next good glass of wine would probably be in England, but the rice wine was really good. First world problem, I know.

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After, we had some Biang Biang Noodles (Biang is supposedly the sound made when the noodles are hit on the work bench whilst they are being pulled, but it just sounds like a louder version of when you drop your phone on your head.) This was the best meal of the tour – noodles with pork, chilli, tomato, chilli oil and I think some sesame oil too.

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After the noodles we were taken to eat a donkey burger – layered filo pastry with donkey meat inside, which actually tasted like beef, then we were taken for some Chinese chicken wings. I really enjoyed the tour and eating some food I wouldn’t otherwise have eaten.

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To finish off my time in Beijing, I went to the Great Wall, which I posted about earlier in the week. Overall, I wasn’t a fan of Beijing – it was far too crowded for me, and I felt as though I’d rather spend my money later on during the trip than to spend it in Beijing and not enjoy it because of the crowds. With that said, it is an easy city to navigate and the Great Wall was definitely worthwhile.

The Great Wall of China

On Sunday I went on a hiking trip to the Great Wall, or as Karl Pilkington once said “it’s not a great wall, it’s an alright wall. It’s the Alright Wall of China.” It was better than alright.

The visibility wasn’t great, though it meant that it wasn’t sunny as it was quite a difficult walk. Some of it was sloped steep enough to warrant me climbing up on my hands and feet – unfortunately, no photographic evidence as that would be quite amusing. Some of the wall is original and actually quite dangerous to climb on, so it’s surprising that tourists are let loose on there.

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Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa: My Final Thoughts

I booked this trip in December last year and I think this is the trip that I’ve had the most questions about – like travelling through Europe, Asia and Australia is somewhere people would expect me to go, but not Africa.

Honestly, the trip was a lot of driving hours to places to spend around half a day doing an activity. Putting the tents up and down almost every day didn’t take too long but was a pain in the arse. With that said, what we did on the trip and what we got out of it was fantastic. I’ve been up close to the animals, learnt a lot about them and what measures are being put into place to try and prevent the rhinos from becoming extinct.

For me, the highlights were Hwange National Park; watching the elephants cross the road in particular, the day spent at Matobo National Park and the safari trip through Kruger National Park. One night in Kruger all but three of us had gone to bed, so I came up with the idea of finding lion sound effects on YouTube and parading it around our area of the campsite. I don’t think anyone was fooled, especially with us laughing, but it was funny nonetheless.

I’d love to visit Africa again. The group I joined were halfway through their tour and had been to Okavango Delta in Botswana, judging by their photos, videos and stories it was fantastic so I’d love to go. I’m intending to go to Egypt at some point this year, but I’d like to work something out starting in Botswana or Zimbabwe going into Botswana, and the surrounding area. This will have to wait a few years, until I work and save money to spend on another trip again.

After Africa comes China. I’ve never been and am not too sure what to expect, but it should be fun.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Once again, we took our tents down in Blouberg and had an early start for a long drive to Kruger. The National Park is larger than some smaller countries including Brussels, home to a lot of species including the big five.

Upon arriving, we put up our tents to get ready for an evening game drive. Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about doing it as we were driving around at night, shining spotlights at wild animals. There’s so much said and put into practice about not disturbing the animals, yet shining light onto nocturnal animals is apparently ok.

During the drive we saw hyenas, elephants, owls, potentially zebras but probably impalas, a hippo out of water and a civet, which I had never heard of prior to the tour. There were two cars used for our group, and the others saw a family of leopards which I’m gutted that I missed – they’re the only ones I didn’t see out of the big five.

The following morning we took our tents down again to go on a safari. I took one of my favourite photos that I’ve ever taken of a giraffe, as well as heaps of elephants, impalas, zebras, buffalo, a couple of ostriches and species of birds.

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Getting towards the end of the safari, the one animal that we wanted to see, the lion, had not been seen, until someone shouted that they could see some. It was from a distance so the picture is not great, but still. They were around a watering hole and it was interesting to see the other animals drink from it in at least pairs; one keeping an eye on the lions.

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Moremi Gorge, Botswana and Moving Onto South Africa

During the trip there were a couple of days put together to cover a lot of land on the bus. We went into Botswana as it’s easier to cross the border into South Africa from there as opposed to the Zimbabwe one.

Honestly, these couple of days weren’t that interesting. Moremi Gorge, we just went for a walk which was pretty dangerous; we were more or less bouldering at some points to get to a waterfall.

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The next day we went off to Blouberg in South Africa – the name translates into Blue Mountains. It’s the third Blue Mountains I’ve visited, with the first being in Canada, and the second in New South Wales.

We went for a walk that was not as dangerous as Moremi Gorge, then went to the pub with the locals. There’s a beer made locally where they’re not too sure of the alcohol percentage and to drink, you have to spill some at the start and end of your drink for your ancestors. I chose to have a lot of ancestors.

I am waiting for pictures to be sent to me, but we were also made to dance with the locals with only a beer or two in us, and after we were off to have dinner at a homestead. It was pretty decent besides the caterpillar that I tried, and chatted to the local woman.

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The next day we took our tents down once again, and headed for Kruger National Park

Hwange & Matobos

We took down our tents in Victoria Falls and went to Hwange National Park, which took a few hours. We were told that if we needed to get up in the middle of the night, to get our lights around to absolutely make sure there were no wild animals, such as lions and hyenas, as we were camping in the park.

After lunch we were picked up in safari cars to spend a few hours going around the National Park. We saw heaps of elephants, giraffes, hippos, baboons, impalas, as well as a lot of birds, though not a lot of animals were up close. It was my first time seeing wild elephants up close, and saw a herd of them crossing the road behind the car which was amazing.

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We left the National Park in the dark, then went back to the campsite and sat around the fire until it started to get late. The next morning we took down our tents and went to Matobos which took the best part of a day to get there, then we put the tents up. In the evening we went for a walk/hike in an area near the campsite.

The following morning we set off for Matobos National Park, where we set off to find some rhinos. Once in the park, our guide took us to an area where he told us about the challenges that are being faced by the parks to stop the rhinos being poached for the horn, to the point where there are armed guards in the park who are instructed to shoot to kill any potential poachers.

The rhinos are being poached for their horns, which are wrongfully assumed to have medicinal purposes. Despite the fact that the horns actually grow back, they are being killed, and sometimes left to die whilst their horns are being cut off. It seems as though the parks in the country want to be able to sell the horns that they have collected in order to prevent poaching in order to bring in profit to help prevent the animals from becoming extinct.

After this, we got back in the van and drove for around fifteen minutes, then we got out and went on foot to get nearer the animals. We ended up getting around ten meters away from them.

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Afterwards, we were taken around the park, had some lunch and stopped off at a locally-run souvenir market, then we went to climb up one of the big hills in the park. Afterwards, we were taken to a cave where there are paintings from the Bushmen over 30,000 years ago still marked on the walls, which is painted the same way as the paintings in Ayers Rock. The animals painted are thought to show the animals in the land, to show others what was available to eat, as well as the dangerous animals in the area.

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It’s interesting to hear about the similarities of the Bushmen to the Aboriginals in Australia: they both treated everything, and each other in their environment with respect and only took what they really needed from the land. For instance, they wouldn’t kill an animal that they could not finish eating, and were resourceful as to how they would use the inedible parts of the animals. It is also thought that they had the same beliefs as to how the human race started, despite being thousands of miles apart.

After, we were taken to a local village to meet the chief, and then back to the campsite.

Victoria Falls

Last Friday I left Australia, after having spent two years (minus four days) in the country. It took 36 hours to get there with two layovers: both in Perth and Johannesburg. First stop was Victoria Falls, to start nine days of camping in Africa, in Zimbabwe, a night in Botswana and to finish off two nights in Kruger National Park in South Africa.

I was under the impression that visiting Victoria Falls would be similar to visiting Niagara Falls, however this was not the case. There is a US$30 entrance fee, and takes the best part of an hour to get around if you’re rushing it. Apparently, the view is better from Namibia, though I was quite done with going through border security and didn’t fancy paying extra for a visa.

For me, it took around an hour and a half to get around and got soaked from the spray. Over the past two and a half years I’ve seen quite a few waterfalls, lived in Tasmania for a couple of weeks and seen nature that is simply stunning, and Victoria Falls tops the list.

In terms of the town, I couldn’t walk a hundred meters without someone trying to sell me something that neither want nor need, and I did get a few men giving me unwanted compliments. Another thing that I hadn’t expected was to see so many baboons in the street; I went to buy some water from the supermarket and on the way there saw one drinking from a puddle in the middle of the pavement.

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Two Weeks Left in Australia

Well, two weeks after today.

It is really, really nice being unemployed again. I’d anticipated last Saturday as my final shift of the year, but have since worked two and have one more to go – just a bit of extra money which should cover my living costs until I go.

For now, I’m on track to having my shit together: everything I own doesn’t even fill up a backpack, flights are booked and seats are booked tactically so hopefully no one will sit next to me, vaccinations are sorted – three boxes of malaria tablets are more expensive than my laptop, my Japan Rail pass is somewhere in my room and I have accommodation booked up until halfway through August. With that said, I have a fair bit still to do, mainly with sorting out money and creating some kind of budget for myself; with the amount that I have saved in Australia, it would be nice to stretch this beyond Asia and be able to go to Iceland when I’m back in Europe.

A couple of weeks ago I said that I was going to go to the Grampians for some hiking, but as usual, I have another injury: this time it’s my ankle. I haven’t been pissed since April so don’t know what’s caused it, so just taking the opportunity to rest. With that said, my back is heaps better and almost back to normal.

Next time I update, I will probably be in either Melbourne Tullamarine or Perth International Airport, probably trying to sum up the past two years, and to start the next chapter in my life – travelling the world a bit further.

One Month Left Until Africa

I haven’t really done that much over the past few weeks since I last updated. My back is still a hot mess, though heaps better than what it was, which means that if I’m not working then I’m usually laying down with a hot water bottle somewhere.

Despite the shitty back, I’ve still made it out to go for dinner near enough weekly. One restaurant we couldn’t decide what to eat so went for their option called ‘The Feast.’ The restaurant is a five minute walk from the flat and I felt as though I needed to order an Uber to get home. Also spent at least $250 on gin a day in Healesville to visit the Four Pillars Gin Distillery, and had a lot of cheese in addition to the volume of wine and gin that was drank. No regrets.

Next Saturday is my last day at my job; I was going to spend a week or so longer but I just can’t be arsed. I may have a few shifts in between then and leaving the country at another job. I’m now having to be a grown up, so today I’ve repaired a balls up on a flight I booked a few months back. Tomorrow I’m off to apply for a visa to get into China, with accommodation booked in Beijing and a flight going from Shanghai to Seoul.

I was intending to travel with hand luggage like I did for five months in Europe, but this isn’t really logical. It’s not really that interesting but I have to stock up a bit better with stuff like first aid (I didn’t even take plasters on my Europe trip), I’ll be carrying Malaria tablets, insect repellent, a copious amount of suncream, now have a laptop, chargers, clothes for different weathers etc., it’s just going to make my life a lot easier to have more space.

Between now and leaving the country I was planning to go up to the Northern Territory to escape the cold for a few days but it’s upwards of £400 for a return. Was thinking about Tassie but it’s going to be cold. If my back feels up to it I may hire a car in a couple of weeks time, go to the Grampians for a day of hiking and come back the following day.