On the Road to Mandalay

Build Bridges, not Walls

Day 42: After crossing Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand by land, we decide to fly into Myanmar. It takes us about 1 hour and 15 minutes to fly from Bangkok to Yangon with AirAsia. As we arranged our visa beforehand, the arrival and immigration process is smooth and quick and soon enough we are in a taxi on our way to our hostel in Yangon. At the hostel, we meet with Mary and Luke who got there a few hours before we did. We check-in and decide to explore the city. The receptionist recommends us to jump on the Yangon Circular Train at the Lanmadaw Train station to get a great first glimpse of this beautiful country. For us, it is already hard figuring out the entrance to the small train station but trying to actually figure out which track our train is stopping at is like a real gamble. Luckily there are only two tracks. Tracks as in some overgrown pavements next to the railroad, without any signage or direction. A train is approaching and we take our chances. We get on the train and pray for the best. Unfortunately, we soon realize we are on a different route which takes us a bit out of the city. Nonetheless, this train ride is really interesting as well with locals passing by and try to sell food. At the end of the line of this route we get off at a bigger train station and figure out the next train back leaves in about an hour. Upon arrival back at the hostel, we reunite with Alice, a feisty girl from the Netherlands who we met in the Ko Phi Phi Islands. She just arrived in Yangon as well with her travel buddy Thomas from the UK and decide to join our group for our travels through Myanmar. With the six of us, we go for dinner and have some beers in the lobby before calling it a night. Continue reading On the Road to Mandalay

There will be Rain

Welcome to Franz Josef Glacier, one of the wettest places on earth.

Be prepared to have a rainy day during your stay here in this beautiful place on earth that is squeezed between the mountains and the ocean and creates its own special micro climate.

This tiny village is a mandatory stop along the scenic Highway 6 between Greymouth and Queenstown and has a handful of great things to offer for everyone.

Going for a hike ?

Well, needless to say, this lush area has plenty of hikes to offer. If you have only a couple of hours to kill the most famous and visited one would be the Franz Josef Glacier Walk that departs from the village. If you don’t feel like doing the walk or don’t have the time you can take your car up to the Franz Josef Glacier Car Park. From there it is a half an hour walk to the end of the trail where you can have some views of the retreating glacier. The sights of the glacier might be a tiny bit disappointing to you so if you would like to see the glacier in full glory you’ll have to dig deeper into your pockets and arrange a helicopter tour over the glacier. These helicopters tours depart from the village and need to be booked well in advanced as on some days the unsteady weather might give the helicopter tour companies very limited windows to fly out to give you a clear view of the glacier. IMG_9867Got some more time and want to get away from the crowds on a more challenging track ? Great ! Two of my favourite hikes in Franz Josef would be Alex Knob and Roberts Point.  These two tracks are both considered a day trip and you should prepare well for these hikes (water, food, appropriate hiking gear). The views on top won’t disappoint. IMG_0092Thirsty ?

After you return from a day around the glacier you must be hungry and parched. The village offers something for everyone. The Landing and King Tiger might be your best options to fill your tummy while Full of Beans might have a good cup of coffee for you.

And at night ?

Looking for something to do at night ? There is even a brand new movie theater in town which is playing the newest movies out there and if you want to go for a good drink after then Monsoon is your place to go. You drink, they pour….

But always have a rain jacket handy… because there will be rain. But keep in mind, it is up to you to go outside with your rain jacked in the rain and have a laugh with your friends or complain in your room about the shitty weather outside. This place remains a very beautiful place, even with a little rain involved.

Lake Pukaki

If you were impressed with Lake Tekapo, then you definitely will be stunned by the beauty of its bigger sister, Lake Pukaki.

The drive around the lake is very scenic and deserves some stops. While you are driving and if the weather permits it, you will see Mount Cook appear.

One of them is Peter’s Lookout along Highway 80 (also known as Mount Cook Road). From here you can take a bunch of postcard photos but make sure you save some space and batteries for your next stop, Mount Cook Village !

Lake Tekapo

We survived our first night with the three of us in a two person tent.

The summer is noticeably gone with much cooler temperatures at night. We wake up to a grey sky morning at Mc Gregor Lake, which is only a short drive from Lake Tekapo.

After our breakfast at the lake and getting a full tank we were ready to drive up to the rooftop of New Zealand, Mount Cook National Park.

 

The Grand Trip : The Kickoff

So the Grand Road Trip of 2016 has begun.

During the next six months I will be travel from New Zealand up to Mongolia and back.

It will be a roller coaster adventure filled with beautiful scenery, diverse cultures, meeting new people, trying new foods and go wherever your heart desires to.

The adventure started last Thursday when I finished my job in Franz Josef Glacier. My  friend Lotti and me left our little home away from home behind after working here for the last three months.

Destination : Christchurch !

A lot of driving on the first day but we had places to go still. The route went from the gloomy roads of the West Coast over the majestic surrounding of Arthurs Pass down to the meadows of Canterbury.

There we picked up our missing member of the new tripod and set course to Lake Tekapo.

A little after sunset we arrived at our campground at Lake Mc Gregor. We put down our tent for our first night camping. While setting up our tent we got attacked by a swarm of mosquitos. We dived into our tent and fell quickly asleep.

Year One Celebration in Franz Josef

Exactly one year ago I posted my first blog.

Cheers to that !

I must admit, one year ago I was pretty clueless about what would be next. I just came back home after living nearly a year abroad in Western Canada.

Today I am packing again. This time in Franz Josef, New Zealand and honestly, I still don’t have a clue what’s next.

But that is alright. Who does anyway ?

It’s the beauty of traveling and life in general.

What I know is that I’m getting ready for a new adventure through the land of hobbits with two new made friends, Fernando and Lotti.

I have been spending my time in this remote village for about three months to save up for my future travels.

It’s been a great experience but now it’s time to go back on the road.

And there is a question that suddenly pops up in my head :

Where will I be in one year ?

 

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.

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).