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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)

Islands and Ferries in the Pacific Northwest

Everett, Whidbey Island, Orcas Island

sunny 24 °C
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We had made it all the way to Ellensburg an hour east of Seattle and Sam and I had to do some decision making: what would we like to see and do in the next couple of days and in which order. Mt Rainier vs. Seattle vs. San Juan Islands were the candidates. And after going through several options, we were clear on the base plan and I was able to go ahead and make reservations for accommodation and the ferry for the San Juan Islands.
So the next morning we passed the tempting looking Mt Rainier and drove towards Seattle and then north towards Anacortes to be well positioned for our ferry reservation the next morning. Instead of just taking the interstate north from Seattle, I figured we might as well take a scenic detour via Whidbey Island.
What I had not taken into account is that on the way to the ferry in Mutkileo, we passed directly by the Boeing factories. And it was simply way too tempting to stop at their ‘Future of Flight’ facility. While the museum did not tempt us too much – after all it seemed hard to top the experience we’ve had at the PIMA air and space museum in Tucson – we were very tempted to go on the tour of the production facilities. Unfortunately, Max did not meet the height requirement, so only Sam got to take the tour. Fortunately enough, the museum turned out to be very kids friendly and consequently Max and I did not have any trouble at all to fill the two hours until Sam was back.

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Even though it was much later than the original plan had anticipated, we still took the ferry over towards Clinton on Whidbey Island. We had to wait a bit to get onto one of the ferries and then enjoyed a short transit over.
Sticking to the main road along the island proved to provide us with lots of forest views and little else. So we took the turnoff towards Fort Casey and were rewarded with nice sights of Puget Sound from there. Walking along the battery with it's large canons, we could not resist to wonder how much energy was put into the defense of a place that in the end never got attacked at any stage.

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Our destination for the night was State Park at Deception Pass, which is famed as one of the nicest state parks in Washington. While for Sam the stay there was the ultimate experience and probably the best place we stayed at so far overall, I felt a bit deceived in fact.

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As we soon realized, the State Park is located less than two miles north of the airfield of a naval base. There were probably three F18 fighter jets which started their flight training at around 8pm turning in circles attempting to land at the base and then starting through again. And with every round we got treated in 1 minute intervals to about 20 seconds of unbelievable noise. We were able to see exactly the exhaust of the planes pointed in our direction in a distance of maybe 500 yards / meters. And just from the noise level it felt like they were running in afterburner mode.
With every round they made, Sam looked even more excited and soon got the binoculars out to watch even closer. Max was frustrated by the noise and was protecting his ears with his hands on every turn. And after realizing the noise did not seem to eventually stop with darkness setting in, I got quite frustrated. By the time I went to bed a bit after 10pm, they continued to make their rounds. And even when Sam went to sleep an hour later they had not stopped yet.
At least all three of us tend to sleep very well despite noise around us, so I guess we can call ourselves lucky in that respect. We were well rested when the alarm went off the next morning, had breakfast and headed to the Ferry.
We had made reservations to go to the San Juan islands. Given that it’s high season and all campgrounds I checked seemed to be full, I had booked a camping spot for us via Airbnb on Orcas Island.

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Once the ferry landed, we directly went to ‘The Lodge on Orcas’ where the owner David was waiting for us. We were thrilled – what a gem we had found: a nice secluded place. A couple of rooms and really nice spaces to be shared by all guests: a big and clean kitchen, nice sitting areas, several terraces and balconies and a large outside garden with an orchard featuring ripe Asian pears and a couple of hammocks. Wow!
It was an easy decision to just spend the day in the lodge without going anywhere else. Barbecue, hammocks, afternoon tea, a short walk to the beach and back, nice talks with other guests – what a great day!

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The next day we did explore the island a bit. Moran State Park is not far away and we did a bit of hiking to the Cascades and Hidden Falls before heading up to Mount Constitution. Up there we had an excellent view of the Puget Sound with the islands surrounding us, to Vancouver Islands, the Cascades Range with Mt. Baker and into the Vancouver area in Canada.

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Before heading back towards our lodge, we could not resist the temptation to stop at the shellfish farm in Bark Bay. We had lots of fun picking a dozen oysters, opening them and trying to distinguish the tastes of the three different kinds of oysters we had selected. In retrospect we should probably have skipped the fun – at least I would have felt much better the following day. Well, what should I say: no risk, no fun…

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That evening we enjoyed another barbecue before taking advantage of the large variety of games in the lodge to play some board games.
It was really hard to leave the lodge again and stayed pretty much as long as we could. Before heading off, we got to take a lot of food which Tom, Lina, Lilly and Chloe had left over before leaving the day before – thanks guys! But eventually it was time to say good-bye to David and to head into Eastsound – the nice little town on Orcas Island. It is very laid back, offers a nice variety of shopping opportunities and we enjoyed our time there very much. Still, we limited our shopping to ice cream (6$ for a single scoop) and ‘real’ bread (9$ for a small loaf), even though there would have been much else that that would have been nice to have.

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We had originally been considering to also visit some of the other islands of the San Juan archipelago, but taking into account the ferry waiting times and transfers, eventually had rather wanted to take it easy just on Orcas. Still, to get back, we did spend another hour waiting at the ferry terminal waiting for our turn to get onto the ferry back to Anacortes.

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This time we even played a bit of puzzle – what a nice idea of the ferry company to keep the passengers entertained – before heading off onto Fidalgo Island and eventually the mainland. We all agreed: It had been a fun trip to Orcas Island!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 07:07 Archived in USA Tagged island plane ferry driftwood jets boeing orcas battery production Comments (0)

Maeva / Bienvenue / Welcome French Polynesia

In Tahiti

semi-overcast 29 °C
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On long distance flights, for us most airlines are pretty much the same: there’s individual in-flight entertainment, mediocre food and some kind of cheap toy article handed out for kids. But this time, there was a first: never before did we get a flower handed out in a plane. In this case it was even a Tahitian Tiaré which was extremely fragrant with a very pleasant smell.

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Upon our arrival, we were pleased once more about a distinctive difference vs. other airports: at the entrance to the main terminal, there was a couple playing music and dancing for us. I found it funny to see that they were wearing official airport employee badges on their traditional costumes.
Passport control was not more than just a quick glance – after all we were just official entering France, i.e. an EU country. The airport is small by comparison and consequently our bags arrived in no time.
As it was just a bit after 5am in the morning local time, we decided to have a break at the airport snack bar. Max was excited to get his favourite drink, real ‘Apfelschorle’ imported from Germany and we tried to wake up by drinking some tea.
A bit after 7am it seemed late enough to take a taxi to our home for the next two nights, the Inaiti Lodge. Marceline, the owner greeted us warmly and invited us to have some tea and hot chocolate. She explained all we needed to know about our surroundings and shared the great news with us that our room was already available for us and we did not have to wait until the official check in time of 2pm.
We were excited to hear that: all of us were a bit exhausted from the long overnight flight. And after a while even Max went to sleep. By noon we had rested enough to start exploring and to have something to eat. An outside nearby snack bar was easily found and we had great fresh food underneath a tree in full bloom.

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For shopping we headed to the local Carrefour market which reminded us a lot of the Carrefour we used to shop at when we still lived in Romania.
A bit later in the day we took a walk to the Tahiti Yacht Club. There we had a nice view of the sailboats, the sea and the sunset behind the neighbouring island of Moorea. We even spotted a typical outrigger canoe training in the evening sun.

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In the evening we stayed up until after 8pm and rested well until the next morning. And with that we were practically adjusted to the new time zone – five hours behind the Chicago time we were used to.
It did take us a bit longer to get adjusted to the heat though. At 30 °C / 86 °F it was actually not too unpleasant, but we were simply not used to such temperatures anymore.
There were also lots of other things we were not used to anymore after our long stay in North America: typical French baguette for breakfast, seemingly crazy car drivers (of which more than 50% seem to be driving Renault / Dacia, Peugeot or Citroen) and people speaking exclusively French. In fact, many of them probably know how to speak other languages as well, but they usually chose not to do so. So it was time for me to resurface my French skills, while Sam and Max were pretty much at my mercy to get translations.
We ventured into Papeete by taking the local bus into town. Our first destination was the central market, where we had excellent food and had fun people watching.

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From there we headed from the pier with its cruise ships, sailboats and colorful fish to the parks along the sea promenade where we easily found a playground for Max to get rid of some of his excess energy.

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Back in the center of town we had a peak into the cathedral and walked by the town hall, but actually preferred to watch the artists decorating large surfaces all over the town as part of the annual street art festival.

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That evening we were knackered and happy to just sit in our little hut outside, have some baguette with camembert cheese and local Hinano beer. If I wouldn’t have read the label, I could have easily believed it to be Bavarian beer, a typical ‘Helles’ – a nice surprise.
At night, it was raining heavily and we were able to experience a short and intense tropical rain shower also that morning. Once again, we were extremely lucky, as Marceline was able to let us stay in our room until she took us to the airport around noon. Check in was very quick and we took the advice to stay outside the gate area until 10 min before boarding would start. What seems like an impossible idea in most large airports, was easily done: there was no one waiting in front of us at the security check.
And our joker Max did an excellent job again: having a child below 12 years of age, we were allowed to board the tiny ATR 42 turboprop plane first – a big plus considering that there were no seats assigned and we wanted to make sure that we’ll get good seats for taking pictures.
And the views from the plane were beautiful indeed. We got to see all major islands of the Society Islands. We started right next to the sea in Tahiti and soon got to see Moorea and later Huahine below us.

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After just 35 min of flight, our plane made a planned stop in Raiatea, where we got treated to an excellent close up view of Raiatea and neighboring Tahaa. Many people left the plane and a couple of new passengers joined. Still, of the 48 seats in the plane 13 had to stay empty, as the short runway in Maupiti only allows for a limited payload.

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Along the way to our left, Bora Bora was lying peacefully below us giving us already an impressive first glimpse into where we’ll be in a couple of days’ time.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 15:16 Archived in French Polynesia Tagged sea beer sunset flight island outrigger baguette heat eu Comments (0)

Perfect island paradise

Maupiti

sunny 28 °C
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It was love at first sight. Already from the air Maupiti looked simply perfect: a volcanic island with a high peak surrounded by an emerald lagoon and five rather flat coral islands.

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Despite the short runway on one of the northern coral islands, our landing was very smooth. Consequently, the presence of a large fire truck was only a reassurance and it was not required to take any action. The airport building itself was tiny, not much more than a covered passageway. But the waiting area was exceptional: small benches in the shade of palm trees right next to the lagoon.

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Once we had our baggage, it was only a really short walk over to the boat that should take us onto the main island. Once we, our baggage, a French couple that looked like honeymooners and a few locals were waiting in the boat, we soon realized that the boat also doubled as the postal service boat carrying all air freight onto the main island. And a bit later, we realized that it was also the employee shuttle for the whole airport crew of Air Tahiti – consisting of a total of six people.
The ferry ride was a good introduction to Maupiti and its crystal clear water. Before too long, we arrived in the village and were greeted by Sandra, the owner of Pension Tereia with flower garlands. We loaded our baggage onto her truck and she took us to the pension. She showed us around and we had some coconut and water before heading to the nearby beach where we stayed until after the sunset.

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By that time, we were already more than hungry and keen to have dinner which was to be served at 7pm. And it was simply excellent: for starters we had tuna sashimi with an excellent soy based sauce, followed by steaks of parrot fish with vanilla sauce and rice. And fresh mango from the tree next to the house as dessert. Simply perfect.
Sandra's son then showed us how to open a coconut with a single hit of a hand. Sam tried the technique successfully and we enjoyed the coconut water - at that stage we were too full to have anything else to eat.
The next morning, we had breakfast and were ready to leave at 8:30 for our excursion. Together with Claire and Adrien, the other guests in the pension we wanted to go snorkelling with manta rays and have lunch on a ‘motu’ – a small coral islet next to the only shippable pass into the inner lagoon of Maupiti.
Sandra’s husband Kété was steering the motorboat out into the lagoon supported by Max.

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Eventually we stopped rather abruptly, as there were manta rays underneath us. So we got our snorkelling gear and jumped into the water to have a closer look. The rays were enormous and it was hard to believe that Kété said that these were rather small, as their wingspan can get as big as 7m / 23 ft. Max and I preferred to have a look from the surface only, but Sam ventured down to the bottom of the sea at 5 or 6 m depth to have a look from below. It’s always impressive to see such gigantic animals and how small we humans are in comparison.

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After all of us were back in the boat and Kété’s son headed off with his harpoon to catch a fish for our dinner. And no worries, in Maupiti neither rays, nor sharks or whales are being caught – it’s not part of their tradition as we were told - there are way too many other fish around. And we simply marvelled at the sights around us.

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We then traversed through the only pass of Maupiti connecting the lagoon with the open sea. It is a narrow and rather long pass which is quite dangerous for larger boats. Consequently, in adverse weather the only freight boat coming to the island once per month will not attempt the passage with the result that it will only come back a month later and supplies in the stores might get low.

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Kété did a good job and soon enough we were out in the open sea. The waves were significantly bigger than inside the lagoon and we started making our plans just in case something would happen – after all it seemed that there were no life jackets available on the boat.
While we still wondered why we even went out to the open sea, suddenly Kété alerted us that just in front of the boat he had spotted the fountain of a whale and we got to see the backside of two humpback whales. When we thought already that they had dived down and would not resurface for the next couple of minutes, Kété turned and had us observe a spot and make sure that we had our cameras ready. And he was right: just seconds later one of the whales surfaced, blew air out (which was much louder than expected!) and showed his nice tail before heading down. Wow!

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That was already much more than expected, but we made one more snorkelling stop in a beautiful coral garden.

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After all these impressions, we headed for lunch on the small island east of the pass. And what a great location - just beautiful!

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Just like us, most other tourists on the island seemed to be there. After all, it was Saturday, the only day in the week when the typical Tahitian underground sand oven is put into action. Soon after we arrived, it was ceremonially opened and all the procedures and traditions were explained – in French, without any hesitation or thought about people potentially not being able to understand.

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So I unearthed my French skills to understand that we had pork, mussels and chicken as main courses together with cooked bananas and breadfruit. In addition, there was typical raw fish in coconut milk (which was excellent) and fermented fish with fermented coconut milk. The latter smelled much worse than it tasted. Without knowing what it is, we would have probably rather put it into the ‘cheese’ category than assuming that it is fish. For dessert, there was some kind of fruit jelly once again in coconut milk. All in all, the food was very different from what we know and had a distinct smoky flavour to it from the way it was prepared. Not bad, but it will also never be our favourite food.

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What followed, was not really what Sam and I are keen on: tourist entertainment at its best: it started with a competition in throwing coconuts into a hole 8m / 25ft away. The guests of all ten pensions on the island were to compete against each other. As we did not get into the round of the last three and consequently were done rather soon. While that exercise was actually fun, we both declined the next session of Polynesian dancing. We rather did it like the locals and took a dip in the water to cool off. We even spotted a couple of leopard whiptail rays while doing so.

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The excursion was excellent and we had really enjoyed our time on the trip. But after so much sun, we were glad to eventually to take the trip back home. That was fun as well - some of us had to sit in the back of the truck, including Kété who nicely played his ukulele along the way.

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We played a round of Farkle with Claire and Adrien before dinner, which was fun once again.
Even though Maupiti is small and remote and not nearly as touristy as all the other Society Islands, we were amazed to have excellent wireless internet in our pension. It seems that this luxury is a must have by now for all places hosting tourists. In comparison: drinking water on the island is available at five stations around the island where we often saw people or kids filling their canisters or bottles.

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On our last day in Maupiti, Sam and Claire climbed Mount Teurufaaiu (385m / 1280ft). A steep direct route secured by ropes led them all the way to the top to take in breath taking views of the island from above.

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In the meantime, the rest of us took it easy: we had a late breakfast and played some games. Once Sam was back, we went to the white beach and admired the beautiful water again.
We got food at the snack bar along the beach and soon enough had to leave towards the ferry and the airport.

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There we got the excellent hint from Claire to ask for ‘Maupiti’ stamps in our passports. After all, we had not even gotten any stamps into our passports upon our arrival – we’re in the European Union after all.
Still, the airport was clearly not up to the usual European standards and we simply loved sitting under the palm trees some 30m / 90ft from the landing strip (without any fence or the like in between). When it got hot, we just walked a couple of steps to stand in the clear water of the lagoon.

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With Max we were able to skip the line and get first onto the plane again and only realized when walking up to it that there had not been any security control. Life is beautiful and we decided that Maupiti clearly is a place to come back to one day.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:49 Archived in French Polynesia Tagged traditional mountain island paradise lagoon hike coconut snorkel whale coral manta ray islet oven motu Comments (0)

The sacred island

Raiatea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye, bye bush - hello town

Geraldton, Sandy Bay, Pinnacles NP, Cervantes, Wedge Island

sunny 28 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

As we reached Geraldton, we ended up in afternoon rush-hour. This had not been an issue in our travels so far. Latest by then, we realized that we had left the bush and reached the more populated areas of Western Australia. After all, Geraldton with its 25.000 inhabitants is the largest town between the 4000 km that separate Perth and Darwin. Still, a couple of traffic lights later, we reached our campground close to the harbour and the lighthouse.

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It had been on purpose that we stopped in Geraldton and did not simply pass through. After all, it was only ten days until Christmas and we wanted to get our shopping done. Geraldton was a perfect place for doing so. We were successful in all respects. While Sam and Max did the grocery shopping at Coles, I had enough time at Target’s next door to choose potential presents. And as Max then headed directly to a TV, Sam and I were able to go through together and to choose what we wanted to actually buy. Perfect! Christmas shopping had never been so easy!
After our successful session of power shopping, it was time to get Max some exercise. We went to the foreshore and were astounded by the multitude of playgrounds for all ages. Once Max had explored the first playground, we walked five minutes for him to tackle an even bigger play structure. And in its back we even discovered an animated feature that allowed us to play against each other trying to touch as many light up points as possible - very cool and lots of fun also for adults. I had never seen such sound and light speed games before, but it was definitively a lot of fun. And the location at the foreshore with its calm beaches was excellent as well.

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Back at our campground, it was time to deal with some planning topics. After all, a month later we’d be leaving Western Australia and before leaving it helps to have the next leg of our adventure prepared: i.e. I booked a flight, a place to stay in Sydney and we discussed how to approach transport in NZ. And despite the fact, that Jetstar had given us a 300 AUD voucher for answering late on my complaint and for our troubles on the journey from the Cook Islands to Sydney, we preferred to book Virgin Australia for our flight back to Sydney.
After a good night’s sleep and a nice chat with Scotsman Alan, who’s been traveling around Australia in their bus already for more than two years, it was time to leave Geraldton to discover the last stretch of coast before getting to Perth.
There were lots of turn offs to the beach along the turquoise coast. Eventually Sam picked the one leading to Sandy Bay for our location for lunch. The beach was great and also the campground looked pleasant. The only downside to the campground was, that it seemed very full. It was time to realize that getting closer to Perth and getting closer to the Christmas holidays which were to begin in the next days, this will clash with our current style of traveling. After all, up to now it had never been an issue anywhere to get a campground last minute. Since we had come to Western Australia, we had not reserved a single camp site in advance. And we were not quite ready to change our approach to traveling radically: prearranging campsites for the remainder of our trip would have meant to give up the luxuries of staying longer where we like it and passing through if we did not feel like stopping.
Sandy Bay surprised us with its fine white sand. We had not stood on such fine sand since Cable Beach back in Broome. The beach was very sheltered from the wind and the water was extremely calm, reminding us of Bahia Conception in Mexico. A nice combination!

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Up at the look out over the peninsula, it was very windy again, but the view was certainly worth it. And Max enjoyed running up the dunes and jumping down. With Jim from Canberra, he had his perfect partner in crime and both were having lots of fun. After all, Jim and Debbie were just waiting for their grandson to arrive a couple of days later and Jim was keen to get some practice already in advance.

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Even though it was tempting to stay in Sandy Bay, we had still some more plans in the pocket for that afternoon. We wanted to see the Pinnacles in Naumburg NP in the afternoon. And it was a good decision to go there so late in the day, as the light was just perfect and made the yellow sand and rocks glow.

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For the night, we stayed at Cervantes close to the beautiful and deserted beach. But as soon as the sun had set, we got chilly and were ready to head to our camp for the night.

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On our drive south the next morning, we were pleased to see the vegetation changing once more. We were passing through endless fields of grass trees, sometimes with blindingly white dunes in the middle of the landscape.

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Eventually, we turned towards Wedge Island. Not knowing what exactly to expect, we were very pleased when the road suddenly ended on a great beach. There was hardly anyone around except a couple of fishermen. And the beach was glorious. Well, in fact there was a beach to both sides of the long stretch leading to Wedge Island. What a great spot and without a single other tourist around.

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It’s the discoveries like this which make traveling so exciting – very often we do not know what exactly to expect. It might be just an ‘interesting’ spot or a real gem. And as tastes are different, guidebooks might be helpful in pointing out nice places, but they will never replace the fun of just having a go and checking things out ourselves.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 20:37 Archived in Australia Tagged shopping island sand rock dune lighthouse playground Comments (1)

The very South

The Catlins, Invercargill, Monkey Island

semi-overcast 18 °C
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After almost two weeks on the East coast of the South Island, we were ready to discover Southland. We did not take the highway, but ventured along the Southern Scenic Route through the Catlins. Our first stop was Kaka Point. We admired the fact that the lifesavers were on duty with flags posted along the beach despite the cold and rainy weather. Surprisingly, there was not a single swimmer but two surfers enjoyed their ride in the water.
By the time we reached Nugget Point, luckily the rain had stopped and we were able to take the nice hike to the lighthouse and back. The seals were not only laying lazily at the beach, but some of the also ventured out into the sea and jumped dolphin like in the waves.

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The drive was very nice – sunbathed rolling hills with the ubiquitous sheep dotting the landscape. Due to the heavy wind gusts, we were forced to drive very slowly anyhow and consequently had lots of time to enjoy the scenery.
The hike to the Purakaunui Falls was short but impressive, as it led through a dense rainforest. For the first time, since we arrived two weeks earlier, this felt like classical New Zealand as you would imagine it. The ferns and silver fern trees are just special and in our mind strongly connected with New Zealand.

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We camped in Papatowai close to the estuary. It seemed to be low tide, as it was easily possible to walk all the way to the beach. Even though the water was absolutely clear, it was heavily stained by the tannin from the rainforest.

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The next morning, we realized that the tide was even much lower then as the estuary seemed to be almost completely dry. So we headed off quickly to make sure we arrived in Curio Bay while the tide was still low. We wanted to make sure that the rock platform with the petrified remains of a Jurassic forest was still accessible.

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Once we had excessively explored Curio Bay, we headed over to Porpoise Bay for our lunch break. Even though it is just around the corner, the wide sandy beach there seemed like worlds apart. After a while we realized that there were not only some swimmers and surfers enjoying the surf in the bay, but also a pod of the small (and rare) Hectors Dolphins.

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On our way to Waipapa Lighthouse, we passed Shole Point, the southernmost point on the New Zealand mainland. That made us realize that we were just further south on our planet than we had ever been before. After all, New Zealand is further south than Africa, Australia and Tasmania. With the obvious exception of Antarctica and the islands of the Southern Ocean, one can get further South only in Chile and Argentina. And while we have been to both countries before, we had not gone that far South.

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For the night we stayed at the Lignite Pit Café. Its obvious feature is the former pit of lignite (admittedly we had to look up what that is and found out that it’s just the scientific way of saying ‘brown coal’). For the last couple of years the pit has been transformed by a garden lover into a marvelous place featuring secret places, lookouts, bridges, islands set around the water filled former pit. Both Sam and I agreed that while we loved the place, our mothers with their love of plants and gardening would have probably appreciated it even more.

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The next morning, we enjoyed the heat and the sunshine in the morning. And luckily we did so, as just a bit later when we reached Invercargill it started raining heavily. We used the opportunity to do some shopping, but then quickly headed out of town.
As we passed some stretches of coast line and a lake, we wondered how nice the landscape might look in more favorable weather. But the grey day did not help to set a nice scene. Consequently, we ended up at our free camp at Monkey Island Road without further stops. That left enough time there to keep ourselves busy in the camper (once again congratulating us on renting a camper vs. camping in a tent) by playing Lego, publishing the blog and reading.
In the evening the rain stopped for a short while, just enough to allow us to hike to Monkey Island during low tide. We were treated to the light of a beautiful sunset. Sam used the opportunity to test his photography skills. Eventually it got too dark and we returned to the campervan just in time before it started raining again.

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The next morning it was dry and we used the opportunity to hike along the beach. It was extremely windy, but wild and beautiful.

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Continuing along the coast, we realized that it is probably always so windy there. At least all bushes and trees were clearly oriented towards inland. With those last impressions, it was time to wave good bye to the Southern coast. The almost impenetrable Fjordland Nationalpark was waiting for us.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 17:07 Archived in New Zealand Tagged coast beach island garden forest seal lighthouse dolphin fern petrified pit Comments (0)

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