A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about wind

‘Blowember’ – a good time to meet other traveling families

Coral Bay

sunny 34 °C
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After a couple of days in and around Exmouth, it was time to explore the southern part of the world heritage region of Ningaloo Reef. We drove to Coral Bay, a tiny town nestled next to a fabulous beach with a coral reef that is very close to the shore.

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At the caravan park, we set up camp and were a bit reluctant to go down to the beach due to the wind. In retrospect, that was a very smart move as we got to meet our camp neighbors Anthony, Max, Cassius (6) and Orson (3). They are on their way from Darwin to circle Australia anti-clockwise for the next year. Eventually, we ended up going to the beach together with them. Before too long, the kids headed off to play with other kids a bit further down the beach, such that their parents were able to sit together and have nice chats. All of us really enjoyed that moment (which was actually more than an hour) of quiet solitude without having to worry and actively entertain the kids.

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It was fabulous. Except that Max (Cassius’ and Orson’s mom) told us of her close encounter with a King Brown Snake at Ospey Bay, just a couple of days earlier than when we had been there. Lucky us that we only heard about that now, otherwise I would have probably had second thoughts about the otherwise just perfect camp spot right along the beach.
Given that the kids were so happy playing together and the adults were really enjoying being able to have a proper uninterrupted conversation, we headed down to the local pub ‘Fin’s’ after dinner. The kids had an ice cream, the adults some drinks – life is beautiful!

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So just in case you ever wonder why our blog constantly lags about three weeks behind where we are – this is it: we’re simply meeting way too many nice and friendly people along the way. In comparison with the ‘duty’ of keeping a blog up to date, we simply prefer enjoying life. And if that means that a blog entry gets published a day or two or three later than what we targeted, that’s just what it is… I’m not sure if I could do professional blogging when the blogging takes over the actual experiencing of a place, situation and fun evening.
The next morning, our new friends unfortunately had to leave already. As a good-bye breakfast, Sam treated them to his Kaiserschmarrn / ‘scrambled pancakes’, which was well appreciated, not only by them, but also by Max and me.
Once we had said our good-byes, we packed our stuff and headed off to the shark nursery. After a pleasant walk along the beach we arrived at a sand spit creating a sheltered shallow lagoon. And there they were, probably about 30 to 40 small reef sharks. Contrary to some other tourists, we chose not to get into the water and rather observed from the dunes next to the lagoon.

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Once we had observed for quite a while, we hiked back and even stumbled upon an enormous dead turtle.

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Unfortunately, the walk back seemed much longer and definitively much more unpleasant, as this time we had the wind in our face. And it was not just a light breeze, but really strong wind. According to the weather forecast, it must have been about 40 km/h. It was definitively strong enough to be just a bit unpleasant, which resulted just in the perfect excuse for the boys to head up to the roof top tent to play Lego.
The approaching sunset was eventually convincing Sam that it was time to leave the tent and to head off to take some pictures. Originally, Max and I were supposed to go as well, but as the wind continued to blow as hard as in the afternoon, Max simply refused to go. Which was fine for me.

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At least the good news is that all Australian caravan parks have camp kitchens that are not only well equipped for cooking, but usually also have a nice seating arrangement. This was also true for our camp ground. So, Max and I headed to the camp kitchen to have our dinner and to enjoy being sheltered from the wind.
The camp kitchen turned out to be also an excellent meeting place with other campers. There we met Jörn and Ines with their kids Fiona (5) and Fabio (2). They are from Munich using a couple of months of ‘Elternzeit’ / parenting time to travel through Australia.
And we also met Lucia and Guido with their daughter Emia (7) from Switzerland. They were the first family we met, doing a round the world trip like us. Actually, they are traveling the other way around and have been already to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mongolia, Borneo, Thailand and Nepal before getting to Australia. They will continue onwards to New Zealand, stay once more in Australia and are still a bit undecided if they should continue via Fiji, Hawaii or somewhere else. Letting the plan develop reminded us of our own style of traveling. With so many commonalities, we found lots of things to talk about. It was simply great.
The next morning, it was an easy decision to prolong our stay for one more night. We headed to the beach and were lucky that in the morning the wind was not as strong yet as in the days before. We went snorkeling and were amazed by the beautiful corals in the bay – nicer than most other places we had seen so far.
In the afternoon, we joined the fish feeding session which is organized three times a week. Even though it was mainly trevallys coming to the feeding, there were some nicely colored parrot fish as well.

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That afternoon, I also learned that the strong winds around this time of the year resulted in the nickname ‘Blowember’. And yes, this name fits perfectly. But even though the wind might be unpleasant, in the end it helps to keep the temperatures at bay. Otherwise we might have potentially complained about the heat.
After another nice evening with the other travelers in the camp kitchen and a final get together over breakfast the next morning, it was unfortunately time to say good bye. After more than a week at the Ningaloo Reef, it was time for us to head south.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 14:50 Archived in Australia Tagged world family bay shark reef snorkel coral wind travelers Comments (0)

White nights of St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg

rain 12 °C
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Arriving in St. Petersburg on a grey morning at 12 °C and pouring rain was a bit of a damper. Even though our apartment was only 20 minutes walking distance away, we were rather put off by the thought of getting drenched.
We knew from our host Anton that an Uber to the apartment should cost around 100 rubles. So we were not keen on taking up the offers of the taxi drivers waiting in the station who tried to charge up to 2000 rubles. As we walked towards the exit of the building, the offers got lower, but admittedly we were only able to find a guy offering 400 rubles in the end. By that time, we were already at the end of the parking lot of the railway station and had gotten a good share of rain. In other words: despite knowing that we had a bad deal, we did not mind anymore.
At the apartment, our host Anton was already waiting for us. The ‘Zoe Suites’ were a super nice and luxurious three-bedroom apartment with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. For the first night, we’d be the only guests, so we had the place for ourselves.
Anton also shared with us that in St. Petersburg, there are only 60 sunny days per year, so that we should not bee too surprised about a rainy day like today. We couldn't resist to recommend to Anton to move to sunny Mongolia which features 300 days of sunshine. Given how far north we were, it was no wonder that temperatures were not very high either. St. Petersburg marks the northernmost point of our travels so far ever located almost as far north as Anchorage in Alaska.
It took us until the early afternoon to motivate ourselves to get out into the rain. Admittedly, we had been spoiled on our travels so far. Strolling along St. Petersburg’s main avenue Nevski Prospekt, we passed luxurious shops, important architectural highlights and many monuments. We also observed as one car hit another at an intersection. Both cars continued as if nothing had happened. We were rather astounded about that. A local next to us only shrugged and commented ‚normalnyi‘. Ok, that's also a way of looking at things...
The Nevski Prospekt was impressive and much bigger than what we would have imagined. But anyhow, even though we knew that St. Petersburg is Europe's second largest city after Moscow, it still surprised us by its sheer size. We walked along, passed the statue of Catherine the Great surrounded by her associates (aka lovers) and made it all the way to the Kazan Cathedral. By then we were soaked enough to give up our sightseeing effort and headed into a café.

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We had great plans for the evening: Anton brought his daughter Zoe over and she played with Max until both of them were long overdue to go to bed. I skipped the fun and went for an evening program of a different kind: I went to see a classical production of ‘Swan Lake’. Being in Russia meant that I also wanted to see Russian ballet. I had a great evening.
When I left the theater at almost half past ten, it was still light outside. Being so far up north means that the nights are really short in June and it hardly gets dark at all – the famous white nights of St. Petersburg. I felt extremely safe walking through the streets of St. Petersburg on my own. In fact, I was not alone - there were many people out and about on the way to and from restaurants, clubs and bars.
The next morning, we were greeted by the sun. We were delighted and headed out right away to take the metro. The St. Petersburg metro system is the deepest in the world and we realized that it took us quite a while to reach the ground level again. Similar to the Moscow, the stations are very beautiful - the so called workers' palaces.

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The metro took us to the Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg's citadel next to the Neva River.

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It was sunny, but extremely windy and rather cool. That did not stop the people from sunbathing at the beaches along the fortress walls next to the Neva River. Probably they had protection from the wind. We did not and almost got blown away as we crossed the Trinity Bridge over to the other side of the Neva River. The high wind was also the reason why we did not get to do a tour through the canals of St. Petersburg. The wind caused the water levels to raise and to make the smaller bridges in the center of town impassable.

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We continued our tour on foot. Via the Summer Garden we reached the Church of Savior on Spilled Blood. The church marks the spot where emperor Tsar Alexander II was mortally wounded in 1881. The church looks a bit similar to St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Being a recognizable landmark, it was also the prime spot for the many TV crews to setup their camp such that they can report live from the St. Petersburg World Economic Forum which took place these days featuring Russia’s President Putin and important politicians from many countries.
The inside of the church was as beautiful as its outside. The interior walls are covered by 7500 square meters of intricate mosaics. Heading out of the church, we got to enjoy the church from the same angle as we had seen it a day earlier. What a difference! Yesterday it had looked nice in the grey rain. Today with the blue sky it looked spectacular.

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We had lunch in an excellent Georgian restaurant ‘Cha Cha’. Having relaxed there, we were motivated again to walk the remainder of the way home. We passed the Russian Museum, the Circus and other nice buildings along the way. With so many nice buildings, the city reminded us a bit of Vienna. And also the food reminded us of home: the strudel we bought in a bakery was meeting even the highest Austrian strudel standards.

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We spent the evening at home and took it easy after a busy day. The next morning, we woke up with a big surprise: after the beautiful day yesterday it was raining heavily again. The weather was purely awful. So we dropped our plan to visit Peterhof today. Lucky us that we had not bought tickets in advance. In this gruesome weather it would not have been any fun to explore the extensive gardens with the fountains.
Anton recommended that we rather visit the Yusupov Palace. Contrary to many other St. Petersburg sites, it is not quite as overrun by tourists as e.g. the Hermitage Museum. So that’s where we went. And indeed: the palace was beautiful and when we did our tour there were hardly any other people around. And once more it was the site of a murder: Rasputin had been assassinated in the basement of the palace in 1916.

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By the time we left the palace, it was still raining. We tried to catch the bus back towards the Nevski Prospekt. After searching for quite a while to find the bus station into the other direction, we gave up and started walking. Luckily, the rain eventually turned into a mere drizzle. We walked by the Saint Isaac’s Cathedral and the Admiralty Building to reach the Hermitage Museum which includes the Winter Palace, a former residence of Russian emperors. On the Palace Square the rain finally stopped and even the sun was peeking out a bit.

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At a café, we relaxed a bit before taking the bus back to our place. We used the time to pack our bags – after all we’d be heading back home tomorrow.
A bit later, Anton and Zoe picked us up. We took their 30-year-old Mercedes Benz S Class to a park. We had to use a hole in the fence to get in. Officially, all park doors were closed due to a predicted storm. But considering that there was an event of the Economic Forum taking place right next to the park, we speculated if the park was maybe just closed for that reason.

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From the park, we headed on to the Smolny (or Resurrection) Cathedral. In the evening light, it was a beautiful sight. But as we were hungry, we did not spend much time and headed towards the Ukrainian restaurant where Anton had booked a table for us. Luckily, he had reserved, as the place was packed.

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It was a great last evening of our trip. We had great food and enjoyed Ukrainian music. It was fun to chat with Anton and his wife Nadia. We exchanged stories from our travels and laughed a lot. We confirmed once more, how friendly and pleasant Russians are – great hospitable people. Zoe even presented Max with a good-bye present: a typical Russian stuffed animal called ‘Cheburashka’, which can even speak a couple of sentences and sing the Cheburashka song. But also Sam and I requested a souvenir: we asked Anton and Nadia to write into our traveling guest book, which by now is almost full. What a great last night out – an absolute highlight.

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When we left the restaurant after midnight, there was still light on the horizon. Despite the lack of sleep, Anton did stop by at our apartment at seven in the morning to make sure that we made it well to our taxi to the airport. Let’s hope that one day he will come to visit us in Germany, such that we can reciprocate the great hospitality we enjoyed.
Within thirty minutes, we reached the St. Petersburg airport. It did not take long to check in our bags. But then, we encountered a couple of difficulties. At first, the guy at the customs desk asked us if we had any liquids in our checked bags. We truthfully answered that ‘yes’ there were not only toiletries, but also two small bottles of vodka in the bags. That caused him to make us wait at his desk for about ten minutes until he had received a message that our bags were ok and that we could proceed.
Immigration was worse still. We knew already that the Russian embassy in Cambodia had stuck our visa into our passports such that the machine-readable part was on the inside fold, i.e. the visa was not machine readable. While the immigration officer back at the Mongolian – Russian border had been only slightly frustrated by this issue, the lady at the airport made a huge deal out of it. It took her almost 15 minutes to clear the three of us such that we could get out of the country.
Fortunately, we got through the security checks without any further delay, as otherwise we would have probably missed our flight. For the first time in our 26 flights so far, we had to run to the gate in order to make it on time.
All that rush avoided any possibility to get melancholic about the fact that this is the absolute end of our trip around the world. Even though we knew it was our last flight and that we’d be at home with friends and family within just a few hours, it felt still very unreal and hard to believe.
We were able to see a bit of the landscape underneath us also from the plane. But maybe it would have been easier approaching the end of our travels more slowly by train. As we had learned in the last few weeks, there’s a different quality to traveling by train. But then we would not have arrived within 2 hours and 40 minutes, but we would have needed to spend at least 34 hours in at least four different trains.

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The immigration officer at Vienna Airport briefly checked our passports and waved us through. It’s so easy being an EU citizen arriving in another EU country – what an advantage over what we faced in many other countries. Despite the fact that it is not needed, we asked for stamps in our passport to mark our arrival back home. That way, it’s officially documented now that we have reached the European Union again after more than 13 months of having been away.
We are home…

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 20:57 Archived in Russia Tagged rain church palace river museum fortress wind cold Comments (0)

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