A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about mountain

Driving towards the Grand Tetons

Dinosaur NM, Flaming Gorge, Big Sandy, Jackson Hole, Grand Teton NP

semi-overcast 25 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

After our couple of days in Moab and surroundings our next big destination will be Yellowstone. There is no real must do tourist attraction along the way and we had not been sure for a long time if we should go via Salt Lake City or rather via Flaming Gorge. Ralf, our camping partner in Zion NP, convinced us that we’ll not regret it to pass by the Flaming Gorge and that’s what we wanted to do.
Our first travel day after a couple of days was dominated by the drive to Dinosaur National Monument, one of the biggest sites for dinosaur fossils. The fossil wall showing more than 1500 bones in their original position was very impressive. Unfortunately, the place was not really catering to the interests of kids, such that alternating Sam and I had to keep Max entertained. So we did not stay too long before heading on to our campground for the night.

IMG_9117.jpgIMG_9116.jpgIMG_9115.jpg

Once again we had a day of driving ahead of us with the Flaming Gorge being the highlight of that stretch. While most of the Flaming Gorge is now hidden by the large reservoir, there was still enough left to make a great impression on us.

IMG_9129.jpg

Eventually we went along the western shore line and eventually stopped at Big Sandy Reservoir for the night.
We did not expect too much of the location, but were amazed: we found a spot directly above the water. There was no wind at all and the lake lay in front of us like a mirror. And it was so quiet! We’ve been at many locations so far, but this struck us as one of the quietest places we’ve ever encountered. And it was also so remote that it was really dark at night such that once again we got treated to a nice view of the milky way.

IMG_9147.jpgIMG_9153.jpgIMG_9170.jpg

And finally on Friday we arrived in the early afternoon at Jackson, the gateway to the Grand Teton National Park. As we did not have a reservation for the night, we considered ourselves quite lucky to still get a slot in the Gros Ventre Campground along the southern boundary of the park.
We spent the rest of the day just taking it easy at our camp. And we were lucky to have with Terry and Lorrie great neighbors with whom we spent the evening playing Quirkle and Farkle. While Sam and I had been playing card and dice games quite a bit together, it was fun to play with others and to play different games again. So we just enjoyed and ignored our original plan of uploading Sam’s edited pictures and publishing the next blog posts. The posts will have to wait.
We spent the full next day to explore the park. Along the back roads we discovered a herd of bison. They were pretty unimpressed by us and enjoyed grazing against the backdrop of the Grand Teton mountains.

IMG_9193.jpgIMG_9190.jpgIMG_9185.jpgIMG_9195.jpg

For lunch we went down to the Snake River such that we could also observe the rafts starting and passing by in the river.
Approaching Jackson Lake and getting closer to the mountains, the clouds started drawing in. By the time we saw the first views of Jenny Lake along the trail we’d been hiking from String Lake thunder startled us and forced us to return to the car. On our way back to the campground Sam took a couple of attempts to catch lightning in a picture and was lucky in one of them.

IMG_9225.jpg

We’d been hoping to see some moose on the way back. While we did not get to see any moose, we were rewarded by seeing a rainbow.

IMG_9244.jpgIMG_9245.jpg

And as Max had been very patient over the last couple of days with the lots of driving we had done, he got the full next day to do just activities he likes. So he got to throw stones into Slide Lake and play lots of Lego. The alternating rain and thunderstorms did not allow for too many outside activities anyhow, so this was a fun and relaxing way to fill the day.
Eventually the rain subsided and we headed to Teton Village to take the free gondola up the mountain – a recommendation Lorrie and Terry had given us. By the time we got there, the sun was coming through the clouds nicely again. Already on our way up with the gondola we got to see a couple of marmots and a deer.
We enjoyed the view from the top, but did not wait too long before heading down again. With more than 3000 ft to descend at after 5pm, we rather wanted to get started. Once again we got to see marmots, lots of squirrels and chipmunks. Half way down the mountain, there was a trickle of rain and enough distant thunder to scare us. Luckily enough the sun came back again after a while and we were able to just enjoy the hike down.

IMG_9257.jpgIMG_9261.jpg

On our way back to the campsite we had hoped to spot some moose in the evening light. But despite some observing, we only got to see lots of deer and no moose. So we’ll just need to wait and see if we’ll see some of them in Yellowstone then, where we’ll head to tomorrow.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 14:51 Archived in USA Tagged mountain lake hike gondola bison bone dinosaur teton silence Comments (1)

Cultural and natural highlights around Seattle

Seattle, Muckleshoot reservation, Mt Rainier National Park

semi-overcast 22 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

The drive towards the Seattle / Takoma KOA where we had made reservations for the weekend was lengthy and we were happy to eventually arrive. We were not too impressed by the camping spot we got right next to a busy road, nor the facilities of the KOA. To quote Sam: ‘If this would have been the first KOA we got to, it would have been the last’. But the location of the KOA is good and the next morning the pool was also nice and clean, so we should not complain too much…
We had quite a plan what to do and headed off around noon for our first adventure: We wanted to see the Skopabsh Pow Wow of the Muckleshoot Tribe, which took place just half an hour away from the KOA. We got there just in time for the Grand Entry, placed our folding chairs in an excellent location in the shade directly next to the dancing area. It was very impressive – specifically for Max – to see the various groups of dancers enter the arena until eventually maybe 200 (?) dancers of all ages danced to the music.

IMG_9875.jpg IMG_9876.jpg IMG_9928.jpg IMG_9960.jpg IMG_9984.jpg IMG_9986.jpg

There was no entry fee or anything and we felt welcomed to be there. This being said, we were probably the only foreign tourists there and in general the number of non-Native American people was quite limited.

IMG_9987.jpg IMG_9976.jpg IMG_9968.jpg IMG_9935.jpg

The dancers were clearly proud of their cultural heritage and it seemed that for them like the most natural thing to preserve it. Seeing the pride of everyone who was in the arena was fascinating. And it made no difference if it was the little five-year-olds, the youngsters or the elderly ladies and chiefs.

IMG_9892.jpg IMG_9947.jpg
IMG_9921.jpg IMG_9918.jpg
IMG_9884.jpg IMG_9889.jpg

We enjoyed the event very much – the dancing, the drumming & singing, the dance contests, the food, everything was a lot of fun. It had been really worthwhile to attend the Pow Wow and we were very happy that we went.

IMG_9905.jpg IMG_9927.jpg IMG_9944.jpg IMG_9898.jpg IMG_9965.jpg

Still, eventually we left and headed into Seattle. We had wanted to go to a baseball game at some stage anyhow. And given that we still owed Max a celebration for not needing diapers at night anymore and that the Seattle Mariners were currently in town playing the Milwaukee Brewers, this was a great opportunity. So we headed to Safeco Field, got tickets far up on the View Level and soaked up the atmosphere.

20160820_165332-01.jpeg

Max was given lots of baseball cards as he walked along with us. We then made sure he got his ‘first ballgame certificate’ before stopping at the playground close to the bleachers. After watching the first two innings of the game, it was time for hot dogs. A bit later, Max got to show his skills at throwing, running and batting at the kids’ corner. He also joined the Mariners’ Kids Club to get a backpack, ball and Badge with his name and picture on. And in addition to all that, it was StarWars night and consequently we even got to meet a couple of StarWars characters.

20160820_183243-01.jpeg

We were simply amazed how many free activities there were to keep the kids (and their parents) entertained and happy. And we enjoyed the view and the fun of it all...

20160820_194828-01.jpeg large_20160820_195552-01.jpeg

Luckily enough we stayed until the end of the 8th inning to see a couple of runs and even some home runs. But by then it was pretty sure that the Mariners would win and with Max being beyond just tired it was time to head back to the KOA and to have a good night’s sleep.
The next morning was overcast and fairly cool – always a very strange thing to happen, as we’ve been spoiled by so much sunshine lately. But we stuck to our plan to go to Mt Rainier National Park and headed south east.
We still had an errand to run along the way: a stop at the Crocs store in the large outlet mall of Auburn. Sam had managed to rip apart his Crocs in Yellowstone and was in dire need to get new ones. Once he was the happy new owner of a pair of camouflage Crocs (yellow and orange were out of stock in his size) and lunch at a Philippine place at the local food court, we headed off.
Mount Rainier had been looming all along in the distance, raising up impressively over the rather flat area around it. As we got closer, we realized that it was actually not quite as flat as it had seemed and that from close up the mountain lost a bit of it majesty.
Once we got to the park, we stopped at the White River campground and got an excellent spot right next to the river between old trees featuring lichen that looked like long beards. There were warning signs advising us to retreat to higher ground in the event of and earthquake or loud noises coming from the volcano. After all, Mt Rainier is an active volcano and it's power should not be taken too lightly.

IMG_9995.jpg IMG_0007.jpg

Sam got the fire started and before too long we had a nice stew on the fire featuring beans, potatoes, broccoli, kale, onion, squash, tomato and corn - a nice combination of flavors that tasted really well. Together with our neighbors Kyle and Elon we roasted some marshmallows, got treated to some pop tarts and enjoyed watching the boys play with each other.
After a quiet and starry night, we got to enjoy the celebrations of a group of hikers who just completed the 94-mile wonderland trail around the mountain, hiked about 0.1 mile of the hike ourselves.

IMG_0021.jpgIMG_0022.jpg
IMG_0029.jpg

As we did not feel like doing much hiking – despite having lots of great opportunities to do so - we took our car up to Sunrise to enjoy a much closer view of the mountain / volcano, it's glaciers and the sub alpine meadows.

IMG_0032.jpg

At that stage, we still were able to see the mountain. A bit later it was all covered in clouds until, eventually one had to know that there is a mountain hidden somewhere. So by the time we got to the reflection lakes which usually provide perfect picture opportunities of the mountain, we did not even bother to take pictures. But at least we found some nice waterfalls and a cute chipmunk.

IMG_0044.jpg IMG_0041.jpg

We camped outside the national park at the Big Creek campground, located in a nice forest right next to a small stream. And we even had a little neighbor visiting us on our picnic table.

IMG_0052.jpg

One last night with just the three of us – as for the next week Janis will be traveling with us.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 07:07 Archived in USA Tagged baseball volcano mountain indian river glacier dance drums seattle active powwow Comments (0)

Perfect island paradise

Maupiti

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

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.

large_IMG_1554.jpg
IMG_1557.jpg

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.

IMG_1813.jpg

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.

IMG_1599.jpg IMG_1595.jpg IMG_1621.jpg

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.

IMG_1644.jpg IMG_1647.jpg IMG_1654.jpg

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.

GoPro__13_.jpg GoPro__5_.jpg GoPro__2_.jpg GoPro__6_.jpg GoPro__8_.jpg GoPro__16_.jpg

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.

IMG_1651.jpg IMG_1690.jpg IMG_1698.jpg IMG_1658.jpg

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.

IMG_1663.jpg IMG_1681.jpg

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!

IMG_1673.jpg IMG_1674.jpg IMG_1675.jpg IMG_1676.jpg

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

G0035990.jpg GoPro__1_.jpg GoPro__4_.jpg GoPro__11_.jpg GoPro__12_.jpg

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

IMG_1729.jpg IMG_1721.jpg IMG_1720.jpg IMG_1718.jpg IMG_1717.jpg IMG_1716.jpg

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.

IMG_1723.jpg IMG_1726.jpg IMG_1727.jpg

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.

IMG_1732.jpg IMG_1736.jpg IMG_1741.jpg IMG_1744.jpg

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.

IMG_1746.jpg IMG_1715.jpg IMG_1754.jpg IMG_1657.jpg

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.

IMG_1764.jpg

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.

IMG_1762.jpg

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.

IMG_1777.jpg IMG_1778.jpg IMG_1786.jpg IMG_1789.jpg IMG_1795.jpg IMG_1796.jpg IMG_1798.jpg IMG_1800.jpg

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.

IMG_1804.jpg

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.

IMG_1814.jpg IMG_1820.jpg

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
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

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.

IMG_1911.jpg IMG_1993.jpg IMG_1941.jpg IMG_1944.jpg IMG_1946.jpg

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.

IMG_1934.jpg IMG_1912.jpg IMG_1917.jpg IMG_1929.jpg

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!

IMG_1936.jpg

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!

IMG_1987.jpg

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.

IMG_1948.jpg IMG_1949.jpg IMG_1951.jpg IMG_1957.jpg IMG_1960.jpg

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.

IMG_2001.jpg IMG_1901.jpg IMG_2006.jpg IMG_2008.jpg

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.

IMG_2033.jpg IMG_2034.jpg

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.

IMG_2043.jpg IMG_2026.jpg IMG_2025.jpg

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.

IMG_2016.jpg IMG_2044.jpg IMG_2045.jpg IMG_2050.jpg IMG_2048.jpg

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.

IMG_2054.jpg IMG_2059.jpg IMG_2061.jpg

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.

large_20161017_113911__2_.jpg IMG_2056.jpg

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)

Kia Orana / Hello Cook Islands

Tupapa, Rarotonga

sunny 26 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

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

IMG_2143.jpg

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

IMG_2148.jpg

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

IMG_2150.jpgIMG_2154.jpg

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

IMG_2229.jpg

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

IMG_2271.jpg IMG_2162.jpg IMG_2185.jpg

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

IMG_2170.jpg IMG_2171.jpg IMG_2172.jpg IMG_2175.jpg IMG_2176.jpg IMG_2181.jpg IMG_2167.jpg

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

IMG_2274.jpg

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

IMG_2188.jpg IMG_2192.jpg IMG_2193.jpg IMG_2195.jpg IMG_2199.jpg IMG_2200.jpg

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

IMG_2207.jpg IMG_2217.jpg IMG_2219.jpg IMG_2222.jpg IMG_2226.jpg IMG_2227.jpg
IMG_2221.jpgIMG_2220.jpg

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

IMG_2267.jpg

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

IMG_2187.jpg IMG_2240.jpg IMG_2241.jpg IMG_2251.jpg

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

IMG_2260.jpg 20161031_110515__2_.jpg IMG_2262.jpg 20161031_105725__2_.jpg IMG_2264.jpg IMG_2257.jpg 20161031_110150__2_.jpg

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

IMG_2239.jpg IMG_2255.jpg IMG_2279.jpg IMG_2253.jpg IMG_2254.jpg IMG_2282.jpg

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

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

Aoraki – the cloud piercer

Lake Tepako, Lake Pukaiki, Aoraki / Mt. Cook, Waitaki Waters

semi-overcast 21 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

The weather gods were in a good mood and provided us with the perfect weather for a drive into the mountains. There was hardly a cloud on the sky and thanks to the heavy rains and cool temperatures of the last days, the mountain tops were covered in snow.
I can easily admit that good weather is important for me and that I enjoy traveling in sunshine much more that in bleak conditions. Quite frankly, on a cloudy day we might not have even realized how beautiful our surroundings are. The road was windy and before too long we reached the higher reaches of the rather dry Canterbury Plains. And surprisingly, we even got to pass a house on the way.

large_IMG_5187_stitch.jpg IMG_5178.jpg

Lake Tekapo’s waters were stunningly blue. While the famous Church of the Good Shepard was overrun by package tour tourists, just a bit further away there was no one. A bit further on Lake Pukaki glistened in rather turquoise colors with Aoraki / Mt Cook in the backdrop. It was super windy, but thanks to the sun still pleasant.

large_IMG_5201.jpg IMG_5208.jpg IMG_5216.jpg large_IMG_5221_stitch.jpg IMG_5234.jpg IMG_5218.jpg

On our way towards Aoraki / Mt Cook along Lake Pukaki we stopped a couple of times. With every stop, the scenery changed and seemed to surpass the previous views once more. Eventually we stopped for lunch in one of the smaller viewpoints along the road, as we wanted to take in the view without having to share it with dozens of other people. It was just perfect.

large_IMG_5237_stitch.jpg IMG_5245.jpg IMG_5253.jpg IMG_5259.jpg

When we were ready to tackle the road again, we headed right to White Horse Campground and secured a spot for the night. We parked just a few steps from the trailhead for the Hooker Valley Track. What a great day hike: we passed along the Hooker River steadily climbing the valley, crossing three swingbridges in the process and eventually were rewarded with perfect views of Aoraki / Mt. Cook.

IMG_5321.jpg IMG_5268.jpg IMG_5313.jpg IMG_5287.jpg IMG_5283.jpg IMG_5281.jpg IMG_5286.jpg 45AA0792A97613839CDC514C61CEC2C2.jpg

The only sad note about the track was the realization that – just like in Canada – also here the glaciers are receding rapidly. We had a great view of the Hooker Glacier, but knowing that just a few years ago there was no lake but a much larger glacier did put a damper on the otherwise glorious outing.

IMG_5295.jpg IMG_5296.jpg IMG_5298.jpg

Already in the evening, we noticed how the mountain tops were starting to get covered in clouds, a process that continued the next morning. We headed to the National Park visitor center to learn a bit more about the history, geology and wildlife.
On our drive out of the valley, we did turn back a couple of times and were thankful about the fabulous weather we had the day before. With the clouds the view was not nearly as nice as it had been.
We stopped for lunch in Twizel. A bit further, there was a salmon farm and we got to feed the salmon, which provided us with nice views of the enormous fish.

IMG_5335.jpg

The drive from the mountains all the way to the sea was very pleasant. We passed along rivers, some hydro power stations, through quaint towns and lots of agricultural land with countless sheep. At the very end of the Waitaki valley, not far from the beach we stayed in a pleasant campground.
There we also met the first Romanians since we’re on the road. And while they were super nice, I was utterly disappointed that I have forgotten so much of my Romanian in the last five years. While still some time ago, I was talking Romanian any time I tried to address someone in French or Spanish, it seems that I am overdue for some practice.
The next morning, we enjoyed sunshine and pleasant temperatures. Max played with his new friend Sam from Berlin, while our Sam headed to the beach and was amazed about the dunes of stones.

IMG_5348.jpg IMG_5357.jpg

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged salmon park church mountain lake national hike swingbridge Comments (0)

Adventurous roads in the mountains

Namobuddha, Dhulikhel, Bhaktapur, Pokhara

sunny 25 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

Our drive to the Buddhist monastery of Namobuddha turned out to be much more adventurous than what we had imagined. We had not realized that the traffic and condition of Nepali roads can easily turn an outing to a place 25km away into four hours of driving.
While we had obviously known about the mountainous nature of Nepali topology, it turned out that the highway we used is the only major connection of Kathmandu towards the Eastern part of the country and towards Tibet.
A fascinating thought: continuing on the highway for not even 100 km and finding ourselves in Tibet… Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking only. For one thing, we don’t have visa for China or the Autonomous region of Tibet. And even if we had visa, we’d not be able to go there: since the earthquake of 2015, the road has been severely damaged and has still not reopened.
The road did not make the slightest impression of a highway – by German standards, it would have been rather a county road in terms of width and curves. We’ll skip the safety standards – which were mostly damaged or simply not existing. And the state of the pavement left much room for improvement. While there were some stretches without potholes, those with potholes clearly were in the majority. But even worse were those parts of the road which completely lacked pavement and had been worn out so badly that it took our driver Dhil lots of creativity to find a path that did not make our long Hiace bus scratch the ground.
Along the road we got to see some rice paddies and a gigantic statue of Shiva which even holds the title of being the largest of its kind in the world. It reminded us of a similar statue we had seen some years back in Mauritius (but which is only holding the third place in terms of size).

C71DD2D2FAC2A268A6BB022987427155.jpg IMG_9448.jpg

Eventually we arrived at the monastery of Namobuddha, located on the top of a hill with a view of the surrounding valleys. On a less hazy day, the view would probably be spectacular. But being here in April, we did not see too far into the distance and unfortunately none of the higher peaks of the Himalaya. The monastery is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The last 5km of the road were unpaved and probably better suited to be driven in an offroad vehicle vs. our Hiace.
We explored the grounds of the monastery with its prayer wheels, balconies, Buddha statues and pagodas. It was a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.

C7121CFDF4D074911CAA2C4374A5D907.jpg IMG_9400.jpg IMG_9398.jpg IMG_9425.jpg IMG_9406.jpg C717E9B0F17337A09CD9668DCAF9589F.jpg

But there was one thing that fascinated us: on a nearby hill we saw hundreds of prayer flags attached to a pole. I’m not sure why prayer flags are so attractive, but they definitively are.

large_20170405_105609.jpg IMG_9423.jpg IMG_9424.jpg

From the monastery, we got to hike a bit and it felt great to be moving again. It had been a while since we had gotten some exercise and we realized that we had missed it. And hiking pace had the obvious advantage of being able to observe more details of village life than by just driving by.

IMG_9432.jpg IMG_9429.jpg IMG_9426.jpg IMG_9390.jpg

Lunch was in a nice hotel in Dhulikhel which featured more flowers than what we had seen for a long time. The view of the Himalaya range from there is supposed to be spectacular – specifically at sunset. Hmmmmm - not for us. Hazy as it was, we got to see the hills surrounding us, but that was about it. A picture on the wall, explained which mountains we would have been able to see on a good day, but that was more depressing than anything else. We started wondering if we’d see any big mountains at all in our vacation or if we’d need to come back again to Nepal some other time.

IMG_9435.jpg IMG_9442.jpg IMG_9438.jpg C71B9DB4B5783F67F4F0254B62BE6CE2.jpg

Maybe that glum outlook explained my rather bad mood at dinner. For once I did not have any energy to see the positive side of getting our desert of banana pancakes served simultaneously with the soups. While Sam just put it down as me having a bad day, I started wondering if it’s not eventually time to return back home. After all, it’s not the first time that blunders like that happen. It’s just that after so many times, I am eventually at the end of my patience with putting up with things like that.
The next day, we had more Nepali roads and traffic on our agenda: the drive from Bhaktapur to Pokhara led us through Kathmandu, over mountain passes and along some deep cut rivers.
Even though we were already accustomed to Nepali traffic, it still felt awful by far too often. When there was again one of those crazy trucks, busses, cars of motorcycles coming straight at us on our side of the road (mostly blowing the horn and / or flashing the headlights), I sometimes simply closed my eyes with the resolve of not opening them anymore until we’d get to Pokhara. As the landscape was very nice and there was much to be seen along the road, I did not follow through on that resolve though.

large_20170406_093303.jpg DD9DA082A16E64B9E02C6CC4E930B151.jpg IMG_9466.jpg 20170407_084816.jpg

It took us over two hours for the first 50km of our 220km journey – not a pleasant outlook. But given the conditions, there was no way to do that part faster.
Traffic was heavy with one truck after the next. The trucks were a sight in itself. The Indian brands of Tata, Mahindra or Eicher were not very familiar to us, but they dominated the scene. Most of them were brightly colored and featured some message on their back. They said things like 'road king', ‘see you’, ‘love star’, ‘blow horn’, ‘slow drive, long life’ or ‘speed control’. Some others were rather frightening such as ‘my life - my rules’. We were happy to have a very reasonable and defensive driver who tried to keep a good distance of all crazy drivers around us.

IMG_9384.jpg IMG_9458.jpg

Still, at times I recalled the words of my sister to go rating on the stretch between Kathmandu and Pokhara. And considering the atrocious traffic, it seemed like a heavenly alternative to move along on the rivers underneath us.

20170406_123532.jpg

Lunch break was a very welcome relaxation from our drive. But the bad news was that we still had some more distance to cover. At least traffic seemed to ease a bit and we were able to enjoy the sights of terraced rice fields along the road. Every once in a while we saw a wedding pavilion. Seemingly it was an auspicious day to have a wedding. And eventually we had made it: we reached Pokhara and about an hour later we had made it through town to the lake side where our hotel was located.

IMG_9486.jpg IMG_9470.jpg IMG_9484.jpg IMG_9497.jpg

For dinner we went to a nice restaurant with a view of the lake before retreating to our hotel room. We had to get ready for our trekking trip which would start the next day. We were really excited and looking forward to that – after all, that’s why we had come to Nepal for.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 12:37 Archived in Nepal Tagged traffic mountain rice road pass trucks crazy Comments (0)

Closing the circle - reunited with friends and family

a bit delayed - the blogging frequency reflects that we've been quite busy since our return :-) Allerheiligen im Mürztal, Kirchanschöring

sunny 24 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

In the arrivals hall of Vienna Airport, we were welcomed by Sam’s parents. They were holding a large banner for us and had even brought wreaths for us to wear. We were delighted about the special welcome, but what counted more was seeing each other again after such a long time.
Once we had loaded all of our stuff into the car and were on the way home, we were chatting away like always, just as if we had never left. That’s just how it feels being back home and with people we dearly love and know inside out. And that’s how from a minute to the other, mentally our world travel was over even though we have not reached our own house.

IMG_3217.jpg

We had intentionally planned to stay in Austria for 10 days. After all, there were many people we wanted to meet and see again after such a long time. And there were many things we planned to do.
Already on our first day we were greeted with one of our favorite foods that we did not have for a very long time: Bavarian ‘Weißwürste’ with sweet Händlmaier mustard. But also the next couple of days held lots of delicious foods in store for us. Despite several tours to stop at ‘Tödtling’s Icecream Parlor’ we are still not able to tell which of his many flavors we like best. We had Polenta, Buchteln, several variations of casseroles and used the nice weather for barbecues.

IMG_3257.jpg IMG_3254.jpg

And even though we thought this covered already most of our cravings, those ‘normal’ days were topped by the birthday parties. We celebrated Sam’s birthday with a huge pan of paella and enjoyed Sam’s favorite cakes. And upon Max’ request we celebrated a delayed birthday party for him as well.
We also got to see many members of Sam’s extended family who were invited at our welcome party and for Sam’s birthday. Max spent lots of time with his uncles and seeing how they played together, it felt like they had just seen each other the week before. We visited friends and got to catch up on what happened during the last year.

IMG_3268.jpg IMG_3272.jpg

And to our great delight we also managed to meet one of our new friends. As agreed with Davina already seven weeks earlier in Nepal, we tackled the 2277m Hochschwab, Sam’s ‘home mountain’ and a favorite hiking destination in the region. It took us over four hours to make it to the top via the ‘G’hacktes’ – a small section of via ferrata through the steepest part of the hike.

IMG_3278.jpg IMG_3282.jpg 424D0AE5D2F618C1BAA5B5C2B1E3166C.jpg 424DD8C7F91C5CE84A0DE0ABB44D9A45.jpg IMG_3295.jpg IMG_3305.jpg IMG_3290.jpg large_IMG_3297_stitch.jpg large_IMG_3307.jpg

After a lunch break at the top, we got to see several chamois, marmots and a group of twelve sizable alpine ibex on our hike down. At Häuselalm we deserved a break and enjoyed Kaspressknödel- and Strudel-soup before heading down the remaining altitude difference to the Bodenbauer, where our car was parked.

4252D3C3B11BA83CC8C9FCE41C12BBBE.jpg 42537D46C32BC479862BEF399F3B385F.jpg IMG_3312.jpg IMG_3318.jpg IMG_3321.jpg IMG_3322.jpgIMG_3325.jpg IMG_3327.jpg

While Davina, Irmi, Sam and I were hiking, Max was out with his great-grandmother. They had a great outing taking the train and bus into Bruck an der Mur. Not surprisingly, his highlight was the visit in a toy shop where he was allowed to pick a toy to take home.
From Otmar and Davina we also got back our belongings that we had asked them to take home for us from New Zealand and Nepal respectively. It was surprising to see what we had given them and indeed there’s hardly anything we had missed in the meantime. And we also found some dear items we had left in Austria before heading off: Sam was happy to see his trial bike and the trailer. Unfortunately, my car is not around anymore. Some guy had totalled it while trying to park (or was it drift?!?) his own car. While it’s good to know that his insurance company paid for the time value, we would have certainly preferred to get the car back instead of the money.
We also got to do some things we had not done for a while: Sam and Max had fun chopping wood, all of us went biking, Sam went trial biking, we walked down to the Mürz to skip and throw stones in the water, read the local newspaper, spent time relaxing in the hanging chair, etc.
We also headed to the mountains once more – this time together with Max and Otmar. After making it to the Fölz at 1472m, we treated ourselves to Fritattensuppe and Schweinsbraten at the Herzer Hütte. And on the way down, Max and Sam had to build a small dam in the river – after all, that’s what they did in almost all countries we visited.

42594687EF213CEA35F3F82488BB3FFC.jpg IMG_3334.jpg IMG_3336.jpg

We truly enjoyed our time in Austria. It was already a very different rhythm vs. the time we spent on the road. In other words: We mastered already phase one of the process of re-entry into our ‘normal’ life. Still, we consider ourselves lucky to have eight more weeks until we’ll start working again. That should hopefully be sufficient to be fully immersed in our home culture and lifestyle again.
After ten days in Austria, we headed off towards Bavaria to my family. Irmi took us all the way to Stein an der Enns, where we spent some time with friends. It was a hot day and the kids had fun playing in the pool and on the water slide.

IMG_3347.jpg IMG_3348.jpg

That's also where my parents picked us up and took us to Kirchanschöring. And that’s where we closed our circle. It had been 412 days ago (on April 27, 2016) when we had left Kirchanschöring for Munich and now we were back.
Not much had changed in the mean-time. Well, at 25 °C it was considerably warmer than the snowy days back in April. But Max and his cousins started playing with each other as if they had just seen each other the week before. It surely helped that we had talked in regular intervals via Skype or WhatsApp and that we exchanged lots of pictures. Contrary to the adults which seemed to be exactly like a year ago with their usual peculiarities and characteristics, at least the kids had clearly grown. The smaller the kid, the more pronounced the development they made in the past year. What a relief: at least there’s something that has changed.
We did not spend every day in Kirchanschöring though. It was such nice weather that we spent most of our time at lakes (Höglwörther See, Seehauser See, Waginger See), in the mountains (Harbach Alm, Teisenberg) or in the garden.

IMG_3372.jpg

Most of our time we spent with my immediate family, but we also made sure to say hello to my grandma and uncles and aunts. And I even got to catch up with one of my best friends from high school days.
There were lots of small and big things that make home ‘home’. There’s the food, the house, the view, the local customs, the card games and the peculiarities of everyone including ourselves. What a luxury being able to come back home after having seen so many other parts of the world.

IMG_3423.jpg

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 10:30 Archived in Austria Tagged food home mountain lake friends family party bike Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 8 of 8) Page [1]