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Entries about kayak

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)

Life in the cabin at the lake

written by Birgit, pictures mostly by Sam

semi-overcast 15 °C
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It was a great feeling to know that we had made it all the way to Carol and Pete’s place on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Even though all of us had enjoyed the last months of living in the camper van, none of us was sad to move into a room and sleep in a proper bed. Rather the opposite: We were all really looking forward to some time without any driving and just being in one and the same place.

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And what should I say: it is a really nice place. Once we arrived, Pete and Carol showed us around their cabin and the surroundings. Admittedly, the cabin could probably be also called a house and it is situated very nicely in the woods right above Hagerman Lake. Before even looking around the house, our first destination was the pier with the motorboat, the kayaks, the stand-up paddleboard and the water bike.

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We really enjoyed our days at Carol and Pete’s. There was so much to see and to do that there was no way for getting bored.
Whenever the weather was nice enough to do so, we headed out on the lake. After a short round alone in the kayak, Max decided to rather opt for the motorboat. Even though he clearly wanted to go out alone with the motorboat, he was not allowed to do so. But he really enjoyed going out with Pete and was thrilled to being allowed to even steer the boat himself. Sam preferred the water bike, and I mostly used the kayak.

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Whenever we were not out on the water, we took long hikes through the woods and into the nearby Ottawa National Forest. With Max using his bike, we were able to cover quite some distances. Along the way we found lots of mushrooms - not edible, but very pretty!

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The first couple of days, we enjoyed very nice and sunny fall weather. And with the leaves turning colors, this was a marvelous sight. Not to forget about the fabulous sunsets!

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But there was much more as well to keep us busy: Sam decided to get an appointment with a local dentist. The good news was that he confirmed after an x-ray scan that there only seems to be an irritated nerve and no real major issue.
And we had long expected visitors coming in: Janis arrived on Friday evening with her son Charles and my parents. It was so good to have them around. After all, it had been five months since we last met. Max had been already excited for the last couple of days that his Opa and Oma would be coming. And Sam and I were glad to see how much fun Max had when Pete or his grandparents spent time with him.
But even when the weather turned to be a bit more unpleasant with rainy cool days, there were lots of options to keep us entertained. While Max and Sam built LEGO castles, trucks and star ships, I got started with some puzzles eventually culminating in a 1000-piece puzzle of Yosemite. And once almost everyone had helped to finally get the puzzle completed, we started playing Farkle and Herzeln.

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Had I mentioned already the hot tub and the sauna or the open chimney? The cooler weather was the perfect excuse for our almost daily dip in the hot tub.

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And let me also mention the food: There was also no possible way of ever staying hungry. After breakfast, we did not have to wait too long for lunch. In the afternoons, there was classical German ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ (even though we stuck to tea vs. coffee) and in the evening there was once dinner. And no matter what Carol prepared or Pete put onto the BBQ, it was excellent: steaks, shish kebabs, taco salad, sloppy joes, local pasties, bratwurst… And as soon as we thought, we’re just absolutely stuffed, there was some kind of dessert coming our way, such that we ate as if we had been starved for weeks: lots of varieties of cookies, plum cake, brownies, icecream, chocolate fondue – you name it.
The food we had in town one day was ok, but there was no way whatsoever to live up to the cooking of Carol. Still, it was the perfect opportunity to combine the trip into Iron River with a trip to the car wash to vacuum our van. And we spent quite a lot of time in the garage trying to get the insides of the van as clean as possible. To make sure that the van is also well maintained, we had one last oil change done and eventually were happy that we were done.
As if all of that would not have been enough, one evening we got a heads up that there was a chance of seeing Northern Lights as south as Michigan. So we checked it out and in fact saw a slight glow towards the north. Nothing absolutely spectacular, but still quite cool. And as it was a nice and clear night, we even got to see the Milky Way as well.

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We could have spent lots more time at the cabin and it felt great to take a break from traveling. We had not done so few miles for ages – probably not even during the last couple of months back in Germany. Still, after ten days it was time to go back to Chicago respectively Glenview.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:38 Archived in USA Tagged food lake sauna kayak hike forest cabin puzzle tub lego waterbike 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)

Staying on a motu (a lagoon islet)

Motu Mahare (Huahine), Papeete (Tahiti)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saying good bye to Middle Earth

Paihia, Waipoua Kauri Forest, Orewa, Auckland

semi-overcast 24 °C
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We arrived just in time at the Bay of Islands to get a glimpse of its beauty at sunset. We were so keen to finally arrive at our campground that we did not even stop to take a picture. It had been a long day after all.
The campground was really nice, probably one of the best we had been to in New Zealand. Max was happy about the playground, we liked the setting just next to the bay and also appreciated having a reliable wifi connection for a change.
We quickly agreed to stay not just one, but two nights in that nice spot. The next morning, we headed out into the bay in a kayak. Our first destination was just the other side of the bay, where we discovered a small cave and even paddled under a small natural bridge. After that, we headed towards one of the many small islands dotting the bay. That was a perfect place for a break and we enjoyed the quiet place and marveled at the many holiday homes along the hills opposite of our small islands.

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The paddling back towards the campground was fun and hot. Even though the waters of the bay looked much more inviting in their turquoise colors, we were glad that the burning sun only came out then and not earlier.
The rest of the day passed very quickly between playing, exploring the bay at low tide, editing and uploading pictures and the blog. And we felt the ‘usual’ effect coming into play: already the last couple of times our activity level decreased significantly in the last couple of days before leaving a country / continent.
There was one more thing we definitively wanted to see before leaving Northland: the big kauri forests. Therefore, we did not take the direct route back south, but headed towards the west coast.
On our way, we stopped at a viewpoint. Not expecting too much, we were very pleasantly surprised about the stunning views of the Tasman Sea, the Hokianga Harbor and the massive sand dunes on the opposite side.

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From there it was just a very short (but windy) drive to Waipoua Forest, the home of Tane Mahuta, the largest living kauri tree in the world. It is estimated to be somewhere between 1250 and 2000 years old. Even though kauris don’t get very tall compared to other species of trees (Tane Mahuta is ‘only 51m high’), they grow very big in diameter.

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A bit further, we saw some more examples of big kauris, the ‘Four Sisters’ and the ‘Te Matua Ngahere’ which is not as high as Tane Mahuta, but with more than 5 meters diameter even thicker. We love big trees, so the detour to see these massive examples was definitively worth the effort.

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We had toyed with the thought to spend our last two nights at a beach on the west coast. In light of the bleak weather forecast which projected two very rainy days, we rather went for a place along the road into Auckland. Even though it was located along our way, that left quite a long drive to get to the northern outskirts of Auckland.
By the time we arrived, it was fairly late and consequently we slept until late the next morning. Luckily, the rain only started in the afternoon, such that Max and Sam were able to enjoy a nice morning at the beach. They were even able to find a buyer for Max’ bike. It’s always great to know there will be a happy next user.
I used the quiet time while they were gone to pack all of our stuff. Considering that we’d now be changing our style of traveling from road tripping in a van to backpacking Asia, there’s a lot of stuff we were able to discard. Given the closeness to Auckland, the campground featured a big ‘for free’ box for people to leave things they don’t need any more and for newcomers to take. And in fact, already by the time we left the next morning, some things like our picnic blanket seemingly had found new owners.
With everything packed up, we were ready to hit the road again. As our plane would be leaving only very late, we had a full day to spend. After running some errands (such as donating some of our not needed stuff at a local hospice shop), we spent some time in downtown Auckland. Given the wet weather, we did not explore too much, but rather spent our time in a nice an cosy café.

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While Max got to work off some energy at a playground, we got the van in shape and eventually returned it at the rental agency. We were quite happy that the van had survived the over 6000 km we drove without any incidents, accidents or breakdowns. But still, we could not resist to give the company a full list of defects on the vehicle. Even though the 50 NZD discount we received, seems like a very small token, it shows at least that our complaints were heard.
Their shuttle bus took us swiftly to the airport and before too long we were standing in line at the AirAsia counter to get our boarding passes. With those in our hands, we had a couple of hours to kill before our plane left. As we know Auckland Airport quite well thanks to Jetstar messing up our flights from Rarotonga to Sydney exactly 4 months earlier, we knew our way round very well. We spent our time in the café with the nice view and contemplated on how quickly time is passing.

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And then it was time to say good bye to New Zealand and to brace ourselves for the fun awaiting us in South East Asia. As much as we liked our travels so far, we had done enough road tripping. We were very much looking forward to a more adventurous style of traveling and exciting cultures and foods awaiting us.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 17:33 Archived in New Zealand Tagged sea rain beach tree bay kayak kauri Comments (1)

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