A Travellerspoint blog

USA

Route 66 On The Greyhound

Making our way through middle America by bus

rain 9 °C

We left big, bad Vegas at 6 in the morning and made the 6-hour Greyhound journey to Flagstaff, Arizona. The small town had a nice country feel with old fashioned buildings and little streets, which we walked through to get to our Motel just outside the centre. We were shattered from the bus ride (and from the fun in Sin City) so we spent the rest of the day chilling out in front of the TV.

The main reason for visiting Flagstaff was its closeness to the Grand Canyon, so the next day we got a 2-hour shuttle bus from the town's visitor centre to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. As its one of the 7 natural wonders of the world we were very excited, and from the moment we stepped up to the edge of the huge gorge it took our breathe away!

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The park had a number of walking treks along the rim, we decided to go for Hermits Route for about 5 miles, taking in the magnificent views the whole time. After having a bite to eat at Hermits Rest we hopped on the free shuttle back to the park centre before checking out other Routes.

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By the afternoon the weather had gone from clear blue skies to windy with luming dark clouds, and on the shuttle bus back to Flagstaff the heavens opened with hail, rain and lightning. Little did we know though that overnight the weather would change again, to snow! Whoop!

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We got a foot of lovely white snow, which made the small town even more picturesque, so we spent our last couple of days in Flagstaff exploring the local area and playing in the snow. It was certainly a surprise for us as we expected nothing but sun in Arizona!

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On Monday 7th November we caught the local bus to the town centre before catching a 6-hour Greyhound bus to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The journey went pretty quick, we actually met some nice guys on this trip which made a change from the strange characters who we have come across on the Greyhound so far!

A short taxi ride from the station and we had arrived at our motel. We had just 1 full day here so the next morning we were up early, ready to see what the largest city in the state had to offer.

If we are honest there wasn't a great deal at all to see, but we did enjoy a fantastic lunch at the classic Route 66 Diner. We ordered a milkshake each, which were the biggest milkshakes you have ever seen and they tasted soooo good. We shared some fiesta fries at the same time, and it was all we needed as there was plenty to eat.

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The next day we were packed and at the bus station ready to continue travelling east. Our next destination was Amarillo, Texas, purely for the novelty of saying we'd been (plus we wanted to walk round singing the Tony Christie song lol).

It took 5 hours to get there, and as our Motel wasn't far from the bus station we decided to walk it to save some money. However after half an hour it had gotten dark and we realised we were in a pretty rough-looking neighbourhood, of course sticking out like hell with our massive backpacks. We went into a gas station where the clerk found it rather amusing 2 english people were in Amarillo, and she ordered us a taxi. Lesson learned!

Amarillo was a quick stopover on our trip, as the place didn't have much going on. The most notable part of being there was the fact it was our 10-year anniversary on 10th November. :-) Unfortunately we couldn't find any good restaurants nearby, so we decided to save a celebration for our next stop, Oklahoma City.

A relatively short 5-hour bus trip got us to OKC, the journey went quite quick as a woman sitting near us asked us to help her with her 1-year old son who was getting restless. She passed him to us and he calmed down, funnily enough she made the most of not taking him back straight away!

Once we arrived in the city it took an easy bus ride to get to our Motel on the outskirts of town. We were staying at America's Best Value Inn, which included a free continental breakfast, so we were up early for that the next day. We headed back into the city on the bus and went exploring, starting with the National Memorial of the 1995 bombing.

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The memorial site was where the original building used to stand, and it included a garden with chairs symbolising each of the 168 people killed in the explosion. There was also a reflective pool and heartfelt messages from family members on the fence outside.

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Later on we took a bus to Stockyards City, an old western-style part of town with cowboy shops, restaurants and the worlds largest cattle market. It was here we decided to dine at the famous Cattlemen's Steakhouse, featured on one of our favourite shows, Man Vs Food.

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The restaurant opened in 1910 and is known for serving some of the tastiest steaks in the US. The biggest of these is the Presidential T-Bone steak, named by George Bush Snr when he visited Oklahoma. Phil decided to go for it (when in Rome!) while Kayleigh went for a fillet steak wrapped in bacon. The steaks were absolutely gorgeous, and along with the fries, salad and bread to go with them we were stuffed by the end. Good times!

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For the remaining time in OKC we relaxed at our Motel, whilst planning our journey onwards over a Domino's pizza (tut tut tut!) In the end we made the decision to carry onto Memphis, Tennessee.

A longer bus journey of 8 hours got us to the city of Memphis, the home of the king of rock n roll. The first day we decided to take a trip to the legendary Sun Studios, where Elvis was first discovered along with countless other artists like Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.

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We were taken on a 45 minute tour of the recording studio, hearing stories and classic recordings from the past 60 years. It was great fun!

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While in Memphis we had heard that the city was famous for its BBQ'd food as much as its music, so we headed Downtown to check it out. We ended up at Superior Bar & Grill on Beale Street where Kayleigh feasted on Smoked BBQ Ribs (fit!) and Phil had a jumbo BBQ Beef Sandwich (yum!), all while sipping beers and listening to the live blues singer on stage.

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Originally we had planned only to stay in Memphis for a few days, but with Thanksgiving fast-approaching travelling during the holidays was ill advised. So instead we booked ourselves into a motel for a week, which was good as we still had some sights in Memphis we wanted to see like the Mississippi River.

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As well as sightseeing we took the time to relax and make the most of not travelling, as we've done quite a few bus journeys in the US. On one day we took the Memphis Trolley (tram) to Midtown where we watched Twilight : Breaking Dawn at the cinema. Kayleigh did not want to miss it! It was fantastic.

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Its hard to believe but we're now down to the last 2 weeks of our trip! We'll try and keep you updated on our whereabouts, we're getting excited to see everyone back home for Christmas. :-)

Loads of love,

Kayleigh & Phil

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Posted by JoyRyderRTW 09:16 Archived in USA Tagged grand_canyon usa memphis nevada albuquerque oklahoma_city amarillo joyryderrtw Comments (3)

Living the American 'Backpacking' Dream

Two jam-packed weeks on the West Coast of the US

snow 1 °C

Following a much-delayed 10 hour flight from Nadi, Fiji, we arrived at LAX shattered and ready to catch up on some sleep. We had booked to stay at the Venice Beach Hostel, who picked us up for free (bonus) and we headed straight for a power nap. After a few hours we were up and out, as we wanted to check out the sights of Venice Beach.

We walked down to the pier, along the promenade to Muscle Beach, the basketball courts and all the weird and wonderful street entertainers. As it was off season and the weather was pretty grim, we didn't get to see it at its busiest, but it was still cool to check out all the famous stuff like where Arnold Schwarzenegger was first spotted and where White Men Can't Jump was filmed.

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Thirsty from our walking, we decided to go for some Budweiser's and shared some chilli cheese fries, a nice way to start our trip of the US.

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The next day we were up early for the free breakfast the Hostel set out, and we got speaking to the manager, Iain, who was from Coventry. He recommended we go on a City Tour of LA, as we'd effectively lost a day due to the trouble with our flight from Fiji. We thought it was a great idea, and we were on the shuttle bus within the hour. It was a full day of sightseeing in the City of Angels, we went to Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Downtown, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive.

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Highlights for us were seeing the Walk of Fame with over 2,000 stars names in the sidewalk, seeing the Hollywood sign in all its glory, driving past Michael Jackson's house where he died and taking a stroll along Rodeo Drive. Kayleigh enjoyed doing her best 'Pretty Woman' impressions while Phil couldn't stop drooling over the custom yellow and black Bugatti Veyron outside the House of Bijan.

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We checked out of the Venice Beach Hostel at 7am the following day, to make our way across the county to Anaheim. The main reason for this is because before leaving Fiji we had booked tickets for Disneyland, the only one of the Disney parks to be designed by Walt himself. A quick bus ride to LAX and then a shuttle to Anaheim got us to the hostel we were staying in, we threw our bags down and walked to the park (only 15 minutes away).

Once we got into Disneyland we had an amazing time, the weather was perfect and it wasn't too busy. We had a blast on rides like Indiana Jones, Space Mountain and Star Tours, watched the parade and even met Mickey Mouse (Kayleigh was so excited!) Unfortunately, the park closed at 7pm as they had a Halloween party on that night, and only ticket holders could stay in. As we had not heard about this party and there were no tickets left, we decided to leave and instead we had a look round the shops and bars at Downtown Disney.

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For the second day of Disney, we walked over to the adjacent park, California Adventure. We had another fantastic day, going on the super-fast California Screamin', the Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania, A Bugs Life and the Little Mermaid ride among others. We also went to see some really good shows, Aladdin had amazing sets and a star turn from the Genie, Tron Legacy did some cool effects with lasers/lights and the World of Color lit up the whole of the park with lights and huge blasts of water. We were shattered by the end of the day, but we had bought 3-day passes so we had one more day to make the most of it!

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We went back to Disneyland for the third day, going on all of our favourite rides and some of the others we had missed out, including Splash Mountain where we both got soaked, although Kayleigh got it worse to be honest! Haha. To end it all, we watched the famous fireworks display and then the Fantasmic show, which topped off an amazing three days of fun! We're big kids aren't we?! :-)

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Our next destination was San Francisco, and we had decided to buy Greyhound passes (like in Australia) as we couldn't stretch our budget to a rental car and flights weren't flexible enough for us to see everything. We got the bus from Anaheim to San Francisco at about 4pm, and made the 8 hour journey to San Fran. We caught a cab from the Greyhound and arrived at Adelaide Hostel in San Fran at 1am, we checked into our 6 bed dorm room and crashed...we were shattered.

We slept in until 10:30am and missed our free breakfast (damn it), but after our wake-up showers we were ready to explore the city.

First up was Union Square where a lot of the big shops and restaurants are. After a bit of window shopping we continued our walking tour to China Town starting at the impressive Dragon Gate. We looked around all the little trinket stores and took a short trip to 'Golden Gate Fortune Cookies' to have a look at how they make them...and enjoy some free samples.

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Later in the afternoon we decided to endure the steep climb up to Coit Tower, built at the top of Telegraph Hill. It was tough, but we've climbed worse. Here we could take in the magnificent 360 degree view of the city and it really was quite spectacular.

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We can say this for San Francisco, it definitely lives up to it's reputation - the hills are brutal to walk up but the city is beautiful. With a vibrant, energized atmosphere after just a few hours we were already convinced that this is one of the favorite cities of our trip.

After taking in the view at the tower we made our decline (so much easier than climbing the steps up) down the Filbert steps before making our way down to the piers to the Ferry Building for an early tea...some tacos. Yum.

That evening we joined in some games at the hostel, we played 'Catchphrase', where you are given the name of an object, place or name etc and you have to describe what it is to your team mates without saying the actual word within a set amount of time. We won the first 2 rounds out of 5. Woo hoo. And with each win came a free bottle of wine - lovely. :-) By the 3rd round we had finished both bottles so it's easy to see why we did pretty crap on the rest of the rounds. Lol. It was a really fun night.

In the morning we got up at 9am to enjoy our breakfast, we met up with Brent (one of guys we had met the previous night) who showed us around the Financial District and the nearby Shopping Mall, before taking us to the right bus stop to get to the Golden Gate Bridge.

We chose a gorgeous sunny day to go and see one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, and after just 2 short bus rides we had arrived at the infamous bridge. The sheer size of the bridge was outstanding, and with its giant towers, sweeping cables and unique orange-red colour, it's easy to see why this landmark is such a popular tourist spot and the most internationally recognised symbol of SF.

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We snapped away on our camera and posed for a few photos before we walked to the middle of the bridge, the view was incredible with the sun shining down on the city and Alcatraz in the near distance. A great day out. In the late afternoon we made our way back by taking a romantic stroll down the coast before catching the bus back to our hostel.

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Our remaining days in SF were spent exploring the city further and relaxing, we left on Saturday 29th October bound for Bakersfield. The journey was an 8 hour bus ride from San Fran, where upon arriving we checked into a motel where we stayed for the night. Bakersfield was really just a stopover on our way to Las Vegas, which if we hadn't have broken the trip up would have been a straight 13 hours.....we didn't fancy that. So we checked out the next morning to begin the remaining 5 hour Greyhound bus ride. We had made it to the one and only Sin City. :-)

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A quick taxi ride got us to our hotel, the lovely Imperial Palace, which for the 2 night stay was actually cheaper than staying in the dorm in SF - crazy!

As it was 9pm, the strip was all lit up and we wasted no time in going out to see it. Our hotel was across the road from Caesers Palace so it was nice and central - we went to see the water fountains at the Belaggio, caught the pirate show at Treasure Island and had a go on the slot machines. We managed to win $10 so we treated ourselves to some tacos, rock n roll or what?!

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We spent the next day walking round the Fashion Show and Downtown Outlet malls, as we bought tickets to the House of Horrors halloween party at XS nightclub. Phil was chuffed to be going to the party as Afrojack was lined up to DJ and we're always partial to a good costume party.

Unfortunately for us, finding halloween costumes in Vegas was alot more difficult than we ever imagined. We literally couldn't find any good shops selling costumes all day. Luckily we had seen an advert for Party City, a specialist costume store where we had to get a taxi to. The store was pretty low on costumes but we managed to get some, Kayleigh managed to get the last 'small' womens outfit, the rest were all huge. Haha.

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We got to XS at 11pm, it was in the classy Encore resort, and the club was like something out of a music video. Apparently the place cost $4 million, it had a large dancefloor, outdoor pool area and private booths for the 'high-flyers'.

It had been a while since we'd had a good blowout, so we made the most of the party, dancing, drinking and enjoying the time together. Almost everyone was dressed up in costumes and the music was great (Afrojack rocked!), it turned out to be one of the best nights of our trip.

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We woke the next day after very little sleep and had to check out, as we booked to stay in a hostel further up the strip. With our massive bags we got the bus which was packed with tourists giving us funny looks, apparently Americans have never seen backpacks before (or they thought we were terrorists lol).

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We checked in at Hostel Cat and climbed into our bunk beds to catch up on some zzz's. The next day we were back to full fitness and went out to see the rest of the city, including the Little White Wedding Chapel, Caesers Palace, New York New York, Excalibur and the Venetian.

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In the evening we took a trip up to the top of the Stratosphere Tower which had brilliant views of the city all lit up. We had been advised to go on the X-Scream ride which flings you over the edge at the top, but annoyingly it was closed! Instead we went on the Big Shot which fired you up into the air right at the very top of the tower, great fun. :-)

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As it was our last night we decided to try our look again in the casino at Stratosphere, and after an hour on one slot machine we had won $45 from the $8 we had put in. Yay!

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The next part of our trip in the US is making our way East to New York, so far we are having an amazing time. We'll keep you updated as much as we can.

Loads of love,

Phil and Kayleigh

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Posted by JoyRyderRTW 12:21 Archived in USA Tagged venice las_vegas chinatown california halloween los_angeles casino san_francisco golden_gate_bridge disney trams disneyland hollywood anaheim beverly_hills mickey_mouse vegas_strip afrojack Comments (2)

Our Holiday Within a Holiday

Taking a two week break in Fiji for some sun, sand and sea!

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After 4 weeks of a campervan in New Zealand we were certainly ready to hit the pause button and relax at our next destination, Fiji. The journey from Auckland was dead easy, it took 3 hours to arrive in Nadi and the flight was good as we got a free meal and watched Zookeeper.

We had booked to stay at the Bamboo Hostel for a few nights in Nadi, and got a free pick up from the airport. Nadi itself is the main starting point in Fiji and is where everyone goes to sail onto the smaller and nicer islands to the North. We spent some time deciding on where to go, as there are about 300 islands that make up Fiji so we wanted somewhere chilled but quite remote to get away from it all. In the end we booked a week at a place called Nabua Lodge, in the Yasawa Islands, which is famous for being one of the most beautiful parts of Fiji.

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On the Friday we set sail from Port Denerau and made the 5 hour catamaran journey to Nacula Island, unfortunately the weather wasn't the best so it didn't look how we'd hoped it would, the clouds were grey and it was drizzling (who knew it even rained in Fiji! haha!) Never the less we checked in at Nabua Lodge and were welcomed with calls of "Bula!", which means hello, from the staff. We had paid for accommodation and all of our meals, so we had lunch and threw our bags down in our little private Bure hut and went out to explore. With the rain getting worse everybody ended up congregating in the common room, until at 4pm the staff called out for volleyball (a daily ritual there lol) and we played while getting soaked, great fun!

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That evening after a well-earned shower, we enjoyed a curry-themed meal and played silly drunken games with the rest of the group. This included the cereal box game which a Scottish couple came up with, where you had to pick up a cereal box with your teeth without using your hands. It sounds easy, but it wasn't, particularly for Phil and the other tall ones who struggled to get down with the box getting smaller and smaller. Kayleigh as you can imagine, did amazing well, getting all the way to the end when you had to pick up a tiny cocktail stick. Impressive!

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Breakfast was served at 8 o'clock every day, so we were up early to enjoy that. We were quite lucky with our timing on the island as the locals were all excited for the annual Yasawa Rugby tournament, where all of the islands compete to be the best. We took a short boat trip across to another island and the whole community was out in force supporting their team and having fun in the sun. Everybody was so friendly and welcoming, it was great to be there and enjoy the rugby (luckily the weather had improved alot too!)

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Later that day we got the boat back to our island and the whole place looked totally different, the water was a gorgeous turquoise-blue, the beach looked perfect and the sun was shining, we went straight for a dip in the sea and sunbathed, bliss. In the evening the staff cooked using a lovo (earth oven) and put on a lovely Fijian buffet with fish, chicken, pork and different traditional vegetables - it was really tasty. Afterwards everyone gathered round to watch England defeat France in the Rugby World Cup, unfortunately we played crap and got beat, so the less said about that the better.

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The weather turned once again the next day, and it was pouring it down literally the whole day through. Unfortunately on a remote Fiji island when it rains, there isn't much to do but play cards and relax inside, so that's what we did. Although we had booked to stay at the same place for 7 nights, most other people had booked using Combo Passes, which meant they stayed a few nights at one place then moved on to other places (which was more expensive). This was really good for us as we got to meet loads of people, from everywhere from the UK to Sweden to Germany to Canada to Australia to Denmark, an eclectic mix!

Each evening the staff would let all the new arrivals introduce themselves, and we ended up playing different singing and dancing games for free beers. Seriously, one night we had to sing 'God Save the Queen' with a few other English people lol!

On the Tuesday we booked a trip to the Blue Lagoon, the location for the Brooke Shields film from the 80s. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed snorkelling in the crystal-clear, shallow waters, where fishing is banned so there were plenty of colourful fish to get close to.

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In the afternoon we were back at Nabua Lodge on hammocks in the sun, exactly what we wanted from our trip to Fiji! We took a break only to take a short walk to the tea shop down the beach, where a local guy baked the tastiest banana and chocolate cake and served it with cups of tea, awesome!

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A couple of our other highlights at Nabua included walking up a nearby hill to check out the sunset, which was incredibly colourful, a truly unique sunset.

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We also had fun on 'BBQ night', when the staff put on a lovely feast and finished it off with a Kava ceremony. This is where everyone sits in a circle chatting, playing and listening to music while a drink is passed around for everyone to try. Kava itself is made from a root plant and is a mild anesthetic so it makes your lips tingle when you drink it, and it also helps you sleep lol! We thought it tasted like muddy water, but it was worth a try as its a Fijian tradition.

For the rest of the time we made the most of the weather and relaxed on the beach, topping up our tans. We returned to the main island at Nadi for a few days before heading onto Los Angeles on the Tuesday, or so we thought!

When we arrived at the airport our flight had been cancelled, doh! We got to the check-in desk and the airline gave us vouchers to cover transfers, accommodation and meals, we were one of the fortunate bunch to be put up at the 5-star Sofitel resort. We were greeted with welcome drinks, cold towels and a rustic Italian buffet (including all you can eat desert, whoop!) Our room was the bit of luxury we had missed (it had two double beds!), it was just a shame we only had 5 hours to sleep before getting up at 4am to go back to the airport.

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Unfortunately, after checking in and boarding the plane, guess what??? We were told we had to all disembark the plane, as we had been delayed another 7 hours, so everybody cramped back into the small terminal and waited. By the time we finally boarded the plane we were exhausted, but at least we were on our way to the US.

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10 hours later we touched down at LAX, and so our US adventure had begun by losing a day, never mind, we've still got plenty of time to make it up.

We'll update you when we can, wishing you all well from across the pond. :-)

Love Phil & Kayleigh

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Posted by JoyRyderRTW 20:06 Archived in USA Tagged auckland beach fiji new_zealand nadi volleyball catamaran joyryderrtw yasawas nacula_island nabua_lodge Comments (2)

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