Photo taken from Silo Park, 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.
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.
Happy New Year.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Two weeks into the Australian Adventure and it has been a sweet ride so far.
Last Saturday I was invited to join my roommate and his team on a sail race on the Swan River. That was an offer I could not refuse. For someone who never went sailing before in his life it was bound to be an interesting adventure. My part of the team work was being ballast and switch from the one side of the boat to the other whenever the sailboat turned without getting decapitated by the swinging mast. This is called tacking in proper terms.
Because this was a very short race tacking happened quite often and in the tacking process you only have a couple seconds to get to the other side before the boat turns the other way or you’re in trouble.
I missed that moment nearly once.
Thinking the race was over (because we celebrated with beers) but we were only halfway. Didn’t get the memo until the captain yelled : Ready to tack.
I was still enjoying my beer and was trying to make it to the other side with only one hand and a late warning. I got stuck halfway my journey and held on for dear life… with a beer in my hand. What a funny sight it must have been.
So sailing is pretty popular in Perth.
Another popular thing to do is taking a stroll through Kings Park. This beautiful landmark gives you a magnificent view over the city. People meet there for picnics, family walks and it also is the perfect workout to for runners to make it up the hill.
And of course you have to check out the beautiful white sandy beaches when you are there. Scarborough Beach is a great example for that. You can even have a barbie there before dipping your feet in the Indian Ocean while watching the sunset.
You won’t be disappointed.
One week in Australia and I feel like I’ve dipped my toes into the Aussie lifestyle quite a bit.
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…
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.
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.
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.