Monday, 17 September 2018

Rebranding!

Just a quick update to say that I will be rebranding this website to the name 'Digital Scarlett'. Given I'm now growing older (24-years-old next month dammit), I figure it's time to change the blog's name. 

My Instagram and Facebook will be changing to Digital Scarlett too but you'll still find the same old content. This website will change URL's to DigitalScarlett as well.

Thanks for the support! 

Monday, 6 August 2018

Car accident in Georgia: How we lost our rear windscreen.

Georgia has been eventful, to say the least. We crossed the Turkish border into Georgia late Thursday night. The border crossing itself foreshadowed what was to come. It was a long, slow, and confusing process. When we arrived at the Turkish border to exit, they made me get out of the car and walk through security as only one person was allowed to be in the car. However, Harley and I had no means of contacting one another as we didn't get a sim card in Turkey. I blindly stumbled through security with no idea what was going on and made it out the other side in Georgia in five minutes. Harley, however, was nowhere to be found. TWO HOURS passed and eventually I was able to see my Freelander emerging from security. During this time it rained relentlessly - I was freezing cold too. Thankfully, to take my mind off things, I befriended a really nice local who gave me sight-seeing advice and told me what to expect in Georgia. 

I worried Harley was getting in trouble at the border as we hadn't been able to pick up the highway vignette needed to use the highways in Turkey. A camera takes a picture of your number plate every time you enter one. You're supposed to receive a fine about 10 times the amount of the initial fee you would have paid if you had purchased one -- however, as luck would have it, the Turkish security system crashed and they were having to process everyone manually. That's why it took Harley so long to get through! That, combined with the fact some idiot was taken for questioning but forgot to move his car and thus blocked every single car behind him from going forward. Nobody could find where this guy had gone to and so couldn't get the car moved. I had to laugh when Harley told me what the Georgian security forces did to him -- when they searched the car, one man, coincidentally seemingly the only man at the entire border to speak English, started grilling Harley on why he had a hammer and pliers in the car - were the pliers to chop people's fingers off? Harley started to panic and explained they were necessary to fix the car, promising they were just tools. Security grilled him further before laughing in his face and explaining it was all a joke and he was fine to continue! Needless to say, Harley pooed himself.

Anyway, when we finally entered Georgia, we had a hotel set up. At least, we thought so. Turns out the prices we'd booked online were 'old prices', and so we swiftly left before finding another hotel just up the road. The next day we intended to explore Batumi, a coastal seaside city. However, as is typical of our luck this trip, it started to chuck it down as soon as we left the hotel. We quickly had to abandon our plans of visiting the Botanical Gardens and retreat to another cheaper hotel. We spent the night planning our trip around Georgia and grew excited about what lay ahead - finally, a chance to do some exploring rather than constant driving.

The next morning we set off to Kinchkha Waterfall, a site around 2 hours away. The main waterfall itself was a let-down but we enjoyed the journey up to it. We took a wrong turn and accidentally went 'properly' off-road for the first time. All went well. I mean, I did have to get out to move a fallen tree as the car couldn't get over it/ it was trapped under the wheel but we were pleased all had gone well. A little too well. 

 

By this point, Harley exclaimed he had become one with the Freelander, he was close to controlling it with his mind. I have to say now, drivers are crazy in Georgia. There is this sense that you can go wherever you want on the road, cut in front of whoever, and beep whenever you feel like it because, at the end of the day, nobody wants to crash their car. That said, every other car on the road seems to be missing a bumper or window. There are also several pigs, cows, horses, and stray dogs that love to run out in front of you. I have to admit, Harley was driving fantastically up until this point... I guess that led to extra cockiness because all hell soon ensued!

   

We drove down this small ravine to access a lower part of the waterfall. Initially, we reversed in to make it easy to get back up the hill. However, wanting to get a nice photo of the car, we turned the car around. This photo opportunity was spoiled though as another car decided to come to join us in the area. Anyway, we enjoyed paddling around the waterfall and scrambling across the rocks. When we went to leave, Harley decided to accelerate heavily to ensure we didn't get stuck half-way up the hill. However, in doing so, as soon as our tyres hit the tarmac above, the car shot backwards and slamming on the brakes achieved nothing. Before we knew it, we'd smashed backwards into a brick bollard that had narrowly stopped us from being propelled backwards off the bridge and into the shallow water below.  

 

Instantly, and naturally, Harley panicked. We got out the car to assess the damage and it turns out our rear windscreen was now literally over the road. The handle to open the back door was also hanging on by a thread. That was it - adventure over and relationship ruined. At least, that's how Harley felt at that very moment in time. I have to tell you now - this isn't the first time he has crashed my car!! He drove into the back of someone last year but luckily (for me anyhow) didn't damage my car only theirs. I digress - the door now wouldn't shut properly and kept opening by itself. We drove further down the road to leave the scene of the crime and feared that as we drove along, it may open on its own accord and the bed we had built, packed with our clothes and food underneath, would come shooting out and (if we were lucky) would fall all over the road - or, if we were really unlucky, hit a car behind us. The further down the road we got, the more Harley panicked to the point he was actually sick he was so concerned (bless him).

We decided to return to Batumi as we thought we may have to cross back into Turkey and then go back through Europe. We returned to the hotel we had visited the night before and the guys that owned it helped us put up a plastic tarp over the back window as it was now chucking it down with rain and our bed was absolutely soaked. We were able to disconnect the back handle entirely so now it is just permanently shut.

The next day we explored a small part of Batumi before heading to Tbilisi. Armed with the knowledge that some guy was selling a second-hand 2002 Freelander backdoor for only £60, it felt like we had little choice. It took around four hours to reach the city and we couldn’t stop along the way as we had nothing in the rear window anymore. One of us had to stay with the car at all times as all of our stuff was in it.

     
Batumi

When we reached Tbilisi and found a hostel, we realised there was no private parking anywhere. Some mechanics in Tbilisi fashioned us a new plastic tarp that looked far more secure so, for the meantime, it’s ok until we find something better. We weren’t able to make contact with the guy selling the door and we may try to just cold call him in a few days’ time. He doesn’t speak any English, nor do most people in Georgia, so it’s extremely difficult trying to do anything or get any help.  Anyway, with the window patched together, we set off the hostel and enjoyed a dominos pizza before hitting the hay and getting ready to explore the city further soon.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Wait - aren't you supposed to have started your road trip by now?

I am surprised I haven't broken my computer yet - or at the very least crashed the Russian visa website. I have been constantly glued to my computer hoping that, as if by magic, my incessant checking would force the Russian embassy to process my visa faster. It has been 15 working days now, and there is still no sign of our visa. I had my hopes set high when I first went on Google to find out the average processing time. I was reassured by the fact most people said it took 5 working days. Oh, how naïvee I was to believe that now! Of course, nothing ever goes to plan when you need it. 

Thankfully, I also only just received proof of ownership from DVLA for my car to enable us to take it into the 'Stans. Admittedly, this one is not my fault. I asked my dad several times a few months back whether the car was in my name -- "Yes my dear, stop bugging me, it is definitely in your name". At the end of June, when I returned to England, I asked him to dig out the proof of ownership. "Oh," he replies, "sorry, but it's actually in the companies name - I'll have to get it changed". 

To backtrack slightly -- I should have told you, and if you know me in real life there is no way you could have escaped it -- but yes, I am driving to Mongolia (and back!) in my 2002 TD4 Freelander Land Rover with my boyfriend Harley. I only got back mid-June so we had limited time to organise everything - it turns out there was more to be done than I hoped. My car is constantly being sent away to have its air conditioning repaired, the visas have been a bureaucratic nightmare, and we had to find time to build a bed into the back of my car.


Thursday, 14 June 2018

Reflection: Travelling round-the-world 2018



As my time draws to an end, I am filled with a conflicting sense of sadness and overwhelming excitement. I have undoubtedly had some phenomenal adventures on this trip - this reminds me, since I didn't blog, I'd like to write down the key highlights to come my mind:
  • Hiked Mount Batur volcano (Indonesia), through strong winds on a loop near Mount Cook (NZ), to a beautiful view of Lake Wanaka up Mount Iron (NZ), to a lookout point over Honolulu (Louis Ridge Trail, Ohau, Hawaii) and up to the caves at Pinnacles National Park (California) -- to name a view.
  • Paddle-boarded in Gili T.
  • Learned to surf in Kuta, Bali.
  • Scuba-dived in the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkelled in Hanauma Bay, Hawaii. 
  • Saw wild seals, sea lions, dolphins, and whales as well as rattlesnakes, deer, and kangaroos in all kinds of varying climates.
  • Made incredible friends (shout-out to Andrew, Amaia, and Aaron) and watched some of the most amazing sunsets and sunrises I'll ever see in my life while touring around the South Island of New Zealand. 
  • Hitchhiked all around the North Island of New Zealand and met a whole range of people thus rediscovering how fantastic humans are.
  • Swam and stared in awe in waterfalls in Ubud, Cairns, Hawaii, and all over New Zealand. In fact, got completely soaked by one accidentally while on a boat through the Milford Sound fjord on the South Island.
  • Spent a wonderful time with my younger sister wine-tasting in Yarra Valley, cruising the ocean for 3 days, road-tripping to the Twelve Apostles, and hiking through the Grampians National Park (while narrowly avoiding being killed by a kangaroo during a 6am morning wee). 
  • Enjoyed drinks with old friends and my first ever travel buddy (Olivia) while visiting her in Brisbane. 
  • Road-tripped with my parents for the first time in years around the USA - visited the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, and all the way up to Sacramento to see my great-aunt and learn about our family's history.
  • Drove on the wrong side of the road for the first time (oh and nearly killed us 3 times) while touring down the Pacific Coast Highway with Matt Carabine, an old school friend from my computing class. On route visited Silicon Valley, San José, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Big Sur, Santa Barbara, and LA (to name a few places!).
  • Enjoyed my first ever couchcrash experience in San Francisco where I got to meet couchsurfers from all over the world and go to CS HQ!

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Budgeting for 2 weeks in Bali

Are you taking a trip to Bali soon? Are you wondering how much you will need for a two-week vacation? Well, that is perfect timing then because I have got the low down right here! Prices are accurate as of February 2018.

Activities 
- 450k surf lesson with Pro Surf Bali.
- 400k Mount Batur, coffee plantation, rice terrace, Balinese massage with Puji Hostels
- 40k each paddle board rental for 1 hour
- 30k waterfall entrances 
= 920k (£48)

Accommodation
- £51 for 4 nights Airbnb/ Canggu (private room)
- 100k p/n * 3 for Ubud/ Puji Hostel (8 bed dorm)
-150k p/n * 2 for Gili T/ My Mates Place (3 bed dorm)
- 96k p/n * 3 for Kuta/ Kayun Hostel (8 bed dorm)
= £51 + 888k (£46) = £97

Shopping
- £10 black Billabong bikini
- £7 glasses
- £2 Sarong
- £15 green Billabong bikini set
- £10 Billabong top
= £44

Transport 
- 225k to Canggu (airport taxi)
- 35k Canggu to Ubud (split between 4 on Grab)
- 500k return to Gili Islands including transfers from ubud and back to Kuta
- 60k from kuta to airport (uber)
-55k bike rental per day * 4 Canggu, 1 Ubud, 2 Kuta = 7 days (385k)
= 1205k (£63).

Overall accommodation, activities, shopping, transport: £252.
Other/ mostly food + drink: £190. 

= £442.