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Beaches and pools – life is beautiful in BCS

written by Birgit, pictures mostly by Sam

sunny 34 °C
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So we have made it to Baja California Sur. And as we arrived more north than originally planned, for the first and potentially only time on our journey we how had a stretch of road ahead of us that we’d take again on our way back. While this might sound like a bit of boredom, I got to like the idea a lot. It takes away a bit of pressure in the sense of ‘should we stay here longer – is this really the place to be or maybe there’s a nicer place just around the corner’. In case we’d like it somewhere and did not stay as long as the spot would have deserved, we will easily be able to come back to it on our way back. And we will easily be able to pick out nice spots on our way down and stay there later.
It did not take a lot of searching to find a nice first spot to stay: While Sam slept in the car and Max listened to a story with his headphones, I drove through Mulegé and towards the Bahía Conception. Heading down towards Playa Santispak, it just seemed too tempting to go there. And even Max liked it so much that he woke up Sam saying ‘look, such a nice beach!’.

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So we had a look and decided to stay for the day and the night. And to avoid the burning sunshine, we parked next to a ‘palapa’ hut which provided us with enough shade and protection from the light breeze. What a nice spot! And what a bargain – 150 pesos for the night including the palapa, i.e. roughly 8 US$... Life is beautiful in Mexico.

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We spent most of the day hanging out in the shadow of our palapa or in the shallow warm water. Lunch consisted of an enormous portion of fresh fish that we had bought in the morning from one of the rolling stores. In the evening we had a nice fire at the beach and enjoyed some roasted marshmallows with the family that stayed next to us.

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The next morning, we were just ready to have breakfast when Chicho stopped by to pick us up for the boat ride we had arranged with him. As we had not taken into account that the southern part of the Baja is again back on mountain time and not on pacific time, so Chicho had to wait a bit for us to be ready. As we headed out into the bay with his motorboat our first stop was for snorkeling. On the way to our next stop we saw large colonies of pelicans sitting on their already white rocks. We really liked the secluded beach on little Coyote Island. Being very shallow and extremely calm and clear water it was fun for all of us to swim there.

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I really enjoyed being at Playa Santispak. Just sitting there and looking at the water was all I needed. Somehow it felt that roughly eight weeks after the last working day, this is when I arrived on our trip. Life is beautiful. So we were clear that we wanted to stay for another night at this marvelous place.
This evening we were too lazy to cook ourselves and just went to the restaurant a bit further up the beach. Food was good, the view even better, the beers were cold and also the margarita did not disappoint us.
It was hard to go to sleep that night (well, not for Max) and once the raising moon had left the scene, we were treated to a great starry sky featuring the milky way and a couple of shooting stars. And by then temperatures had cooled off enough for a good night’s sleep.
Even though it was hard to leave that nice little spot we had found, we knew that on our way up we could easily stop by again. So it was relatively easy to leave the next morning headed towards Loreto, the former capital of Baja California.
Along the way we were treated to a couple of really nice vistas not only of beaches, cacti and mountains, but also of a Hummer AWD being stuck in a mangrove swamp and obviously not having a winch to get himself out again.

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After almost two hours of driving we arrived in Loreto, where we treated ourselves to lunch at one of the many little restaurants along the road. The fish and shrimp tacos they served were excellent and we continued ordering more and more.

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Loreto surprised us as being a really beautiful town that seems to be laid out for a lot more people and tourists than now in the low season. We had a look at the old mission church and wandered through the pedestrian zone to the sea.

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After having an enormous ice cream each, we eventually headed to our campground for the night, the Loreto Shores. Even though the view of the beach was a bit obstructed by houses, the pool was just great. All of us enjoyed to soak and cool off.

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Max eventually went to bed while Sam and I used the opportunity of having a good internet connection to get the blog and pictures up to date again.
The next morning, we easily took the decision to stay for another night. It was just way too comfortable and pleasant to head off already. So we just took it easy, spent most time either at or in the pool and enjoyed life. Only in the late afternoon we headed for a round into town and quickly found a nice place to eat. Max enjoyed Tacos de Pescado, Sam Camerones con Ajo and I tried the Pescado Empapelado. It was excellent!

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When paying we had a nice conversation with the older lady who had been tending our table, just like one of the many conversations we had with people we met. She commented on Max’ blond hair and his age and added that she had a grandson who was six years old. A bit later she added that he had a brother of 10 years and a sister of 12 years and that actually all three of them were living with her. Their mother had left them due to drug addiction issues and their father lived in the US and did not take care of the kids. So she was all on her own with the three kids trying to make enough money for all of them to get around… What a story and how sad to hear this. She had touched us quite unexpectedly and we realized once more how lucky we can call ourselves to be well situated. By coincidence we saw her in the street when leaving town the next day. We might not have noticed her, but she was waving so nicely at us that we recognized her and waved back to the tough lady.
The next morning, we took an easy start: breakfast at the pool was followed by soaking in the pool until we felt prepared to head off. Between running some errands, shopping and lunch it was almost 2pm when we left for La Paz. The road was initially winding through the mountains with lots of cactus on both sides, then we passed through agricultural land, desert-like dusty plains and eventually got into rolling cactus hills again before seeing the bay of La Paz lying in the early evening light ahead of us – really nice scenery.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 22:38 Archived in Mexico Tagged beach road pool loreto palapa motorboat santispak Comments (1)

Exploring La Paz and surroundings

written by Birgit, pictures mostly by Sam

sunny 36 °C
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We could not resist to stop at the beach promenade, the Malecon. We walked along while the sun was setting over the sea and Max enjoyed trying to do some tricks on the bike.

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With all that it got a bit late when we headed off towards north to find the RV park that our Mexico guidebook promised. Unfortunately, we searched in vain and were not able to find it with the sketchy explanation of the book. And given that all the usual search sites of the net were unable to provide us with directions either, we had to go for another RV park that Google Maps and Tripadvisor suggested. So after another 20 min of driving we ended up at half past nine a bit south of the Malecon at the AquaMarina RV Park and picked a nice spot maybe 150ft (50m) from the water. Nice!
La Paz surprised us as being a very pleasant laid-back town, probably because we had not expected much of the largest town in the southern part of the Baja. We spent a full day strolling through town, had lunch at the marina at a local restaurant, once again strolled up on the beach promenade and even made it up the hill to the local cathedral / former mission church.

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Back down at the beach we met Petra and Pascal, our Czech / Swiss neighbors from the RV park and liked the idea to have a sun-downer at the beach. We were joined by Theresa from Austria and Daniel from Mexico who are traveling the peninsula with their bikes. What a nice evening. And surprisingly enough the lady police officer who stopped to tell us that consumption of alcohol on the city beach is not enough was really friendly and calm. Our local friends had the solution at hand: just put your beer can into a small black plastic bag and continue drinking.

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Just before it was getting too late we headed back to our place, enjoying the sunset along the way.

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The next day we wanted to explore the beaches around La Paz. Our first stop was Balandra Beach, a very shallow bay with crystal clear turquoise water. What a nice beach and considering that it is considered one of the top 5 beaches in Mexico, still so few people there. Just enough to observe a bit the local lifestyles. Life is beautiful…

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Eventually it was time to go to our next place to stay. Just another 5 km further we went to Tecolote Beach to find our spot for the night. Sam cooked us nice shrimps for dinner and we enjoyed a nice sunset over the beach.

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The next day was our tour to the island Espirito Santo. After a motorboat ride of almost an hour we arrived at the island and got to see a couple of small passage ways and a little cave. At the rocky 'Islotes' at the northern tip of the islands we got to see the local sea lion colony with about 500 animals. And we were lucky to see lots of new-born babies which are all exactly five days old. It was nice to see how a mother sea lion was helping her baby to get up a rock that it continued sliding down.

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After surveying the colony a bit, we got to go into the water to snorkel with the sea lions. It was quite impressive to be in the water with a 1000 pound / 500 kg male sea lion swimming just underneath us. In a small cave we found a sea star and eventually found ourselves in the middle of a whole school of light blue fish.

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After all of that excitement it was time for lunch. We were treated to excellent Ceviche at the nice and secluded beach of Ensenada Grande and had some time on our own to do some snorkeling in the shallow waters.

On the way back we took a couple of stops along the way, learned about the local flora, fauna and history. Our guide Alan, the marine biologist from Espiritu & Baja was an excellent source of information and kept us informed very well.

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The highlight of the trip back to La Paz was probably the group of manta rays jumping above the water. What a great sight!

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We spent the remainder of the afternoon trying to buy a USB card reader. At the first store we bought some sweets and got a referral to another store. At the second store we got some food and found a nice playground for Max and got referred to once again another store. At the third store they thought they had a card reader in their still unpacked delivery and after they had a look were referred to a fourth store. At the fourth store it was a matter of two minutes to locate and buy the card reader. And eventually it was late enough to take the decision to go back to our good old AquaMarina RV park. There we met Petra and Pascal again and the original plan of having dinner was substituted with having beer and chips at the little ‘bar’ between our campsites. And it was lots of fun to talk about their planned adventure that should take them all the way down to Patagonia vs. our travel plans that will take us north again quite soon.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 12:43 Archived in Mexico Tagged beach island snorkeling sealion promenade lapaz motorboat espiritusanto Comments (4)

Summer solstice at the Tropic of Cancer

written by Birgit, pictures mostly by Sam

sunny 32 °C
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Our next destination was Todos Santos (the Mexican version of ‘Allerheiligen’) and we were all looking forward to see the Pacific. Todos Santos is located directly on the Tropic of Cancer and just an hour north of the southernmost tip of the Baja peninsula. The town itself was very pleasant – small, but already a bit more touristy in comparison to Loreto or La Paz. The main points of interest were quickly seen: the legendary ‘Hotel California’ and the mission church.

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But the key highlight was the ocean itself: we were quite impressed by the power of the waves coming in and how cold and refreshing the water was. We only tested it with our feet, as due to the rip tides and undercurrents swimming is very dangerous on that beach. Still, after having been used to the calm and warm waters of the Sea of Cortez so far, this was quite a change in scenery!

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Another town, another campground – extremely laid-back and surprisingly cheap (full hookup for the camper for 150 pesos the night, i.e. ~9USD). The campground is located in the outskirts of town and consequently treated us to a typical Mexican concert: the sound of the waves in the background was overlaid by the barking of dogs, all kinds of different birds singing their songs, really loud frogs (if they were frogs they must have been extremely large!), typical music coming from various directions and cars making their way through the dusty roads.

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We all were in need for a quiet day again, so our Saturday was dedicated to making phone calls home, playing extensively with Max’s Lego and car collection and just hanging out. Eventually in the late afternoon we made our way into town to get something to eat and we treated ourselves to good food. Days like these are important. It feels a bit like weekend – which in fact it is.

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Even though Sunday would probably also count as weekend, the one day of relaxing was absolutely sufficient and consequently we headed off towards the tip of the peninsula. But we did not have to drive far for our first stop at Cerritos Beach, a pretty empty long stretch of beach that is safe for swimming.

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So we used the opportunity to take a refreshing dip in the waves of the Pacific Ocean. While we just jumped a bit in the waves rather at the edge of the water, a bit later some locals went a bit further into the waves. And one of them got pulled outwards more and more and started crying for help. Only one of his family members seemed brave and well trained enough to go out to get him. But as soon as the women in the family realized that they eventually both got pulled out even further, they raised the attention to more people around to help. Sam raced up to get the surfboard of the family next to us, got the quick advice to just try to get the two to swim sideways such that they get out of the outwards current and to make sure that once he reaches them they don’t grab him, but only the surfboard. And off he went into the waves. By the time he reached the pair, also the surfer who had been waiting for waves all the way back had noticed and come to get them. So each of them took one of the local swimmers and got them back to the beach. A bit later he came over with a big bottle of beer as an official thanks to Sam for going out to get him.
Sam had always wanted to help and rescue someone anyhow, so he was very pleased. And I was very happy that he had not just gone out like that, but with the surfboard – otherwise I’d have feared that he’d get pulled out as well, just like the others did before.
Eventually we got hungry and left the beach in order to get food. We found a nice seafood place back at the town entrance of Todos Santos. We were treated to excellent (and expensive as we realized after the fact) Ceviche de Cameron and Ceviche de Pulpo (i.e. shrimp and octopus seafood cocktails). Max was not too excited when he realized though that his fruit platter was sprinkled with chili powder.
After an hour of driving we reached Cabo San Lucas. It marks the place where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez and used to be probably a really nice and romantic place. Well, now it is a major tourist centre and it’s hard to find a lonely spot anywhere. On our way through town we stopped at the probably busiest beach of all: the beach just next to the entrance to the marina was crowded with locals who were enjoying their Sunday afternoon.

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Sam and I simply enjoyed watching the people on the beach and observing the dozens of boats getting into and out of the marina headed for land’s end just a couple of hundred meters further along the rocks. Some of the boats were party boats with loud music and people dancing on deck, there were themed pirate sailboats, large trimarans, low key small glass bottom boats and luxury yachts – a boat for every taste. Max had other interests: after having observed for a while, he was ready to get right into the middle of the fun at the beach and joined the local kids jumping from the rocks into the sea.

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Our designated destination for the night was the Vagabundos del Mar RV park, which Petra and Pascal had praised highly. To our disappointment it was full. But after talking a bit with the guy at the office, we found a solution to stay in a spot where some construction work was going on. We even got a large discount on the usual price, as we’d not have any electrical hookup, which we did not need anyhow after having been hooked up for a couple of days in a row lately.

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After a dip in the pool, it was time for dinner and given Sam’s rescue action today, we wanted to celebrate. And luckily we did go to the local restaurant just next to the pool: once we were there we found out that the last game of seven of the NBA basketball finals was going on with the Cleveland Cavaliers playing the Golden State Warriors. And wow – the game was exciting till the last minutes. Just three minutes before the end the game was still tied. In a very tight finish the Cavaliers made it and LeBron James had lots of reasons to be proud and celebrate a great season, a great final and some personal records. The many Californian supporters in the restaurant had gone more quiet at the end when their team was falling back, but for us it was enjoyment to see the championship independent of the winner. It just reminded me a lot of my time in Chicago in 1992 when the Bulls won the championships with Michael ‘Air’ Jordan’s lead. I kept stacks of newspaper clippings on the Bulls victory and had decorated my room back in Germany with them upon my return from Chicago.
The next day we realized that in fact the discount for our site was fully justified: as of seven in the morning we had construction noise all around us. Not too bad, but still. As Max noticed right away: there were just people with their tools and no big construction machines at work.
One of the local construction worker stopped by when we had breakfast. He was quite talkative and told us many things. He is from Guerrero Negro (i.e. 14 hours by bus away from Cabo), but he has been working in Cabo for the last 11 months, as here he’s able to earn 300 pesos (about 18 USD) a day vs. only 200 pesos in his home town. He said he’s missing his five kids (15, 13, 8, 5 and less than 1 year old) and kept stroking Max (who was not really amused). In addition, he has two more kids with another woman, so Sam and I were wondering for quite some time afterwards how this is working out financially to support so many people with so little wage. We continue to be puzzled and just hope that he is supporting the rest of his large family vs. spending it all on alcohol drowning his sadness about not being able to be close to his kids.
We left Cabo San Lucas that morning and drove along the coast towards San José del Cabo. The views alternated between great beaches (also for surfing), large resorts and huge construction sites to fill the empty slots in between. We kept wondering how many tourists are needed to fill all those capacities. But knowing that the airport in Cabo is the sixth largest of Mexico despite not too many people living there, explains already a lot.

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As we’re not too keen on meeting too many other tourists, we preferred San José over San Lucas. It’s older, much smaller and has retained its old town away from the beaches. We strolled around, had great lunch and then stopped at the local fresh water lagoon close to the beach. What an oasis for birds!

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Our next destination was the fishing and windsurfing mecca of Los Barriles. Just a couple of miles before we reached the town, we crossed again the Tropic of Cancer. And this time we also found a large sign to mark it. So 2.5 years after taking our picture with a sign of the Tropic of Capricorn in Namibia, we now also have one with the Tropic of Cancer.

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Once we were in Los Barriles we headed to the campground at Martin Verdugo’s beach and got a space underneath a big tree with lots of shadow – excellent!

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Sam and Max headed right away to the beach as they wanted to try their fishing equipment. They had lots of fun, even though they did not catch anything.

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The next morning, we went right back to the beach. The water was absolutely still, there were no waves or wind at all. It seems like the windsurfer’s paradise is only true for the winter months. After our dip in the sea, we headed to the pool and only went back to our van when it was time for lunch.
On June 21 at lunch on the Tropic of Cancer we got treated to a special feature: there was no shadow – the sun was standing exactly above us. Luckily we were parked underneath that big tree such that we could still enjoy lots of shade.
We spent the afternoon around the van. We watched a hummingbird in the tree, ate some coconut that Sam had gotten from the palm tree next to our van and eventually headed to the supermarket to replenish our stocks.

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The evening we spent again at the water, which was again nice and calm. Sam took another go at fishing. He almost caught a yellow puffer fish, but not knowing if it is edible, he rather let it go again.
As there was a big group of manta rays just passing along the shore, jumping out of the water in formation flight, Sam hurried back to get his camera. By the time he was back, the mantas had gone already a bit further out, but till doing their jumps.

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What Sam had not counted on was to catch a manta ray so close to the shore with his small fishing gear. But once he saw the shadow of a manta circling his swimmer and eventually realized that the line had been bitten off, he stopped his attempts of fishing. After all, manta rays are nice in the wild vs. fished out of the water.

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The remainder of the evening we spent in the pool, enjoying the nice place we had ended up in. As usual it’s those place you don’t expect much from – like in this case Los Barriles – where we were treated to a nice surprise: great inexpensive and clean campground, great pool and calm waters… Just great!

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 22:23 Archived in Mexico Tagged beach place lagoon cabo solstice todossantos losbarriles Comments (3)

Returning to our favourite spots – Loreto and Conception Bay

written by Birgit, pictures mostly by Sam

sunny 36 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

Los Barriles was clearly one of the highlights of our journey so far. Still it was fairly easy to head onwards from there, as we knew already where we wanted to go next: Loreto and then the Bahia Concepcion.
This also meant one long day of driving to get to Loreto, almost 300 miles / 500 km. Given that the drive was really nice, we did not mind too much. The first bit was through nice mountains and from La Paz on we knew the way already. And we already knew about the 10 km stretch of highway construction work going on this time. Eventually we stopped for lunch and had excellent burritos.

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Our next stop was in Ciudad Constitucion. This way we got to actually turn off the highway and thus to break the more than 50 miles / 80 km stretch of absolutely straight and boring road. The main plaza did not feature a playground as we had hoped. But at least we got icecream and Max was getting the ‘usual’ compliments about the colour of his eyes and his hair.
Towards Loreto the road became nicer again winding through the mountains with lots of cacti on both sides. And we were lucky to avoid the cows on the road, but probably the car which was trying to pass us exactly there was more shocked than we were.

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And then it felt like coming home to the Loreto Shores campground. We were clear that we’d stay for a minimum of two nights, which eventually became three.
We started off with one of those relaxing days where we did not move around a lot. Even the tamales we had for lunch were delivered directly to our place by a street vendor. And the pool was not far away, so we spent lots of time there. Rody (10) and Gaby (12) were still there and like last time they were diving, jumping into the water and making rolls underwater forward and backward. Max tried to copy them as well as he could - armed with flippers and his paddleboard.
While Max was playing baseball in the street with the local kids, Sam suddenly got all hectic over dinner. He quickly got his camera to take pictures of the whale he believed to have seen jumping in the bay. Zooming in onto the whale, he realized that in fact he had seen a small fishing boat turning over. The poor guy was quite far out and seemed to move towards the shore terribly slowly. So Sam asked Shelley and her family if he could take one of their kayaks to go out and make sure the fisherman is fine. And so he did. He then also realized why the fisherman was not moving forward very quickly: he had tied his upturned boat with a rope to himself and was trying to pull it out. So eventually Sam pulled out not only the guy, but also the boat in return for lots of ‘gracias’. And Shelley was greeting him back with a bottle of Gatorade in her hands to make sure all invested energy is replenished again. What a quote: two people rescued from the water within less than a week!

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The next day we went into town. As we knew already where to head, we had good lunch followed by the best icecream we had found on our trip so far.

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The remainder of the day was dedicated to Max’ swimming lessons in the pool. While the day before he was still quite dependent on his flippers to get around, today he realized that he can do it also without. He’s a quick learner and the amount of time we’ve spent in the water lately certainly helps as well!
We had managed a lot in a single morning: breakfast, a swim in the pool, getting the van ready to head off, shopping at the supermarket, a fisherman’s supply store, and an alterations place. So we had really earned our fried chicken for lunch at an enormous playground.
But eventually it was time to leave Loreto and to head towards Conception Bay. This time the military checkpoint north of Loreto did not just let us pass after a couple of questions. For a change they now wanted to search the car. A couple of minutes later (and some smiles upon noticing the DosEquis XX beer cans together with the rest of our shopping in the back of the car), we were allowed to head on.

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Initially we had planned to just go back to Playa Santispak, which we had been our first place to stay on the Baja California. But given that all of the four palapas there were full, we were quite happy to retrace our path for 3 miles south to Playa Cocos. The beach was at least as nice as in Santispak and we soon realized that it was cheaper at 100 pesos / night to stay there.

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What initially seemed to be a very quiet and calm night with just another family camping all the way down at the other end of the beach, soon took a different dimension with a Mexican family or rather group of friends taking the palapa hut right next to ours. It remains open why they chose to stay so close – after all there are about 20 palapas on that long beach with only 2 being taken. But fine…
We were treated to lots of Mexican music (loud) and eventually the group decided that they needed more space, so they moved into the palapa on the other side or ours as well. That meant a bit of traffic in front and the back of our hut.
They had lots of fun, spent most of their time in the warm water and every few minutes an empty beer can was thrown out of the water onto the beach next to us. Hmmmm… We took it as cultural immersion and had fun observing and commenting what was going on.
After playing a round of Rummikub in our palapa, eventually we took our chairs out to look at the starry night – observing the milky way and counting shooting stars. What a great night sky!
The only thing bothering us a bit was the large fire entertained by our neighbors next door. It took us a while to realize that every couple of minutes when their fire got lower, they just ripped off some of the palm leaves covering the side of their palapa and kept the fire going that way. Once we had realized what was going on and a bit of decision making on what to do, we headed over to them telling them that we did not think it was a good idea to take apart the hut just to keep a nice little fire. Admittedly they were very fast in giving an explanation: they told us that given that the palm leaves on the hut were already very old, they were replacing them with new ones and that in fact all palapas along the beach will be redone by them in the next couple of days. We thanked them for that explanation and even though we were uncertain if to believe them, there was nothing we could do. And anyhow to our surprise, after we had told them off they did not rip off again a single leaf and let the fire die.
We watched a bit more for shooting stars and by the time we went to bed at 11:30pm, the group was still in the water drinking beer and the music was still going full blast.
The next morning the beach next to us was quite a sight - so many beer cans were lying on the beach… Around noon, the owner of the place came along and stopped at our cabin. I was already heading off to get the money to stay for another night, but actually he just asked if the people next door had been there already last night and if we knew if they had been destroying the wall of the palapa. So we told him our story and he went off with a very frustrated look in the face to get the police.
Just before the group next door was ready to leave, eventually the police came with two cars. We did not intervene in any way, but were happy to hear from the owner of the place, that he did / will get compensation for the damage done. He thanked us extensively for our intervention and let us stay for free for that night. What a nice gesture!
In the afternoon, Sam and Max got some exercise and walked along the beach to the lagoon.

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They stopped at the family with the jet-ski and Sam had long conversations with the owner about the 2-cylinder Rotax engine Bombardier is using and its Austrian origins. After a bit more of talking, Sam and Max got to go out on the jet ski. You can imagine their excitement. Max got to push the throttle and thanks to a passing motor boat they even got to jump over some waves – carefully such that Max would not fall down. It is really a pleasure to see how nice and friendly people are around here. And how much they adore Max with his blond hair and blue eyes. They took dozens of pictures of him - and given his great adventure on the jet ski Max was more willing to let them do that vs. normally being scared of a situation like that.

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That evening we were the only people camping on the beach. So this time, we could enjoy the quiet and dark when watching the nightly sky. And we were joking to each other that somehow we’re missing the music.

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After each of us saw at least three shooting stars it was time to go to bed. Being the only people on the beach we did look forward to a very quiet night without disturbances. Reality was different: at 1:30 am in the morning Sam and I woke up to the sound of a car and a voice asking in Spanish if he can have water for his car. At first we did not get it, what was going on and Sam already suspected some kind of scam scheme. It turned out that the guy really just needed water for his cooler – at least he had the hood open and as soon as Sam handed him a gallon of water, he put it in, thanked us a couple of times and excused for the disturbance and headed off again to the highway and direction south towards Loreto. What a strange thing to happen! It took us a while to go to sleep afterwards and we could not resist to discuss on why our mind is triggered to always first expect the worst – is that just a good thing helping us to survive in unknown environments or is it prejudices hidden somewhere in the unknown areas of our minds that make us dread bad things to happen.
The next morning, we were clearly lacking some sleep, but our blond alarm clock worked very well by demanding to get some milk and a story ready – as usual around 8am.
We took our time before leaving and spent some time in the inlet to the saltwater lagoon with its mangroves. This was not only a nice spot for us, but also for lots of fish enjoying the slight stream of water flowing into the lagoon. But eventually it was time to say good-bye to the Sea of Cortez and to head north. And sometimes the good-bye is just a bit harder than usual…

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 00:14 Archived in Mexico Tagged wildlife beach jetski cocos loto Comments (0)

Celebrating the Fourth of July with friends

written by Birgit, pictures mostly by Sam

sunny 22 °C
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The next stop on our journey was Thousand Oaks, just north of Malibu in the Santa Monica hills. This is not necessarily a typical tourist destination and only made it on our travel map, as this is where my friends Susan and John are living.
I had pre-warned them already when we met last year in September, that we might want to meet when we’re coming to their area. And luckily enough they were around and not traveling themselves!
We arrived at their house and welcomed with more food than all of us together could possibly eat: there were blue corn chips (yummy!) with John’s homemade guacamole and salsa. And then there was a big barbecue feast with bison burgers, German brats, rolls, sauerkraut, pickles, tomato, various sauces, corn on the cob and much more… Max was delighted and ate much more than what he usually eats, but also we had clearly more than needed – specifically when the apple pie and fruit came into play!

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What Sam and I had not realized so far is that we had really longed for good conversations. After all John and Susan were the first friends we had seen for two months now. And even though we’ve met lots of other people in the meantime, conversations with strangers are just different and much more superficial. So we kept John and Susan up longer than what they are used to and went to bed with the nice feeling you have after such great conversations.
The next morning John and Susan introduced us to one of their favourite breakfast places – the Side Street Café. What a great menu! Really nice!

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But the next highlight of our day was not far away: we went to the Ronald Reagan Library. John easily navigated us to the best parking position despite the hundreds of cars lining the access and the ushers advising us to use the overflow parking down the hill. There was quite a program at the Library for the Fourth of July: we met the flag maker Betsy Ross, had a chat with President Lincoln, Max bounced in the bouncing castle, we walked through Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One, had an excellent snack featuring Jelly Beans and saw the Oval Office how it looked in Reagan’s times.

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But there was more to come: in the early evening we went to Janss’ Marketplace, got our bracelets entitling us to join the firework viewing on the upper deck of the parking. Max immediately entered the bouncing castle just there before doing his balancing tricks in the playground.

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John and Susan treated us to excellent dinner at the Sunset Terrace and the timing was just perfect to arrive on the upper deck of parking to enjoy the Eagles Revival Band. Even though we seemed not as well prepared as many others who were carrying loads of stuff up there, John organized us seats and we placed them in the best position just in front of the band. We had to smile when the band played ‘Hotel California’, we got to think of the dark desert highways on the Baja and had a look at the picture we took of the ‘Hotel California’ in Todos Santos. At 9pm we just had to turn around our seats to enjoy the fireworks – all of us love fireworks!

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The next morning it was time to say good bye to Susan and John. All of us had really enjoyed the stay with them, but Max was very outspoken about the fact that he did not want to leave.
Eventually we headed off towards Hollywood. Our first stop was Mulholland Drive which treated us to a nice view not only of the infamous Hollywood Sign, but also of some very exquisite mansions in the Hollywood Hills. Given that we had not spent the 200$ to go on a Hollywood Tour, it was up to us to speculate which of them could belong to the various celebrities living in the area.

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Next on our list of places we wanted to see was the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was fun to spot stars of all kinds of celebrities, such as Jodie Foster, Steven Spielberg, Aretha Franklin, Mickey Mouse, Michael Jackson, Anthony Hopkins etc… Along the way we also passed the Dolby Theater - location of the annual Oscars and Graumans Chinese Theater where various stars have left the imprints of their hands and feet.

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I really enjoyed that stroll along the Walk of Fame. The only bad news was that we had gotten an expensive parking ticket (73$) as we had missed to read that along that side of the street, street cleaning was on Tuesdays noon – 3pm and not like on the other side of the street on Mondays. Next time we’ll look more closely before parking!
We took the scenic route via Sunset Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard to the beach. I’m not sure how often I had watched ‘Pretty Woman’ as a teenager, but even though that’s quite a while ago, all these sites reminded me so much of the movie.

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In Venice Beach we once again went for street parking – this time checking the signs better than earlier. We checked out Muscle Beach, saw the beach basketball courts that were featured in ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ and had lunch on the beach. With the life guard stations all along the beach, we were a bit reminded of ‘Baywatch’. Pamela Anderson was nowhere to be seen, but there were enough other people to watch.

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Max enjoyed the playground and was disappointed that he could not use the skatepark with his bike – after all it was crowded with adults who were practicing their tricks in front of a big crowd of spectators. On our way back to the car, we were lucky to catch a show of the Calypso Tumblers, featuring breakdance, acrobatics and funny commentary – fun!

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But best of all, was just e whole atmosphere and specifically the people there.

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Leaving LA around rush hour was less fun, but otherwise we would have missed a trademark of the area. Having the feeling on a 7-lane highway that there are at least 3 lanes missing is something that would have never occurred to me if I hadn’t seen it.
Even though we could have spent lots more time in LA and surroundings, all of us were happy with what we had seen and were ready to head on towards new adventures.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 09:41 Archived in USA Tagged venice beach breakfast friends castle lincoln library hollywood fourth bouncing Comments (0)

Watching wildlife along California’s Central Coast

From Santa Barbara via Pismo Beach to San Simeon

sunny 22 °C
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Our first adventure on the way along the coast north of LA was the search for a campground. We had been thinking to go to a free campsite north of Santa Barbara. But as it was getting late we tried our luck at the Emma Wood State Park. The lady there was very friendly and still had availability. It’s just that she did not believe us that we have an RV. So Sam got out of the car, showed her all of the inlets and outlets and eventually we were admitted to the Park. Yes, this is an RV!

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We were lucky: this way we did not have to drive any further and were able to enjoy the sunset at the beach. And we finally met our first Trump supporter, as up to now everybody we talked to did not think it was a good idea to have him President of the United States. Our neighbour had a cap identifying him as a veteran of the Vietnam War and without too much questioning, he told us that this man (i.e. Trump) is the best thing that ever happened to America and that his attitude was exactly right – stomping relationships with other countries is exactly what is needed, as Americans are paying too much for others anyhow. So the Trump supporters do exist after all… It will be interesting to see who will win the election in November then.
The next morning, we were surprised by an overcast sky. This is worth a mention, as we had been treated to ongoing sunshine with sometimes a cloud here and there for over six weeks now. So not to see the sun or even bits of blue sky was a bit of a strange feeling.
We spent the day exploring Santa Barbara and were lucky to find excellent food at Rebar, close to the train station. And there was a skatepark – and this time it was not that crowded so we allowed Max to go. So he was happy! We also checked out the main attractions of Santa Barbara: the County Courthouse and the old mission church before heading north towards Pismo Beach.

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When it came to finding a place for the night, we were a bit cautious with driving our van into the sand to stay at the state recreational vehicle area. That is an enormous stretch of beach and sand dunes in which camping along the beach is allowed and any kind of vehicles can ride freely in the dunes. So we saw loads of dune buggies, quads and trucks with flags such that they can be seen even in the valleys of the dunes.
So after a couple of unsuccessful trials to get a slot at various campgrounds, we ended up at a nice (but costly – a new record) RV park directly along the beach. When checking out the beach, Sam noticed the water fountains coming up in regular intervals and we concluded that there must be whales out there. And after a run out to the pier, Sam got to see them even closer and was treated to a nice sunset on the way back.

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We had a nice plan for the next day: we wanted to do some shopping at the Pismo outlet mall. We were not really successful, as the designer clothes there did not appeal to us. We’ll try again another time. At least we had good lunch there: Huckleberry’s treated us to a nice Florentine quiche, a seafood wrap and grilled cheese with fries.
The whole afternoon we spent at the beach and on the pier in the hopes of seeing whales again. On our first time out at the pier we saw a sea otter, a shark and a school of dolphins. A bit later we noticed from the beach that there were whales again. So we went out to the pier again in order to be treated to a couple of whales showing off their tails and later also to do nice jumps out of the water.
After we were treated to a nice sunset at the beach, we left for our campground, the Oceano County Campground and enjoyed being able to camp on grass again for a long time. And there was another surprise: the camp hosts were inviting all campers to 9” funnel cakes with fresh strawberry topping, whipped cream and powdered sugar. Wow – what a treat!

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The next morning, we headed off quite early, as there was so much to be seen and we wanted to make sure that we’ll start looking for a place to stay overnight when it’s still light outside. Still, leaving so early also meant that the think marine layer had not yet cleared and consequently we saw Montana d’Oro State Park still in the fog and had to imagine how it would look in sunshine, just like for the view down to Morro Bay.

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As we just did not get a slot in San Simeon State Park Campground anymore (the car in front of us got the last one), we continued and checked out the pier of San Simeon located in a really nice bay. Even though we spotted Hearst Castle on top of the hill, we decided that we’d rather concentrate on the natural sights surrounding us vs. visiting the castle.

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First on our list were the elephant seals just a bit further. At this time of the year, the males occupied the beach for molting (i.e. shedding their fur). And wow – the older males are gigantic at up to 5000 pounds each. Seeing them lie at the beach was one thing, seeing them move from the water to the beach or on the beach was even more impressive.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 20:37 Archived in USA Tagged beach whales pier shark cold trump otter seaelephants Comments (0)

Famous Highway Number 1

From San Simeon to Monterrey

sunny 20 °C
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A bit north of San Simeon started the famous part of Highway 1 – built in the 1930’s as part of the ambitious new deal projects despite the steep rock faces. We were impressed with the road right from the start – what a view down to the ocean!
Unfortunately, the view did not last for long, as we found ourselves in the middle of a thick marine layer obstructing the sight down to the ocean and even around the next curves.

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Anyhow we did not go too far. Given the ‘campground full’ signs at all official campgrounds, we fell back to our usual alternative and went for dispersed camping. So we turned off the highway along the Nacimiento Ferguson Road and went in steep curves upwards hoping to get above the clouds. On our way up we passed some redwoods along the way and eventually were in bright sunshine. We found our spot soon and enjoyed a lovely view down onto the clouds.

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The only downside to the nice location were the flies. What a nuisance! With flies all around us, I even took up the discussion with Sam if we really want to go to Central Australia in a couple of months… But on the contrary, the birds were really nice!

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In the morning the marine layer cleared and we were rewarded with a nice view to the Pacific Ocean. Around lunchtime, it was time to go and explore at least a bit. So while I got the van ready, Max and Sam already headed off to bike / run down the road. They made 3.4 miles by the time I reached them and picked them up at the next turnout.

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We did not have to go far for a nice place to visit, as Limekiln State Park was just down the road. After a nice stroll through an impressive forest of coastal redwoods, we checked out the limekilns first, before heading to the 100’ waterfall. After lunch, we enjoyed some more time at the beach.

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On our way back to camp, we once again saw whales, this time even jumping completely out of the water, resulting in big splashes. Really cool, the whales are fascinating!
The weather was great and the marine layer had cleared completely. Therefore, this time we were not forced to go so far up along the road and we stopped a bit lower. We found a nice big turnout along the road with a great view.

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The next morning we headed north along the coast and enjoyed great vistas along the way. But the nicest view of all was in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The waterfall falling onto a secluded and inaccessible beach is probably the signature view of Big Sur.

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Next on our list was the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Not surprisingly, the campground was full, but we were admitted for day use. So we used the opportunity to do a hike along the river and got food at the lodge. By coincidence more than anything we got to watch part of the soccer Euro 2016 finals to the end of regular play time when it was still 0:0. We did not want to wait for the game to finish, so we did not see the celebrations of the Portuguese once they won, we only read about it in the evening.

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Our next destination was Carmel – by – Sea. We did not really know what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised by a very nice town. The downtown area was clearly groomed towards the needs of tourists and it was clearly high end tourism. Prices were not low – neither for ice cream or pastries, nor for realty – we did not find a single place advertised that was less than 1.5 million, but there were several above 10 million – which then gets you a nice property and house on at the coast. It felt like a nice place to visit, but not like a place to live.

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When doing the 17-mile drive, we were really impressed. Less so by Pebbles Beach Golf Course (even though we’re absolutely aware that it must be the non-plus-ultra for golfers to play there), but much more so for the mansions and properties we saw along the way. Some of the place we saw, were by far nicer and more impressive than the mansions around Hollywood – and they definitively had a marvellous view!

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We stopped a couple of times along the way and were lucky to see some deer on the golf courses.

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Bird and Seal Rock promised some wildlife viewing and in fact we were able to complete our collection of marine mammals: after sea lions and sea elephants, it was about time to also see some seals and there were lots of them.
By the time we left the 17-mile drive and drove through Monterrey, we were all already rather tired and keen to get to our campground. Given how full everything had been in the last couple of days, I had made reservations in the afternoon and after four unsuccessful calls, the Monterrey / Salinas KOA reserved their last slot for us. We were not too thrilled by the location directly next to the highway, but at least we had nice neighbours. Their four-year-old son had a pedal bike looking like a Yamaha endure and Max raced with him around our van. The whole family had spent their weekend watching the superbike world championship run at the Monterrey racecourse. This would have been fun to see as well, but we did not know about it and even if we would have known about it, there’s simply so much to do and too little time to do it all!
The next day we took advantage of California’s fruit and vegetable production: in the self-proclaimed ‘World’s Artichoke Center’ we bought a full case of fresh fruit. A bit later we stopped at a beach. The location was great, but eventually we realized that quite a couple of visitors prefer it for getting their suntan complete also in those parts that usually don’t get as much sun. We rather just had lunch and eventually headed on towards Los Altos.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:32 Archived in USA Tagged coast beach whales golf highway road redwoods produce limekiln pebbels Comments (2)

Some last days in the US before heading to Canada

written by Birgit, pictures mostly by Sam

semi-overcast 20 °C
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After a quiet night - without any vampire sightings - in Forks we headed for the Mora beach. We planned to have a hike along the beach and as it was raining by far more than just a mere drizzle, for the first time since early May we had to wear our rain jackets.
The so-called sea stacks and the significant amounts of gigantic driftwood along the stony beach created a somewhat mysterious atmosphere. And even though we’re usually preferring bright sunshine and heat vs. rain and cold, the weather somehow matched the landscape. As Janis rightfully said: this is the classical Pacific Northwest how one imagines it.

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After lots of stone collecting, stone skipping, stone stacking and stone castle building we longed for a hot tea and cake in our cozy van.

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A bit later we had found a nice spot at the Bear Creek Campground. The only challenge was the fact that while it was in principle free of charge, it required every vehicle to have a Discovery Pass. We had one, but Janis did not. After lots of research, we eventually found out that the online system was down and that there was no place close-by to buy one. So after a bit of thinking, we pitched Janis’ tent and parked her car outside the campground in front of the Bear Creek Café – a somewhat classical place to eat and drink in the middle of nowhere.
In exchange for the parking spot, Janis and I planned to get some French Fries to take away. After sitting at the counter and seeing the pies in the fridge, we ordered two bumbleberry pies as well, which as we learned consist of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. And to give Sam a chance to see the place as well, Janis offered to join him for a beer there while Max and I got to play Lego and eat the French Fries in the van.
As we passed Lake Crescent the next day, Sam came up with the great idea to rent kayaks. We enjoyed our trip on the lake very much. Max did an excellent job in helping Sam move their kayak while Janis and I trailed them and tried to keep up.

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As we took a break on a quiet beach along the shore, Sam discovered a large swing. It just did not seem to reach far enough out such that it would have been safe to swing into the lake. Still: it was lots of fun just to swing there. Both Sam and Max enjoyed that portion of the trip almost as much as the kayaking itself.

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After a dip into the lake and picnic, we continued towards Fort Townsend. After setting up camp, we explored a bit of the town and the Fort Worden state park. We liked the town a lot. With its hilly setting on the coast, old Victorian buildings and grazing deer, it was a very pleasant place to be. And the state park with the lighthouse and it's beach was very pleasant as well.

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So after exploring until it got dark, we ended up having a very late dinner back at our place and some final rounds of playing our new and favourite dice game with Janis – which she once again won. What a pity that it will take a couple of weeks before we’ll be able to ask for another round to finally manage to beat her.
The next morning, Janis was treated by Sam to Kaiserschmarrn (Austrian ‘scrambled pancakes’) before she had to head off towards the ferry and ultimately to her flight back to Chicago.
We took it easy and left a bit later to reach the Port Townsend ferry just before departure. The ferry ride was smooth and short and we had a déjà vu – after all we had been at the Coupeville ferry terminal and Fort Casey just two weeks ago already.

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This time we arrived there around noon and consequently had a bit more time to spend at Whidbey Island. Thus this time stops at Fort Ebey and later at Deception Pass Bridge were easily possible. Once again Sam and Max were happy about the F18s circling above the Naval Air Base and Deception Pass State Park.

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I guess both of them would have loved to stay there again. But I gave a clear enough veto such that eventually we continued our journey towards Canada - the next destination of our journey.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 09:27 Archived in USA Tagged rain beach kayak lighthouse wet ferry driftwood swing Comments (0)

The classical honeymoon destination

Bora Bora

semi-overcast 28 °C
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It was just a 10 min hop from Maupiti to Bora Bora. So before we knew it, we were there already.

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It did not take long to get our bags and to board the ferry to Bora Bora’s main island.

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We were picked up by our host Gérard at the ferry terminal and took over our nice apartment in the ‘Sunset Hill Lodge’ with a view of the sea and some of the outer islands. We immediately left again, headed towards the supermarket, as we were extremely hungry.
Seeing the prices in the supermarket, we realized that Bora Bora is not only more touristy, but also more expensive than the other islands. We shopped for dinner and stocked up our supplies of baguette.
After a relaxing long breakfast on our terrace with view of the lagoon, we planned our excursions for the day: a walk to the local supermarket and in the evening a stroll into Bora Bora’s main village Vaitape. It was fun seeing a bit of local life.

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We watched the locals playing football on a small field next to the sea, their girl friends chatting away close to the sea. We observed how quickly others were gliding on the water in their outrigger canoes and got treated to a great sunset.

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For dinner we went to the local fast food places, called ‘roulottes’. The roulottes are colorfully decorated mobile food vans that serve as snack bars, located in the center of most French Polynesian towns and villages. The food was quickly served, excellent fresh quality and affordable compared to the local standard. Everything we had was good, but we particularly liked the classical Tahitian raw fish in coconut milk.

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On our walk home, we passed a large group of women studying their new Polynesian dance routines and four locals sitting close to the lagoon, singing and playing the ukulele. But also the cruise ship that anchored that evening in the lagoon helped us to enjoy simply being where we were.

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Gérard also had good news for us when we came home: he had kayaks that he’d be happy for us to use for free. That was excellent news and we were thrilled by the prospects of going kayaking one day.
The next morning, Gérard offered to drive us to Matira Beach, the nicest beach in Bora Bora. So we spent a wonderful day at the beach, snorkelling, swimming, building sand castles and playing in the sand.
The culinary highlight of the day was Sam’s excellent tomato soup with couscous. With full stomachs we played a round of dice before getting Max to bed and eventually heading off to bed ourselves.
This way we were up early enough to do some kayaking. Gérard recommended that we cross the lagoon and go to a little motu. It was an excellent recommendation and we enjoyed the trip there and also the islet itself. It is in fact a private island which the guests of one of the super luxury hotels may use. Luckily enough we were alone and had the whole island for ourselves.

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On our paddle back home, we passed anchored sailboats from all around the world. Sam spotted one flying the Austrian flag – even though I have the suspicion that it was just a charter boat. And there was another sailboat from La Paz, Mexico. It’s four months that we were there and potentially this trip could easily be done by boat in this time. Still, Sam and I agreed that neither of us would have been tempted by a sailing trip of such dimensions. Coming from mountainous areas, we feel much more grounded on land and would feel rather intimidated to have only water around us – much deeper than an anchor could reach.
After our intense paddling (more for me than for Sam who would have had still enough reserves to paddle around the cruise ship), we had a quiet afternoon and a good sleep – at least Sam and I. Max has completely given up on his afternoon sleeps by now and prefers to play quietly on his own vs. sleeping like we do.

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We spent our last day in Bora Bora at Matira beach again, thanks to Gérard taking us there again. We enjoyed just being there, looking out onto the lagoon and taking an occasional swim to cool off.

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We watched two obviously rather rich girls being brought to the beach in a boat of one of the large luxury hotels. As they were not allowed on the hotel beach to use their drone, they had to come to the public beach to do so. Once they were gone, we were fascinated about the German couple who sat down close to us in the shade. They were the first Germans we had seen in Bora Bora, as over 80% if not 90% of all tourists we met so far seemed to be French. As we got to talk, we learned that they are on a round the world trip as well: in two and a half weeks and stops in Hong Kong, Auckland, Bora Bora, Hawaii and Los Angeles. As much as I love traveling, I don’t think that this is what I’d ever like to do!
Eventually we headed to the ferry which treated us to nice views of Bora Bora’s central island on the way to the airport.

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Our flight was after sunset, consequently there was not too much to be seen. And we were looking forward to Raiatea – the sacred island.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 16:37 Archived in French Polynesia Tagged sunset beach cruise dance kayak ferry expensive snack motu roulotte Comments (1)

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)

Living on Broome time

Broome, Kimberley, Western Australia

sunny 31 °C
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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)

Exploring the Kimberley

Dampier Peninsula, Broome

sunny 32 °C
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After a relaxing weekend in Broome, we headed north on the Cape Leveque Road to explore the Dampier Peninsula. We had been pre-warned that roughly 90km of the road are not paved, but it was still surprising to see that it was not really in a very good state. Lots of corrugated sand board along the way.

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Along the way, we passed lots and lots of termite mounds. And quite a number of abandoned cars in various states of destruction. Shortly after we hit the sealed part of the road, we had to pass through a bush fire. We could see the bushes and the ground burning right up to the road and could feel the radiation. Luckily enough, after a couple of hundred meters, the fire stopped again just like that.

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We stopped had lunch at the local store of Beagle Bay and noticed with a bit of amusement the sign saying that children are not allowed in the store during school hours. While we were sitting there, school ended and a whole group of aboriginal kids entered the store before they got picked up from their parents. We then had a peek into the church, which is beautifully decorated with mother of pearl. Considering the selection of books for sale in the church, it seemed that the catholic church is conscious of its role in relation to Aboriginal development and specifically the ‘stolen generations’. Still, knowing that Beagle Bay played a role in history in that respect, did put the very nicely decorated church into a context that was anything but shiny.

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Our next stop was Gambanan bush camp in the very north east of the peninsula. We picked a nice spot for our van on a rock just above the ocean. We could see a very strong current going out into the sea, so even though it looked like being low tide already, the water was still going out. After consulting the tide chart, we realized that tonight the high tide would be almost 10m above low tide. We were not quite sure anymore if we’d be cut off on our rocky outcrop and rather did not want to take any risks. So we found ourselves another spot which was for sure high enough above the ground not to be affected by the high tides.

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That evening, we had full moon. Even a super moon, very close to the earth. With the full moon rising over the mudflats at low tide, a phenomenon called ‘staircase to the moon’ is created. It did look pretty cool.

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Up to that point we had been alone at the huge bush camp and were already looking forward to a quiet night. Well, shortly after the moon came up, a group of German girls arrived and set up camp 20m away from us. That was strange – after all they could have picked from dozens of free campsites. Sam eventually came up with the theory that they were afraid of so few people being around, such that they set up right next to us for security / safety reasons.
Despite the heat and humidity, we had a good night’s sleep. But we had to rise early as well: with the direct sunlight hitting the tent around 6am, Max was wide awake.
We took it very easy and had a slow, relaxed and lazy day. With the heat, humidity and the pestering bush flies, the place reminded us a bit of Motu Mahare. Even though mosquitoes might seem at first glance more of a pain than flies, at least they don’t crawl into your ears, eyes and nose. It was more than just a nuisance, it was nerve-wrecking. We could have set up our awning with the screen room, but unfortunately due to fairly extreme wind gusts (seems like bush flies don’t mind the wind), this was not an option. Unfortunately the frogs only lived in the bathrooms whereas the bush flies only stay outside. Otherwise they could have had quite a meal.

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Eventually we left for Cape Leveque and spent the remainder of the afternoon at the beach and the edge of the water – luckily without any flies around.

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A bit later we moved to our campsite high above the cliffs with a nice view of the sunset. And luckily enough the sunset also marked the point in time when the flies retreated for the night. So we were able to enjoy a very nice, pleasant and calm evening pretty much on our own – thanks to it being low season.

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The next morning, the sun was up again and with it, the flies were back. And we were happy to just pack up and leave after breakfast. We had originally considered spending a day in One-Arm-Point and to see the beach huts and the fish hatchery there. But we figured that our patience to endure these potentially beautiful sights while being constantly pestered by flies would simply not be sufficient.
We just want to leave and we knew already where to: our beloved spot in the ‘Cable Beach Caravan Park’ with the beautiful pool and – what we had not even realized during our first stay – no flies at all. Instead a nice variety of birds: ibis, finches, cockatoos, parrots and even a flying fox.

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At the caravan park, Sam was also able to get some parts which had been missing on Max’ bike such that Max could finally try it out. It will take him a bit of time getting used to the new bike. Even though it has exactly the same frame as his ‘Cars’ bike in the US, it is a steel instead of an aluminum frame and it has huge (and heavy) sand tires. And after six weeks of not biking, Max is definitely out of practice.
Our first outing with the bike was to Cable Beach where we had dinner in a nice restaurant with an excellent view at the sunset.

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After one more day of just enjoying being in such a nice place and enjoying all its luxuries, the adventure genes started itching again and it was time to bid Broome and Cable Beach good-bye and to head on South.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 05:49 Archived in Australia Tagged birds sunset park beach pool moon flies lighthouse cape gravel corrugated Comments (1)

Nothing. Except endless bush, beaches, mines and stations

Broome, Eighty-mile Beach, Port Hedland, Indee Station, Auski Roadhouse

sunny 34 °C
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Broome is very remote even by Western Australian standards. Just an example to illustrate this statement: when searching for used bikes on gumtree.au.com, I had a couple of results for Broome and Cable Beach. And then the system offered to check also the following offers in the surrounding suburbs – the first of which was 598km away, the next ones 1050km away…
So, we made sure to fill up our supplies and to make sure that our tank and the jerry cans are full of diesel. We had really enjoyed our time in Broome and surroundings and could have easily stayed even longer. But after nine days we felt the itching again to get out and explore.
Even though we had seen only a bit of the Kimberley, we’d be heading south now. On the other hand, the Kimberley region is enormous. After all, just this one of nine regions of Western Australia is larger in size than 70% of the world’s countries – and is inhabited by less than 40,000 people out of which a third lives in Broome.
The closest town south-west of Broome is Port Hedland. As we were not keen on a 600km drive, we planned to stop along the way after 375km at Eighty Mile Beach. We were driving all that distance through flat bush with literally nothing along the way. I’m not sure to ever having experienced such a long stretch of nothingness.
To be fair, the nothingness was interrupted twice: after 25 km, we turned onto the Great Northern Highway and there was a gas station. And after 330 km we stopped at Sandfire Roadhouse to refuel.

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It was a relief to eventually turn off the road and to head the last 10 km on a gravel road to the beach. The beach sure seemed endless, but presumably it is in fact 80 miles long. What impressed us right away, were the sizable turtle tracks leading from the sea into the dunes and back. So, we definitively wanted to have a look ourselves at night to see some turtles nesting.

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As it was rather low tide and light outside, there were no turtles around yet and we kept ourselves busy with collecting shells. And there were really beautiful ones around and even some skeletons of starfish. The sunset at super low tide a bit later was simply spectacular.

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Unfortunately, that meant as well that high tide would only be after midnight and consequently the prime time for turtles coming up to the beach to dig a nest and to lay their eggs would only be very late. Still, Sam and I were extremely lucky when we went out to the beach at around eleven to see the first turtle coming up the beach after just a couple of minutes of being there. We were very impressed. To make sure that we don’t interrupt the turtle, we held our distance, but were able to observe the process nicely. Good, that moon was out at least part of the time – after all torches or any other form of light would scare the turtles away.

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The next morning, we had fun watching the birds at our campsite and eventually headed on to Port Hedland.

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About halfway, the scenery started getting more interesting with some hills and rocks dotting the otherwise boring bush. In Port Hedland, we headed to a park right next to the harbor inlet. Quite frankly, I had never heard of Port Hedland until a couple of days earlier and the guidebooks were not really enthusiastic about the place due to its industrial flavor. Still, we found it fascinating, as there was so much to learn that we had not realized or known previously.
After all, Port Hedland is one of the world’s top ten cargo ports shipping Western Australian iron ore and other mining products mainly to China and Korea. It is also the destination of a private train track, owned by BHP Billion, the world’s largest mining company. It is holding the record for the longest and heaviest train in history transporting over 82,000 metric tons of iron ore in 682 wagons at a total length of 7,2 km. Nowadays, these trains have just about 260 cars and a total train weight of over 43,000 tons. Even though this seems tiny in comparison, it is still about twice the length of the BNSF or CN trains we had seen in the USA – even though those were impressive as well with two sea containers stacked on top of each other.
Also, the iron ore freight ships were fascinating. At first the two anchored ore ships did not really impress us too much. This is, until another empty ship was navigated by several pilot boats into the harbor and we only then realized that the other two ships would have looked just as big when empty and were just mainly submerged in their full state.

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Last but not least, also the huge mountains of salt at the entrance and exit into town were fascinating. We left towards the suburb of South Hedland such that Max could ride his bike in the largest skatepark of Western Australia.

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Eventually we had to leave such that we’d not need to drive at dawn to Indee Station. Even though we had not seen a single kangaroo so far, we did not want to hit the first one we’ll encounter. But once more, we did not see a single kangaroo. Instead we were greeted at the station by a very young fowl, several calves, chicken and geese.

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A quick run up the hill provided us with a nice view of the sunset. Great!

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The next morning, we met Emily, the young French interior designer, who is helping on the farm for a couple of months before travelling through Australia. She explained to us how to get to the ‘Red Rock’, located about 10km south of the station. We took the sandy track to get there.

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Soon found ourselves in front of a mini-Uluru / Ayers Rock. Contrary to the big famous one close to Alice Springs, this one may be climbed and we headed up to have a look at Aboriginal etchings. What a nice place in the middle of the rather flat landscape – and how much easier to access vs the enormous trip out to Alice Springs that we had originally wanted to do…

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The drive towards Karijini National Park was dominated by road trains fully loaded with iron ore or other mining products. Typically, a truck was pulling three to four trailers with between four and six axes. At Auski Roadhouse we saw an enormous road train. Doing the quick calculation, we realized that the truck and its trailer have a total of 124 wheels. Just imagining the time, effort and cost to change all of them is a pretty crazy thought. Luckily enough, in these latitudes no winter tires are required!

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 14:53 Archived in Australia Tagged trains beach red port rock road bush station nest mine turtle cattle nothing Comments (2)

In possum habitat

Yalgorup NP, Busselton

sunny 34 °C
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After two nights at a commercial big caravan park, we longed for a quiet place to stay for the night. We found exactly what we were looking for at Yalgorup National Park. The Martin’s Tank campground was fairly big and almost empty, so we got to pick a great shady spot close to the camp kitchen.
We had known that the national park is protecting a couple of lakes that are important wetlands for migrating birds. But we were surprised to learn that it is also the home for a couple of endangered marsupials.
We were in fact lucky and got to see some of them. A quenda passed through our campsite on our first evening. And later that night when Sam and I were still sitting outside working at the laptop and reading, a small possum family visited our camp. The furry animals were not afraid of us at all, exploring everything and even passing underneath the chairs we were sitting on. Very cute!

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The next morning, we decided to stay for one more night. After all, we had not had a really calm day for almost two weeks and we were happy to take it easy and just do nothing special. Max enjoyed playing with his cars in the sand, while we read, typed and edited pictures.
That evening, the possums stopped by again – this time even early enough such that Max was able to see them.

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It’s really nice to have wildlife so close and that’s probably one of the reasons we like staying in national parks. Still, as long as we’re talking about cute marsupials, this is certainly true. The statement is not true at all though, in regards to the creepy small animals around. The monster ants were leaving me alone, so that was no issue. But I just hate ticks and as soon as I discovered, that there are some gigantic ones around, I simply tried to keep my feet away from the ground when seated. Only once Sam started excitedly to take pictures of the spider that was just crawling up the back of my camping chair, it was enough and I headed up into the roof top tent. Luckily enough, the tent is far enough away from the ground and equipped with window screens, such that I was able to feel safe there.

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The next morning, Sam was keen to get some exercise and went for a run with Max biking next to him. A couple of km further along the road I picked them up again and we headed to the beach in Bunburry.
We had lunch right next to the beach and took a dip in the water before heading on. Getting into South Western Australia, it was time to start tasting some of its renown wines. The Capel Vale winery was a nice place with excellent wines. We were the only guests and Anja from Heilbronn served us around ten different wines to taste. The first two wines were the best and after a fun hour of tasting and having great chats about lots of things, we ended up buying a bottle of each.

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At the Busselton RAC campground, we were welcomed by Lucia. Back in Yanchep NP we had agreed to stay at the same campground with our Swiss friends for three nights. And even though the office staff had not known about us knowing each other, they had placed us directly next to each other. Great!
Once we explored the campground, we realized that it had perfect facilities. Behind the playground which also featured a big bouncing pillow, there was also a big bike park. In addition to that, there was a nice camp kitchen, just a couple of steps from our camp, a game room and a daily movie night with kids’ movies.
While Emia and Max were sitting in the hammock playing TipToi, the adults had a great time talking about traveling, building methods for houses, kids… We could have talked the whole night, but eventually it was time to take the kids to bed and to get some sleep ourselves.
The next day it was burning hot, a consequence of the first tropical storm of this season in Broome. That was a good reason for us to take it easy and stay at the campground and in its pleasant pool.
Also the evening was very quiet with reading, blog writing, picture editing, movies.
After a lazy day, we were keen to explore Busselton. We started at the biggest attraction: the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere. The jetty looked long, but only once we had walked all the way out to the end, we realized that it was almost 1800m long. On the way back we noticed some dolphins in the water below the jetty. And Sam got a nice snapshot of an eagle with his lucky catch.

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After our lunch break at the playground, it was time to cool off. The water bounce park was just too tempting and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

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Back at the campground we had an invitation to dinner waiting for us on our table which Emia had nicely written for us. What a pleasant surprise – especially as we were anyhow very hungry already.
The next morning, it was our time to cook Kaiserschmarrn for them as a good-bye breakfast. It had been very nice to meet them again and we’ll see if and where we’ll meet again – Australia, NZ Germany, Switzerland or elsewhere.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 22:41 Archived in Australia Tagged park beach walk spider possum jetty bounce Comments (1)

Empty beaches – access with 4WD only

D’Entrecasteaux NP - Black Point, Beedelup NP, Warren NP, Northcliffe, Moore’s Hut, Valley of the Giants Ecopark

rain 23 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

After our relaxing Christmas Holidays in Margaret River, we headed off on Boxing Day. Our first stop was Surfers Point, one of the most famous breaks along the Margaret River coast. The waves coming in were really big and there were lots of surfers tackling them. At first we were surprised how many senior surfers were in the water (or rather going in and out), but we soon realized that such kind of waves are not suitable for beginners.

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As we were sitting in the sunshine next to our Swiss friends, we did not realize that this would be the last sunshine for a while. And considering that we had sunshine almost all along, checking the weather forecast for the coming days has never become a habit.
We took the nice drive through the old jarrah forest along Boranup Drive. At the lookout, we had a nice view towards Cape Leeuwin the South-Western most point of Australia. And we realized that it did not make a lot of sense to go all the way down to the cape, as rain clouds were looming in that direction. In a sense, the bad weather was at least very helpful in our decision making, as we had not been able to make up our mind so far in regards to going to the cape or not.

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So we filled our tank and headed off to D’Entrecasteaux National Park. After all, Sam had been wanting to do some more offroad driving anyhow and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take the 4WD tracks to the campground at Black Point.
After a bit of rather normal graving road, we were in for a surprise: the road was blocked by a car that was just being loaded onto a trailer after having managed to lose a wheel in the deep sand ahead of us. We used the waiting time to let our tire pressure down and then headed on along a very beautiful, narrow one way path that eventually led us to the campground close to the beach.

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Once arrived, we were happy to get everything set up in time before the rain set in. It was really unpleasant cold rain, enhanced by mighty gusts of wind. As we were mentally prepared to just head up into the roof top tent for the remainder of the day, the rain stopped and we had a hike to the beautiful beach.

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We soon realized why it’s called ‘stepping stones’: similar to the basalt columns we had seen at Devil’s Postpile in California, also here the cooling of a lava flow had created that phenomenon. But not only the columns were nice. We also enjoyed the scenery, the lonely beach and the nice sunset over Australia’s southern coast.

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In the night, a loud thunderstorm raged around us and it was raining heavily. While Max was sound asleep, Sam and I lay awake in the tent and where wondering if we’d be able to leave the national park again after so much rain. Eventually, Sam set the alarm clock for 6am to have a chat with the neighbors at camp to get their opinion on the conditions for driving out and which of the three tracks to choose. After consulting with them, we decided to take another track out vs. the one we had come in on the day before. And in fact, Black Point Road was only deep sand in a few bits, but was less of an issue in wet conditions than yesterday’s track would have been. Still, we were relieved that we had made it out onto the gravel road without any bigger troubles. Under the watchful eyes of a monitor lizard, it was a matter of minutes to activate the compressor and adjust the tire pressure back up.

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After our early start into the day, we explored Beedelup NP with the Beedelup Falls and a nice suspension bridge.

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Later we headed on to Warren NP to climb up the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree with its fire watch lookout at 65m height. Admittedly, both of us turned around halfway when realizing how high already those 30m felt on a tree that is moving with the wind.

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In Pemberton, we stopped at the local information center to inquire about the road conditions to reach Moore’s Hut, another 4WD track in D’Entrecasteaux NP that we wanted to attempt tomorrow.
As it was already rather late in the day and I was keen on having a phone connection to upload a new blog entry, we opted not to head into the National Park right away, but to spend the night in Northcliffe which featured a nice skatepark for Max.

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The rain forced us to spend most of our time in the camp kitchen in the company of a large huntsman spider and of a nice young couple from the UK. They are doing a year of work and travel in Australia, but interestingly they did come via China where they got with the Trans-Siberian Railway. It was great having a chat with them on their experiences on the train and in Mongolia and as usual, we were inspired ourselves after hearing first-hand what they had seen and done.

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The other attraction of the evening was a nice campfire. Surprisingly, all Aussies were really excited about the fire. We had not realized to which extent there are complete fire bans over months for whole regions. For Northcliffe, the absolute fire ban will only be starting a couple of days later. Thanks to the heavy rains of the last two days, a fire permit had been granted to the campground under the condition that the owner (a fire fighter) has a cubic meter of water with a pump located directly next to the fire.
The next morning, Sam got to do some more offroad driving. After a long stretch of gravel road, we eventually got to the deep sand bits to Moore’s Hut. And we were happy that we did not camp there ourselves, as the place was quite crowded. We continued the last two kilometers to the beach which we had for ourselves. The beach was beautiful and pretty wild. Due to the heavy winds, the looming rain clouds and the cold, it had a very special atmosphere. Who knows if we would have liked it as much on calm sunny day.

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The drive out of the national park was even nicer than the drive in. But still, it had been a lot of driving by the time we reached our place for the night in the ‘Valley of the Giants’.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 17:12 Archived in Australia Tagged beach tree sand camp fire offroad climb granite 4wd Comments (1)

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