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Charlie and Steve's Excellent Adventure

Tasting the world one meal at a time

Top 20 – The world 10-1

 There were but two options: create a theatrical interlude about the awesomeness of the long awaited top 10, or go with enough smugness to make David Beckham gag. Lets go with option two; holy crap we did some awesome stuff. 
 Grab something alcoholic if you can, take a moment and get ready to hate the hell out of us because for one final drum-rolling moment we’re clinging still to the airy heights of professional traveller indulgence before it all comes crashing down, oh how sweet the fall will be for ye the green eyed masses. 

10 – Mendoza, Argentina: 

  Talking of indulgence, there was always going to be a time in this trip where we tested once and for all if it was possible to survive on red wine and decadent food alone. The answer definitively is no, and we apologise to Argentinian plumbing; humbly and sincerely. Joined by Kate and Sophie, team Melbourne, we ate, we drank and we were introduced to a slice of the good life, Argentinian style. Lunches among the vines, stunning scenery and friendships forged in hysterically inappropriate childish giggling; Mendoza you won us, and we truly do need to apologise. 

9 – Estancias, Salta and San Javier, Argentina: 

  For a country that can drive you absolutely mental at times, Argentina really does come through with the goods as well. Sayta ranch and La Constancia were two grand haciendas that introduced us to a slice of latin life we’ll never forget. Sayta’s beating heart of gaucho lifestyle contrasted with La Constancia’s yesteryear opulence and grace, shared with our mates Laf and Barnaby, were not only a travel must but probably the defining element that elevates Argentinian culture for us, two big houses to hang a national identity on and oh it fits so well. 

8 – Angkor, Cambodia: 

  No introduction necessary, the great city of Angkor reaches far more than just the famed Angkor Wat. Once the greatest city in the world we were not only dragged back into another time but elevated to the peak of that time. The lasting seed of Angkor, more than any other ancient relic, is our awareness of where our worlds real power was. History as we westerners know it has a distinctly European tint but among the stones of great Angkor that history so swiftly had amore global rewrite. 

7 – Africa Safari, Botswana: 

  Us both in a car for three weeks touring wild Africa. Comical, disastrous and relationship testing are terms that come to mind; unforgettable is another. From the hospitality of Heidi and Herman, team Botswana, to the stories of two childhoods that were told a world apart, the road trip in our poor bakke, Simba, gees we thrashed that car, was equally an introspective journey as it was a worldly one for us. Elephants, hyenas and hippos invaded our camps, while Nxai pans saw three cheetah only overshadowed by the best tantrum in history on the road trip that felt like us against the world. And we totally won.   

6 – Havana, Cuba: 

  What to say about Havana, what words to put to a place that exists outside the bounds of comparison with any other city. There’s not much to say really, Havana screams near the top of this years experiences on it’s individuality, not it’s greatness alone. Waffly social ideals and pinko left wing hippie truisms are cafe conversations no more. To quote Anthony Kiedis “If you have to ask, you’ll never know”. In truth Havana can only be described to someone who has been to Havana; but for how long will this remain the case, did we catch the final glimmers of a gem lost to the world forever? 

5 – Catedral Reserve, Argentina: 

  A slight confession, we like the outdoors, we like mountains and we like experiencing the wild world. We’ve already rated the Patagonian Andes in this list and such is the immensity of Catedral reserve that it simply needs not only another entry but one of it’s own. Three days of walking for these outdoor junkies took us into mountains, glorious lakes, great sights and staying in some of the most idyllic locations on earth. What makes it special though is the sense of escape into the mountains; we didn’t so much just kiss the wild, we gave it a good long snog and it was all we’d hoped. 

4 – San Pedro De Atacama, Chile: 

  If Catedral reserve was the long pash with the wilderness, San Pedro De Atacama is finding out that the wilderness has a really kinky side; and we liked it. Weird and unbelievable earthly phenomenons are daily playthings for the Atacama desert and at the hub of it all is the little town of San Pedro. We’ll probably never go to anywhere quite as disorienting and diverse in terms of what our planet is capable of, so for taking already admiring views of our planet and making them so much more, San Pedro De Atacama is not only a place we’ll likely never see a comparison to, it’s a place that showed us we were comparing the wrong things all this time. 

3 – Cenote Diving, Tulum, Mexico: 

  In a similar vein to San Pedro, scuba diving in cenotes also expanded what we thought was possible in our world. Beneath the rocky terrain of the Yucatan peninsular there lies a subterranean water world the stuff of science fiction and Peter Pan like childhood wonder. Plonking through the crust of this earth you fly in water so clear our vision never got lost in blue, we could fly through clouds and touch the sky below without hallucinogenic cactus root. The memories we will carry forever are placed in perspective only by the bare scratch we made on the network of amazement that lies there; the world is a wonderful place above, on top and down below as well.

2 – The Gibbon Experience, Laos: 

  How do you top the mind bending trips we’ve already put on this list? It’s not easy to split the difference but flying through the forest and living over 40m up in the treetops is a good start. Like the mind expansion of San Pedro, the special secret of Havana, the unbelievability of cenotes and with a dash of the wild just like Catedral reserve, The Gibbon Experience has it all. What is has that the others don’t however is great food, zipped to our door on cables high in the trees. It’s the little things that make the big things that bit bigger. 

1 – Rob and Greg, Vietnam: 

  Possibly a contentious one this one, an experience or a collection of experiences, and no we didn’t go to a swingers party. In truth the road trip through Vietnam was over about five weeks but it’s not the sum of the parts that makes it the single greatest, coolest, most memorable thing we did this year, it’s how the road trip elevated all these parts. Many times we screamed or howled into our masks for the sheer uncontainable awesomeness of the ride. We had feisty affairs with our two bikes, Rob and Greg, we got off the track and those bikes carried us closer to true cultural experiences than ever before. For simply having it all and making us feel more alive, more like kids again than ever before the two temperamental moles, Rob and Greg, are our number one; and two. Boys we really hope you found good homes, we miss you.

Top 20 – The world 20-11

 How do you take an action packed and wildly diverse year and pick just the twenty best things from it? Well you drink copious amounts of sake and beer and just start taking notes of where the conversation goes. All the highlights from this year are listed in each countries Top-10 list (search for Top-10 in the menu) so it’s not so much how cool something was, the global list needs to be viewed from a broader context; here’s the list of the unforgettable, perspective changing and simply immense slices of adventure that make the adventure such an excellent one.

20 – Sapporo Dinner, Sapporo, Japan: 

  Lets start with a bit of perspective, probably the best meal we have ever had on a journey centred around food only just scrapes in at number 20. The reason it’s here at all goes beyond just being a sensational experience, the restraint used in flavour highlighted for me particularly that more is not always more. The night with Ken and Aki was amazing but most of all, for an obsessive home cook, I view food just that little differently after this meal. 

19 – Cotopaxi, Ecuador: 

  In a year of firsts, most of them are pretty clearly good or bad immediately, for me personally this was not the case on Volcan Cotopaxi in Ecuador. A confidence shattering sense of defeat and helplessness was my first experience of succumbing to altitude. From being forced to confess failure like I’ve never had to before the world was instantly viewed from a different window. It’s easy to say how humbling grand nature can be, a little harder when it genuinely humbles you. There’s a feeling in my gut that I will never forget, a negative that has become a positive only after climbing out of the proverbial hole. 

18 – Stellenbosch, South Africa: 

  Gorgeous, elegant, historical; all great qualities that make a place interesting but similarly applicable to many wine regions of the world. So why is Stellenbosch special? Beyond the great food, the wine, the gardens and the glorious mountain scenery lies a university, a youth culture and a progressiveness that from all we saw, leads the way in this nation still so divided. Among the many wealthy hallmarks of that social disparity comes a universal attitude that dispelled that social inequality better than most places and all the more powerful that it comes from the wealth that presided over South Africa’s darkest times. 

17 – Choeng Ek and S21, Phnom Penh, Cambodia: 

  Where do you start with the Killing Fields? Undoubtedly our most invasive descent into the horrific capabilities of our species. Visiting both S21 and Choeng Ek is immediately unforgettable and forever changes a little part of anyone who cares to look with open eyes and open heart. Purely unforgettable, utterly faith crushing and outraging to the point of sadness describes every one of the approximately 2,000,000 lives lost in the reign of the Khmer Rouge while the world watched and has since not learnt from the cost of inaction. 

16 – Muay Thai, Thailand: 

  We saw Muay Thai, or Thai kickboxing, twice in Thailand and although the spectacle was intense and exciting it’s the cultural significance and national identity that make it so much more. Seeing small statured young boys and girls morph into what can only be described as godlike avatars of fierce destruction and rage is not only breathtaking but inspiring. We’re all capable of so much more than we think we are and in the emotion filled ring a national identity is typified so eloquently. 

15 – Patagonian Andes, Argentina: 

  We’ve ben to Patagonia before, we know how wondrous it is and this visit only hammered home what a special part of the world it is. From thought provoking Tierra del Fuego that Charles Darwin described as ‘eternal nothingness’ to Perito Moreno glacier, into El Chalten and Cerro Fitz Roy over days of the great Pampas Patagonia is far more than just sights. A place to think, a time to reflect and a lesson about how great our planet is are all the gifts of just being in Patagonia.  

14 – Fuji San, Japan: 

  From one mountainous region to one mountain that defines a region, we summited Fuji San with our good friend Aki. Rarely do big ticket tourist hopes live up to their hype, even less so do they obliterate those expectations. More than any other moment of an action packed month in Japan, the first rays of sunrise from the top of Fuji San will be our memory of Japan.

13 – Vic Falls/ Zambezi, Zimbabwe: 

  One of the three great falls of the world; you bet it is. Victoria falls are the highest of the great falls, towering high above Niagra and Iguazu to fuel the great Zambezi. We took on the wildest commercial rafting exercise on earth and quite literally tasted a global phenomenon; well Charlie did at least after being tossed out of the raft amid the churning water. In just a few days our world as we knew it became that bit wilder, bit more ferocious and a whole lot more wonderful. 

12 – Valparaiso NYE, Chile: 

  Just to remind us that there’s more to the world than being wilderness junkies there’s Valparaiso. An epic night with team Poland, team Melbourne and friends will go down in history as the wildest NYE night of our lives, missing the greater than 4.0 earthquake is testament to that. Take the celebration of them all and put it into one of the most infectious urban environments on earth and the artistic, edgey Valparaiso calls to us still. There’s good money on another NYE in Valparaiso one day such was the perfect dash of magic that was a Valpo NYE. 

11 – G8 Cycling, Yunnan, China: 

  From a socially conflicting time in China there is nothing conflicting about the G8 cycling team, the four gays and the four grannies created an experience far beyond the most populous nation on earth. We started as eight riders but as personal milestone after individual barrier was smashed we rode triumphantly, nine days later, back into Jing Hong with eight stories of different wording yet similar endings: we did it, we made it and the world now has eight people with a common bond we’ll never forget.   

What you’d rather be seeing – World Top 50 Photographs [25-1]

It is with great pride that I publish these photographs and I am quietly pleased with the years results. I’d love to hear from you which of the top 50 is your favourite (reply in the comments below or contact me directly).

Again I’d like to thank Steve for his patience and assistance to capture these photographs.

I’ve split the photos into categories:

  • People of the world
  • The great outdoors
  • The urban jungle

Part two or photographs 26-50 was published last Sunday.


Charlie Winn

Geisha’s in selfie pose, back streets of Kyoto, Japan.

Charlie Winn

Children of Yunnan enjoying the photographer’s attention, China.

Charlie Winn

Mechanic fixing our bikes, Hué, Vietnam.

Charlie Winn

Focused Muay Thai boxer, Lumphini stadium, Bangkok, Thailand.

Charlie Winn

Mothers and their children, Yunnan, China.

Charlie Winn

Mothers enjoying the sun, Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Charlie Winn

Muay Thai boxers, Chiang Mai, Thailand.



Charlie Winn

Altiplano lakes, near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

Charlie Winn

Giraffes, Naxi Pan, Botswana.

Charlie Winn

Couples shrine, Ise, Japan.


Charlie Winn

Scooters appearing out of the fog, Ba Vi national park, Vietnam.

Charlie Winn

Self portrait and Steve, Phoung Nha national park, Vietnam.

Charlie Winn

Elephant portrait, Senyati, Kasane, Botswana.

Charlie Winn

Steve watching the sunset, Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia.

Charlie Winn

Deliveries, Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia.


Charlie Winn

Racing home at sunset, Okavango swampa, Botswana.

Charlie Winn

Guacho preparing the horses, Sayta, near Salta, Argentina.



Charlie Winn

Local butchers, Cuenca, Ecuador.

Charlie Winn

Back streets of Havana, Cuba.

Charlie Winn

Ho Chi Minh’s statue overseeing a modern Saigon, Vietnam.

Charlie Winn

Sunday morning streets of Valparaiso, Chile.

Charlie Winn

Playing with the pigeons, Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Charlie Winn

Good evening! Back streets of Havana, Cuba.

Charlie Winn

Hoi An’s old town after sunset, Vietnam.

Charlie Winn

Deer amongst the stone lanterns of Nara, Japan.


To see previously published country based best photographs, check out “What You’d Rather Be Seeing” category.

Top 10 – Countries

 What’s better, an apple or an orange? That impossible question sums up what it’s like to try and determine what country is better or worse than another, invariably the designation is simple difference instead of any sort of linear ranking. So removing any commentary on an overall determination of good or bad, we’ll go with a ranking of what sort of perspective were we shown from our time in any one country. Excepting Peru, every country we visited set us free with a warm heart but some inspired affection just that little more than others. So from the point of view of two ‘professional travellers’, here’s the top ten countries of the excellent adventure. 

10 – MEXICO: 

  Mexico has to be here somewhere and it’s fair to say it’s probably the harshest done by of this list. Our first country of the adventure got us onto our ‘travel legs’ and set us up to see the world. Some of the best food, greatest history, warmest vibe and most unbelievable experiences in cenote diving sees Mexico at the low end of the top ten probably mostly due to our stage of travel more than this fantastic country itself. It may be number ten here but it’s probably number one for countries we want to go back to. 


  The country we spent the most time in also showed us one of the broadest ranges of experience, from the great wild of Patagonia, thought provoking Ushuaia, fiery Cafayate, drunken Mendoza, cultural Sayta, booming Buenos Aires and more. Ten weeks was a long time in Argentina and although the famously relaxed nature bordered on infuriating at times and the food was pretty one dimensional, the hospitality was warm, the sights were grand and it’s still one of the very few countries that can see ten weeks of travel and still leave more to be seen. 


  A perfect little nut, that’s how to describe Cambodia. From heart wrenching history, grand history, pristine islands and above all stoic, smiling and warm people, Cambodia has it all. Not so long ago Cambodia was an utterly failed state and although the economy has much rebuilding to do Cambodia is poised perfectly between blossoming new world positivity for a brighter future and warm humility of a people who have their priorities in very good order. We saw none of ‘scambodia’ that some people talk of, maybe we’ve just been on the road long enough to spot the sharks, we just left wanting to give this brave, honest little nation a big hug. 


  Like Cambodia, there’s something about a small country that’s overshadowed by the tourist reputation of a neighbour, Botswana is a true gem. With the strongest currency in all of Africa, Botswana is far from the troubled, racially divided or outright dangerous cliche of other parts of Africa and with natural wonders by the truckload Botswana remains a gem that needs to go on many peoples lists; not to mention ‘team Botswana’ Heidi And Herman who made the visit all the more than it otherwise would be. On top of it all there’s a population as dashing, confident, warm and downright sexy as any other; Botswana, you got swagger, you got flare, you’ve just got it.

6 – NEPAL: 

  The poorest country in Asia and one of the most challenged of any in the world, Nepal truly is a travellers dream despite all this. The Himalayas tend to define Nepal in a global conscience and in truth they’re enough to get Nepal into this top ten alone. Add to the mix an amazing food clash between India and Tibet, a gritty captivating capital in Kathmandu and a lively culture that typifies the idea of escape from a developed world and Nepal is another one extremely high on the list of countries we simply must return to. 

5 – CUBA: 

  If Botswana has swagger, then they might possibly have learned it from the Cubans. Havana is possibly the most enlivening city we’ve ever been to with architecture as odd as it is grand, streetscapes that make Paris look tame, a music scene that; well simply has no comparison and a population that defines sexy style. It’s an amazing place to visit before you even consider the time warp. Locked off from the world for so long, Cuba is all vintage cars, retro suave and most of all, no internet. Think about it for a moment, now imagine visiting a real life place that exists outside of the imaginable. Yep, we’d go back to Cuba in two shakes of a maraca. 


  From a range of countries that offer massive shifts in perspectives there’s Ecuador that in comparison seems relatively standard. Less than a decade ago you could say that Ecuador was the basket case of latin America, but in a short time Ecuador is not only on the up, it’s booming. positivity abounds, the famed latin dangerousness is barely perceptible and alongside the avenue of volcanoes that simply need to be more well known, Ecuador has it all. On top of all this, an old traditional way of life is dearly retained while Ecuador bucks the somewhat tacky latin trend with a huge amount of style shown up by great bars, restaurants and architecture to compliment the greatness of the Andes and the Amazon. For how long will this little gem remain hidden?

3 – JAPAN: 

  The one country that was stamped on this list by me from the beginning was Japan, the country that created an offensive range of influences upon my younger years and I guess I’m not alone. Undoubtedly the best food in the world for this year, Japan also offers a fine balance of alternative culture with unbelievable convenience. Travelling Japan can at times be a little one dimensional, a little too organised but when you’re this beautiful you can pretty much get away with anything. 

2 – CHILE: 

  The one country of this adventure that we both had been to before and it was a no brainer to go back. Undoubtedly the greatest range of experiences, just edging out its neighbour Argentina, Chile gathers pretty much everything you could ever want from travel and effectively scrubs out just about all of the negatives. Outdoors from Patagonia to the Atacama desert, cities like Santiago and Valparaiso, super friendly people and a perfect balance of a few rough edges with an organised and motivated people has Chile permanently on the ‘must visit’ list. We’ve been twice and we’ll go again. 


  In truth this top spot came down to a battle between just two, Chile and Vietnam. While Chile possibly remains a more diverse travel proposition we can’t go past two main things: some of the best food in the world from possibly the greatest food culture on earth, and that road trip. Not to downplay Vietnam at all, it’s an unquestionably immense nation to visit, yet the number one spot on this adventure was sealed by two boys, Rob and Greg. Our shitbox bikes we bought in Saigon carried us all the way to Hanoi via 21 stops at the mechanics, and into a sense of adventure that rarely exists beyond wide eyed childhood. Amazing food, scenery, food, coffee, people, food and two trusty bikes rode, broke down then rode again through Vietnam all the way to the number one spot.

  So there’s the long awaited top ten countries. Does this ranking fit with any perspectives you might have? More importantly, what would be your number one?

What you’d rather be seeing – World Top 50 Photographs [50-26]

What an amazing year, it truly has been an excellent adventure and I really enjoyed dedicating time to taking photos and improving my photography. Selecting the top 50 best photos had to be done over many coffees, beers and sakes.

A big thank you goes to Steve for not only helping selection but lending his expertise to editing, pushing me creatively and generally being my photography assistant all year.

I’ve split the photos into categories:

  • People of the world
  • The great outdoors
  • The urban jungle

The top 25 photos will be published on Thursday 24th September.


Charlie Winn

Student monk, Buddhist monestary, Upper Pisang, Nepal.

Charlie Winn

Muay Thai boxer between rounds, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Charlie Winn

Cambodian students taking the mandatory sefie, Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Charlie Winn

Steve being prepared to zipline across the jungle, Gibbon Experience, Laos.

Charlie Winn

Guarding the main Hindu temple in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Charlie Winn

Aerobics early on a Sunday morning, Miraflores, Lima, Peru.

Charlie Winn

Serving maracuja juice, Quito market, Ecuador.


Charlie Winn

Charlie galloping, Sayta Ranch, near Salta, Argentina.

Charlie Winn

Zebra on the Nxai Pan, Botswana.

Charlie Winn

Pigeon and lone girl, Wat Chaiwatthanaram, Ayutthaya, Thailand.

Charlie Winn

Climbing Volcan Purace, Colombia.

Charlie Winn

Watching the sunrise, east gate, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Charlie Winn

Paradise cave, Phong Nha, Vietnam.

Charlie Winn

Shinto priest in the rain, Ise Geku shrine, Japan.

Charlie Winn

Sunset from Station 7.9, Fuji San, Japan.

Charlie Winn

Hiking between Tsumago and Magome, Japan.

Charlie Winn

Steve in riding gear, Phong Nha, Vietnam.

Charlie Winn

Sunset behind the floating gate, Miyajima, Japan.


Charlie Winn

Sunset behind the plaza de armas, Cuenca, Ecuador.

Charlie Winn

Back streets of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam.

Charlie Winn

Feeding the pigeons, Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Charlie Winn

Steve manning the grill, Hoi An, Vietnam.

Charlie Winn

Girls in kimonos, Tokyo, Japan.

Charlie Winn

Sunset, Miraflores, Lima, Peru.

Charlie Winn

Food stall, Dalat, Vietnam.

To see previously published country based best photographs, check out “What You’d Rather Be Seeing” category.

Top 10 – The World…Train Smashes

 As much fun as it is throwing out expressions like ‘bit jealous’ and ‘While you were working’ this travel gig is not always plain sailing. It could be absolute train smashes or it could be just restoring the balance; either way, here’s our top ten list of what went wrong, didn’t compare to expectations or was just a plain farce. So pack away the voodoo dolls of us two, grab a big bowl of schadenfreude and tuck in because you’re about to see the not so fun parts of this excellent adventure.  

10 – Pedal taxi in Havana:

 Oh how green we were, a little funny one to start. Although dealing with Cuba made us bully proof for the rest of the trip there was one guy that got one over us. Pedal taxi to the bus terminal, sounds like great fun; wrong. Broke my bag, ran late and when he got to a hill he dropped us off saying the bus station was just at the next corner and the hill was too steep. The bus stop wasn’t at the corner. Much swearing and a taxi later, lesson learned.

9 – Sierra Norte:

 Tough call this one, Sierra Norte near Oaxaca in Mexico remains undoubtedly an amazing and beautiful place; for other people who visit. Initially it was just the weather, clouds came in to limit our limitless view to about a ten metre limit, delightful. Add to the mix a bit of ‘wash your hands please’ food poisoning and I was on my knees on the side of the trail vomiting before a days hike only to get harassed by ladies at the next stop that insisted on rubbing me all over with alcohol and crushed tomatoes. Expectations missed. 

8 – Chinese ‘culture’:

 Don’t start me on China. Oddly enough with the cycling troupe of the G8 we had a sensational time so this is not so much a travel fail at all but an observational one. What is a fail is the train-smash that has been left of a historically immense culture, largely at the hands of the one and only Mao. Yes, the cliches of mainland China are sadly true, enough said. 

7 – Argentinian Coffee:

 Described by our mate Barnaby as ‘dirty water from a mans armpit’ Argentina takes the gong for butchering coffee, or indeed anything ingestible; allegedly. Possibly the most skilful destruction of a great drink imaginable, it’s genuinely difficult to understand the gastronomic intelligence it requires to make coffee become whatever that drink should now be called. To the contrary we found one amazing cafe in Buenos Aires, LatteTe, to stand out from the universally comical disaster that is Argentinian ‘coffee’.

6 – Bogota:

 Some people have a great time in Bogota, those people aren’t us. Horrid food, comical transport and a pretty lacklustre old town that didn’t live up to the ‘great latin city’ hype at all. The most exclusive suburb in latin america felt like a shopping mall, the ‘must see’ park is basically one city block of pretty standard flower beds. But the bonus is that there’s heaps of graffiti, it’s really dangerous and drug induced disasters line the footpaths liberally. Total winner.

5 – Bus trip to San Christobal:

 All pretty lightweight I hear you say, well up to now, yes. The night bus from Oaxaca to San Christobal in Mexico was a genuine travel nightmare. On yet another one of the Mexican stomach bug weight loss vomit-a-thons I thought I was in the clear. About 11pm called for a dash to the bus toilet for a vomit, delightful at any time. Fishing around in the dark it’s hands all over the toilet surface to find it and let fly. Vomit done it occurs to me that the light wasn’t on because the toilet was out of order; no water, no flushing, kneeling on a rocking urine drenched bus floor with 12 hours still to go. Round two vomit at 1am was not fun either; what I would have given to be at work. 

4 – Chobe National Park:

 One of the big three for this trip was Chobe national park. Memories of Charlie’s childhood mixed with safari road trip and camping in the wild, what could possibly go wrong? Rain, rain and more rain; roads like oceans and getting bogged four times looking for animals that were scattered far and wide on account of the abundant water. Driving through the park ended up being nothing short of a test of the marriage that we only barely survived. Chobe is no doubt a wonderful frontier but years of hype came tumbling down like an out of season African downpour.

3 – Jo’burg train trip:

 What could possibly make an old school overnight train ride in a sleeper carriage anything other than good fun? Sharing that overnight in the sleeper carriage with a vile racist Afrikaner man, that’s what. We were quite looking forward to the train ride too, setting up in the old train to see the countryside sounded like such fun and a great alternative to an overnight bus. For the sheer sense of off the rails failure, the Jo’burg train trip smashes into a white supremacist smash of the highest order. 

2 – Thurong La Pass:

 Another of the big three big things for this trip to make the shame list, the Annapurna circuit and the Himalayas in general hold an esteemed place in our hearts, and fairly enough still do. Little did we know that nearly all of our ten day hike was shared by a road bringing industry, hydro electric plants and worst of all, day trippers to our ideals of a wild escape. Oh, and then there was an earthquake that sent us five days back down that road for my second hiking vomit day without even seeing Thurong la pass. We still love the Himalayas and Nepal in general but this ranks pretty highly in terms of not going to plan. 

1 – Huanchaco Taxi Ride:

 Up till now it’s all disasters with a little ‘d’; yes I’m calling our Nepal earthquake experience a little disaster, not the disaster itself which is massive, just a little ‘d’ in terms of our travel fails. Any reader of this blog now knows what happened on November 27th 2014, the most terrifying experience we are ever likely to have. We’re able to joke now that being kidnapped in Peru is simply the quintessential latin travel experience but it’s no joking matter. The only time we ever thought of cancelling the trip to come home is an unquestioned number one. Add to this that the police and general public seem to know about it and don’t seem to care much at all; Peru, we don’t like you. 

Top 5’s – The World

 As this great adventure draws to an unbelievable close it’s time to start indulging in the very human habit of ranking and listing. The serious lists of ‘Best Country’, ‘Best experiences’ will soon be joined by ‘Greatest Train Smashes’ on a blog post near you. For now though there’s time still in Japan to stake a claim to some highlights so while the expert panel of esteemed judges, Charlie and I, lock ourselves in a world of food, hot springs and cultural delights, here’s the essentials for anyone planning a trip abroad.  

These lists are based on the time we had, in many ways it’s the numbers that came up after the dice stopped rolling with only little view to an attempted objective view. Weather, people we met or even our health affected our time making this unashamedly our list, not ‘the’ list. So all you South Africans don’t feel so upset, there’s always another world cup.

5- Trung Nguyen, Buon Ma Thuot, Vietnam

4- Ki-Bok, Tulum, Mexico

3- Workshop, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

2- Wonderful, Santiago, Chile

1- Ristr8to, Chiang Mai, Thailand

5- Nepal

4- Mexico

3- Vietnam

2- Thai

1- Japan

5- Luang Prabang, Laos

4- Cape Town, South Africa

3- Buenos Aires, Argentina 

2- Santiago, Chile

1- Havana, Cuba

5- Whiskey, Japan

4- Stellenbosch Wine, South Africa

3- Vietnamese phin coffee, Vietnam

2- Pisco Sour, Peru/ Chile

1- Cuban Rum, Cuba

5- Volcan Purace, Popoyan, Colombia

4- Parque Huerquehue, Pucon, Chile

3- Fuji San, Gotemba, Japan

2- Cerro Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Argentina

1- Catedral Reserve, Bariloche, Argentina

5- Japanese

4- Ecuadorians

3- Vietnamese

2- Chilenos

1- Lao

5- Mendoza, Argentina – with Sophie and Kate (Team Melbourne). 

4- Cuenca, Ecuador – Team Poland.

3- Bangkok, Thailand – Mark/Sparky.

2- Valparaiso, Chile, New Years – Team Poland and Team Melbourne.

1- Pucon, Chile, Christmas Day– Team France and Team Germany.

5- Flamenco Dancing, Havana, Cuba

4- Muay Thai Boxing, Chiang Mai and Bangkok, Thailand

3- Frida Kahlo House, Mexico City, Mexico

2- Dinner at Tung’s, La Phu, Vietnam

1- G8 Cycling, Yunnan, China

5- Fuji San, Gotemba, Japan

4- Horse Riding, Sayta, Argentina

3- The Himalayas, Annapurna, Nepal 

2- Cenote Diving, Tulum, Mexico

1- Safari, Moremi/Okavango Delta, Botswana

5- 3rd Bridge campsite, Moremi/Okavango Delta, Botswana

4- La Constancia, San Javier, Argentina (Laf and Barnaby)

3- Sayta Ranch, Argentina

2- Valparaiso House, Chile 

1- Tree house no.5, Huay Xia, Laos

 Lets just hope that Lonely Planet is reading this because it’s really what every adventurer must know. Put these names in your lists ladies and gentlemen because these things are what it’s all about and you won’t find many of them on a tourism brochure. So if you’re after a world tour of the highest calibre and need a couple of experienced tour guides; who you gonna call?

What you’d rather be seeing – Faces of the adventure

The people we met, those who travelled with us and the friends who made the trip to meet us are what made our adventure an excellent one.  A challenge of mine was to try to record the people, characters and lives of those who we interacted with.

I hope you enjoy viewing the photos as much as I did capturing them.

Isn’t the world filled with the most wonderful and amazing people?


Charlie Winn

Student monk in a Buddihist monastary, Upper Pisang, Nepal.

Charlie Winn

She was asking in Spanish why I wanted to photograph her…I think you agree with me she was worth it. San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Charlie Winn

A Muy Thai boxer who is as competitive as you’ll see. Bangkok, Thailand.

Charlie Winn

Stone faced guard offers more than just security, but a memorable image, Durbar Square, Kathmandu.

Charlie Winn

Alex, our boat driver keeping his spirits up as darkness descends on a broken down boat with hippo’s about, Okavango Delta, Botswana.

Charlie Winn

Some faces say it all, this knife sharpener expresses a sense of defeat that stopped me dead, Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Charlie Winn

the contradiction of Muay Thai, sweet innocent boys and girls channel gods and demons upon entering the ring, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Charlie Winn

Mrs Li, cooking puer tea leaves. Nanoshan, Yunan, China.

Charlie Winn

This lady who sold caramalised crab was having a little trouble understanding Steve. Nha Trang, Vietnam.


Charlie Winn

Muy Thai boxers conducting their pre bout ritual. Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Charlie Winn

Steve with his face mask on and riding his steed “Greg”. Phoing Nha , Vietnam.


Charlie Winn

Playing amongst the pigeons, Durbar Square, Kathmandu. About 2 weeks before the earthquake.

Charlie Winn

Geisha’s in the back streets of Kyoto, Japan – giving us their selfie pose.

Charlie Winn

As much as the adventure was about other people, it inevitably was about us, Steve and I hitting the road to see the world, Phong Nha national park, Vietnam.

Charlie Winn

The world is a big place as much as it is a small one as cultures from each country constantly reminded us, Nara, Japan.

Charlie Winn

Just days before Nepal was rocked by an earthquake Durbar square was a spiritual hub of shrines and temples. In a few days these smiles were nowhere to be found, Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal.


Charlie Winn

A Gaucho readies the horses before our ride. We lived close to this simple beautiful culture that revolves around horses for a few days, Sayta ranch, Argentina.

Charlie Winn

Exploring the market. Who doesn’t hope to find that hidden gem, a rare antique or the perfect gift, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Charlie Winn

In the ancient temples theres still time for a selfie. The old world persists with the new, Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Charlie Winn

Dad’s distracted and a moment is all this cheeky girl needs; those eyes. La Constancia, Argentina.

Charlie Winn

Life is never a stress. A boatmans day always has time for a smile and a cigarette, Tam Coc, Vietnam.

Charlie Winn

Home Life in rural Chinea sees extended families living together to harbour communal support. Life is tough and life is loving, Bada, China.

Charlie Winn

Why are the financially poorest people in the world so often the happiest? Yunnan, China.

Charlie Winn

Some people just have character that you can’t ignore, Santiago, Chile.

Charlie. Winn

Getting this maracuja juice is just so exciting, Quito, Ecuador.

Charlie Winn

Another moment just days before Durbar Square was reduced to rubble. Are these among the survivers or names on a memorial? Kathmandu, Nepal.

Charlie  Winn

Some people just love their job,: preparing Steve for a zipline, Xuay Xia, Laos.


Charlie Winn

A very racially divided view of Argentina in what is thought to be the most European country of Latin America: source of pride or shame? Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The Heist 4/4

Approximately 3am 29th Novmber 2014

 Activity surrounds us, with heads covered we are brought to our feet. There is now no action to take, hope is the only straw to reach for in this desperate scramble. All of the willpower to maintain focus, all of the piecing together of the puzzle now seems trivial. We’re about to be delivered to our well rehearsed fate and nothing in the last however long makes a jot of difference. 

 I had a hand leading me and now it’s gone. I freeze, I know that sighting faces is a certain pathway to brutality. I have no idea where I am going, face covered I’m temporarily lost. Not sure of the right thing to do I wave my hand calmly in front of me and make small shuffling steps to where I think I am meant to go. I must avoid looking around and yet I can’t appear to be insolent, I attempt a middle ground. It seems to work, I’m gently tugged in the right direction and shoved into a vehicle, this is not the taxi. With Charlie beside me again we pass muted words of encouragement, even chancing a gentle squeeze on the leg. Although this is going along as expected the peak in anxiety is unavoidable. We have been doing so well to maintain focus and we are still, but it’s not an easy task.

 This vehicle is bigger, cleaner and has soft new upholstery, we’re in a much nicer machine now, largely gone is the rank smell of violence we experienced earlier. Midway through the trip I feel something stab at my hand, the hand that was slammed into the door. I instantly recoil but am held firm; it doesn’t hurt, I’m being given something. The remaining credit cards, hope swells, confusion swirls and tears nearly well: nearly. The temptation to embrace relief is overwhelming but like the fear, we fight it off, now is not the time for emotion. 

 The road is bumpy as we travel for a short distance, who knows where in hell we are. The vehicle stops and the battle between control and anxiety rages still, we cannot lose it now. We’re out, we’re walking. This has to be the end, it has to, but what end? We’re going to be free, we must, repeated mantras rolling over inside me, the battering ram at the door is no longer fear but hope yet we must fight it off all the same. 

 My head still covered I am forced into a walk. I can’t see Charlie, I can’t see a thing, I just walk and focus on not tripping, anything to avoid commotion, we’re going to be ok. We’re going to survive, just make this all go smoothly, nothing to panic about. Insistent thoughts invade before the previous can dissolve, ideas tripping over each other in an exchange of thoughts that is just too fast to put into a coherent string.

 “Just keep walking.”

 The voice of an angel, my angel. Charlie is ahead of me and all I can think is that his voice is level, he’s not screaming and he’s confident enough to call an instruction quite loudly. Hard up under my arm I feel a jab, a bag is being tucked under my wing, I grasp it not for desire to retain a possession but to make no fuss. If Charlie is ahead and feels as though he can talk then that is where I am going, just don’t trip. My balance is a little hard to gather, the feeling of pressure on the left side of my head is immense but nothing is going to overcome me now, not after all this. In no time I’m beside Charlie and neither of us even need to say it, just keep walking. We chance a look ahead, a gun barrel straight lane flanked by an imposing brick wall on the right side and a trench on the left. Ahead a light, the irony is not lost. 

    With level strides we cary on for about 50m before we slow, still tight for words we launch into a hug. I await tears but we’re still infuriatingly not able. There is a still emptiness to this night that surrounds us, stillness with an all too sudden absence of smell and chaos. Deep orange incandescent lights dot our existence in mocking faux warmth marring the starry sky beyond, illuminating the dusty dirty tranquility we are delivered into. I now learn that on the march from the car Charlie had the gun to his back, his call coming soon after being pushed to freedom. It upsets me that in this most ebullient of circumstances we enforce restraint, we still have so much to do.

 Casting our eyes about we realise that we’re in just about the most dodgy neighbourhood imaginable, dirt, litter and graffiti covered fences more akin to prisons encompass family homes and we are not the big fish in this pond; these walls mockingly remind us that we are on the wrong side of them. A quick discussion determines that we need to walk backwards; the road ahead looks like a path to nowhere and I’m sure a little part of us just needs to make a decision of our own, so backwards we go. Trying to determine the direction of the night time glow, presumably Trujillo, we navigate a few desperate looking streets. In any other time we’d be terrified for just being here but now there’s a sense of invulnerability as if we’ve had taken from us all that can be taken for one night. 

 Finding a sealed road we set off left, to Trujillo we hope and as it seems, a man, woman and a dog, standing on the second floor of a partially built house. The absurdity is not lost on us, we know how ridiculous we must look, but we really don’t care, they probably have a pretty good idea what has just happened anyway. Gladly the Spanish holds up and we have a fairly fluent conversation, and, Trujillo is exactly the opposite direction. We thank them for their help and set off in the direction of the highway. We realise that we may see police as well, we’ve heard sirens all night and many not far away, none of which seemed to cause any concern whatsoever to our captors, corrupt police? We decide that if we are stopped we must feign tourist ignorance and just get to Trujillo, the elaborateness of our capture well supporting the possibility of corrupt police, who knows who is involved.

 Now on the main road we begin to walk. Trujillo is a long way but unsurprisingly a taxi is not an option. We walk, not yet able to entirely rejoice and embrace the atomic bomb of emotions just waiting for its chance to go off. We spy a bus, this will do. We flag it down but it’s not a passenger bus, it’s a corporate bus picking up night shift employees. It could be our pleads but I suspect that the driver took one look at our desperate attempts to look average and calm: we failed and we’re ushered onto the bus. Another passenger can clearly see our distress as I continue to hold a shirt to my head but I insist we’re ok, liberal splatters of blood over my clothing and head deliver the lie to my words. Our positivity is relative if not rational, we all know we’re anything but ok. I do venture to ask him the time, it’s 2:30am. 

 It shot by us in a confused moment but our raging battle has been for six hours. A sobering moment sweeps over us, the enormity of what we’ve just been through is still a flighty idea that we can’t entirely seize. We’re off the bus and thanking the driver, it’s three blocks to the Plaza de Armas, the main square of Trujillo and hopefully a hotel. In the dead of night we find a few scattered people in the plaza, a source of directions is all these other people are sadly reduced to in our minds. In luck we walk just to the next corner to find a posh hotel. Right now expensive means safe, just what we’re after. 

 As we pass from a night of dirty, smelly terror into the air conditioned shiny marble encrusted foyer our release is the definition of an endorphin rush. If the pearly gates of heaven were a real thing, they wouldn’t feel this good. There’s a short process of calling banks and changing some passwords, a distraction before the necessary. A shower has never felt so good. The stink, the insult begins to wash away with the scalding heat of purifying water. It’s close to 4am and sleep is not likely to visit us, but the plush pillow becomes not so much a luxury, it’s an anchor to normality, a token step in the journey back to ourselves.      

 And now, after a journey which seems too big for the time it was squeezed into; we finally allow ourselves an embrace with nothing in this universe to stop us. We have fought it for so long but now indeed is the time for emotion. We drink up the wanted human smell, an unspoken gift to each other to instantly erase the nights memories. Healing has just begun.

Those hours trapped,

In the minute rampant.

On stones scattered reckless,

Minutes build those bowers mighty.

 Indeed we are trapped in a minute rampant. Those stones scattered reckless, all the tiny choices that brought us to that taxi, those that were meant to dissolve into nothingness, but they didn’t. That minute rampant has consumed six hours of our life with the many ahead seem just fuel for its inferno. We now have a bower mighty, a bower for two, a shape on our landscape that we will likely carry forever, will it corrupt us or will it be an experience on which we grow? Surely the latter. Rare is it to witness a minute rampant taking shape, so often only entering consciousness long after inception, bower already built for better or for worse. We witness it now in all its intensity just happy to have more hours to feed to the flame.

Special thanks to Ola and Piotr, AKA team Poland who were there for us when a friendly face, a word, a hug and a smile was worth more then they could ever know.

The Heist 3/4

Approximately Midnight 28th November 2014

 And I thought whirlpools spiralled to the centre. Not this one, the chaotic mess we find ourselves in seems to be a constant, moving in some ways but the direction remains unknown, we’re just passengers here. The confusingly hopeful developments continue, we are brought some water, it looks to be our water bottle, a welcome generosity, our mouths are as dry as we can ever remember. As Charlie pulls a long drink a flash of concern floods me, drugging is all too common in South America so I refuse the water reluctantly. Paranoia is rife, I’m not urged to drink so we feel its safe, however I eye the bottle that has been left behind with some suspicion. 

 Another visit, another patchy interaction with our captors, they’re carrying the iPad and we can’t get anything of what they’re saying in rapid Spanish. These interactions are always frightening, the deliberately ever present handgun displayed with juvenile bravado as unsettling as it is infuriating. With our heads forced bowed we talk to the ground desperate to communicate correctly as I protect my very tender head fearful of another blow I might not be able to take. We regretfully say that we don’t understand, but this time we do. The demand echoes deeper than words can usually reach, this time in English.

“Are you gay?”

Punctuated by a disdainful jab of the knee into Charlie’s back we’re taut with a sudden paranoia that the relative peace we’ve discovered could be shattered into violence once more. We play dumb pretending to agree that we are just friends, it’s unclear how they have connected the dots but given access to all of our worldly possessions it wouldn’t be that hard, right now it’s also not important. With a small conversation between the captors it seems to be more of an opportunity to indulge in some fun than a risk to the civility; they’re definitely operating to a rehearsed plan. Through the hard fought clarity we have gained it seems that we are always just a breath away from a rapid descent into despair.

 Another scare precedes another agonising wait, this yo-yo of uncertainty is as disorienting as it is distressing, the battle to stay focused is relentless in its presence. And on, the cycle continues; another visit, another wave of uncertainty. This incarnation lays out another development though, this time the Spanish being delivered is slower and meant for our understanding, the credit cards are ok. The wave of relief is physical, our bodies release the barest amount of tension as a hand is presented for us to shake. Reluctantly, tentatively we shake hands uncertain that this most universal of gestures is in fact what it appears to be, an agreement. 

 Comforted? No. Maybe it takes longer but Stockholm syndrome is visiting another victim tonight, there is no relief, there is no empathy, I think repeatedly about sadistic physical abuse with any one of these guys. Thoughts that would usually sicken me are now morbidly delicious, a fantasy circumstance of granted control as tasty as it is distant. 

 Alone again we cling to each others words for shared comfort. I should keep it to myself but I need consolation, I share with Charlie that the next half-hour is crunch time. They have all passwords, the cards work, we are no longer necessary. We both believe that we’re going to be ok but it is truly clear now that if something’s going to happen, it’s going to happen now. I didn’t think I could breath so little in thirty minutes. In this tense wait the open skies beam light inordinately at us. It’s a mockingly clear night, open space and escape extend mockingly overhead, celestial beauty pouring light down upon us.

 With the wave of optimism gaining momentum we also connect another few layers to the story. The walls we’re in are open to the world, we suspect three or four guys are standing guard, a huge waste of manpower: eager to believe, we declare that we’re getting out tonight, this is not a long term location to hold someone. It’s clear also that they are waiting well outside, nearly ten metres away gauging from the voices. With the clear change in behaviour once we have arrived here it seems that they don’t personally like this, torment is not fun for them, maybe it is only about money after-all. This constant painting of a picture is not only a desperately needed point of focus, it’s a crucial weapon for us to navigate the murky waters of supportive behaviour. We’re playing a game and that game is to get out as uninjured as possible, and wits are the only asset we have. 

 With the well of positivity growing we’re thrown another surprising tid-bit, we’re out in thirty minutes. I hesitantly dare to confirm in Spanish that in thirty minutes we can walk? ‘One hour’ is the reply but who cares as any mention of freedom is a saviour; our conclusions seems to be running in parallel with the unfolding events and for the first time our realisations are happening before the outcome. The etherial hope takes shape, we are getting out of this. I peek outside at the silhouetted tree branched swaying so lethargically carefree, it’s a beautiful night outside.

 This surreal nightmare appears to be condensing to a finite now, we’re given some local money and for about the fifth time we’re reminded, ‘No police, no hospital, no Huanchaco, go to Lima’ a routine we now know all too well. Always punctuated by that gun, that reminder, the confusion of positivity and nerves simultaneously assail us. Our face are held up to a light and we have our photos taken with the gun in front of our faces, ‘No police, no hospital, no Huanchaco, go to Lima’. This we can do. I reiterate, as I have all night that our only need is to return to Australia, a seemingly obvious acquiescence to the wishes. Does what we say really even matter?

 Alone again the emotion is welling up, we both confide in each other our first slivers of relief. Charlie is sure that we’ll be taken somewhere else for release, right now I’m not so sure. With slowly clearing minds we are sure it’s approaching an hour from when we were informed that we’d be released. Our ragged nerves are well smothered by adrenaline at this point, we’re so awake it’s unbearable. Early in the night I had managed to shift my position to see the doorway and a large gap in the wall behind Charlie, a window to someones home was going to be there. I fear being moved and I fear that Charlie might be right, with time ticking I’m certain that we’re getting away, I just want them to leave, being moved again has so many variables, if they take us, where are they taking us?

 I deny the inevitable and cling to fantasies of just being left behind, but deep down I know it’s not true. We are going back into that taxi and I know it, that scene of the melee, I steel myself for it, I await it, just one more spike in stress to bare. After running it through my mind and preparing for the mental battle the twilight delivers me a surprise, I hear a car. From the corner of my eye the window cavity I look up to slowly suffers an eclipse to blackness. It’s not the taxi, it’s a big vehicle, a truck? I was so steeled for one last trip, this development strips my preparation and throws me to the lions of exposed distress. Why not the cab, what does this mean, have all of our assumptions been wrong? After seemingly winning the battle against that unthinkable question for so long, it now hovers over us smiling the wicked grimace of a spiteful victor. 

Part 4/4 published at 6pm (AEST)

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