Auckland

Possibly the first place most overseas visitors encounter is Auckland.

This lively city has something for everyone to experience;

For the adventure seekers : Ever wanted to take a leap of faith and jump off the tallest man-made building in the southern hemisphere ? Well, you can. The Sky Tower makes that dream come true.

For the bon vivants : Saving your stomach for a decent appetite ? Well, then Ponsonby is the place to go and only a little climb from downtown. This neighbourhood is filled with restaurants, bars and little eateries where delicious smells of food are wafting through the streets.

For the ones who love the view : Want to keep climbing ? Well you can. Mount Eden will be more or less your final stop on the ladder in the Auckland area. This viewpoint offers great 360 ° views over the City of Sails. Also here you can clearly see the dormant volcano.

For the artistic stroller : For those who want to keep it closer to the water, there is an easy and fun artistic stroll you can saunter between the Visitor Information Center and the Silo Park.

For the ones wanting to escape the busy streets of the city : Devonport is your place to be. This little town is so amazing it deserves it’s own blog. So more on that in the next blog post.

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.

 

 

All Clichés Explored

One week in Australia and I feel like I’ve dipped my toes into the Aussie lifestyle quite a bit.

Australian Wildlife

Everyone knows that Australia has the most deadly wildlife on this planet. In the waters you have sharks, jellyfish and crocodiles while on land you have to be careful of snakes and spiders. The latter one welcomed me when I just arrived at my friend’s place two hours after my arrival in Australia. The redback spider, tiny but pretty poisonous, was sitting in the mailbox waiting for some good news. We took a look at her before losing her at our doorstep. One of these days she’ll be saying g’day again.

on Monday I saw a couple jellyfishes in Freo (Fremantle – South Perth) who seem to leave a nasty sting behind.

But don’t let these two small encounters withhold you from visiting Australia. There are no reported deaths from the redback spider since the creation of the anti venom somewhere in the 50’s.

To the Left

Getting in the car on the wrong side, looking in the wrong direction when crossing the street, passing people on the wrong side and quite often almost bumping into them. As I was not clumsy enough yet…

The Accent 

Absolutely a fan of the accent. It’s so chill. The coolest couple of words I’ve encountered is that guys DO say ‘mate’ most of the time and Mc Donald’s is called ‘Macca’s’ over here, even in the commercials.

The Barbie

Another great word is the ‘Barbie’ (without the shrimp though since they are called prawns here anyway). Barbie on the beach? No problem. Over here they have barbecues installed at the beach ready to use. Don’t worry about carrying the whole BBQ set to the beach, the Aussies have it all figured out how to have a perfect Sunday lunch at the beach. Last Sunday my roommate and a couple of his friends invited me for a barbie at Scarborough Beach.

Wear Sunscreen 

Yesterday I went downtown Perth to look for a job. I find it always a good idea to create a visual map of the area before you start applying for jobs. This way you know where everything is located. The neighbourhoods, the bus station, what is around.

What was supposed to be a short walk through the main streets of Downtown Perth ended up in crossing the entire city…twice. It was a beautiful sunny day with a perfect temperature of 24°C. Perth does have the winning numbers when it comes to the place with the most hours of sunshine in the entire country.

I definitely didn’t hold a lottery ticket for that since I got quite sunburned yesterday.

So always wear a good amount of sunscreen.

Let if fly 

The most unexpected part of this is the amount of flies that stick around and the incredible weird and loud sound the crows make. The sound of the crows woke me up on my first morning here and I had no idea what animal it could be. Now I know better. They also seem to attack you and steal your food from time to time.

The Journey Down Under

Howdy friends !

If you are reading this it means I finally made it to Australia !

I started this blog in the airport of Singapore where I was waiting for my connecting flight to Perth.

During my flight from Frankfurt to Singapore I have been treated with a 13 hours cheesy foot smell from my lovely neighbour, lady ’36J’ and have exhausted myself with a movie marathon until my eyes felt like they caught fire. Sleep was hard to find.

Then I still had a five hour flight ahead of me before I arrived at my final destination. The flight from Singapore to Perth was pretty fast as I almost slept through the entire second half of the flight.

Getting into Australia was super quick, even with getting my visa activated. They just link your passport to your visa application on their system and give you a passport stamp and you are all good to go !

In Perth, my friend Tim picked me up from the airport and the new adventure could really start.

I will explore Perth for the entire month of November where I will be staying with Tim.

When we arrived at my new home I got a great introduction to the wildlife of Australia as there was a female redback spider sitting in the mailbox. Better be careful where you put your hands here.

After dinner I was totally done and had to give in to my little sleep deprivation.

This morning around 5 AM I woke up from noises outside. It’s a great thing to hear all animals sounds you’ve never heard before. Some of them I have no idea what they could be. The most mysterious one is a ‘Gollum’ sounding cat that is annoyed. Also the birds sing their songs differently here.

This weekend there is a wine tour planned for Tim’s friend birthday and a party afterwards. I feel my first Australian Hangover coming my way.

Cheers !

Fifty Days of Summer Part 2: Garibaldi Lake / Black Tusk

Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.

After the wedding bells stopped chiming and my stomach was filled with delicious food over several cozy dinners it was time to leave the city and explore the beautiful lands of Mother Nature.

A good buddy of mine asked me if I was interested in hiking the Black Tusk, a trail that starts little bit south of Whistler and leads to a fantastic view over the area (if the weather permits it).

We drove along the scenic Highway 99 from North Vancouver through Squamish and a good hour later we arrived at the parking lot where our hike could start. We arrived around noon and the parking lot was quite full already.

We started our hike with our camping gear. We planned to stay overnight at the campground at Garibaldi Lake. The first two hours of the hike is pretty much a bunch of switchbacks in the woods. Once we got to the fork in the road we decided to set up our tent at Garibaldi Lake first and followed the signs for the Garibaldi Campground. We passed two more lakes on our right side before arriving at the gorgeous Garibaldi Lake. We installed our tent and had a late lunch.

We left our big bags behind and took a smaller backpack with us to start our climb to the Black Tusk. This trail leads you through the beautiful Taylor Meadows before you start ascending to the intimidating Black Tusk. During this climb you are treated with fantastic views over Garibaldi Lake. Once you face the “end of the trail’ sign you can still continue your hike up to the Black Tusk itself. From here on the climb is even a little steeper and it takes you some time to get to the chute of the Black Tusk but the view from up there is phenomenal. If you are a real daredevil you can consider to climb all the way to the top but I would not recommend it. Other hikers who did risk the climb up to the top told us it was pretty frightening.

We started our descend to Garibaldi Lake. Once we reached our tents we were treated with a smashing sunset that made the lake look like a magical wonderland. After that the temperature started dropping fast and the tiredness kicked in. We decided to call it an early night.

The next day we packed up our tents and explored a little more around Garibaldi Lake before starting our descend to the parking lot.

On our way home we made a stopped at the Sea to Sky Gondola and had a great lunch in Squamish to fill our empty stomachs and celebrate the beauty of British Columbia !