A Travellerspoint blog

November 2016

The sacred island

Raiatea

sunny 28 °C
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It had just been a 15 min flight from Bora Bora to Raiatea and before we realized it, we were landing again. Our baggage arrived promptly – an advantage of tiny airports. Andrew, the owner of the Manava Lodge, picked us up at the airport. He kindly offered to make a stop at the local supermarket to stock up our supplies for the next couple of days. We had booked a bungalow with outdoor kitchen and nice private terrace surrounded by a tropical garden – an excellent choice. We immediately felt at home.

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The next morning, we had an early start. Andrew’s wife Roselyne took Max and me to the airport where at 8:20 the flight from Maupiti was scheduled to arrive. And soon enough we had again the bag that we had lost in Maupiti which had contained almost all of Max' toys. Lucky us!
We decided to take it easy and just did a short excursion to the Vairua pearl farm at the adjacent beach. The owner patiently explained to us how the two-year-old oysters are opened and a small piece of mantle tissue from another oyster together with a spherical bead (which is called a 'graft') are inserted in the pearl and then kept at eight to ten meters’ depth for around 18 months, when they will be collected. By then about 80% of the oysters will have grown a pearl inside. Very interesting. But with the antibiotics and surgical instruments used in the process, we were reminded a bit of a dentist.

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The rest of the day, we spent at our terrace and at the pool. While Max played football with the local kids, Sam prepared the fresh tuna we had bought in the morning in the typical Tahitian way, i.e. raw with coconut milk. And as a desert we had a fresh coconut that just fell down from one of the trees around our bungalow. Excellent!

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It is nice to enjoy now, what was still just theory back in February, when I had been sitting in front of the chimney in cold Germany, plotting out on which islands there were nice and affordable accommodations, checked availability, matched that to available flights and booked it all. That was my way of insuring that we get the best value for money while staying in rather expensive destinations. Due to that pre-work, we’re currently having the luxury of knowing where to stay each night until November 7. The downside is that after once we’ll reach Australia that day we have nothing at all so far except a very rough idea of what we’d like to do. And so we spent a bit of time that evening, plotting out the ideas and sending the first inquiries about transportation options which will then be the base for arranging everything else around it.
We woke up the next morning with the plan to have breakfast and a hike to the nearby three cascades. While Sam stuck to the plan, I stayed home with Max such that he could enjoy playing with Abel again. After all, he had not had the chance to intensively play with other kids since we left Canmore four weeks earlier. And Max and Abel had so much fun!

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Sam enjoyed his hike very much. With the help of locals, he found the narrow pathway up along a small river, passed through dense jungle like forest and got rewarded with a nice waterfall at the end.

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With Max being busy and not requiring hardly any attention and Sam hiking, I used the opportunity to take care of the blog. As Sam had supplied me with lots of pictures in the last couple of days, I published the sixth blog post within ten days. While this is a new record, it is also a sign that we had been quite behind. We still are behind, but nearly as much anymore.
The remainder of the day, we spent once more at the pool before heading back to our bungalow to have dinner. That evening Sam’s tripod came into action again: first he tried to take pictures of the many crabs in the garden around us, of the geckos above our terrace and then headed to the sea to take pictures of the full moon raising above the island of Huahine in the East.

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And then it was time to explore the island. We rented a car for the day and did the tour of the island. Our first stop was at a temple, called Marae Taputapuatea. It is one of the most important temples in Polynesia, marking the center point between New Zealand, the Easter Islands and Hawaii. Only the stone structures remain to this date, but previously there would have been all kinds of wooden structures as well, ceremonial houses, living quarters and huts to store the war canoes.

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We were easily able to resist the temptation to bathe in a river together with the famous and sacred blue-eyed eels and opted instead for snorkeling in the lagoon. As it was Sunday, there were also quite a couple of locals around and we were able to do some people watching.

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The remainder of the drive around the island was nice as well. We enjoyed alternating vistas of the lagoon and the mountains covered in lush and dense tropical forest.

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Once we were back home, all of us were more than keen to jump into the pool to cool off a bit. Max played with Abel again and the two had lots of fun together.
After that much excitement and lots of sun, we had a quiet and relaxing evening. We simply enjoyed sitting on our nice and comfortable terrace.
On our last day in Raiatea we wanted to do some hiking and climb mount Tapioi above the island’s main town of Uturoa. Along the way we got to see a lot of the local fauna in their natural habitat and we even passed a vanilla plantation.

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From the viewpoint up there, we had an excellent view of all of the Leeward Islands we’d be visiting: Maupiti, Bora Bora, Raiatea and Huahine. In addition, we saw Raiatea’s sister island Taha'a which is well known for its vanilla production, but which we skipped on our journey.

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Back in town, we stocked up our water and cash supplies before hitchhiking back to our pension. Already the first driver stopped and was kind enough to take us all the way there even though this meant a detour on his way home. Wow!
As we were home earlier than expected, we had the whole afternoon to spend in and around the pool until Roselyne took us to the airport for our flight to Huahine.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 06:39 Archived in French Polynesia Tagged temple mountain car island waterfall farm tour snorkeling pearl viewpoint Comments (1)

Taking it easy in laid back Huahine

Fare, Huahine

semi-overcast 29 °C
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The sun was just setting when we reached Huahine airport. What an atmosphere: no clouds and a golden glow with the silhouettes of Raiatea, Taha’a and Bora Bora in the distance.

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We were picked up at the airport by Jocelyne. After a quick stop at the local supermarket, she had lots of recommendations for us on where to eat and what to do. As we turned into the private unpaved road leading to their house, she listed the uncles, cousins and other relatives living in the houses along the road as we went by.
We stayed at Franky’s Fare, a small house right next to their house. Jocelyne’s husband Smith greeted us and both showed us around. We had a kitchen, living room, bathroom and under the roof a nice and cozy bedroom. In addition, there was the large fenced yard with a table, the hammock and an outside shower. What a nice place!

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For quick dinner – as it was already quite late – we simply stayed inside. But the next morning, we went outside for having breakfast. That way we could also see what happened along the road: cars and bikes passing by, the mailman on his scooter dressed in a muscle shirt featuring the logo of the local postal service and the garbage truck.
Once we had packed our picnic for lunch, we headed off towards the beach with the bikes we were allowed to use. Max sat behind Sam, holding on tightly to his seat.

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After a stroll along the beach we got into the water to snorkel and let the current take us back to where we started. We saw lots of fish. There schools of a couple of hundred yellow fish, schools of fifty or more grey fish and smaller groups of fish of lots of different kinds: tiny blue ones, trumpet fish various kinds of butterfly fish and many more. In addition, there were lots of different corals, a sea horse, green blue and purple clams and sea cucumbers. A nice snorkeling experience, also for Max who took advantage of having a body board to lay on without having to worry about staying above the water.

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After almost an hour in the water, it was time to relax and eat. Even though all of the beaches seem to be public, we did not to stay directly at the beach of the hotel, but preferred to have a spot for our own a bit further looking out to the water and observing life at the beach.

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That evening we took advantage of the fact that we had a TV in our living room. We watched one of the videos Jocelyne had given to us ‘Mr. Right’. It was a funny, sometimes a bit silly comedy mixed with a few action scenes. Nice and easy.
The next day was dominated by tropical rain showers. There were several episodes of heavy downpours followed by light rain and short dry periods in between. So we stayed mostly at home, did some writing, photo editing, talked details for the Australia portion of our trip and played with Max – puzzle and dice when it rained, baseball whenever it did not rain.

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It rained during the night as well, but at least the next day we had some longer dry periods between the rain showers. At least Sam and Max made it dry to the supermarket and back. In the mean time I booked flights and Airbnb apartments and confirmed for Rarotonga. I had to take advantage of having wifi – we’d be without one for the next couple of days.
For lunch, we went into town with Max pedaling Sam’s bike – a funny sight!

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And then it was already time for saying good bye to Jocelyne and Smith. What a pity, as we really enjoyed our time in their nice little house and had been so happy to have the bikes to be able to easily move around.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 03:16 Archived in French Polynesia Tagged rain house bike snorkel Comments (0)

Staying on a motu (a lagoon islet)

Motu Mahare (Huahine), Papeete (Tahiti)

sunny 29 °C
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Flora picked us up at Franky’s Fare to take us to her pension on the islet of Motu Mahare. We had booked two nights on the motu and three at her place ‘Tifaifai et Café’. On the way, she had news for us: as she was overbooked due to a big birthday party, we’d be staying on the Motu for five nights. For our inconvenience, we’d be paying only four nights though. We were fine with the change in plan – it would not be the first time that the new plan is actually better than our original one.
John picked us up with the motorboat and took us over to the motu where his wife Poe and the three kids waited already to welcome us. They showed us the four little thatched huts we’d be able to use for the next days: a kitchen, a fully screened room that doubles as dining and living room, our bedroom and the bathroom.

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There was just enough time to stroll the 200m through the forest of coconut palms to the beach that faces the outer reef, before the heavy rain started and we retreated to the bench underneath the kitchen roof. Sitting outside watching the rain had a somewhat relaxing effect. The mosquitoes did not – we were constantly swatting them and it was a rather painful experience.
Once Poe, John and the kids had to leave, hunched underneath some rain ponchos on the motorboat, we searched for our mosquito repellent and with that it got a bit better. Retreating into the screened room also helped – there we were safe! That night we gladly appreciated the fact that our beds were fitted with mosquito nets.
But we soon found out that it's not only mosquitoes inhabiting the island. At night, we had to be very careful not to step on one of the many crabs. I was happy not to see the spider myself, except on the picture that Sam took. And as everywhere in French Polynesia where we'd been so far, there were lots of geckos around.

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After a good night’s sleep – enhanced by the constant sound of the waves breaking on the nearby reef – we leisurely explored our surroundings without the risk of a downpour waiting for us. At least there were only tiny clouds dotted on the blue sky. At the beach we were lucky to even spot the fountain and subsequent back of a whale just beyond the reef. The main season for the whales seems to be over, but there are a few whales still around.

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For our next exploration, we used the sea kayaks and paddled around our little motu. The most notable occurrence was a jumping manta in the quiet waters of the lagoon. Other than that, we got an impression of the dimensions of the motu, saw the pass out into the open see with its waves (some of which also filled our kayaks) and noticed where the other few inhabitants of the island live.
After lunch we kept Max entertained with throwing coconuts, playing baseball and hide and seek. Eventually Sam took Max out on the kayak once more – just for getting a bit of exercise. After so much excitement Max slept earlier than usual and had a movie night watching ‘Mother’s Day’.

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The next day, Sam and I enjoyed a very nice and quiet day. Max was busy all day with the other kids in the shallow water of the lagoon. We’d wish to have other kids around more often – that makes life much easier.

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We had been the only guests of the pension until that afternoon Lucie and Jeffery arrived – a very nice Czech / Kiwi couple. And as so often, it was just interesting to see how they are organizing their lives: both being therapists / coaches they do their coaching sessions via telephone and Skype, which allows them to travel and to be in a completely different time zone vs. their client base – the advantage being that they work mornings and evening and have the day off.
On Sunday afternoon, we decided to paddle to Flora’s other pension ‘Tifaifai et Café’. It was just 20 min away on another, but much larger motu. It was a nice outing through crystal clear waters above beautiful corals with lots of fish. And by using the internet there, we knew that there was nothing urgent going on that needed our attention. After a recent Airbnb cancellation, we were more cautious than usual.

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We had one more full day on our motu, which we used to paddle and swim. That was about all we did – after all the intense heat and humidity combined with the ubiquitous mosquitoes did limit our interest in other activities significantly. There was one more place where we had shade and no mosquitoes: the fully screened hut. That’s where we spent most of the other time and that was also the location for our evening game night with Lucie and Jeffrey.

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The next day it was time to say good bye to Lucie and Jeffrey. John and Poe treated us to fresh coconut water before loading the motorboat with our heaps of baggage and taking us to the airport. While we were sad to leave Lucie and Jeffrey with whom we had great chats and lots of fun, none of us was really sad to leave the motu. The five days there had been largely sufficient to explore everything that there was to explore. And the five days had also been long enough to get uncountable mosquito bites. We did count Max’ bites: at 140 we stopped counting…

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The flight to Tahiti with a stopover in neighboring Moorea was quick and soon enough we sat in a taxi on our way to our ‘Fare Rea Rea’ in Papeete.
We went to bed early, as we all were very tired. During the night, it started raining and we continued having episodes of torrential rain all of the next morning. So, on our trip to the supermarket, it was key to get the timing right. In the early afternoon, we were lucky to have a longer period without rain and used that to eat at a snack bar just around the corner from our apartment and to have a stroll into downtown and back. And once more we loved the street art we came across along the way. We had been lucky: only during a short spell of 5min rain, we had to wait in an area protected from the rain. And we were back home just in time before the clouds opened up again.

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Given the weather, we stayed inside for the rest of the day, played games and enjoyed our dinner: it would be a while before we’d get nice French baguette, Camembert cheese and the excellent Tahitian Hinano beer again.
The next morning, we took a taxi to the airport and were wondering if / when we’ll be back and if by then the islands will still governed by France or might potentially be independent.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 03:19 Archived in French Polynesia Tagged kids kayak mosquito coconut snorkel crab islet motu Comments (1)

Kia Orana / Hello Cook Islands

Tupapa, Rarotonga

sunny 26 °C
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Even though we had left French Polynesia, we had another two and a half hours to enjoy Air Tahiti’s service – together with about thirty other passengers of which at least 50% seemed to be German speaking.

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Contrary to previous flights with Air Tahiti of which the longest had been just 35min, this time Sam was lucky: he asked if he could go to the cockpit during the flight and the pilot gave his ok. Once Sam had gotten all his questions about the planes, pilot education and risky situations answered, he left and Max and I were allowed in the cockpit to have a peek as well. Really nice!

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We had already seen a couple of other islands of the southern group of the Cook Islands before finally descending into the main island of Rarotonga. At the airport, we were greeted by nice ukulele music. Immigration was fairly easy and customs clearance more straight forward than expected.

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To get to our accommodation, we had planned to just take the clockwise island bus. As we mentally prepared ourselves for a 40min wait, suddenly a lady stopped next to us and asked us if we needed any help. We explained that we waited for the bus and where we wanted to go and miraculously she offered to give us a lift. Once we were in the car with Angela, we realized that she lived west of the airport and we had to go about 7km east. Out of pure kindness she took such a detour. We were amazed – what a lovely welcome to the Cook Islands. And we were thrilled: being in the Commonwealth, English would be sufficient again to get around easily.

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Kylie, the manager of the ‘Ariana Bungalows’ welcomed us, showed us our new home for the next five nights, the pool and the games room. And she had lots of advice for us on what to do and plan for the next days.

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Max was quite tired, so Sam headed off on his own to go shopping and soon enough returned stocked with typical NZ / Australian food and beer. It is fun seeing how easily the connection to the mother country can be detected, not only via the food. Just like in New Zealand, traffic on the Cook Islands is on the left side of the road. And already when we arrived in our bungalow, we had noticed one more thing that is hard to find outside of Commonwealth countries, the typical English faucets: one for hot and one for cold water. To wash your face with warm water, you need to fill the sink with the provided plug.
The next day we took it easy and spent the day on the terrace of our bungalow and in the tropical garden with its pool.

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Kylie’s husband Marshall husked a couple of green coconuts for us and we enjoyed the light coconut water and their soft flesh. For tea time, we had banana bread to go with our black tea / hot chocolate. A good start into our stay at the Cook Islands.

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The next day we took the bus into Avarua to visit the Saturday market. It was a fabulous place for people watching, for eating at the various food stalls, and for shopping of souvenirs as well as fresh produce.

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We even got treated to a typical Polynesian drum and dance performance. It was fun seeing the girls perform their dances so proudly. And the sound of the drums was the perfect way to get accustomed to the local music.

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As we were in town already, we used the opportunity to get a couple of other things done before taking the clockwise bus back home. Given the nice weather and bright sunshine, the pool was the perfect place to be for the remainder of the day. The only interruption was for tea time and eventually for getting the ‘barbie’ / BBQ ready for dinner.

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The next day, we took a hike to one of the most important marae / temples on the island. From there we continued a hike up the ‘Ikurangi mountain. It had been clear from the start that we would not make the 4-5 hour round trip up to the top, so we did not feel bad about turning around eventually and heading home and taking a plunge in the pool.

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Sam did make a serious attempt to hike the ‘Ikurangi alone the following day. This time he was fully equipped with proper hiking gear. Even though, the route proved to be extremely tough and though thickets of fern and other plants. It did not seem that lots of people are hiking there. While he was able to find the way up, eventually he decided to turn around anyhow: it just seemed a bit too risky to balance along a slippery ledge with significant drops on both sides and no one around to get help in case needed. Still, he liked the hike, the jungle feeling along the way and the beautiful views from the mountain.

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The other nice thing about our hikes were the insights in local life. Seeing the houses along the way, very often with attached decorated grave houses (which seem to be preferred over regular graveyards), the chicken, pigs and dogs and the local fruit trees.

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While we spent the last couple of days a bit of time with writing blog entries and editing photos, we don’t have internet, so we cannot upload anything. That left us with lots of time to read (‘Flight of the intruder’ for Sam and ‘The King’s speech’ for me) and to play Monopoly in the NZ version we found in the game room. Island life as it should be!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:19 Archived in Cook Islands Tagged temple bus mountain market pool hike chicken coconut bungalow Comments (2)

The friendly Cook Islanders

Arorangi, Rarotonga

overcast 29 °C
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It was time to pack again. After five nights in the north-east of Rarotonga, we had booked another place for the rest of our stay at the west coast. It proved to be a bit challenging to take the public bus with all of our stuff – three big pieces of luggage, three smaller backpacks and a car seat. One thing is clear: should we spend some time doing proper backpacking towards the end of our trip vs. doing road trips in a vehicle, we’d need to significantly size down our baggage.
The bus trip itself was enjoyable and we got to see some parts of the island we had not seen before. The Tree House B&B with its big garden. proved to be lovely as well. Nestled between enormous tropical trees, we now have a place for our own just two minutes from the beach.
And the beach is where we went. We were almost blinded by the white sand and it did not help that we had left our sunglasses at home. We had a long stretch of beach for ourselves and were happy not to stay at one of two rather large resort hotels to the north and south. This was even more true at sunset, when seeing a number of rather drunk presumably Australian and Kiwi tourists on the beach displaying lots of sun-burnt skin.

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When going into town the next day waiting for the bus, we were lucky to be taken by a German / Dutch couple who emigrated to the Cook Islands. We love the kindness of the locals here! And we also loved the conversations we had with them about vacation destinations in South East Asia specifically Vietnam and Laos.
They dropped us at the harbour where we wanted to get burgers from the local favorite ‘Palace Burgers’. Our disappointment was sizable when we were told that we’d need to wait for about 1.5 hours to get our burgers. After all, it was happy hour with all burgers just costing 3.5 NZ$ - a real bargain considering the otherwise high prices – and consequently they had huge orders in line to be prepared. So, we ordered anyhow and took a stroll in the meantime.
Passing by the end of the marina basin, we passed a small cemetery and then watched a couple of young men doing somersaults and other fun jumps into the water – visibly having lots of fun. When Sam asked if they’d let him take a couple of pictures, he was told off by a bystander. He explained that the men were actually inmates of the local prison. They seemed to be treated nicely and to have fun - better than in many other countries!

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It was worth waiting for the burgers, they tasted really well. With the wait, we ended up just missing the anti-clockwise bus. Hoping for the kindness of the islanders, we just positioned ourselves along the road. And once more, we were more than overwhelmed: already the first car passing us, stopped and asked where we needed to go. And despite the fact that it was a detour for them, they dropped us at our place.
Why? Well, they saw that we had Max with us and having kids themselves, they just stopped and took us. And once more we had lovely conversations: about her home in Aitutaki, about his home Island of Samoa, her brother living in Dresden, their life now in Australia, etc... We just enjoyed and were amazed. Just imagine the average German or Austrian stopping when seeing a foreign looking family standing next to the road. We could probably learn our share of kindness and hospitality from the Polynesians.
Still, as nice as it is here, there at least one thing is rather frustrating: getting an internet connection without paying a huge price tag is nearly impossible. That’s when you realize in retrospect how good of an internet connection we had on all of the French Polynesian islands. Or how cheap it is in Germany to get a flat rate for data volume.
For Thursday, there was no plan at all. Well, breakfast, some snorkeling at the beach just in front of our house. Due to the heavy clouds, the colors did not come out very nicely, but in return we got rewarded with seeing lots of fish, nice purple starfish and some pink sea urchins.

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A nice and relaxing day and also a calm evening, watching a movie and playing a couple of rounds of dice.
That Friday we wanted to go and see Day 2 of the ‘Sevens in Heaven’ rugby tournament. Already the second car which passed, stopped for us. Marny, a kind lady from Papua New Guinea and former physiotherapist of one of the rugby teams, takes us right to the stadium – even though it’s a detour for her. And talking about PNG, she says that people would not nearly be as welcoming there. According to her, there people would rather take blonde ones like us for ransom. Having just watched the kidnapping drama ‘Proof of Life’, this does put a significant damper on our enthusiasm for PNG, even though Marny confirms that the forests are purely wonderful there.
At the rugby tournament, we found ourselves in the middle of a crowd of locals who mostly seem to have one team they are cheering for.

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We cheered for all teams and had to focus anyhow first on more or less understanding the rules. We soon realized how quickly the game is happening. Much faster than American football and much more exciting with lots more action and touchdowns vs. soccer.

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After five men’s matches, it was the ladies’ turn. And wow – that was pure excitement, even more fun than the matches before and an atmosphere at the boiling point.

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But even better than the rugby itself was the fantastic atmosphere amidst the locals. We simply enjoyed being there and seeing the people around us.

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Once the men took over again, it started raining heavily and we were happy that the stands were covered such that we were protected. But once the heavy rain subsided and it was merely trickling anymore, we left to go home. The only bus that passed us would have gone to our place, but only after circling the island clockwise. We decided to rather take our bets at hitchhiking and after about five minutes a lady from Fiji took us home. As usual, the seat belts were nowhere to be found and she had her two-year-old daughter jumping around on the passenger seat. Yes, the maximum speed limit on the island is 50 km/h, but even at those relatively low speeds, this seemed just a bit too relaxed and rather dangerous. We’d probably need to spend years on a small island and would still not feel comfortable running these kinds of risks.
The next day marked already our last day on the Cook Islands. We spent the day snorkeling and at the beach. While we were sitting there, we were contemplating about the South Pacific and when we’ll be back. Most likely that will not happen too soon. After all, from Europe the South Pacific is just so far away and the long flights and the twelve-hour jet-lag make it really hard to reach for just a ‘normal’ three-week vacation. So except if we opt to stop once more in the South Pacific on our way home from this round the world trip, it will be a while. And in case we really would like to experience island life, there are so many other islands we have not seen that are much more accessible and while different, hopefully also nice – no matter if in the Caribbean, Seychelles, Maldives, Thailand or Philippines.

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In the evening, we tried to get a bit of sleep before heading off in the middle of the night towards the airport. After five weeks of island life, we were just looking forward to the empty spaces and distances of Western Australia.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:52 Archived in Cook Islands Tagged beach house harbor snorkel rugby internet burger Comments (2)

The ugly side of traveling: our journey to Western Australia

From Rarotonga via Auckland and Melbourne to Sydney; from Sydney via Perth to Broome

overcast 23 °C
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We were in for a big change: leaving the South Pacific headed towards Western Australia. It was approaching midnight when our taxi picked us up and took us to the airport. We had booked the Sunday Nov 6 flight at 2:35am with Jetstar and were planned to reach Sydney on Nov 7 at 9:10am after a short touchdown in Auckland. This sounds like a very long time, but it’s not. Crossing the dateline towards west, we’d lose a full day. But the actual fights should be manageable. We were at the airport early enough to make sure that we’d for sure get seats. We knew that yesterday’s Jetstar flight to Auckland had been cancelled, as the owners of our house were supposed to be on that flight. Therefore, we were weary that in addition to our flight, there will also be yesterday’s passengers hoping to get a seat.
Our shock was significant when check-in did not work as smoothly as usual. The lady at our check in desk started checking with a colleague first in order to then have a chat with her supervisor. After a couple of minutes, we learned that our flight had in fact been cancelled and our flight was now supposed to leave on Tuesday Nov 9. Even though we had not received a message in that respect, the ground staff was clear that they could not do anything at this stage, but that’s something we’d need to work out directly with Jetstar. We were told that the flight was fully booked and only in the event of several people not turning up for the flight, we might be admitted. So, this meant taking all of our stuff and waiting in the hope of few people turning up for the flight.
We were shocked, but at the same time tried to remain positively minded. Up to now everything on our trip had somehow worked out and this time we hoped that this would be true once more. It’d better be: if we’d be able to fly only on Tuesday, we’d miss our flights to Broome, which had been fairly expensive due to the remote location.
While we played all kinds of scenarios in our mind, more and more people kept turning up at the airport and I got significantly more nervous about our prospects. As it turned out, the ladies behind the desk somehow made it possible for us to check in after all.
They told us that the journey might not be pleasant, but only once we checked the details on our boarding passes, we realized how bad it would be: we’d arrive in Auckland, wait there for 15 hours, fly to Melbourne, stay overnight at the airport there for another 7 hours and then arrive in Sydney about 23 hours later vs. what we had booked.
Already at that stage, Sam asked me not to book Jetstar anymore. He enforced that statement once he saw the leg space in the plane and the lack of any kind of entertainment or in-flight services. Not even water was offered on the five-hour flight to Auckland.
At least Max slept all the way to Auckland. Once there, we realized that there is no Jetstar desk to complain or see if our connection might be improved, nor is there a playground. On the pro side, there was a nice and quiet lounge that allowed us to stretch out and have a good afternoon sleep. And while we slept, Max kept making somersaults.

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Unfortunately, I had not been cautious enough where I put my glasses while sleeping. By the time I woke up, I had to realize that the frame was broken at one side. I could still use them, but they kept hanging there so lopsided that it felt very awkward.
When we finally got to board our plane to Melbourne, we had to realize that our spell of bad luck had not been broken quite yet. It was already a bit strange that when scanning our boarding passes, there was a beep and the Jetstar lady had to somehow override the system to let us in. We were almost the first people on the plane, but when getting there we realized that our seats were already taken.
The head stewardess checked her paperwork and eventually told us that we were not supposed to be on that plane. After some further checks, we were told that we should have taken a direct Qantas flight to Sydney earlier in the afternoon and not this one. It felt like people were mocking us: we would have loved to take a direct flight to Sydney. But we simply did not know and had no way of finding out about it. Still, as the plane still had three empty seats, the ground staff managed to get us admitted on the flight and once everyone had boarded, we were given new boarding passes and were fine to go to our seats.
When arriving in Melbourne around midnight local time, we were not too surprised when our luggage did not turn up on the baggage belt. After all, we had not been supposed to be on that flight, so our baggage was not there either (even though it had been tagged for that flight).
After everything that had happened so far, we found some comfort in black humor. At least, we realized that without big bags in tow, it was much easier to get through Australian customs inspections.
At the Jetstar baggage service desk, Renee was extremely helpful. After listening to our story, she filed the lost baggage claim. She also made sure we were booked on the morning flight to Sydney (which once again we were not on) and checked us in already. She also gave us a stack of food vouchers worth over 50 AUD to at least compensate us a bit for our troubles. So at least, we were sorted.
By the time we were done at the baggage service desk, it was already past 1am and we were supposed to be at security for our next flight around 5:30am. In other words: we had four and a half hours ahead of us. A hotel at the airport would have cost more than 200 AUD and anything further away would have reduced the time at the place such that it was not worth it. So, we’d spend the short night at the airport.
Unfortunately, Melbourne airport does not feature a lounge as nice as the one in Auckland, so we ended up staying on the floor in a dead-end hallway that featured at least carpet flooring. Max slept fine, Sam slept a bit in a chair, but eventually was freezing too much just in his T-Shirt, and I stayed awake. When deciding to stay at the airport, we had factored in that we’d just get our sleeping bags and fleece jackets out of the checked baggage in Melbourne. With the baggage not arriving, this plan did just not work out as intended.

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So, this is how our November 8th, 2016 started. With such a bad start in Australia for us, we figured that at least in the US, things would be going well – after all it was the election day for the 45th president of the USA – Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump.
And also our luck turned a bit: The remainder of our day went as planned. So we took the morning flight from Melbourne to Sydney. We even enjoyed the fact that we were traveling so lightly without any heavy baggage.

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From the airport in Sydney it was just a 15-min taxi drive to our Airbnb place in St. Peters where we should have arrived already the morning before. The place was nice and the comfortable beds were really tempting us. But despite our aggregated lack of sleep from two nights in planes of airports, we were fit enough to head off shopping. After all, we had quite a list of things we needed to get done before heading out to Broome the next morning.
Max had the luxury of being able to borrow a balancing bike and enjoyed the ride to the nearby shopping mall. He was rewarded for his patience and for being so good in adverse situations with a fire brigade set from Lego.
But the most important thing was to get my glasses fixed. Luckily enough, there was an optometrist in the mall carrying the brand of my rimless frames. And contrary to Sam’s experience in the US, this optometrist was not only selling the frames, but also able to assemble glasses or cut new lenses. And I was really lucky: they had on stock almost exactly the part which I needed and fixed that on my glasses within two minutes! Wow – it felt great again having my glasses fully functional again!
And the mall also had everything else we needed: a food court with excellent food. And it was really cheap. But let me make a disclaimer: after five weeks in French Polynesia, the Cook Island and at airports, everything seemed to be extremely cheap in comparison. We also went food shopping at ALDI and just barely resisted stocking up on German Christstollen and other typical Christmas sweets.
Once done with shopping, we had a quiet and relaxing rest of the afternoon, a good shower and nice dinner. And yes, we went to bed really early trying to make up for the lost sleep of the last couple of days.
The next morning, it was time to go to the airport again – not even 24 hours after we had last been there. As we were anyhow at the airport, we used the opportunity to get a status update from baggage services. We were told that our bags had made it already to Melbourne. They’d still need to be custom cleared and should then be sent via Perth to Broome. At that stage, there was no telling, when they’d arrive there though.
After our rather ugly experience with Jetstar, we were thrilled about Virgin Australia. We had nice seats with sufficient leg space, individual entertainment screens with a huge and excellent choice of movies, music and games and there was good food. I watched ‘Bad Moms’ and had so much fun that I recommended Sam to watch it as well.

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In Perth, we used our three hours waiting time to get a bit of exercise. Watching TV at the other terminal, we were shocked to see that Trump was leading Clinton in the race to 270 by 236 to 208 votes. And on the flight to Broome in a Fokker 100 with as much leg space as you’d usually not even get in an exit row, the pilot ended his usual speech with the update that Donald Trump had been elected president of the USA. This is not what we had hoped for. But as usual, my friend Susan had consolation. Back in Perth I had seen her Facebook post, reminding us that despair will not help, but rather accepting the situation and seeing how to make the best of it.
In light of the bad news, we resorted to looking outside and marveling at the nice views of the outback and the Great Sandy Desert.

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Once we arrived, we moved directly to the taxi stands and were taken to our home for the next two nights, the ‘Beaches of Broome’ backpackers in Cable Beach. Soon after arriving there, we received a call that our baggage had arrived in Broome on the Qantas flight. Contrary to what we had been promised, we’d not get the baggage delivered, but would need to pick it up at the airport ourselves. I took a taxi back to the airport where I was able to take over our three big pieces of baggage. Unfortunately, Max’ car seat was missing.
So after checking in our bags on November 6 at 2am in the morning, we finally received most of them on November 9 at 7pm in the evening. Even though this is pretty awful, we were relieved to have the bags in the end.
After all, tropical Broome at the start of the wet season greeted us at 30 °C and all three of us were wearing long pants. Consequently, we were thrilled being able to change into clean shorts and to have luxuries like bathing costumes or toys again.
We were happy with the outlook not having to take any flight for the next two months. Sitting in the outside lounge area at our hostel, enjoying a cold beer (and non-alcoholic ginger beer for Max), suddenly provided us again with a pleasant outlook on life.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 18:17 Archived in Australia Tagged night flight airport glasses seat luggage lounge cancel awful Comments (1)

Living on Broome time

Broome, Kimberley, Western Australia

sunny 31 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

Arriving in Broome felt like a shock. Even though we knew about its tropical climate and had even hesitated going there due to the ‘wet’ season, we were just not well prepared for it. And it did not help that given our lack of luggage, all of us were wearing long pants and Crocs and we did not have sandals or shorts.
In fact, we had originally not planned to go to Broome at all. Sam and I have been pretty much all over Australia during the time when he studied there, except the Red Center and Western Australia. So we had considered starting our journey in Alice Springs, seeing Uluru and then driving one of the offroad tracks over into Western Australia and to spend the rest of our time exploring there. Given that we have not yet sold our van in the US, we felt rather like renting a 4WD vs. buying one. When contacting our preferred rental company – admittedly rather short term from French Polynesia – they did not have 4WDs in Alice Springs anymore. Instead they offered hiring in Perth or Broome as alternative options and even waived the usual 700 AUD one-way fee to or from Broome.
So after a bit of research, we realized that the wet season in the north-west of Australia in fact officially starts as of October / November, but that the rains really only start as of January. So we took it as one of those fortunate coincidences like so often in our travels so far and chose Broome as the start point and Perth as the return in mid-January. And we’re certain that this new plan will be better than the one we had worked out ourselves.
So that’s why we ended up at the Broome airport. A taxi took us swiftly to our ‘Beaches of Broome’ backpackers resort, located just a few minutes from Cable Beach. We were not the only Germans there, as there were seemingly lots of German students staying there as well.
As we settled into the comfortable bar to have dinner and a cold beer (ginger beer for Max), we received a relieving phone call: our luggage had arrived at the airport and we should come and pick it up. While we had been promised that our luggage would be delivered directly to our place, we were just happy to finally get everything. So, I grabbed a taxi and headed back to the airport. And hooray: our three big bags had successfully arrived. Unfortunately, the car seat had gotten lost along the way and it was unclear when it would make it to Broome as well.
We slept well in our climatised room and thoroughly enjoyed having our baggage with its great choice of clothes. Marvelous! This was already a perfect start into the day. Plus, free breakfast self-served from the backpackers’ kitchen – excellent!

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Well equipped with shorts, sunscreen, swimming gear, beach towels, flip flops and more things we had been missing lately, we headed to Cable Beach. What an amazing wide beach with just the softest sand ever!

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We could not resist to have a dip in the waves. Despite the general risk of saltwater crocodiles, great white sharks, marine stingers or strong currents in Australia’s tropical waters, Cable Beach seems to be fairly safe. And yes, we were fine – but still probably a bit more cautious vs. the harmless waters of the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.

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At the pool, the risks were considerably lower – including the risk of getting a sunburn thanks to it being nicely shaded. But as soon as the sun started going down, we headed back to the beach. We were not tempted to take one of the camel tours at sunset that Broome is famous for. But it certainly was a nice sight, just like the surfers.

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We enjoyed our last evening in the lounge and bar are of the backpackers. The next morning, it was time to pack and punctually at 10am, we were picked up by Mel to take us to Broome Mechanical where we could take over our Drive Beyond 4WD with roof top tent.
This marks the third time after Namibia and Chile that we’ve rented a 4WD with roof top tent. And the Drive Beyond is by far the best equipped. It features two spare tires, a recovery kit, sand boards, an exhaust jack, three jerry cans, a UHF radio system, compressor, inverter and a complete tool box. In addition, there’s an awning with attachable screen room, a solar powered fridge / freezer combination, a two-plate gas burner, a Weber BBQ, two gas bottles, two tables, five chairs, full kitchen equipment and blankets and towels… wow!
It took quite a while to go through all the features of the car and by the end of it we were tired, hot and hungry. So we took our new vehicle for a ride into town and had nice lunch. Once we were well-fed and happy to hit the road again, we ran all kinds of errands, did our shopping and were happy to finally get our car seat at the airport.
By the time we were done with all of that, it was already quite late and getting dark. Sam used the opportunity and headed to the beach for taking pics of the sunset. In the meantime, Max and I got everything ready for our first night at the Cable Beach caravan park. Luckily enough, all roof top tents seem to work pretty much the same, so it was easy to set it up.
It was quite a change to sleep in a tent after so many nights in our van and lately in pensions and apartments. The main difference being that Max was wide awake once it got light outside – around six in the morning.

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Being rather tired did not help to be majorly active. Still, we were keeping ourselves busy all day: Sam bought a second-hand bike for Max which required a significant effort to get it ready for Max. Most importantly an uncountable amount of thorns had to be pulled out of both tires and both inner tubes required fixing. But also the breaks, pedals and geometry of the bike kept Sam busy for a while.
The other thing that had to be done, was sorting all of our stuff. With everything that came with the car, all supplies we bought plus all of our stuff, we needed to do quite a bit of rearranging and sorting, such that the stuff we need often is easily accessible and the rest out of the way without wasting too much space.
While we were busy, Max was happy to play some baseball with the boys from the camper next door and eventually headed with them to the pool. Sebastian and Alex did a nice job with keeping Max entertained and challenged at the same time.
By the time we had sorted our way through everything, we really deserved our dinner: kangaroo kebab from the BBQ with some grilled vegetables. Nice! We had the resident ibis visiting our camp site during dinner again, but soon enough he realized that there was nothing to get for him and he headed off again.
The next morning, we could not resist having a dive in the pool before heading off. After all, the pool was marvelous and absolutely worthy of a five-star hotel. In our six months staying at lots and lots of campgrounds, we had never ever seen a pool even half of the size of this one and not nearly as nicely laid out with a waterfall, loungers and green vegetation all around.

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So refreshed, we took our new vehicle on its first outing. Our first stop was at the lighthouse point. When tides are really low, this is where some of the world’s best preserved dinosaur footsteps can be seen. When we were there, it was rather high tide and only three days later, tides would be low enough to see the footsteps. So we just enjoyed the views, which were excellent.

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Even though the road along the coast was anyhow not paved, Sam could not resist taking every single turn off to try the even smaller and sandier roads. Officially he claimed to test the car, but I guess he just had fun driving offroad.

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We stopped once more at the deep-water harbor and had a stroll around the cape. A nice and quiet place.

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Back ‘home’, it was time for the pool once more. After all, we might not have such a great pool again for a long time.
The next morning it was time to say good-bye to our great caravan park with the enormous pool. We took a last dip in the pool before heading off, but knowing already that on the way back from the Dampier peninsula, we’d stop again there.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 22:11 Archived in Australia Tagged sunset beach pool backpacker camel 4wd Comments (1)

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