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Debbie's Travel Diary

The Story So Far

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26/09/2000: The Philippines
Having endured the 26hrs travelling I finally arrived in Manila. I eventually located Rob and having not taken off my fleece and lugging my rucksack, I ended up looking like a drowned rat (humid 32 degrees). Definitley not a good hair day!
Spend two nights in a hotel (I like this travelling lark!). and wandered around Manila for a bit. Got caught in a couple of downpours, although very steamy.
Having debated over whether or not to take my hairdryer (foolish girl) it blew up on the second day. Decision made I'd say!. So far we've been to Dunkin Donuts, McDs (Adrian - Oreo and Dime Bar McFlurrys....Yum!) and a pizza place. Nothing like trying the local cuisine I say.

Decided to check out a bit further South and travelled down to Mindoro (Puerto Galrea, Sabang and White Beach). Very nice. On the first night my lower legs got eaten alive (just over 40 bites at last count). Why didn't they eat Rob? We're now in Sabang for the next couple of days then moving on to White Beach. We've negotiated a place for about 4 pounds a night. Not bad - bed, bathroom and cooking facilities. Average cost of beer is about 30p, pringles cost less than a pound and vodka is about 2 pounds for a bottle. Lots of Rob cocktails coming up! Itinerary | Back to Top

At long last I've reached the long weekend. This is a real pain in the arse not having access to email on camp.
I finally arrived at the expedition site and there are about 25 of us in total. I think I'm the oldest volunteer!!!
I've finished my dive training and can now conduct surveys on fish and coral, Woohoo!
Life on camp's ok. We have a toilet that doesn't fluch and a shower, albeit bloody freezing! The toilet can prove very itneresting with 25 of us.

Saturday nights are party nights and everyone generally just gets absolutely hammered. Unfortunately the choices are tequila and rum. Euurrgghhh! Sunday mornings aren't a pretty sight. The saddest bit of the whole camp life is that the only entertainment is Karaoke...every bloody bar is a Karaoke bar. The locals also take offence if they ask to sing a duet with you and you refuse!! Ohmygod...I still have nightmares about 'My Way' and the fifty year old 4' Filipinos that insisted that I accompany him with my angelic voice!!! Boy, was he sadly mistaken. On the food front, the chef on site's been and bought a veggie cook book as I'm the first they've had. They like their condensed milk here and have it with eveything. A nice cold pasta salad? No problem, smother it in condensed milk. Also, if you ask for a fruit salad, it arrives smothered in salad cream. Hmmmm. Another little delicacy here is Balot, which is Chicken embryos. You can specify how well developed the embryos crnuchy you want the skull....would you like feathers with that sir?
We also have the weekly slaughtering of pigs for Sunday lunch about 50m from our house. You can't get away from the noise and it's pretty awful. They've also roasted the odd dog and goat. Vegetarian heaven!
Cock fights are another little gem here. You can't help but see them as they seem to happen on every bloody street corner here. Not something that appeals at all suprisingly enough! On a more cheery note, I thought you may like to know that the weather has taken a turn for the worse and whilst it's still hot and sticky, we now have typhoons to deal with on a regular basis...we've even had the odd earthquake (sorry Mum!).
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Well we've had a case of typhoid, a baratrauma and one girl has been evacuated with suspected DCS - helicopter the lot! Diving was then cancelled due to a contamination in the tanks so the camp took a trip to some nearby caves. Picture the scene - I was sitting behind the driver of the trike. We came across a dog that was in such a poor state that he couldn't get out of the way, so the driver just ran into him. The dog was caught on the bike by his back leg and the driver had no intention of stopping. I was kicking and shouting at the driver (I'm sure you can imagine the scene....) until he stopped, I stepped off the bike hit the driver and the dog bit my leg! A tad shocked (the dog and me!) but the dog got to it's feet and seemed ok. Well as good as it was before he got knocked down and dragged anyway.

The dog bite was only really a scratch, but it had broken the skin so I had to jump back on the trike to catch a bus to the nearest hospital, 6 hours away, to get rabies jabs. I arrived at the hospital at about 11.00pm to be told the total cost was 35,000 pesos - about 600 pounds......(Ouch, The Fast Bloke) and they wanted cash. Yaah! I had five injections - one in each arm and three in my shin (ouch! Not partucularly brave about it I have to say.) Then I had to use all my powers of pursuasion to convince them to let me take away all the other vaccines I needed (further jabs for days 3,7,14,21,30!!) and pay on my credit card. Woohoo! I had temper tantrums the lot. Not a pretty sight I'm sure. If they didn't give me the vaccines there and then, I would have had 12 hour return bus trips forever more. When I got back to camp the next day, I was awarded 'saint' for my singlehanded fight against animal cruelty in the Philippines. Hmmmmm.

I could then forget allllll about it as we had the weekend off and took off to an island called Apo. A marine reserve and absolutely gorgeous in every way. Diving, diving, diving. Then four of us decided to head off to the nearest city to send emails and the like. Had a great time.....but managed to miss the last bus home. Doh! When we got back to camp we got the distinct impression we were being punished for our naughty behaviour - no diving, washing up dinner, toilet duties the next day. Of course, not official punishment, but predictable!
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Happy New Year and all that and I hope that you all had a jolly good Christmas.
Christmas in the Philippines was a good imitation of a traditional English Christmas with turkey and all the trimmings (the turkey was a tad too fresh having been allowed to run around the garden for a couple of days beforehand). The only things missing were the huge tins of Quality Street, Roses and Top of the Pops. In between Christmas and New Year myslef and 3 others from camp took part in the Hinoba-an festival. We were modelling swimwear. Gulp. Turned up on the night to have our hair and makeup done...the 'makeup artists darling' were all male and all very camp. Blue eye shadow, false hair, the works - and that was me not them. Arrived at the auditorium (only appear at the best spots you know) to find the whole camp taking up the front rows. Kim and I got a huge cheer, although predictably the boys got a bigger cheer. I was told it was cold that night.

New years eve was the same as anywhere else with the objective being to get very drunk. I did. End of story really.

I finally completed my Divemaster and my last night I accepted the Divemaster challenge. A Chris Tarrant style 'so you want to be a DM' quiz, parading in the DM pants (photos to follow!) and drinking copious amounts of punch through a snorkel. Difficult to breath with the mask on and they were shoving it down so fast that at one point it ws coming out of my nose. Damn atractive I'd say!..... Rich, the guy I've slept next to for the past 3 months had also completed his DM and got absolutely slaughtered. During the early hours of the morning, having spent most of the night shoving him off my bed, I discovered a large wet patch. He'd p*ssed in our beds! I couldn't believe it! What a fine way to end my time at Hotel Bravo.
A couple of us then took off to Boracay for our last few days in the Philippines. Goregeous beaches and ok diving. A fitting farewell....
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29/01/2001: Borneo
It's been a busy couple of weeks here in Sabah. I arrived at Kota Kinabalu and pretty much started my trek to the summit of Mt Kinabalu. 9KM of bloody hard work. The first 6km was done during the day with an overnight stop and a 3.00am start for the final 3km, to ensure we reached the summit by sunrise.... Took about 7 1/2 hours in total. The views made it all worthwhile. My guide, Maik, had competed in the annual climbathon race to the summit AND back in a time of just over 3 hours!!! crazy mad. Once we'd got done I was then whisked off to Maik's house for a night with his family and then an early start to trek to the 'jungle' - primary rainforest. I learnt a few survival skills, just in case I ever get lost in a rainforest deep in the heart of Hampshire. It also included setting traps for animals. Somthing every vegetarian should know!

I stayed in a tent for the night which was an experience to say the least. The bugs were a bit much and as for removing your shoes to find your socks covered in blood and a leech sucking away.....Urgghhh. I then headed off to the heavily guarded Sipadan. Lots of army personnel wandering around with BIG guns. The diving was excellent with lots of turtles and sharks on every dive. Breathtaking. Quite literally in my case as I guzzled my air.

My travels then took me to Sepilok and the orangutan rehab centre. I absolutely loved it. I was then shipped off to Sakau and had a jaunt along the river. Saw lots of monkeys, snakes, birds, bugs, blah, blah, blah. No crocs though, much to my disappointment. I then trekked to the Guamontong caves and I absolutely hated them! The caves are literally feet deep in bird and bat crap and as you can imagine, it stinks. Add to that the hundreds of cockroaches and the killer centipedes, you've got a trip from Hell. Urgghhh. Nightmares. Incidentally, the caves are famous for the bird nests the locals collect which are made from bird saliva. They sell them to that crazy bunch, the Chinese, to put in soups. The going rate? About US$1000 per kilo!!
That's the end of my little jolly in Sabah but one thing's for sure - I'll be back!
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02/03/2001: Australia
So I finally got to Australia in January.....Sorry about the delay in the update. I'll try not to go on for too long!
I arrived in Darwin to find it very hot and humid, also a bit dull. Maybe that was just the company I was keeping as Rob seemed to get very familiar with the bars whilst he was there.
Anyway, to alleviate the boredom I booked onto a tour of Kakadu. There were 4 others on the tour and having spent so much time in a cramped 4x4, we got to know each other very well by the end of it! The guide was the stereotypical oz male and we all had a really good laugh. Saw some crocs at close range which was really cool and did some pretty gruelling treks. Made more so by the temperature of 35 degrees and humidity between 85 and 95%. To cool down we frollicked in waterfalls and having not taken any swimwear, I learnt the hard way that you shouldn't wear beige trousers and dark undies, although it did give everyone something to talk about during dinner(and no Roberts, how big my bum looked did not get discussed!) (to big a subject to discuss over dinner. The fat Bloke).

I then jetted off to Alice Springs to book onto one of the many offered 'Rock Tours'. Booked on for 3 days and absolutely loved it. First stop Kings Canyon which was immense. About the best word that I can use to describe it! Took a nice dip in a waterfall to cool off and having learnt my lesson from last time, I took my trousers off this time!
We spent the nights under the stars in swags although I didn't get much sleep due to the fear of bugs running all over me during the night. As it happens I didn't see a single one.... We then did the Olgas which were very cool and then headed off to Ayers Rock after lunch. Yep - impressive! To climb or not to climb - that was the question. After a crap sunset, an even crappier sunrise and a lengthy debate, I decided to climb Ayers Rock. The first third was hard work, although once that was completed I only had the really strong winds to contend with! Views from the top were awesome and you could quite clearly see the big bad storm approaching fast!! Managed to reach the bottom just as the rain hit, although quite a few people had to be rescued from the rock. All good entertainment I say!! The trip ended with a few beers being consumed in Alice and me having to catch the plane to Cairns with a hangover.

Met some Irish guys on the plane and I have them to blame for just one or two drunken nights in Cairns. Having arrived with a cold and not being able to dive, what's a girl to do? Cairns seemed to be full of British backpackers whose sole purpose was to go out on the town and get absolutely plastered and behave like prats. Hmmmm - Chaplins (pub in Andover UK) sprung to mind. I felt quite at home.

Whilst waiting for the cold to go I did a couple of days horse riding. I managed to get dropped twice by the mare I was riding (I always did prefer boys!). The first time she shied at a snake. Yeah right, like that happens all the time at home. Needless to say I didn't hang around on the deck for too long. The second time we were galloping full pelt along a track, jumped a small creek and somewhere over the creek, horse and I parted company. A bit battered and bruised but most definitely the best riding I've ever done. (This is great - I even get to bore you all with my horsie tales when I'm thousands of miles away.) On my return to Cairns I jumped aboard a boat to do five days of diving. Had an excellent time, although didn't get to dive Osprey Reef where a shark feeding takes place as a cyclon was hovering. A bit gutted as that was the main reason I had booked the trip, but maybe next time (oh yes, there will be a next time - sorry Mum).
I've then spent the last week or so making my way down the coast, trying to avoid the cyclones that have been threatening along the coast, to meet up with some friends in Sydney (hopefully Skeates, a couple of my Irish buddies and Sally). Then it's onto Melbourne to catch up with Rob for a bit.
That's about it for now....... I'll be in touch again soon.
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It's been a while since my last update so here goes...
I arrived in Sydney on a Friday afternoon a tad tired to find that most places were fully booked due to the Mardi Gras. I managed to find a bed for the weekend and decided to go check out the Mardi Gras to see what all the fuss was about. I arrived really early and was taken under the wings of two guys who were thrilled to bits it was my first Mardi Gras ('Ooohh! You're a Mardi Gras virgin!') and some may have been put off by their DMs and tight little hot pants, but not me. I even let them smother me in glitter and assume that I was a lesbian - anything to fit in you understand. The whole thing kicked off with Dykes on Bikes and just got more outrageous as the night went on. I loved it! Not bad for a bit of free entertainment.

I then met up with Mark and Caroline on the Sunday afternoon, which was a bit bizarre sitting by the opera house with friends from home! It was Sally's turn the next day, another very good friend from home who has been living in Australia for the last 3 years, and was whisked off to her house on Avoca Beach - absolutely gorgeous place to live and I was jealous for a bit, until I remembered that she's moving back to England at the end of May. Never mind Sal! When we finished at Avoca, we then headed off to Manly Beach to stay with Sally's other half Garry. (I would recommend their places to any other backpackers out there who are interested!)

I met up with Rob in Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula where he's been working since January. Spent a pretty cool 6 weeks there cooking dinner and doing some Dive Mastering (unfortunately more cooking than diving). Dived some great sites (19th century wreck and J Class submarines, kelp beds, etc) and saw some really cool things such as sea horses, weedy seadragons, rays, Port Jackson shark, blah, blah, blah! Unfortunately the water temperature was a tad cooler than I'm used to at 17 degrees and I had to be kitted out in a two piece 5mm wetsuit and hood. Bizarre. I still don't understand why people would want to dive in England!

I spent my 30th (gulp!) birthday at Bayplay and some of the pressies were so cool that they deserve a mention - the hairdryer from Sal and the Winnie the Pooh huge fleecy dressing gown from Rob!. I must be the only backpacker in the World to have a hairdryer and a dressing gown in my pack and I'm very proud of that fact!!

Whilst at Bayplay we also took off to Brisbane for a few days - only about 1500kms away! It took us four days of driving to get there and back and we had about three days to have a look around. Crazy!

I've left Australia for New Zealand now and I've met up with Liz and we're whizzing around the South Island at the moment. More about that next time though..... Bye for now.
PS, I would like to make a very public Congratulations to Jo who is 12 weeks pregnant. Oh and I guess Colin should get a congratulations as well as I suppose he had a part to play in it all. Very exciting!!
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04/05/2001: New Zealand
First impressions of New Zealand? Cold, wet and gorgeous. Met Liz (bestest buddy from home) at the airport and set off on a whirlwind tour of the South Island. Managed to get a lift to Queenstown, via the scenic route, with two Japanese girls. Stopped the night at Tekapo Lake (glacier water and a gorgeous blue colour), Mount Cook and Wanaka. At Mt Cook we did the Hooker Valley Glacier walk, only to get there 2 1/2 hours later to discover the glacier was black and dirty looking. Not happy!

We arrived in Queenstown at about 2.00pm on Saturday and had booked our jet boat ride and a bungy jump by 3.00pm. Up early on Sunday to start the day with Shotover Jet. Very fast, very wet, very cold. Total fun. The back to town to catch the Bungy Bus to the Nevis jump site - New Zealand's biggest at 134m / 440 feet. Gulp! You jump from a pod that is suspended over a gorge that you reach by cable car. The cable car journey was scarey enough! To make matters worse, the pod has glass panels everywhere, even on the floor, so you get a good view of the jump site. My fear of heights was kicking in nicely!

When my turn arrived I sat in the big black chair getting strapped up and shaking like a crazy mad shaking thing. Waved to the camera, three, two, one, bungy! and I was off. Screamed, froze when I realised the enormity of what I'd done and then screamed some more and I still hadn't reached the bottom of the bungy!! The longest 8 seconds and I was absolutely terrified from the moment I left the pod, until my feet were back on the pod. I'd gone very blue around the mouth apparently - fear I tell you! I was buzzing all night though. Never again, although I've been told that you have a 45 seconds freefall with skydiving........

Liz did the 43m Kawarau Bridge, the original bungy site. Liz's description of the site? Homely! Didn't even scream but made a good attempt at flashing her undies to all.

Liz hired a car which was pure luxury. Not quite Thelma and Louise.... First stop Te Anau and the glow worm caves, couldn't dive the Milford Sound (lots of disappointment) so headed off the Fox Glacier. Woke up the next day to a beautiful clear blue sky so took a helicopter to the Glacier. Woohoo. Tramped around on the ice for three hours checking out ice caves and the like and then jumped aboard the helicopter again for the ride back to town. Superb.

We then headed to Kaikoura via Lewis Pass, crossing over loads of creeks.....not just any old very important creek....DAWSONS CREEK!! We were excited but sorry boys, no sign of Joey. Moving swiftly on......

Couldn't dive at Kaikoura either and whale watching was also not on the cards as the weather was soooo crap. A bit of shame but there's always next time for me (sorry Liz).

Just before Liz jumped on her plane home and left me, we checked out the Antartic Centre. Played in the snow, watched videos and rode on an Antartic Haaglund (can't be bothered to explain!). Due to all the money I've spent in the last two weeks, I'm now sat in Christchurch trying desperately not to spend anymore and getting very bored. However, I leave for Australia (again) on Sunday.....

Bye for now and I'll see most of you far too soon....the end is creeping near - especially if I keep this spending up!
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17/07/2001: Back to OZ
I arrived back in Oz in May and again visited my friends John and Sue. Had far too many drinks (again) but I must thank them for introducing me to Cocksucking Cowboys (Butterscotch Schnapps and Baileys....hmmmhmmmmhmm). Lovely name but far lovelier taste.

Didn't hang around in Melbourne long before we headed off to Sydney and Manley Beach. Helped Sally and Garry pack their stuff and finish off the food in their cupboards before we waved them off on their journey to good old blighty. Whilst in Sydney we did all the touristy bits - Bondi Beach, Palm Beach (otherwise known as Home&Away), climbed the bridge (sort of). We also took in the State of Origin 2 game at the Olypic Stadium....fantastic! Managed to catch up with Emma and John (CCC buddies) although didn't manage to get the drinks flowing....we made up for it later though!

Sydney was starting to get a tad cold so next stop was Byron Bay and I loved it. Very beautiful and definitely getting warmer. Managed to get some 'work' in exchange for free dives for a week. Excellent diving at Julian Rocks - Dolphins, Wobbigongs everywhere, Grey Nurse sharks, Loggerhead turtles, Manta Rays, blah, blah, blah. Definitely worth the work we were doing - checking the pool temperature and the like. A bit of a different attitude to that experienced on the Mornington Peninsula......but that's another story. Met up with Emma again and this time got a few drinks in. Said our good byes with a mother of hangovers. Also took in a Shiatzu Massage course which was really good fun. Haven't practised the skills since though. Just need a willing body I guess. Rob and I then headed off to Pat and Ros's farm. Spent a whole week there just chilling really.

We spent a very brief night in Surfers Paradise, which appeared to be anything but. Spent the night at Roberts (a friend of Rob's family) and I think he regretted taking in two poms the night the Lions whooped the Wallabies.....they got their revenge in the end though.

Managed to get a couple of nights in Noosa and spotted Koalas (thanks for the tip Sal), humpback whales and dolphins at the National Park. I wished I could have spent more time there.

Hervey Bay was next on the agenda as the jump off point to get to Fraser Island. We signed up for a 4wd DIY camping safari with 7 others in the Land Cruiser. Fantastic three days spent whizzing around the Worlds largest sand island. I was the only driver to get the troopie stuck in the sand but what the hell, all part of the fun. We received plenty of warnings prior to leaving about the dangers of Dingos ('Toilet Buddies' was a new concept to me and Rob and I's relationship has progressed somewhat!!) and the sea. The sea was off limits due to the strong rips and the fact that it is a breeding ground for Tiger Sharks. Plenty of incentive not to venture in I reckon.

From there we handed in our bus tickets and jumped aboard Bella - a 35ft yacht that will hopefully deliver us up the coast in about 5 weeks time....more about that in the next thrilling installment.
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23/08/2001: Australia
So I've finally started my journey home which is about time really judging by the bank balance!! The good news of course is that you guys don't have many more of these to endure......

My last five weeks in Australia were spent on a yacht ('the good ship' Bella). Rob and I replied to an ad in a backpackers for certified divers to help crew. After a few emails backwards and forwards we finally met Paul at Keppel Bay Marina. 'Dead Calm' didn't spring to mind so we jumped aboard, together with Lean, an Irish lassie we'd met in Byron Bay. The plan was to sail from Yeppoon reaching Townsville by the 20th August, taking in as many dive spots as we could along the way.

Our first overnight sail was from Great Keppel to Northwest Island and took about 10 hours. It was soon obvious that sailing isn't really my thing as I just felt sick the whole time the anchor was up, unless I was flat on my back! Not a particularly helpful crew member I'd say.

North West Island was gorgeous. We had dolphins, turtles and even rays by the boat. The sun was shining and the water temp was ok. Then it all turned quite literally to shit and it all started with Lean blocking the toilet the night before Paul's birthday. He took the decision to leave it until the next day....

Paul's birthday arrived and he took his usual early morning dip and 'aqua bog' (that's a whole story on its own but I'm sure you can use your imagination - unfortunately I don't have to as I've seen it in action!) while the rest of us were still slumbering in bed, Paul's sudden outburst brought us all awake. We'd lost the tender - motor and all. Obviously not tied off correctly the night before. To top it all it took Paul hours to unblock the toilet. Urgghhhh! Happy birthday to Paul, happy birthday to Paul....Paul decided that the only way to deal with the situation was to crack open a bottle of his favourite wine (a sparkling burgundy....yep, a red that's fizzy and is served chilled). He'd raved on about this wine - the taste, the cost, the lack of availability - and wanted to share it with us all. Picture the scene....he served it up, we had toast, we all took a sip, I put my glass down on the table and managed to knock the whole lot all over Paul!! It really wasn't his day! As you can imagine, we all got very drunk, although more red wine was thrown around the cockpit and on my Elmo pjs than was actually drunk. It looked like we'd slaughtered something the next morning!

So, with no depth gauge (Paul blew it up on the journey there) or tender, we had to head back to Keppel so Paul could sort out his insurance. We spent a few days around Great Keppel and managed to get quite a few dives in (tad chilly though) whilst we waited for the new tender to arrive.

New tender secured firmly, we did a 40 hour trip to Refuge Bay which was just hell. The only break in the journey was when we spotted Humpback whales at Bell Cay - fantastic. We went ashore for a bit at Refuge Bay and Rob and I decided to head off to the boat on our own and agreed the others would radio when they wanted collecting. The call came through so I ran up the stairs and ...... smacked my head on the door frame sooooo hard that I had tweetie birds circling my head. Rob rushed to my aid as I staggered around the cabin and his soothing words were 'what have I told you about wearing hats inside?'!! Rob jumps in the tender to collect the others as they come through on the radio with the message of 'pull your pants up and come and get us'. My reply for the whole yachtie community to hear was 'Just coming. I've had an accident - I've just hit my f***ing head'. Still hadn't quite got to used to the proper 'radio speak'!! Concussion is my argument and I'm sticking to it.

Hamilton Island Marina was the next stop and on her last day on the boat Lean managed to send Paul flying into the drink with a nifty sailing move. Being a true Aus he climbed aboard still clutching his beer can!! We had a few beers in the Marina that night and Paul's chat line of 'are you up for it?' became legendary!

Alison and Simon joined the boat once Lean got off at Airlie Beach and we had two weeks to check out the Whitsundays. Alison introduced us to the 'Tim Tam suck', although you'll have to wait for me to get home for further information on that one.

My last week on the boat was spent diving hook and bait reefs which were fantastic and a very fitting end. I then had a night in Airlie, a sad goodbye to Rob and then a 17 hour bus journey to Brisbane to catch my flight to Auckland.

So that's the end of Australia for this time around. Still too much to see so I'll have to come back someday as I've loved it. Loads of people have made it so great and thanks to everyone that has helped make it sooooo good - John & Sue, Liz, John, Rohdan & Ashleigh, Kate, Pat & Ros, Sally & Garry, Paul, Simon & Alison. I think that's everyone!

Bye for now
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Leave UK, destination Manila
Join up with Coral Cay Conservation, for 9 weeks marine conservation (diving, assessing reefs, fish, etc), then 4 weeks terrestrial conservation (rainforest, leeches, plant evaluation and trapping animals).
Leave the Philippines and on to Borneo.  Whilst there trek up Mt Kinabalu, visit orang utan sanctuary and a bit more diving.
Arrive in Darwin.
Onto Cairns then travel overland to Sydney.  Also plan to spend about a week in Tasmania.
New Zeeland.
Then onto Taipei, Bangkok, Home, South America!

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