Christy and Aaron Tracker

Follow Christy and Aaron on their backpacking trip around the world

Meet the Crockers

Posted by Christy in Posts on 03 15th, 2011

While on our tour of Africa, we met another couple in our group who we instantly got along with. They were Nikita Crocker and Erik Edwards, traveling from London through Africa before reaching their final destination: New Zealand.

Wait, what?!

Brief background: Nikita is originally from South Africa. Her family moved to New Zealand when she was 10. When she graduated, she decided to delay going to university, instead traveling to London to live for a brief time. There she met Erik. She needed to return to New Zealand to start college, and Erik decided to take a year off of school to  go with her. They also wanted to do a little bit of traveling beforehand, hence the Africa trip.

Erik and Nikita are living with Nikita’s family in Auckland. Erik will be returning to London in August 2011.

Anyway, Nikita’s family (The Crocker’s, FYI) was kind enough to offer their home to us for the majority of our stay in New Zealand. We were, once again, lucky enough to stay with some locals who could give us insider’s perspective of Auckland. And the Crocker’s did not disappoint!

Our first weekend, we visited the black sand beaches. AMAZING. My favorite were the starfish. I have never seen starfish like this before:

We followed our beach day with a 21st birthday party New Zealand style. A 21st birthday is for some reason a big celebration, although no one could give me an explanation as to why. They can drink at 18, so drinking legally is not the reason, unlike Americans. Well, whatever.

As you can tell by the pictures, we had an amazing time. By the way, what we are doing with our hands is making the ‘W’ sign for ‘winning.’ We were ‘Sheening’ all night, for sure.

During the week, as seen in my original post, we traveled down to Wellington (still on the north island, about 8 hours south). We met up with some more Crocker’s down there, including Nikita’s sister and cousin. Her cousin, Robert, and his family (wife Claire, sons Ben (4) and George (2)) were even kind enough to let us stay a night in their home! I could shoot myself, though, because I forgot to take a picture with them (boo). But I did get a picture with sister Julie!

The next weekend Nikita and Erik took us to a concert, more precisely an Indian music concert since we were not able to go into India (did I mention I love them?). We went to yet ANOTHER 21st birthday, another beach, and a 13K run called “Round the Bays.” Nikita and Aaron ran it, Erik and I walked it (shocker, I know!).

We made dinner for the Crocker’s twice, to show our appreciation. Tacos the first night, and my Great Aunt Nat’s Casserole the second night. I hope they enjoyed it!

Making new friends has been a very important part of our trip, and Erik and Nikita our some of the best ones we made during this 10 months. They are two people that we definitely don’t want to lose touch with, and we hope that they come see us in the States sooner rather than later.

Even if we have to help them get there. 😉

Love you guys, and miss you already!



So Long, Friends

Posted by Christy in Posts on 12 12th, 2010

As fast as they came into our lives, they have now left us to return to their homes. I can’t lie, I am on the verge of tears as I write this. How can I feel this way about people that I have only known for eight weeks?

I am so glad that we chose to do the tour through Africa; I can’t imagine exploring the continent without our new friends.

To all of you from African Trails: you are always welcome to stay with us in the U.S. (wherever that may be). Thanks for making our trip that much better.

XOXO,

Christy and Aaron



Christmas Crackers!

Posted by Christy in Posts on 11 19th, 2010

Most of the people on our tour are English. With the Christmas season approaching, the grocery stores in Africa are filled with Christmas merchandise, including Christmas Crackers. No, I am not talking about Christmas tree-shaped “biscuits,” as the Brits would call them, I am talking about the traditional English Crackers that they open every Christmas day.

You may have seen movies such as Harry Potter and Bridget Jones’ Diary where the characters have paper crowns on their heads head on Christmas day. These came from crackers. Here is what they look like:

The idea is that two people pull on each end, and when the cracker pops open, the person holding the larger end receives the contents of the cracker (Think of a wishbone).

Inside the cracker, there are three items: a paper hat, a small toy, and a joke. The jokes are all cheesy, and the toys are pathetic (spinning tops, plastic charms, etc.), but it is all good fun.

So with the purchase of a few boxes of Christmas Crackers, a night of hilarity resumed.

I will now be incorporating them into all future holiday get-togethers. If the English got anything right, it is Christmas Crackers!



Welcome to African Trails!

Posted by Christy in Posts on 10 20th, 2010

As you know, we decided to travel with a tour rather than travel on our own throughout Africa. This is going to be quite different from the way we had previously been traveling, obviously. Here are just a few reasons:

1.) No hostels (mostly). We will be camping.
2.) We have our route planned out for us, and we don’t have to spend much time planning for ourselves. (Woo Hoo!)
3.) We will have a tour leader with us the entire way.
4.) We will be traveling by truck.
5.) We will constantly be with the same group of people.

We saved a lot of money on this tour, as we will not have anything catered to us. We set up our tent ourselves, we prepare our own meals, and we even clean the truck. Our tour leader pretty much just drives us where we need to go and makes recommendations on what we should do in the areas we visit.
As for the so-called “jobs,” we were divided up into teams of three, and each day we have a different task:

1.) Security – The team stays on the truck during stops on the road to “guard” our belongings from opportunistic thieves. Africa is full of them, and if we leave the truck unattended, there is a good chance there will be a break-in.
2.) Sweep – Clean out the truck. Apparently it gets pretty messy after eight hours on the road with 20 people.
3.) Clean – Clean up after the cook team.
4.) Cook – Prepare dinner and breakfast for the rest of the group.

Pretty easy. It’s actually kind of nice to be put to work after all this time. Wait, did I just write that?! :-)



Wait…It has been 17 Days?!

Posted by Christy in Posts on 09 26th, 2010

Welcome to Petra Camp, our new home away from home!

We were originally supposed to stay for only 5 days… which turned into 7 days… which turned into 10 days… which turned into “What the hell? Let’s just stay here until we have to go to Israel!”

By the time we checked out, we had been at the camp 17 days, and had made some great friends.

Another great thing about the camp is that it was very cost-friendly. We stayed in a hut (without AC) for about $8 a night, and then we had the same breakfast every morning for about $4 and dinner for about $12. We averaged out to about $30 a day (we purchased water and snacks throughout the day as well), which fit in very nicely with our budget!

Our days spent at Petra Camp were all very similar. Here was our agenda:

10 AM – Wake up, take a shower

11 AM – Eat breakfast

11:30 AM – 3 PM – Sleep or read in the hammocks by the ocean

3 PM – Snorkel or swim in the ocean

4:30 PM – Take a nap or relax after swim

7 PM – Eat dinner

8 PM – Play cards, watch movies, or play pool with our new friends

12 AM – Go to sleep

There was sometimes a hike up the mountain, a boat ride with our new friend Bart, or a bike ride around town mixed in there as well.

As some of you may know, I have some anxiety issues and idle time usually doesn’t suit me well. I have to be doing something at all times, or at least have access to the Internet, to keep my mind pre-occupied, or I go crazy with my general worries. But at Petra Camp, I could do nothing except just sit, and I was completely calm. I don’t know if it was just the place, or if I have changed during my trip, but I can tell you I have never been so relaxed in my life.

I would like to end my post with a video of one of our new friends, Achmed, teaching me a Bedouin dance. As you can see, it didn’t go well.



An Architecture Student’s Dream (No Wonder Amber Liked it so Much!)

Posted by Christy in Posts on 08 5th, 2010

Wow. If you are at all into architecture, be sure to visit Vienna. From historic palaces and churches to modern skyscrapers and monuments, this city has everything to offer. And not only are the building architectures interesting, they are extremely well kept. I have never seen cleaner, more pristine buildings in my life.

Here are a few pictures of the palaces, churches, and monuments we saw:

The real story behind Vienna was not the city itself, but the wonderful people we stayed with. Yes, we are back to CouchSurfing, and we couldn’t be more thrilled!

We stayed with a young couple named Selma (originally from Bosnia, but a German at heart) and Johannes (from Bavaria). They had only CouchSurfed once before, and we were the first people they had ever hosted. They have just moved to Vienna last year and were excited to tour the city with us. It was so refreshing to have friends to walk around the city with, and it was a bonus that they knew where to explore and what parts of the city to avoid.

They even invited their friend Thomas, who was the one person they had CouchSurfed with, to show us around the city center and share a little bit of the city’s history (Thomas has lived in Vienna for quite some time). He, of course, was very nice, and we very much enjoyed his wealth of knowledge of the different monuments and historic buildings of the city. Here are a few pictures of the tour with Thomas, Johannes, and Selma:

At the end of our stay, Johannes asked us if there was anything they could do to improve as CouchSurfing hosts. We told them if anything, they were a little too nice! We made them a meal our second night of Tex Mex tacos, avocado salad and a crumble, but we still feel we did not do enough for them in comparison to what they did for us. We truly hope they visit us when we get back to the States.

Thanks for everything, Johannes and Selma!



Friends and Wine in the South of France

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 07 23rd, 2010

We headed to the south of France to Perpignan for some sun, good wine, and to meet some friends. We stayed with Marie and Olivier, an amazing couple who we hosted in San Francisco through CouchSurfing.org. We were really excited to see them again, this time in their country.

Olivier is a manager of Arnaud de Villeneuve winery, so we were really excited to try his wines. Luckily, the first night we visited there was a wine tasting and dinner planned for his winery. The wine was really good and it was fun to be surrounded by Catalan food and music.

Catalan dinner

The next day we dipped into Spain. First, we went to Figueres. The town was a nice little town to walk around in. The highlight was the Salvador Dali museum. The entire museum is filled with Dali’s surrealistic works. It feels a bit like walking through a Tim Burton movie.

Christy and Susan in Figueres

Part of the Salvador Dali museum

After Figures, we headed to the coast to the tiny town of Cadaques. The town is an old sea town with white Spanish buildings and a harbor full of sailboats. We all agreed we could have spent a whole day in the town absorbing the atmosphere.

Aaron in Cadaques

Our last morning in the Perpignan we were lucky enough to get a personal tour of the Arnaud de Villeneuve winery from Olivier. He showed us the process of making wine, from grape to bottle. We even got to taste some wine directly from the tank.

Watching wine get bottled

Tasting wine from the tank

Thank you Marie and Olivier for the wonderful hospitality. I am so glad we were able to visit you and experience your city. We hope you visit us again when we return to the United States.

Dinner with Olivier and Marie



Oh No, Morocco!

Posted by Christy in Posts on 07 5th, 2010

All right, so Morocco was  a disaster. BUT, before you read this post, please note that Aaron and I bear no ill will towards this beautiful country or the citizens. The fault was ours and ours alone, for we were very unprepared for travel here.

Now that we have eliminated all potential prejudices, let’s move on…

Aaron and I were very much looking forward to Morocco, as it would be nothing like we have experienced before. We excitedly talked with a few British fellows we met on the ferry, who were also looking forward to the culture.

We arrive safely enough, and take a bus to central Tangier. As we depart the bus, chatting with our British friends we met on the ferry, we are instantly bombarded by different people asking us if we need directions, taxis, weed, etc. Aaron and I politely turned down all inquiries for service, but our British friends did not fair as well with the persistent drug dealer. As we were walking to our hostel 15 minutes later, the same guy was harassing them. We laughed and carried on our way.

Now, Aaron and I like to walk about different cities with as little help as possible. We like the challenge of finding our destination on a map, and we find it is a good way to experience the city. As we were walking to our hostel in Tangier, we were probably asked about 20 times if we needed help, and we politely turned them down every time. (For those of you wondering, these people trying to help us ARE looking for monetary gain.) We find our hostel with little trouble and settle in for the night.

As there is little to see in Tangier, we decide to take a bus to Fez the next day. We go back to the bus station, purchase tickets for the next departure a few hours away, and go to lunch. We return for our departure time a couple hours later. Well, we miss the bus. Why? Because both my iPad and Aaron’s PC set our clocks an hour later than what it actually was in Morocco. So, we have to spend another night in Tangier, and go back to the hostel for another night.

I decide to take a nap and read in the hostel while Aaron ventures out to find the Kasbah. Aaron is walking about the city, turning down offers for directions as he goes, until he runs into a man in his 50’s with an agenda. He asks Aaron if he needs help, Aaron politely tells him no, and goes on. The man follows him around for another 5 minutes, giving him advice as he goes. During this time he decides he has done enough to be paid. So, for the next 15 minutes, the man chases Aaron around Tangier demanding to be paid because “this is how it is done in Africa.” Aaron had no small bills or coins with him, and after arguing with him for 20 minutes, Aaron surrenders our Flat Stanley doll we are carrying around for Aaron’s mom’s 3rd grade class.  The man is upset at first, but takes it grudgingly and finally leaves Aaron in peace.

The next day we arrive at the bus station early to depart for Fez. We are on time and get on the bus. Yay! We are on our way!

Except this bus ride is 6 1/2 hours… with no air conditioning… packed full of people… and screaming kids…

This is most unpleasant. OK, we endure the bus ride and arrive in Fez. As soon as we are off the bus in Fez, we are bombarded once again by people offering us taxis, tours, etc. We politely turn them down once again, but one man decides I am extremely rude and starts to yell at me about being disrespectful. All I did was say “no thank you” to his taxi service and then ignore him as he proceeded to talk us into buying.

We venture out to find our hostel. A nice gentlemen on a moped gives us directions (we didn’t ask, of course), but he didn’t ask for money, only gave us his number in case we wanted a tour guide for the next day. We then find our hostel after being accosted the whole way.

We do not get a good night’s sleep at the hostel due to the heat in the room. Usually we would just open the windows, but recently I had been bitten by mosquitoes and I had a terrible reaction, and I didn’t want to endure any more bites at that time.

(I’m not sure if you can see the huge lump on my hand…)

After hardly getting any sleep, and hardly eating any nutritious food the last few days, we wake up and decide to just head back to Spain. I know, I know, this is horrible, but that is really how we felt at the time, and we just couldn’t make ourselves walk around Fez or spend another night in a dirty hostel.

We decide to take the train back to Tangier to catch the ferry. It is only a 4-hour train ride, plus it is roomier. We can handle that.

We get on the train, and of course no air conditioning. It is hotter than hell in there. We find little relief in the barely cracked window above us. At least we have a 4-seat compartment to ourselves, at least for a little bit…

As we make our way north, and make more and more stops, there is no longer room for just the two of us in the 4-seater, and a woman and her teenage daughter sit with us. They pull out a few treats to eat on the train ride, and to our surprise, they offer some to us! I am so touched by the gesture and I am tripping over myself with merci’s, later to find that they speak no French, only Arabic.

The next 3 1/2 hours on the train ride are by far my favorite moments in Morocco, and even in our world trip. These people did not speak one word of English, and we could not speak Arabic, but somehow we ended up having a conversation the rest of the train ride. We learned about their family, where they were from, what they were doing in Tangier; we shared photos, took photos; I showed them my iPad, which got the attention of some of the children on the train. They came over to our compartment, and I played a few games with them.

The little girl in the red liked me so much, she wanted to sit with me the rest of the train ride.

We were really sad to see the train ride end (which is weird, especially since there was no air conditioning), and my new friend (Zulli (sp?) was her name), gave me a small token to remember her by: a mini teapot she had painted.

For the first time on our world trip, we really embraced another culture, which is what we are really looking to get out of this. Aaron and I vowed that we would continue this on our journey, and not just get caught up in the tourism.

Onwards to the rest of Spain and France!



First CouchSurfing Experience as a Guest

Posted by Christy in Posts on 06 5th, 2010

We have just ended our first CouchSurfing stay, and I can’t imagine a better experience. We stayed with Fran and her 9-year-old daughter in Barnes, a suburb in southwest London.

Christy, Fran

Aaron, Fran

Fran had just finished a round the world trip themselves, and they had some great tips for us. We cooked dinner for them one night (they said they enjoyed it, I’m not sure if I believe them) and Fran returned the favor. It was so nice to have two home cooked meals in a row.

Our favorite activities with our hosts were watching “Britain’s Got Talent” with Fran, and playing the most popular Wii game in the UK right now (“Just Dance”) with her daughter. Aaron was naturally talented at this game, as seen below:

Thank you so much for your hospitality, Fran. You are welcome to visit us in the US anytime!



So Long, San Francisco

Posted by Christy in Posts on 05 24th, 2010

I know this is late… Sorry!

As I begin this new chapter in my life, I can’t help but look back on the previous one and become just a little bit sad.

San Francisco was one of the best times in my life. Great scenery, great job (most of the time), great adventures; but most of all, great friends.

My San Francisco friends are some of the best friends I have had in life. I will always look back at this time and not remember the golden gate bridge or the steep hills, but the friendly faces I saw everyday.

So cheers to my San Francisco pals, who I shall miss dearly. Don’t forget about me, because I will certainly never forget you.

Love you all.