That's a wrap!

Trip Start Mar 23, 2010
Trip End Feb 15, 2011

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

"We really need to write that final blog."
"Yeah yeah, we'll get around to it."

Lee: It's as if putting pen to paper (will always sound better than 'fingers to keyboard') to write the final chapter of our journey would somehow force the back cover of this book to be closed, and see the book carefully placed on a high shelf to gather dust.

It's six months since the last blog, and five months since we arrived home.

Everyone says the same thing. "How was the trip?" And I always have the same, lame reply. "Really, really good". It doesn't convey the magnitude of the experience we had over 11 months, but then how could it? No single comment can do justice to all the wonderful times and memorable challenges we faced while travelling. So we muddle by with "Really good" and know that it's only the readers of this blog who have some idea of all the minutia that came together to make up what was, for us, a once in a lifetime trip.

Let's rewind.

It's late December 2010 and we've finished our brief time in Yangshuo, China, waved goodbye to JJ, Sandra and Lorelle in Hong Kong and flown to our final destination country, Thailand. We'd timed it so that Mum, Steve and my sister Megan would join us in Bangkok. The next week or so was complete with hotel pools, shopping, navigating crazy market stalls, floating markets, temples, fake handbags, and elephants. Steve and I even did a blitzing side-trip to Cambodia where Steve (who is a lover of all things ballistic) was able to legally appreciate the charms of such family-friendly toys as the AK-47, RK-57 and RPG. You'll have to forgive me, but I will be not be publishing any photos of this memorable day on the internet (this is called the 'David Hicks Mistake'). While there, we also took time to delve into Cambodia's dark past, visiting the Killing Fields and S-21 Schoolhouse/Prison which were very disturbing, down to actual bones and human teeth of the victims still scattered on the ground.

Sam: After Bangkok, we travelled south to Krabi province. We stayed in the town of Krabi for a couple of nights and had a blast out at the local national park white water rafting, riding ATVs and swimming in the freshwater swimming holes. For some reason I don’t think the operators in Thailand have the same liability issues we do in Australia because the white water rafting was more like riding dodgem cars on water. There were a ridiculous number of rafts (several hundreds) on the same narrow stretch of water and people were frequently thrown from their vessels as we all ran into each other, got stuck on the rocks and experienced an unusual water-based traffic jam where rafts completely blocked the river - see the pic. It was hilarious! The ATV adventure was of similar ilk. When asked what track we’d like to ride, we all said “advanced” of course. Hah! We went through the water, up and down extremely steep gullies and across some pretty wild terrain at rather rapid speeds. It was awesome.

Krabi was our gateway to the Railay/Tonsai peninsular, which is where the climbing is. We’d visited this place twice before (it's where we got engaged) and were somewhat surprised at how much it had changed. It was now way more expensive than our last visit, much busier and well… different in ways that can only be explained by the forces of economics. Regardless, the beaches were still magnificent, the food delicious and the climbing world-class.

It was nice to have family with us in a place that is special to us. We all had a ball exploring the peninsular. We hired kayaks, had massages, enjoyed cocktails on the beach, went caving, did a couple of climbs, ate lots of pad thai, mango sticky rice, curries and stir fry’s.

Lee: Memorable incidents included Ben the monkey stealing Meg's earings and biting her on the upper thigh, Mum abseiling out of the cave on Thaiwand Wall and Meg's very sweaty climb of Groove Tube in the blazing sun (to avoid the crowds)!

It was then time for Mum, Steve and Meg to leave but it wasn't long until we were joined in Tonsai by Erik and Kathryn. We spent two weeks climbing, and it was during this time the Brisbane floods happened. We knew our house would be fine, up on poles at the top of a hill, but Erik and Kathryn's place is in a fairly low-lying suburb and while they were off enjoying a snorkelling day, Sam and I nervously sat on the internet watching the news sites and looking at flood level maps. As it turned out, the water peaked about one street away from their house and they were A-OK. The same wasn't true for some of our family and friends and we felt quite guilty about being on a holiday while so many people at home were suffering so much heartache.

We had about two weeks to ourselves before Aaron and Lara joined us, and it was such a nice way to finish the trip, with this parade of family and friends. Aaron and I did a bunch of long multipitch climbs above the beach and the girls swam, climbed, and enjoyed cocktails and beautiful dinners. Aaron and I had quite the experience with monkeys, as while we were climbing, an entire troupe of monkeys descended from the trees and systematically ransacked the belongings of a group of climbers who were already up the wall. It was quite a sight seeing monkeys up high in trees playing with expensive sunglasses. On another occasion on the beach there was a final 'monkey incident' involving me getting nibbled on this time, and Sam was quite convinced I would contract rabies and die.

As the trip was winding to a close, and because I had done so many of the existing climbs, I turned my attention to rebolting and joined up with an American crew who were replacing the stainless steel bolts on the peninsular with titanium ones. It was good to give something back to a place we've got so much enjoyment from over the years.

Then, before we knew it, we were home. Brisbane. Picked up the keys to the house. With much trepidation, opened the door to find ... wow. It was actually clean and relatively free of any wear and tear. Most importantly, my climbing wall remained unmolested :) Then the unpacking. Once things were back in their places it felt like - well - it almost felt like the last year never happened. We both caught each other going through photos of the trip, like a visual "pinch test". Yes, it was real. Yes, that really happened. And now what? What is regular life composed of? Work, and bemoaning that you don't have enough time to do what you would like to do? Dreaming of the two days you're allowed to have to yourself out of seven? That doesn't seem right. The beauty of doing a trip like this, I think, is that it forcibly smacks you out of 'regular' life and you begin to see what you can live with, what you value, and what are important priorities in your life. I know we don't have all the answers yet, but I know this trip will have played a huge role in influencing the decisions we make about the next chapter of our lives. I can't believe we did it, and yet I now can't imagine having done anything else.

Sam: A big thank you goes out to everyone who followed our blog and to all the friends and family that joined us on the various legs of our journey. It was great having the support and encouragement from our friends and family to act as the wind in our sails. We hope you all enjoyed travelling with us over the last 11 months, and I can honestly say we’ve experienced the trip of a lifetime. I will never forget 2010 and will forever be grateful for the adventures, memories and things I’ve learnt about the world (and myself) over the last year. Thank you!

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Shell on

Sam and Lee, it was an absolute pleasure being included on your journey and I'm so thrilled to know that you're home safe and sound after such a magical journey. Can't wait to see you and introduce you to our newest member of the family, Isla. xxx
PS. You two are such brilliant writers ... every word is so entertaining. I laughed out loud a few times in this blog (especially David Hicks mistake, love it!)

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