Devonport

If you visit Auckland without a visit to Devonport, you are missing out on a great side trip.

Devonport is conveniently located across the bay and can be reached by a short but scenic ferry ride from Queens Wharf for 12,00 NZD return trip. The ferry runs from early in the morning until late at night.

Once you embark to this little village by the sea you have two hills to conquer. The first one would be Mount Victoria which offers great views over Auckland and Devonport.

For more of these spectacular views you can make your way to North Head, bring a torch or a charged cellphone with a flashlight to make your journey through this maze of bunkers and tunnels complete. This historical coastal defence is a playground nowadays for all ages.

After you conquered the North Head it’s time to make your way down to Cheltenham Beach. This popular scenic beach is a great place to go unwind and have a romantic picnic. You can even extend your walk along the water and climb over some rocks until you reach Narrow Neck Beach (pay attention to the tides).

Grab a drink or bite on your way back before you jump back on the ferry to make your visit complete.

Ten Truths about Traveling

Now we all savoured our christmas left overs and drank all of our champagne bottles it is time to reflect on what is ahead of us. A new year, a new chance to make great things happen.

With all the fortunes and mistakes of 2015 added to my young life, this is what I learned from last year traveling.

1. Life is short, Live a little

Don’t put things off for later. Travel while you are young and free. Relationships, a house, kids… It can all wait. These factors will influence your decision and you know you are just putting things off and that gap year to South America might never happen.

2. You can always depend on the kindness of strangers

I have been amazed sometimes by the generosity and kindness of strangers. You barely know them and they take you in, help you out and leave you with an unforgettable experience. It teaches you as a traveler (with some common sense) that there is still a lot of good in this world.

3. Disconnect from your phone, connect with the moment

Every one of us want to connect with people back home. You want to let them know about your adventures, want to see your niece grow up, want to Skype with your best friend and all of that is great and necessary. But sometimes you might miss out on a great conversations or beautiful views because your eyes are glued to your phone screen. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great thing to stay in contact with people back home but try to limit it to when you get to when you are by yourself or select some moments during the day to do all of that.

4. Travel at your own pace

Especially when you travel with others, understand that every person travels at its own pace. Don’t get upset if you are an early bird and your travel buddies like to sleep in. Take this moment as an opportunity to create some alone time or meet other people or catch up with people back home.

5. The best plan is not to have a plan

Plans change constantly, especially when you are traveling. Don’t try to get too worried about where you want to travel next or in the next few months while you are traveling. You might meet a great new travel partner in the bar tonight or get an off the beaten path insider tip from a local you meet at the harbour. Be open for constant changes, they are a good thing.

6. Sunsets for life

Everybody has a bad day, or some bad days. Life comes with ups and downs. And when you travel, those ups and downs are intensified. You get some extreme highs and might get some extreme lows when you are running out of money, get sick or feel lonely … Don’t worry. You are not alone. Every traveler goes through this stage on his/her journey. But remember. Sunsets are for life. If you miss today’s one, there is always another one tomorrow

7. You win some…

Traveling is great fun ! It opens your horizons to the ultimate. It is a joyride on a road that is paved with awesome adventures.

You will meet people with amazing stories which will sometimes be so close to your own story (not including the crazy cat lady you met at the bus stop). The experiences you will gain during your travels will be something you will tell your grandchildren one day.

8. And you lose some

While being on the road, be sure to lose some as well.

This goes for anything in life.

You will lose money, your sense of time (what day is today?), your socks (trust me on this one), friends from back home and who you met on the road…

It is all part of life and they often teach us some very valuable lessons.

9. Stay Unstuck

While traveling through the Canadian Rockies last summer I met a girl who decided to quit her job in British Columbia and set course for the East Coast to look for a new life with her boyfriend she was going to pick up in Calgary.

We had a great conversation about staying Unstuck in life. Whenever you feel trapped or not happy with what you are doing… just get yourself out of it. You always have a choice.

10. Make good stories

Your life is a good big old book. And you are the writer of your chapters. Some will be good, some will be bad. Some will be long other very short-lived. But make the stories count. It’s all about the stories we have to tell. So make them good.

A new year to tell them – So jump behind your computer, and book that ticket out of your home town. If you are bad at making decisions, drinks some beers and go sit behind that computer again. It surely helps you making a decision about what you really want.

Go travel, go explore – it doesn’t matter if it’s far or the next town. As long as you put yourself out of your comfort zone.

Go meet people, share stories, make memories.

Life matters.

Happy New Year.

Te Paki Sand Dunes

After being (almost literally) blown away by the stunning Cape Reinga you can trade your windproof jacket for a boogie board and go diving off massive sand dunes.

It’s a drastic change of scenery from the hills in Scotland to the Sahara Desert in just a half hour drive.

Don’t have a boogie board with you in your backpack ? No problem, there are some local farmers who seem to have found a way to earn some extra cash beside their potatoes and dairy products. You can rent a boogie board for 10 NZD on your way to the sand dunes and return them at the end of the day. Keep an eye open for the signs and if you’ve missed those signs, you most likely can still get one from a pop up boogie board rental place at the sand dunes as well.

The climb to the top of the sand dune is a bit of a struggle when you take two steps uphill and slide one back down. But trust me, the dive down is worth the effort.

My friend Julia took it one step further by (accidentally) sliding sideways and making an impressive roll down the sand. It was definitely not her day but she took the fall like a trooper. Just make sure you lay down on the boogie board with your head first.

CHEAP BASTARD TIP : If you want to make this trip in combination with Cape Reinga and you don’t have your own car you can always look into renting a car for the day and fill the seats with travel friends and make your own trip.

We rented a car from Paihia for 24 hours and did the whole trip at our own pace. With a group of five we paid 36 NZD each for the car rental and gas.

Cape Reinga

New Zealand, land of immense beauty and undeniable contrasts. Cut in two by the Cook Strait, one of the most treacherous straits in the world. The best world deal you can get because you get two pieces of kiwi gold for the price of one.

Starting off in the very north of the country is where my journey begins, the mystical Cape Reinga. It is here where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean clash and fight a spectacular eternal battle which sometimes results in waves that are over 10 meter high.

In the middle of this breathtaking cape sits one single sacred pohutukawa tree between the rocks. According to the Maori legend this was the place where the spirits of the dead left land and entered the afterlife.

The road to Cape Reinga may be paved with good intentions but it surely is a long and curvy way.

Our friend Julia wasn’t too pleased with these road conditions. Or maybe it had something to do with the bottle(s) of red wine we had the night before.

Luckily you get some stunning views along the way to ease her stomach for a bit.

South Western Australia : From Albany to Perth

A lot of travelers make this typical trip along the coast and I can’t blame them. Leaving Albany this road is one stretch of nice beaches, winding roads through lush forests and little cozy towns.

Denmark is one of those. Here you can discover the Greens Pool. A great spot for snorkelling and strolling along the beach. Don’t forget to bring a visit to the Elephant Rocks around the corner.

Walpole is your next stop along the way. Here you can visit the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk where you can see the typical gigantic tingle trees. If you want to skip the tourist spot and the fees, there is another giant tingle tree you can see for free a little further down the road along Hilltop Road. This is a one-way route that brings you to a trail where you can see the old lady in full flesh. Yes, I was talking about the tree.

Pemberton – Another great cool hangout spot where you find a lot of backpackers. Test your climbing skills over here and climb up the Gloucester Tree. This giant Karri tree used to be a fire lookout but is now a popular attraction. Car parking costs you 12 AUD.

Busselton is a great place to hang around. You can go for a drink in the downtown area or stroll along the boardwalk. Walking down the 2 kilometer long Busselton Jetty is the main thing to do and is free in the morning and evening (costs 3 AUD between 9 AM and 6 PM).

Refreshments Down South : Albany

The last two weeks of my stay here in Western Australia I was able to explore a bit more of what the south west of Australia has to offer. And my holy didgeridoo, I wasn’t disappointed !

Albany most likely has cooler temperatures than Perth and with another week of 30 + temperatures I was ready to cool off for a bit.

Albany was my first place to go to. I ended up in a very relaxed hostel called ‘Hostel 1849 Backpackers‘ with an excellent service and free pancakes every morning.

Albany has amazing places to see but without a car you are very limited to what you can see. The first time I was only dependent on my own two feet. I walked from downtown Albany along the Princess Royal Drive through the Port (this way by far the least impressive part of the trail) to get to the start of the Ellen Cove Boardwalk. This is a nice walk with some stops along the way. Make a stop at Kings Point for a lunch. At the end of the Ellen Cove Boardwalk you will arrive at Middleton Beach, a gorgeous stretch of beaches and the typical jetty and pontoon. This magnificent beach goes all the way until Emu Point, another popular place you can visit. I turned around at Emu Point since I still had to walk all the way back. I decided to take a shortcut that ended up being a giant detour. Lesson learned.

The most amazing place I have seen so far in Western Australia would be the Albany Wind Farm. This piece of land with its 18 wind turbines offers great places to hike. One of these trails goes all the way down a couple hundred stairs to the beach. Good workout and totally worth the effort, especially on calmer days when you practically have the whole beach to yourself.

You do need a car (or bike) to reach this and the following places.

Most people recommend the Natural Bridge and The Gap but these places are currently still under renovation so I wasn’t able to check that out. So make sure you inform yourself before you make it all the way out there.

Albany is famous for its two big hills. Mount Clarence and Mount Melville. Mount Clarence has the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial and splendid views over the city.

Mount Melville has some great views to offer as well. Don’t forget to go up to the observation tower for great views.

Another little hidden gem is Little Beach, definitely check it out if you got the time.

Rottnest Island Adventures

Last weekend I was invited to join some friends on a Rottnest Island Adventure.

Rottnest Island is a little island before the coast of Perth and a popular tourist destination, especially for day tourists. A ferry goes daily from Perth to the island. On the island there are no cars allowed except for the bay seeker bus that runs around the island to drop off or pick up passengers at the designated stops.

The island got its name because of the quokkas. They look like little happy kangaroos and are scattered over the island. But when the Dutch explorers discovered this island in the 17th century they mistook them for big rats and called the island a true rat nest. The quokkas  can only be found on the island and managed to survive all this time because they don’t have any predators lingering around.

An other animal I encountered was a dugite. This pretty venomous snake was just chilling along the beach when I passed it. It was my first snake encounter since I got here in Australia.

A popular thing to do in Rottnest Island is doing a bike tour around the island. It offers a handful of great stops along the way. Since I visited the island on a weekday and it wasn’t high season yet I sometimes was riding my bike with not a single soul in sight. It felt like I was the last man on earth especially after 3.30 PM when all the day tourists were on their way back to Perth on the last ferry. Please also note that most of the tours that are offered on the island along the trail will end around 2.30 – 3 PM (like the lighthouse tour) in case you stay the night on the island.

Cape Vlamingh is the furthest point you can go on the island and the views won’t disappoint you.

Rotto (how the Aussies call Rottnest Island) is surrounded with heaps of white sandy beaches and coral blue water, a true paradise for snorkelers and a perfect romantic getaway.

 

 

In Transit

Toronto Pearson International Airport, March 24th, 2015

In transit…

That is what I am right now between Vancouver and Brussels.

But in general, my life will probably always be in transit.

I think it all got out of hand during my childhood.

A little beach village at our Belgian Coast was the favourite spot of my mother to go for a little getaway with the family. When I think of that place I reminisce about the times we got ice cream, played pit pat, went go-carting and… that time I ran away to seek new horizons as a four year old. I guess I was ready for an adventure. My mother allowed me to go play in the sand but I had to stay within eye sight. That rule was easy to obey… for a minute. After that I set course and ran where the wind blew. Half an hour later I realised my mistake and how I threw my one rule overboard. I turned around and returned to find my sister running towards me. I smiled and she rolled her eyes. We still do this nowadays.

When I was seven, our class had to perform the play of the Parable of the Lost Son. Of all the kids my teacher chose me to play the Lost Son. I still remember how I had to walk around in church and return to my father (actor) who embraced me upon arrival. My real father still does.  

And that time I went to the playground with the family when I was eight. My parents told me the playground was my arena to play on. I crossed boundaries within minutes and retrieved my concerned mother a little later talking to a lady which I thought was the Queen of Belgium (Queen Fabiola). My mother was upset and I felt a bit guilty for leaving her. That hasn’t changed much now.  

A group of friends bring me back to the present when they throw their bags on the tables in front of me. They are waiting for their connection to Vienna. I ask myself what their story is.

What about my story ?

I am a 30 year old restless soul who is looking for adventures. Always and everywhere. I have lived abroad a couple of times in my young life and I have created this blog to share my past and future experiences with you with the inevitable clumsy edge.

Where I am now ?

I just packed up my life in Vancouver where I was traveling and working for the last six months. Not an easy task but I guess you get used to it after a couple of times. I have traveled this way for a while now. Get a foreign temporary work permit and build myself a life abroad. Even if it is for a little while. A home away from home, if you can call it that…

I check the time. 6.15 PM. I still have 30 minutes until boarding starts. I decide to slowly make my way to the gate. Once I arrive at the gate I notice there is practically no one there. I glance at the gate screen and see ‘FINAL CALL’. My heart skips a beat …  I run to the gate and luckily I can still get on board. When did that happen ? Probably between my daydreaming and future planning while I was listening to Ben Howard. But I am not the only one to arrive late.

I have a window seat (always a win if you ask me) and no one in the seat next to me (double win for an overnight flight). Always fun to see the world from outside your window.

This journey has come to a close. Jet Airways, bring me back to Belgium !

Time for a new adventure.