I am finally getting around to and finding some time now I'm back in London to write all of my blogs that I have been so eager to write. The whole time I was on Contiki I was keeping dot points on my iphone about the places we visited, interesting facts and funny stories. I was so worried the whole trip that I would lose or get my phone stolen because I had so many good memories from the trip stored on my phone memory. I usually had to do this on the long bus trips as we had no time to spare on Contiki it was packed to the max full of amazing things to do.Anyway I'll leave my Contiki summary to the end because that would make me cry it was the best experience of my whole entire life!
Geez it feels like so long ago that I began on my Contiki European adventure but here we go.....
Day One of Contiki:
I was so anxious and excited about Contiki the night before I left that I didn't get much sleep. I ended up getting a cab straight to The Royal National as I was too scared about missing my coach ride and the tubes weren't up and running yet. I said my goodbyes to the Youth Hostel in Earls Court thank god!2 weeks there was wayyyy to long and expensive I could have spent my money on way better hostels then that for less money but you learn from your experiences and I know a little more about hostels now then I did at the beginning of my trip. Arriving at the Royal National I saw a small group of people waiting around the car park meeting area of the hotel. It is huge and so many travellers and coaches come and go from here all day everyday!I was nervous getting out of the taxi and not knowing anyone but I got my 18kilo backpack and went and stood next to the first girl that looked nice lol We started chatting and then I realised she was doing another Contiki tour similar but for a different amount of days. There ended up being 150 Contiki people that left all doing the hostels version of the same kind of trip. A few more girls came over and we started chatting and comparing weights of our bags etc....Then and I didn't know it at the time my bestie on the trip wondered over to me and we started chatting....
Rachael was her name and we looked at each other and said 'Are you doing this trip alone?' yep....'you' yep...ha And we were friends from then on!We chatted the whole time. We got our bags weighed in and had to make sure they were under the 20 kilo weight limit. Then we all waited in the rain until our bus pulled up!We met this guy who seemed out of it and had a hood over his head saying he had been partying for 3 nights straight with no sleep in Hamburg with his cousins. He spoke English but Rach and I thought he was from another country because we couldn't pick the accent....This man was Hamed!The three of us were so close after the first few days on the trip but we wouldn't have known it at that point ha....
I remember the bus pulling in and thinking yeah boii this coach is sweet!It was so clean, big and shiny!The bus driver seemed so young and good looking from the typical old, fat and bald men you usually see driving a bus!We got out luggage packed on along with 50 other young keen travellers and Rachael and I sat next to each other up near the front of the bus as we were some of the last ones on. She seemed to have everything...I remember thinking this girl was rich as she was wearing her Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses and then whipped out her D&G reading glasses as well...No thats not it then gets out her cool full headphones and ipad!I was like wow I should have brought my lap top!lol We were chatting about our travels and were we had been in the world and Rachael had some amazing stories about her recent trip to Cambodia where she worked in a missionary camp looking after sick children who had no parents. She talked about so many amazing things that inspired me straight away to want to go and do something like that. We found out through talking that we had done similar things.Such as: we had both got a 2 year working visa, been on the G'day USA America trip when we were 15 and both wanted to travel to similar places in Europe. The bus had been going for a little while and a knew I liked this girl when she said 'Are you gonna go to sleep?' I replied yes as I looked sleepy with my neck pillow on and she said 'good cauz I'm going to listen to some music on my iphone' baahaaa
However we didn't get much time to relax or sleep as just as we we getting on the outskirts of London this pretty cute little blonde girl gets up on the microphone and starts introducing herself and the coach driver. Mia was our tour guide who was only 24 which is hard for me to come to terms with as she has so much knowledge about Europe and the world in general. She spoke so well on the microphone and made no mistakes the whole time she was speaking. I was in awe with interest from the moment she started speaking until the end of the trip. Whenever Mia spoke I listened intently to find out as much information as I could about all parts of Europe. She was so interesting and gave us facts about each part of Europe so that they appealed to us and our age demograpic as Contiki is only for 18-35 yr olds.
Our bus driver was a young dark man with an accent and he wouldn't give away his age but he was a bi lingual Portuguese coach driver named Profirio. He had a sense of humour from the start to the end!We loved both Mia and Profirio like they were our very young parents!We found out at the end of the trip that Profirio was actually 24yrs old also which was crazy seeing he knew the roads of Europe like the back of his hand!I couldn't read a thing from the road signs in most contries and he didn't get us lost once!He cleaned the inside and the outside of the bus to perfection each day and it always felt like we had only just got on. Mia told us not to touch the windows or dirty them as much of the trip was on the bus and we would see some amazing views through the bus windows.
Mia gave us about a 2 hour talk about many aspects of Contiki and how the trip would run. She told us things that they expected from us and what we could expect from them. Contiki staff have a high standard and reputation to uphold and we got nothing short of perfection from the two of them the whole trip. She talked about places we would visit and things we would see. Her talk was very informative and interesting considering it went for 2 hours. She then introduced our theme day song which was (Glad you came-The Wanted and wake up song (I've had the time of my life-Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes). Every morning on the start of the trip they would play our day song and everyone really listened to the words and sang along no matter how tired we were. When they wanted us to wake up as we were entering a country boarder or a city we were about to stop at they would play the 'Wake up song' and everyone knew that we were almost there. So simple but effective.It literally looked like everyone was coming out of a dream when the wake up song came on for most of the trip lol I still can't listen to these songs now because it's so soon and it makes me miss everyone on the trip!!!:(((( We became like a Contiki family and I think we all still have Contiki Depression because we were so used to being around each other for 3 and a half weeks.
I remember thinking at the start...omg are they seriously going to play music the whole trip. Most bus trips are quite and tame not this one!!lol I ended up getting so used to the music and when it wasn't on it felt weird!The whole trip people shared their ipods and made play lists for the bus trips which was cool!Mia got straight into getting us to Mingle with a game of speed dating. This required the people closest to the aisle to move forward from the person they were sitting next to and talk to someone else for around 3 minutes I think it was. We did this about 5 times and the first time there was no one behind me so crazy Hamed had no one either so he bounced over and we chatted non stop about what we did and he talked about how he was an accountant who did gigs at IVY pool bar in Sydney and I talked about how I loved Trademark etc etc lol Then we swapped and I talked to Taylor. I still remember thinking-this boy has so much personality and is so friendly! He thought that I looked like some girl out of the Hunger Games movie...???But I had my GAYDAR on said to him your gay right?....He replied yes so straight out and I knew I loved him from the moment we met!I love gays and he was my new little one!yay!lol I talked to Daniel a lovely guy from Singapore and he spoke such good English and was really interested in everything we were talking about. It was such an ice breaker and a great way for people to start making friendships from the beginning.
At the start of the trip each of us also had to begin with getting up the front on the microphone and introducing ourselves and saying what jobs etc we had, saying which country we were most interested in seeing and why and telling 2 truths and 1 lie. This was sooo good because you found out so many things about each other before we had even spoke to any of them. I got up and my 2 truths and 1 lie were...1.I used to be a State swimmer and play water polo 2. I have an 18 month old child at home and 3. I have sky dived over a lake in New Zealand before....The bus had to put their hands up for which one they thought was a lie and see if they were right. Obviously number 2 is a big fat lie!lol And many of the people on the trip came up to me later and we like do you have a child?And some of them were wondering what I was doing on Contiki until they realised it was a lie baahaaa sooo funny!
Some of the people had the most over the top stories that actually turned out to be true but the famous truth of the trip which we actually were 100% was a lie was from a small little Singapore girl who claimed she has seen an Alien before. From this story we all knew her as Alien girl and asked her to tell us the story almost every time we were drunk lol So fuuny!
After our stories and everyone having a turn on the microphone it was time to board our P&O ferry across the channel from Dover to Paris-France. It was so weird we were all queueing in lines of buses and cars to drive onto these massive ferries that held hundreds of buses and cars etc. I couldn't believe it!We parked on the ferry and got off to have something to eat after climbing stairs to the top levels of the ferry. I remember feeling queezy as soon as we started to move and that's when I met Sharni. I cute little girl from Perth who was travelling alone also and this was her first trip overseas.I felt so much better meeting all these people who were travelling by themselves. I felt like a wasn't alone. We all went and got something to eat and I found out Rach was a coffee head ha We all sat outside and looked at the White Cliffs of Dover which are made of chalk. Two Aussie girls walked over and sat with us and we all started talking and laughing about the trip so far and where we all came from etc...These girls (Tara and Tamara) along with Sharni and Rach all became like my sisters on the trip (we hadn't met Jess yet...) and I miss them so much already :( It funny how sometimes you can just pick who you will be friends with and who you can approach without feeling akward and we were all friends from that very first ferry ride until the end of the trip in London.
Paris blog to come next stay tuned....
Lots of love from the Backpacker