London and Final Thoughts

I took an overnight flight from Nairobi to London, and spent the next four days enjoying the city. Like a good tourist, I went to see to the Changing of the Guard. I was a bit lazy that morning, and instead of arriving early, I sauntered over to Buckingham Palace at 11:00 a.m. for a ceremony that started at 11:30. As such, I had an absolutely stupendous view…of the back of people’s heads.

See, this is what dawdling gets you!

The people watching was fantastic, however. It is highly entertaining to watch tricky little devils try to sneak their way to the front, then get told off by other irate tourists or by the cop in charge of keeping us all in line :P. I eventually found a better vantage point from across the road, at the Saint James’s Park gates. I had a great view of the guards marching out the gates and across the roundabout.

Household Cavalry
Guards marching within the Buckingham Palace gates
All these lovely people came to watch as well

It rained like crazy the rest of the day, so I decided to indulge in my final museum on this trip, the world-famous British Museum. In all my travels through the years, I don’t know how many times I have come across a sign saying something like “This object of unbelievable historical significance is a replica. The actual object is at the British Museum.” I spent a few hours taking in as much information and history as possible, and I enjoyed myself for the most part. The Egyptian mummy room was especially cool. But, as with all museums, I eventually reached a breaking point. I simply could not read any more descriptions of ancient pottery.

Beeyootiful day…for a museum!

I had a scrumptious dinner with my friend Ali from Ottawa. We went to Byron Burger, where I had the veggie burger, Helenka-style (with meat and without onion!) Yum yum.

Me and Ali in front of the Tube map

On a whim, I bought tickets to see The Book of Mormon at the Picadilly Circus. The show was hysterical, and I still have outrageously inappropriate lyrics running through my brain.

Yea!
Before the show, I went over to see Big Ben
Blue rooster at Trafalgar Square, and the flag of my home and native land in the background

Ali told me that one of the best views in London was from the top of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, so I climbed up to have a look.

I visited the Tower of London, which was highly entertaining. I especially liked seeing the crown jewels. I thought it was hilarious the way they shuttled everyone through on a moving walkway. I also enjoyed walking along the walls, and seeing the old prisoners’ graffiti in all the towers. They used to keep animals at the palace, and in one room, they had the sound effect of a lion growling. My heart started to race, and I had to leave the room! I think I may have some residual trauma from my safari adventure 😛

Tower Bridge
Tower Green

On my last evening in London, I went for hot chocolate with my friend Maren, who is originally from Norway but who has been living in London for the past few years. We had met in France in 2004, when we were both doing our high school year abroad. It was so nice to see her again and to hear her stories. She also did a trip around the world a few years ago.

Maren and Me

I flew from London to Ottawa, the final leg of my journey. Since there is nothing much to do on an Air Transat flight, I spent most of my time staring out the window. I have to admit that I got a bit teary-eyed when the North American continent finally came into view. I had come full circle, and it felt good to be home.

Final Thoughts

Stats

Number of days spent on the road: 321
Number of countries visited: 30
Number of planes rides taken: 21
Number of hiking trails summited: 9
Number of waterfalls encountered: Lost track!

I often get asked if it is hard coming home after living such a crazy life for 10.5 months. Sure, it has been a bit difficult. I miss the freedom and excitement of being on the road. But the truth is, I am incredibly lucky. I have a wonderful life in Ottawa, and I look forward to building a future here. And Canada is a great place to explore, even for people who have lived here their whole lives!

I also often get asked about “best this” and “favourite that” on my trip. It is a very hard question to answer! After giving it a great deal of thought, here are a few choices:

Best Country

Fiji, the first country I visited. And I was there less than a week! It scores high in all categories, including weather (tropical!), cleanliness (almost sparkly!), price (wonderfully cheap!), activities (sandboarding! bamboo rafting! waterfall jumping!) and people (friendly, helpful and beautiful!) I loved everyone I met on my Feejee Experience tour. The resorts were fabulous, and deliciously empty since it wasn’t high season. One of my happiest memories of my entire trip was the night we spent at the Uprising Beach Resort chilling on the mats, drinking kava, and listening to Fijians with amazing voices singing folk songs and playing guitar. Seeing Rose in Suva was definitely a bonus! I can’t wait to go back and explore more of the islands some day.

Love!

Every other country I visited comes a very close second!

Best food

Overall, that would have to be Japan. I genuinely looked forward to every meal I ate. I kept discovering new delights each day, such as okonomiyaki, rice on a stick dipped in various gooey delicacies, and conveyor belt sushi bars. My one disappointment was my first and last encounter with green tea ice cream. Yuck!

So good!
No good!

Coolest sight

I was lucky enough to see a full eclipse in November while cruising from Fiji to New Zealand. I cannot get over the fact that I saw stars and sunset at 10:20 in the morning. I may become an eclipse chaser, like my Dad (he’s seen two, and he has big plans to see more!)

Speaking of celestial bodies, seeing the midnight sun burn through the clouds at the northernmost point of Europe was also quite spectacular.

Craziest experience

Bungy jumping in New Zealand, then again in Macau. I have become a serious adrenaline junkie. It’s amazing to jump off a platform, see the ground rushing toward you, feel your stomach drop, and have your brain go haywire (WHAT DID YOU JUST DO???). Highly recommended!

Best Accommodation

There’s no competition. Hard Road Cafe on Koh Phangan (Thailand). I have never been so sad to leave a place. The hostel is run by three crazy and hilarious French guys who kept me highly entertained with their antics. One of the best nights was the night that everyone except me went to the Half Moon Party, and I stayed at the hostel drinking absinthe at the bar and listening to the hostel owners tell crazy stories until I eventually stumbled to bed. Good times!

Pool where I spent many happy hours
One of the staff’s puppy!

Proudest accomplishment

Reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, after spending eight hours at high altitude struggling to put one foot in front of the other.

I’m also proud to be a qualified scuba diver!

Climbing that last peak overnight was tricky
My nifty licence

Best storyteller

One of my favourite things about travelling is meeting people along the way who have amazing life stories. In Estonia, I spent a few nights at the hostel listening for hours to an American guy talk about how he’d spent the last decade or so as a travelling ESL teacher, going from contract to contract around the world. One of his students was a Taiwanese golf star, and he’d just come from a stint teaching English to Russian school kids on vacation in Finland. He kept adding to the Disney tattoo on his back in all the countries that he visited. He truly inspired me!

Best signs

Kepler Track, New Zealand
Vientiane, Laos
Kong Lor, Laos
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Bangkok, Thailand (I can’t even imagine why they need to tell people not to put stockings in the toilet)
Detailed instructions for using the toilet in Japan
Arctic Circle pizza joint, Norway
Tallinn, Estonia
Medieval restaurant in Tallinn, Estonia
Brussels, Belgium. No clizmbing allowed!
Giraffe Centre, Nairobi, Kenya
Marangu Entrance, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. I love the engraved double exclamation point.

Worsts

By all accounts, my trip was a smashing success, with very few bumps along the way. However, I think the unfortunate incidents that did occur make for some of my most interesting stories.

Worst experience

The most terrible thing that happened was on the first night of the trip when I missed my Los Angeles to Fiji connection. Instead of being on an overnight flight to paradise, I found myself on the floor of LAX bawling my eyes out, wondering how on earth an airline could move a flight up an hour and not let me on the plane despite the fact that I made it to the check-in counter 45 minutes before takeoff. I ended up having to fly all the way to Korea the next morning, and then to Fiji. So much plane!

Arriving in Israel without my shoes after a nightmarish security process is not far behind.

Worst night

The night I spent in Laos curled over the toilet after getting some seriously nasty food poisoning. The nausea was horrendous and relentless. When I awoke the next morning, I was white as a sheet and I spent the whole bus ride that day in terror that I was going to be sick again.

Worst food

One night in Siem Reap, Cambodia, the guys I was with ordered a platter of exotic food, including crocodile and snake. I tried a little of everything, and it was all terrible.

Crocodile kebab!

My Durian Ice Kachang in Singapore was also incredibly revolting.

Gross!

Ideas for Future Travels

I am not done travelling, not by a long shot. If anything, I have more of a desire to see the world than ever! I have some fabulous ideas for (shorter-term) adventures in the next few years.

– Peru (the Inca Trail!)
– Everest Base Camp
– South Africa and Zimbabwe (especially Victoria Falls and the Devil’s Pool)
– Jordan (Petra!)
– Boston (I’ve never been for some reason)

Suggestions are always welcome!

6 thoughts on “London and Final Thoughts

  1. Beverlee Porter

    Helenka

    Robert and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all about your amazing adventure. You are one spunky young lady!!!

    You have a talent for writing and should think seriously about writing a book.

    I know your parents are glad you are home

    Beverlee Porter

  2. reirameso

    I am pleasantly surprised that Fiji was your favourite country! That’s so cool! Glad it kicked off to a great start and it was lovely seeing you in both Fiji & NZ. I have lots of fond memories of Fiji and I think about them all the time. Tonight Lauren and I are going to a Diwali festival in Christchurch – I’m hoping it will remind me of the great times I had last year celebrating Diwali in Fiji.

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