There and back again, a Keighley tale

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It looked an innocent enough bottle of wine, to celebrate the passing of 2006 and sounded an innocent enough question....'what shall we do next year?'.... Yet after only a couple of glasses we were planning a family trip around the world! We have three children: Megan, then twelve, Daniel, then ten, and Hannah, then six. We decided to take the summer term plus the school holidays, and had a very supportive response from the schools concerned. And then where to go? We spent a Sunday afternoon with a world map and stickers, and between us all tried to decide on a route. This was difficult between five! Broadly we settled on Asia, Australia, and South America, in five months.

We spent some hours in Trail finders in Manchester, learning about the constraints of various types of tickets, but eventually thrashed out a route that seemed to fit, and then with some guesswork based on hope and very little knowledge, put in dates for the various flights. We then had 6 weeks to finish off at work, let the house (tidy the house) sort out a kit list, read about the countries that we were going to, and pack!! The last day was frantic, as we packed around the cleaners, but eventually we managed it, and we were off!

In China we saw huge construction projects, as well as massive destruction to pave the way for modernism. We cruised down the Yangtze River on a Chinese tourist boat, where we were as much of a tourist attraction as the scenery. We stood in awe looking at the Three Gorges Dam, but aware of the Chinese high failure rate with dams, and the fact that apparently it is built on an earthquake fault...hmmm. We tobogganed off the Great Wall of China, which seemed a bizarre twist on tourism, but was great fun! The food was...well...different, but mostly edible, and we didn't enquire too deeply (not that we had the language to enquire much about anything!)

Hong Kong was a relief after China — Megan could come off her rice diet, and Martin and I could enjoy a decent glass of wine! We visited Disneyland Hong Kong in a thunderstorm and torrential rain, but still it was Disneyland! One of the highlights for the children was the chocolate fountain at the hotel! In Vietnam we learned how to cross the road in Ho Chi Min City (Saigon), where the practise is to step off the kerb, eyeball the drivers coming towards you and keep moving...if you stop they are much more likely to hit you as they are aiming to go around you. I have never in my life seen so much traffic! In the jungle in Borneo, we slept in open mesh huts, with an orang-utan nesting in the tree next door, and sped down the river in motorboats as the white egrets flew up from the trees...a stunning sight.... Megan and Daniel had scorpions crawling along their hands, and Hannah managed to sleep and be carried on the night trek -a first for the company concerned! On one of the islands in Borneo we watched as turtles climbed up the beach and laid their eggs in the sand...just beautiful to see.

Australia felt somewhat easier, due to the more familiar culture, and a language that we could all understand (well at least, most of the time!). We arrived in Darwin at 4am, and slept on the sun loungers by the pool as the hostel had no available rooms. We argued over whether or not we should cross a crocodile infested river in our land cruiser.... we decided against it!! We arrived at Uluru (Ayer's rock), and Daniel's comment was...'do you mean to tell me we have driven for hours, for two days, through the heat, dodging kangaroos, to see a rock??' Even he admitted it was worth it though, as we watched it change colour at sunset.

Megan and I climbed Sydney Harbour Bridge on a windy day — exciting! We chartered a boat with confidence in the Whitsunday islands — it never rains here for more than a few minutes we were told.... it rained solidly for the three days that we had the boat. Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef was an experience — I climbed back on to the boat having felt seasick in the water from the size of the waves!!

We skied in Chile, and taught Hannah the basics, only for her to be saying 'I want to go faster now mummy' and pointing her skis downhill! We managed a last minute trip to the Galapagos Islands and by chance ended up on a luxury yacht — swimming with sea lions has to be one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, and snorkelling with sharks one of the scariest. In Ecuador we discovered 'tubing' — going downriver on inner tubes lashed together, fantastic fun for the bigger people, but Hannah said that if we ever made her do something like that again she was leaving the family...

Searching for the new Harry Potter book in Ecuador was a challenge (it took us two weeks to find it), and then we had to draw lots to decide who was going to read it first! In Peru we went out on to Lake Titicaca which was beautiful...we had time to enjoy it as we were stranded for a couple of hours with a broken down engine

We carried a rucksack each, and an extra one with warm hats and gloves, first aid (largely homeopathic) and Daniel's books...we guarded our money, tickets and passports carefully, but managed to lose plenty of other kit, and had the camera and ipods stolen. The only airline to lose our bags was British Airways, as we travelled through Heathrow on the return journey. We trusted to positive thinking, and an adventurous spirit, and tried to support each other and celebrate fabulous experiences together — an altogether unforgettable journey.