The very moment you ask for directions in Japan you have a personal guide. Almost every time we asked for the way we were taken by the hand and directly brought to our destination. And that is only one example of the extrem japanese friendliness.
As we found out there is no better way to start your day than having Udon for breakfast at 12 am. Udon is mostly served hot as a noodle soup in a mildly flavored broth. Because of the language barrier we ordered Udon with ? (no idea) but both of our meals turned out to be amazing and for only 350 Yen (around 2,50€) a true bargain.
We highly recommand buying the so called “Osaka amazing pass 3 days” for only 3000 Yen (21€) which allows you to have unlimited rides on trains and buses without paying admission to 28 popular tourist sites.
Lunch break in the Shinsekai neighborhood of Osaka, which is famous for its Kushikatsu. Thats a Japanese dish of seasoned, skewered, grilled and deep-fried meat, seafood or seasonal vegetables. The neighborhood is great but the dish is not really worth to try – the oil used to fry overweighed the rest of the flavor.
Walked to Floating Garden Observatory in the Umeda Sky building. Another skyscraper but only 173m high with an amazing architecture and a 360 degree open roof top observatory let you overlook the city of Osaka. Especially at night all the lights look amazing.
Second day of sightseeing.
Exploring the area around Namba Station: Dotonbori Area, which is a busy shopping area with thousands of people, countless restaurants and shops. Within the area the Hozenji Yokocho Alley is an old narrow stone path which is lined with friendly traditional restaurants, shops and bars. Very quiet and completely different from the rest of the Dotonbori Area.
In a booklet we found a recommendation for a restaurant in the Dotonbori Area where they make Okonomiyak - a Japanese pancake. The batter and other ingredients were pan-fried on both sides on a teppan (in front of us). A bit skeptical we ordered only one (ham and cheese) but after trying it we went for another one. It did not seem to be a typical tourist restaurant and therefore we were the only “non locals”. Being very hospitable they proudly invited us to try a Japanese dessert. It's very hard to describe. I would call it a jelly-like confection covered with a dry powder which tasted a little like a sugar-peanuts mix. The consistency as well as the flavor was weird therefore we played rock scissor paper who had to finish both portions – guess who lost (Eva... haha)
Two busy but amazing days gave us a good impression of the city, the lovely people but it’s not nearly enough time to get to really know this amazing city!
After arriving late and nearly freezing to death (-14 degrees) we found our cute little hostel in the student area close to Hongik University called Hondaeg. The room was small as expected but the bunk beds were really comfy. The best thing - it was really really warm.
The next day started off with quite some sightseeing. Close to the Gwanghwamun Gate there is a great area with lots of nice little cafes, shops and restaurants. We heated up in a cute cafe before more sightseeing had to accomplished.
Exhausted and craving for good food we found an authentic korean barbeque place with only locals. Neither couldn´t we read the menu nor did we have any idea what to order. So we asked the waitress to decide for us. In the middle of the table was a built-in barbeque. Different types of meat, rice in a bamboo bowl and some other things were served to us. Having no idea how to eat it the right way we just copied our neigbours and wrap the meat with lettuce and added condiments such as - pajoeri (spicy scallion salad) and samjang (a spicy paste made of doenjang mixed with gochujang). The copy function worked very well besides the copied order of "suju" we saw on a neighboring table. Cheap alcohol with 20% (300ml for 3000kRP = 2,5€).
The next day the best tour guide ever (Niels) took me for a long walk along the Han River. The only thing he forgot about was how to get back. Completely freezing and nearly starved we found the way to the next subway station after 2,5 hours of walking. For the sunset we went for the famous "N Seoul tower" with popcorn and drinks.
On our lazy day we we took the hop-on hop-off bus but it wasn't really worth it because most of the sights we already explored before. In Itaewon (expat area) we found a great South African-run restaurant (Braai Republic) serving traditional South African food. After walking through the door the South African hospitality and the great vibe of that place grabbed us. We chatted for an eternity with the owner Rotney who is amazingly friendly. The food was awesome (Sausages and lamm chops with mashed potato and a local salad). Strenghend from the food the exploration continued until night. In the evening we went out with two people from our hostel and explored the crazy night life in Hondgae.
After a long night out Eva needed coffee in the morning and we only made it to a cafe / library around the corner. It felt like university again. After the coffee some history was on the agenda (e.g. war memorial museum).
Do you know what to order?
Smoke mask in the underground
Walk right not left!
Sightseeing - Gwanghwamun Gate and temples
Gyeongbokgung Palace - Among the Four Royal Palaces in Seoul, Gyeongbok Palace is the most popular for tourists
N Seoul Tower located on Mt. Namsan offers great panoramic views of the city, and has been a symbol of Seoul since it first opened to the public in 1980.
I dont like bubbly tea ...
Taipei? Taipei! It wasn't on our initial schedule but Niels decided he wanted to do a real city hopping tour once in his life. So here we were. First stop Taipei.
Being back in a real city with many amenities felt very good. Easy subway system, coffee shops, bars, restaurants and everything was clean. But with all the conveniences there also come disadvantages, especially when it comes to accommodation prices.
We were used to much better accommodations for lower prices (paying nearly half the price in Hanoi for a 3 Star Hotel including breakfast). Therefore, our new home was a little shocking. Only a mattress and hocks on the wall with a shared bathroom. But at least it was clean, the staff was very helpful with lots of good recommendations and after all we were living a normal backpacker's life.
The next days we had dumplings and buns at the famous Din Tai Fun restaurant, visited the nightmarket, climbed the elephant mountain for a stunning view of the city and last but not least visited one of Niels favorite skyscrapers in the world: the Taipei 101. The most interesting thing it is the metal ball between the 88 and 92 floor which balances the movement if an earth quake happens. The ball weights 660 tons which is the same as 2 jumbo jets. In average 4000 earth quakes occur each year. On the 89the floor is a nice observation deck.
Evas version of the last day: we visited the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and went on a ride with the Maokong Gondola. At the last stop you can have tea in a traditional tea shop while overlooking terraced green tea fields, or hike to temples with waterfalls. But because we were lagging time and the weather was bad we headed back very quickly.
Niels (correct) version of the last day: Evas description is correct for the most of it. She only left out the fact that she mixed up the departure date. So that we had to head back very quickly because we were believing that we were running out of time and might miss our flight. We didn't because we were 1 (!!!) day early at the airport!
The Taipei 101 from different places
Our expectations were set rather low after visting the world famous underground river - so El Nido took us by surprise!
It is absolutely worth the visit - never mind the long and uncomfortable travel: 45 mins boat ride from the Coconut Garden Resort, another 2 hr jeepney tour and finally a local bus to El Nido for another 5 hours (of cause stopping in every single village). Including waiting time this might have been a record setting 10 hr trip for 180 km!
El Nido itself is not that special but the surrounding Bacuit Archipelago is. It's an amazing archipelago consisting of immense limestone cliffs surrounded by crystal clear turquoise water inviting everyone for a snorkelling tour. Island hopping tours are the only way to explore the archipelago with its stunning lagoons. We booked the two most recommended ones (A and C) and weren’t disappointed. In the evenings we met with Dany and Layak (a Lebanese couple we met in a shisha bar) and Maaike and Marc (a Dutch couple we met on one of the tours).
No one knows the true story of the heart island (Matinloc Shrine / Fernandez's Abandoned Mansion) but our tour guide told us the following: a rich german man bought the whole island which comes in the shape of a heart for his wife. He build a catholic center but when he died nobody took care of it anymore. The following years it slowly fell apart.
Two days of great swimming and snorkeling come to an end ...
Booking the accommodation for Port Barton gave us a hard time. Finally, we decided to stay at a place run by a half Swiss half German who offers some known Swiss dishes at his restaurant which we were dying for. Not giving up for 3 days Niels somehow managed to get in contact via Facebook (all other means of communication failed). Not sure if everything worked out we took a local minibus for 5 hours from Puerto Princesa to Port Barton - surprisingly a boat was awaiting us.
45 mins later a small island came into sight. The Cococnut Garden Resort was the only place on the island. Therefore, we enjoyed western dishes every day e.g. Gulasch with mashed potatoes or Schnitzel 😉 After traveling for almost 10 month you appreciate western food a lot. The place was a bit like a small zoo: dogs, cats, monkeys, ducks, ducklings and many more. We are not big fans of wild animals being locked up but in this case they only treated one injured monkey with her baby.
Since there was nothing to do besides eating, swimming, and playing cards it was all about being lazy without having a bad conscious.
A local fisher boat passes by
Go to Sebang they said - it's going to be amazing they said... Eva wanted to organize something special for Niels birthday and booked a full-day tour to the world famous underground river in Sabang. But small changes made a big difference. Instead of getting picked up at 8 am the pick-up got prescheduled to 7am - Niels is not exactly a big fan of getting up too early. But the tour was prepaid and it was our only chance to see the underground river. Being on Palawan and not seeing the undergrund river is like being in Paris without paying the Eifel Tower a visit.
The drive from Puerto Princesa took us around 2 hrs, arriving in Sebang we needed to wait for another hr before finally a small boat took us to the cave (3 1/2 hrs total travel time). The river winds its way through the cave for more than 4 km before emptying into the sea. But you can only go for the first 1,5 km. Inside the cave there are huge chambers filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Thousands of bats hanging upside down from the ceiling. But to be honest the view from the outside is much prettier than the cave itself. Niels even requested a new birthday present....
Back in Puerto Princesa we walked around the city center and ended up in a shopping-mall where Niels found a play-area. Finally, there was some happiness. Aside from various Philippine means of transport which come in all shapes, colors and sizes there is not much to see in Puerto Princesa.
Hanoi is said to be one of the most beautiful and atmospheric cities in Vietnam. To be honest we didn’t see its beauty (e.g. compared to Hoi An). It's a nice city but not amazing. The Old Quarter is the historic heart with pulsating life and countless of motorbikes. You find local coffee shops and restaurants at every corner and it's nice to watch to chaotic street life. We toured the capital sights for 3 days.
Hoan Kien Lake in the middle of the city
Typical café - on every corner in the Old Quarter
Yet another world heritage site?
Deciding which tour to take, took Eva a long time - too many choices and even more warnings about scam tours made our life as hard as it can get while traveling the world. Only a few tours met our requirements. Our lovely host Linda (Hoi An) offered us our favorite tour ("Glory Cruise") for a good price. The 3D/2N adventure started three days later.
Still a bit cautious we arrived at the harbour and were pretty amazed by our ship. It was new and luxurious. Cruising in luxury made it very easy to enjoy Halong Bay with its over 3000 majestic lime-stone islets. The weather was perfect - sunshine all day long but not too hot. Especially, the second day we were able to explore the bay without the crowds. Sally, Paul and the two of us had a whole ship for ourselves and a lot of fun while kayaking, sun-bathing and relaxing.
It's all about tailor-made stuff!
Hoi An is an ancient town and a unique heritage site. The streets have charming lights in every tree and the whole city has an harmonious character. Not only because of its many temples, stylish restaurants and bars but also because of its grand architecture and the riverside setting it’s a must see when you are in Vietnam.
Everyone who has been to Vietnam recommended this cute little town which is also famous for its glut of tailors (more than 200). We couldn't resist and got tailor-made suits, shirts and much more. It kept us busy for almost 2 days with around 7 fittings. But we left the tailor (BeBe) with a smile and many bags. As good costumers we were allowed to have a look in their factory which is located in the back of their shop.
If not busy with fittings we were wandering along the ancient lanes, the historic perfectly preserved port and the many sights the old town had to offer. The surrounding area could be well explored with our scooter...
The old Japanese covered bridge
Niels favorite Sandwiches - no idea whats all in there
A scooter ride is not always a peace of cake...
No pick up was awaiting us at the airport. After waiting for 20 min. not many taxis were left and our options therefore very limited. A strange guy came up to us asking where we want to go several times. Our travel experience told us to be cautious denying his offer to give us a lift. Eventually, the guy knew our hotel and Phu Quoc is neither Central nor South America, so we finally gave in and accepted his offer. Due to his mad driving skills we reached the hotel in Warpspeed.
Our nice hotel was located directly at the beach. Every room had its own hammock, which we used heavily. We enjoyed most meals along the beachside or in Raghavs favorite place – surprise: an Indian restaurant. The running gag was fish sauce. Raghav and Rakshita found it in pretty much every single meal – Niels in turn found it in his breakfast pancake only – seriously, they prepared the pancake in fish sauce… The first contact with locals taught us that not everyone likes to bargain: the girls wanted to bargain for fruits. The lady responded by pushing, cursing and trying to spill dirty water over them. Completely confused they brought out in big laughter. Luckily this was the only weird experience we had with locals for the rest of our trip.
Marcus, Rakshita, Farina and Niels rented two scooters for the exploration of northern Phu Quoc while Raghav and Eva stayed at the hotel. The roads are mostly unsealed and sometimes really tough. Marcus and Rakshita rode a scooter together. While going down-hill the scooter sledded and they crashed. Rescue team 'Niels and Farina' helped them up again. Marcus had scratches along his leg, arm and a stone in his hand while Rakshita seemed to be more lucky with only some scratches on her ankle (her jeans saved her from worse).
Back at our place Niels cleaned all wounds while Eva got the stone out of Marcus hand. The stone was actually quite big (size of a big pea). Not sure if the wound was really clean Niels and Marcus went to a so-called hospital. For only 3 € Marcus got treated including a local anesthetic (because he was screaming like a little baby) and antibiotics. The doctor advised Niels to take pictures of Meggis while cleaning the hole in his hand. However, out of respect and decency those pictures can't be published here 😉 What an experience!
Raghav and Rakshita had to leave the same day so that Rakshita could get a proper check-up at home. As it turned out Rakshita wasn't lucky afterall. Her bone had a small crack and the next weeks a cast was part of her fashion style.
Besides that little happening we had a great time together and look forward to met up again. But without scooter trips 😉
Our Scooter gang
Farina enjoying Coco Loco
Impressions from our first scooter tour around the island
Christmas trees look somehow different in Vietnam
Before the accident ...
... and after
Relaxing on the Island-hopping tour and enjoying the scenery
Snacks on the tour (mussels and sea urchins) followed by even more snacks on the local market
Life is good - getting a massage on the beach
The most beautiful beach on the island
Time to say goodbye
One Australian, one Indian, one American, two Germans and us - our planned NYE celebrations group. As it turned out you can add two more Indians and a loooot of Vietnamese 😉
Rob, Eva and I were supposed to leave Langkawi at 11 a.m. and arrive in Ho-Chi-Minh-City at around 3.30 p.m. local time. It was not before 9:00 p.m. we finally were able to meet with Maggis and Farina who were waiting for us at the airport by that time... At least we were able to enjoy one more pizza at our favorite place at KLIA2 (stop-over) because of the delay.
When the five of us finally managed to find a taxi we expected the worst. While driving the meter was jumping in 10.000th every second the car stopped (26.000 Dong =~ 1 €). Another 100.000 were added every km we went. By the time we arrived at our hotel the total amount came up to 1.8 million (~69€ for 8 kms). Ready to start the arguing, I asked for the price - 160.000 Dong?!? Well seems like meters work different in other parts of the world 😉
Our room / suite / apartment was nicer than expected: two bedrooms, spacious living room (huge dining table and a chill-out area), two fully equipped bathrooms and a kitchen. It immediately felt like the apartment in the TV show "friends".
The moment we touched ground in Vietnam something wierd happend to Rob: he got active, he started planning, he searched for information in the net. As it turned out he badly wanted to visit the Chu-Chi tunnels. Thanks to Rob we went there right away the next day. It was quite an experience. We are not taking any sides, we are no historians but living in those tunnels must have been hell. They are so small I couldn't fit in there. We had the chance to squeeze in one of those holes !oppressive! Also we "walked" down a tunnel, as I read later on it was prepared for tourists - however I nearly got stuck.
The same day Raghav and Rakshita arrived. Following the "Friends" mentality we took it easy that evening and chilled in our apartment. The following day the girls prepared for NYE, meaning they went shopping. Raghav and me met with two friends of Raghav and went to the national war museum. A propaganda palace - but well there are always two sides of a coin. Mainly military equipment (parts of shot down B-52 bombers and there like) as well as pictures of wounded and crippled Vietnamese are shown. The whole thing is rather depressing and left a lot of open questions as the history itself is nearly left out completely. While Raghav did some more sightseeing with his friends I went home to get myself ready for the big night. First thing I saw was a miserable Rob and a sleeping Meggis (who was supposed to take care of the evening planning).
Exhausted from the major shopping trip the girls came back. The evening planning was made (not by Meggis) and we headed out for dinner. Because of Robs misarble condition the team decided to celebrate the countdown at our roof-top with a great view over the city. As soon as the new year started we went for some serious partying in the gossip-club. On the way we got to learn how a real traffic jam looks like. Round about 500 meters away from the club it was impossible to go any further by car – but also walking was quite and exercise: climbing over dozens of motorbikes and squeezing trough non existing gaps. Everyone was in a good mood therefore the whole thing was great fun and the locals were pretty impressed by the way foreigners make their way! Finally arriving at the Club a bouncer lead us to a private table and a great night with a lot of fun started – no more details given 😉
The next day we followed the "Friends" mentality again and chillaxed in our apartment, only leaving it to get some food.
On our way to the New Years Eve Party
Our beloved apartment
Niels going down in one of the tunnels
Sightseeing in Backpacker area (with great paintings and souvenirs)
Daily traffic in the city
Celebrating the countdown on our roof-top
Well, we have seen the sun while staying on Langkawi and the rainfall was not as bad as in most parts of Asia, but sunnies were mostly needed to cover our eye rings in the morning. Because of the weather our primarily focus was on nighttime activities for which it came in handy that we stumbled over a very nice bar in our first night. We have taken the barkeeper into our hearts. Over the course of our ten days stay he made us quite a view special drinks and was always up for a chat. Mostly we ended up in clubs called Sunba or OneLove. We won't forget the crazy parties and Sunba staff won't forget us (right Rob?). One night we met nearly the entire crew of a real superyacht. All of them were great fun and we had a nice night out. Also we met Gregor and Martha from Poland as well as Nick and Natalia from GB / Russia (living in Australia though). Thanks guys for the unforgettable nights....
During daytime our main task was to find food, which was supposed to be easy, right? It was, but good, not overprized food? That was a different story. A low was reached when we finally gave in and went to the Italian / Mexican restaurant on the main street: the pizza was one of the saddest things I have seen in my entire life so far - hardly any toppings with a little flavor of nothing?! Seriously if you ever visit Langkawi don't go there! The next pizza place only served very sweet pizza, however the Internet was freaking fast 😉 Eventually, we managed to find extremely good food. There are two places serving authentic Indian food (this might be the reason because _all_ staff is on a three years contract directly flew in from India!). 1. India Palace - rather pricey (in Malaysian terms around 6 - 8 € for a maim course). But the food is extremely good, so good that we started Christmas eve (24.12) there. 2. Our favorite 24/7 corner restaurant. Food is so cheap you are tempted to order way to much every single time. Their famous banana pancake cost as little as 50 cent! Chai Latte and Teh tarik (national drink of Malaysia- made from black tea and condensed milk) are also 50 cent - all that 24/7!
But Langkawi is more than just food and cocktails! The beach in Cenang - if the sun was shining - was really nice. Also we spend one very sunny day island hopping. A day tour for only 7 euro including the transport to the harbour, lunch and entrance fees for national parks is more than one can ask for. Another day we rented a super sports car (see pictur below) and drove around the island. Our first stop was at the Skybride - it was closed... However, the Skycab was operating and the view from the top was amazing (see video ;). Our next stops included some nice beaches and lunch on the beach. Only the planned second accommodation ("sandpiper") was a downturn. It was far away from everything and on top overbooked. The owner wanted us to stay in a place without internet (!!!) and directly on the main street. We declined his offer and went back to Cenang where we found a great place to stay!
Our super sports car
It all started in Newcastle by Rob saying: "so now you need to talk me into joining you guys for Christmas and NYE". 5 seconds... That's how long it took us. As I learned from Paul the salesman (he is introduced in the Halong Bay post later on) it only needs someone who either 'needs', 'wants' or 'desires' something you are selling. Obviously Rob was a very easy target as all of the above held true for him: he wanted to go, needed a break from work and desired to travel with us 😉
So the three of us were reunited. And again Rob picked us up from the airport, only this time it was not Sydney but Kuala Lumpur we arrived at. Our first task was to find food, which turned out to be more difficult than expected: even though all airport was extremely friendly, helpful and more than willing to help, we were send in a different direction every time we asked for a pizza place. But our unbreakable will finally lead us to the promised land. "Surprisingly" the pizza was amazingly good (KLIA2, lowest floor, in-between the coffee place and the China Restaurant). After satisfying our basic needs we got some beer and chatted till late night.
The next day "guide Eva" showed us KL. First point of interest were - of cause - the Petronas Twin Towers. A staggering 452 meters high, they feature the world most famous skybride (172 m above ground). Mr. James Bond paid the Skybride a visit in one of his movies. However, all of us found the viewing deck in one of the towers at level 86 more fascinating. I'd love to have an apartment with this kind of view one day. Next on the sightseeing list was the park right next to the twin towers. It's supposed to be the best spot to take a nice picture of the towers and their surroundings, if there wouldn't have been a construction site 😉 The colonial quarter which we paid a visit next was free of construction sites but full of old historic buildings (one of the nicer parts of KL). From there we took the train back to the airport and headed off towards Langkawi.
It was just a short visit but enough for our taste;)
And more pictures of the Petronas Towers
Not sure what this is for - no way to go around 😉
Isaac and Solomon have been great teachers during our stay in Perth: after some training we even managed the art of summoning / creating three-headed monsters protected by shields and equipped with powerful weapons - you would be truly impressed! The first 3 days of our stay in Perth we spent with Niels great-great-grand (she is really great 😉 cousin Astrid and her family. They live in Mandurah, a suburb located 70 km south of Perth. Astrid and Andrew (her husband) were great hosts, it felt like home straight away. The beach is only 200 m away from their house and the ocean was a welcome refreshment on these hot summer days. While being in the water the first time, dolphins passed by very close. How cool is that?! Having a swim in the morning with dolphins around. But for the boys it was just a normal thing and nothing unusual. At least Andrew seemed to be somehow fascinated.
@ Astrid-family: Thanks a lot for having us!!!
The next 4 days we spent at Heathers (the mother of Astrid, Eva and Lawrence) place directly in Perth. The beach was just across the street and the house is surrounded by a lovely garden with papaya trees, physalis and other fruits. Heather showed us the most remote city in the world with its beautiful beaches and wonderful weather. As well as Astrid, Heather was a perfect host and the best tour guide you could possibly wish for. She knows the best places and therefore we got to see some of the highlights Perth has to offer: a walking tour through the beautiful Kings Park (together with Eva (the other one;)), Fremantle with its beautiful port, some more suburbs like Cottesloe and of cause "Heathers hood": Scarbourogh. While not being busy with sightseeing we met Niels other great-great-grand cousins: Eva (the other one) including her soon to be husband Ben (welcome to the family) and Lawrence including his family. The last night Heather invited us to a revolving restaurant on the 33rd floor of St. Martins Tower in the city center of Perth where we had a delicious 4-course-dinner and an amazing view over the whole city.
@ Heather: Thanks for having us and being the best tour guide ever!
The time passed by far too quick and we had to leave our favorite country once more :/ But hopefully it's not long before we will be back.
Someone is enjoying the last rays of the australian sun
Not only is Newcastle special because of Rob but also because we spend our first night with our camper on a parking lot in Newcastle 6 1/2 years ago - Welcome back to Newcastle!
So this time there was no need to find a place to park our wicked camper. Robs place is extremely nice – just 2 minutes from the beach. He picked us up from the airport Friday evening and we chatted till late night. The next days we met some of Robs mates, went to the beach, “chillaxed” and of course went out. The night we went out we discovered Australia’s greatest weakness - yes there is a "weakness"!: clubbing. No one is allowed to enter the clubs after the lockout. In Newcastle the lockout is at 1:30 am and most clubs close at 2 am already! Basically that's a children's birthday party. But Newcastle is still a nice place to hang out.
The day of departure turned out to be different than expected. The plan was to in the morning, catching the train to Sydney, meeting with Mus and Roman and catching our flight at 3:30 pm. If only the flight was at 3.30 p.m.... Everything worked nearly as planned. Having a great lunch with Mus and Roman until we found out that I (Eva) mixed up the arrival and departure time. By the time we found out it was way too late to catch the flight. Arriving at the airport I went to the Quantas counter and explained our misery. We got told that we don’t need to worry as there was another flight only 2 hours later. Both of us were expecting horrendous surcharges for the reschedule, once more Australia (Qantas) surprised us: we did not pay a single penny extra! However, if that wouldn't be enough: entering the plane the cabin crew gave us free champagne and snacks because of the stress we had.
The whole situation assured us even more that Australia deserves to be our favorite country in the world!
No dresscode needed: even a towel enough!
Our treasure - tickets for the flight from Sydney to Perth and ...
The Barefoot lodge on Drawaqua island was beautiful: a lovely resort with small cottages (called bures), sunrise and sunset restaurants right on the beach. The surrounding reef is very healthy with an amazing variety of fish and colorful corals. While we had dinner the sun set over the ocean.
Because of the great snorkeling Eva decided to do a cave dive which turned out to be a great idea. The corals might have been the best she has ever seen. Time flew by very quickly in the Barefoot lodge (also because we met Mus and Roman (see section “Peopl”) and way to soon it was time for the next island again.
It is one of the most northern islands in the Yasawas – Tavewa island. While Eva took a nap Niels made friends with the whole staff (thanks to Tomu) and came back to the Bure with many gifts (coconuts, mangos and citrus leaves for tea). Being addicted to diving, Eva couldn’t resist the opportunity to participate in shark feeding (Lemon sharks, many Reef sharks and !Bull Sharks!). One evening we were invited by Tomu to a Kava ceremony with the staff. Turning down this offer is considered a serious insult to Fijians, therefore we gave it a try. Kava, is made from a pepper plant but only the root is used. The powder is mixed in a huge wooden bowl with fresh water. It looks and taste like muddy rain water. It is known for its pleasant relaxation effect and after one cup you begin to feel your lips and tongue tingle a bit (compared to a local anesthetic at the dentist).
The last island was Nanuya Balavu where Eva talked Niels into an Open Water Dive Certification Course. Hence Niels was busy most of the time diving and preparing for the exam while Eva had relaxing time. Surprisingly, the “great” Dr. MüWi passed the final exam and now, he is not only a Dr. but also a certified diver 😉
The time flew by and our 12 days in Fiji were over to soon. After all time doesn’t pass by slower in Fiji – no Fiji time!
Goodbye last island alias Nanuya Balavu
Paradise here we come again!
Due to the many choices (all of them sound great) planning the Fiji trip was a lot of work. Even after Eva decided to limit the trip to the Yasawas 20 islands and around 30 resorts the choice was hard. But after 7 month of travelling we are well trained travel agents: it took one long and exhausting night of planning only 3 days before the departure to get everything booked. The 11 nights in Fiji were allocated to 6 different islands and our transport was booked in advance.
The first island was Beachcomber island, which is supposed to be THE party place. However, during our stay it was very quiet. After having only 4 hours of sleep on the night-flight we didn’t mind this at all. The island is one of the smallest in the group it only takes 10 minutes to walk around it. It’s a picture-postcard island at its best.
The next island further north was Wayasewa, also known as Wayalailai. The island is dominated by a huge volcanic rock which towers over the beach and the resort below. The sunrise hike to the top took us an hour but the reward was a beautiful view over the Yasawas. That included the neighboring island where the movie “Castaway” with Tom Hanks was shot. At the moment Fiji has a rough drought period therefore some islands have only limited water supply and we could only take a quick shower when the tide was high. But that doesn’t really matter in Paradise 😉
First sight of Beachcomber Island
I arrived earlier than Eva did – at 6 am. So it was not until 12 pm that we could finally leave the airport and step into our favorite country. Being back was an amazing feeling: sunshine, friendly people and a beautiful country. Our host awaited us in his apartment (AirBnB), his wife – Nara – was still working. Carl is from Norway but migrated 12 years ago. If he hadn’t told us, we’d never guessed that he is no true Aussie. Entering their apartment we immediately felt at home. Their apartment is a cozy, warm place with a lot of charm.
After we did all the unpacking and so on we started exploring the city. Melbourne is comparably big to German city, it has 4.3 Mill. inhabitants and is rapidly growing (unlike German cities). It was very easy to find our way around because of the organized tram and bus system as well as a language that we could finally understand again. The CBD was even more built up than we expected it to be, with a remarkable amount of sky scrapers forming the skyline of the city. Still, Melbourne does not feel too dense. Also, the amount of different languages being heard in the streets and the great number of coffee places, bars and restaurants are impressive. There was no holding back – we fell in love with that city J
Over the next few days Mikaela (we met her on our trip through Central America) showed us around the different areas of the city and invited us to a very nice barbecue with her whole family on our last evening. Also that day we met Leon again, who Niels got to know 4 years ago at the AMCIS in Peru.
It might be the nicest city in NZ,m but I had my worst hostel experience ever! Niels dropped off the campervan while I stayed on the horse farm. Therefore, I had to use public transport from Te Anau to Queenstown. It is a very scenic drive, especially when Lake Wakatipu comes up.
Queenstown is a little town situated by the lake and surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It is definitely has some of the most stunning scenery I have ever seen. The city has many restaurants, laid-back cafés and fancy bars. It’s a pity that I only have 15 days in Queenstown. You could easily spend 4 days checking out some nice walks, restaurants cafés with their great selection of coffees, cakes and biscuits. The city is also famous for its many adventure activities like bungee-jumping, skydiving, skiing and much more. Therefore the city attracts many young people who are seeking adventure, and know how to party.
The time passed by very quickly whilst visiting a few cafés, exploring the city center, having the famous Fergburger (gourmet hamburger) and going for some beautiful walks along the lakeside.
Hoping it would be much quieter, I chose a 4-bed female dorm. But sharing a room with 3 young girls is not always a good idea. The first night the girls came back making a lot of noise. But that wasn't not enough. The next night I was woken up because of weird movements and noises on the bed above mine. It took me a while before I understood what was going on above me (it seems a male was invited into the female dorm). A few hours later the two other girls came back (at least they were alone) and, without any consideration, they switched on the lights and packed their stuff. Without a lot of sleep I got up early and left for the airport.
This experience taught me a lesson and the next time in Queenstown, it will be a private accommodation 😉
Scenic drive and Lake Wakatipu
Most important and foremost: Yeeees – it – is – done! I am proud and relieved to say: all went very well – magna cum laude! For the last 4 years I have been a PhD student. All of you know about the ups and also quite a lot of downs I had during these years. After handing in my thesis in the beginning of February I finally had to hold my defense on the 12th of November 2014.
My professor called me home on short notice - only 2 weeks before the actual defense. As you can imagine, cheap flights were long gone by that time and flying home from Queenstown, New Zealand to Hamburg, Germany is not exactly what one would call a short distance flight. In my case it took 34 hrs not including the 1 ½ drive in the morning, camper van return, check-in, etc.. But well, the 14 hrs leg from Sydney to Dubai should provide some restful sleep. I am pretty sure it would have done its job, if those two little kids (~1 year and 5 years) with their juice head father, and “Cindy from Mazan” mother were not on the flight! Flight length: 14 hrs, Screaming time: 13 hrs 59 mins.
As compensation for the first part of my expedition, the flight back to Melbourne was very cinematic. 5 movies and 3 episodes of “two and a half men” made me forget all the trouble and stress of the past week.
In writing this I’d like to thank everyone who supported me during the last few years.
Special thanks fly out to:
- Martin – Most probably the person I learned most from in my whole working life + without Martin I might still be writing my thesis, thank you so much!
- Martina – She has three children, still she always managed to help me. She had the energy to explain, advise and support me where ever she could.
- Marcus – First, second and third level technical support – not a problem! Printing PhD thesis - yes he can! Psychological support (in form of beer) – he loves to help!
- Nico – Not only A3S is still haunting him in his dreams.
- Raghav and Klaus – My English left and still leaves room for improvement. Raghav and Klaus converted “denglish” into “English”….
- My Family (Eva, Parents) – thanks that you still talk to me 😉
Why isn’t life always as easy as getting a job on a horse farm in NZ... On our way to Milford sound Niels spotted a cowboy at a petrol station. He made me ask the cowboy, if he needs help with his horses. For obviously reasons he was very confused and told me to call him the next day. But I never did so. Instead we drove by the horse farm the next day. Andy – the cowboy - offered Eva a job straight away. Now I was the one being confused. I asked him if he doesn’t want to know about my horse riding skills, experiences and so on, but he only answered “No, you told me you can ride horses”.
Two days later Niels dropped me off at the horse farm, not without checking-out the place first. I got her own room and started working the same day. I got introduced to the horses and the daily work, which was split-up between Emma, Andy (see section people) and me. A usual day on the horse farm was as follows: breakfast sometime between 6:30 and 8:30, feeding the chicken, ducks and horses, getting the horses ready for the trek and taking the tourist for a beautiful 2 hours ride. The surrounding landscape is picturesque. On the top of the hill you have an amazing view over lake Te Anau with its snow-capped mountains. After coming-back we had lunch and got the horses ready for the next trek. Furthermore, we did farm work like draining, grooming and training the horses. Luckily, it wasn’t high season yet, hence the average amount of horse treks were only 1-2 a day which left us with enough time to do other stuff. I also learned how to ride a quad-bike because Emma and Andy are starting a second business with the quads. Most evenings ended by watching “Lonesome Dove”, a western series of the 80´s.
The 9 days on the horse farm passed by way to quick! I could have spent more time with Emma, Andy, and the horses but I was also looking forward to meet my awesome Dr. MueWi in Melbourne.
@ Andy and Emma: Thank you so much for the great time, you made a dream come true. Every time in future when I use one of your tips and tricks regarding Natural Horsemanship I will think of you guys!!!
Having a break with a nice view over lake Te Anau
Everyday we were having fresh eggs from our happy chickens
Andy is giving the new horse a lesson: Its called "The Circling Game" he sends the horse around and teaches him to come back to him.
Quad Biking is fun too
If you are in New Zealand you have to pay a visit to the Fjordland National Park. Next to the Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park it was a highlight while staying in New Zealand. The drive starts in the nicely situated town Te Anau which is surrounded by mountains. From there it took us around two hours to drive all the way to our campground at Milford, where we met our favorite Finnish family again. The drive up north itself is already one of its kind. Endless numbers of look-outs with spectacular views made us forget about the windy streets.
The most spectacular stops were “The Chasm”, which is a waterfall running through a deep canyon. The mirror lakes, which perfectly reflect the surrounding snow covered mountains. And last but not least a place in the middle of a great meadow where we had a nice view into the canyon towards Milford Sound.
On our way back we stopped at the Divide for a 2 hours walk to the Key Summit, which offered spectacular 360 ° views of the Fjordlands.
Arriving as guests leaving as friends! We have been traveling a lot over the past few years but hardly ever met hosts like Eline and Julian. Just to give some examples: They picked us up from the airport and dropped us off at the airport (even though our flights was late at night and early in the morning), Eline planned our whole three weeks stay in French Polynesia with us, helped us booking the flights, translated for us, gave us a lot of very useful information and drove us to the city, the travel agency and Carrefour. Every night we had a lovely dinner together and a lot of fun. They are originally from France but moved to French Polynesia only a few month ago. Thanks to Eline and Julian we had an unforgettable time in French Polynesia.
It was supposed to be a very short stop-over only – we ended up staying a total 7 nights. On the way to Milford Sound we stopped at a campground 60 km away from Te Anau. Basically it is in the middle of nowhere, you won’t find much more than a petrol station and a minimarket. But the campground we found is a true travelers-gem. As it turned out, it should be the best campground on our whole trip. Our stay at Mossburn Country Park was pleasant right from the start: everything was well organized and very clean. Stuart and Colleen (owners of the campground) had a pet lamb (abandoned by its mother), a few sheep, alpaca, chicken, a cow, a dog (called Andrew), a pie choc and a pie hen. As Niels needed to work on his presentation for his PhD defense, the true free Wi-Fi was much appreciated. Most camp groups offering “free Wifi” hand out a voucher for 25-45 MB of data!! We liked the place a lot and extended our stay for one more night, the day after we extended it by another night.
Becoming friends with Stuart and Colleen is every easy. They are lovely and welcoming people. We got invited for dinner as well as coffee and Eva went with them to a “festival” in “town”. We (especially Niels) truly enjoyed the time in our camper without any driving. After 3 days we decided to drive to Milford Sound but the weather conditions didn’t allow us to. The road was closed for 1,5 days due to snow and fallen trees therefore we enjoyed 2 more days on the campground – chatting with our neighbors, Coleen and Stuart and playing with Andrew.
Finally with a delay of 4 days (without any regret) we headed to Milford.
Sneaky Andrew is looking in the campervan while Eva is cooking - no idea what he is up to
Unfortunately we have to admit: it is true the South Island is more spectacular than the North Island.
The planning for the total kms to be driven was 3.500. After leaving the North Island we already drove 2.500 km. Therefore, a decision was made: to make our journey more enjoyable we skip some parts on the South Island. Starting off on the east coast, going down south through the Catlins and the Fjordlands we finally made a turn West to our final destination Queenstown.
Surprisingly Evas birthday came up on our way from North to South. It would have been the best birthday ever… The day started with a perfect breakfast: croissants, a birthday cake and a great latte macchiato while enjoying the view of the snow-capped mountains. At noon we were booked-in a whale watching tour in Kaikoura, where marine animals (e.g. whales, dolphins) are plentiful and year around to be seen. But as it turned out the day was only almost perfect. The amazingly sunny day without any clouds turned out to be too stormy for our tour so that they canceled the trip only 1 hour prior to departure. After receiving the bad news we did not burry our heads in the sand: we drove towards the south along the beautiful coast with some nice stops for short walks. In the evening Niels tried to make-up for the canceled trip by building Eva her own private cinema in the camper including homemade popcorn. Although the whale-watching tour would have been nice, it was one of the best birthdays Eva ever had.
Next stop Christchurch. The city is impressive – we did know about the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 but had no idea about the destruction it caused (70% of the buildings in the CBD have been torn downby now). Although it’s been nearly 4 years by now you still see a huge amount of empty spaces and ruins. In the first place it gave us the impression of a depressive place but as we found out the city has a vibrant and livingly atmosphere. Ever since the vision how the city will be rebuild was introduced a lot changed.
The Catlins are a combination of farmland, waterfalls, roaring waves, large beaches and steep cliffs. Especially, the walk along the Surat Bay where sunbathing Sea Llions lay around everywhere was great.
Eva on her 31st birthday (age is just a number)
As far as the eye can see: "Kerrygold Land". The most common landscape while driving around the North Island are atomic green fields with happy cows and sheep. The whole scenery seems to be a reminiscent of the Kerrygold Butter...
Our first stop were the Waitomo Caves. They are famous for their huge number of glow-worms. First the tour led us through stalactites and stalagmites into a large cavern from where we took a boat into the pitch black. After a while the whole cave ceiling started to glow – looking like the Milky Way. By producing light Glow-worms attract mosquitos or flies which follow the river into the cave. With their sticky fishing-rods their prey gets caught.
Next stop Hollywood. Most of the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movie scenes were not shot in some film-studios but in different places around New Zealand. Hobbiton is one of them. If you like the movies we'd highly recommend going there. You'll feel like being in the movies themselves. The whole scenery is very beautiful with a love for detail some might call sick. The tour guide gave us some insights of director Peter Jacksons work. He must be a crazy perfectionist. For example, he made the workers built a tree with 10th of thousands of leafs. After the tree was built he didn’t like the color, so every single leaf had to be recolored by hand.
The next few days we met Dimi and René (see section "People"), who were also travelling in New Zealand. While chatting and eating a lot, time flew by. Due to the very good and plentiful food we needed some activities after saying goodbye. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing which is supposed to be the best day walk in New Zealand was the solution to our growing bellies. The whole track is 19,4 km with an altitude between 900 and 1.800 meters above sea level. The views of the volcanos and the beautiful green colored lakes were amazing - worth every single step. After staying near Wellington for the night, we gave the city a short visit before finally saying good-bye to the north island. The Ferry ride to Picton through the Cook Strait offered nice views of the Marlborough Sounds.
View of the Lake Taupo
The grass is greener on the other side (of the world).... The day has come: Picking-up our new home for the next 5 weeks. We got an "upgrade" straight away to the premium brand. Right from the start Eva wasn’t satisfied with the “upgrade” because it wasn't cozy. Everything in the camper seemed to be alright but nothing was well thought-through. The two employees convinced us (mainly Niels) give it a try. The camper was new, a German brand and a diesel, so we gave it a try.
The journey started. Heading north to the black sands of Piha at the west coast of “Norckland” (north of Auckland). The view of the coast as you drive down is great as well as the beaches themselves. On the way we hardly saw any cars and the beach was completely empty. Not fare from the beach we stayed on a shabby D.o.C. (Department of Conservation) "campground" with dumping toilets.
The first night came and we soon should find out why noone else wanted our premium brand camper van: it wasn't possible to sleep in the camper (neither in the top bed nor in the bottom one). The top bed was designed like a hammock, which is nice for 2 hrs but not for more. The bottom one is even more of a disaster: you basically sleep on a metal frame. The next morning our choice was easy: the camper needs to be returned. It took us only 1 hour to drive back and after some discussions and waiting time we were happy to received the camper we booked.
It was love at first sight and everything changed. This time the journey started with a great feeling. The next 6 days we explored Norckland. Starting on the east coast with a cruising tour to the famous Bay of Island, where the dolphins played around our boat on a perfect sunny day. Then we headed further up north to Cape Reinga the place where the Tasmania Sea and the Pacific ocean meet. We walked in the sand dunes at the 90 Mile Beach, wandered around the Waipoua Kauri Forest with its gigantic trees, and were enjoying our camper. Only the windy roads were a bit of a downturn. The 1.000 km from and to Auckland with an average speed of 40 km/h took us about 25 hours, which is insane (in European measures).
Best burger in camper/town
On the way to Cape Reinga
One of our favorit places - Spirits Bay
Niels found a human eating plant 😉
People walk, talk and work slow! during the week most shops close at 5 pm (apart from grocery stores, restaurants and bars) and after 7 pm the city is deserted. Auckland is the biggest city in New Zealand with around 1,2 Million people. But it feels more like a small town. Everything is unbelievable relaxed. The busiest Café-restaurant and bar district of Auckland (Ponsonby) which is supposed to be "damn cool" is still too quite for us: On a beautiful and sunny Saturday afternoon in spring only a few people were sitting in the Cafés and bars. Besides a crazy group who are having a “pub golf” it was disappointing empty. After the last month in South America, where most things are exciting as well as exhausting it’s a complete change and it seems we need to get used to it.
Walking through the CBD feels like being in Asia. The high number of Asian people is unexpected. In the streets you mainly hear mandarin. Chinese grocery stores and restaurants are on every corner with products, we have never seen before.
Everything in Auckland is very nice - but nothing is stunning although the environment is beautiful. Auckland has two lovely harbors, a lot of water, great parks and its close to gorgeous beaches which makes it a perfectly situated city. But still we didn’t fall in love with it. Sorry Auckland!
Crazy group having a pub golf in fashionable Ponsonby
and one of the plenty gardens in the city
Best cookies in the world! Our favourite is the caramel taste. Follow the instruction to eat them (although it might be a little messy when you aree not used to it):
1. Nibble one corner off the Tim Tam to reveal the wafer.
2. Flip the Tim Tam and bite the opposite corner off.
3. Dip one end into a warm cup of tea or coffee and suck. The Tim Tam will work like a straw, drawing up the liquid.
4. As soon as you feel the tea or coffee in your mouth you need to be quick and put the whole Tim Tam in your mouth. It will melt.
Ps. Niels will bring 10 packages to Germany - we are more than happy to share 😉
Last but not least Fakarava was scheduled. When we arrived our welcome committee - Charlot and Florian - were already awaiting us. We met them a few days ago we on Tikehau. Going for a 9km bike ride to see the lagoons in the north without seeing anyone is normal on Fakarava. The way was gesäumt by palm trees. Unfortunately the snorkeling at the northern tip of the Motu wasn’t as nice as expected (bad visibility) but the beach totally made up for it.
Last day we got entertained by huge nurse sharks, black tips and sting rays eating fish directly on the shore next to Relais Marama (our lodge). While snorkeling Niels (my beloved boyfriend) wanted to kill me. Standing in the water with a perfect sight of what was going on he directed me straight to one of the huge nurse sharks. Thus the shark and I met eye in eye only 30 centimeters apart in the shallow water (I could see all of his teeth). Luckily the shark seem to be even more scared of me than I was of him: he immediately turned and swam of to the open water.
Fiji is a small place. For the first time we met Maëve and Matt on Wayalailai. As it turned out they nearly had the same itinerary or were following us (which Niels is still very convinced about 😉 Being in the 20ties both are working travelers. Maëva is abroad for nearly one year and Matt even for more than 2 years. They met while fruit picking in Australia. Their “relationship” seems to be based on pure hate, but somehow it works out very well. On Mantaray Island Niels and Maëva became dive buddies for life. Even though Maëve tried to kill Niels several times by diving far deeper than they were supposed to, following turtles or sharks without paying any attention to the Dive instructors signs or by simply making him laugh and therefore losing his regulator.
Oxford Dictionary: Multicultural Couple = Mus and Roman. Being from the Republic of SingaCzech (defined by a staff member at the Barefoot Resort as a mix of Singapore and The Czech-Republic) they are living in Sydney, Australia at the moment. Without any doubt Mus is the most valuable person to Niels who we met during our trip – she is a real doctor. Unlike Niels she can actually heal people! Roman “The Engine” is in charge of the propulsion power especially while kayaking. He is the logical brain while Mus is the heart behind project “Team International”. We spend a great time with them and hopefully will meet them again in Sydney!
Emma is the daughter of Andy, who is the stereotype of a Cowboy (John Wayne must have had him as a role model). He has a rough voice, wearing boots, jeans, a shirt and of course a cowboy hat at all time. Eva was treated like a member of the family and felt at home straight away. Both of them are practicing “Natural Horsemanship”. Natural Horsemanship is a special way of working with horses based on their natural instincts and methods of communication. Horses are herd animals and they interact with each other through body language.
The horses they use for the treks are all standard breads (either trotter or pacer). Most of them would have ended as meat without Andy or Emma. They managed to get them all well balanced so that even people without any experience can ride them! This especially amazing, if you think of the horses previous job as racing horses. They like to share their knowledge and taught Eva some very useful basics, which she will definitely use back home. Thank you guys for the amazing time. I wish I could have stayed longer!!!
It is the biggest atoll in the Tuamotus and the second biggest in the world. The atoll’s coral belt consists of hundreds of small island no more than 300m wide but they stretch along a circuit for more than 200km. In total the atoll measures 75 km from east to west and 25 km from north to south.
Rangiroa is famous for its great diving especially sharks and dolphins are a big attraction. Eva dived one morning in the Tiputa pass where it is almost certain to see sharks and dolphins who frequently come to the divers and play around them. But she wasn´t lucky. She had a nice dive with sharks and many other fish but the dolphins kept distance and she could barely see them.
A typical scene in French Polynesia: A fishermen chopped freshly caught Mahi-Mahi. Even for us (newbie fish eaters) it looked fantastic. We couldn’t resist and bought 1 kg without an idea how to cook it. The wife of the fishermen gave us her favorite recipe. The outcome were 3 great meals of Mahi Mahi marinated in lemon and cooked with self made coconut milk.
One afternoon we took the bikes and went from one side of the Motu to the other side which takes about 45 mins (8km) to see the dolphins jumping in the waves. The rest of the time we relaxed a lot, improved our skills in open coconuts and learned how to make coconut milk.
Niels is improving his coconut opening skills
Most probably Tikehau is the most remote island we stayed on. There are only 600 people living on the atoll and shops are only filled up once a week when the cargo ship arrives. A discovery trip around the main Motu took us only 1 ½ hrs by bike (12 km). Besides the bikes we took one of the kayaks for a 3 hrs excursion. Once more the surrounding beaches and motus seemed to be drawn.
Chez Justine is a very nice pension. At first its owner Laroche seemed not to be very chatty but after he made Niels eat fish (!), he invited us several times for lunch and dinner (Lobster, our favorite fish Mahi-Mahi and Tuna). He was the one educating us about Adam and Eve – the German TV-show… It was recorded on one of his Motus!
Bora Bora is one of the worlds most famous destinations. Especially, for honeymooners in luxury resorts and their over-water bungalows. Putting it in other words: its not a typical destination for backpackers. However, if you look around there are smaller family pensions also offering good deals. We got told that the island is overpriced and overdeveloped hence we just booked two nights, which turned out to be a very good decision.
The main activities on Bora Bora are in- and around the lagoon because it’s a huge turquoise swimming pool with a large variety of fish and colorful corals. The best way to experience the lagoon and the idyllic motus is by boat. The tour took us around the whole island and its lagoon including great snorkeling spots, swimming with black-tip sharks, rays (they came close, even touching us - a very slimy feeling) and an awesome Motu barbeque.
Getting started for the lagoon excursion
One of the numberless luxury over-water bungalow resorts. Unless you spend more than 5.000 US$ (!!!) a night, your neighbour will be able to see and hear you on your balcony. I'd expect more for at least 1.200 US$ a night 😉
We found paradise - Mo’orea already seemed like it but Motu Mahare is just over the top.
For the first two nights on Huahine we stayed at Tifaifai et Café. Flora (the manager) offered us to stay the next two nights on a small private Motu (island). To be honest we were curious because Tifaifai et Cafe was an amazing place, thus it was hard to believe that it could get any better. But Flora convinced us. As soon as we went on the boat to our new home we knew it was the right decision. What awaited us is hard to put into words. A tranquil place with only two lovely wooden bungalows. They’re surrounded by huge coconut trees and many colorful flowers. Only the manager (Tamatoa), his wife and their son live on the Motu. It is surrounded by a gorgeous lagoon with crystal-clear turquoise water and white-sandy beaches. We felt like Robinson Cruseo on our beautiful lonely island. Tamatoa picked fresh coconuts everyday, his wife made delicious cakes, we went for some great snorkeling, kayaking and spend quite a bit of time in one of the hammocks. Life can be good 😉
First sight of Tifaifai Motu Mahare
Our new pets:lots of lizards (finding easy food in the shining lamp)
Eva´s favorite place for writing the blog
Stranded Surfers on OUR private beach...
A traditional farewell gift: beautiful flower´s and necklaces made by Tamatoas wife. Eva grinned like a Cheshire cat
Eva with Tamatoa and his lovely family
The prototype of a friendly rocker (full body tattoo and long hair) picked us up at the airport – Raphael. Finally, we arrived in the French Polynesia we had in mind: Palm trees loaded with coconuts, crystal clear turquoise water, small houses and a relaxed atmosphere. The big waterfront bungalow welcomed us with a fully equipped open kitchen, living room and a huge terrace. In the morning Raphael’s made croissants accompanied with his home made guava - star fruit marmalade. With Raphael’s scooter we explored the island and discovered a supermarket with typical French baguette. Besides the beautiful beaches with its crystal-clear water the island offers beautiful hikes and viewpoints.
The last day we booked a great kayaking trip with Patrice and Isabelle. Tours through Madagascar, the Philippines, Alaska and many other countries make them the exceptional kayak guides. Somehow they managed to navigate us next to groups of dolphins while Eva and I were fighting against strong winds and rain – yes it was raining! After we left the lagoon to the open sea, the rain stopped. Lunch was prepared at a friends place with a beautiful view over the lagoon. It included a delicious dessert and an aperitif made out of rum, brown sugar, lime and a lot of original Huahine vanilla. As most things end too fast the day ended quick and Patrice had to drop us off at the airport in the late afternoon.
Best breakfast with Raphael's home made croissants
Fully loaded trunk after a great shopping experience including French baguette
Patrice and Isabelle (click here: Kayak Nomad Polynesia)
Busy workers on the airport – playing boules on the airfield #goodlife
Arriving in paradise was different than expected. Eline and Julian (our AirBnb hosts) welcomed us with a flower necklace late in the night. But while driving to their place (about 20 minutes) we constantly passed by big houses and shops instead of a few small bamboo-huts. They live in a nice apartment with a waterfront terrace including a beautiful view of the neighboring island Mo’orea. Unfortunately there was a lot of planning to do, so we spent the first day organizing the next 3 weeks in French Polynesia on their terrace. Eline supported us with an unbelievable energy all the time.Only stopping for a longer time to go to the country´s famous roulottes in the city of Pape’ete. Literally, it’s an area with mobile caravan-stalls, where you can eat everything from Polynesian to Chinese and French cuisine. When we came home the planning kept us awake until we gave up 2 am in the night. Trying all the unlimited possible combinations of flights to the different islands made it an impossible task to finish.
The next morning the solution to our problem was the Air Tahiti travel agency. The lady did the fight planning in less than 15 minutes and managed to squeeze all wanted Islands in the schedule ( Tahiti - More’ea – Huahine - Bora Bora – Tikehau – Rangiroa - Fakarava). After this success a great shopping experience awaited us in the huge supermarket (Carrefour) where we found everything we dreamed off for the last 4 month e.g. different types of salami, cheese, vegetables etc.. The same day Eline supported us finding the accommodations on the islands also and by the end of the day everything was arranged for the next three weeks (thank you again:).
It’s far far away and its famous for its stone statues: Easter Island. That’s what we knew. Now we can confirm: yes, the island is far away from everything. It is a 6 hours flight from Santiago de Chile (east) and another 6 hours flight to Tahiti (west). The Dutch admiral Roggeveen landed on the island on Easter Sunday (5 April) 1722 giving it the name "Easter Island" (he must have been a very creative person). The stone statues are called Moai. They are huge human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people between 1250 and 1500 a.c.. Nearly half of them are still at the Rano Raraku (a volcano), where they were produced. Hundreds were transported to other places on the island and set on stone platforms called “Ahu”. Almost all of them face inland overlooking their clan lands – symbolizing the holy ancestors of the Rapa Nui people. The tallest Moai is almost 10 meters (33 ft) high and weights about 82 tons.
The island is small, only measuring around 160 square kilometers with nearly 6.000 inhabitants, who mainly live in the only village – Hanga Roa. The landscape is dominated by deep green grassland with wild horses grazing peacefully, a coastline made up of cliffs and small mountains. The main sights are easy to cover in around 3 days but we had 9. So what is there to do if you have three times more time than the average tourist? Exactly right - nothing. That’s the reason why we decided to visit most sights by foot. One day we hiked for 5 hours up and down the coast, visiting some Moai´s and caves, when we realized that walking back takes at least 3 more hours. Lazy as we are we searched for a solution; no public transport, no own car, no own scooter – we went for hitch-hiking (@ Ma: the island is absolutely safe, most people don’t even lock their doors). The first car passing buy immediately stopped. As we found out the driver got pulled out of the plane by the police the day before because he was involved in a fight in Chile before he started travelling one year ago (…. first time hitch-hiking….). Well, we survived and the following days we kept on hiking a lot but didn’t need a lift. Another highlight was meeting Gauthier de Tessieres (e.g. 2nd place WC in Garmisch), who stayed in the same place than we did. Our 9 days on the island felt like a wellness treatment and we left the island completely relaxed.
Because of unprepared / stupid people without snow chains it took us 2 hours to reach the the ski resort of Valle Nevado. The day before, it snowed a lot therefore the snow was powdery and light. For Eva it has been 7 years since she last stood on ski but it worked surprisingly well 😉 We skied the whole day and only had a quick lunch break with Empanadas, Hamburgersa and a hot chocolate. A little different from what we are used to in Switzerland or Austria but well... you can't have it all. Tired from our ski trip in the Andes we return to Santiago late in the evening (7pm 😉 and fell asleep early.
The highest point we reached to day was 3.679 m.
The end of a great day of skiing
We had no idea what to expect and were extremely surprised. It’s a modern metropolis with nice neighbourhoods, restaurants, and parks. Most important: it’s remarkable safe compared to all South American countries. But the best thing is its location: flanked by the Andes to the east (40 kms) and the coast to the west (60 kms). In the hostel we learned that the three major ski resorts of Chile are just an hour drive from Santiago.
On our way from the airport two ladies from Santiago gave us a quick sightseeing tour. While in santiago we met a lot of friendly people like these two, for example an old lady came up to Niels in the supermarket and told him not to take the apples he chose but other - better - ones. The next day we went sightseeing and Niels convinced Eva to book a day trip to Valle Nevado the next day (next post).
If you are looking for a night out this is the place to be - Bellavista. Its like the Schanze in Hamburg, centrally located with a lot of bars, nightclubs and restaurants.
The worlds most dangerous road is the old road between La Paz and Coroico. An average of 26 vehicles every year went down the edge, hence a new road was built in 2007. The old road is now mainly used by cyclists who want to enjoy the 64 km long and 3.600 meter (from 4800 to 1200) descent ride. The first 20 km are on a paved road where you regularly overtake other vehicles. It was a very good warm up for what was to come: the real death road – unsealed, narrow (around 2-3 m wide), cliffs with drops up to 600 m and only a few safety barriers. Eva didn’t feel 100% comfortable because of all the stones and the slipping bike. We speeded down the road but had quite some safety stops. The surrounding landscape was unreal once more. At the starting point mountains were covered in snow and it was freezing cold. Reaching the lowest point of the trip at around 1.200m above sea level rainforest-like vegetation came up including humming birds and mosquitos.
The day was a great adventure!
The night was freezing cold but again it didn’t pose a problem. We had to get up early to see the sunrise at the “Sol de Mañana” geyser basin with its boiling mud pots. Shortly before reaching the area the highest altitude of the tour was reached (4.907 m above sea level). The atmosphere at sun rise is magical. But it was quite cold while we walked among the smoky geysers. To heat up again the next stop were the hot springs nearby, where we hopped in the 38°C water. From there we headed back north in the impressing desert: its so colorful. With the clear blue sky it’s the perfect set for hour-long window-watching while driving.
Last but not least we made an extra stop at “Valles de Roca”, a huge lava field which got its today form from a earth quake long time ago. While we drove in one of the valleys, a true paradise unfolded: a valley covered with grass, a large lagoon, llamas and no one else besides us. As we found out later on, this spot is not visited by 90% of the tours – lucky us!
On the way back to Uyuni our guide stopped the car in San Cristóbal. A village which was moved from its original place because of one the biggest silver mines in the world. The church was fully reconstructed in the new place (every single stone).In the late afternoon we reached Uyuni and took the night bus to La Paz again. This time the bus took 12 hours only. Including 3 break downs (in the middle of the pitch black nowhere) and one drive-off the road. Arriving safely in La Paz we found out that a bus on the way from Uyuni to La Paz just ran off and crashed three days ago. Apparently, that happens at least once a month.
and wearing flip-flops afterwards
And last but not least the fully reconstructed church in San Cristóbal
One out of two pee breaks during the lovely 12 hours night bus ride with no toilet on board (especially nice for the women)
The day didn’t start as planned: another jeep was stuck in the salt desert and we had to help (never mind the temperature of -3 degrees). After about an hour of effort the situation had not changed. The tour guides decided to get help from a nearby village and we continued south west towards the colored lagoons (Red, Blue, White, Yellow and Green).
The landscape changed rapidly. The lagoons are so-called due to the different colors that characterize them. They are surrounded by volcanoes and offer surreal panorama-views. Especially, Laguna Colorada with its red color and flamingos is impressive. It was here where Niels took the best picture ever taken 😉 After a long day we arrived at our night-stay (you can´t really call it a hotel or hostel). It had walls, a roof, something like a bathroom and good food. Luckily we were prepared so it didn’t bother us much.
A village in the middle of nowhere
We were prepared for every possible happening. People on our way told us that it's getting extremely cold in the salt flat area (down to minus 15 degrees). Buying a alpaca sweater, scarfs and socks as well as two extra sleeping bags and a down jacket seemed sufficient.
The most common way to get to Uyuni is by night bus which normally takes 12 hours and arrives early in the morning in Uyuni. This way the 3 days/ 2 nights tour can start the same day. In our case the bus took 16 hours and it wasn't as comfortable as we were hoping. Psycho movies were shown until 1 am, just to start again at 6 in the morning. In between the bus stopped several times to let people out and in – our night was short.
Because of our delay of more than 2 hours we arrived at the tour agency in Uyuni 20 minutes after the tour should have started, but like most of the times in south America things go slow. The tour started with 1 hour delay and we were perfectly fine.
Our tour consisted of Alessandro and Francesco (two Italian guys) and Amy from China. Alessandro is a doctor specialized in viruses and bacteria’s, therefore he was very curious about everything we touched and reminded us of disinfecting our hands all the time (its because he is permanently working on projects in Africa for the last 20 years). Francesco is also a traveler and Bolivia is his last stop before going back home to Italy. Amy is working for Huawei and now Niels knows how his mobile (a Huawei) is pronounced correctly (something like Wawi 😉 After 2 hours we found out that our guide had been an English teacher for several years and offered us to do the tour in English (normally it costs a fortune to get an English speaking guide).
The tour started with the “Cementerio de Trenes”, which was followed by the worlds largest salt flat – Uyuni (12.106 sq km at 3.653m height). On the one hand it's an enormous white areal of nothingness. On the other hand it offers the perfect setting for crazy surreal pictures. Before heading to our night stay in a salt hotel we stopped at the Isla Incahuasi, which is a hill in the middle of the salt flat covered with cactuses and offers spectacular views of the Salt Flat.
The night was pretty cold but with our two sleeping bags we were perfectly prepared. In the morning both of us were super rested – unlike the others of our group.
Day 2 see the next post 🙂
Holes in the salt with salt crystals forming in the brine
Nothingness after the salt flat
Crossing Lake Titikaka, Niels and I underwent our first not 100% legal “border crossing”. Lake Titikaka is the world´s largest high-altitude lake at 3.800m. It is set between Peru and Bolivia. Therefore, the police controls the persons going from one side to the other regardless the fact that you stay in Bolivia (at first). Having no passports with us, the guide found an easy solution to the problem: just stay on the bus as the police normally doesn’t inspect it (normally – that’s what he said, believe me we nearly wetted our pants). Luckily it worked out fine – otherwise you would have to send some care packages to the Bolivian prison. Copacabana is the main city on the Bolivian side of the lake. After walking around and having lunch we took a boat to Isla del Sol. The island has some Inca ruins, great views of the surrounding and – of course – a lot of sun. Unfortunately, we just got a decent overview of the island and its definitely a place worth spending 1 to 2 full days.
We were shocked (!) while driving from the airport to the city center of La Paz. Everything looked shady and even the area our hostel was located at (it was supposed to be in a good neighborhood) looked not the way we hoped. We didn't plan to spend too much time in the city anyways. But after walking around and finding some nice restaurants, cafés and plazas we liked the city more. Soon a place called "café del mundo" became our second home.
The altitude of the city gladly didn't effect us at all (La Paz is situated between 3200 and 4100 meters, which makes it the worlds highest seat of government). Only the very low humidity dried out our lips and skin as well as made us drink 4-5 liters of water a day easily.
In La Paz we went to a place called “witch market” where llama fetuses and other things used in traditional Andean rituals are sold. The funny thing in Bolivia is that’s its cheaper to rent a taxi for a sightseeing tour than using the Hop-on-Hop-off Bus. Therefore, we took a taxi and went through all the sights (see Pics). On day 2 we went to the Titikaka lake (post will follow). The next day our journey took us to Uyuni (post follows). After coming back from our Uyuni trip we needed a bit more luxury and got a really nice hotel (called Naira) in the best area.
Once more we were baaaad backpackers: the scenic train to Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo) is the most luxury way to get to Machu Picchu but its worth every penny 😉 While travelling you can see the change in landscape and vegetation. The village of Aguas Calientes lies in a deep gorge below the ruins of Machu Picchu. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have an overnight stay for having an early access to Machu Picchu.
We got up at 5:00 am (!!!) in order to catch the bus before 6:00 am. This ancient city wasn’t discovered until the early 20th and its actual purpose and function is still a matter of speculation. But what is known for sure: The location is one of the most spectacular we have seen on our whole trip! When we arrived at Machu Picchu there were some other people already therefore we decided to start the real hike to Machu Micchu Mountain. It’s a steep path with loooots of stairs. Hiking the 700m altitude difference took us around 1,5 hour. Arriving at the top we got rewarded with an amazing view of Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu (the mountain in the back of Machu Picchu). But also the surrounding landscape with its snow covered mountains is breathtaking. We enjoyed the view for almost two hours 😉 Machu Picchu exceeded our expectation’s and we spend the full day exploring the ruins.
The Sacred Valley (Valle Sagrado) is packed with Inca sites and high-altitude Andean villages. It consist of different places between Pisac and Ollantaytambo, starting about 15 km north of Cusco. Eva took a day-trip as Niels has already seen it 4 years ago.
Cusco is one of the major spots when visiting Peru, because its within day tour distance to the biggest attraction: Machu Picchu. The so called “lost city” of the Incas. The city is on an altitude of around 3.200m. But Cusco has more to offer than only being a stop over. It was once the Inca empires capital, has beautiful colonial buildings, archaeological sits, massive Inca-built walls on steep and narrow cobblestone streets, plazas and great restaurants. Moreover, we found a massage salon called Ajna. Yarit the owner is half the size of Eva but holy sh** she is strong 😉
We were lazy.... Our Peruvian adventure started in Lima, where we stayed in Miraflores, one of the nicer parts of Lima. After the last month of constant travelling and sightseeing, we weren’t in the mood for more. Therefore, we walked around the district and went for some shopping in the Mercado Indio. After 4 hours of looking around and bargaining we left the market with satisfaction (an alpaca sweater, gloves, scarfs, etc. change their owner). The next day we walked along the beachfront of Miraflores until we hit the LarcoMar, a spectacular shopping mall built right into the oceanfront cliffs. We feel bad about it, but we didn’t do anything else in Lima 😉
My new cap for the colder days
Early in the morning Eva got picked up. The first dive site was north Seymour with a smooth current and a good visibility. We only ( 😉 saw a few hammerhead sharks, black tip reef shark, white tip reef shark, galapagos sharks, turtles, schools of barracudas, eagle rays and a variety of other fish!!! What an amazing first dive! The second dive site was Mosquera. While going down I realized the very strong current already. We had to hold on to rocks and crawl on the ground to get forward. Behind a rock we discovered two sleeping white tip reef sharks which we were observing for a while. The moment we let go all of us were washed away by the current. It felt like in waterslide!
The next day a dream came true when I (Eva) dived at Gordons Rock. The first hammerhead shark appeared on our way down, followed by a huge dark shadow at the surface. After a few more minutes a huge shadow showed up directly in front of me: a 5 meter manta ray! I always wanted to see one but I haven’t expected it to be so enormous. It was amazing. But as if that's not enough – a school of approx. 30 hammerhead sharks came straight at us just to turn left and right directly in-front of us. We were surrounded by a huge school of hammerheads! The dive went on like that and we saw everything a divers heart can dream of: more hammerheads, manta rays, galapagos sharks, white tip reef shark, turtles, reef fishes, sting rays, eagle rays, barracudas, etc.
Diving Gordons Rock
Diving Mosquera and Seymore
Sea lions are everybody’s darling – and we found out why! Especially while playing in the water but also while relaxing on sandy beaches and benches they are just super cute. On the Galapagos Islands there are about 50.000 of them. We were lucky because they seemed to have some special interest in us – several times they were playing with us in the water while we snorkeled. On San Cristobal we swam for about 15 minutes with one who started playing “catch the coral” with us (exactly like a dog would do it). He took the coral in his mouth and swam around us, dropped it and caught it again. After a while Niels picked it up, showed it to him and dropped it. The sea lion dived down and got it again. That game went on for quite a while – just amazing. An absolute highlight
Spending 5 days on San Cristobal is not enough the see everything but you get a good idea why the locals call the island the capital of paradise. It is a perfect place to relax and most of the sites are accessible by walking. We did a snorkeling trip to Kickers Rock and visited the Interpretation Center (where the history and significance of Galapagos is explained, etc. bla bla). To be honest, we only went to the Interpretation Center to met Pepe el Misionero - a giant tortoise who was partly brought up by our host Nelly. She runs the hostel of the same name (Casa de Nelly) and is owner to one of the nicest accommodation we had on our trip so far.
Goodbye Galapagos ...
Visiting Floreana (also known as Isla Santa Maria) for a day trip. It's a small island with less than 100 inhabitants and only one hostel. Therefore, a day trip was perfect to see the giant tortoises, the highlands and some snorkeling.
What a wonderful invention: seasickness pills!!! After taking one we had no trouble at all and slept trough the 3 hours boat ride from Santa Cruz to Isabella. The welcome committee was awaiting us: some lazy sea lions lying around everywhere. Isabella is a lovely island with sandy roads, small houses and beautiful white-sanded beaches. On the way to the hotel we drove by a lagoon with flamingos and marine iguanas. The island has 7 volcanoes and 5 out of them are still active. Therefore, it was a must to hike at least one 🙂 We choose the Sierra Negra – a large active volcano. The landscape was one of its kind. The surreal surrounding was created by the last eruption in 2005. Later this day we had our first unforgettable swim with some sea lions in the bay of Puerto Villamil. Its amazing, they are wild but like to swim and play with humans (we´re not sure who kept whom entertained). The rest of our stay on Isabella we explored different sights of the island: the wall of tears, the breeding station for the giant tortoise, snorkeling at Las Tintoreras, and also did some wildlife observations. The evenings we enjoyed the sun set at diffrent bars and restaurants located directly on the beach.
Find the galapagos land iguana in the picture
The famous blue-footed booby´s (do not confuse with boobies)
Las Tintoreras, a nearby island cluster with ...
... marine iguanas all over the place
E.T. is back! See yourself. We found him on the Galapagos Islands. He hides himself in a shell which he always carries around. His species can live up to 170 years (at least) and weight more than 400 kg. We found him and his friends on Santa Cruz, Isabella, Floreana and San Cristobal. He is native to seven of the Galapagos Islands.
Santa Cruz has one of the best diving sites on the Galapagos Islands. Therefore, we spent 6 days on Santa Cruz in total so Eva could tickle off some items of her bucked list. Instead of being green and packed with animals the area around Baltra airport (where we arrived) is very dry and reminds of the moonscape (with cactuses though). At our arrival we were shocked. But after taking a bus, a small boat and a bus again the landscape changed. With every meter the bus drove further to the south of Isla Santa Cruz the vegetation became more green. The first two days we slept in long, explored the area around Puerto Ayora and learned about the magic of the islands: sidewalks are used by marine iguanas for sun bathing, sea lions are lying on the docks (and benches), pelicans are flying around and get fed by local fisherman. Animals are extraordinary fearless; The whole atmosphere on the island made it a perfect stay. While Eva was diving, Niels further explored the island (including the highlands, the Darwin Station and a beach in the north).
Everyone knows them - The Galapagos Islands - and everyone who has visited them is fascinated. But really, what’s so special about them? For us the answer is easy: it is the mixture of animals who are not afraid of humans, the extraordinary nature and the relaxed atmosphere.
Thanks to Eva’s passion for diving we stayed two whole weeks on the Islands so she could experience the best out of both worlds: water and land based activities. We thought about going on a cruise but luckily decided us against it due to us getting seasick. We ended up with a so called “island hopping tour”. A tour based on day trips including short cruises (up to three hours) but overnight stays in hotels. This way we had the chance to experience the wonderful islands in their full beauty.
We started the day of by visiting the Basílica del Voto Nacional. A monumental building constucted in 1988. The Basilica is 140 m (460 ft) long and 35 m (115 ft) wide. It is 30 m (98 ft) high in the sanctuary and 115 m (377 ft) high in the two frontal towers. Both towers can be climbed as well as the transept. The view from up there is magnificent but the climb is special - not sure if the used "ladder constuction" would be allowed in many european countries 😉
There is not much to say about the Mitdal del Mundo besides there are unlimited points on the equator but this "center of the earth" did not even make it to the right place. However, loads of tourist go there every year - so did we 🙂 As soon as you arrive you do know: this is a touristy place! The whole monument is surrounded by shops with junk. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a nice afternoon with some favorouble coffee!
Leaving Buenos Aires was not easy. Especially because of the taxi service we had: Cynthia gave us a lift to the airport. On the airport we were chatting and drinking coffee nearly forgetting about the boarding time.
It was 10 pm when we finally arrived at the hostel. The welcome committee of the hostel can be described as the best-of a gangster movie. The fact that no one else was in the hostel and no English speaking person was around did not make us feel more comfortable. On top we needed to buy drinking water. Thankfully one of the hostel staff went out with Niels to buy some. On the way he constantly turned around checking the empty streets always one hand on the 20-25 cm knife in his pocket – a nice neighborhood we arrived in J Without any success they returned. The water (in a used bottle) which was offered to us was the first time we gave the water purification tablets a try. As you can see we survived the night – even though it was freaking cold!
The next days we went for some serious sightseeing with Maik and Tino. First on the list was the huge Basílica del Voto Nacional (see the pictures in the following post), the Plaza Grande and the Old Town. Another day we went for El Panecillo, the small hill to the south of the Old Town which is topped by a statue of La Virgen de Quito. To be honest, it’s nothing special but the view of the city and the surrounding volcanoes are definitely worse the trip. In the afternoon the same day we went for a place called Café Mosaico. It has an open terrace with a magnificent view of the city especially while the sun sets.
As much as the days were pleasant the nights were not. After 5 very cold nights in our spooky hostel we decided to move to La Mariscal because Niels got sick – getting worse every night. La Mariscal is a nice area. Most tourist stay there as well as party people from Quito. The new hostel was wonderful, they even offered us a heater for the room without charging money. It didn’t take long and Niels was feeling better (maybe it was because of Eva taking very good care, including cooking magical chicken soup).
Right after arriving in Buenos Aires the first highlight awaited us: the cozy apartment of our Airbnb host Martin. Its perfectly located in the district of Recoleta, which offers lots of bars, Cafés and green spaces. The first night we met Cynthia who was visiting her family in BA for a nice dinner and chatted till late night.
For the next days we had a long list of sights to visit. Most people recommended the cemetery (?!?). Also it is listed in the lonely planet as a must-see. Honestly, we were more than skeptical. But it turned out everyone was absolutely right about the cemetery – its crazy. Some of the tombs are big like houses. Most of them are build out of marble. Words can’t really describe this place.
Another highlight was Puerto Madero – Buenos Aires copy of the Hamburg Harbour City ;). To be honest, its bigger, seems to be even more modern and hosts more bars / restaurants than the Hamburg Harbour City. Especially Niels liked the area a lot. However, this was not the real highlight of that day. The evening should await us with what all of us now call their best dinner ever! “Parrilla Pena” – the place where dreams come true! Bife de lomo (tenderloin) and bife de chorizo (rump steak) as big as a very large male hand, at least two finger thick and so tasty, people start to cry J On top the waiter is super friendly, super fast and super passionate about what he does. An absolute must-do in Buenos Aires. Oh and just by the way, the food and drinks are cheap – very cheap – the starters are even for free! To finish off a perfect day we went for a bar after dinner, just to find out 2 hrs later that we actually ended up in the most famous gay bar in BA.
After visiting the Brazilian site of the Iguazu waterfalls we had the choice between seeing the Waterfalls from the Argentinian side or paying Paraguay a short-term visit. The weather forecast wasn’t good for the next day. Since we have seen the waterfalls already Paraguay was our choice.
The adventure started: Taking the bus to Cuidad del Este (Paraguay) was easy. At the boarder we decided to get our passports stamped. It took quite a while to figure out where to go. However, afterwards everything went quite smooth. Only the Ponte de Amizade (Friendship Bridge) nearly gave Maggis an heart attack (fear of heights). The city itself doesn’t hold any tourist attractions and offers a very different picture compared to the neighbour countries: traffic jams stretch along shabby streets, the shady shops only seem to offer (fake) electronics and clothes. The only two things we bought were a sunglass case and a Paraguayan mate cup. Mate is a traditional South American tea which is prepared by boiling steeped dried leaves of yerba. You see mate drinking people everywhere.
After spending a few hours walking around the exciting streets, a McDonalds visit and generally enjoying the chaos, Eva asked the locals in perfect Spanish for the bus back to Foz do Iguazu (Brazil). After only some attempts the right bus was found 😉
The three of us enjoyed the last evening in Brazil by killing a gigantic chocolate crust pizza - sounds weird – is weird - is delicious!!!
After leaving the beautiful island of Ilha Grande by speed boat (Ilha Grande – Angra dos Reis),bus (Angra dos Reis – Bus Terminal, Sao Paulo), taxi (bus terminal– airport), and plane (Sao Paulo to Iguazu de Foz), our arrival time was set to 01:30 am. There a pick-up service should wait for us – and it did! The drive was “only” 20 mins and we arrived shortly before 2:30 at our B&B where Nilton (the owner) awaited us. The reviews of his place were very positive, especially pointing in his direction. The moment we shook hands we knew why.
The next morning we went to the Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls. Wikipedia knowledge: “numerous islands along the 2.7-kilometre-long (1.7 mi) edge divide the falls into numerous separate waterfalls and cataracts, varying between 60 to 82 metres (197 to 269 ft) high”. They are amazing and bigger than you expect them to be. Especially the walk on top of the waterfall is something to remember (see picture below).
The next stop that day should be something Niels was highly interested in: one of the biggest water powerplants in the world. The Itaipu hydroelectric dam produces up to 75% of the electricity used in Paraguay and 17% in Brazil (a country with roughly about 201 Mio inhabitants!).It is the largest operating hydroelectric facility in terms of annual energy generation (yes, even more than the Three Gorges Dam). The dam itself was more remarkable to me than the Iguazu waterfalls. It is gigantic!
Ilha Grande is a small paradise around 150 km southwest of Rio. After visiting Christo early in the morning we went to the bus station and lined up. After half an hour of waiting we got told that there are no busses to Ilha Grande for today. Therefore, another transportation needed to be found. Niels ask a taxi driver who offered a very good price (220 BRL = ~ 72 €) for the 2 hrs - 144 km ride. At port of Conceição de Jacareí we took a boat to the main village on Ilha Grande. The next days we went to diffrent beaches, did some hiking and enjoyed life at several nice restaurants and bars.
Today we went to see the world famous statue of Christ. The statue itself is round about 30 m high and is located at the peak of the 700m Corcovado mountain overlooking most of Rio. The view is breath-taking...
Yes we have been in the stadium, yes we have seen the German national team win the World Championship, yes it was amazing, awesome or what ever other superlative you could possibly think of! But lets start at the beginning...
Besides Neymar every single Brazilian was cheering for Germany before the game. Brazilians were even more friendly than they have been the last days (as far as that’s possible). But there have also been way above 100.000 Argentinians reported by officials in Rio de Janeiro at the day of the finals. They were everywhere and not all of them have been friendly towards Brazilians 😉 Most of the German fans met up at the northern end of Copacabana. From there we walked together to the next metro station, taking the train to the stadium. The atmosphere on the way and in the stadium was amazing. I guess everyone has seen the game itself, so no words will be lost about the ref, two yellow cards in the first half, off-side goals and so on. Lets put it that way: we nearly died 😛
Copacabana zommed in (including the fan fest)Papfkfsdjf
Rio, where should we start? It’s a fantastic city with the most spectacular settings we have ever seen! The people are among the most friendly we have met so far, its flanked by gorgeous mountains, white-sandy beaches and forests. We stayed 250 m from the Copacabana close to Ipanema. The city itself is very green. The world-famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanama are truly amazing and the scenic outlooks of Corcovado and Pão de Açúcar are breathtaking (two posts will follow the next two days :).
What is there to say about Playa del Carmen? Lust and vice everywhere! I guess god turned his back on this place - luckily he did: the parties are amazing!
CocoBongo is one of the most famous clubs in the area and we got to found out why. Besides the fact that you get all drinks for free they have a fantastic show which starts at 11 pm and goes onto the early morning. Well I guess that’s what you get for 70 USD p.P. (+ 30 USD p.P. for a table 😉
On my bucket-list: snorkeling with whale-sharks Whales-sharks are a slow-moving filter feeding sharks and the largest known fish species (yes the largest! They can grow up to over 14 m (46 ft) with a weight of around 30 tons!). They have a lifespan of about 70 years and they feed mainly on plankton. But enough facts for now. After a one hour boat ride from Cancun we spotted the first whale-shark. Suddenly our guide told us to jump in the water and within seconds we and Dina were swimming towards something we only new from documentaries. Directly 2 meters in front of us the whale shark mouth appeared and scared us to death – those animals are massive! We swam next to it for a while before it disappeared in the widths of the ocean. Two more times we got the opportunity to snorkel with whale-sharks before we left the area heading of for a lunch stop at “Isla de Mujeres” where we enjoyed lunch in the fantastic water.
Niels and Diena liked it 😉Lunchbreak at Isla Mujeres
One of the main attraction of Belize is its reef and the Great Blue Hole. The Belize Reef is the world’s second longest (after the Great Barrier Reef) and offers some truly amazing sights including coral canyons, an astonishing range of tropical fish, manta rays, sharks and barracudas.
The Great Blue hole is located around 100 kilometers off the coast of Belize. Its one of the Must-Sees for divers therefore I took the opportunity to go on a daily diving trip (including 2 more dives at the barrier reef), while Niels viewed it on a bird’s eye view. It is circular in shape (over 300 meters in diameter and 125 meters deep), in the middle its dark blue and surrounded by an atoll with light turquoise water. The sinkhole originally formed as a limestone cave during a time when sea levels were much lower. As the ocean began to rise, the cave system flooded and eventually collapsed, creating a "vertical cave" in the ocean. To be honest the marine life inside the Blue Hole is not very interesting, besides some fish, barracudas and reef-sharks there was not much to see. Its more about the geological formations that now lie in the ocean's depths. Going down to 35 m huge stalactites and stalagmites arise, some reaching 9-12 meters in length. We got the opportunity to dive through them.
"Captain MueWi speaking - do you all feel save?"Blue Hole from the bird´s eye view
Sailing off for a daily-snorkeling trip around Caye Caulker visiting 3 amazing snorkeling sites:
At the first spot (Hol Chan Marine Reserve) we got really lucky to see the by now very rare manatees. He greeted us with a full view as he swam by very close. But my personal highlight was the second stop @ Shark n Ray Alley, where we snorkeled with friendly nurse sharks and stingrays. Coral Gardens was also a great place to see: colorful tropical fish, turtles, eagle rays and more.
We finished this perfect day, cruising back to Caye Caulker while sipping rum punch and enjoying some snacks.
My first video cut (hope you still like it)
A lot of tunas
Green sea turtle
Caye Caulker is a relaxed and easy going island approximately 20 miles north-northeast of Belize City in the Caribbean Sea with a reggae-tinged vibe. The local residents a very friendly and welcoming. The main street is a sandy pathway through the center of town surrounded by restaurants, seafood stands and bars. It’s the ideal place to snorkel, dive and enjoy life!
First sight of Caye Caulker The Split was created by Hurricane Hattie in 1961 and is now a norraow waterway which divides the island in two. At this side of the island there is a nice bar also called the Split, we we spend most of the time 😉
Arriving in Belize in the town of San Ignacio we experienced a completly different country to the rest of Central America: it is English speaking and more a Caribbean nation than Latin. On the other hand, it has plenty of distinctively Central American characteristics. It offers a unique blend of cultures that includes, in a tiny population, people of Maya, Mestizo, African, European, Asian and Arab descent. Aside from the local Creole, Spanish is also spoken throughout the country.
We stayed in a very basic Ecolodge with dumping toilets and a lot of "small scale" animals (see below). Again Niels and I were lucky because we had a bathroom in our small house which originally was a honey moon suit and further in the forest than the rest of the houses.
Belize is famous for cave adventures, therefore we singned in for the most extreme one in Belize, the Crystal Cave: a challenge for our physical fitness and our spirit of adventure. From the Ecolodge it’s a 1 ½ drive to the Blue Hole National Park. After arriving there the tour starts with a 50 minute hike through lush rainforest and steep terrain which was considered challenging by most already. Arriving at the entrance of the cave it’s a 15-foot steep climb down into the mouth of the Crystal Cave where we entered the underworld of Xibalba (what the ancient Mayas believed to be the domain of their gods).
The expedition took us through narrow passages to magnificent cathedral-like caverns. Along the way we have seen shimmering stalactites & stalagmites, massive crystal formations, ancient ceremonial fire pits, charcoal and ash, pottery, and other remainings of the Mayan sacrificial victims. After a two hours hike through the cave we had to decide to go further into the stunning wonderland of the underworld or go back. All of us were haven’t had enough of caving yet and decided to go further. The so called “Wonderland” was worth every step we made. It’s a huge hall were we had to walk barefoot or only with socks because of untouched beauty of the white crystals.
After our adventure in the Crystal Cave we had dirt all over, hiked back to the park facilities and took a refreshing swim in the cool waters of the inland Blue Hole.
We stayed in Flores for a night. Flores is a picturesque town with narrow, cobble-stoned streets, small, brightly painted houses, and surrounded by Lake Petén Itzá. The island is now attached to the mainland by a causeway, but many of the local inhabitants still get around by cayuco, or dugout canoe.
Our next excursion took us to Tikal which lies around 60 km north from Flores (northern Guatemala). The spiritual centre of Tikal boasts the Mayan’s highest pyramids, and abundant flora and fauna in the surrounding jungle. It's one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centres of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. The site is part of Guatemala's Tikal National Park which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
The central area, with its five main temples, forms by far the most impressive section. We explored the surrounding and found smaller structures and outlying complexes hidden in the jungle. Temple IV is the highest building at Tikal and the tallest in the entire Maya region. At 64 m (212 feet) high, it towers over the Peten jungle. Getting to the top of Temple lV was exhausting but the spectacular views of the surrounding jungle canopy compensated the hike.
Leaving the beautiful city of Antigua was a nice change of scenery and a long drive to Río Dulce, a small town on Lake Izabal and a port stop for boaters around the globe. Reaching our new home for the next two days we took a small boat across the river and arrived at the Hacienda Tijax - Jungle Lodge & Marina. It’s a lodge in the mangrove forest and everything is only connected via footbridges. Luckily Niels and I had a house with a bathroom ensuite while most of our group had a shared bathroom.
We signed up for a monkey kayak tour which started at 5:30 am the next morning. Its not our favorite time of the day and therefore we were more than unhappy when the guide told us that there are not enough kayaks for all of us. Selfless as I (Eva) am and maybe due to the fact that it was 5:30 am in the morning I sacrificed myself and went back to bed while the rest of the group went kayaking. After 3 more hours of sleep and a very good breakfast the owner of the lodge approached me apologizing and offering a free horseback ride through in the afternoon, which I couldn’t reject. The rest of the day we relaxed in the lodge and explored the surrounding. Arriving at the Jungle Lodge in the evening The missed monkey kayak tour (Niels was still on it) Our small villa Horeback riding and the views ... and a short stop for the hanging bridges riding through a rubber plantation ... and enjoying the sunset My horse and me
Chicken busses again, 4 in a row. The first drive was very bumpy through some small villages (each seat filled with at least 3 persons instead of 2), the second one was hilly, the third driver though he is a Formula 1 driver (going down the slops with maximum speed) and the last one nearly fall a sleep while driving. But in the end we reached the shores of Lake Atitlán. Lake Atitlán is one of the most beautiful spots in Guatemala. Twelve native villages, blue-grey mountains and three volcanoes line the shores of this lake resulting in a wonderful combination of unusual natural beauty and traditional culture.
The first night we stayed in Panajachel, which is a relatively modern town with paved streets in its centre and in our opinion only made for tourists. There are streets with only shops and restaurants next to each other. But you get spectacular views of the surrounding volcanoes.
The next day in the afternoon we took a boat to cross the lake for the small town of San Juan la Laguna, which is home to 3000 inhabitants, mostly Mayas. Once more we stayed in the house of a local family to support the Planetera Project (for further informations about that see Ometepe). We walked around the small village and had dinner with the whole family consists of the parents and 3 boys in the age of 15-20. The communication worked with just a few Spanish words and we also learned some words in the Maya language. Unfortunately, they had a big Christian festival going on, which included ridiculously loud fireworks (more bombs than fireworks) and music. No one of our group did sleep a lot this night. On top our room was next to the fire place of t he family, meaning that we smelled like small incenses. However, the family was very nice therefore making our stay an unforgettable experience.
The next morning on our way back to Antigua we had breakfast at a hotel in the hills at the Lake Atitlan with an amazing view over the lake and the surrounding volcanos (Casa del Mundo). Definitely a place one could stay for 5-7 days!
In the afternoon the surrounding is covered in clouds
During rainy season the water level of the lake rises and the houses nearby are flooded
For the first time in our travel I (Eva) didn’t feel 100% well, therefore I slept the whole time wile travelling from Copán to Antigua and even after we arrived in the hotel.
Once the third largest city in all of Spanish America, Antigua served as Guatemala's capital city for more than 200 years until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1773. Modern Antigua is a peaceful, partially restored colonial city that is a pleasure to explore. The architecture of this UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site is beautiful, the surrounding landscape is fascinating, walking through quiet cobblestone streets is a pleasure as well as relaxing in the many small cafés.
The next day we met the new people for the second half of the tour. The tour size is now 16 and Allie, Hernan and Rafat left us L Enjoying the last evening together on the roof top of our hotel till late in the night was a perfect goodbye (hope to see you soon guys!).
Driving by Guatemala City
After another long travel day we arrived in Copán/Honduras. Copán is famous for the Mayan ruins which are fascinating and unique among Mayan cities. Declared a World Heritage site by the UNESCO in 1980, Copán contains some of the most important Mayan ruins found to date, and many unusual artistic features. But it is also a charming and relaxing place with really good coffee places 😉
Of course we did a guided-tour exploring the Mayan ruins and learned more about the culture, history and the mysterious disappearance of this creative civilization. Learning about the mayas numerals: The numerals are made up of three symbols; zero (shell shape, with the plastron uppermost), one (a dot) and five (a bar). The powers of twenty are numerals, just as the Hindu-Arabic numeral system uses powers of tens. Our guide was amazing, he knew everything about the Mayans and we walked through grassy plazas filled with intricately carved and decorated monuments, statues and staircases. Huge carved faces stare at us from ancient walls, but see your self.
After our history and culture lessons it was time for some relaxation. Therefore, we all went for the local hot springs in the jungle which are an one hour drive from Copán. The drive was an experience itself: sitting in the back of a pick-up truck on a very bumpy road through the jungle and some local villages.
Impressions of the Maya Ruins
After a long day of travel via bus, boat and van we arrived to the colonial town of Suchitoto. Nestled in the mountains of the north of the country, Suchitoto is perched on the edge of an impressive artificial lake called Suchitlan Lake, also known as Embalse Cerron Grande.
The next day at a city tour we learned a bit about the tragic history of this small town (it was scene to crual crimes during the civil war) and set off into the nearby nature preserve. We hiked to a lookout and a waterfall called "Los Tercios", which is famed for its unique composition of hexagonal blocks of stone along a vertical wall.
Ataco is a small town and the home to some talented artisans who have painted bright murals throughout town (see the pictures). We walked around the city, did some shopping and during a coffee tour we learned how coffee is made. Apparently, some of the worlds best coffee is from the region around Ataco.
A coffee bean is actually a seed of a plant and looks like a cherrie. When dried, roasted and ground, it is used to brew coffee.
In the evening we went out for dinner and the weather seemed to be up to something. After reaching the typical Pupusa Restaurant, the heavy rain started and a few power failures happened until the lights didn’t turn on again and we waited with candle light in the restaurant for 1 hour but nothing changed. The whole city was pitch black. A Salvadorian boy felt pitty towards us and he told his mother: “ Mummy how would you feel being in a foreign country walking home in the rain and dark”. Therefore the nice mother offered us a ride back to the hotel. Pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish made of a thick, handmade corn tortilla that is usually filled with everything you like e.g. spinach, cheese, chicken etc.
After our lunch stop in Leon it was just an one hour drive to La Bocanita from where we catched a small boat to an island called Los Brasiles. After a 15-minute walk we arrived at the Surfing Turtle Lodge.
Surfing Turtle Lodge is a beachfront, solar powered off-the-grid beach lodge hostel situated along a secluded beach on Los Brasiles Island, Poneloya with amazing views of Central America’s ocean to the west and volcanoes to the east. Close to the historic city of Leon, in Nicaragua’s North Pacific coast.
Granada is Nicaragua’s third largest and oldest city and retains its traditional Spanish colonial character. We explored the city for two days, went out, walked along the old cobblestone streets and enjoyed the colorful painted buildings.
As a summary it may be stated that Granada is a really beautiful city but we good recommended not to walk in certain areas and especially at night time always take a taxi for safety reasons.
Group Picture in the biggest hammock of Central America
Live at 1350 meter. Sound is original!
What should I say: we made it, we climbed Conception! But let me start at the beginning and in this case the beginning is very early, to be precise at 5:30 in the morning. That’s when Hernan, Rafat, Robert and I (Niels) got picked-up.
The real story told through the eyes of Lara: “We held hands and skipped across a sun drenched meadow, singing merrily. Having downloaded several photos of the volcano summit from Google, and convincingly dirtied our trainers, we headed to the nearest bar, sinking a few Jagerbombs before heading to Ometepe Babes (the local strip club) to contribute some American dollars to the local economy. Rafat come away with a nasty case of pink eye, but it was otherwise excellent and a great way to get to know the locals better - Rob was particularly grateful for the opportunity to practice his Espanol – “Me Gusta!!!!!”. After ten hours of la vida loca, we headed back to base camp, with our prepared story at the ready (our hangovers were already kicking in so we looked convincingly exhausted), ready to bask in the glory. The girls totally bought our story, what silly billiys.”
Back to the original story… The way to the base camp is a 2 km sandy walk. It takes around 1 hour to get there. Starting from the base camp it is only 6 kms to the top. The peak is at 1.6 km altitude. You do the math about the average gradient – it is steep – very steep – sometimes too steep. The first 1 km of altitude you climb through rain forest. On the one hand that means the path is shady on the other the humidity is rather high. The way up consist of a never ending sequence of roots forming a long stairway. As soon as we reached the end of the rain forest all of us were exhausted already. The view from up there makes you forget about your burning legs. We had a 10 minutes break- meeting two other groups on their way up (only one of them made it to the top).
The path only continued to become harder, it got even steeper, no more roots forming stairs and slippery lose stones. None of us expected it to be that difficult to climb up there. After another 350 m of altitude one of us had to give up, constantly slipping of stones and nearly falling over made it impossible for him to go further. Our tour guide had to attach him to a rope for safety reasons. So three of us were left alone in the middle of a very steep volcano (you needed to search for a place to sit and not sliding down again). On top of all that clouds started to cover the whole volcano. Sight went down to around 40-50 meters. The atmosphere was spooky. After some time the tour guide showed up again and we started climbing again. “Only” 250 more meters seemed to be a manageable goal.
Once more the volcano offered a surprise- the higher you climb the smaller the stones get and in consequence it gets even more slippery. Our last stop was at 1500 m because after that you are not allowed to stop anymore for security reasons – after all the volcano is still active and a lot of sulfur is released by it. That’s also the reason for the disgusting smell on the way to the top. By that time sight went down to 20 meters. The moment we thought we nearly made it the ground changed into sand: two steps up, one step sliding down! Ridicules!!! The moment we reached the top was supposed to be overwhelming but actually we couldn’t see sh*t and it smelled like sh*t! So after round about 10 minutes at the top we started to descend. Believe it or not the way down was even more miserable than our way up. Two of us had to do the crab walk down (on all fours). In total it took us 10 hours. Finally arriving at the car getting a cold Coca Cola was the best feeling of the day.
Again... the pick up arrived early in the morning. The drive to the border took 3 hours. For leaving the country you have to pay a fee of 7-10 US$ (no one knows why and how the amount changes from day to day), we ended up with paying 8 US$. The broder crossing took only 1 hour and a chicken bus was ready to go bringing us straight to the ferry for the lake Nicaragua crossing to Isla Ometepe. Chicken busses are old American school buses which get sold at auctions when they get too old. Many of these buses are bought and driven to Central America where they live the second lifes.
The Ferryride to Ometepe takes around 1 hour. Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua. The two volcanoes Concepción and Maderas form one island in the shape of an hourglass. Ometepe is 31 km long and 5 to 10 km wide.
The following 2 nights all of us had a home stay ( = staying with an local family). It’s a Planeterra-supported homestay experience. Planeterra is a non-profit organization that helps empower local people to develop their communities, conserve their environment, and provide supportive solutions to local problems (www.planeterra.org). The next day Niels and the other guys got picked up at 5:30 am for hiking volcano Concepción (post will follow soon), which is one of the highest volcanos of Nicaragua and also one of its most active ones. Since 1883, it has erupted at least 25 times (its last eruption was on 9 March 2010). While the guys hiked the Volcan Concepción the girls relaxed in the village.
Apparently exhausted from hiking the guys came around 6 pm. After having dinner and relaxing on the beach at the campfire we all called an early night.
The right transporation for Eva
Unbelivable, its mango season at the moment and they just fall from the trees and go off because the locals can´t eat all of the mangos 🙁 We had mangos every day and also took some with us. They were delicious!!!
The next day we headed for Monteverde, which is a nature paradise due to its beautiful flora and fauna. It is also called the "Green Mountain" (see pictures below). Monteverde is surrounded by cloud forest, like a rainforest but much of the moisture comes from the condensation left by the nearly constant cloud cover that blankets the tops of mountains. Monteverde Reserve covers 1600 hectares of forest and is home to a great variety of wildlife. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different species of mammals inhabit this small area. For exploring the cloud forest we walked over suspension bridges, small trails and even experience the rain season which mostly offers sh*t loads of rain in the afternoon around 3 pm.
But Monteverde also offers some adrenalin activities and we decided to go for the thrilling canopy zip line where you have a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest as you soar through the trees on 13 different ziplines. Some of them are 150 m high and the longest is 1 km. Getting from one zipline to the other you also have to challenge yourself going straight down on a line for appr. 40 m. Out of all activities I have ever done this was the most adrenaline intense. Especially, the last one where you pretend to be superman: attached to the zipline with a back belt, feet tightened up and facing down the vally. But that’s not enough for some people, therefore, Rob, Hernand and Raf did go for bungee jumping.
In the afternoon we did what we do best: having lunch and drinking coffee. In the evening the group took salsa lessons and some other latin american dances (which I already forgot about ;).
First sight of Monteverde from the boat Monteverde alias "Green Mountain" While exploring the cloud forest we made friends with some "creatures" The walk included 8 suspension bridges To get to the last one we had to climb up in a tree Lets get some adrenaline in our bloodlines Someone seems to be excited Outlook while the ziplining Yes hanging on the zipline is uncomfortable 😉 Eva is doing the Tarzan Swing (jumping down a platform and after that enjoying the swing in the cloud forest Going down 40 m... Superman Niels The guys pretend to be relaxed before their big jump ("Do i smell fear or pee?")
This morning the pick-up for canyoneering arrived early. You're asking what canyoneering is? Basically, the same activity than climbing a mountain but in opposite direction. It is about going down a canyon on a rope. In the lush rainforests around Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano, three waterfall awaited us. The first one was just 8 m and a good preparation for what’s to come. The next waterfalls were both round about 70 m (!) of heights. It seems to be an stupid idea to go down a waterfall that high, but thanks to the concept of "group pressure" everyone did so. As soon as you are going over the edge and amazing experience awaits you: bouncing down a waterfall. In between the waterfalls we had to hike through the beautiful rainforest.
As a reward to ourselves for being brave we went into town and had the best Costarican coffee and cakes ever.
After a 3 week internet-abstinence in Cuba, half starving for internet we arrived in San Jose. We used the first day to get up-to-date with the news, our blog and getting in contact with friends and family. The afternoon and the next day was dedicated to explore San Jose which is surprisingly westernized, clean and nice. The city's street system is amazingly easy: it is a perfect grid, with avenues (avenidas) running east-west, and streets (calles) traveling north-south. Calle Central (Central Street) and Avenida Central (Central Avenue) are the center of San Jose's grid system. To the west of Calle Central, all calles ascend in even numbers (Calle 2, Calle 4, etc.), and to the east, in odd numbers. Similarly, to the north of Avenida Central, avenidas ascend in odd numbers, and travel south in even numbers. The Avenida Central is the heart of San Jose, with a pedestrian mall that extends from Calle 6 to Calle 9 (8 blocks).
In the evening we met our travel mates for the next 32 days (see section "people"). The tour started the next morning by leaving San Jose towards La Fortuna, which is set on the northern plains of Costa Rica. It is just a small town but an excellent base for adventures activities. On our way to La Fortuna we all decided to go for a wild water rafting tour on the “TORO” Rivers which holds class III & IV rapids. We ended up in two rafts. After a long day of driving and rafting, the Los Lagos hot springs (natural thermal baths) were the answer to our tired muscles. The nearby volcano heats up water which is transferred to a nicely set area of different hot pools with waterslides and a wet bar where you can enjoy all kind of drinks (at a temperature of 98°F/ 37 Celsius).
Lets go for rafting
Plastic bag attack - happy survivors!
Vampir night shot at the hot springs
Meet our new G-Family
Niels and I decided to join a tour (G-Adventure) for travelling Central America. Luckily we are only 6 passengers, one trainee and the tour guide. This way it feels more like travelling with friends than in a tour.
Queen Lara of Britain: She was born and raised in London, where she lives at the moment. As the picture tells she loves cows. She even gets out of a hammock to see a cow herd. After working for the British Fashion Council, she is taking a time-off to discover central America with us. Even in rural areas she always maintains her British class.
Wai Ying “the exterminator”: Wai Ying was born and raised in Hong Kong. When she was 11 years old she went to Toronto for 12 years, only “recently” moving back to Hong Kong. She started the trip with one huge suitcase, a sports bag and a daypack (appr. 30 kg “that’s what she says”) with goods for survival purposes. The suit case was 95% filled with bug spray, food, kettle that can cook food, 5 packs of antibacterial wipes, 1000 plastic bags, mosquito net, etc. As you might can tell she is afraid of bugs but still took the challenge of this trip. In the beginning she only went out without a whole body cover, sometimes even two layers of cloth for bug protection purposes. But we recognizes some changes lately: short sleeves have been spotted. Before going to sleep she follows a ritual: pest control, covering the whole room in bug spray. On top of that she wears a longsleeve pyjama and a of cause uses a mosquito net.
Allie the crazy tour guide: She is always well-organized, flexible and has a good sense of humour. Her recommendations are always very good no matter if its locations for lunch, dinner, coffee or having a drink. She works for G Adventures for 4 years already. Her backpack is her office and the local hostel is her bed for the night. She lives the life most people dream of travelling all year long with cool and young people. She makes sure that all of us have a fun and safe time.
Rob “The Faust” Robert: A real Aussi! A man without fear, in fact the concept of fears seems to be unknown to him. Whereas being cool was invented by him. He is a text book surfer dude. Living next to the beach in Newcastle, he spends most of his time in the water. He is my favorite yoga chick, even though he is not mastering the handstand position yet.
Hernand “The Facilitator” Hasselhoff. A man with many names. A workout junkie – going for a run no matter what: daytime heat, tropical rain or bad hang over – Hernand is on his feet. Despite his epic age he is still youthful in his mind and body. Making girls happy is his goal in life.
“Doc” Raffi is our youngest. A New York gangster from Bangladesh. Future savior of worlds, he took a final time off before starting his medicine studies. He is well prepared for his time at university, because of his mad Beer Pong skills. Even though he is not a yoga professional he masters to sleep in every position. Trusting the world by not having a lock screen on his new iPhone.
The cute austrian couple called Christiane and Tobias. They were part of the people we went on a diving trip with and after the exhausting dive it was time for lunch and some drinks. Therefore we decided to squeeze in their small rented car something like a Fiat Punto with 6 people to get to an All-inclusive restaurant 8 km away with an beautiful natural pool. Some diving competitions, chatting and chilling together made it an awsome day.
Sometimes the world is really small and while checking the internet in a hotel in Havanna 3 days later we ran into Christiane and Tobias again. They had 3 hours left before leaving for the airport so we spent a few more hours together in Havanna (mainly in an austrian brewery 😉
Our Casa Particular in Playa Giron was very nice, even though we were missing a toilette seat. Instead we had turtles, a parrot, a dog (or was it a hamster?) and a crocodile - for real! There is not much to see in this village besides very good dive sites and a restaurant where you can get 4 main courses plus four beers and a soda for round about 8 CUC ( = 8 USD)! Playa Giron has only one huge resort which could easily be a movie set for a zombie blockbuster. The small bungalows fall apart, grass is growing inside and most windows are broken. Around the bungalows are palm trees with coco nuts laying around everywhere. At the beach side of this hotel is a masterpiece of architectural art: a massive wave breaker. Its appearance is brutal. Most probably Cemex (one of the biggest concrete producers in the world) was not only sponsoring the local grocery store… However, this beach also features a bar with great mojito for only 1 CUC ( = USD). We had a first great afternoon with Jimmie and Kari 😉
The next day we went diving. While doing so we met Tobi and Christiane ("Meet Tobi and Christian" post will follow soon).The rest of the day we went to an all-inclusive beach. Thanks to Tobi and Christiane the transport was free and the way back one of the highlights (as far as I remember). The evening ended in a bar with round about 2-15 Mojito per person.
The haunted bungalow hotel
Trinidad is located in the south central of Cuba. Its surounded by mountains and sugar cane plantages on three sides, however, the next beach is just 14 km away. Its one of the first cities established by the spanish, here the clocks stoped ticking in 1850. Old-fashioned 19th-century horse carriages drive along the cobblestone-streets some houses have been nicely restored and you see people sitting on the streets and playing domino everywhere. But besides that there is not a lot to see. The best thing about Trinidad was the casa which was perfectly clean, good located in the city center, with a private terrace and hammock only for us to use. Also it offered the best dinners and breakfast we had in Cuba so far. And all of that for a good price. Its called "Casa Elio Ramos". Every morning we got loads of fresh fruit, juice, omlets, pan cakes, coffee, hot chocolate and bread. But see your self on the pics 😉
During the first two days we took it slowly, walked through the narrow streets, relaxed on our terrace and in the evenings sat on Plaza Mayor where people dance salsa and drink Mojito or Cuba libre.
One day we went to Playa Ancón which is mentioned in the lonely planet as one of the best beaches of cuba. But in the last 6 weeks we have seen various beaches and therefore you can call us beach ruined. Sadly it was a disappointment compared to what we have seen.
The other day we went on a horseback tour (someone whos name shouldn't be mentioned took a carriage) to a forest called Parque El Cubano and hiked to a waterfall. The bath in the freshwater was fantastic and underneath the waterfall is the entrance to a huge cave which is only reachable by swimming. Caves have someting creapy and magical at the same time (this one somehow reminding one of Indiana Jones). In the afternoon we visited a tiny Fábrica de Tabacos and bought our first cigars (10 local cigars for 5 $). After having a great dinner at the casa we went out with Kari and Jimmy (see we meet category) for some drinks and ended up in a really fancy club called Disco Ayala. Its a hillside cave in Trinidad that has been converted into a club where people dance to a wild mixture of salsa and house music (we got told this place is mentioned in the Neon as one of the 66 places to party around the world).
Kari and Jimmy also want to go diving in Playa Giron therefore we decided to go together. The next day we are on our way. Looking out of the window felt sometimes like watching a western movie because you see more cowboys riding along the countyside than cars passing by. In Cuba they still use horse carriages for transportation and for field work.
Our room in Trinidad Dinner at the hostel Riding in the countryside Mangos! Shit loads of mangos! A cigar factory Working on my disputationBreakfast on our private terrace Playa Ancon Plaza major - where the magic happens during nightNiels was forced to ride a horse.... No more space in the Lada
What should we say besides: they are amazing. Jimmie is as American as one can be (only in a good way) and Kari is fun all the way and an experienced traveler. They are very old friends and decided to travel together to Cuba. We met in Trinidad, where Kari invited us to a Cuba Libre straight away. In the evening the four of us went to the world famous Cave disco north of Trinidad. From that day on we travelled together through Cuba until our ways parted in Havana. Thanks to them we had two very pleasant stays in Playa Giron and Havanna. They master the art of bargaining very well and introduced us to it. Therefore, we stayed in a better area in Havanna but still paying less even though our breakfast was included.
Have a look at the pictures and you know all you need to know about Edyta, Marcin (Schmitt) and Marcin (Schultz). We had a great time with our three polish friends:testing every drink at every bar of our all-inclusive resort in the north of Cuba. Needless to say that we didn't stand a chance keeping up with them 😉
Once again the alarm clock was set to 5 am on the 21th of may. Packed with our backpacks we found our way to the place our bus was supposed to leave at 6 am. After two hours of waiting and several times asking the receptionist, we got told that the bus forgot to pick us up. By now we are well-experienced travelers, therefore we brought sandwiches and fruits. With a delay of 4,5 hours our pick-up arrived. Instead of a bus full of people we got a private car with a driver. The drive from Havanna to Cayo Santa Maria took 5 ½ hours. Cayo Santa Maria lies at the western end of the Archipiélago de Sabana-Camagüey in the north of Cuba. Its only reachable via a massive 48 km causeway called EL Pedraplén. No Casa Particulares are located on Cayo Santa Maria therefore we were forced to exchange our backpacker life into an 5 Star All-Inclusive Resort life. We expected a high class 5 Star Resort, but recognized soon that there are diffrent 5 star hotels in the world 😉 The resort was nice, but did not meet our expectations.
The luggage was brought to the room and we decided to take a drink at the pool bar. Followed by a drink at the beach bar, another one at the bar at the lobby bar and and and… We tried various different cocktails / colors and met three polish guys from Breslau (Edyta, Marvin Nr. 1 and Marvin Nr. 2) with whom we hung out. The following two days we enjoyed the beach, the pool and the drinks (not the food!).
Edyta, Marcin No. 1 and No. 2. Thank you for the nice time!!!
Good to know about Cuba: it has two parallel currencies! One is the cuban peso/moneda nacional (CUP/ Mn) the other one being the convertible (CUC). In theory, tourists are only supposed to use the CUC, but in practice, you can exchange the CUC into Mn. The exchange rate is 24 Mn per CUC. We got a pizza in a restaurant for 5 CUC and on the street for less than 50 Mn. Therefore, its worth to exchange CUC. But most services and luxury goods (and you'd be surprised what luxury goods can be) are only payable in CUC, as for example taxis, restaurants, accomodation and sightseeing.
The most common accomodation for backpackers are casa particulars. Those are rooms for rent in private houses. Casas can be booked via tripadvisor but in cuba internet is limited and veeery expensive (at least6 CUC per hour). It is easy to identify casas from the outside because all certified ones have a sign with a blue illustration. Prices range from 20 to 40 CUC per room and night. But we found out that you have to bargain for getting a good deal.
We spent 4 days in Havanna. Wondering around the old city (habana vieja) and visiting the sights of Havanna like the Plaza Revolucion, Plaza Vieja, Malecon etc. Havanna is a controverse city. On the one hand there are some extremly nice streets and squares and on the other hand you will find ruins and dirt everywhere. The Habaneros seem to like music alot atleast you are sourrounded by it everywhere in a unbelivable high volume.
First night in a cuban bar
... and dirt
Forts of Casablanca
Heute stand Harbor Island (eine kleine Insel nordöstlich von Eleuthera) auf dem Plan, nach Aussage diverser Reiseführer „die Perle der Bahamas“. Damit muss es sich sachlogisch um die Perle der Perlen handeln 😛 Die Spannung stieg kontinuierlich an, bei Besteigung des Wassertaxis war sie kaum noch auszuhalten. Der Erste Blick auf Harbor Island war beeindruckend: kleine weiße Sandstrände und Mega-Yachten! Dies musste das Paradies sein. Leider war das Paradies uns nicht sonderlich hold gesonnen, es vermieste uns unseren gesamten Aufenthalt mit fast dauerhaft bewölktem Himmel, zweimaligem Platzregen (einen haben wir voll mitgenommen – und im Anschluss ein ganz klein bisschen gefroren!!!) und Algen an den Stränden. Die Algen waren zum Zeitpunkt unseres Aufenthaltes zugegebenermaßen im Begriff beseitigt zu werden. Auch der überall angepriesene rosa Strand ließ lediglich die Farbe erahnen. Das Dorf ist „nett“, die Preise sind exorbitant und die Strände sehr ordentlich. Insgesamt waren wir jedoch ein wenig enttäuscht von dieser Perle der Perlen…
Am nächsten Tag sollte der südlichere Teil unserer Insel erkundet werden. Auch hier warteten wieder einige Traumstrände auf uns, an einem dieser Strände entdeckten wir einen weiteren Geheimtipp namens „Tippy's“. Es handelt sich um eine kleines aber feines Restaurant direkt am Strand mit Blick über eine wunderschöne Bucht. Marriah Carrey, Matthew McC (wie auch immer der sich schreibt) und Tom Cruise waren auch schon hier 😉 Nach einer Stärkung mit anschließendem Schnorcheln ging es weiter zur „Hatchet Bay Cave“, ein etwa eine Meile langes unterirdisches Höhlensystem. Über Treppen gelangte man zunächst in die Tiefe in eine riesige Kammer, an deren Decke unzählige Fledermäuse hängen. Durch enge Tunnel sind weitere Kammern mit Stalaktiten und Stalagmiten zugänglich. Zugegeben: Ein wenig gruselig war es schon zuzweit in einer stock finsteren Höhle lediglich mit 2 Stirnlampen ausgerüstet.
Am nächsten morgen ging es erneut viel zu früh (um 5 Uhr) zum Flughafen. Dort wurde ein neuer late-check-in Weltrekord aufgestellt (check-in 9 Minuten vor Abflug -sry Floh dein Rekord in STG ist damit ringestellt). Auf der Suche nach Schokolade auf dem Nassau Airport sollte sich die Aussage,“home of friendly people“ bestätigten. Mit 1 Bahamas Dollar bewaffnet, waren die Erfolgsaussichten auf das süße Gold jedoch gering. Auf die Frage welche Schoki für 1 $ käuflich zu erwerben sei, erhielten wir die unglaubliche Antwort: „Just take what ever you want“. Völlig verblüfft und immer noch ungläubig starrten wir die Dame an. Damit nicht genug, folgte auf die Frage „Really???“, „Yes, sure and keep the $ as a souvenir“. Offensichtlich sind die Preise am Nassau Airport so exorbitant, dass arme Backpacker, wie wir es sind, nicht zahlen müssen/können. Das nenne ich soziale Gerechtigkeit!
Blick während unseres Lunch im Tippy's
Strand bei Tippy's
Ein besonders grosser Stalagmit von Eva angeleuchtet
Der erste Tag auf den Bahamas galt ganz der Entspannung. Einzig große Aktivität an diesem Tag war ein kleiner Spaziergang zum Strand, wobei uns auf dem Weg eine Schlangen über den Weg „lief“. Wir redeten uns ein die Schlange habe vor uns genauso viel Angst wie wir vor ihr, da sie sich ins höhere Grass „verkroch“ und dort erstarrte. Natürlich aus reiner Tierliebe, wir wollten die Schlange nicht weiter verängstigen, drehten wir kurzentschlossen um und fanden einen anderen Weg zum Strand. Leider hat der Wettergott es an diesem Tag nicht all zu gut mit uns gemeint, aber wer kann von sich schon behaupten auf den Bahamas Tee getrunken zu haben 😉
Am nächsten morgen sah die Welt schon viel sonniger aus. Somit sollte die erste Erkundungsreise der Nordinsel beginnen. Zunächst ging es zum „Gaulding Cay Beach“, ein menschenleerer, weiß pudriger Sandstrand mit türkisem Wasser lud uns zum baden und schnorcheln ein. Anschließend haben wir durch Zufall das „Queens Bath“ entdeckt, dabei handelt es sich um große durch die Gezeiten geformte Wasserbassins. Im „Laughing Lizzard“ (3 km nördlich von Gregory Town), einem Geheimtipp unsere Gastgebers Tom, wurde gen Mittag eine Runde entspannt und eine Kleinigkeit gegessen. Der Tipp war Gold wert, das Essen und die Atmosphäre waren einmalig! Weiter gen norden gelangten wir zur „Glass Window Bridge“ (trennt Atlantik und Carribean Sea, gut zuerkennen auf dem Panoramabild). Die Straße führte uns in Richtung Norden zum Current Cut, der Reisegott meinte es erneut gut mit uns! Die Bilder sprechen für sich!
The Queens Bath und wir sind etwas nass geworden 😉
Glas Window Bridge: see on the left the atlantic and on the right the carribean sea
Raghav dropped us off at the airport of Atlanta early in the morning on the 12th of May. The lady at the Delta Airlines check-in gave us a hard time. She was either stupid or just really unfriendly at least she couldn't or wouldn't tell us if our luggage would be checked through to our final destination (Rock Sound). After a 10 minute discussion we gave up and ask someone else at the information desk.
In Nassau (Capital of the Bahamas) we had a regular stop-over for 3 hrs. Due to the delay of our airplane we "gained" two extra hours. We used them for some selfies (have a guess which pictures I mean).
Rock Sound at Eleuthera island, an outer island of the Bahamas, was reached with a propeller plane. The view from the plane was fantastic, white beaches, turquoise water and small islands as well as coral reefs. The altitude was only 5.500 ft (1.700 m) so that everyone on the plane had an amazing view.
Rock Sound airport is veeery small, it only futures one runaway and a single building with one room. Lagguage is picked up just outside the building directly from the cart by the passangers themselfs.
As soon as we left the airport a man walked straight up to us and ask if we were Niels and Eva. Until than we weren't to sure how to identify the agent we rented our car from, but some problems just solve themselfs 😉 This was a nice surprise but still a bit suspicious. However, he had spelled the name “Niels” correct on his paperwork. For the drop-off we were told to leave the keys in the car under the floormat. Now we only needed pay the 340 USD in cash (!) and drive from the very south to the north of the island. After a one hour drive on the left side Surfers Haven Hostel showed up at the road. It’s a very basic but relaxing accommodation and we are the only guests at the moment. The weather forecast for the next days is really really bad. But we will make the best out of it.
We met Rakshita and Raghav in 2012 while they were on a foreign assignment. For our Round-the-World-Trip we promised to visit them. Thanks to them we spent five perfect days in Atlanta, gained 2 kg due to the very good food made by Rakshita and various restaurants, attended our first baseball game and explored the green city of Atlanta.
After eating freshly made donuts from a real donut factory, we went for a MLB (Major League Baseball) game: Atlanta Braves vs. Chicago Cubs. Tens of thousands went on a pilgrimage to the stadium. A brutal sports event. First thing to do as soon as you enter the stadium is buying a 710 ml can (oh yeah everything is big in America) of Coors Light (cheapest beer in America, but still 9,75 US$ in the stadium). The atmosphere was amazing. But see yourself:
After watching the game for 15 minutes it started to rain. They stopped the game and covered the playground. In our hopes we waited for another 30 minutes without any change of the weather therefore we left the stadium for south indian food.
Departing from San Juan with a short stop over in Fort Lauderdale we arrived in Atlanta today. Atlanta is not only the beautiful Coca Cola city and home to the world famous Braves but also the place where mankind build the greatest shoe wall ever (see picture below).
On our first day we went to an Areal called Atlantic Station for some shopping, unfortunately with little success (only one T-shirt for Niels). In the evening we aet the best pizza on planet earth. The food was very authentic and the atmosphere was great.
The next day we went to stone mountain. It’s the worlds biggest granite rock (everything is big in America). After hiking we had to eat a lot because Raghavs goal was to make us never forget about the food in Atlanta. This time it was really good north indian food. In the evening we went out with some friends of Raghav and Rakshita for some Moscow Mules. Of cause we ended up eating indian food again 🙂
The following days we explored the city of Atlanta which is very green, clean and most of the time sunny. There are lots of parks around. And of course we had a lot of food everyday (recommendations "Bhojanic" for north indian food, "Madras Bhavan" for south indian food, "Farmburger" for Burger 😉 Eva tried a special American mixture it´s called "Coke float": a mix of ice cream and coke.
This day didn’t start well. Not only we had to get up very early but also the trip to Fajardo (located on the east cost of Puerto Rico) took way longer than planed. Thanks to the driving skills of most Puerto Ricans who notoriously block both lanes at a speed of 50 MPH – even though you are allowed to go 65. Originally, it was our plane to take the 9 am ferry to Culebra, a very nice island. However, we didn’t make it in time, therefore the ferry was already booked out. So we decided to go to an other island called Vieques. The beache we went to was amazing and since not so many tourist go there we had a lot of space.
Another advantage of Vieques is the 3 pm return ferry. Its earlier than the one from Culebra and therefore we were able to see one more natural highlight of Puerto Rico - the Bio Bay. Its filled with small algae who use bioluminescence to glow as soon as they feel threatened. It was a very nice experiance, especially kayaking in pitch black (the last picture
Today we somehow managed to get a Cuba Tourist card. It “only” took us around 3 hrs. 45 minutes of which were wasted by staying in line at the Air Canada hotline. Another 75 minutes to actually find and drive to a office of Copa Airlines. They are also veeery slow but “hell yeah” they are friendly! The guy at the counter even called some travel agents to find out where we could get the Tourist Card. So finally we drove to a place called Tonys Tourist. Now we are proud owners of two blank (?!?) Cuban Tourist Cards.
Following this little encounter we drove to Rincon Bay. A small village situated in the very West of Puerto Rico. Arriving there we had a strong Australia dejavu: lots of small bays, a very relaxing atmosphere and very nice people. It seems there are places on earth which are still intact. The sunset was amazing not least thanks to the small local bar we found (we’ll upload the video of the place later).
Our first glance of Rincon in the south West of Puerto Rico
Haveing mexican lunch
Anyone has an idea what kind of fruit that might be (30 cm of diameter)?
This is a mango tree with round about 1 to 10 billion fruits.......
Heute haben wir gelernt, wie die Uhren in Puerto Rico ticken.
Wieviel Zeit würdet ihr für eine Strecke von 6 Km aus der Stadt zum Flughafen an einem Sonntag einplanen? Wir dachten uns, mit dem Bus und lediglich einmaligem umsteigen sollte eine solche Strecke innerhalb ca 1 Stunde zu bewerkstelligen sein. An der Bushaltestelle angekommen wurden wir jedoch eines Besseren belehrt: eine Wartezeit von zunächst 1,5 Stunden (!!!) war ein deutliches Zeichen. Wohl gemerkt, auf der gegenüberliegenden Straßenseite sind in der Zwischenzeit 3 Busse an uns vorbei gefahren. In dem Glauben es nun fast geschafft zu haben sollten wir erneut eines Besseren belehrt werden, auch auf den nächsten Bus warteten wir über eine Stunde. Danach ging es zügig weiter und mit 2,5 Stunden Verspätung erreichten wir die Autovermietung. Unser reservierter Kleinwagen war leider nicht mehr verfügbar so dass wir einen Wagen der "comfort Class" erhielten. Mit diesem haben wir nun die Möglichkeit die Insel deluxe zu erkunden.
Noch am gleichen Tag ging es auf der Küstenstraße gen Osten und im Anschluss in den bergigen Regenwald. Aufgrund der erheblichen Verspätung fiel die geplante Wanderung ins Wasser und wir sind lediglich durchgefahren.
Auf dem Rückweg sind wir erneut mit den Preisen in Puerto Rico vertraut gemacht worden. Nur um Euch eine Preisvorstellung zu geben. DomRep/Puerto Rico:
Ananas 80 DOP ca. 1$ / 5$
Avokado 30 DOP ca. 0,35$ / 3$
Maracuja 8 DOP ca. 0,15$ / kein Vergleich.
P.s.: Die "Biker" sind für Seppel, die Schildkröte für Ma und der Netzhemd-Mann für alle anderen 🙂
In San Juan haben wir erstmalig eine Unterkunft über airnb inklusive einer abwechslungsreichen Nachbarschaft gebucht (siehe oberstes Bild).
An unserem ersten Tag ging es mit dem Bus in Richtung Altstadt San Juan. Die Altstadt ist ein UNESCO Weltkulturerbe und sehr schön. Neben den beiden Festungen El Morro und Fort Felipe sind vor allem die kleinen Gässchen und die bunten Häuser sowie die Uferpromenade beeindruckend. Mit einem kleinen Spaziergang haben wir die Altstadt erkundet. Hierbei konnten wir ein lustiges Schauspiel beobachten, denn die Polizistinnen haben den Handel mit den gefälschten Michael Kors Handtaschen mit Nichten unterbunden, sondern viel mehr daran teilgenommen 😉
Getting up at 5 am in the morning - not a problem for real surfers like us! Somehow Eva managed to order a taxi in spanish the day before (great sucess!). So we arrived at the aiport pretty early, checked in, went to our gate, waited 1 1/2 hrs, and boarded. So far so good. The plane started moving by taking a very hard hit. Following that hit the captain explained that our flight might had to be canceled because of the damage our plane took from the car which crashed into the front tier. As you can imagine this information was not very calming to everyone onboard 😉 However with more than one hour delay we finally took off towards Puerto Rico.
Nach 2 Tagen Surfkurs und einigen blaue Flecken, wurde es Zeit für ein Erlebnis der besonderen Art. Gesagt getan, ein Auto gemietet und die 27 Waterfalls in rund einer Stunde erreicht. Aufgrund unserer etwas verspäteten Ankunftszeit (13 Uhr statt geplant 10 Uhr) konnten wir "nur" noch 12 von den 27 Wasserfällen besuchen. Bis zu diesem Zeitpunkt hatten wir keinerlei Ahnung, auf was wir uns einlassen. Somit waren wir etwas überrascht, als uns mitgeteilt wurde alle Sachen im Auto zu verstauen und lediglich Badesachen zu tragen. Die notwendigen Schwimmwesten und Helme erhielten vom Veranstalter. Wofür diese notwendig waren, sollten wir bald erfahren.
Nach einer 45 minütigen Wanderung mit vielen Treppen und einer Steigung, die für uns echte Hamburger schon fast einer Bergwanderung glich, erreichten wir die Nr. 12 der Wasserfälle. Mit einem kleinen Hüpfer ins Wasser war das Vergnügen auch schon wieder vorbei. Wasserfall Nr. 8 lieferte jedoch die Begründung für die Ausrüstung. Uns wurde klar gemacht, dass wir von einer Klippe ca. 6 Meter in die Tiefe springen sollten (laut Tourguide waren es sogar 8 Meter). Wir (Eva, Niels war total mutig!!!) haben kurz gezögert und es dann gewagt. Die anderen Wasserfälle waren eine Abwechselung zwischen natürlichen Rutschen und Sprungbrettern zwischen 3-6 Metern. Alles in allem ein lohnender Tagesausflug.
Natürlich waren auch die Hin- und Rückfahrt ein Erlebnis der besonderen Art!
Meet the french princess "Meg" and the oracle of Montreal "Omer". Thanks to them and their car we have seen the most beautiful places of Las Galeras. We'll never forget the tour to playa "Madam 1" and the following police visits. Hopefully they decide to join us again later this year or visit us next year in Hamburg.
Bei unserem ersten Versuch den Touristenort Punta Cana zu verlassen sind wir auf die Probe gestellt worden.
Zunächst haben wir aufgrund des Sperrgepäcks jeder ein Motoconcho nehmen müssen um zum Busbahnhof von Punta Cana zu gelangen. Dort angekommen wurden wir sogleich freundlich begrüßt und zum vermeintlichen Bus nach Santo Domingo geführt. Augenblicklich wurde das Gepäck eingeladen und der Bus setze sich unverzüglich in Bewegung. Verwunderlich war nur, dass der Bus eigentlich erst 1 Stunde später abfahren sollte... Aus der Erfahrung beim Flug haben wir gelernt (zur Erinnerung: das Gepäck wurde nur bis München eingecheckt, so dass wir beinahe ohne Gepäck in Punta Cana gelandet wären) und im Bus einen Mann um die erhoffte Bestätigung gebeten. Ein wenig überrascht antwortete er, dass dieser nicht nach Santo Domingo fährt. Zum Glück sind wir noch nicht weit gekommen und konnten dem Busfahrer verständlich machen, dass wir wieder aussteigen möchten. Nach dem kleinen Schrecken haben wir dann den Bus gefunden, der uns in 3 Stunden nach Santo Domingo fahren sollte.
Dort angekommen lief alles wie am Schnürchen. Den reservierten Bus haben wir gleich gefunden und sind mit diesem nach Samana gefahren. Dort rief uns von der Strasse aus einem bereits voll beladenen umgebauten Pickup ein Einheimischer "Las Galeras" entgegen. Nach einer halben Woche konnten wir sogar schon nach dem Preis fragen. Somit begann unsere erste Fahrt in einem Gua-gua. Überraschend wie gut eine Unterhaltung mit Händen und Füssen funktioniert. Nach ca. 1 Stunde erreichten wir das kleine Paradies "Las Galeras".