We’ve now been back from our six month tour of Eastern Europe, Israel, Jordan, Cuba and 110 miles of hiking around the Mont Blanc Massif for almost a month and are already discussing whats next. Funny how things go as one minute we’re talking about staying put and buying a house, and the next minute trying to decide which part of this amazing planet is next on our agenda.

Europe and Middle East route map 2015/16

Europe and Middle East route map 2015/16

The Tour du Mont Blanc, TMB for short, was as amazing as we’d expected – not as dramatic as the ‘W’ Circuit in Patagonia, but an awesome experience all the same. It was also the start of my demise, upon which my newly operated on hip began torturing me whenever I put one foot in front of the other. As I sit here in Kerikeri, New Zealand writing this update I’m down to just 3 more days of misery before a cortisone shot hopefully provides some reprieve. Just realized that a chunk of this update is missing, and that I forgot to mention that the blogger, Wayne, is currently at the back end of a three week trip to visit family in New Zealand, whilst the money earner, Andrea, is at home with her family in Kentucky, United States. So, heading back to our current status… We had a fun wedding in the south of England, a fulfilling hike through France, Italy and Switzerland, followed by two months spent driving through the Balkans, the former Yugoslavia, and many other European countries east of Germany. Two months allowed us only enough time to skim the surface but we’re both extremely happy with the sights we visited and how the weather gods shone down on us for the most part.

With a brief spell in England for Christmas we headed to Scotland for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay new years celebrations (see post Hogmanay), something which I had wanted to do for many years. It didn’t disappoint but we were glad to be leaving for warmer climates. A direct flight whisked us off to Cyprus for a week, before arriving back in one of my favorite countries, Turkey, for a few weeks. We had already spent time neck deep in a vibrant Istanbul so on this occasion we headed straight for the Mediterranean region, appropriately known as the Turquoise Coast for its amazing blue waters. From Turkey we flew to Israel, then overlanded to Jordan and back to Israel. We felt extremely welcome in this part of the Middle East and are very excited about heading back for further exploration.

Last minute changes to our itinerary took us back to England for a few days, then over to Frankfurt to connect with a flight to Cuba. Andrea wasn’t so enthralled about visiting Cuba but I had to pay it a visit before President Obama’s new policies opened up the floodgates, destroying a country still stuck in a 1950’s time warp. For now, regular flights are still not available so to return back to the US we had to pay exorbitant prices and fly through the Bahamas, and on into Fort Lauderdale.

Now we get to hang out in Kentucky for six weeks or so before another grand departure! We’re thinking of driving north for a mountain bike race in upstate New York before visiting some of the east coast of the United States and Canada. Hopefully we’ll also have time to get to Churchill in Winnipeg to see Beluga Whales and Polar Bears in the Hudson Bay. Watch this space….

Facts from the Field
Favorite country: Cuba, for its diversity
Least favorite city: Skopje, Macedonia
Photogenic island: Santorini, Greece
Photogenic city: Venice, Italy and Havana, Cuba
Most expensive coffee: Vienna, Austria
Saddest moments: Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, and Gallery 11/07/95, about the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia & Herzegovina
Best locals: Turkish – persistent but very friendly and helpful
Favorite food and drink: Israeli hummus and Bosnian coffee

Quick Quotes
Greece: Cats and their love of them, Figs and our love of them
Montenegro: Two speeding tickets in 2 hours in Kotor! 63kph in a 40, then 112kph in an 80 – 35 Euros per ticket
Bulgaria: Immigration officer at the Bulgaria/ Macedonia border thought I was bribing him when I accidentally left a 50c coin in the vehicle registration wallet – pulled me to one side and showed his displeasure, either at the lack of money in the bribery attempt or the fact that I was doing it at all.

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