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Miami & the Keys

The flight from Grand Cayman to Miami only took an hour or so, we landed mid-afternoon and we went to pick our car up from ‘inside the airport’. What ‘inside the airport’ means at Miami airport is; a 2 kilometer walk, then down a ramp, back up a set of stairs, then to a lift for three floors, then a train, then three escalators, and there was the car hire desk of our choice.

It didn’t take more than five minutes, before the friendly guy behind the desk gave us some paperwork and said go to row 11 in the car park. This is the part where I tell you, that we’d decided to treat ourselves, by being as cliche as possible, and booking a convertible Mustang to cruise around Miami in. Row 11 was all the convertibles, five or six Mustangs and one Camaro, that had just been taken, so we chose which mustang we wanted, and hit the road.

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Grand Cayman

We landed in Grand Cayman on the Wednesday afternoon, we were going to be staying for 11 days and staying with family here; Dawn, Rich and their daughter Chloe. To be honest, Stac was really nervous, we hadn’t stayed in any one  place for 11 days on this trip, so the thought of staying in somebody else home, somebody who she’d only met once before, and I had never met, actually petrified her. It didn’t bother me, we’re used to getting to know strangers, it’s part of the fun of travelling.

Within a couple of hours, all her nerves and angst had disappeared, it turned out that Dawn was exactly the same, pacing up and down waiting for us to arrive because she was just as nervous as Stac, but we got to know each other, all get on well, and became the best of friends. Over the next week and a half, we explored everywhere together, we snorkeled most days, swam with turtles, went to pristine stunning beaches and got to see some stunning spots on what is an amazing island.

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Cuba

We’re currently sat in the airport in La Habana, Cuba, waiting to fly to Grand Cayman, I thought this might be a good time to write this post, whilst the roller coaster of travelling in Cuba is still fresh in our memories. We’ve both been trying for two weeks to come up with adjectives to describe how we have felt whilst travelling here, it’s been up and down for the whole journey, Cuba, in every sense, is unique.

Today, we’ve been on the road for eleven months, and we just can’t really compare Cuba to anywhere else we’ve been so far. When we leave a country, almost every time we summarise it based on the people, there’s the other important things like the food, the costs, the ease of travelling and meeting new friends, but the people are always the lasting memory.

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Mexico Road Trip

The flight from Mexico city to Cancun was only one and a half hours, and we had soon landed, got out of the airport, and went to pick up our hire car. It wasn’t exactly a smooth process, but an hour later, we’d got a decent, couple of years old Seat Toledo, definitely comfortable enough for driving around here for a couple of weeks.

We didn’t want to stay in Cancun, so we drove straight south to Playa del Carmen. This is obviously a very touristy part of Mexico, but until you see it for your self, you don’t really know just how big tourism is here. The hotels that we drove past on the Riviera Maya, which is the coast from Cancun going South, are insanely big, the biggest, grandest resorts you could imagine, with hundreds of rooms in each, and there are dozens of these hotels.

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Chile

It was almost time to leave Argentina and pass over to the other side of the Andes in to Chile, we booked a bus for the afternoon and had a walk in the morning to a small waterfall and scenic area that our guest house had recommended and shown us on a map. The lady at the guest house had assured us it was about twenty minutes walk away, and that buses ran that way so we could get a bus either way.

We set off walking, a bus never passed us, and we eventually arrived over one-hour and about 6 kilometres later, then quickly realised that it was an hour walk back, our bus left in two hours and we hadn’t eaten yet today. We had a very quick look around the lake-front, then set off and walked the full hour back, of course, five minutes before we arrived back in town, the bus passed us for the first time.

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Mendoza & Patagonia – Bariloche & Villa La Angostura

Mendoza

Our first overnight bus in South America actually went much quicker and easier than expected, it was due to leave Rosario around 8pm, but it didn’t arrive until an hour later. Within five minutes, it was fully loaded and we were setting off towards Mendoza for the twelve-hour journey.

We got on, immediately they started a game of bingo and the winner got themselves a bottle of cheap Argentinian wine, after this, a Spanish film came on, that was actually an American film, dubbed in Spanish and then with Spanish subtitles also.

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New Zealand – North Island

Wellington

The ferry ride to Wellington was, in a word; horrific.

“Better than Milford Sound” they said. “Incredible scenery” they said. “One of the best boat journeys on earth” they said. What they didn’t mention is, that’s only on a good weather day, and unfortunately we had a bad weather day, very bad.

It had rained relentlessly all night, and wasn’t showing any signs of stopping on the morning of the boat, we drove to Picton, boarded the HUGE ferry ship with the car, alongside a few hundred others and set off in to the bay. We’d heard all the superlatives about the Marlborough Sound and how beautiful they were, we just couldn’t see more than about 50 metres away because of the rain and fog.

As soon as we left the Marlborough Sound, and got in to the ocean, we were thrown around like rag dolls for the next two hours. You know it’s not going to be a good morning, when one hour in to your three and a half hour boat ride they’re already coming round with cups of ice and more sick bags.

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New Zealand – South Island

Christchurch

We landed in Christchurch in the afternoon, it was throwing it down with rain, but we went straight to pick up the car that we would be driving for the next 24 days, and we weren’t too impressed at what we were given, it was an old Mazda, with over 100k already on the clock, and didn’t even have central locking, it certainly wasn’t what we imagined driving for 5,000 km around New Zealand, and definitely not what we had paid for.

Because of the bad weather, and the fact that the office was about to close, we put up with it for now and headed for our apartment. The apartment was tiny, but nice, they then charged us an extra $10 to park the car which we weren’t too happy with but we just put up with it and walked down to the supermarket, for a bottle of wine, in the pouring rain.

We picked up a bottle of wine and some snacks, but when we got to the checkout, the staff and even the store manager refused to serve us without our passports, which were ten-minutes walk away in the rain. Even though we had multiple other forms of ID on us, and hadn’t needed ID once in the week we spent in Auckland. Christchurch wasn’t going great so far.

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Kuta, Lombok

We took an Uber from Ubud back to Padangbai port to take the public ferry to Lombok, we would be going to the south of Lombok, to a town called Kuta (very different from Kuta, Bali) for a few days before going to the famous Gili Islands further north.

All went smoothly, we got to the port, bought our boat tickets for £2.50 each for a four-hour ferry, boarded and went straight up to the top-deck. When I say this boat was a ferry, it was more like a mini-ship, it transported trucks, cars, people, live-stock, petrol, basically anything that needed to go from Bali to Lombok could go on this boat, it was big.

We sat down on the top deck and a couple of the locals gave us some funny looks before one said to us that we might want to go downstairs where there’s more seats, we looked a little confused because we had a seat on a bench up here. But, I went for a walk to see what was in the downstairs section we hadn’t been in.

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Arrival in Bali, Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Penida

After a fantastic week in Singapore, we flew on Sunday 4th June to Bali, Indonesia. We plan to spend a full month in the area around Bali and Lombok, so should have plenty of time to explore a few areas, a lot of where we are planning to go to is influenced by several friends who have been here before and recommended certain places, but Bali is very well-known tourist spot so we assume it’s where most people will go.

One of the first places we wanted to go was Nusa Lembongan, a small island about 30 minutes from Bali, but because we landed at night, we couldn’t go straight to there, so we headed over to the east side of Bali to Sanur, which is the closest port to get the boat to Nusa Lembongan, it’s more of a holiday destination than a backpacker hub, we just spent a couple of nights there to do some planning for the month ahead and sort out a boat to take us over.

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