SCOTLAND!!!!

As our train chugged its way up the east coast of the UK, I was closely following the little blue dot on Google Maps that represented our position. Slowly but surely it made its way toward the Scottish-English border. I was briefly distracted by the coastal scenery and when I looked back at my phone…

Andy! We’re in Scotland!

We’ve made it!

I must say, Andy was pleased but not quite at my four-exclamation-marks level of excitement. He went back to listening to his podcast.

I can’t honestly tell you if this photo was taken in England or Scotland

Well I was super excited to be here. And I think to be fair, Andy became more excited once we actually reached our destination of Edinburgh. The thrill of passing an arbitrary line on a map while travelling by train isn’t for everyone.

We trekked down the train to retrieve our bikes from the luggage cart and I quickly forced Andy into a selfie (sidenote: well before the trip started I was convinced I was strongly anti-selfie and proposing to veto all of them. Oh how times have changed.)

Officially in Scotland!

Everyone had told us that we would love Edinburgh and that it was a beautiful city. Well, everyone in New Zealand anyway. Several Scottish people had told us that Glasgow might be a more interesting and lively city to live in. I had sort of scoffed at Edinburgh being beautiful, surely that doesn’t have much of an impact on quality of life when you live somewhere right?

I take it all back.

Once we emerged from the station I was instantly impressed by all of the pretty old buildings on the hills surrounding us. We dropped our bags and went roaming around the centre of town. “Look at all the old architecture! And the hills! Ooh ooh, look through there, you can see the sea!” Suffice to say that Edinburgh is indeed a beautiful city, improved upon by the number of hills dotting the town which a) give you viewpoints from which to see a long way, and b) provide more things to look at when you’re low down and surrounded by buildings.

Scotland selfie! I’ll stop soon I promise.

We spent the evening, of course, in a pub drinking Scottish beer. It seemed appropriate. The next day we caught the train through to Glasgow (we have learnt that ‘through’ is the correct preposition to use for this journey) to meet up with our former Christchurch flatmate Kathryn who is Scottish and who was back home on holiday. Super convenient for us and a great chance to catch up with her again.

You may remember that when we were in Belgium we sent a parcel on to Scotland – this is where we had sent it and it was very exciting to be reunited with some more possessions. Having just one extra top really felt like a significant expansion to my wardrobe when added to the four I had on rotation.

Reunited with our parcel, last seen circa May

We made it, we successfully travelled from Singapore to Scotland without using any flights (side trip to the Philippines doesn’t count – refer to original trip rules).

PROJECT OVERLAND COMPLETE!

Woop woop!

It’s taken a little while to write this post, partially because I’ve gotten out of the swing of things with blogging and partially because it’s been a bit hard to reflect back on our trip. It was so long and varied it’s hard to think back on everything. So I’ve decided to do it magazine-interview-style.

I’m going to imagine a combination of being interviewed by Playboy in the mid-60s “I only read it for the articles” era and being interviewed by Hilary Barry (just like Oprah). But probably with much worse questions because I’m having to write them myself. I have however dragged Andy in to help answer them.

HB: What were the highlights of the trip?

BC: So many highlights. Although I’m sort of against tours in general some of the best moments were when we bit the bullet and paid to join a tour group – all of our Mongolian tour for example, especially the day we went horseriding. Visiting the caves near Phong Nha in Vietnam was awesome. Honourable mentions also go to climbing above the clouds on Mount Huashan in China and waking up above the clouds in Refuge Robert Blanc in France on the Tour du Mont Blanc. I really like looking down on clouds.

In addition, I’d like to include any time various friends and family welcomed us into their homes, feeding us, chatting with us and providing beds and showers. Always such a pleasure after long periods spent in hostels or camping or sleeping on trains.

ANK: My highlight was definitely the time that we spent in Mongolia. Besides the breathtaking landscapes and refreshing isolation, I think Brittany and I got a real feel for the Mongolian people and the culture clash of urban vs. nomad that they are currently undergoing. Plus the food was surprisingly enjoyable (#MilkTea)

HB: And the lowlights?

BC: Definitely the two times I got really sick: firstly on the island of El Nido in the Philippines when our 6am boat was cancelled due to bad weather and we had to just sit outside until a cafe opened and hope we didn’t vomit on the pavement. Secondly in Mongolia in the middle of the Gobi Desert when I literally pooped my bed and the nearest toilet was a longdrop 50m away along a snowy ridge.

Other lowlights were the two times that I burst into tears at breakfast, once in Russia and once in Germany. Both times were triggered by being disappointed at the food but I’m going to claim that there was also some sleep deprivation and stress involved.

ANK: Unsurprisingly, I think the lowlight of the trip was enduring various gastro problems, although to be fair my experience with these were few and far between. The worst food poisoning that I had was when we were in the Philippines and I got food poisoning, started to recover, then got food poisoning again by eating a dodgy kebab.

HB: If you started the whole thing all over again, is there anything that you would change?

BC: I think travelling a bit slower in places, especially in southeast Asia. Sometimes it felt like all we were doing was taking a constant stream of buses and trains to cover ground and we only spent about 12 days in each country.

I would also make a bit more effort to avoid major cities. It’s easy to plan a trip through a country based on spending a couple of days in each major city but we’re not really city people and quickly got museumed-out. We definitely enjoy activities-based travel more so for future trip planning I will try to focus more on that.

ANK: I’d probably try and be a bit more ruthless with my gear selection. I think by the time we hit China we had a pretty good handle on our kit, but there are definitely a few items that could have been more light weight and less bulky.

HB: What advice would you give other people doing similar trips?

BC: Don’t travel too fast or aim to fit too many places into one trip. And pack light! Invariably, every time we got on a bus or a train or a hovercraft or had to walk anywhere we would look at each other and say “I’m so glad we have small bags”.

ANK: Do it!! Probably the best advice would be to solidly research their visa situation. I was really lucky because I had a Brittany who is awesome at in depth research and planning, so we had a pretty good idea of the visas required for the trip, as well as how to apply for them.

HB: Any final thoughts?

BC: I’m not really sure this trip was life-changing or helped me discover myself but definitely it was an interesting challenge and experience. I’m so glad I did it, I would definitely make the same choice again, but probably won’t be planning any more year-long trips anytime soon. I’m a bit surprised about how keen I am to get back into the routine of ‘normal’ life, although it probably helps that it will be in a new country so is automatically more exciting. Bring on Scotland!

ANK: This trip has been a real roller coaster, we’ve been lucky enough to have some great experiences, as well as some not great experiences (#ShitTheBed!) but all in all it’s been truly a singular experience. I don’t think I’ll be attempting another trip of this magnitude anytime soon, instead I think the future holds trips of a more moderate duration. My final thoughts? Totally worth it.

Andy and Brittany about to start Project Overland

Flashback to a year ago when we were just about to leave – we look so young!

 

Comments

  1. Woo hoo. So surreal to see you made it 🙂

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