Australia: Road Trip – Fitzroy Crossing to the completion of Australia

Australia: Road Trip – Fitzroy Crossing to the completion of Australia

June 4-June 28, 2019

I have lost all desire to write the ending of this trip. I know that if I don’t, I’ll regret it because this blog is meant to be a journal and memory for this amazing life adventure. I think I’ve lost my spark because my heart is back in Canada now. I’m really pressing myself to stay present to all that is around me and continue to enjoy this incredible journey we are on. So here we go. I’m already in Fiji at the time I’m writing this so I’m going to compress the last three weeks into one blog post so this could be a bit longer.

After leaving Broome we really wished we could have rented a 4×4 and driven the Gibb River Road. There is a lot of amazing gorges and scenery on that road but it wasn’t meant to be.

After Fitzroy Crossing, we drove through Halls Creek (another little town with not a lot) and ended up at another free campsite with cows! That was kind of a highlight. There was also a cat that was there. We had hoped that she hadn’t gotten lost from her family. She seemed quite tame.

Then we drove onwards to Kununnara. This town is pretty sweet. It was really clean and had a lot of amenities. We decided to spend a bit more and get a site at a caravan park. This was a great choice. We had a really amazing spot by the lagoon where there were so many different kinds of birds to watch. The camp kitchen was close by and Vivi made friends with a dutch girl. Then we made friends with the parents and we decided to stay a day longer as they were going to be there one more day too. It’s not often that Vivi gets to play with kids her own age so we really wanted to honor her and give her an opportunity to play like an 8 year old should.

Luc and I even got a chance to watch the sunset just the two of us. We also took in some live Australian entertainment at the caravan park.

The next day was a bit of a cleaning up and chilling out day. Vivi played lego for hours and I started to sort through things we didn’t want anymore. We gave away our tarp and beach shade to the Dutch. Then I read and read and read. What a day I remember, just sitting and reading by the lagoon. I felt like I really needed to sell to Luc the fact that stopping moving was a good thing. And man oh man was it ever. That night we went to a drive in movie, “Dumbo”. Vivi sat on the top deck of the Dutch’s truck and we watched from inside the van. I think that will be a memorable experience. As Anna from Holland says “you can see a ton of gorges and after a while they will all blend into each other. Do things that are different so you can remember them.” I really liked this idea.

We said goodbye to them the next day and pressed on to Katherine. First stopping at Ivanhoe Crossing which was kinda neat. Luc wanted to cross it but it’s only for 4 wheel drive so I refused. We also passed the Northern Territory border which was pretty cool and got our photo taken.

The Northern Territory roads are a bit different. They appear to be worse in wear but the speed limit is 130km on the highways! This shocked me. There’s no way we could have done that.

Not much to see this day so we rolled into a free campground and were delighted to watch a boy about the age of 12 playing with a whip. It was fascinating to watch him. There was an old guy who was a bit plastered giving him pointers. Before you knew it a ton of people were in our campsite watching the boy as he practiced. It was really cool!

Of course Vivi made friends with his sister and later they were seen playing uno on a rock with a flash light. She’s so good at making friends on the fly now.

We pushed on to Katherine where I REALLY wanted to do the same kayak/canoe tour down the Katherine Gorge that Mike and I had done but we just didn’t have time so I had to accept that this wasn’t going to happen. We did visit a “hot springs” that was not really hot but super beautiful. We stayed that night in a caravan park where we plugged in for free.

The next day we were up early as we had a lot of things to see and places to swim! First stop was Edith Falls. We did a little hike to the second pool which was breath taking! We saw a massive lizard and enjoyed to cool water. We saw signs that there weren’t crocs in the water so we felt safe(ish) to swim. It was a beautiful spot to cool off and because we started early we beat the hordes of people en route. Then we continued back to pool 1 and took off for Litchfield National Park.

We visited the magnetic termite mounds. Termites make their mounds facing North to South to help cut down on the heat. Facinating. And it was hot! We then found a National Park Campground that had flushing toilets and showers for $6 per person. BC, we really need to get our act together and provide more in our camping areas. Australia has got it figured out!

Then we drove on to Wangi Falls where I really remember well when I was here. It was packed but so so beautiful. Waterfalls into clear water. Just spectacular! Then onto Tolmer Falls and finally Buley Rockholes which was fun! A bunch of pools you can swim in with crystal clear water.

The next morning we started at Florence Falls as that’s where we camped (recommended from the whip cracking boy’s dad). A little walk down some stairs and we again were the first few people to swim. Just luscious and so so beautiful. We almost went the night before but I’m glad we didn’t. We ran into a woman who had been there the previous night and it was PACKED!

These last few days have been filled with so much swimming in such incredibly beautiful places in the Northern Territory.

We pushed on to Darwin that morning. Stopping at a free water park that of course is only closed on a Tuesday and it was Tuesday. Oh well. So we went to clean the van a bit and check into our hostel. This is a hostel that is FULL of backpackers. Brought me back to when I was backpacking here years ago. They had a deal that if you bought a drink, you’d get dinner for free. And after we went to bed I could hear them playing drinking backpacking games until the wee hours. We spent that afternoon getting all our bags ready for the flight the next day. We managed to pack two of our camping chairs in an Ikea bag we had bought for protection against bed bugs. We also fit in a bunch fo stuff we had bought along the way: a blow up chair, water shower, spices, odds and sods. So we’re officially travelling now with an extra bag until the end. Australia is cheaper than Canada and you can claim the GST on a bunch of stuff so we went a bit crazy on technology stuff before leaving Oz.

We didn’t see too much of Darwin TBH. But you can’t see it all.

The next day we took a taxi to the airport and boarded a plane for Cairns. See you later Western Australia and Northern Territory!

East Coast

We arrived in Cairns around 3:30pm and took a cab to the Apollo Dealership. We picked up Marvelle (said with a French accent) and headed north to our caravan park by the ocean.

It hit us with such force, it was lush and green and raining! It was like an over load on our senses! We picked up some groceries and then finally found the campground. It was dark and rainy and so we cooked and settled into the exact same camper van that we had on the west coast so everything was really common to us which was nice. Hardly even seemed like we moved from Darwin to Cairns!

Although this van had mold on the roof so we went back to Apollo again the next day and traded it in for one with less mold. And if you can believe it, the night before our van must have been keyed in the grocery parking lot because there were new marks on it that weren’t there the day before. Thank goodness we got the insurance.

In the morning I went for a wonderful walk on the beach by myself and took in the gorgeous sea and lush forest. We weren’t going to go to the Daintree but this really reminded me of it years ago. So different from the west coast and so beautiful. Humid, warm, wet, green, blue, palms, jungle. Just wow.

Before exchanging our van we visited Hartley’s Croc Park and it didn’t disappoint. The price was right and we got to see so much wildlife and crocs! The salties were the best and most impressive. We watched a feeding and took a river boat ride. We also visited the ethical croc farm part of it. Essentially what they say is if they breed the crocs for the leather purses, hats, etc… it’s better for the croc natural population as then hunters won’t hunt them. It’s all done with the animals welfare in mind so they are bred and killed ethically. Something just doesn’t sit well with me on this but anyway…

We picked up our new van called Mabel and headed into Cairns. Something else that is absolutely everywhere is sugar cane. I had forgotten that this was EVERYWHERE. It’s really beautiful against the backdrop of the jungle.

We camped in a person’s yard that had toilets and showers and an area for making food. We had thought that we might just sleep in a parking lot but we got a little skittish because there’s big fines if you do this and get caught. Our van isn’t exactly low pro either. That night we were awoken by fruit bats screaming. Crazy.

The next morning we were up bright and early to head to the great barrier reef! We boarded the boat with a bunch of other people and drove for over an hour to the reef. I’m realizing how much of this trip we’re spending on an boat and under the water. A lot!

They stopped at two places and Luc dove at one and Vivi and I snorkeled at both. The water was pretty cold so Vivi didn’t last long. I have to say that from what I remember of the GBR, it’s in a sadder state now. Less colour on the corals. Less fish. Sadly, it seemed comparable to other places that we’ve snorkeled in this trip. I had great expectations that it would surpass anything we’ve seen up to the point. We enjoyed a delicious lunch on the boat and then wine and cheese before heading back. It was a wonderful day and so grateful we got to see the GBR before climate change potentially destroys a lot of it.

We left Cairns and headed down to Babinda Boulders to sleep in a free campsite with showers! Oh wait, they were cold showers. So Vivi and I had a cold shower together (memorable!) and it was also raining so a little challenging to get warm but not impossible.

The next morning we visited the boulders and saw some incredible waterfalls  (Josephine Falls) and gorgeous walks through the jungle. Then drove south. After driving north for so long it was a little foreign to have the sun behind us now.

We stopped just outside of Townsville at Crystal Creek Caravan Park where we did laundry and just relaxed for the afternoon.

The next day  was father’s day and we decided not to stop at Townsville but just on the other side and do some shopping for various must needed items. We treated ourselves to sushi. I feel like we just drove a bunch that day and then stopped at a free caravan spot just off the side of the road. This was a bit of a shocker to us as it was basically a parking lot with bathrooms. We parked, threw out our chairs, and had a beer. A little while later some people showed up in a caravan and they asked us if we could pull forward. I said sure but that I didn’t want to go too far forward as we wanted to be close to the washrooms for my daughter. They said they had another caravan for her sister that needed to pull in too. And maybe I should have parked more closer to the bathrooms. I guess the sister heard that I didn’t want to pull forward so she made a comment so I could hear “well Australians are very accommodating but foreigners aren’t.” THAT made me react. I said “what did you say?” and the first woman said “oh she heard you say you didn’t want to pull forward” I said “I’m willing to pull forward but maybe not now after that insult”. I was feeling hot and fiery. It took a bit to settle down. In the end we didn’t have to move and they got to be beside each other. Later on that night, the woman’s husband walked over and apologized. He said that his wife is bi-polar and has mental illness and that him and the other husband were very embarrassed by what happened. No worries mate. J

After a sleep, we drove on to Airlie Beach for the day to explore. Man oh man things have changed. I remember the main drag but it’s like a tourist haven and jump off point for so many things. We headed to the lagoon which is basically an amazing outdoor pool beside the ocean where we cooked up chicken wings on the bbq. We relaxed there for a couple of hours and then explored the town and played at the massive playground. This thing must have cost a fortune to build.

We considered the Whitsunday trip but we’ve spent so much time in and on the water we felt it would be just more of the same(ish). So we headed back to the caravan park for the night.

The next day we did a side trip to the top of a mountain to visit a national park and see platypuses! It was a gorgeous winding, steep drive. We found them and many many turtles. It was really cool. We also came across a bush turkey. We were happy to get off the mail highway and do this little tour through the back lands of Queensland seeing the farms and taking lots of little side roads. We stopped at a caravan park that was basically a lot with pads (no trees) and showers and toilets. We walked over to the local pub for dinner. It was starting to get COLD again! Dinner was pretty just ok. It was definitely a little tiny town in the middle of Queensland.

Next up we stopped in Rockhampton and visited a FREE zoo. We got to see chimps, a koala, dingos, a cassowary, lots of birds, kangaroos and a snake. This zoo was more like a place for animals that are hurt and injured to come and recuperate. That night we stopped at a free camping spot at a tavern on the side of the road in Raglan. Buy a couple of drinks and you get your showers and toilets for free. Yes Please!

Luc and I evaluated what was happening… we had been driving driving driving and it felt like our needs weren’t getting met. We decided that we would slow down the last few days and not move as much. Essentially see less. So we made it to Bundaberg and just kinda walked around town. First we visited an art gallery that had a kids home schooling group there that Vivi tagged along with. Then Luc and Vivi got haircuts. And then we headed to beach to the caravan park. It was raining and cold so we plugged in and hunkered down watching downloaded videos from Netflix in the van.

The next morning Luc went for a run and then we had a slow start with pancakes! Then we headed to the beach and flew up the drone. We slowed down and enjoyed the beach and did some meditation. It was beautiful there. We left around noon and headed to Hervey Bay. First though, some work friends called me from the annual golf tournament that I was missing which was so AMAZING! It was great to see all their faces again. I’m super missing everyone back home and I enjoy the golf tourney so I was sad to miss it – this was the next best thing.

We were famished so we splurged and got fish and chips beside the bay. Man on man was it good and cheap! Then off to the Tourist Info Centre. We made the hard decision not to go to Fraser Island. It was going to cost $500 for all of us for a day trip. The weather was cold and windy so we wouldn’t be swimming in any of the water holes. Sticking with what we had just discussed about taking things a bit slower, Fraser Island was going to be a full day (leaving at 7am, back at 6pm) so we chose to not do it. I don’t regret that choice. I’ve been there and I have those memories. Luc was fine with not seeing it. And Vivi still has a lot more time in her life to go there again if she wants. We decided to stay 2 days at Hervey Bay. Again, nothing looks the same. I looked for the tattoo place and piercing place that I got a tattoo and piercing but nothing looked the same. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the beach at the caravan park while sipping a delicious beer.

The next day we walked to the Sunday market, had lunch, cruised the jetty, and walked back. Then a stop at the ice cream store (YUM!) and groceries.

The next day we started our visiting in Maryborough which is Mary Poppinsland. Where the author who wrote Mary Poppins was born. That was a really cute town and neat to see all the Mary Poppins artefacts around town. Then we drove the long way to Noosa through farmland and jungle (so strange) keeping our eyes peeled for Koalas as it was Koala area.

Then we hit Noosa and headed straight to the Sea Scouts Campground. A cheap campground that only operates on the weekend (it was Sunday!) that is usually set up for scouts but let’s caravans park in their yard. It was really cool! We were pretty much all alone beside one other car. We then left and got some groceries and drove around Noosa and the area. Wow, this place is like Whistler. Expensive! We drove to the national park and took in the views. Stunning. Then back to the scout camp and tucked in for the night.

We packed up and drove to the river’s edge the next morning where we walked along the river which was so well equipped for enjoying the river. There was work out areas, bike lanes, boats to rent to explore the river… We headed to the caravan park and got some laundry going. Our spot was right beside the river on the beach! Ideal!! Again, taking it slow, we decided to rent a boat and explore the river and go fishing! That was a bit something different. Fishing was kinda cool! We didn’t catch anything but Vivi loved it. Luc thought he would demonstrate how shallow the water was and jumped overboard while moving, and it was deeper than he thought and got his phone and wallet wet. The phone is ok after it dried out a bit. But man, that was funny.

We loved Noosa but it was expensive. The river really makes it so welcoming. I’d love to go back there one day and actually stay and explore a bit longer. We enjoyed the sunset at our campsite drinking wine and watching the pelicans. It was gorgeous and so memorable.

The next morning we headed to the National Park to walk around the beaches in Noosa. This was incredible. The forest was green and lush, the beach was white sand and blue seas. There were surfers everywhere and we saw a koala in the tree! This was a highlight for us. What was epic was that it dumped rain and we waited in the van until it eased… we headed out after the rain stopped, did our hike, got back in the van, and it began dumping again. So lucky!!

We headed back along the Sunshine Coast and stopped in at a mall to visit JBI HIFI and buy some electronics so we can get back the GST before leaving Australia. We also wanted to hit a movie but at $25/adult and $20/kid we decided that wasn’t going to happen.

Then we took off for our last night in the caravan just outside of Brisbane. It was raining like crazy and we ended up sleeping at an old showgrounds with a bunch of other campers. There’s some interesting places out there to be sure!

I had a moment driving that day where a song came on the van… I just had this realization that this trip is almost over. It was a surreal moment and I started to cry. I really wanted to feel all those emotions as we’ve come so far and seen so much but I was driving on the freeway so pushed them down. I got tingles and it’s like a moment I haven’t felt in a while. It was also accompanied by a Fiat that drove by (I was reminded of the mini cooper we rented which seemed like ages ago).

The final day we drove into Brisbane and Luc dropped us off at the Westin. Our next fancy hotel we will stay at for free. I was overjoyed to be able to backup my computer, send my 800 photos to the cloud, update my phone, check out the bill situation, fill in the online GST application for the airport basically do all the electronic stuff I’ve been trying to do for weeks. When all your photos are on your phone and your phone won’t upload to the cloud, you get a bit nervous about the possibility of losing your phone. I also pulled a tooth out of Vivi’s mouth which was quite exciting!

I finished that, Luc came back after dropping off the van and we met at Queens Street to exchange our Ozzie $$ for Fiji $$’s. Ate some delicious Mexican food. Then Vivi and I went swimming, we came back, watched some TV and headed to dinner at the hotel restaurant. After that, Vivi returned to the room and Luc and I ventured down the street to the Irish pub for a Guinness. We reflected on where we’ve come from. It was a nice quick date night.

The next morning Vivi and I went for a workout at the hotel gym and then another swim at the pool. We then packed up again getting ready for the flight the next day and headed out to enjoy brunch in Brisbane’s harbor. We had a scrumptious brunch and then took the free harbor ferry along the river. We got out and walked over the pedestrian bridge taking in the sights. Brisbane is our favourite big city and we could see ourselves living here. We walked through the Botanical Gardens and commented on how this city is really set up for people to enjoy it. Places to sit, lots of walking paths, it’s gorgeous! For winter time, it seemed like our spring.

We did our final pack, Luc went for a massage (his neck and hip are bugging him) and we took a taxi to our last Airbnb in Australia. We arrived and we’d booked a room in a house. It was really a great place. They gave us a ride to the airport in the morning. And when Vivi forgot her purse in the car, they even brought it back!

Australia has been a dream come true. I’m so grateful that we were able to explore and experience so much of this country. Vivi and I say that we think Australia is the best country we’ve visited since travelling. We love it’s beauty, ease and diversity. We’ve met some incredible people along the way and I’d love to come back one day and visit Sydney one more time. Thank you Australia for making our journey and experience to remember.

Next stop, Fiji!  

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Laos

Laos

Feb 25-Mar 8, 2019

Leaving

We left Chiang Rai EARLY in the morning. I think it was 5:30am. It was an early wake up call for my birthday. For my birthday I wanted to get over the border into Laos with just one company that brought us there. We could have saved money and did it ourselves but it would have required us taking a bus to the border (2 hours away), a tuk tuk to the “checkout” of Thailand and then another tuk tuk to the Laos border to get our Visa, then another tuk tuk into town… Way too much “figuring out” on my birthday. So I pulled the birthday card and I got what I wanted which was for it to just be EASY. One company that herds us along.

We got into the van that was going to take us and the driver immediately wanted to know which passports we had so he could know how much American cash we would need to get a visa. I don’t think he was very happy that Luc and Vivi had Swiss passports because he couldn’t do a crazy ass exchange rate on them – visas are free for Swiss going into Laos. For me, I already had the USD I needed for my British Passport. Canadian passports are the most expensive Visa around to pass into Laos.

Next stop we picked up a couple from France. They didn’t have any USD so the driver said that he could sell them some (for a terrible exchange). Luc said in French to them that we had some extra USD so we could spot them the cash until they could get to a bank to pay us back. Well I guess the driver didn’t know that this had gone on because he stopped at an ATM. We explained to him that we didn’t need to stop because we were going to lend them the cash and he was PISSED!!! He slammed the door and zoomed off. I guess his side business of ripping off tourists wasn’t going to work today.

A couple of times I tried to talk to him but he completely ignored me. Finally Luc made him listen when we all had to go to the bathroom. Nice start to my birthday – piss off a local.

We got to the border and stamped out of Thailand and into Laos. It was pretty easy. Forms to fill, photos to give (I had brought some extras for times like this so I patted myself on the back). We had made fast friends with the French since our little incident which we would continue to hang out with them for a while and meet up with them again in Siem Reap.

We got into the back of a truck and headed off to the boat. But not before we had a stop at the tour guides restaurant where he told us that the beer is cheaper here and such. Total scam. He also told us that he would be with us for the two day tour but we never saw him again.

Down the Mekong

Onto the boat, our assigned seating was basically bullshit and we ended up sitting closer to the back of the boat where the engine is. We were off and heading down the Mekong. The Mekong is stunning. The river is brown but you float past jungle, water buffalo, mountains, small hill tribes… we made about 10 stops that day floating into different places where people would get on or things would be delivered. Then a 360 degree turn in the river to get back on course. At some point some young fellas got on and the drinking began. They were trying to put beer in everyone’s hands. It was really crazy. They kept buying and buying beer and giving it away. It was all a bit suspect to me. There were two girls with them and one of them had about a 6 month old baby. It was kinda crazy.

Oh and Luc and Vivi tried to get the whole boat to sing me Happy Birthday which was really special. We ate instant noodles on the boat for lunch.

We got off the boat after about 8 hours at Pak Beng and about 20 of us piled into a van that was being held in place by a rock on a steep hill. I was sure that I was going to end up in the Mekong and I would leave this world the same day, 44 years later. We survived. The crew was a buch of Canadians from BC so after we got to the restaurant, we ate, I drank a few Gin and Tonics, watched the sun set over the Mekong and then us and the French went to the bar. Annnddd…. We were all alone at the bar. All for us. Vivi had a great time playing beer pong and dancing. My birthday had a wonderful ending.

The next morning I made the mistake of somehow getting onto a website about the exact same boat hitting a rock and sinking in a matter of seconds. People died. I shouldn’t have read that article because after that I was so freaked out. I’m not sure why I was so scared still but I sure lived in fear when I think back to that time.

The 2nd day of the trip down the river was another day of beauty. Not too hot given the breeze from the boat and just gorgeous. We sat at the front this time (away from the Engine). We made friends with Lola and Josh and sat close to Julienne and Roman (our French friends). These two adored Vivi and she loved them right back.

Luang Prabang

We arrived in Luang Prabang in the evening. We hopped into the back of a truck again and got dropped in the middle of the town to find our hotel.

Luang Prabang is a beautiful town with French architecture and flowers everywhere. It was strange to have this French feel in an Asian country. We even ate at a French bakery a couple of times while we were there.

That next morning, we found a place just down the road to fill up our water bottles for free. And we set off to check out the town by foot. We walked all over and then up the hill and down. I was stupid hot as usual. We met up with the French to get the money back that we loaned them and headed to the market for dinner. There we had a fill your plate to the brim with as much food as possible for like $2. Mine was heavy on the noodles.

We decided to get a van all together and with Lola and Josh to go to the Kuang Si waterfall to cut down on the cost the next day. The waterfall was the most amazing turquoise blue you’ve ever seen. We hiked around and then swam with the tourists. They also rescue bears there so that poachers can’t take the bile that’s in their stomachs to sell. Magical because of the colour of the water.

The next day we met with the French and went to Big Brother Mouse to volunteer. Big Brother Mouse and Big Sister Mouse is an organization that helps Laos children read and speak in English. We all jumped in the back of a truck again and headed to the school where there were a bunch of kids aged 4-12 awaiting us to teach them. We had a bit of a run down from the woman who worked there as to what was going to happen. We chatted with older kids on a mat and we played games with them too. Then we went into the rooms with the kids, sang songs and used flash cards that were a little strange to say the least. We had a delicious lunch of very Laos flavoured and prepared foods at the school and then we moved to the school up the hill to do more flash cards and watch them dance. There was this one little boy who was a dance machine. So cute. It was a long day and now I understand why I’m not cut out to be a teacher. LOL! It did feel so incredible to be able to give back to this organization though and for Vivi to be able to also volunteer was really moving for me.

We took it easy the next day and headed to the pool. It was fairly filthy because of all the people (grand reopening). The day after that we rented bikes and toodled around again. Luc got a flat but we still managed to get out to the shop that weaves silk. Another scorcher. Vivi was just sitting on the back of his bike on the little seat.  

If there’s a place you should visit in Laos, it’s Luang Prabang. It’s so beautiful and really quaint. The French colonial architecture really sets it apart.

Vang Vieng

We booked a van ride to Vang Vieng and I didn’t realize how twisty and turny it was going to be. Vivi and I both got car sick and she puked. There was a Mexican couple behind us that was super nice and gave us some meds for car sickness. The driver was driving like a maniac and I was sure that Laos was where we would meet our demise. At the top of this crazy ass hill where he was passing people constantly, we switched drivers to go down. This guy seemed to be marginally better and more safe.

I started to not feel so good in Vang Vieng after dinner. Must have been something I ate. My stomach was not feeling well which essentially took me out for the next day. It’s a little humorous because I was just asking the universe for some alone time (traveling and living with your family 24/7 becomes a bit much for this only child at times) and I got sick. So I guess I got what I asked for!

They headed out for the day on a bike to some caves and swimming holes and I got to stay in the hotel room for the day. I did venture out at one point to mail some postcards, buy some charcoal and I happened upon a Mexican restaurant and I couldn’t pass up tacos. By the time I got home I needed a rest.

Vang Vieng is nice, but you don’t need to stay there long. There’s not a lot in the centre. You need to go out a bit to take in the sports. I also didn’t see much of it due to illness but I don’t really feel that I missed out.

Lotus Flower
Lotus Flower

Vientiane

The next day we bussed to Vientiane. Vientiane is a BIG city. We had about 4 days here before jumping on a plane to Vietnam.

We got up early in the morning, had breakfast and tried to beat the heat. We took a tuk tuk to the COPE Visitor Centre that is dedicated to how Laos was affected by the war. Laos was the most heavily bombed place in world war II. There are still thousands and thousands of bombies still in the ground and people continue to die and get hurt daily. It is getting better though. It was a real eye opener that this little country was such a casualty of a war that they really didn’t even participate in. And the shocking thing is that generations later, that weren’t even around at that time, continue to be killed because of it. And I’m sorry if this offends, but it’s the States that dropped these bombs (because they weren’t allowed to come back with bombs in their planes) and they are doing next to nothing to help clean up the mess they made. It’s a little disgusting.

We met up for dinner again with the French and had a wonderful time. I just adore watching Vivi play with the two of them. The genuinely care about her and give her space for her to be a kid with. It’s adorable.

The next morning we walked to a park and around to a big arch. Then we decided to take in a movie: Captain Marvel (in English)! What a great way to spend an afternoon to beat the heat. Have I mentioned how hot it is in Laos yet?

The next day we hopped on a tuk tuk and jetted off to the airport to catch out flight to Hanoi. We were pretty excited because Hanoi was supposed to be about 7-9 degrees cooler than Laos and Vivi and I really couldn’t wait for it to get a bit cooler.

Reflections

  • While I thought I might finish in Laos, it really is incredibly beautiful. The people, the scenery, everything is stunning, especially the Mekong and Luang Prabang. I would consider coming back one day.
  • I was nervous going into this country. I had heard that it’s less touristy then Thailand (more than Myanmar) so I was a bit concerned about getting around and being understood. I think it worked out just perfect to come here.
  • There continued to be a lot of garbage on the side of the road.
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Camino: Day 35-37

Camino: Day 35-37

Day 35 – Las Herrerias to Fonfria

Today was O Cebreiro. We left in the dark. I was a bit cold and eerie in the dark hiking up the mountain. The moon was bright and the stars were clear. We got to the first town and I had the most delicious crepe with hummus and tomatoes. Wow! I couldn’t get over it. Then it was light out and up up up! It was beautiful walking through the countryside and up the mountain. Everything is green with sweeping vistas. So incredible. We walked into O Cebreiro where there was a lot of tourists. It was cute but I was happy we weren’t staying here for the night. Then up some more (I swear I thought the up was done when I got to O Cebreiro but nooooooooo……) the day was wonderful. Up and around these beautiful vistas. I so enjoyed being with Luc and listening to his stories. I also thoroughly enjoyed making new memories with him. I know how much he appreciates going to new places and experiencing new things. I’m honored I get to do this with him. And now we’re in Galicia. The food, views and trail are much better in Galicia. Then there was this HELL hill. Omg. Right before some place called A Puerto (which was not a door or a port). Then into Fonfria to an albergue where we got a bottom double bunk (I’ve only seen these in Australia). We had an amazing dinner with a lot of people and the food and the wine kept coming. Lots of connection and sharing. I so enjoy listening to Luc speak all the languages he knows, even if I don’t understand them. I knew he would love this place – everything about it. I had a terrible sleep. But they say “all you need to do is walk the next day so who needs sleep?” ? the best part about tomorrow is we’ve rented a private room so I can sleep without 30 other strangers. 

Day 36 – Fonfria to San Mamed

We started out around 6:40am. Still dark. We could hear a dog barking for at least a km away. We turned off the headlamp and enjoyed the moon light to guide our steps. Eventually the sun began to rise and it was a beautiful sun rise full of warm colors. Galicia is incredibly beautiful. I couldn’t stop oooohing and ahhhhing at alll the beauty. More up and a lot of down. The down is just murder on my metatarsals. Then we came upon this little oasis in a small village. Fruit, juice, coffee, cookies, nuts, while people played guitar. Beautiful quotes written everywhere and a calming energy. The guy that ran it came from Australia ?? he had been there for 4 years. We pressed on hoping the wild boar, wolves and bears didn’t jump us. Ok it’s a bit of a joke but true that they live in the forest. I will tread more aware when I’m hiking through the forests in Spain in the dark. We rented a private room with bath in this great albergue. We did laundry, chatted with Vivi and relaxed before dinner. We planned the next two days and where we’re staying. We’ve got 5 days to go. I can’t believe it’s less than a week until we’re finished. Tonight we went around the table, introduced ourselves and said what we were grateful for. I was surprised when a young girl who looked familiar, said she was grateful for me. She said 3 weeks ago me and Sherri and Leena invited her to the top of the mountain where the statues are and will mills for sunrise. She said since then, she’s tried to be near the top of mountains for sunrise as she enjoyed it so much with us and she’s passed this onto other people she’s met. It was so moving to hear the positive impact that this small gesture has had on her and others. Every day I’m met by people who share themselves with me and I gain something from them. Tonight I was touched by a beautiful soul and so happy our paths crossed again here and now after 3 weeks and the last time seeing her up on a mountain.

Day 37 – San Mamed to Puertomarin

Wow what a day. Furthest distance I’ve walked in one day. We started in the dark and had our first coffee in Sarria. And then some friends I haven’t seen since the meseta walked by. I love it when that happens. Wow. The amount of newbies on the trail. I’ve got some feelings about that. Luc and I spent a lot of time talking about all the new people who joined today and who send their packs forward. Weirdly, even though we were looking for it, I missed the 100km marker (sigh and foot stomp) but got the 99km marker. I have less than 100km to go!! We walked and walked and walked. I’ve been having some pain in my metatarsal on the right foot. Walking on pavement starts to really irritate it. After a little cry going down a massive hill, and then over a bridge and up so many steps and a few more hills, we made it to the albergue where we had another private room booked. And thank goodness because I started to feel some pain in my bladder area. I started thinking maybe I had a UTI. I discussed with Luc if I should go to a doctor. Eventually, Luc asked the albergue owner if there was a doctor we could visit. She said in the next town was a clinic. So we took a taxi to the clinic at about 5pm. I’m so thankful Luc is here. He was able to speak and understand what the doctors and nurses were saying. They think that the kidney stone might still be in but moved down. I’m still not drinking enough water ?. So Luc is on me now to drink more water and evidently I need to drink bottled water from here on out in Spain. I got a shot in my ass for the pain and was sent back home in the same taxi ?. Luc was a sweetie and bought a pizza for us to eat in our room. I’ve been laying in my bed the rest of the night with some pain and discomfort. I’m ready to be done this walk. 4 More days until Santiago. 6 more days until we’re back in Switzerland ?? 

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France Part 1

A girl and her grasshoppers

Thank you to everyone who responded with comments and direct messages to me. I was overwhelmed with the love, understanding and compassion that you all gave me.

I’m feeling more myself bit by bit. Practicing self-love and self-acceptance is at the top of my radar. Also, Luc and I have had some good conversations about this trip and how he can support me. We’re finding our way.

We’re in La Doire, France right now as I write this. We’re in Luc’s aunt’s house with 3 bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, deck, etc… all by ourselves. This is more helpful being here. It’s about 5 degrees cooler and we actually have time alone. Vivi has had a chance to go into her own room and shut her door and watch some iPad. I’ve got to lay in bed and read my book, alone. Luc got to explore some of the places where a lot of his memories growing up, took place.

The space, the reduced heat and feeling understood and heard has really helped my head and my heart. I wouldn’t say that I was feeling home sick… I was feeling very alone.

So I’m not going to give you a play by play of every day… we’ve been here now for 2 weeks. I’ll review the highlight reel.

We arrived in France and waited for about 45 mins until our luggage came out the chute. I suspect the baggage handlers had gone for lunch, wine, maybe a siesta. Or simply laughing on the other side of the wall. We picked up our rental car in a room that was probably about 40 degrees inside. The people who worked in this room were sweating profusely. I looked at them like, “how are you working in these conditions?” After the guy tried to tell us we could only go 50KM’s per day and Luc pulled out the printed off contract that we were mailed that said “unlimited” he backed down and agreed.

We met up with Luc’s sister and boyfriend to get the keys for the studio apartment. This is Luc’s parents studio in Antibes, France. It’s one big room with kitchen, beds, laundry machine, TV. Then the bathroom is in another room. And they have a ground level balcony.

We became familiar with the place and the pool in the apartment. It was hot so we went there in the afternoon. The pool became the place for us to go every day to cool off and practice dives, hand stands, snorkelling, games, read our books and practice Spanish.

That night it was 31 degrees inside. Because we’re ground level it was felt that we should put the voler’s down for security. Unbearable. We did this the next night again but it was the absolute worst. So, after that we risked it and left the door open to let in the fresh air. The apartment building has 2 gates that people would have to get through, so we felt that was sufficient protection. It was at this point I started wondering if maybe we should move somewhere else cooler.

We headed on Sunday to a 4.5 hour lunch with Luc’s cousins. They built a beautiful house with a pool (everyone seems to have access to a pool here). We ate, drank, swam, and because I hadn’t been sleeping well, I curled up on the couch after about hour 3 for a siesta. It was a wonderful reunion. So many little cousins now for Violette to play with. It was nice to see them bonding and creating connections.

The next morning, we were advised from Luc’s mom, to get to the beach early. So off we went at 8am to get to the beach and get a parking spot and a piece of the playa. We snorkelled and read until about 1pm when the sun was beating down on us so we took off home (stopping first in Antibes to get some stamps for some postcards).

The next day was our anniversary! 9 years ago that day, we got married in Switzerland. Luc’s idea was to go to Gourdon, a tiny little walking only town, up in the mountains for a bit and look around there (it’s very artisanal) and then head to a restaurant for dinner. It was another hot day with some crazy twisty roads to get to and from Gourdon. All in all it was a nice way to spend our anniversary.

The next day, I wanted to visit the market in Antibes. I remember going there after one of the cousin’s wedding so wanted to remember it again. We parked a ways from the town where there was tons of parking. Then we walked along the waterfront where all the really big and fancy yachts are parked. I have to say, I definitely got that feeling of “I want ‘all the things’ and my life would feel complete”. It’s amazing what just being around wealth will do to your “want” desire.

The market was crazy busy and it was so hot. We bought a lot of wonderful fruit, veg, olives, and tapanade. We then went to find something to eat. We stopped in at this restaurant that had mussels and fries. Garcon, deux s’il vous plait! Dripping sweat while eating is one of the most unpleasant experiences I’m had I think. I soaked 4 napkins.

We left there totally full and went to the “Nomad” sculpture as it wasn’t too far away. Pretty cool looking. Luc climbed it even though it clearly said “no climbing”. Rule breaker!

Then Luc tried numerous times to convince us to go for the other little walk around a castle. No way. Vivi and I were dying of the heat. We crawled back to the car and home to cool off in the pool (the pool is at least 28 degrees so ‘cool off’ is an exaggeration. Later that night, Vivi threw up two times. We think it was maybe too much sun. We also aren’t sure if it was the mussels (she hasn’t had problems before).

The next night we went to Luc’s cousin’s place for a wonderful dinner of Pizza! Jerome built a pizza oven at his house, so we had several different kinds of home made pizza direct from a wood fire pizza oven. Again all the cousins, the pool, wonderful wine… it was so much fun and good to connect.

The next day, we drove the scenic route (sea side) to Cannes.  We had lunch in a tiny little restaurant with really great tasting water (It’s the little things I swear…) There we went on tiny train that took us through Cannes and told us all about the history of Cannes and the different buildings and areas of town. We drove past some of the most expensive hotels in the world… there must have been something going on because it was car after car: Lambos, Ferraris, Porches, Bugatis, Mercedes (suped up PUSH), etc… Luc wanted to check out his grandpa’s old house, so we drove past there and he hopped the fence so he could take a trip down memory lane.

The next day was one for the records… we got up as early as we could (Vivi didn’t want to get out of bed and no convincing her that we needed to get going before it got too hot – helped). We got out the door to walk around Cape D’antibes. It was stunning and beautiful but it was so incredibly hot. Hardly any shade, in and out of rocks and climbing. Not too much of a breeze but when there was the breeze was hot. First Vivi started complaining about the heat and then it was me. I was a mess – every single piece of skin was wet with sweat. My face was a HOT MESS. I didn’t bring a hat because I seriously thought it was early enough (remember it was about 9am). It was like my body was on overdrive. I looked around at the other people almost casually walking, some RUNNING (I shit you not) and I was like “what the fuck is wrong with me?”. Luc actually wondered the same. We got to this place in the walk where we could continue (in the shade) or take a short cut and motor back to the car. Short cut please. I later read these two articles:

and now I’m so sure it’s completely linked with my red hair. Yes I am a unicorn. Thank you very much.

After getting to the car which was parked at the beach no less we joined the masses of people on the beach to get a cool down. This beach… you were LITERALLY right beside the next people. There was almost no sand to walk between the towels to get to the sea. People were scouting and fighting over spots…. You know when you ask someone if they are leaving so you can take their parking spot? Yeah that happened ON THE BEACH.

I feel like the next day was a down day. I think it’s when I wrote my last blog post. There was a massive storm which helped to relieve the heat much to my joy.

Then we went to Olivier’s house for another wonderful 4 hour meal at lunch. In the pool, speaking some English, it was really really nice. We went directly from their house to here. I coached in the most wonderful spot and then to dinner at a pizzeria just a little down the hill from where we’re staying. Live music, an awesome vibe, cheap, good food. It was really neat.

Yesterday… so Luc wanted to go for a 1-2 hour hike. I said “1-2 hours… have you done this before?” Response: “Oh yeah, so many times when I was little”. Me: “but 1-2 hours… that’s pretty vague. Why such a vaste difference?” Response: “It was a long time ago I can’t remember exactly”. So we head up the “hill”. About 30mins into a straight uphill “little walk” (that’s what he called it) I started to ask more questions. “Please show me the map and what we’re doing…”

Out comes the map “ok, up to the ruins here… then around the mountain, down to this town, and back up home.”

Me: “Ummmmm 1-2 hours? We’re not even at the ruins yet! And you want to go around THAT mountain?” Pointing at a mountain that seems like would take about a day to walk around the circumference. I’ve packed 1 litre of water and 2 cliff bars for the “little walk” for the 3 of us. I demand he calls his aunt for clarification.

His aunt says it’s about 1 hour to the ruins (which was “just around the corner”). Ok, we regroup and we decide once we get to the ruins we’ll choose what comes next. It’s a beautiful walk after the uphill turns to flatish. So many butterflies, crickets, lizards, beautiful views, the clouds shield us from the beating sun, there’s a breeze. AN ACTUAL BREEZE that’s cool! I love this place.

We get to the ruins. They are pretty cool. Way up at the top of this mountain, I try to think about what life must have been like for them. Creating these buildings that are made from stone, overlooking the beautiful valley. Why so high? It couldn’t have been easy to build there.

We drink water, eat the cliff bars. It’s been 2 hours. We choose to go back the same way we came. Luc said the path around the mountain is probably overgrown. Yeah let’s go with that.

We come home and head out for lunch and I’m exhausted so Luc takes off to find some canyon and river and I take a nap and Vivi has a rest. How he can keep going, I’ll never understand.

Side note: Man on man they eat a lot of bread here. I feel like I’m turning into the a French loaf. So I’ve decided no bread for breakfast and no bread from the bread baskets that they bring. I’m slower, I’m more tired, I feel like I’m constantly bloated. I need a bread break.

We have one more day here. And then we head back to the studio. 8 days until I leave for the Camino….

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A weekend away in Tofino and Ucluelet, BC

Wild Pacific Trail: Lighthouse route

Luc and I thought we would do one last trip to the rugged West Coast before we leave, just the two of us.

Tofino has always held such a beautiful place in my soul. So many memories growing up. Chesterman’s beach has been where my spirit retreats to when I think of a warm peaceful place in my heart.

In my influential years, I slept in my car for an entire weekend in the long beach parking lot while me and my girlfriend searched all weekend long for our two friends (they had taken off to another island without phone service). I’ve camped in my Volkswagen van on the side of many roads in and around Tofino. I’ve done tequila shots off a surf board around a camp fire at Chesterman’s beach, fallen asleep in front of the fire with my friends and had one of my friends sleeping bags catch on fire (he was ok but what a way to wake up!). So many many memories. And I feel like as I’ve grown up, so has Tofino. All of the things I just mentioned, would never happen now. Tofino is very regulated now as far as fires, camping and public drinking goes.

Anyway, back to last weekend, Luc and I took off for a weekend of reconnection to each other and the West Coast of Vancouver Island. In typical Luc fashion, he forgot a pretty integral piece of clothing when visiting the wet coast – a rain jacket. This provided no end of laughter for me throughout the weekend. What was priceless was watching him hike for 11KM’s with a massive golf umbrella.

FOOD/Restaurant

Tofino and Ucluelet have some wonderful wonderful places to eat! Extra bonus: lots and lots of seafood! Yum!

Hanks BBQ
This photo stared at me the entire time I was eating.

Hank’s BBQ, Ucluelet

Our first meal was out of this world delicious! The ambiance in the restaurant was pretty eclectic – Luc and I had no trouble singing along to most of the songs. Great beer choices too! I’d say this was our most expensive dinner but probably because we ordered two drinks each, two appies and one main meal to share.

Feast Tofino 8th Annual Dock Festival

We were lucky enough to be there when Feast Tofino was happening. While the weather was less than desirable for an outdoor food experience, it was so freaking delicious. We paid $25 each for 10 tickets. Those tickets would get you one little sample of food from different restaurants and hotels from around Tofino. All seafood and fish based delicacies. Absolute heaven. Live music while you stuffed your face.

It was hosted by Chef Lynn Crawford and featured culinary teams from the Wickaninnish InnLong Beach Lodge ResortShelter RestaurantJamie’s Rainforest InnSOBORuby Watchco, and the Tofino Resort + Marina.

Feast Tofino! Feast Tofino!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Loaf Bake Shop, Tofino

This rustic bakery has been a part of my life for over 25 years and not surprisingly it hasn’t changed much. They still take cash only at the till. Super fresh baked goods with piping hot coffee. When you come to this bakery, you want to just grab your book, and chill out. Slow down. You’re on Tofino time. Definitely worth a visit to grab a java and some baked goods for your breakfast tomorrow or a snack today.

Floathouse view
View from outdoor eating area at the floathouse.

Floathouse Patio and Grill, Ucluelet

Our last dinner didn’t disappoint. This restaurant floats which makes it pretty unique. While eating outside would definitely have been better for ambiance it was too damn cold! So we sat inside and enjoyed great food and our server Emma from Australia was wonderful.

Tacofino, Tofino

Our last stop before taking off was at the most tasty food truck this side of the 49th parallel. The original truck that started it all off for Tacofino definitely was worth the wait. And the line up was long! No surprise though cuz the food is out of this world. Outdoor seating is all there is with two big long tables to share your meal and space with like minded foodies! Be sure to stop here at least once while in the Pacific Rim.

Tacofino 2018 Tacofino 2018

Drink

Tofino Brewery
2 Flights!

Tofino Brewing Co, Tofino

We stopped in here to take a couple of delicious flights and to dry off and get out of the rain. The place was buzzing and we grabbed the last two seats. Before long it was really busy in there! Super fun and a warm feeling where people are there to experience their liquid gold. I highly recommend to stop in here if you are interested in beer tasting and micro breweries. One of the tasters even had kelp in it! We’re still really confused why the Ucluelet restaurants don’t carry this beer but they carry Victoria and Whistler beer… we think there might be a bit of a feud happening but we’re just not sure…

Pacific Rim Distilling, Ucluelet

This place was so quaint. The guy who owned it was 3rd or 4th generation distiller. He was just about to close up for the day but let us sample his distilled vodka. I believe he said that he had been open for a week but has been selling out constantly. I would stop by here and say hi to Luke on the way through Ukee!

Hiking

Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet

We hiked 11KM’s along this beautiful well kept trail. Where we got on the trail, it was very close to many different hotels and resorts which we commented on that it definitely didn’t feel like we were out and alone like you do when you’re hiking in East Sooke Park. At some point the resorts fall away and then you’re more alone which is nice.

Every turn has a bench or look out that is breath taking. At one of the parking lots, you can borrow a walking stick that has been left there for others to use. Be prepared to take lots of photos and it will take you longer than you expect to walk it. We just kinda got carried away with the beauty of it all.

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Wild Pacific Trail, Lighthouse Loop, Ucluelet

A smaller loop (2.6KM’s I believe) which winds in a circle to the lighthouse. It’s really very beautiful with a lot of placards along the way that you can read about the history of the shipwrecks, birds, trees and your surroundings. There is a pole along the trail that is dedicated to love locks that people have placed many locks on it.

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Chesterman’s Beach, Tofino

As I’ve said before this is my all time favourite beach. When you look inside your heart to find the most beautiful peaceful place in the world you’ve been, Chesterman’s is that for me. White sand, surfers, jutting rocks, long walks, kids playing in the ocean, and Frank Island. There’s something so mystical about this beach. When you’re there, be sure to close your eyes, and stop and listen to all that is happening around you: the people, kids, churn of the ocean, wind, smell the surf, birds, and sun or rain on your face.

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Airbnb

Get $45 CAD off your first adventure for FREEWe stayed at a wonderful Airbnb in Ucluelet called the “Surf N Stay” tucked in the back of a property on a quiet street. It was walking distance to Ucluelet and to the Wild Pacific Trail. While you could hear people walking above your head quite easily, it was really the perfect spot for us to use as a home base for the weekend.

Airbnb is a wonderful way to travel and see more of the culture of the place you are visiting. You feel like you’re one of the locals when you’re staying in locals homes. If you haven’t used Airbnb before, I highly recommend it. And please use our travel link. Using our link will get you $45 CAD in free travel credit and we receive $25 CAD. Win win!

Reflection

Luc was pretty heart broken to not have sunshine while we were there but if you think about it, Tofino and Ukee are best known for their wet and rainy weather so we got the full authentic experience. We went there to connect back to nature, the West Coast beauty, and for me – my roots. The Pacific Rim helps me to connect with my life force and love.

I had a wonderful time with Luc full of laughter (maybe at his expense), love and connection. We even saw a bear on the way back. I believe that when you set your intention for what you want to get out of your journey, all that there is left to do is open your mind to what you want to experience, and hand it over to the universe to create that for you, you let go of how it has to go and just open up your heart and soul to how it will unfold.

I will miss you my beautiful rugged west coast. You hold my heart, love, space, and life force. Until we meet again.

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