Friday, 24 April 2009

Completing the circle

297 days, 19 countries and 44, 000 miles later, we're back where we started.

Our whole adventure feels like a dream already. Did we really camp on the northern most tip of Europe; watch mobile phone clips with soldiers in Siberia; bathe in volcanic waters in Japan; eat jellyfish on the slow boat to China; swim in the world's deepest lake and hike the world's deepest gorge; ride an elephant through a tributary of the Mekong; form part of a television audience in LA; smash a piñata in Mexico; climb a Mayan temple in the jungle; snorkel on the Belize Barrier Reef; drink moonshine in the moonlight and celebrate Easter in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean?

If it wasn't for the photos and this blog, I'd hardly believe it.

Like many an exotic sojourn the highlights from our trip are manifold. However, what has made our trip different has been the absence of aeroplanes and the land and sea travel adventures that we have had instead. So here, in no particular order, are my top ten World in Slow Motion journeys:

1) Sleeper train from Xi’an to Kunming, China. Forty two hours with, for most of the time, the carriage to ourselves, watching life in rural China go by: paddy fields being ploughed with water buffalo, men smoking skinny pipes, tiny coal mines, smoky factories and deep limestone ravines gnawed away by jade rivers. Ate one of the best dishes I had in China - delicious, anonymous green sprouts.

2) Getting a shout-out from Durrl the driver on the Megabus from Minneapolis to Chicago, USA.
“Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time ever in Megabus history this is your chance to come down to the front and make an announcement over the microphone. Come on down!.....We got some world travellers sitting here right behind me on the lower deck…. O, o, oooh! We’re gliding like Egyptian silk!”

3) Train from Toya-ko to Kyoto, Japan. 806 miles (about the same as London to Stockholm) in eleven hours, including the world’s longest tunnel (Seikan at 34 miles long). The connections were quick and easy, the seats flipped over when the train changed direction and the Shinkansen was slick, sleek and quick (186 mph).

4) Bed bus from Mengla, China, to Luang Prabang, Laos. Lying on a bed during daylight hours watching the concrete and tiles of China turn into the wood and mud of Laos, as the air temperature rose and the vegetation became greener and more exotic. Counting potbellied pigs was a favourite pastime.

5) Luxury bus from Guadalajara to Mexico City. There were only ‘executivo’ buses going to the station we needed so we treated ourselves to this moving lounge. Only 24 big, squashy seats on board; a coffee/tea machine; separate, clean ladies and gents loos; and personal headphones to watch a decent selection of new and art-house films. The journey was over all too quickly.

6) Crossing the Pacific Ocean on a 334 metre, 100,000 tonne cargo ship. The CMA-CGM Hugo was a beautiful ship and we were given the best cabin on board. The north North Pacific was a mess of storms forcing us to travel from Hong Kong to Long Beach through the Tropics, which meant fifteen days of sunbathing and stars. Even saw whales.

7) Copper Canyon Railway from Chihuahua to Los Mochis, Mexico. A creaky old train taking us through real bandit country: Desert, cacti, black vultures sunning on fence posts, cow skulls, cowboys rounding up cows. Broke the journey in dusty Creel to see the canyon, which rivals the Grand Canyon, and ate delicious gorditas in Divisadero.

8) Slow boat to Shanghai, China ,from Osaka, Japan. Passing through the beautiful Inland Sea and into the deep blue waters of the Sea of Japan and East China Sea, counting flying fish as we went. We met some wonderful fellow travelers and had an insight into what was to come in China from the predominantly Chinese passengers who did their laundry at 6.30am and ate with great gusto and speed.

9) Trans-Siberian Railway from Irkutsk to Vladivostok. This section of the epic west to east train journey had far more varied and beautiful scenery than the first leg: meadows, lakes and deciduous forests alongside the regular tundra, industry and cosmodromes. There were fewer spudnuts (potato donuts) available on the platforms, but we were wise to the samovar and had brought plenty of instant mashed potato.

10) Train from Hamburg to Copenhagen. Comfortable train with stunning views across flowering farmland, twinkling water and fields of wind turbines. The best bit was that the train boarded a ferry to bridge the waters between Germany and Denmark.

We’ve travelled 360 degrees around the world without leaving the earth’s surface. It feels like a historic achievement, treading in the footsteps of the great travelers of old before the aeroplane was invented. We didn’t do it in eighty days, like Phileas Fogg, but travelled considerably slower, taking time to soak up what was happening around us.

My early fears of not being able to complete the circle, because public transport to the places we wanted to go wouldn’t exist, were dispelled. It’s a big world, but the means to get around it are there. Travelling overland and sea is like a dot-to-dot puzzle, the more dots you join the clearer the picture becomes. That is what has made World in Slow Motion such a special worldwide wander and wonder.

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Garnet said...

Sounds like one heck of a journey! Thanks for sharing :)

4 season travel blog said...

wow, this must have been an amazing trip!! Sadly, I haven't discovered your blog until now that your trip is over.

Seems like you enjoy trainrides, etc. That is a favorite part of traveling for me as well. I love just sitting there watching completely different lifes and people fly by outside.

Thanks for sharing your experiences!

wie bali said...

Seems like you enjoy trainrides

great ...! sharing

Daniel DiFranco said...

Glad to hear you made it back safely. I met you two in Philadelphia (Union Jack's Pub the night before you left). Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I've been snooping around your blog since that night and I am quite impressed and jealous. Your top ten is fascinating.

When can we start to pre-order the book? You were going to write a book, right?

All the best to you:)

Fahrensmann said...

Hi ihr Zwei, Gratulation und Willkommen zurück.
Tom, wann gehn wir in dein Pub?
Gruß und alles Gute aus Dresden,
euer Robert.
P.S.: Pudding ;-)

Lilliy said...

Wow what an amazing journey.. every trip I take feels like it ended too soon.. and I guess it feels like you said when its over like a dream that passed.. its too bad I just found your blog.. it would have been nice to read it while your having your adventure but will read bits by bits of it.. I love travel stories.. photos.. videos.. its never old..

Robert G said...

Amazing! Wish I'd found out about this before you finished, as I'm thinking of doing something similar myself. I'm looking forward to reading about it in full.

In the meantime I'd be interested to know how you calculated your emissions on the cargo ship journeys.

Angela said...

"Travelling overland and sea is like a dot-to-dot puzzle, the more dots you join the clearer the picture becomes. That is what has made World in Slow Motion such a special worldwide wander and wonder."

Nicely said, Lara! I'm happy you returned home safely and wish I could have joined you for more of these lovely adventures... I am looking forward to seeing you again in the next year or two! Take care!


Jean-OurExplorer Tour Guide said...

So nice. The best scenery is always on the land. It saves time by flights, but with the cost of missing sceneries. Admire your courage as well. Not all people can bear the long hours and local atmosphere on the earth's surface.

Monty said...

I appreciate the labour you have put in developing this blog. Nice and informative.

Andi said...

Hi there, I am new to your blog and I look forward to reading your back entries. Sounds like you had an extraordinary journey! Where are you off to next???

Marie Meyer said...

Absolutly awesome. I am very envious of you both. Such a wicked experience. Well done.

Alastair said...

I came across your blog through the Lonely Planet winners list - well
done! Fantastic achievement.
Anyway, just thought that I would say that, as a fellow London-bound
vagabond, I have been enjoying your blog and your writing.
That's about it! What's next...?

Web designer said...

I honestly love this website. Your posts help to remind me why I love traveling on vacation so much. You seem to really love your site.I love keeping up with the latest travel tips online. Keep up the great work.Thanks for sharing your experience :)

Fun & Fact said...

You always come up with great stuff I just love your site you are very talented I'll recommend your site to my friends and family members great job very appreciated..keep it up..

Bryan said...

Congratulations on an amazing trip! My wife and I recently finished a trip around the world for about a year, and your blog brings back some good memories. Do you guys have any budget info or advice on saving money while traveling?

Allen Trottier said...

Congrats! What an awesome journey. Do you plan to do it again? Maybe, in the opposite direction?

Robinvale said...

I found this post very interesting..... I admire your courage:)

Thanks! For sharing your journey.

Connie said...

Wow, congratulations to you two for finishing this amazing journey! I left my home and job in New York City almost 2 years ago and you are helping inspire me as I continue in my travels! Thanks so much! I have a website if you're ever interested in checking out the view of the world from my seat:

Cheers and I hope you get to explore more of the world soon!