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Posted by Jessica on Nov 8, 2005
From Buenos Aires to Leeds

On a trip of this nature, one of the most important things to consider is the size of your backpack. Your pack is basically your home away from home: it holds your clothes, your toiletries, medical kit, maybe a journal or some pictures from home. You carry it everywhere when you arrive in a new place, you secure it next to you when you’re waiting for your bus, it’s your livelihood. And if it’s too heavy or bulky, well, you can be seriously hindered.

Like a lot of other travelers, Tim and I are constantly comparing the size of our packs to other people’s packs. It gives us a silly joy to see that our main backpacks are usually smaller than some other people’s day bags. For the amount of time Tim and I are traveling, we have pretty small bags: about 10 kilos in each backpack, with another 0.5 kilo each in our little day bags.

What does all of this have to do with a post about Leeds you might ask? Only this: For 6 months Tim carried a present in his bag for our friends Paul and Caroline who live in Leeds. We purchased it on our third visit to Buenos Aires and were holding it specifically for our visit to see them. And while the present itself wasn’t large or heavy, the point is that space in backpacks is at a premium and you never want to add extra things unless you absolutely need to. So to carry a present with you for 6 months can only mean one thing: it’s completely worth it.

We initially met Paul and Caroline on the second day of our trip, during our first visit to Buenos Aires. Immediately the four of us clicked and we spent several more nights exploring that beautiful city together before going our separate ways. We spent time with them again only a few weeks later, though, in the sleepy mountainside village of El Bolsón. There we spent some glorious days together, each couple in their own private cabin, eating enormous amounts of Paul’s professionally cooked food. And the last time we would see them was in Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina, before they headed to the West Coast of the US to tandem bicycle their way from Seattle to San Diego.

Despite having known them for only a few short hours on that first night we spent in Buenos Aires together, we made plans to visit them in Leeds. We talked about spending several days with them there, Paul cooking up a storm and the four of us spending hours talking together. It sounded like a grand idea. Now, to put this in perspective, I should mention England wasn’t even on our itinerary when we decided to visit Paul and Caroline in Leeds. And so I probably don’t need to point this out, but to add another country (and an expensive one at that) to your itinerary during your trip can only mean one thing: it’s completely worth it.

As the time drew nearer for our visit with Paul and Caroline, Tim and I had to force ourselves not to think about it. I think part of the reason poor Spain got a bit of the shaft while we visited it was because we spent half the time looking forward to seeing the two of them again. (Well that, and Spain was basically South America with some castles thrown in for good measure but five times more expensive! Oh, and my giant pink pig was attacked by an evil child while I sat in a park one day with our bags, but that’s another story entirely.)

Anyway, after having wonderful visits in Essex, East Croyden, and St. Albans the day had finally arrived for us to take a bus from central London up to Leeds. Now, being from the US, I have absolutely no knowledge of English geography. In my simple mind, there’s London…and, well, there’s everything else around London. And, you know, I figured all those “everything elses” were rather close to London. I mean, it’s England after all. How big can it be, right? It turned out I was decidedly wrong. So after having a quick geography review given to us by the bus company, Tim and I boarded a bus bound for the lovely Leeds, located very north of London about 4 hours away.

A quick side note: Prior to purchasing our bus tickets from London to Leeds, all of our English friends – which must be at least half the country given how many English people we’re friends with – warned us that English buses are “rather grim” and should be avoided. We were strongly advised to take the train, although it would be much more expensive to our backpacker budget.

Now, these were other backpackers advising us. Other backpackers with similar budgets. Other backpackers who’ve been on buses in Bolivia and Laos. Other backpackers who have ridden with chickens in their lap, have had tear gas thrown into their bus, or have had an armed guard (holding an AK-47 no less) ride on their bus to ensure it wasn’t taken over by bandits during an overnight trip. And yet they were advising us to avoid the buses of England at all costs because they were “rather grim.”

And so I can say, after riding on quite a few lovely English buses, I have determined all of our English friends have eaten a few too many fish and chips and drunk a few too many pints. But was riding the bus from London to Leeds, possibly risking our lives and god knows what else by doing so, worth it? Absolutely: because the following four days we spent visiting Paul and Caroline would prove to be some of our most favorite days of our trip so far.

November 8, 2005 at 8:00am
Oh Yeah…
other jess
November 8, 2005 at 8:05am
well, the septa strike is finally over here. so we can all go back to riding with chickens and tear gas.
i miss you guys.
Broken Weebel
November 8, 2005 at 12:06pm

I must say that I love the picture of you near the bus sign, for the expression on your face is a classic Jessica look that makes me smile ever time I see it…

With regards to riding on buses, I take it your friends have never ridden on a Baltimore bus, a Virginia Bus, or Washington DC bus. Although I never had tear gas thrown at me or had to sit with a Chicken named Camilla (Gonzo was MIA) I did have to deal with really creepy looking Goths… Not that I have anything against Goths at all, but these ones looked like they belonged in a Rob Zombie movie (in other words they were CREEPY!).

Anyway, I hope you enjoy more adventures in transportation and if you should have to share the bus with any alligators please get their phone numbers for me! <img src=' style='position:relative;' height='17px' width='17px' /> Thanks!

Amie a.k.a. Koreen's sister
November 9, 2005 at 11:47am
Just for the record Philsie…I was out sick yesterday.

Having riden on a D.C. bus myself Broken Weebel, I will confirm that there is "Goth" and then there is possible vampires.

Oh hey there Hedgehogs…I am glad you are trecking along and are meeting up with your friends, I also will have to read more about the child/park attack…because horror stories with kids are all the rage…(the grudge, the ring, children of the corn…ok that last one was old. )

November 10, 2005 at 4:53am
the look is you

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