Tattybackpacks Travel Stats

We now find ourselves at the end of the journey and are feeling reflective. Now is a time to try and summarise our experiences without subjecting you to more torturous descriptions of how fabulous everything was. So instead… skim your sockets over this lot of stats.

  • 6,800,385 – number of times ‘No’ was said to Tuk Tuk drivers
  • 15,000 – number of feet skydived by Andy 6500 – number of rupees stolen from us by an Indian con artist
  • 5,180 – number of mosquito bites sustained
  • 10,546 – number of photos taken (prepare for the slideshow)
  • 235 – number of days travelled – with 2 to get home
  • 46 – number of books read between us
  • 18 – number of pounds spent on public toilets
  • 15 – number of massages received – the best being in Cambodia
  • 11 – number of countries (including Chile and Brazil for stopovers… is that cheating?)
  • 10 – number of illnesses and injuries (not including hangovers)
  • 9.5 – kilograms of clothing discarded
  • 6 – number of waterfalls canyoned
  • 4 – number of continents crossed and litres of suncream used
  • 3 – number of tonnes of rice eaten
  • 2 – number of bedbugs encountered, times Rachel’s nose was pierced and haircuts during the trip
  • 1 – total run-ins with the law!

So that brings us to the final and most important number of all….. 1150 – the time we land back in Manchester on Sunday!

Thanks for reading the blog… hope it entertained you!

Rach and Andy


I’m floating in the air……..from 15,000 feet

‘Don’t do anything stupid like jumping out of a plane’

These were the words of pappa Shaw uttered just before leaving to do our epic 8 month holiday. Well, all I can say is that if you did everything your parents tell you or can’t do then life would be pretty dull…….now its time to have some fun.

It wasn’t an easy thing to do, the weather kept changing from bad to worse and the planes were grounded for days due to the wind. I’d booked it a day before my first scheduled time so had a full night and day to let the feelings sink in. The time ticked by but being turned away after waiting and waiting all day doesn’t help your stomach…..so it was back to the campsite.

We both filled the time by walking and eating. The next day the weather was looking better….time for new undies.

We rocked up, I got changed into my suit and harness and got all ready when the bad news struck again. No more jumps due to the wind being too strong at ground level. Don’t wont us to get blown off course and end up in Lake Taupo……another wait…..but this time not too long…..lets rock. 

Got in the plane with Albert, my German tandam master, who was very thorough at checking my straps……this seemed odd as no other tandam master seemed so bothered. A group of 5 and instructors and camera men then crammed the small prop plane and off we went to 15,000 feet. Pleasantfest Bear even got to come along for the ride.

All I can say about the experience is that it’s  like nothing anyone has done before. It’s totally amazing, just like going through into another dimension where theres no gravity or reality. The freefall was around 60 seconds, just enough to wave to the camera and scream F###### AWESOME.  My lips however got dried out like a camels sock from the wind but apart from that I didn’t feel the cold. The shoot opens and then all you can hear is total silence. The view was incredible. Crystal clear sky looking over the lake, the mountains, the volcano with snow on top. floating back to earth was just as incredible as the freefall for me…..a nice safe landing then it was time to meet back up with Rach and tell her all about how doing it at 15,000 feet was much better than when she did it at only 12,000ft.

If anyone gets the chance, DO IT!

Express NZ Update Blog

Haha… time for a quick update on the trip… since we have been really rubbish on the blog since arriving NZ…. believe it or not… it is harder to find computers here than in south east asia!


After the HeliHike, we headed south towards Wanaka, where I fell off my bike doing some gnarly mountain-biking! We went to Cinema Paradiso full of couches and homemade cookies then on to Queenstown where we drank too much and rode a mechanical bull!

Next stop was the sounds… the glacial fjords in the south of the south island…. AMAZING! Nearly came unstuck when we set off for Milford Sound without filling up with petrol – but despite what they say … they do… I repeat DO have petrol at Milford Sound! We did an amazing overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound, complete with sea kayaking, seals, wind, waterfalls and the coldest 5 second dip of my life! Glacial Fjord water = COLD!

Heading south to the tip of the island, we stopped in the Sausage Capital – only to discover that the butchers was closing down, then onto Invercargill to check out the World’s Fastest Indian motorcycle! The south island all the time getting colder, wetter and less populated! The most southern tip of the island was the cold, windiest place yet – but we got a photo and avoided being thrown over the cliffs by the wind!

Time for some home comforts so we headed to the Catlins to see the rare yellow-eyed penguin then stayed for 3 nights with Andy’s friend Neil’s family… who were the perfect hosts… karaoke, deep fried oysters, the steepest street in the world and crazy dogs and cats… great stuff! Inland next for the famous Central Rail Trail – a bike and walking track through an old railway line… gorgeous country of orchards and snow topped mountains. We did just one day on the trail – 66km in total and very tired legs – but awesome and just in time to dodge the rain which started the next day.

The rain did put a dampner on the journey through Christchurch and up to Nelson and Golden Bay – but we still managing a few little walks and some Easter Eggs too! But by the time Easter Sunday arrived with our ferry trip back to the north island… it was purely grim and grey (yes I know the UK is lovely and sunny at the moment!) 3 days in the van getting cabin fever and not being able to surf put us in a pants mood… but in Taupo, things were looking up with a bit of sun… and the wind dropped long enough for Andy to SKYDIVE from 15000 feet!

So that just about brings things up to speed! And with less than a week left before we set off home…. how much more fun can we cram in????? well maybe a little bit more !

Mountain bikes aren’t for the weak!

When using a mountain bike in New Zealand caution has to be used. If not then accidents can happen. Please apply breaks gently and possibly use more rear braking on gravel when turning sharp corners. Rachel did not…..ouch…..I hope that this does not mean that she wont be taking part in the next 4 weeks of extreme down hill gnarlyness…….remember……New Zealand is the Hugh Hefner of off road mountain biking.

Southern Fried Hemisphere

Now that we’ve broken in the van it was time to hit the tarmac on the South Island. Lots of travellers say that the South island is better…..by this I’m not quite sure, but it could be something to do with the awesome Arthurs Pass Mountain range and the Incredible Franz Joseff Glacier, Queenstown Bungy, not to mention the wild life. The south Island is somewhat coolder than the North, we discovered this when we woke up to find ice on the inside of the van windows. Although things aren’t too cheap to buy we have discovered a really good way of saving money. The D.O.C. (Department of Conservation) campsites have varrious levels of comfort. The basic is free…..it includes a toilet in a field and no running water. However these are usually situatied in the most amazing locations and usually next to a river. So far we’ve stayed at as many as possible to save enough money to pay for my skydive…..only kidding mum and dad. The nights skys are once again, incredible, and we both saw 4 shooting stars and a couple of U.F.O.’s flying above on one night. Unfortunately the camera doesn’t capture what the eyes see. The river water is rediculously cold but very refresshing.

We landed in Picton from Wellington with a 4 hour ferry crossing. It wasn’t too rough. No sick bags were required. Picton was a short stay as we mad our way down the Marlbourgh region of wine making. Yum yum.

Renwick was the place we chose to stay. It was a lovely little family run hostel with campervan space big enough for Kez. The kitchen was so clean we could have eaten our food of the floor. We hired bikes and Rach and I headed out into the wilds of the wine making for our free wine tasting experience. It was certainly a tipsy ride home. Sauvignon blanc is definitely the best of the bunch….get it.

Whilst making our way further south, I couldn’t help but notice the towns as we passed through them. Towns is a word used loosely. Hamlet or a couple of houses might be more appropriate. They also don’t seem to have any children around playing. The shops are also quite funny, lots of OP shops and lots of 1970’s clothing and furniture. The people are extremely friendly and would offer you there last rolo any time. Plus there are only about 1 million people in the south whereas in the north about 3 million…..and about 40 million sheep on both islands.

Arthur’s pass was where the views started to really make an impression on me. The north island was pretty spectacular with the cost roads and the sea etc, but the mountains with the snow on top and the winding roads with no other cars on them were pretty awesome. It reminded us of the Himalayas all those months ago…..but with out the oxygen masks.

The highlight so far for this trip has to be what we just did at Franz Josef…..HeliHike on the glacier. The Glacier is one of the worlds easiest commercially accessible attractions, only by helicopter though. I hadn’t been in one before, I can safely say that it feels amazing and spectacular even without seeing the peak of the mountain range. The trip includes landing and pick up with 3 hours on the ice. The guide leads you through crevasses and compressions up to a melt water waterfall which is incredible. I attempted to fit through a compression that was only big enough to squeeze my head through…..this was challenging and somewhat scary…..it felt like I was inside a giant fridge and someone had locked the door. It was quite expensive to do but we both loved it so much that it was worth every penny. That same glacier, when it was discovered in 1865 was about 1km higher than today. In a few more years it won’t be there anymore…..

Kiwi Kez Hits the Road!

So we are in New Zealand and we are self-driving it! In the coolest camper van ever! Kiwi Kez … painted with Kiwi Birds and Kiwi Fruit… we almost blend in… haha. Maybe not – but the van has everything you could need. We still had to hit the $2 shop in Auckland though to purchase some essentials… domino set, BBQ skewers, bat and ball game… all essential!
Auckland was just as I remembered it… a bit dull. So we just mooched around for a couple of days and then we were OFF on the road. First stop was the gorgeous Coromandel Peninsula and our first night in a Department of Conservation campsite. These are cheap as chips (some are even free) and set in the most gorgeous places in New Zealand. They are a tad basic though and most have dump toilets (apt phrase… hey!) It was FREEZING and very damp – good training for our return to Yorkshire! We visited hot water beach… where we missed the low tide and the chance to dig our own spa in the sand… and Cathedral Cove where you can no longer walk through the awesome cathedral like cave… for fear of falling rocks!… rubbish.
We covered some fair old miles in the first couple of days so stopped for a good 2 night rest in the smelly town of Rotorua… famous for its geothermal activity and full of geysers (not the wide-boy variety). We made it just in time for an AMAZING sunset at the lake and stayed in a campsite with some school kids who were competing in the national rowing championships. So next day, it was time for us to don hard helmets and hit the awesome mountain bike tracks of the Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest. There must have been about thirty tracks varying from scary to terrifying… winding through the forest and down huge drops. Andy hit them with a real daredevil attitude… and I pushed my bike most of the way! Got some great ‘gnarly’ footage of Andy on ‘The Grinder’ track… where he went head over heels in spectacular fashion. 

If that wasn’t enough excitement, we decided to head off Whitewater rafting the next morning on the raging Kaituna River… grade 5 we will have you know! The photos of the rafting showed the most terrifying images of people upside down and falling into the whitewater of a 7 metre high fall… great! Adrenaline had kicked in before we even left the base. Kitted out in wet suits and boots (slightly more professional than the rafting we did in Thailand!), we got a short lesson in how much power to put into the oars and how to duck into the boat and hold on over the waterfall (not doing much for my nerves!). Then it was time to board the craft and test our whitewater mettle!


The river scenery was amazing but we only had about 2 minutes until we were straight into the waterfalls… screaming and splashing and generally grinning… until we stopped at the top of the 7 metre beast… we had to scream a Maori phrase for luck and then we paddled like mad until we were told to GET DOWN! then we threw ourselves into the bottom of the boat and went flying over the top, holding on for dear life! Take a big breath and then plunge into the cold water… hoping not to flip! We made it! woo hoo and got to watch the other boat go next and take it from me… the WHOLE boat goes under the water… it was Awesome!
Soggy and with tired arms, we headed south of the north island and got to our first free campsite… right by a river and totally peaceful… oh no, hang on … is that a group of teenagers on a school outing… maybe not so peaceful – but still lovely. The night sky was amazingly clear and we saw more stars than either of us had ever seen.. plus some seriously strange moving lights that were definitely ‘unidentified’.
Next stop was the Art Deco town of Napier where we oo-ed and aah-ed about the architecture and trawled the charity shops to get materials to make our own BBQ… the one supplied with the van is a hot plate that connects to gas… NOT a BBQ by British standards! So we decided to cobble something together from old pots and pans (for those of you who know Andy… you will understand this!). We tried out the BBQ last night in another free campsite and after some coaxing… we had hot BBQ’ed snaggers.. yummy! We also met such an interesting bloke at this campsite… Eric, who lives there and does up old buses to sell to travelling Kiwis… complete with wood burners, double beds and full kitchens… amazing! He even fits in some drag racing in between and taught us to fire an air rifle! The Kiwi’s are so hospitable!
So we are now in Wellington which is sunny and lovely and we are randomly camping in a car park near the harbour, complete with toilets and showers – right next to the main road and catching the ferry tomorrow to the South Island… off to sample some world famous Marlborough wine… mmmmm…

Australia and Surfing mayhem

Leaving Singapore wasn’t so hard…..shopping isn’t one of my main interests and the price of a beer was turning a true Yorkshiremans stomach in knots…..so it was time to fly to Oz…. if only for a short time.

So we hit the tarmac and smoothly left the airport to the perfect blue skies and beautiful sunny weather….oh!…..no we didn’t

It was like landing at Leeds/Bradford in winter…..the sky grey….rain hitting you in the face from the floor….I was not impressed so far.

We moved into our digs for the night which was a hostel that we’d pre-booked for the first couple of nights. This was a teenagers party paradise. The bar next door had Jelly wrestling on and had beer pouring like it was going out of fasion. Simon and Tom (the guys who we met from Loas) came to welcome us after they finished work. This was a nice gesture. I’d stupidly taunted them by saying a 32 year old could drink them under the table. The nights activity then consisted of drinking schooners of Toohey New by the jug full. Although they were both 22 years old I think I still did a good job of staying upright. Rach was drinking wine.

The first nights sleep went well but the morning hurt a little. Luckily for us the weather had turned around and the sun was shinning like I was told it did in Australia. This made our heads feel that bit better. It was time for a stole down to the iconic view of the harbour bridge and Sydney opera house. The view point from the Botanical gardens made the trip worth while alone….Sydney city was amazing. It was so nice to see people happy, enjoying the sun. There are so many people exercising either running or playing sports or cycling that I started to feel guilty from eating one of the tastiest pies I’ve ever had from the famous ‘Harrys’.

Bondi beach was the next location on our quick whistle stop of Sydney Australia. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but my first impressions of the waves were ‘look at the the size of those beauts’. It turned out that the day that I was to surf one of the worlds iconic beaches, the surf was at it’s highest for many years. Even the pro’s were crashing about like little twigs. I wasn’t going to be put off though after Rachels friend kindly offer me a board and off we went for the ride of my life. All I can say is that I managed a brief surf  but the rest of the time spent was either paddling into the waves or being smashed into the ground like being inside a tumble dryer. It was awesome but labourious.

Another boozey night followed with lovely Dave and Nicole and Samson (the fattest cat I’ve ever seen). It looked like the Australian hospitality was something to really praise. Simon then turned up the following day to drive us around the suburbs of Sydney and show us the sights. It really was a nice of him to spend time with us. We had our first bush trek.

Tom had offered us the oppotunity to stay with him at his parents house for the rest of the trip. Sadly this was now only 2 days. We were welcomed into the home with a traditional Auzzie barby….this being a meat and beer fest. It was great. Their house was huge and had a swimming pool and full on games room. His parents were lovely and had previous visits to Yorkshire so were friendly to the cast offs of the cold North.

We had full use of the house when they went off to work including all the computers and bicycles. ‘Just make sure you lock the door when you go out’. How cool is that to trust a total stranger. We even manage to get a free lift to the airport on the morning we were leaving.

I can safely say that Australia, although only a short trip, will be somewhere I’d like to come back and visit again. The gene pool has also been very kind to the female gender.


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