We finally arrived in India around 5am, stepping out into our first of many monsoon down pours. Piling our gear into a taxi, we at first thought we would never get to the hostel after becoming caught up in a parking lot traffic jam, surrounded by a cacophony of honking buses and taxis. Freeing us from the parking lot, the 90minute drive from the airport to Vagator beach took us past the capital and into a rural jungle, the journey slowed to dodge cows lying in the middle of the road. This was something we would learn was normal, even on highways, due to their sacred status.

Our hostel was surrounded by lush jungle and was quite basic but the staff were very friendly. The morning was spent relaxing, waiting for our beds to become ready for check-in. After a bit of confusion over which bunks were to be ours we decided to upgrade to a double private, which we discovered was down the road.

Our first afternoon in Goa was spent down at the near by bar where we soon met a local and our conversation turned to all things Indian. A couple of hours later we followed his recommendation and visited another local who had lived in Perth but was now running a yoga retreat. Sam, the yogi, welcomed us warmly offering delicious vegetarian snacks and beer, while we sat with other guests for an enjoyable, chatty evening. The past few exhausting days were finally starting to take their toll so we headed back to the hostel early, our first night in a bed since leaving Turkey.

The following day was spent relaxing around the hostel as well as wandering the surrounding area. The rain continued to come for most of the day, which was welcomed to allow us to become more acclimatised to the tropical heat. The downside to the constant moisture in the air was how long it was taking for our freshly washed clothes to dry. This was made worse by the constant power outages, due to us requiring a fan to speed up the drying process. Between showers we headed to the local travel agent to book our train ticket to Trivandrum. As it turned out, our train would be leaving on the Thursday instead of the Friday, cutting our stay in Goa short.

Having relaxed the day before, we boldly hired a scooter for a trip into Panjim, to see another side of Goa. The ride in along the thin roads required Jedi levels of concentration as other scooters, cars, buses and trucks, converged and overtook, us with the journey growing more hectic as more lanes were added. Arriving in Panjim, we were glad to get off the roads for a bit and ready to explore the city. After discovering the area we had parked offered very little worth exploring, we had lunch before getting back on the road. Slightly more seasoned and with full bellies, we took to the roads with more confidence, beeping like an Indian as we rashly overtook other traffic. We arrived back to the hostel just as the heavens opened, having enjoyed an often white-knuckled Indian experience.

Our final full day in Goa, we walked down the main road to the beach, accompanied by the hostel dog that’d taken us under his wing. The sea was extremely rough and the strong tide seemed to be churning in more rubbish than water.  Bored with the beach, Kayla decided to add some excitement by slipping arse up in the mud. This gave us a good excuse to head back to the hostel and out of the humidity. The journey took longer than expected after taking a wrong turn, hindered by the lack of any names for the small roads we were walking along but eventually we reappeared to clean up and have an early night.

We checked out early and waited in the hostel until 11am before catching a taxi to the Magdao train station for our 1:05pm train. This turned out to be delayed by 2 hours but finally arrived and we were escorted to our cabin. We had paid a little extra to go first class and so were able to enjoy our first bit of air conditioning along with food and bedding.

For the first part of our journey three other Indians who were on the way to a nearby town to inspect a construction site joined us offering us some interesting conversation. In the evening we were offered a more private room and so spent the remainder of our trip feeling very spoilt until we arrived at Trivandrum, 9am the next day.


After a difficult night on the bus from Bulgaria to Turkey, partially due to crossing the border in the wee hours of the morning where we all had to exit the bus to get processed and x-rayed, we entered Istanbul as the sun rose, mosques announced the call to prayer and the city awoke. Leaving the bus was one of the happiest moments in our journey, even though we still had a plane trip to Kuşadasi. Transferring to the airport turned out to be very easy, catching the nearby metro straight to it, however this meant we now had 7 hours to wait for our flight. Several hours later, filled with Starbucks coffee, followed by a short flight to Izmir, we were in a taxi headed for our hotel in Kuşadasi.

Arriving at our hotel we were greeted by Huseyin, who spoke only a little English but always had a smile. We would end up having some great attempted conversations over the coming days and he was always helpful. After such a long journey from Prague we felt we had earned a couple of beers and spent our first couple of hours in Turkey sitting near the hotel pool tasting the local Efes beer. As the day drew to an end we headed into the centre to look for a place for dinner. The place we settled at served some excellent Turkish food and as an added bonus the owner was married to an Australian who came out to say hello.  Heading back to the hotel we were happy to greet the first bed we had had in several days.

After a quick Turkish breakfast where we were first introduced to Turkish tea, we were picked up by Emin, one of our dive instructors, who took us back to the Active Blue Dive Centre to get us signed up for our SSI Open Water Dive course. After briefly meeting Tağmaç, the owner, we were back in the bus headed for the Ephesus Princess hotel where the diving would take place. Upon arrival we met a couple of British Expats, Karen and Nick, who would be invaluable, offering great advice and occasionally interpreting when what was being discussed appeared to get lost in translation.

Our first day diving began with familiarising ourselves with the necessary equipment before gearing up for our first time in the water. Upon first putting our heads underwater, our bodies reacted adversely to us trying to breathe where we had been conditioned we shouldn’t, whereby we were gasping and choking until we relaxed and learnt a knew way to be underwater.  From here we headed into shallow water and began going through safety drills, with Emin and Karen, becoming comfortable with losing our masks or regulator etc. An hour later we were out of the water, changing our tanks before heading back in to learn the best way to remove and/or replace equipment, such as weight belts, at the bottom of the ocean. Once again time passed to quickly underwater, and another hour later we were back on dry land for lunch and a chat. For our final dive for the day we were joined by our other instructor, Sevan, who taught us how to navigate underwater complete with his Nemo headgear. After double-checking my compass readings I headed under determined to get to the distant buoy. Thankfully Sevan didn’t wait until I was too far past the buoy before stopping me or I would probably still be swimming, determined, totally off course… Kayla’s turn was next and in typical Kayla style she had to show me up by getting to her buoy with out any problems. From here we followed Sevan, past the buoy boundary, as we swam a small way around the bay into slightly deeper waters. Upon returning to the buoys I was given a chance to redeem myself by navigating to the exit ladder. Triple checking my readings I set off, my eyes never far away from the compass needle, heading to the ladder. It was a great, albeit short-lived, moment when I arrived at the ladder where I discovered I’d stopped too early, at the first not the second ladder… After a long day we headed back to the hotel for an early night.

Friday arrived and we loaded up the boat for our first open water dive. A short trip later we were out at the first reef where we rolled out of the boat into the sea and got our gear on. After descending we began following Emin around the reef as he showed us the different marvels it had to offer (while Sevan kept a close eye on us, always hovering a short distance away). First stop was the “thermal” sand where the water and ground was significantly warmer due to warm water seeping through from hot rocks below. Here Emin decided it was a perfect spot for a bit of fun and before long he had us all doing handstands and clowning around. After a bit more exploring we headed back up to the boat, changed our used tanks for new and set a course for a nearby cave.  With the conditions getting a bit choppy we donned our gear in the boat before entering the water and going under. The highlight of this dive was the short swim through the cave and into the pool on the other side. By lunchtime we were headed back where we rinsed the diving gear, and ourselves then were driven back into Kuşadasi. The afternoon was spent exploring the centrum even further, becoming accustomed to the wait staff outside most restaurants asking when we would come back to their restaurant to eat, always with their big Turkish smiles and often accompanied by special deals they were offering just to us.

Saturday we finished off our Open Water certification with a couple of dives at various points in the Aegean sea, testing out different amounts of weight on our weight belt and seeing how it would effect us. After lunch we took the Perfect Buoyancy course, heading back into the shallow water with Emin and Sevan to learn and practice to control our buoyancy more effectively, utilising our lungs as flotation devices.

Having finished our first diving course, Tağmaç invited us back to the dive shop for a small celebration later that evening. First we headed back to the hotel to freshen up before heading off to the shop. Along the way I thought I’d practice my navigation skills and I was very proud at how well I got us both lost resulting in us arriving late. After a nice little ceremony, where we were presented with licenses and certificates, the beers began to be handed around. The evening turned out to be both educational as well as social, after seeing protestors in Istanbul being brutalised by police on the television. We soon learnt that this was due to the current Prime Minister, a “great” man who worked for the people and not for the $12, 000, 000 pay check (the fourth highest in the world), trying to restrict the citizens right to demonstrate their unhappiness with the latest of a series of changes he had implemented affecting the secular way of living. Due to the media black out that the government was trying to force, Sevan and others were heading to Istanbul to document the demonstrations to try and educate as many as possible to the inhumane measures the government were taking.  

Before long the conversation turned back to diving. When we had started out with Active Blue we had asked Tağmaç if he could find out about diving the wrecks in Gallipoli. The dive centre he contacted in Çanakkale were unfortunately having trouble renewing their license to dive the historic wrecks and everyone we had emailed hadn’t responded at all, so we decided to join Tağmaç to dive the wrecks in Bodrum on the coming Wednesday. With our new plan set and the Deep Diving course set for the following day we had to end the night early, missing out on joining Tağmaç and others, who were going to a local music event later that evening.

The next day only I was able to dive due to Kayla catching the flu. As we drove to the resort, Tağmaç enquired about Kayla’s symptoms and after I responded he promptly got onto the phone to his Dad to get him to drop into our hotel room with medication to help Kayla get better. This was just one of many instances that Tağmaç, and Turkish people in general, outdid themselves with their compassion and generosity. The diving was good but not great, due to not having my dive buddy with me but it did give me a chance to dive just for the fun of it, the deep diving being postponed until Kayla joined us the following day.

Thankfully Kayla had recovered enough by Sunday to dive again. Our two dives of the day started by heading to 30m for our Deep Diving course. At this depth there wasn’t much to see which turned out to be a great thing because it gave us a chance to focus more on how breathing at this depth affected us physically. After a brief stop at this depth we would then regroup with the other divers before continuing on. Having completed the Deep Diving course the previous day, our two dives on Tuesday were relaxed with the best part being that we weren’t being hovered over or required to do anything but enjoy ourselves.

Wednesday had finally arrived and we were up at the crack of dawn and on our way to Bodrum. A few hours later, we checked into the dive boat before enjoying the provided breakfast enroute to the first dive site. In no time we were geared up and in the crystal clear water, headed down to the artificial shipwreck where out of nowhere the ship appeared. We took our time swimming through the control room, around the ship and checking out the many open doors, the whole time enjoying excellent visibility. Ascending to shallower depths we explored the reef near the boat before getting back onto the boat for lunch. While we digested and lounged the boat took us to the next dive site which turned out to be a lot more crowded but the water still being so clear you could see the schools of fish fighting over the food we through to them. Back into the water we headed off, following Tağmaç as he guided us to the plane wreck we were eager to see. A few minutes later we made a sharp left, after Tağmaç realised he’d been using my navigation methods, which was taking us in the wrong direction. In no time we were above the plane, then through the plane and heading back to shallower and warmer waters. Gliding along the reef, following the fish we came across a larger school, which turned out to be perfect for some underwater fish feeding. This was a quick but delightful experience where we were surrounded by eager fish that promptly yanked the strips of cucumber out of our hands. After two great dives we felt the best thing to do on the way back was nothing. So we did.

After driving everyone back to Kuşadasi, Tağmaç took us back to the Dive Centre to give us the last of our licenses as well as a statue of a diver before driving us to the bus station and helping to organise our tickets to Izmir. This was our introduction to Turkish buses and the level of service they offer, which includes a dedicated bus attendant who would regularly go past offering drinks and snacks etc. Changing buses in Izmir we were on our way at 9pm headed for Çanakkale. This section was less enjoyable however, due to us trying to sleep on some very rough roads with a bus that seemed to stop at the corner of every street for passengers. Around 2am we arrive at Çanakkale bus depot and we were about to jump off at the deserted terminal before the bus attendant advised us that it would be continuing into Çanakkale Centrum. With 3am just around the corner we arrived in Çanakkale, near the ferry terminal without any idea how to get to our hotel and not being able to check in for another 12hours. Thankfully a taxi driver was helpful enough to drive us the 200 metres around the corner to where we needed to go which was a small price to pay for the peace of mind provided. Our final obstacle for the night came in the form of our hotel not having a 24-hour reception and being closed. This resulted in Kayla minding our luggage while I searched the nearby hotels for a spare room, which we found at the Grand Anzac hotel, who offered us a discounted rate, a shower and a bed for a short sleep in.

8am arrived too soon but we were at least a bit more refreshed than we had been a few hours earlier so we headed down to indulge in the complimentary breakfast, before checking out of this hotel, walking around the corner to our previously booked hotel, in time for our 11am pickup to tour Gallipoli. Crossing the Dardanelles we were provided with a wonderful Turkish lunch surrounded by fellow Australians and New Zealanders before being herded onto our tour bus. The next several hours were spent reliving the horrors of WW1 but also hear some of the stories of compassion the opposing forces would at times show each. We came away with a better understanding of how both sides were affected plus how Turkey as a country changed afterwards into a more secular society, a way of living which was now being threatened.

It was our last day in Turkey with our bus booked for 1pm. Unable to carry the gift Tağmaç had given us across India plus now carrying items in our backpacks we no longer required we hit the streets early headed for the post office. Having sent our parcel home we wandered the streets of Çanakkale in search for a good place for breakfast. On place caught our eye as we watched the line of locals extend out the door. Queuing up we were soon rewarded with delicious Turkish pastries and tea, which we finished off in no time. The rest of our morning was spent packing, before catching the bus to Istanbul. We arrived at 6pm where we were directed to another bus, which would take us to the Sabiha international airport. A further 3 hours later we arrived at another bus terminal on the other side of the city having crawled our way through peak hour traffic. We boarded our final bus to transfer to the airport where we spent the next 3 hours passing the time waiting for our 1am flight.

After a short flight to Sharja, United Arab Emirates, we arrived at 6am ready to spend the day in the airport before transferring to our midnight flight to Goa. After just three hours in the air we finally landed in India.


After a difficult night on the bus we arrived in Prague around 7am to Hostel ELF. Even though we were exhausted, we were also eager to explore, plus our rooms wouldn't be ready until after lunch. Leaving our gear in the storage room we headed in to the centre for our first look at the city. It quickly became apparent that this city was even more liberal than Amsterdam, as we walked past the ever-present sex shop as well as liquor stores selling Vodka infused with Marijuana. The city itself seemed to be a mix of lush green parks, old buildings with character and structures that we could only describe as "Soviet" due to their bland, decaying exterior.

The main square was very modern and unimaginative containing the usual mix of shopping, retail and Starbucks found throughout the rest of western Europe, and we were yet to really see the Prague that had been so recommended to us. After a quick breakfast we continued on, heading away from the main strip, losing ourselves and finally finding the city we had hoped for. After stumbling upon the Atomic clock, we continued until we came to the edge of the old city and the rivers edge rising into green hills. 

We made our way back to the hostel, checked in and sat down to a quite beer while we planned our coming days. Before we knew it we were joined by the rest of the hostel, which was the beginning of a very entertaining night containing a crack team of German foosball players, Canadians and drinking games, as well as a lot of laughter.

The next day we had to get to the Indian embassy early to get our visa applications underway but we were slightly delayed due to Kayla discovering that playing drinking games with Canadians can have consequences… When we finally left, the first stop was at the travel doctor to find out what was involved in get vaccinated for some of the places we were about to visit. This turned out to be quick, easy and pricey but before long we were on our way again with two dead arms and freshly infected. After a brief pause for lunch we finally made it to the embassy just after noon, only to discover the embassy closes at noon. So back to the hostel we went to relax and recover, ready for an early start the next day.

Up and out early, we arrived at the embassy before the doors were opened at 9am. Arriving first thing turned out to be a prudent choice when we ended up being the last ones to leave at lunch time after we had initially been told that they only accepted applications from Czech residents, contrary to the information on the Indian website as well as the email we had received from the Indian embassy in Australia. After a lengthy interview and paying for the visas in full with no chance of a refund if we were declined, we headed off with the expectation that we wouldn’t hear anything for at least a week. With the vaccinations taking their toll on us the remainder of the day was spent meandering back through the city for an early night.

The weather had turned and we were still feeling a bit under the weather the following day, so this was spent in doors. Thursday came and we returned to the main square for the tour we had booked. Until now we had spent a lot of time just leisurely exploring the city, which had been great but we were looking forward to learning a bit more about the place. The tour was quite comprehensive, starting with a walking tour through the old city, followed by a boat ride along the river, another walking tour through the Jewish sector then lunch and ending at Prague castle. Along the way we began to appreciate the struggle the city and country has gone through in the past hearing stories of soldiers arriving on their doorstep to liberate them. We were told of how a local ice cream shop was one of the biggest attractions at one time due to borders being closed and ice cream being a luxury. The same was said about the first Chinese restaurant that was the place to go to impress girls when choices were so limited. The buildings themselves also had a history all of there own, displaying a collection of architectural styles at different levels, due to the need to just extend buildings instead of starting from scratch because of the turbulent history.

Friday brought us a surprise with the news that our Indian visas had been processed. We headed in for the 4pm collection time, apprehensive about whether the processing was in our favour.  Before too long we were happily presented with our new visas and set off back to the hostel to celebrate. This turned into another great night, meeting an Australian from Cairns, as well as some very entertaining Germans and Ukrainians. As the night got late the other Australian pulled out some shisha tobacco and we soon became determined to enjoy it. After many failed attempts at fixing the hostels one (we didn’t have enough gaffer tape…), we headed off in search for a local shisha bar. We never did find the shisha bar but had a great night anyway.

Saturday was spent, in doors, out of the cold and recuperating from a very late night. This gave us the opportunity to plan the next part of our trip, to Turkey, in depth. Having booked a bus that left at 9:30pm on the coming Monday, to arrive in Istanbul at 6:30am on the Wednesday, we needed to confirm where we would be staying. After contacting several dive schools, we settled on one in Kusadasi, which we would fly to from Istanbul, shortly after arriving on the bus.

After organising transport and accommodation the previous day, we spent most of Sunday completing the online diving course, ready for the practical when we arrived. Being our last night here we decided to have a few farewell drinks, being joined by the German and Ukrainian from Friday night. Although, the night was shorter it was quite possibly even more entertaining with some amazing foosball and many smiles.

Waking early on Monday we prepared our bags, checked out and stored them before hanging out in the hostel until 7pm. We were aiming at getting to the bus stop early to ensure we got good seats that we help us sleep along the journey. This turned out to be a waste of time, with the bus arriving late and then being told which seats were to be ours. After an hour delay we were on the road heading south. The night was long, broken by regular stops to pick up other travellers (with all lights being turned on when this happened) but eventually things quietened down and we both got a bit of sleep.

We were woken early as we came to the Serbian border control before our journey continued. Although we only saw a small part of the country, what we did see was very green and beautiful, but the best part was the temperature was increasing. In less than a day we would be saying goodbye to our extended winter and welcoming regular sunshine. After 19 hours, 5 countries and several border crossings we arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria. This was only for a few hours before getting on another bus for the next part of our journey to Turkey.