Russia – first impressions

Cold like UK winter cold, so not so bad. Although after being in New Zealand this time last year just in time for winter, then returning to UK summer (which, let’s face it, means rain) followed by living in London Town over winter, and now just as the sun is starting to poke its head out of the clouds in the UK, I fly north!

Now I’m here, I’m glad I did, there’s still snow in certain areas and the cracked ice on the water looks like something out of ice age.

You ever get the feeling that you feel like your eyes have seen everything and nothing excites you?

Sounds awfully numb.

I didn’t realise I needed to see and experience something new and fresh until I saw these slabs of cracked ice.

Sounds crazy, but we had walked through this forest, which was beautiful in its own right.

We came to the lake, Lake Ladoga, which is huge.

There is this strange quiet that comes with snow.

You hold your breathe, listening, taking it all in.

Slowly approaching the bank of the expanse of water, can now hear the gentle ripples against the rocks and ice.

Then there is is, giant slabs of frozen water, cracked and melting under the clear, cloudless sky.

Neither my words or photos do this justice.

I don’t know why, but this was amazing to me.

I could have quite happily taken a deck chair and sat there for a good few hours, listening, reflecting and enjoying the view.

Like this guy:

Seeing this lake is just one example of how having a friend who is happy to take the time to show you their country is invaluable.

There is no way I would have ventured up here alone, for starters it was two hours away, two tubes and a bus ride into the middle of nowhere!

Secondly, I tend to rely heavily on tour guide books, as they usually cover the main sights that most tourists want to see, and this journey was not in the book!

Thirdly, as I have only just started learning basic Russian to see me through my journey, I have a personal translator and teacher! You learn more from a local than a language app!

After this epic walk it was time for some Russian food!

I love trying foods in other countries! Food and exploring, my favourite things!

The smell of fresh baked bread engulfs you as you walk through the door of this little cafe.

As it’s Easter this weekend, the locals kept coming in to buy easter cake to take away.

Pirashkí (пирожки) is a sort of stuffed bread roll, naturally, I ordered all the sweet ones.

But before stuffing my face with those, I tried buckwheat porridge, which isn’t like porridge at all, it’s more like giant cous cous!

I enjoyed, it’s supposed to be pretty good for you too! Winner!

Now for dessert!

I had the one stuffed with poppy seeds, I think I was picking black out of my teeth for the rest of the day but it was worth it!

Bus selfie!

I am swaddled in a million layers! I didn’t want to take a risk and catch cold, and even Oksana has let me borrow her coat on top!

I could barely move my arms!

Turns out my rip curl coat I bought in New Zealand is actually everything-proof like it says!


Tower, Ghostbusters, John Travolta

Before I came to New York I was all about getting to the top of the Empire State Building. Once you start wandering around and see the highest building is the One World Trade Centre building and is also cheaper to go up…Empire what?

Up by there! 

The Americans like to make a little song and dance about the fabrication of this beast, with videos projected onto the walls as you’re corralled through the hallways, of construction workers on the verge of tears explaining how many ethnic background came together to build it (bet you there wasn’t any Welsh!) and even making the bold statement that it’s probably the most important building in America…I’m sure a few people may have different opinions.

Ghostbusters tour time! The firehouse that they used as their headquarters was under construction and covered in scaffolding which was a shame.

Luckily, to mark the building some Ghostbusters symbols have been painted onto the sidewalk.
We had heard of an American diner where the staff are all aspiring actors and actresses and they burst into song while serving…this I had to see.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner. You have to queue under a bubble machine but it’s definitely worth the experience if you like musicals, Disney songs and pop songs.

All musical’d out ready to find the next ghostbusters landmark-the apartment building that Dana and Louis reside in when they become possessed.

To finish the last full New York day, there was a screening of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ as part of the Central Park Film Festival, the theme, films shot here in New York. 

An amazing way to end the day.

And amazing last night in New York.


Leaving the campsite in Oamaru this morning, we passed a cafe that sells penguin burgers…

First stop, not far down the road is the Moeraki Boulders. 

Not being funny, but these things are Stonehenge freaky. These rocks look nothing like any other rock in the vicinity! 

Shortly after that was Shag Point.

There were no shags. 

But there were seals. We watched as a seal climbed up the rocks to get to his sunbathing spot.

We put on our charity-tunes and set off to Dunedin.

Going old school with our cassettes! 

Arrived in Dunedin as the clouds crept over and started to rain.

Didn’t stop the little v-formation on planes flying around for apparently no reason!
First impression of Dunedin, reminds me of Bristol. Art on the buildings and a good vibe.

Our hostel, the Geeky Gecko, has Alien in the reception.

We’re in a mixed dorm room, which I have never done on my own. 
Our first quest was to find ice cream, I’ve been in New Zealand a week now and been told the ice cream is great and not tried it!

We were then very good and walked to South Dunedin, in the rain, to Pak N Save (the Makro of New Zealand) to buy veg for a soup…

…we may have fallen by the wayside slightly…

Avatar Mountain-the descent.

Set our alarms for 6am to wake up to see the sunrise, it was really misty so there was no sunrise to be seen.
Paid for our bags to be sent down to the bus station and set off down the mountain.

Found some Avatars.

Tried to get in as many view points as possible today.

We walked across the world’s natural bridge.

Picked up by a bus to go to the Bailing Elevator.

I don’t need to say that these views are spectacular! 
Hanging over the edge to try and get shots without dropping my phone was entertaining.

There was so much to see and explore and so little time! 

Will rock climbing over the green algae covered rocks.

The monkeys started closing in on Will…

Found the Chinese lady we bumped into yesterday at the monastery, she kept talking really fast Chinese, I was trying to practice mine, it just all ended in giggles! 

By this point my feet were starting to give up…

Will could probably walk for days, and if my feet and legs had been willing, I would have too.

We made it back to the entrance and took the bumpy bus back to the town and attempted to recover our bags, we had been given no receipt, were just told to take photos of the tags, the information desk told us where they thought we should go, in the end we asked them to take us as neither of us were willing to wander around not having a clue where we were supposed to be going. Even the girl from the information desk didn’t know, but we found them eventually, and definitely would not have found it by ourselves.

Had some after-mountain beef noodles.

A short flight from Zhangjiajie to a 10 hour layover in Xi’an airport.
Will got some supplies in for our airport party.

We settled onto our free bed for the night, and attempted to get some sleep. Chinese men starting conversations loudly in the night and then my water bottle leaking all over my bag woke me, but not the worst nights sleep I’ve ever had!