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Trip Statistics – March 2013 – November 2014

I have had these statistics done for almost a year now – initially couldn’t bring myself to look at them due to being so busy trying to sort out a new/old life back home in Whitfield, a new car, back to work in my clinic and the kids went straight back to school – then I forgot about them for a while – until today which is exactly a year since we came home. When we first arrived home we went to Sandy’s parents home in Somers by the beach. Today when I was sitting at the Somers store, contemplating the sea over my cappuccino, I suddenly remembered this list of statistics that were about our trip a year ago today. I instantly got excited and here they are:

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TRIP STATISTICS – March 2013 – November 2014:
NUMBER OF TRAIN TRIPS – 24

Kunming – Dali, Xian – Beijing, Beijing – Ulanbaatar, Ulanbaatar – Irkutsk, Irkutsk – Omsk, Omsk – Ekaterinburg, Ekaterinburg – St Petersburg, St. Petersburg – Moscow, Moscow – Odessa, Odessa – Chisinau, Chisinau – Bucharest, Thessaloniki – Florina, Florina – Thessaloniki, Tangier – Marrakech, Marrakech – Casablanca, Milano – Venice, Venice – Rome, Florina – Thessaloniki, Paris – London, London – Brussels, Duerne – Amsterdam – Duerne, Ollantaytambo – Agues Calientes – Ollantaytambo

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NUMBER OF OVERNIGHTS IN TRAINS – 13 nights
NUMBER OF TRAIN HOURS – 231 hours
NUMBER OF PLANE TRIPS – 29 (Darwin – Cairns, Cairns – Darwin, Darwin – Singapore, Singapore – Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur – Kunming, Lijiang – Xian, Thessaloniki – Heraklion, Heraklion – Athens, Athens – Madrid, Casablanca – Milan, Rome – Athens, Thessaloniki – Heraklion, Heraklion – Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki – Athens, Athens – Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv – Athens, Athens – Heraklion, Heraklion – Paris, Brussels – Reykavich, Reykavich – Toronto, Houston – Miami, Miami – Lima, Lima – Cusco – Puerto Maldonado, Juliaca – Lima, Lima – Miami, Miami – Houston, Los Angeles – Brisbane, Brisbane – Melbourne)
NUMBER OF PLANE HOURS – 81 hours
NUMBER OF BUS TRIPS – 20 (Beijing – Great Wall, Great Wall – Beijing, Irkutsk – Lake Baikal, Lake Baikal – Irkutsk, Ruse – Stara Zagora – Plovdiv, Plovdiv – Thessaloniki, Agios Nikolaos – Heraklion, Chiclana – Cadiz – Chiclana, Chiclana – Tarifa, Athens – Florina, Agios Nikolaos – Heralkion – Agios Nikolaos, Agios Nikolaos – Heraklion, Toronto – Chicago, Puerto Maldonado – Cusco, Cusco – Puno, Lima – Chincha – Lima
NUMBER OF BUS HOURS – 74
DIFFERENT METRO SYSTEMS – 9
NUMBER OF TAXIS – 38
NUMBER OF HIRE CARS – 27

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NUMBER OF TUKTUKS- 5
AIRPORT BUSES – 3
DOUBLE DECKER BUS TOURS – 1 (Rome – normally too expensive but they gave us all kids for free and it was a great way to see Rome in a short time)
TOUR MINIVANS – 5
BORROWED CARS – 2

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BOUGHT CARS – 1
NUMBER OF FERRIES – 5 (Lake Baikal – Olkhon Island- Lake Baikal, Heraklion – Santorini – Heraklion, Tarifa – Tangier, Heraklion – Ios – Heraklion

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NUMBER OF BOAT TRIPS – 12 (Lake Baikal, Lake Baikal fishing trip, Santorini – Volcano – Thirassi, Spinalonga Island, Ios, Lake Huron (Flowerpot Island), Lake Michigan x2, Puno – Uros- Amantani – Taquile – Puno
KAYAKS – 3
LOCH TRANSFERS – 2
MOST FORMS OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN ONE DAY – 5 (taxi, train, local bus, plane, minivan)
NUMBER OF CONTINENTS – 6
NUMBER OF COUNTRIES – 27 (we count Tibet, Transnistria & Palestine as real countries!)
NUMBER OF U.S. STATES – 28
NORTH AMERICA ROAD TRIP in our Georgeous Chevrolet Venture:

Chicago – St Louis – Kansas City – St Louis – Chicago – Warrens WI – Eau Claire – Warrens WI – Lake Forest – Chicago – Toronto – Little Britain – Peterborough – Little Britain – Lake Simcoe – Algonquin Lake – Aurora – Missisauga – Toronto – Little Britain – Utica NY – Bloomfield NJ – New York City – Bloomfield NJ – Greenville DL – Washington DC – Greenville DL – Nashville – Memphis – Little Rock – Feyettville – Houston – College Station – Houston – College Station – Houston – De Leon – Kansas City – Sioux Falls – Badlands NP – Billings – Portland – Redwood NP – San Francisco – Los Padres National Forest – Barstow Truck stop – Grand Canyon NP – San Diego – Los Angeles
NUMBER OF DIFFERENT TIME ZONES – 19

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NUMBER OF ZOOS – 15 (Adelaide zoo, Perth zoo, Darwin wildlife park, Cairns tropical zoo, Singapore Zoo, Xian Panda Rescue centre, Ekaterinburg butterfly park and zoo, St Petersburg Zoopark, Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, Nymfaio Bear rescue centre, Toronto Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, Peterborough Free Zoo, Lima Zoo

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NUMBER OF WATER PARKS – 4 (Darwin, St. Petersburg, Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Hersonissos (Crete))
NUMBER OF GORGES – 3 – Kritsa, AgioFarango, Samaria (all in Crete – the land of stunning gorges)
LONGEST HIKE IN ONE DAY – 18kms in Samaria Gorge, Crete

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NUMBER OF DIFFERENT OCEANS/SEAS SWUM IN – Western Port Bay, Southern Ocean, Indian Ocean, Coral Sea, Black Sea, Cretan Sea (on the north side of Crete), Aegean Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Libyan Sea (on the south side of Crete), Atlantic Ocean, English Channel, South Pacific Ocean (Peru), North Pacific Ocean (California)
NUMBER OF DUTCH SAUNAS – 1 – Sandy and I took turns and went separately – sublime experience! (Added at the request of Sandy even though this is supposed to be ‘whole family’ experiences – she’s the boss.)

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LAKES – Lake Baikal, Heische Tip (Uden – Holland), Duerne Lake (Holland) Lake Huron, Georgian Bay, Lake Michigan, Lake Simcoe, Little Hawk Lake, Kamigaga Lake, , Lake Titicaca
RIVERS – Yangtze, Seine, Chicago River, Tambopata River (Amazon Jungle)

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THEME PARKS – 1 LEGO LAND (Windsor)
HIGHEST ALTITUDE – 4,200m (went up by chair lift from Dali in Yunnan, China for a few hours), 3840m Puno – Lake Titicaca (for a few days), 4140m (walk up highest point of Amantani Island ( Lake Titicaca) to watch the sunset)

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LOWEST ALTITUDE – 427m below Sea level – Dead Sea
NUMBER OF Kms TRAVELLED BY OUR CAR IN OZ – 10156km
NUMBER OF Kms TRAVELLED BY OUR CAR IN USA – 12030 miles (19360Km)
TOTAL NUMBER OF AIR KMS – 54,466 Kms
TOTAL NUMBER OF LAND KMS – 50,181 Kms
TOTAL NUMBER OF SEA KMS – 650 Kms
TOTAL NUMBER OF DAYS – 583
ACCOMODATION:
NUMBER OF HOSTELS – 7
NUMBER OF GUEST HOUSES – 12
NUMBER OF AIRBNB APARTMENTS/HOUSES – 8
NUMBER OF HOTELS – 5
NUMBER OF HOME STAYS- 3

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NUMBER OF YURTS/GERS – 2
NUMBER OF NIGHTS CAMPING – 42 (not including the ger in Mongolia as that was on beds in their permanent accommodation )

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Number of SERVAS – COUCHSURFING STAYS – 13
FRIENDS/RELATIVES HOMES – 32
NUMBER OF DIFFERENT BEDS – 96
HIGHEST COST OF ACCOMMODATION – $291 per night for a small apartment in Venice (slept 8 of us) followed by $125 per night for 2 apartments in Granada, Spain, followed by $100/ night for a 6 bed dorm in a small hostel in Irkutsk, Russia
LOWEST COST OF ACCOMMODATION – (other than free) – $35 per night for a whole apt in Cusco Peru followed by $42/night for two rooms in a Kunming guesthouse, China
TOTAL AMOUNT SPENT ON ACCOMMODATION IN 3mths IN NORTH AMERICA – $72 for two nights of camping permits in the Grand Canyon
LONGEST TIME WITH NO SHOWER – 8 days (Mongolia)
BEST MEAL – I have left the responses that everyone had for the first year and then added the favourite meals for the second year:

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C – In Thessaloniki, having appetisers with Sandy at an ‘ouzeri’ (a place that sells ouzo and appetisers) with the most delicious ‘melt in your mouth’ calamari, wonderful bread, Greek salad and delicious walnut cake and ice cream to end with.

Any food at ‘Little wine, little Sea’ (Λίγο κρασί Λίγο Θαλλασσα) in Heraklion – though especially the squid ink calamari. Also my mouth is still watering at a special salmon dish made one night in Houston by Kathy K & Cathy C. Oh and how could I ever forget the amazing fresh cranberry sauce by Kathleen in Oregon.
S – The barbecued calamari – described as the best calamari in Greece at an ouzeri in Thessaloniki as well as my favourite dessert which was a sundae at a groovy Beijing coffee shop near our hostel.

The calamari at ‘Little wine, little Sea’ (Λίγο κρασί Λίγο Θαλλασσα) in Heraklion.

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Y – The Thai Restraunt in Beijing near our hostel where we had spicy chicken, prawns in coconut sauce, Thai bread and rice and veggies. The potato gratin also at Teta Mirka’s house in Bulgaria was amazing – I had four serves.

The calamari at ‘Little wine, little Sea’ (Λίγο κρασί Λίγο Θαλλασσα) in Heraklion.
T – the night before my birthday in Darwin at our aunty Jenny and uncle Paul’s place with our cousins Lachie and Josh – we had pasticcis, party pies and sausage rolls and aunty Jenny got us a wonderful birthday cake – mine was cheesecake. Actually I loved all of Jenny and Paul’s meals in Darwin but my birthday one was the best.

Lasagne in the first Restraunt we went to in Venice.

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K – Barramundi at Jen’s house there was lemon juice and veggies and at my birthday I had chicken snitzel – best snitzel I’ve ever had. Also I loved the nachos at the Mexican place for Tobes’ and Yas’ birthday in Darwin. I also have one more – My complete FAVOURITE – the fish we cooked on a stone BBQ at lake Baikal that we caught ourselves. It was incredible. And I have to mention the huge (so much) Nutella waffle I had with mum in Heraklion.

Yemistes (stuffed veggies with rice and herbs) at my Aunty Seve’s house in our village in Greece and absolutely any food at ‘Little wine, little Sea’ (Λίγο κρασί Λίγο Θαλλασσα) in Heraklion.
Z – Pasta with tuna sauce in the village with Papou Doni’s tomatoes and I loved Mihali’s milk in the village.

My giagia’s soup with rice and meatballs.

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E – Giros pita by the lake in Agios Nikolaos.

Nikki’s amazing chocolate cake in Crete and a cookie spookie ice cream at DODONI.

 

 
WORST MEAL interesting that when I re-asked this question for the second year it was exactly the same – we must have had extra amazing food the second year!

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C – The second day of our ger stay when we had veggies and Soya TVP with some sort of pasta but the whole meal and air and everything just smelt of mutton fat and I was feeling quite ill from it – after which I just got used to it and enjoyed the experience.

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S – The first meal in Kunming where the smell just made me want to vomit and I put on a brave face for the kids and then we wised up and got some written instructions for other prospective food places.
Y – Our first noodle meal in China in Kunming cause it was spicy and very hot and we hadn’t learnt how to ask for less spicy yet and people were all looking at us.
T – In Beijing in a Chinese Restraunt near our hostel that everyone else loved but always put me in a bad mood – the food was lots of veggies and noodles and stuff like that.
K – On Jetstar flight from Darwin – Singapore we had rice and chicken it was so plain and yuk
Z – The spicy food in China
E – Reheated pasta in Crete cause it didn’t have enough sauce and definitely the very spicy food on the first night in China.

 

FAVOURITE THING THAT HAPPENED OVERSEAS:

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Yasi – Meeting Isabella – my friend from Crete

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Zoi – Riding half wild horses in Mongolia

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Toby – Travelling though America and staying with our Harry Potter crazy friends in Houston

 

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Emilio – going to DODONI ice cream shop – the best ice cream shop in the world

 

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Kalika – Meeting Isabella in school at Crete

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Sandy – Sitting outside the ‘Irish consulate’ in Agios Nikolaos and chatting with the girls.

Christos – Definitely the incredible connections we made with so many wonderful people all around the world. Oh and I just loved living in Crete in a tiny 2 bedroom apartment across from the beach. I loved spending so much quality time with my family and always eating lunch together. I adored having so many lovely visitors – my sister Jenny Gigga, my bro and Sally, giagia’s, my in-laws Ross and Jill, Amy and Oliver, Cousin Cara, Meri and George, Rebecca and Andy from Scotland and their wonderful boys, Millie from Oz and mad Aunty Desley came twice – such good fun. Loved so much – couldn’t possibly pick one thing. Crete definitely became a second home.

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Arriving in the Wonderful land of Oz

Written in the early morning of Nov 1st, 2014…….

 

Here we are on VA8 from Los Angeles to Brisbane, minutes away from landing and the digital devices screen hasn’t been turned off yet. So here I am, listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. Golly the USA seems so far away and so it should be cause we’ve been flying for 14 hours across this massive body of water called the Pacific Ocean. A good amount of time to watch three movies, sleep and contemplate about the last 20 months that in some way we’re so amazingly crisp that the memories won’t ever lose their clarity, yet in others it just seems so surreal. This random family, from a random place in North East Victoria, travelling to many places for the first time and meeting these random people, some that touched their hearts and they’ll never see again, others that touched their hearts and will be lifelong friends. Either way it was a heartfelt experience that seems so surreal at this exact moment that we are about to land in Brisbane. Maybe some of these highlight pictures will prove to me that it happened after all. Quite incredible.

Christos

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Our last few days in The Canyon, San Diego and LA

imageIn LA we stayed with a girl called Lima. She was a Couchsurfing host and it was so fun staying with her. When we were there we had toasted bagels and fruit salad with rockmelon which is my favourite fruit – it was delicious.
imageI enjoyed seeing all the stars on Hollywood Boulevard – it was fun looking at all the names. When we got to the big Chinese theatre we found the hand prints of a young girl called Shirley Temple who was very young at the time – I think younger than ten. We went to a hill close to the Hollywood sign and we could see it close up.

imageIn San Diego we stayed with our cousins Tom and March and their parents are Andy and Jen – it was fun playing with them and we played all sorts of games.
By Kiki

 

imageAt the Grand Canyon – it’s like a big humongous gorge and we went walking down – it was hot and difficult to walk back up but I could do it without having to be carried.

 

 

imageMarch and Tom we’re really great cause they were fun to play with and very kind. We played on their scooter and LEGO and we even went to the beach.

 

 

imageIt was my mummy’s birthday and I made her a Choc ripple birthday cake with my Gigga Jenny.
We went to an awesome park with roundabouts and swings, slides and other cool stuff. There was even water fountains and we got really wet, but it was warm.

Our friend Lima in LA had a cat who was fun.

I really liked travelling with my Gigga Jenny – she’s awesome.
By Zoi

image image imageThe Grand Canyon had some very red dirt – my shoes were really red and dirty. It was so deep that at some points I couldn’t see the bottom. We walked down into the Grand canyon for about an hour and it was meant to take us two hours to get back up but that was just estimated for older people – it took Yasi and me about 45 mins to get back up cause we were steaming up and were the first ones back. We camped in the Grand Canyon campsite just off the canyon and we had lunch after our long walk. For dinner we cooked two minute noodles while we watched the sunset at the other end of the canyon called ‘Desert view’.

 

A few days later I met some of my second cousins for the first time. They are March and Tom children of Andy and Jen. Andy is my mum’s first cousin. I really liked San Diego . It was a nice quiet city with lots to do like going to the beach or going to pools and good parks. I enjoyed playing with my cousins – it was nice seeing their different personalities and I hope to see them again soon in Australia. I loved the food that they cooked. On our first night it was pasta bake which was delicious. Another night Andy made asparagus soup which I hadn’t had before but it was yummy.

My favourite meal was the last one – it was home made french fries with chicken snitzel. When it was being cooked I was actually with my mum trying to make a deal to sell our car. We did end up selling it the next day which was awesome. When we got back I had the dinner that was cooked and the others were actually out trying to get ice-creams and they brought me back a giant cookie sandwich which was totally epic. Fifteen minutes later we had mummy’s birthday cake which is also my favourite cake of all time and that is Choc ripple cake.

imageWe stayed with a wonderful coushsurfing person called Lima in LA. She had a small house but it was just perfect for us. There was enough space in her spare room and it was really easy to be there.

 

imageWhen I had the time I was mainly focused on finishing the seventh book of Harry Potter. I started a month ago and have read all seven books. Lima has two jobs – one is kind of helping teachers in the education department and the other job is acting in commercials. She said that almost everyone in LA is trying to get into acting. Lima also used to stay in Greece so she knew some Greek words. It was fun to try to talk to her in Greek.
When I fished my book I was edging to tell everyone what happened but mum and baba forbid me to tell them cause it would spoil it for the others. I finished it while we were watching the sunset then it took over an hour to get to the airport in the peak hour traffic even though it was meant to be 17 minutes. We got on our plane and I can’t tell you how excited we all were to be retuning home to Australia.

imageBy Toby

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Road tripping across America

image There comes a point where road tripping becomes a way of life. In a country like America this is almost a necessity of you’re going to enjoy it. The humongous distances, the endless interstate highways, freeways, state roads, etc become a blur and life is on the road. Life becomes travelling between friends, campsites, monuments – working out which meal we will have cheap sandwiches and which meal we will actually go to a diner at best or one of America’s endless choices of fast food restraunt. Our favourite has been the slightly more upmarket Mexican – Chipotles and the more questionable ones we’ll put down to an interesting experience have been ‘Waffle House’ and ‘Long John Silvers’.
Over the last few weeks it’s very interesting how a 9 hour drive has become a very doable day and a 14 hour drive is ‘Ok team – we can do this!’ Most days the wide open road is amazing and enthralling, the scenery fantastic – other days the drab view outside mirrors your mood and you ‘survive’. Either way the journey continues and we learn something about America, each other or ourselves.
Here are some of the kids’ reflections.
By Christos

imageLast night we stayed at one of my baba’s pen friends in Texas – her name is Carla and she lives in De Leon which is 2 hours away from Dallas. We only stayed one night cause we had to get to Kansas City to pick up our aunty Jenny Gigga.
We watched some TV and there was a barbeque – we had some very mummy foods. After dinner we played some soccer – it was fun. Carla makes movies and a TV show called Texas cousins – she showed us some of them and we laughed a lot. I found it very interesting that she made movies.


The next day before we left, we went to car museum and there were cars from early 1900s . By Yas

imageYesterday we were in the car for a long time. In the car we did three hours of home work and played cards. It was at least eleven hours and we were driving from Texas to Kansas City to see one of my baba’s friend from University when he was studying in America. Her names is Erin and her daughter Zoe is 15, and Erin’s husband is Kaveh. We got to there house at about 11pm and we went straight to bed. The next day when we got up we started our home school work and I am doing my home work with the dog next to me right now. By Yasmina

I love the dogs that we have visited so much. I love Kernel Longbody and Izzi in Kansas City. I held them by their leads and I payed with them. They sat next to me while I did my school work. I gave them treats – they did tricks when I gave them treats – Kernel Longbody jumped up on his back legs and Izzy also did that and I then gave her a treat.

One day we went for a picnic and we had the dogs on a lead. Zoe did some gymnastics for us and Yasi did too. We played with a kite and it was so much fun that day. We also met some other dogs at the park when we were playing frisbee. Such cute dogs. One was a chihuahua .

Cathy C and Kathy K dogs were Jensen and Sadie. They were so much fun and we gave them some little walks. Jensen was a bit scared of people but he got really used to me because I pretended he wasn’t there for a little while, then he started to love me and licked me. I played with Sadie and her toys. I played with her most and I tried to teach her somethings. So much fun. The cats also were fun too. One of the cats was Lola who was furry and I picked her up lots. The other cats were Izzy and Zen.

imageMy baba’s pen friend Carla had a little dog called Chloe and she was a bit barky and a bit bitey but still nice. Some of their friends came over and we ate dinner outside and had hamburgers and hotdogs and they were delicious. It was so much fun at their house. There was some really cool Halloween decorations. I wish I had them at my place.

imageAt Kathleen’s house there were three dachshunds – they were Sally, Lucy and Prince Edward. They were so much fun and we had lots of time to play with them. Then our friends Gabi and Levi came over for two nights to play with us. We played a castle game – we went to sleep late cause we were so busy building it. The other night was late cause we were allowed to watch a movie. The dogs watched with us. It was so lovely to see them again. We met them in Russia at like a little campsite but there were huts and rooms.
By Zoi

imageYesterday we went to the Badlands. The Badlands is a national park where we camped in a camping ground. My aunty Jenny Gigga came from Australia to spend the last few weeks with us.
So when we got to the camp site it was freezing we set up the tents quickly. We have three small tents so it did take all of us to set the tents up. Then we went for a walk up the hill next to camp site to see the sunset. When we were at the top of the hill we herd coyotes in the distance and we could see lots of bisons. We also saw the sun set which was beautiful. It started to get dark so we went and made some dinner – we had Two minute noodles then we went to bed .
imageThe next day it was still freezing so we made toast on our cooker. Our tents had ice all over them so to get them dry quicker Toby, Kalika, Zoi, Emilio & 1 all held one corner of the tents and we ran up and down the oval to dry them.
By Yasmina

 

imageWe met Kathleen in Russia at Lake Baikal when she was travelling with her son Luke and his wife Maria and her two lovely grandkids – Levi and Gabi. I didn’t think that we would ever visit them cause they live so far away and our initial plans weren’t going to include America. However our plans changed and we made the trip to Portland, Oregon to visit them all. Luke and Maria live four hours away in Washington but they came down for the weekend. We went to an indoor swimming pool and had lots of fun and I also learnt how to do a tumble turn. My aunty Gigga does lots of swimming and she taught me to do a tumble turn. Kathleen had three dogs.

The third day we were there we went to a pumpkin patch which is a place where there is kind of like a pumpkin festival. We went to the corn maze – it was quite difficult because it was so big and there were confusing paths everywhere. We ate some delicious corn that was roasted and I loved it with garlic salt. Also as part of our ticket we got a caramel apple. We also got some pumpkins and carved them when we got back to the house. First time I’ve ever carved them but I decorated some in Houston with Cathy C & K.

imageKathleen cooked some pretty delicious food and my favourite meal was definitely when she made us an early thanksgiving meal. It was my favourite because I love Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and there was pretend meat for the vegetarians. I really loved it. It was so fun doing the pumpkins and playing with Levi and Gabi again. My favourite was cops and robbers that we played on the last day while the car was getting packed.

imageThe driving around is pretty hard sometimes because the distances are so long. I normally do my school work in the morning and I read Harry Potter. I’m up to half way through number 5. If the drive is longer than six hours we get to watch a movie. We get a scarf and put it across two front seats and then we put our small Greek DVD player up. It’s sometimes hard to watch especially if you’re in the back. We only have 9 more days of our trip and two more long trips which are over six hours. Then we’ll be in LA and getting ready to fly home. I’m so excited to get home. But Tobes

Camping
imageWe have being doing some camping lately – the first time we went camping was in the Bad lands National Park – that’s when we all got a bit sick because it was freezing.
imageThe second time we went camping was in the Redwoods.
The redwood wasn’t really red I don’t know why they call it that. We camped in a small camp ground and it rained all night non-stop.

Last night we went to the beach, the water was really cold but I still went swimming and was thrown over by the waves. I haven’t seen the ocean since we left Greece four mouths ago. Oh actually we saw it in England but just for a day.
We slept in the car last night it was so hot and not much room – but we made it and now we are driving to the Grand Canyon. By Yasmina

imageWe are staying with a lady called Nancy who is from SERVAS and she lives in San Fransisco. We went to to the city by a small train and we walked and walked and walked lots. First we walked the beach and we made a little shop in the sand.

imageIt was a massage chair with a foot bath – it was so cool. We made a wall and some chairs out of sand. The water came and filled up our foot bath.

 

 

We walked a long way up a big big hill to see the windiest street in the whole entire world. Then we found a park – it was a really cool park and we didn’t want to leave.

imageBut we had to walk to China town and we met my mum’s cousin Simon who lives here in San Francisco but he is not on holidays – he works here but we are on holidays. Then we walked to a Chinese shop and had a yummy dinner. We tried to get a maxi taxi but there weren’t any – just those tiny ones with 4 seats, so we walked to the train again and then we went back to Nancy’s house.
Love from Emilio.

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Trembling camp at Badlands

When we drove in to Badlands National Park and were amazed at the incredible rock formations, little did I know I would have the worst campingimage night of my life.
Pretty much for the last 20 months we have been following the warmer weather. We’ve had a couple of nights now and then when it might have been freezing in northern Greece and it was pretty chilly at night last Christmas in southern Spain – But nothing like last night………

We got in to Badlands about 4pm and had enough time to sight-see and have a short wonder before heading to our camp site (I just love a new website that Sandy has found with free campsites in America).

imageSetting up camp was pretty easy as we have that down pat now and the kids generally like setting up the tents while we do the sorting stuff. Hot water was boiling when we saw the descending sun disappearing so ran up the hill to get a view – as the coyotes howled in the background. This was our first camping night with Gigga (Aunty Jenny – my sister) – the coyote sounds and the up close bison weren’t the best way to appease her mind that we were safe.

imageThe temperature during the day was lovely – maybe 20 C but as soon as the sun went down it started getting chilly – we all got our thermals on, some of the kids even used socks as gloves. Dinner of instant noodles was so warming and divine. The Stars were spectacular – not a cloud in the sky – the Milky Way was just amazing and I reminded myself that I hadn’t seen it since outback Australia. Jenny bought some hiking boots especially for our trip but didn’t go as far as a sleeping bag or mat. So Toby donated his mat and slept on a space blanket to keep the rising cold from the ground at bay. I donated my sleeping bag which is meant to be good for temperatures down to -8 C. We had three small tents and I shared with Emilio and Toby and thought if I go in the middle they will keep me a bit warmer. I had Sandy’s shawl as a blanket which in hindsight was terribly inappropriate – I thought I had been asleep for ages and that it was almost morning when I turned and realised I couldn’t feel my feet as they were so cold. I tossed and turned and tried to get back to sleep but I was just so cold. I contemplated trying to squeeze in to one of the sleeping bags of the boys but they just looked so warm and comfortable, I couldn’t do it. Well I thought maybe I’ll try to go to the toilet so I at least move my feet around and that might help. When I unzipped the tent door I had a quick look at the time – I was devastated that it was only 1.09am. Oh my golly how was I going to get through the night. I got back in and lay down and this time kept my hiking boots on in the hope they would keep my feet warmer. It didn’t make much difference.
I lay there for many hours freezing cold and unable to fall back asleep. I instantly had a mountain of empathy with many of my insomniac clients who struggle to sleep at night. Every few minutes I would wobble my legs to help the blood flow to the feet. I went through hours of visualising what would happen to my posture if they had to amputate some of my toes. Would I still be able to jog or run a marathon. It felt like I would never be warm again – as if my feet were permanently frozen. I couldn’t feel them much and it was difficult to wiggle my toes – though I kept trying. I would have loved to know how cold it was. I got up to go to the toilet again and was hopeful that it was close to morning – though it was devastatingly only 4am.

imageEvery time Jenny heard a zip she would yell out to see who it was. Sleeping lightly as she was worried about the bison who seemed to be next to the tent and the coyotes who sounded a lot closer. I wondered if I should get in the car, if I should go driving and turn the heater on – I couldn’t make myself do anything except lie there feeling very very cold.
By this stage I had given up, I didn’t care if my feet wouldn’t work again – I just wanted to get a little bit of sleep – an hour or two emerged and eventually the others started moving. When we stumbled out of the tents it was not surprising that there was a thick film of ice on the tents. It was actually quite validating to see the ice and that I wasn’t just being a wimp.

image Sandy quickly got some tea boiling and despite not being a ‘black tea type of person’ – it felt so good as it was going down my throat, warming everything on the way.

imageWe even had hot toast cooked in a saucepan – she’s an ingenious girl! I started feeling more normal, though it took till at least 10am till my feet didn’t sting with cold and felt ok. Everything seems so much easier and better in the daylight.
The kids had so much fun running around the camp ground with the tent flies so that they dry in the wind. So, this has been possibly my worst camping experience ever – but at least there wasn’t any mosquitoes!

After a short stop to see the presidents of Mt Rushmore we traversed the State of Montana to Billings – where we had set up a Servas stay with a great guy called Carl. He lives in a warehouse apartment in the centre of town that is just so amazing. He had a fantastic style of decorating – that he described ‘junk yard modern’ but it was so quirky and retro.

One of the most interesting places we have visited. He is such a hospitable friendly guy and didn’t bat an eyelid to these eight strangers arriving at 8pm and cooking us a yummy chilli bean dinner on his small stove. The chilli peppers were even from his mother’s place in New Mexico. Delicious dinner, great conversation and fantastic sleep with feeling cold being a distant memory!

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Harry Potter, pool antics, great food and fun in Houston

imageHouston has been one of our favourite parts of this trip around the USA – not because it is the oil capital of America or its a sprawling humongous city – but because Cathy C Kathy K (as the kids so lovingly named them – they are wonderful friends I met through being on the board of IIPA – international Iridology Practitioners Association) are just so awesome and took 6 days off work to host us and it was basically quite a relaxing and epic stay.
Not an easy feat having 7 crazy Australians arrive at your door and ask if they can leave their car at your place while being driven to the airport so they can go to Peru. Then arriving back Three weeks later to valet pick up, 6 days of great things planned, being driven everywhere, 16 delightful meals prepared, comfortable beds for us all to sleep in, a pool to keep the kids amused, and also a love of Harry Potter.

imageOur kids have never been into Harry Potter because of their perception that it was scary. We’ve never really pushed it either but Kathy & Cathy are definitely big fans and it was the best way to introduce our kids to Harry. They fell in love with him and we got in five of the movies. imageKathy K was in stitches watching the kids hide behind pillows during the scary scenes. The owl letters that arrived were just gold! Thank you Kathy K and Cathy C – you are such incredible hosts, the Kids new Texan aunties and we can’t wait to see you in Australia hopefully next year. Also it was great fun having an IIPA board meeting with two members in the same room!
I loved Kathy’s Facebook post after we left:

‘So…after 6 days, 5 kids, 4 exhausted adults, 3 scaredy cats, 2 tired dogs, the partridge in the pear tree has flown away.
With a few skinned knees, one slightly sick mom, a couple of coughs and runny noses, a day trip to Aggieland, a fun day at the lake fishing, 5 decorated pumpkins, 16 prepared meals, 5 Harry Potter movies and 2 owl deliveries the Milikings have left Houston.
We all had a great time and Cathy and I will see the Miliankos family in Oz in 2015. Safe travels y’all!’

imageMy favourite thing about staying with Catch C and Kathy K was watching Harry Potter – we watched five movies all together. It was awesome. I was scared of number two and number four because of Valdermort but all of them are a bit scary. I liked Harry Potter cause he’s a cool guy.

imageWe got two owl post mail each from Harry’s owl. I forgot what he said but he said to enjoy Texas. He also said that ‘Emilio before you leave I’m going to put you in the right house’ – he said ‘Emilio since you are naughty, cheeky and sometimes you are very kind so you belong in the house of Slitherin. I got a badge of Slitherin. Slitherin is the house of Valdermort and he’s very bad. He was born bad and he has lots of bodies and gets destroyed lots of times. He has a humongous snake that dies by Harry Potter. It’s a good story and also one of the other scariest things is a three headed dog. Also one of the captains of the magic school called Hagrid has a secret weapon that Is actually not a weapon – it’s an animal – it’s like an ogre. He is an old student and he’s very very big.
Harry Potter got into to the championship called the Tri-Wizard tournament and he had to breathe for one hour under water to get his friends. He used magic potion that made him have flippers and gills. He could breathe and the guy that gave it To him said he killed Harry Potter but he didn’t – the magic potion worked and he lived. He saved Ron and another girl from another school.
imageWhen we finished all of the Harry Potter movies we stopped in number three halfway and we went on Kathy K’s boat fishing, there was tons of fish and we got lots of pulls but we weren’t fast enough. We had hot dogs on the boat – it was like a cafe – so yummy. When we got back To Houston we watched more of Harry Potter and had dinner and we had salmon. It was really really good. After that we watched even more Harry Potter.
Once we lost number five but Toby found it and he even found number six but we didn’t have time to watch it.
imageOnce we got up I was playing around and then we had to get ready to leave. Before we left we got some presents – one of them is a sand maker pendulum. We also got our second owl letter and we had breakfast with the pumpkins that we decorated because it was about to be Halloween. Then we went in the car and said goodbye – I had such a good holiday with Cathy C and Kathy K – it was really fun!
Love from Emilio

Fishing 4/10/14
imageToday we went fishing with our friends Cathy & Kathy. They’ve a pontoon boat, it was an amazing boat. We didn’t catch any fish, but the fish finder showed about 150-200 fish & we had 5 rods in the water! We’re using Minnows & fished for at least 2-3 hours. Well our fishing day comes to an end.

Generous Cathy & Kathy

imageCathy & Kathy made us some of the best meals I’ve ever had, they were lasagna, garlic bread, pizza, salmon, Mexican, & other awesome meals. We watched 5 of the 8 epic Harry Potters, they even gave us some brochures that had stuff that you could buy from Harry Potter. We even got mail which we called ‘‘owl mail’’. Harry Potter gave us wizard & witch coins & gave us badges for a house that we would likely to be if we we’re in Hogwarts. They (Cathy & Kathy) also even had a pool.

George H. W. Bush

George H. W. Bush library is awesome. I’ve heard a lot of bad things about the Bushes but it seems that most of the stuff is about his son George W. Bush. We got to fill out a form about George H. Bush & here are some of the answers…
imageGeorge H. Bush has three brothers & one sister. Bush flew a 1944 TBM Avenger which he flew after he married his wife Barbra. (He flew the plane in the second world war – they say that he was a war hero because his plane got shoot down & he was the only one out of three to live). When Bush moved into Texas he drove a 1947 Stude breaker. Bush’s favourite water sport at his holiday house in Maine are boating & fishing.
By Toby

At Cathy and Kathy’s place Yasi and I swam in their pool everyday. It was so awesome. I liked fishing on their boat. Their boat is a pontoon fishing boat that is very big. It had a grill so we had hot dogs for lunch which were absolutely delicious. We went out on the lake to fish and the bait that we used was minnows which is like small real fish. After we had gone fishing we had to let all the small minnows go but it was hard to catch them when there was only one or two left. No one caught any fish. We saw lots of fish on the fish scanner but they were too fast.
Cathy C and Kathy K’s house is awesome because they have a pool and two dogs and three cats. I had a really comfy bed – I slept on a double air mattress with Yasi.
I really liked the food we had. We had salmon, burritos, nachos with bean sauce, lasagne, pizza – all their meals were so delicious. I also loved the breakfast – sometimes we would have cereal but other times we had pancakes, eggs, omelettes, pumpkin muffins and lots of other things. Very yummy stuff – they are really good cooks.

We played some mini golf – I got two hole in ones and I was very excited. Kathy K is a really good golfer and has her own golf clubs. It was really hot most of the time in Houston but the pool cooled us down.

We even all got a haircut from Kathy K

We even all got a haircut from Kathy K

I loved staying with them and they will come and have Christmas with us in Australia next year. I can’t wait.
Love from Kalika.

 

 

 

In Texas we have been to Houston and we have had a great time.
We are staying at some friends of my dad – Cathy C and Kathy K.
They live in Houston and we have been here for six days.
imageKathy C and Kathy K have a pool and we have been swimming a lot – every day. We have been to play min golf – Toby and Kathy K won
and l lost by a lot. imageWe also went to a festival to meet Polly and Steve who work at IIPA with my baba and Kathy. We got an ice cream and played and watched the grown ups drink wine for an hour!
imageKathy C and Kathy K took us to have lunch with their best friends and to the George Bush Library.
By Yasmina

 

 

 

 

I loved cuddling with Cathy C and Kathy K. I also loved their dogs and cats and the pool. I miss them. By Zoi

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Chincha House Building Weekend

Can you believe our original plan about 5 years ago was to live in Bolivia for a year? In chatting to the Hildebrand seniors in the King Valley, the idea of visiting their son Harry in neighbouring Peru grew leaves. Then Greece evolved etc. So, plans changed. The summer before we left we had the pleasure of catching up with Harry, Vanessa and son Luka when they visited Australia. They live in Lima in Peru. Harry is the assistant principal of a large Britsh Peruvian school called Markham college, and Vanessa has an NGO working with kids gardens, spaces and permaculture principles on top of being a yoga teacher. Inspiring people doing awesome things in the world to say the least. We kept contact with Harry over our time away and in chatting to him two specific activities/attractions caught our imaginations. Harry and Vanessa are both biologists and Harry has started programs through his school in the Amazon, and building projects in an earthquake affected area south of Lima. Both were on our list. The following are reflections from the kids on how the building adventures played out. Mama Miliking

imageWe went to Chincha with a school and helped them with a project where they build houses for people. This is because in 2007 there was an earthquake there. When we arrived we set up our tent which was like a circus tent.

imageThe tents were in the mayors back yard and nearly all the grass space was used because there was more than 100 people staying there. After everyone set up our tents we went to our building sites. We were group 2 and Yasi and Toby were in Group 1. We had a house with two bedrooms and one living room to build. We built a house for Maria the mum and her two children Lesly and Jhordy. Before that they lived in a house made from bamboo screens with lots of other people. Lesly and Jhordy were really excited to have their own room.


My favourite thing about the building was painting. We had so much to paint like the outside walls and the roof. We put the house Up and the roof On the second day. The first day we painted and got all the boards ready.
For breakfast the second day we had eggs rolls, meat, cheese and other stuff like that. It was all cooked by the mayors wife called Orietta. It was delcious.
imageThe next day we put the house together and painted the inside panels. I really liked painting love hearts in Lesly’s room. Once it was all put up the boys were joking that some brown cement like putty was real chocolate and one of them tried to trick me but it didn’t work. I knew what it was but I didn’t know they used it as putty to cover some holes. Emilio helped them to trick me but they never did. I played with Hannah, Andrea and some girls from the other group. The place were we built was dry and there was lots of dust and it looked liek there was an earthquake.
I not only leant how to build a house but also made lots of new friends.
By Kalika

imageI did so much work helping to build a house. I did lots of painting. I played with Hannah a lot. She is an exchange student from Canada. Shane is my new friend and we played games together and I cuddled him a lot.

imageWhen we were waiting we caught some of the kittens and played with them. They were medium kitten size. I held the cats a lot. I made love hearts on the wall in lesly’s new room that we built. It looked very good. I was so tired the first night and I fell asleep at dinner before I even ate. My baba held me and took me back to the tent to sleep. It was a fun weekend.
By Zoi

This weekend we stayed with some friend from Australia called Harry and his son Luka. We stayed at Harry’s house on Friday night in Lima. On Saturday Harry took us to a house building project that he organises at his school. Harry works at a British school in Peru and the house building project was like a school camp but Harry took us along with him.
Harry put me and Toby in a group together and put my mum, baba, Zoi, Emilio and Kalika in another group all together.
imageI did lots of painting and hammering but I only did some hammering until I hammered my hand so I went back to painting. When there was no more panting to be done, there were some kids from the village that we were building the house for and they wanted me to play with them but they spoke to me in Spanish. I don’t know Spanish so I told them but they didn’t listen to me and it got a bit annoying but I played anyway. I made some wonderful friends Maddie from Australia and Hannah and Jacquie who were on exchange from Canada and another Peruvian girl called Andrea.

The second day we did colourful painting on the walls. By the last half an hour we hadn’t got our roof on yet and it was getting late but eventually we got it done. We were running a bit late cause our house was bigger than the others and there was no power for the whole day In Chincha so we had to wait for the generator that came to our group last. It was really exciting to see the house up cause I looked at it and though ‘we built that house’.
imageOn the way back to Lima it took 2.5 hours and I sat next to Hannah who is 15 Yrs old and on exchange from Canada. It was so nice to talk to her. If I ever go on exchange I would like to go to a French or Spanish speaking country.
By Yasi

On the weekend I met lots of new friends from Markham College in Lima – their names are Jeronimo, Mauricio, Harry and Jose Miguel, and other teachers called Liam and Shane. I played with Shane the most – he is a music teacher and was fun. He said that it was the first time he’s ever banged in a nail. It was, cause he told me and he didn’t have a smile when he told me.


We built a house for Maria who is the mum and her kids Lesly and Jhordy. Their house that they lived in had Lots of other people and was made of some sticks and some bamboo for a roof and walls. I really liked the leaders of our group. One guy was funny when the ice cream van came I yelled out ‘ice cream’ and he said ‘Ice cream? I can’t work without ice cream’ and he ran there. I also went to the ice cream van but it wasn’t a real ice cream van it was just a bike with a box full of ice cream. I got the sandwich ice-cream.

When we built the house I really liked hammering and also painting. I got paint on my face, hair and top and my shorts and shoes. I found some paint on the ground and I picked it up and made myself a little stripe on my nose and cheeks and neck. It was a lot of fun. There was a little girl that lived there and she would come up and was a bit excited and rough sometimes.
After dinner on the first day we went to the centre of the town and went to see Spider-Man but it wasn’t actually him it was just blown up.

He was on top of a ride that was like a roller coaster but it was even more funner and we bounced all the way down and I landed straight and rolled and did a pose. Then we went back to our tent and watched some fireworks.

imageOn the way back home I sat with my new friends Jeronimo and Mauricio. Love from Emilio – goodbye.

 

 

 

imageThis weekend we built some houses for the people who lost their houses in an earthquake in 2007. We went with Harry Hildebrand (his mum is a friend of my grandma and they went to school together – Harry’s mum is now our next door neighbour).
imageThese houses were quite small. There was about 6 houses built from scratch but the wood and everything else was already there. About 90 kids went on the trip & the kids were all aged between 12-17 yrs old. I know the sizes of two houses (the one my group built and the one my mum and baba’s group built). 5m x 5m was the size group 2 built & the size of the ours was 7.5m x 3.75m.

image

In a year or two we are planning on building a dam at our place. Us kids want to build a sort of clubhouse and have a outdoors sports, water sports and fishing club. It may be built around when the dam is built or in could be built in the early months of next year, so this building trip has given us some ideas on how to build the ‘Clubhouse’. Also we have to build a stable in the first 2-4 months because we’re getting 2 retired ‘Riding for disabled’ horses from the ‘Riding for disabled’ school my aunty Carolyn volunteers for. So this building trip has also given us ideas for the stable too! We’ve also thought as time goes by we’ll want to extend the Clubhouse & maybe we’ll Get more horses that might come to us! So we’ll have to work on the extending, won’t we.
I think that this house building project is a great way to meet new people & learn a bit about their culture. I wish there was this type of thing around where I live because I could say that about half of Cheshunt, Whitfield, Rose valley and the King valley likes to build – so when you add all that up (kids & adults) you’ve got about 300-500 people!!!

This is the order of how we built the house.

Got our tools out
Painted the roof (White)
Varnished the wood
Painted & made the windows (Painted white)
Made the frames
Put the plaster on the frames
Painted the plaster
Put the frames up
Put the windows on the frames
Painted the inside of the frames (white)
Painted the inside of the frames different colours (decorated)
A guy came to fit the doors
Put the roof on
Cleaned up

I always thought if I was going to build something by myself I would get it wrong but I don’t think that anymore. I feel better about building.
By Tobes

This building weekend was definitely the highlight of our Peruvian trip (or maybe equal first with the Amazon and Macchupichu). It was so well organised by Harry and his team of helpers. He works at a great school and the students were really amazing. I have such upmost respect for our leaders in my group – Jeronimo, Mauricio and Paloma. They were inclusive, friendly, respectful and excellent leaders. Thanks so much to all the group.
Everyone in our group bonded well and I originally thought I’d be on the sidelines with Zoi and Emilio but no – we were all involved. it was awesome also meeting another teacher – Shane who like myself seemed out of our comfort zone to begin with, but by the end we were a great team at installing the windows.
imageI loved the experience myself but I really enjoyed seeing our kids in this situation. In awe of their own skills, their own abilities and looking up to these amazing Peruvian students. The best moment was at the end when we took a group photo and got such a wonderful smile and hug from Maria and her kids. It was priceless.
By Christos