Tag: travel blogger

The bird, the monkey and the cockroach

The bird, the monkey and the cockroach

The Bali wildlife has been engaging us these last few days.

First a bird shat on me at breakfast from the tree above. A big red berry splat that landed on my arm and ricocheted onto Gab. Nothing that couldn’t be solved by all of our napkins, soap and water and a bucketload of sanitiser.

Plus I hear this is meant to be good luck.

Later that day at Uluwatu Temple, as Gab sat minding her own business, a monkey stole her sunglasses from the top of her head. We had been warned about the monkeys, and instructed to remove earrings, hats, sunglasses, scarves and necklaces, and hang on tightly to our phones and bags. Poor Gab was just distracted by another monkey stealing something from another tourist, obviously a diversionary tactic.

Bad luck for Gab, but solved with a little fruit bribery by a local.

And then there was the cockroach.

Now I wasn’t there for the cockroach adventure, but much as I loathe cockroaches, perhaps it would have been better if I had been.

‘It was huge,’ said Gab telling me of her horror at finding a cockroach in the middle of her hotel door when she got back to her room.

‘How big in centimetres,’ I asked.

‘Oh, it was big,’ said Gab, ‘enormous. I couldn’t open my door, so I messaged Jen to come help.’

‘And I brought one of the hotel slippers from the room,’ Jen continued.

‘The thin towelling ones? Why didn’t you bring a proper shoe?’ A thong even? Mortal enemy of the cockroach?’

‘So I had this slipper,’ Jen continued, ignoring my question.

‘No, wait, out of all the things in your room, you thought a flimsy slipper was your best bet? What did you even do with the slipper?’

‘I threw it at the cockroach!’


‘It missed and kind of just fluttered to the ground,’ said Jen, fluttering her hands to demonstrate, ‘like a piece of paper.’

‘Or a flimsy slipper,’ I muttered.

‘So we tried throwing it again,’ Gab picked up the story, ‘but we couldn’t even hit the door with it. Have you ever tried to throw one of those slippers?’

‘No. And the cockroach?’

‘Didn’t move.’

‘And yet you didn’t think to go back and get a decent sized shoe to smack the thing with?’

‘So instead of throwing the slipper,’ Jen went on as if I hadn’t spoken, ‘we thought we’d tap on the door with it, see if we could get the cockroach to scurry away. Tap, tap, tap,’ Jen started acting out tapping on a hotel door with a paper slipper. In case I was confused. I was, but it wasn’t over how one might tap on a door.

‘So how did all that tapping work out for you?’

‘It moved!’ said Gab triumphantly, ‘but just up the door a bit more.’

‘To get further away from the crazy women with the paper slipper perhaps.’

‘So then we didn’t know what to do. We’d exhausted all of our options.’

‘You certainly had,’ I agreed, ‘after all, if you can’t solve your cockroach crisis with a hotel slipper, I don’t know what’s going to work.’

‘We called security!’

Two of the strongest, most capable women I know overcome by a paralysis of incompetence.

‘And then they arrived in hazmat suits…’

‘Really,’ I said, ‘hazmat suits. Exactly how many drinks did you have?’

‘….and plucked the cockroach from the door. Finally I could get into my room.’

‘Thank goodness for security,’ said Jen.

‘Thank goodness,’ I repeated.

‘You should have been there,’ said Gab, shaking her head as she relived the relief at being able to finally access her room.

Maybe I should have. I guess it’s good luck for me that I wasn’t.

Spare a thought

Spare a thought

I was thinking to ask you all to spare a thought for Jen.

Every day she has had to endure Gab and me sweeping triumphantly from our rooms to declare ‘I made this!’

This is followed by oohs and aahs, some touching and pirouetting and then an intense discussion on the insertion of pockets, where the fabric was sourced, any pattern adjustments we’ve made and how we might make the garment longer/shorter/lighter next time.

But then last night Jen swept triumphantly from her own room, declaring ‘I bought this!’

She certainly had. She was head to toe in her purchases – headband, stunning dangling earrings, even bigger pendant, fun colourful holiday jumpsuit. And a gleam in her eye – game on.

Please spare a thought for Gab and me.



‘I really didn’t come to Bali to shop,’ said Jen as we wandered aimlessly around the nearby shopping precinct, ‘I don’t need a new wardrobe.’

‘Same,’ I replied, ‘or souvenirs or anything.’

‘I know, right,’ Gab agreed, ‘we’re not here for shopping.’

‘This shop looks nice, do you want to just have a browse around?’


‘Look at this cushion. No look at this cushion. Look at them together!’ Two cushions!’

‘And this dress! Look at this dress! You could have a cushion AND MATCHING DRESS!’

‘How beautiful are these bowls?’

‘So beautiful. I love this one.’

‘I love THIS one. So beautiful.’

‘Over here, have you seen the sarongs?’

‘Not yet, but have you seen the peacocks?’

‘PEACOCKS?! Oh my God they’re so beautiful.’

‘Oh, look, these dresses are gorgeous. Look at this one! No, look at this one! Oh, look at this one! I LOVE THEM ALL.’

‘Have we seen these shirts already?’

‘Maybe? Is this still the same shop?’

‘Look at this. No seriously look at this. LOOK AT THIS!’

‘Is this a bird? This is a bird. I would definitely buy this.’

‘This shop is never ending. Where’s Jen?’

‘I don’t know. Where are we? Where did we come in? I LOVE THIS FABRIC!’

‘It’s beautiful. Touch it!


‘It comes in a bag! The bag is beautiful!’

‘Where’s the front door? I can no longer see the outside. Ooh, these shorts are cute.’

‘So cute. These giraffes are cute.’

‘So cute.’

‘There’s Jen.’

‘Where’s Gab?’

‘She was just here. Oh my God, that top would look amazing on you.’

‘It comes in a dress too.’



‘Oh, I haven’t seen these pants before. Hey, are we in the same shop?’

‘There’s Gab.’

‘We’re definitely lost. Wait, look at this gorgeous fabric, look at the beautiful box it comes in. LOOK AT IT!’



‘There’s the exit.’

‘Ok you wait outside, I’ll go back and find Jen.’

‘Jen, there you are OH MY GOD LOOK AT THESE SARONGS.’

‘Beautiful. Here’s that beautiful shirt again.’

‘Ooh, and the dress.’

‘These shorts, they’re so soft! LOOK! LOOK! So blue!’

‘So beautiful.’

‘Where’s Gab?’

‘Oh I forgot, she’s outside.’

‘Here’s the exit, here’s Gab.’

‘We should come back here tomorrow, I could use a new wardrobe.’

‘We definitely should.’




I’ve been to Bali too

I’ve been to Bali too

I cannot believe it, but I am going to Bali.

I always said I had no interest in going to Bali. I was no longer a carefree backpacker, I have mostly given up partying like it’s 1999 and I have curbed my enthusiasm for riding scooters and buying batik. Yet here I am at the airport, waiting for a flight to Bali.

There are three of us going on this holiday. Jen, Gab, me.

You may remember Disco Jen from such posts as The Entourage. She is mad strong and helped me hoist kettlebells back when we used to do things like hoist kettlebells.

You may remember Gab from such posts as Gab’s issues. She is mad skilled at attracting travel drama, and is almost certainly the cause of Madonna and my cancelled flights to New Zealand.

I offered Gab and Jen at least twelve beaches and islands that we might visit as an alternative, but they were pretty keen on Bali. Jen reminded me that we are adults and we don’t have to stay in hostels and we don’t have to go to party central. We can find a beautiful beach, visit the gorgeous mountains, eat the fabulous food and wind our way through the more peaceful sights of Bali. We can relax, swim, read, eat, shop, visit day spas and just hang out in the sun with one another.

It was a pretty convincing argument.

So I have dusted off my shells and beads, packed my shorts and frocks and am on my way to Bali, with almost zero preparation.

Actually I lie, we’ve done a little bit of prep. Gab and I have filled all of our spare time sewing outfits for around the pool. Jen has sent multiple TikTok Bali tips to the group chat.

And Gab broke her ankle. Because, you know, Gab’s issues.

In search of blue cod

In search of blue cod

We wanted to go out for lunch on our last day in New Zealand. We decided on a seafood restaurant because people kept raving to us about blue cod. Ok, so it was Eric, Eric raved about blue cod.

So I googled seafood restaurants in Christchurch, chose one with a nice looking menu and picked a random time that we might rock up after driving from Arthur’s Pass.

Turns out this restaurant wasn’t exact in Christchurch. It was on the outskirts of Christchurch. And when you have no internet and the GPS in the car won’t work, you have to memorise where this restaurant might be and hope like hell you’re driving in the right direction.

We were sandwiched between semi-trailers the entire way, slowing us down and hiding all road signs, but we finally found ourselves approaching the village. As we rounded the corner, the whole port was spread out in front of us. Rail lines, container ships, cranes, semi-trailers loaded with logs. Rocks, noise, dust.

The trucks surrounding us peeled off down a dirt road in behind a ramshackle structure overlooking all the port activity. The building looked as though any minute a stiff breeze would knock it into the ocean. Worn boards held it together, there were no windows and nothing adorned it. It sat by itself on the side of the road – no shops, cafes, nothing. And no sign of human activity anywhere.

There was a hand written sign out the front stating ‘Chef wanted’.

‘That’s our restaurant,’ I said to Don.

We kept driving right past that old building and around the block, looking at other options. But there wasn’t much else, and we’d booked, so we thought what the hell.

As we walked up the street we could finally see the back part of the restaurant, and it was packed. People laughing, drinking, eating. The food smells as we entered were incredible. We were given the best table and champagne was brought immediately. If we hadn’t had our hearts set on blue cod we would have had difficulty choosing from the amazing menu. And when our lunches arrived, oh my God, that blue cod was indeed delicious. The potatoes were golden, the herb butter sauce light and tasty, the salad fresh.

It had turned out to the perfect choice of restaurant.

I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like when they find a chef.

In love with glaciers

In love with glaciers

We have arrived at the west coast – New Zealand glacier country!

People have often asked me what’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in my travels, and forever I have answered Svartisen Glacier in Norway.

Australia has a lot of things to offer, but it’s the only continent that doesn’t have glaciers. I can’t even begin with glaciers. They’re just so magnificent – kilometres high, solid and beautiful. Powerful and tangible reminders of how lands were formed. They’ve ever so slowly bulldozed their way through the continents, and crept backwards, leaving new landscapes in their wake. Wikipedia calls them persistent!

I walked on Fox Glacier during that first New Zealand tour, but I’m not sure I recognised the significance of a glacier at the time. I don’t think you can fully appreciate the might of a glacier until you stand in front of the sheer wall of ice at its face. We were lucky enough to walk right up to Svartisen Glacier, to see inside to the ice crystals and shards, to touch the retreating cliff face. It was an extraordinary experience.

We walked up the South side walk to Fox Glacier today. The end of the trail is several kilometres from the glacier, but we could see the ice and snow solid and unmoving at the top of the valley between the mountains. Even from a distance it was spectacular; we stood there for ages just watching it, unwilling to turn and walk back to the car. Then we were on to Franz Josef, where we only caught a glimpse before clouds obscured our view.

Perhaps we’ll try Franz Josef again in the morning. Perhaps I just don’t want to leave glacier country; because glaciers continue to be one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

It’s our wedding anniversary and what a fabulous day we’ve had cruising Milford Sound. This is New Zealand’s most famous fjord; deep blue green water, towering mountains and cliffs and spectacular waterfalls. We had endless blue sky and sunshine and were lucky enough to see dolphins and seals. Perfect.

Our driver and tour guide, Eric, was superb. It was quite a long journey to Milford Sound, around five hours in total, and Eric’s commentary was on point. We learnt about the tectonic plates, the history of the land and lakes around Queenstown, the different sheep and cattle being farmed in the area. Volcanoes and their current risks, the elusive yet charming hermit graziers, the poisonous tutu berries, New Zealand freesias, how Shania Twain bought up land in New Zealand. The gold rush and the crazy, failed scheme to dam the lake and expose the gold.

Yes, Eric was knowledgeable, friendly, funny and informative. He told some great stories and was very entertaining. And this was some feat, because we were a tough audience.

‘This hill was featured in Lord of the Rings’ he said as we headed out of Queenstown, ‘is anybody into Lord of the Rings?’


‘Ok, nobody? That’s ok we can talk about the glacier that formed this peak.’

‘Has anybody visited Glenorchy yet?’ he asked as we drove around Lake Wakatipu.

Silence. some shaking of heads.

‘No? Ok I highly recommend a visit.’

‘Has anybody experienced a hāngī yet? Eaten meat cooked the traditional hāngī method?’

We all shook our heads, no.

‘Anybody into fishing? Fly fishing?’ he asked hopefully a little later.

No. Nobody was into fly fishing, or had even tried fly fishing.

‘There really is some great trout fishing around the South Island,’ he persevered and went on to regale us with his adventurous fishing exploits.

‘Does anybody play tennis?’ he asked as we drove through Te Anau, home of the annual Tennis Invitational.

‘Anybody know about Lake Taupo?’

‘Does anybody trek?’

No, no and no. By this stage he must have been thinking he’d picked up the fifteen of the most boring tourists in Queenstown.

‘Is anybody a singer?’

This really is where we should have piped up, but honestly we were way past that point by now.

Our apparent lack of hobbies or interests certainly didn’t deter Eric. Over the five hour drive to Milford Sound he told us some cracking stories, knew the history of every place we passed, the geology of the land and waterways and the names and uses of the plants and animals.

Then on the shorter journey home he let us choose songs that we sang at the top of our lungs all the way home.

Even though none of us were singers.

A guide book and a map

A guide book and a map

And then you have the opposite of the walking tour.

Today we took an auto-rickshaw to Golconda Fort, the sprawling ruins of a huge 16th century citadel in the middle of Hyderabad.

Because it’s handy to have a small guide book with a map, I bought one that may or may not have been photo-copied from a lovely old man who pestered me endlessly when we came through the entrance. I did refuse the postcards – really, I have no need for postcards.

“How useful will that be?” Don asked me.

“It’s as useful as 50 rupee,” I answered. “it’ll be handy to have a small guide book with a map.”

“For example,” I went on as we approached a long building with huge archways, “this is where they kept the elephants.”

“Does it say that in the booklet?”

“No, it doesn’t say anything about elephants in the booklet.”

“Is it on the map?”

“Yes, I think it’s building number 22.”

“So what does it say about building number 22?”

“I don’t know, there’s no corresponding legend for the map.”

“Then how do you know it’s where they kept the elephants?”

“I know this from experience and my extensive knowledge of ancient Indian architecture.”

I flipped through the booklet some more.

“Oh, wait, there’s something in here about the royal camel stables.”

“Well are they building 22?”

“There is no way of knowing this. However here’s something interesting,” I continued, “apparently there’s a mosque within the fort grounds.”

“Is it that one?” Don asked, pointing to a bright white mosque right in front of us.

“There’s no way of knowing this, but I suggest yes.”

“Well I suggest you put the booklet away and we just walk around and read the signs.”

“Fair enough,” I said, tucking the guide into my bag. “So do you think we got our 50 rupees’ worth?”

“I think you would have been better off with the postcards.”

Walking tours

Walking tours

We’ve done a number of food tours on our travels – tasted delicious fish stew in San Francisco, local churros in Lima, famous skyr yoghurt in Reykjavik. On the first day of our India holiday in we took a Storytrails food tour of the bustling Rattan bazaar in Chennai with Karunya, sampling our way through the streets until we were absolutely stuffed with dosa, dal, hot milky coffee and sweet gulab jamon. Food tours are usually one of our first choices to explore new areas, but due to a number of factors this trip we’ve taken two city walking tours, and they’ve been absolutely brilliant.

We only had one day in Bangalore, so to get the most out of our time we booked an offbeat walking tour with Tours by Locals. Sushma took us for a local breakfast, before we set off on a fascinating walk that included the old neighbourhood of Bangalore, Dodda Basavana Gudi (the bull temple) and the hectic fresh produce and flower markets.

Today we walked around Hyderabad with the Hyderabad Walking Company. We started the morning drinking chai and eating Hyderabad’s signature Osmania biscuit at a local cafe at the base of the magnificent Charminar, before Navin took us up the steep stairs to the top of the monument to look out across the bustling bazaar area and the old gates of Hyderabad. We spent a while exploring the grand Chowmahalla Palace, then walked through Laad Bazar where thousands of colourful bangles are made and sold.

Neither of these tours felt like ‘tours’. It felt like we were wandering around each city having a conversation with a local. Both Sushma and Navin gave us time to take in each sight and experience. Each told us fascinating stories about their cities – legends that people still believe, and those that may be closer to the truth. They even took photos for us. And they were both genuinely interested in our own story and holiday.

The difference between wandering around by ourselves or being guided is pretty significant.

If it had just been the two of us we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to wander through somebody’s home in the old neighbourhood of Bangalore, or see the dhobi ghat where every day clothes are beaten and scrubbed in big open tanks before being hung to dry in the sun along the street. We wouldn’t know that the kings of Hyderabad were ridiculously wealthy, nor would we have been thoroughly entertained by the stories of their personalities, deeds and lives at Chowmahalla Palace. We wouldn’t have found our way through the crowded KR market in Bangalore to get to the beautiful flower markets, nor would we know the difference between the genuine bangles created by Hyderabad craftsmen or those made elsewhere and sold in the street.

I’m a fully converted fan of the walking tour.

Chamundi steps

Chamundi steps

We like to use the local buses and trains when we’re in big cities, get a feel for how people commute, have a bit of an adventure working out the system to get us places.

However nothing beats walking. Walking really lets you explore neighbourhoods, buildings, shops and people. We’ve walked for miles through many cities across the world.

Yesterday we set off walking to Chamundi Hills that overlook the city of Mysore. Our plan was to walk to the entrance at the base, and then climb the 1001 steps to the temple at the top, taking in the smaller temples along the way and the beautiful views over Mysore.

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s extraordinarily apparent that neither of us had any freaking concept of a) a walk across Mysore or b) what 1001 steps is like.

“How far is it to the steps?” Don asked in the morning.

“Four kilometres.”

“That’s good, we can walk that.”

“And then 1001 steps to the top.”

“Ok, no worries.”

And off we went.

Google maps has done a lot for walking in foreign cities. Via what I can only assume is magic, you can track where you are without needing the internet. I have no idea how this works, nor do I care, I’m just grateful that it does. And so we tracked our walk to the hills – out the front gate, down the street filled with Levi jeans shops that aren’t actually Levi jeans, past the busy markets and around the glorious Mysore Palace.

Unfortunately Google maps magic shows you the way, but doesn’t tell you what the way is actually like; the roads, the terrain or the neighbourhoods.

On we trekked, past the bus depot and some government offices, across a busy roundabout and onto a major highway. Over a guard rail and down an embankment to an access road. Through a small local market. Over some ditches. Past some goats. Onwards towards some fields, now only 2km into our walk.

An auto-rickshaw driver who was parked by the road spoke as we trudged past.

“Chamundi steps?”

We were in the back seat faster than anybody could say how much, where are you from or how about that cricket, happy to be driven the final two kilometres to the base of the 1001 steps.

Now I’m going to be generous here and say we made it roughly 100 steps before our first rest. Those steps were randomly short, tall, deep and narrow. They sloped left, then right, and wound back and forth up the hill. Our next rest stop may have been after 80 steps. Then 60. I’m sure you can see what’s happening here.

As the number of steps we could manage decreased, the amount of rest we needed increased. We stood to the side each time, panting, sweating, our hearts thundering. Barefoot 80 year olds flew past us, teenagers stopped to take selfies.

On we went.

We’d been sitting on a step close to number 600 for quite a while when one of us finally cracked. I can’t remember who, doesn’t matter.

“Screw this, we’re on holidays.”

And straight back to the bottom we went.

This was not defeat, this was astute holiday decision-making in action. There will be plenty more temples available for visiting.

Ones not at the top of a fucking mountain.