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).

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.

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 1 : Wedding in Vancouver

Ever since I left for the Great North American Adventure last July I haven’t been able or trying to give you an update on my travels due to computer problems and time limitations. I have made tons of scribbles though that will never make it to this blog but some others will do.

And I will post those in the next few weeks.

Let’s rewind to the end of July when I shut the door behind me at 5 AM direction Paris Charles de Gaulle where I would take a flight to Vancouver.

All went pretty smooth. One travel tip ! If you fly Westjet and arrive with the train make sure to calculate enough time to walk all the way from the train station to the gate of your plane. At some point it felt like I would end up in the Paris Orly airport.

Westjet brought me all the way to Vancouver in one go.

The Wedding Days

The first few days were all about the wedding of two of my friends who live in Vancouver. He, a military guy from Vancouver. She, a young woman with a degree in psychology from Belgium. They met in a local bar in my hometown, Ieper and where both instantly smitten about each other.

They met up soon after and their love for each other has been growing ever since. Not much later she decided to leave her life behind in Belgium and follow her heart in Vancouver. The rest is history and on July 25th they sealed their lovely deal.

True story.

The wedding held place in a military base in downtown Vancouver, a great location for an unforgetable wedding.

Colorado Craziness : Winter has arrived

Life is full of endless possibilities. Explore your world. 

Once we arrived at Aspen we noticed how slippery the roads were and were glad we could park it in the underground parking garage near the information center. We got our information and strolled through the town of Aspen.

We had lunch at 520 Grill, a below street level restaurant with tasty burgers !

After we filled our bellies my friend Sarah decided to give it a try on the slopes of Aspen Mountain, one of the most intense ski hills of the USA. Myself, who had bare to none experience decided to sit this one through. I did buy a Gondola Pass for the day, giving me access to the cool gondola that starts downtown Aspen and goes up Aspen Mountain to the Sundeck and its panoramic view. Definitely worth its money during winter.

After I’ve sent Sarah off to a good ride down the hill I enjoyed myself in the cafetaria of the Sundeck where I was treated with awesome views over the Rockies. The ride with the gondola itself is already a treat.

After we had our fun in Aspen it was time to drive to our next hotel that was located in Silverthorne, another gateway along the I-15 to go to Breckenridge, another great ski destination in the USA which is slightly cheaper than Aspen.

On our last day full day in Colorado we left Silverthorne in the early morning to have some time in Breckenridge. Another cool spot for your typical fun in the snow. We tried out the gondola as well (which was free today) and headed to the base of the slopes. As much as we wanted to explore the ski hills, there wasn’t enough time to test the snow unfortunately.

We had lunch in Breckenridge before driving all the way to Denver where we would spend the rest of the afternoon.

Denver was a slight disappointment. Except for some governmental buildings and some nice parks I wasn’t overly impressed of the city. Maybe my expectations I’ve collected over the years were too high and I was just still overwhelmed with excitement of my trip through the Rockies.

After exploring Denver for a bit and even driving down to Colorado Springs we spent our last night in a hotel near the airport (also cheaper) before catching an early morning flight the next day. Luckily both our flights left on time this time.