Part 3: Fiji, New Zealand, Mexico, New York & London

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Bula! (as they say on Fiji)

I know you’ve all been anxiously waiting for the third and last part of my 580 days of travel, so here it is. 🙂 Read part 1 and part 2 if you still haven’t, and again, click on the gallery to see a slideshow of the photos.

After having spent a year in Australia working (and partying) Fiji was calling our names. We arrived in Nadi where the airport is and then did a week-long island hopping tour to four smaller islands. We visited eco haven Wayalailai (love saying it out loud) where we went diving with loads of sharks and snorkelled away until we turned into lobsters. On White Sandy Beach we played volley ball, had traditional food cooked in earth ovens and ate loads of coconuts. Beachcomber was a tiny island where we tasted the traditional Fiji drink called kava (looked and tasted like mud – didn’t have enough to feel the sedative effect though), experienced some traditional Fijian music and dancing and did some crab race betting of course. Coralview resort was all about chilling in hammocks, drinking Fiji Gold, eating more coconuts and trekking through jungle in the dark for some midnight swimming…

I don’t think I’ve ever seen people move as slowly as the Fijians did – they give the word “relaxed” a whole new meaning. Coming from a very hectic waitressing job in Sydney it was at first difficult to wind down and the extreme slowness of the Fijians really irritated me. Three days later I was a whole new person – a very slow and relaxed one. However, after a week or so of chillaxing it was time for something more active: Kiwiland.

After a lot of questioning at the border (New Zealand is not an easy country to enter) we were allowed to roam free in Christchurch and the rest of New Zealand. We quickly rented a car and started driving through sheep-filled fields and breathtaking scenery. We saw so many places and did so many things that I don’t think I even remember everything, it’s just a blur of beautiful landscapes, beaches, mountains and lakes.

What I do remember is going on a cruise in Milford Sounds (where part of the Lord of the Rings was filmed), bungy jumping in Queenstown, trekking on Franz Josef glacier, admiring the Punakaiki pancake rocks, spending a couple of nights in artsy Wellington, trying to get use to the rotten egg (sulphur) smell in Rotorua, visiting a thermal village with the longest name in the world and Lake Taupo where Hannele went sky diving and we found a pub named after us (The Finns).

After weeks of driving we ended up in Auckland on the Northern island, visiting our friends that we met in Lake Baikal and again in Mongolia at the beginning of the trip. We realised that we had been travelling for so long that two had become three! (Yeah, it’s not one of ours if that’s what you were thinking.) As we weren’t ready to go home quite yet we left maoriland for an ex tempore trip (the whole trip was ex tempore to be honest) to a slightly warmer country: Mexico!

After a long flight across the Pacific we landed in a bustling Mexico City – pretty much the exact opposite of where we came from! It was a bit of a shock to the system, especially after the taxi driver told us to lock the doors and close the windows so we wouldn’t get robbed. Luckily the area we stayed in, Coyoacan, seemed a little quieter, and it was close to Frida Kahlo’s home museum that I was very much looking forward to visit. We spent a few days in Mexico City, and also visited the impressive pyramids of Teotihuacan (which were to be one of many). We felt like we needed to get our share of sun, sand, sea (and surfers) before going back to a cold Finland, so surfer’s paradise Puerto Escondido was just what we needed. We spent a few lazy, Corona-filled days there with a bunch of new friends. Bliss.

But we also wanted to be more cultural, so we spent many a night on buses going from Oaxaca to Puebla to San Cristobal de las Casas to Merida and so on. We got to experience the famous Mayan pyramids and ruins of Chichen Itza and the mystical jungle pyramids of Palenque. When we arrived to the beach resort Tulum I had had enough of pyramids and focussed on the beach instead. I don’t think I’ve ever seen water as turquoise, it was beautiful to say the least. So beautiful that the bed bugs also like hanging out there and are known to torment tourists visiting Tulum. We also had our share and had to try and wash our clothes and backpacks to make sure we didn’t travel with those little bastards.

We skipped the crowded Playa del Carmen and Cancun for the quieter Isla Mujeres where we were supposed to go diving – but due to crap weather that never happened. Still upset about it – it was my last chance to see a Manta Ray and a Whale Shark. Mexico was still an amazing experience filled with colours, culture, guacamole and tequila – just what every traveller needs. As we were so close to New York we just had to stop there on the way home.

We arrived in New York pretty unprepared, not knowing the exact address of our hostel – so we told the taxi driver (who looked like he was at least 100) that our hostel was somewhere on Broadway Avenue. He got very cross with us, stopped the car at a hotel saying we had to go inside and find out what the address was. He lectured us about how dangerous New York is and how long Broadway Avenue is for pretty much the whole journey – so that was our first impression of New York. 🙂

We saw Times Square, ate delicious Korean food in Chinatown, took the ferry to see the statue of Liberty, spent ages taking photos on Brooklyn Bridge, went to see a comedy show, visited ground zero, ate too many dunkin’ donuts, spent too much money in Victoria’s Secret, walked a lot and stalked Kevin Bacon in Central Park. All in all a good few days.

New York was everything I thought it was going to be, but I think that because of the fact that the return home was looming it was hard to concentrate and to fully appreciate it all – there were just too many emotions and thoughts spinning around inside. Also, after having seen so much and travelled for so long you start getting a bit numb and just can’t find the same energy to get excited about new places.

I felt like I wasn’t ready to go back home just yet – luckily we had one more stop: London. In London we stayed with a friend and just chilled and tried to make the most out of our few days left (of freedom and no obligations). How funny isn’t it that only a couple of years later three of us were living in London and one in Greece/Spain? Even this day none of us are living in our dear mother country. Wonder if things would’ve been different had we never experienced this amazing trip?

I can’t find the words to sum up this journey, all I can say is that I am so grateful for those 580 days of adventures and meeting beautiful people with three of the bestest friends.

Over and out.

x Nina x