I'm now back in England, I never thought the day would come! I have clean and ironed clothes on, I can use the internet as long as like for free and I have a comfy bed in a room to myself rather than sharing with the 5-10 often random people I'm used to staying in a room with! However, I don't have the same views out of my window that I've become used to.
Right, lets start at the end, in order to get back to England and the mecca of air travel that is Heathrow airport I had to endure 20 hours of flights across 13 timezones. Added to that I had 8 hours at LA airport, half of which were spent trying to grab some sleep on a metal bench! In a way I felt lucky to have the privilege of being on the metal bench at all as it meant I had made it through the questions, fingerprint checking, forms and retina scans that make up the warm welcome of the immigration reception party. Overall, I felt the 28 hours was a fitting way to finish my travelling and I actually kind of enjoyed the ride.
I'll now go back to the beginning and my final few days in New Zealand before I headed to Fiji. I decided to go on a guided walk called the Tongariro Crossing, considered one of the best day walks in New Zealand. It takes you past the volcano used as Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings films. The weather was stunning the whole day with barely a cloud in the sky and this afforded us some stunning views across snow-capped mountains, lakes and volcanic terrain. The sun was also out and despite it being winter I managed to get royally sun-burnt! The highlight though, even better than getting burnt, had to be the way in which we got down from a few of the peaks. Rather than walk down we were told the best way down was to get on our arses and slide. It was great fun and we really got some speed going which made it very interesting when we came across the odd hidden bump!
The following day I went to make a phone call to book on to a bus. The number began with the prefix ++ and I assumed that meant I should put 00 at the front. After getting no answer I then put one zero at the front and got through. When I went to pay for my call I was charged a great deal more than I should have been and duly queried this. I was informed of the reason which was that the first time I had accidentally called Afghanistan! I kind of wished I'd got an answer, that would have made an interesting conversation!
Once on the bus, I headed up to Auckland, via Rotorua, to spend a few days with friends I'd met in New Zealand. There was just enough time for one last night out in New Zealand then I boarded a plane to Fiji, my final destination before going home.
Everything in Fiji is so laid back that when I got into the airport I was the one who approached the touts to sort out some accommodation. I managed to find a cheap bed by the beach and was soon settled in the restaurant by the beach enjoying a curry and a coke. That night they had Polynesian dancers performing traditional dances and fire dancing. After they finished what was a pretty impressive performance we were invited to join a kind of conga with a Polynesian twist. Finally they had us line-up in a circle around the main dancer and we had to follow his lead. I don't know if he'd had a long day or my hair had caught his attention or what but he decide to delegate the lead dancer role to me. I was stone cold sober (it has been proven that alcohol makes you a better dancer!) and didn't know a single person there but for some reason felt no inhibition and just went for it. Everyone else followed and on the night of the 1st of August 2006 there were more than 20 people in Fiji dancing like complete idiots, a proud moment in all their lives!
Over the next few days I set my clock to Fiji time and duly did very little. Chilling out on the beach seemed like a nice way to finish my trip. I did go into the local town Nadi for one day to do some shopping and check out the local vibe. I had forgotten how much I had missed street sellers and characters appearing out of nowhere to offer you the local alcoholic beverages. I politely refused there offers and headed to the local market for one final bartering session. My time in Fiji flew by and before I knew it I was in a taxi on my way to the airport. There was just time for the taxi driver to try and rip me off but as I didn't have the money to pay him the extra anyway, I wasn't having any of it. He skulked off and I checked my bags in for the penultimate time. As I was going to be spending just a few hours at my next destination this felt like the end of my trip.
All that is left is to look back over my time travelling (not to be confused with time-travelling!). I have valued every minute of it. I have been lucky enough to see a number of different countries, cultures and peoples, some of which have been a real inspiration to me. I don't think I will ever forget young Buddhist monks in orange robes walking through the streets of Laos, the hospitality of the people of Borneo or a Cambodian man recalling genocide in his country. The first sighting of an orangutan will always be with me as will the sunrise over the majestic Angkor Wat temple complex. The scenery of New Zealand had the ability to take my breath away, as did the trip down the mighty Mekong. The diversity and history of Vietnam was truly fascinating and riding the death railway over the River Kwai was moving when you consider the human sacrifice it took in building.
It wasn't just the local people that made my trip so amazing, it was also all the lovely travellers I met along the way. Some of my experiences just wouldn't have been the same without them and for that I'm extremely appreciative. It would also be lovely to catch up with some of you so just drop me an email if you are in the area or, more unlikely, in the beautiful Norwich. To everyone who is still travelling, I hope the rest of your trip is a great one.
Now I think it is time to call time on my final journal entry,
Take care everyone,