Tuesday 13 November 2012

They Think It's All Over... It Is Now!

Working for Odyssey means writing a blog, no reason why this adventure should be any different, a shorter journey, but a journey none the less. We take our responsibilities seriously. Admittedly we probably shouldn't use the word epic, an Odyssey favourite, in this particular instalment.

Penelope's first outing
Well, where to start. An action packed day, crossing no less than 5 counties in just under 5 hours! We started our journey in Surrey, our first challenge to cross into Hampshire to meet Penelope, the newest addition to Odyssey's rapidly expanding fleet. No hassles or formalities crossing into Hampshire, in fact just an attractive “Welcome to Hampshire” sign as we crossed the border, lovely.

There she was, resplendent with her shiny new coat of paint, purring into life at the mere turn of the key. Out she crept from the workshop into the drizzly Monday which was to be her first outing with her new body. Wipers leapt into action at the flick of a stork as the rain fell heavier, sweeping the water aside like eyelids blinking rapidly whilst running in the rain to maintain clear vision.

A rather bleak M27
Bleak views ahead of the M27, thankfully just a quick jaunt before joining the lesser A roads of splendid Great Britain and the wilds of Wiltshire, another bribe free border, success. Cutting up through Salisbury, no time to stop at the Cathedral, a peek over the houses would have to do. Realising on joining the A303 we would miss the highlight of the day Stonehenge, we made a five minute detour, some rapid re-routing and navigating by Hels, what she does best, and we were on course for “The Henge”, an Odyssey first.

Beautiful Autumnal roads
Salisbury Cathedral.  That's all you're getting.
Back On Track
Due to a tight kitty and extortionate entrance fee to stand inside, rather than outside the fence, we joined the other tight tourists and scaled the perimeter. Mystery surrounds the construction of this great monument, some 2,500 years old. If this doesn't float your boat, why not join one of Odyssey's other trips and see Machu Picchu, The Great Wall of China or Angkor Wat (that should get us our bonus). Attempts to photograph Penelope with the stones were sadly unsuccessful due to the clever positioning of the car park and ticket office to avoid people doing just that.

From behind tight tourist lines
Sparkling Penelope
Hels & Rogs, back on the road
An Odyssey First!
Switching drivers to allow Rogs a rest after a hectic morning's drive, Hels re-positioned the hi-tech seat and steering wheel to her liking. Whizzing past Longleat wildlife park, no time to stop for a game drive today, thinking of the African animals sitting glumly under our grey skies. A gourmet burger lunch stop at McDonalds and it was time for Rogs to get behind the wheel again and return the seat position to his comfort. A plethora of levers, switches and buttons proved too much for such a young mind. After some slapstick and cursing we were off again.

Rogs struggling with the seat
What does this one do?
Stupid seat
Hels showing how easy it was to adjust comfortably
Rogs back in the driving seat
Pig yurts of Somerset, just like Kyrgyzstan!
Onwards to Somerset our penultimate county. The rain started to lighten and eventually clear as we entered glorious Devon. Sun shone down over Exeter to light the way to Penny's winter home. The last leg proved that Devon does have the tightest of lanes, each turn revealing an ever increasing narrowness. The final mile the wheels cut into the bank each side, mirrors clipping the overgrown hedges, one hairpin bend proved too tight with reversing and diff lock thrown into the mix. A quick stop for the lamas and dodging pheasants over the final metres, we got our wildlife fix in the end, our epic journey came to an end. Tucked away behind a barn, Penelope rests til her next big adventure to Beijing in 2013.
Devon's narrowing lanes

Closing in
The final mile
Lama spotting
Penelope tucked up in her winter hideout

Wednesday 10 October 2012

All Good Things Come to an End

So now we are here, the final blog! It feels like only yesterday we were just setting off. At the very beginning we shared the motto 'slow and steady wins the race'. It's something we've held in our thoughts throughout the trip, mindful not to go too crazy too often and pace ourselves in many aspects. Now we reach the end of the road we can admit we're tired, moving on every few days, experiencing new cultures, customs, new everything, but we can certainly say we've won the race, we've reached the end intact with huge beaming smiles on our faces.

Our last couple of nights were spent in Melaka, Malaysia, where we assembled in the evening for a slideshow reminder of the trip, 6 months flashed by in 25 minutes. There followed a night out to begin the celebrations and reminiscing. The merriment involved buckets of ice water being thrown, dancing in the street, laughter and many a toast.

Betsy, Rowan & John
Betsy sharing photos with Nick and Laura
Julia, Cher, Hels & Ryan
Nick & Laura
Cher & G Rod dancing in the street
G Rod soaked
Jody's turn
Laura preparing herself
Nick getting a soaking from Chris
Rogs getting got
Rogs & Jim seeking revenge
Ryan, soaked
Laura & Pip
Ryan, Chris & G Rod
One short final journey into Singapore, the furthest we can travel by road, with a border post built for thousands and graced by only our bus load, we entered swiftly, apart from one small hold up due to Chris's tobacco smuggling attempt. Singapore, with tyre marks still evident on the roads from the recent F1 Grand Prix, can best be described in one word, 'mega'. A skyline like no other, buildings ontop of buildings, supertrees in an artificial woodland and fast cars parked up on every corner, not to mention the fleet outside the famous Raffles Hotel.
Double helix bridge
Gardens by the bay

If London can do it...
Merlion and Marina Bay Sands
Outrageous buildings
Ryan, Jim & Julia
Singapore Science Museum

Singapore skyline
The Raffles fleet
Ryan, Julia & Jim
Raffles doorman

With only a couple of people opting to go on to Darwin, the last official night of the trip was in Singapore, and it was finally upon us. We walked into what felt, smelt and sounded like India to a great restaurant in Little India who served up an all you can eat menu of delicious food, washed down with a few beers and bottle of gin, nothing like gin to help the emotions flow, not that we needed it. Speeches were made, moments remembered and hugs all round. Others may not understand our tears but they come from the passionate attachment to our journey, our adventure.
The final supper
Being part of a group is like creating a family, especially on the road, you live together, experience new things every day and evolve together so to leave that is unsettling. Thankfully we are left with amazing memories and achievements which we will remember for the rest of our lives. Every single person on the trip has brought a unique quality into the mix which created something special, the camaraderie has been fantastic, helping each other along, and laughing our way through 26 countries over 26 weeks, covering just over 26,000km.

Thank you to everyone in the group for their contributions, photographic as well as for the events, moments and shared stories that gave us so much to write about, also in particular to Betsy, for her constant feed of fantastic photos, shared without hesitation. Look out for our resident animal catcher Mikkel who continues with Odyssey on the South American Explorer trip starting at the end of November.

Good luck and safe onward travels to all the friends we have made. We hope you've had as much fun as we have. Embrace and enjoy adjusting to the next stage of your lives. We're off to board the big metal bird in the sky, homeward bound. Thank you and good night.
The countdown is over...