Thursday, 5 February 2015

Last Days of The Trip...

By Sanne

And so it came down to the final 2 weeks of our trip. After 5 continents and 42 countries we found ourselves in what was to become our last destination: California.
As to not spend a lot of money we had become members of HelpX, a website that connects hosts and volunteers, similar to woofing in the sense that you work for board. We had arranged to do this on a horse ranch just north of LA in Tujunga Canyon. Our host was Barbara, a sweet, older lady who had been running The Lipizzaner Connection for many years. The ranch used to breed and perform Lipizzaner horses, the white horses they use at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. She no longer breeds but still has horses on the ranch, a mix of Lipizzaners and other peoples horses.

Barbara picked us up from Burbank Train Station and took us straight to a supermarket where we were given $100 to do our food shopping. Without a shopping list or the faintest idea of what to get we had to think quickly and managed to hit the mark very closely - the bill rang in at $103.
Afterwards we drove to the farm where Barbara took us to the cozy cabin that was going to be our home for the next 2 weeks.

The next day we started working. It wasn't back breaking work by any means; the work consisted of raking leaves, feeding horses, driving a tractor etc. Barbara kept reminding us "not to work too hard" and was really sweet. Sadly, her friend of many years and partner in the ranch had just passed away a few weeks beforehand of cancer and you could tell it was hard for Barbara to carry on without her friend's death so recent. We talked a lot, the three of us, of her friend and life and death and she told us she was grateful that we were there to help out and take her mind off things.

Life on the farm was good. We only worked 4-5 hours a day and had two days off a week. There wasn't a whole lot of work to do there so we did whatever we could see needed work, like cleaning the pool and sanding down and painting the sign out in front of the ranch. Barbara had a Mexican worker, Manuel who lived on the ranch with his family. They invited us to a Mexican fiesta one night as they were celebrating the birthday of his son. It was nice to get a chance to speak a bit of Spanish again although I can feel it disappearing quicker than I expected from my vocabulary. I think I will need to join a Spanish course upon my return to Oz in order for it not to disappear completely.

We enjoyed being in a country setting and were surprised how remote the ranch felt although it was just outside of LA. The ranch was situated in a canyon in the Angeles National Forest and when we weren't working we would go on day hikes on the trails in the area. It was a really relaxed, healthy lifestyle we had there. Pure and simple. It was also nice being around animals again, whether it was the horses, the donkey, the cat Mango that came to sleep with us in the cabin at night or the black labradors Willy and Holly, Holly that was just a big pup and waaay to excitable and Willy the older dog who after spending his whole life among horses now thought of himself as one and if you squatted down over his back he would start walking and grunting like a horse! There was also lots of chickens running around freely, some nights a coyote would come and take one and you would hear the commotion.

While we were here we contacted the shipping company to get an update on our bikes. They got back to us to tell us that the bikes were being held up in customs as they hadn't been given all the required paperwork from us; they needed a temporary import form that we should have been given in Miami but never received. Now they needed to create a temporary import and then cancel it straight away in order for the bikes to leave the country...bureaucracy! All this meant that the bikes never went on the ship they were meant to go on and so shipping became delayed. After all the times we have shipped the bikes, more often than not shipping is a headache. It just never seems to go after plan. Who knows when they will arrive in Australia as we do need them there for transport.

After two weeks the day had come when we had to leave the ranch and head to the airport for our flight back to Australia. Our looong flight that is. We had booked the tickets back in Colombia in October and had forgot how many hours of travel we had to do. Turns out it was around 35 hours! We could have chosen a much shorter direct flight from LA to Sydney but that would have been much more expensive and we simply couldn't afford to choose. Our flight route was: LA-Tokyo-Singapore-Sydney. I'll never do that again. It was horrible.

We landed in Sydney in the evening on January 16, feeling a little worse for wear after the long flight. Most of Mark's family was waiting for us in the arrival hall with hugs and kisses. It was absolutely fantastic to see them all again, all these people we had been missing for so long on the road, and we all went back to Uncle Colin's house near the beach where we spent the weekend eating, drinking, sailing on Sydney Harbour and swimming at Bronte. The sun was shining and the water was warm and I thought to myself: life is pretty good still...

As I sit writing this I am sitting on the couch in Mark's sisters home. We are back to reality and it's a strange feeling knowing that this is the very last blog post on Handful Of Throttle. The blog that I never wanted to start with but ended up enjoying to write. So, I feel that now is the appropriate moment for me to sum up the trip. To write a grand and poetic ending... But how do you summarise 4 years of travel? Two months shy of 4 years to be exact. 200 weeks and 3 days or 1403 days or 33,672 hours. That's a long time to be on the road. Some might even say life-changing. Well, yes and no. Mark and I are in many ways much the same people we were when we left, yet in other ways we are forever changed...

"Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey".

Our thoughts on life and how we see our future has changed. We both have new goals that we want to achieve (for once non-travel related) and we are going to give it our best to make it happen. The trip definitely contributed to this "clarity of mind" by putting everything into perspective and making us realise that we are the creators of our own luck and designers of our life. So why make life an average one? Why not try to make it the best life we can get? We already made one dream come true: to travel on our motorcycles around the world. Now we can tick that one off the list, it's time for the next dream.

I want to finish this blog by sending out a huge thank you to all the great and amazing people we met on the trip. You changed our trip for the better and made us see the world through someone else.
I have learnt that the word 'Stranger' can so quickly turn to 'Friend'. People whom we would have probably never socialised with at home, unexpectedly became our comrades on the road. For when we travel, we become free to be who we really are. We start to live by a different set of rules somehow and all the irrelevant clutter that we worry about at home disappears and after a while living on the road we just...are.

The challenge for now for Mark and I is to adjust to "normal life" although I'm not so sure I know what that means anymore. One thing is for sure, travel is in our blood now and we will never stop travelling. And we will stay true to the motorbike as our mode of transport because travelling in a car is like watching a movie but travelling on a bike is like being in the movie.

Have a nice day.

The Handful Of Throttle team - Mark & Sanne

List of countries visited:
  1. Australia
  2. East timor
  3. Indonesia
  4. Malaysia
  5. Singapore
  6. Thailand
  7. Laos
  8. Cambodia
  9. Nepal
  10. India
  11. Pakistan
  12. Iran
  13. Turkey
  14. Greece
  15. Bulgaria
  16. Romania
  17. Hungary
  18. Austria
  19. Italy
  20. Slovenia
  21. Croatia
  22. Bosnia-Herzegovina
  23. Switzerland
  24. Monaco
  25. Spain
  26. Andorra
  27. France
  28. Belgium
  29. Luxembourg
  30. Holland
  31. Germany
  32. Denmark
  33. United Kingdom
  34. Argentina
  35. Brazil
  36. Uruguay
  37. Chile
  38. Bolivia
  39. Peru
  40. Ecuador
  41. Colombia
  42. USA

Mark cleaning the pool in Tujunga Canyon

Me raking leaves in front of our cabin

Looking up Tujunga Canyon

Mark with Willy and Holly

Mark getting a ride from Willy

Then it's my turn!

Young Lipizzaner horse (they don't turn white until they are older)

And donkey

The "king" of the ranch - the stallion "Gunner"

Our house cat - Mango

 Hiking in Tujunga Canyon

Mark driving the tractor in one of the arenas

Barbara with Holly and Skippy

Waiting for our flight in LAX

Back in Australia!

Good times!