I met Cat about 2 years ago at a British festival called Standon Calling through the kiwi connection (know one kiwi in London and the degrees of separation between all the rest is only 2 people!). She then moved to Camden to live up the road from me and she became a key member of gin club (book club based in a gin bar...)
When I announced I was quitting my job to travel for a year, Cat had decided that she was heading back to New Zealand in the near future. She decided that the long route in 7 months via South East Asia and South America would be a great idea and asked to join me.
I couldn't have asked for a better travel companion for our 13 country tour starting in South East Asia last September. We met up in Bangkok and had a blissful week in Koh Tao before joining our Stray bus tour with Kitty, Cameo and Carmen - who we were to travel with for the next 6 weeks!
We went from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, to Chiang Rai and over the border to Laos. Down the Mekong on the slow boat we enjoyed a Bacci ceremony at our homestay village. Then on to Luang Prabang for numerous waterfalls, and a lot of chilling out.
Next up was the mentalness of Vang Viang where we celebrated Cat's birthday with a mud wrestle whilst tubing down the river. Then down to Don Det and over the border to Cambodia. Phnom Penh was disturbing with the killing fields and S21 detention centre, but we were able to enjoy the coast of Cambodia in Kampot, Koh Tunsay and Koh Rong. From there we headed to Battambang and the bamboo train and another homestay with the stray crew. Siem Reap was next - although it took us second time lucky to be able to see dawn over Angkor Wat.
The next country was Vietnam where we were delighted to eat our way through for a month! Beach time, hiking, biking and city tours were also undertaken - but mainly eating and some drinking (15 cent beer!) Then we had to bribe our way out of the country to make our flight to Honkers - where we delighted in cheese and wine from M& S and stalked the Santa Con.
From HK Cat flew to Rio to meet Davey and I flew home for Christmas. We all met up on Punto del Diablo for New Year's Eve, where we partied with Brazilians despite being in Uruguay. Our South American adventures continued through Argentina with too much fun in Mendoza (translate to too much wine!). More wine tasting in Salta and then a trip over the Chilean border to San Pedro de Atacama, where the stalkers and us did some epic biking.
We joined a trip to the salt flats in Bolivia - going through the volcanoes and mountains, past lagunas seeing lots of wildlife before the final satisificatuon of seeing the flooded Salar de Uyuni. Onwards to Sucre where we met up with the stalkers again and became part of the Bee Hive collective! La Paz lead to Cholitas wrestling and surviving the Death Road!
From there to Peru and lake Titicaca - lots of islands, floating and normal! Then up to Cusco and the Jungle trail to Macchu Pichu, where we had a Bee Hive reunion with the stalkers. Then on the Peru Hop bus to Arequipa and the Colca Canyon trek. Nazca was underwhelming, Huaccachina was a lot of sand and Paracas was lovely by the beach. We didn't spend much time in Lima preferring to hang out with the Irish in Mancora for Paddies day.
New country new beer! On to Ecuador before we flew to the Galapagos for a once in a lifetime trip. Back to Baños to catch up with the (mainly Irish) lot from PeruHop for some canyoning and swing at the end of the world. From there to Quito and onwards and upwards to Colombia. We stopped in pretty Popayan and in chic Medellin before hot footing it up to the Carribean coast by Santa Marta.
From there we explored Tayrona national park and then down to Cartagena to see the old town and the mud volcano. We saved 20 hours on a freezing cold night bus by flying to Bogota and catching up with the Bee Hive crew once again for a final hurrah! One last beer at the Bogota Beer Company, one last telepherique up the hill, one last coffee and Cat was off to New Zealand for the first time in 4 years.
Through all Cat has been a great person to travel with. Constantly friendly to all - she can wrangle someone's life story out of them in 5 minutes! Always looking on the bright side with her positive attitude, which is a good thing to balance me out. She is a lot of fun, although wine and her bendiness lead to drunken yoga poses and the odd collapse, #too much fun! Cat likes to push herself and take risks that sometimes I wouldn't have, nothing seems to phase her - she's pretty fearless, a quality that I admire a lot.
I'm going to miss you lots when you are back in New Zealand, especially our deep and meaningfuls over a bottle of wine - keep in touch! Which country shall we met up in again?!
Photo montage of our travels together: