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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Australia: Road Trip – Karijini National Park to Fitzroy Crossing

Australia: Road Trip – Karijini National Park to Fitzroy Crossing

May 29-June 4, 2019

We drove drove and drove. That was a long day of not much to see and we just needed to get there.

I think back to 20 years ago and maybe this was the drive that Mike and I did on the red earth roads before they paved it. I’m not sure if we did the Gibb river road or not but I remember spending a few days on a red dirt road in the middle of no where. I must get home to look at the photos I took to remind me of what we did and where we went.

When we got to the visitor’s centre we got some info and we were all a little spent from the day. We’d missed a turn that meant we’d have to come back 70kms the next day to see a gorge we missed.

We headed to the campground that was the cheapest campground we’ve camped at (besides free). No bells and whistles here….basically toilets and a dirt spot. They don’t really have tables here for people to eat at at the campgrounds (this is a total shocker).

We headed down to the falls and Luc went for a swim. It was beautiful. Then back to the campground to listen to music and eat dinner.

The next day we decided to do a walk along the top of Dale’s gorge. And then down into the bottom where the circular pool is. I had to have a swim in the beautiful water. There’s something about water that awakens my senses. I only wish I could have done it naked.

Then we walked from one end of the gorge to the other back to the first pool where Luc swam the day before. This, I remember walking when I was with Mike. It was really pretty and not too hot. We got to one perfect place to swim but pressed onto the falls and took a dip there. Then we went up a bit further and saw a baby snake that I swear tried to take a swipe at Vivi’s ankle that was covered by a sock and shoe. Where there are babies, there are mamas and papas.

Then we ate some sandwiches in the parking and drove back the 70 kms to the other gorge. It was beautiful and Luc was able to fly the drone up a couple of times. I hope I can post the drone video when I post this blog.

We then headed back the 70kms and then some to a free campsite where we were the only ones! That was a bit unnerving but also really tranquil. In the morning we let out a bunch of carnal roars and screams because we could and I got naked in the parking lot because I could. I’m working on a different relationship with my body and being naked occasionally is so liberating.

We drove to Eighty Mile beach where we did laundry and spent some time down at the ocean. It was a beautiful sunset on the beach where Luc and Vivi did some shell collecting and I did some meditation and “just being present”.

The next morning we took it easy and we were going to drive to a free spot outside of Broome but decided to go all the way into town. We had enough time.

We stopped at the Broome caravan park that Mike and I lived at for a few weeks. The place was similar but changed. So many memories there. A specific moment when I made a phone call that I remember… the phone booth isn’t there anymore.

We headed into town to the mother of all caravan parks. There was only wifi at the café so you know where I was in the morning. It was perfect timing as well as there was a party for the passing of Carolyn Wadel that people went live on FB so I was able to partake in that a little bit that I really appreciated.

That night we went down to the beach to watch yet another incredible sunset on Cable Beach. We might have stolen power in our non-powered site…

Boab trees are abundant here and they are so beautiful and unique. Each one different, they are so stunning and carry so much character. I feel like their energy must be 1000s of years old. They can hold oodles of litres of water inside them and won’t burn in a fire.

The next day we explored around Broome. Nothing was the same everything was new – I didn’t remember a single thing. We didn’t visit the oldest movie theatre in the world as it didn’t work out for us and with what we wanted to see. I don’t think I visited this either when I was here 20 years ago. We visited a Sunday Market where we bought some Emu Cream and necklaces. We visited some pearling shops and had lunch at a brewery that was delicious. We drove over to where the red earth meets the blue ocean. It wasn’t as stunning as you see in drone shots on Instagram. We couldn’t fly the drone up because it was close to an airport.

Then over to the visitors centre for some much needed info and then back to Cable Beach to see the sunset one last time and see dinosaur prints! This time we got to the place where the camels were walking to get some really cool sunset camel shots.

I said goodbye to Broome for a second time. There’s something about this place that I feel really close to and I’m so glad I got to go back here one more time. It’s fascinating the feelings you have when you remember something so well and other times when you don’t remember it at all. There’s warmth and nostalgia for the memories but then disdain and frustration for not remembering. As my good friend Sheila says “it’s not the specific things you remember, just the feelings.” So true. And this place holds a lot of wonderful feelings for me.

We drove off to a caravan park 30kms up the road in the dark. It wasn’t free but they had wifi so I parked myself again in the morning at the café before the others rose so I could connect with some friends and family.

Then we packed up and pushed on to Derby. First stopping at the Prison tree where the settlers used to hold aboriginals (not very nice grrrr….), the longest cattle trough in the world (I didn’t get a pic) and to an aboriginal art centre.

We drove through Derby to the jetty and made sandwiches. Then we drove to get gas and groceries. My sunglasses broke (I can’t believe I’ve had them since well before I left) so I’m on the hunt for new sunnies.

Then we drove onto the free rest area where we got there with lots of sun left and we drank wine and leisurely made quesadillas suggested by Vivi.

Today we packed up the van and headed to Geiki Gorge where I wish we had got there in time to take a boat tour down the river but instead walked beside the gorge which was a walk that I truly did not like. I was wearing the wrong shoes (keens) and it was straight sand. You couldn’t really see the water, the rock formations were kinda cool but the discomfort of having sand and dirt in your shoes was like a torture I didn’t want to know. Then we decided to walk across the sand flats to get closer to the water to maybe see some crocodiles but little did we know that there were the spikiest grass seeds that hurt so bad when they touched your skin. OMG get me out of there.

We drove back to Fitzroy Crossing and ate our back of the van sandwiches in the tourist info centre parking lot. Then to the IGA to pick up chocolate and we wanted to by wine but FC is a dry town. Then we went to the BP and had a shower each for $5 total. Then off to the second free camping spot in a row with a spectacular view where I’m writing this blog post from now.

We have 7 days until we leave Darwin for Cairns and 6 days until we’re in Darwin. We’re about 2 days away from the border of the Northern Territory. This part of the journey feels a bit boring and dry TBH. We’re heading away from the ocean right now with tiny little Australian towns along the way. Not much to see and no network either so I’m feeling a bit out of touch with Canada.

I had the most delicious dream last night where I went back to work and saw all my colleagues again. It was so much fun being reunited with them and I woke up with the biggest smile on my face. It’s 5 weeks and 2 days until we’re back in Canada. Vivi and I are so incredibly excited to be home and see all our family and friends.

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Australia: Road Trip – Perth to Karijini National Park

Australia: Road Trip – Perth to Karijini National Park

Australia: Margaret River

May 23-29, 2019

We hit the road and did a quick drive through central Perth. We realized we didn’t really spend any time in the heart of Perth CBD. Ever since the Camino, big cities don’t really interest me. Smaller towns, outskirts, the beach all peak my interest more than going into big cities. I do feel like I missed out a bit but such is life, we’ve moved on.

We also stopped by Scarborough where I lived for a couple of months and I don’t remember it at all. All the roads and houses looked the same. So we headed to the beach and had our first sandwich making out the back of the van beside the beach. So cool. The beach was long and white with blue blue water. I wanted to stay and appreciate it but we had a ways to drive our first day and I think we all just wanted to get on the road.

A little ways along our first bathroom stop and we stopped at a National Park. We bought a National Park pass so we saved ourselves $10 (cha-Ching!). This park was amazing. Birds flying everywhere in their own natural environment. It was so serene to listen to their songs everywhere we went. And then we hit the koala area. We had no idea there were koala bears here so we were pleasantly surprised! They weren’t held in captivity but the park supplied their food so no need to stray far. We saw about 6 of them just lounging in the elbow of a tree. That was really cool. When we walked back the first one decided he needed some more leaves so moved out of the elbow and we got it all on video. I feel really lucky to be able to see these little guys.

Then back on the highway only to be turned around by an accident and a super long detour.

By this point the sun was getting low and we got to the pinnacles desert to take some really cool photos and send up the drone. The pinnacles are big mounds of rock and dirt that formed Hundreds of thousands of Years ago. A pretty neat thing to see and really cool at sunset. Sadly our sunset wasn’t stunning but the light was really beautiful. Check out the drone video

We camped our first night in a caravan park in Cervantes. A lot more expensive than we thought it was going to be for an unpowered site ($42). But the camp kitchen had sinks and gas elements to cook on. And plugs to charge all our electronics. The bathrooms were pretty good too.

It was rough the first night trying to figure out how the beds go. It felt really cramped and Luc was pretty uncomfortable with the space. I have to admit, it does take some maneuvering of our stuff and people but after a few days we got used to it. It gets challenging when we get more north and it’s hot out, you want to open the door but there’s so many flies or the sun has gone down and there’s tons of moths that love the light inside the van.

The next morning we had breakfast and packed up (more learning on how to pack up the beds) and it took us about a half an hour longer than what it takes us now 6 days later.

Our destination today was Kalbarri National Park. We had a lot of ground to cover so it seemed like we mostly drove for the day until the early afternoon when we stopped at the Pink Lake. It really is pink! Check out the drone video.

Then off to a few view points along coast. Absolutely stunning coastline. Rugged red rocks meet the dramatic waters of the Indian Ocean.

Light was not on our side so we headed to the campground that was 4kms in on a corrugated road. This campground was beside a river and I think Luc said some of the first settlers came there. You could tell because there was old farm equipment everywhere and a tank!

Again, way too expensive for what it was ($57 I think?). I didn’t use the showers as it was a bit too rustic for me and the toilets were so far away. But we had our first fire since we left Canada and roasted marshmallows that Vivi bought in Bali! We hung out with a couple who were beside us camping in their massive camper. They were from the east coast and were taking just over a year to travel around their country with their two girls.

The temps are already starting to get warmer just two days into heading up north.

We woke up, ate and packed up and headed out. The plan that day was to spend some time exploring the gorges on the other side of the park and then head to Denham which is close to Monkey Mia.

The gorges in this area are really beautiful. Red rocks cut out by the flowing water for thousands of years was just breathtaking.

We picked up some fly nets because the flies are getting to be unbearable when we step out of the van. And not a second too soon. Our next stop was Shell Beach and it was swarming with flies. I was really looking forward to seeing this beach as I remember it fondly. The beach is covered by tiny white shells. There really isn’t any sand to speak of. We put our bathing suits on but it really wasn’t warm enough to swim.

Then we pushed on and just wanted to get to Denham so we could have showers, wash laundry and settle in while it was still light out. We cooked in the camp kitchen and watch “The Voice” on the big screen tv.

The next morning we drove over the Monkey Mia. $15/adult and $5/kid. We didn’t want to pay that just to see the dolphins at the beach. So we snuck in through the boat ramp. Luc and Vivi ran over to them and I stayed in the get away van.

We named her too! Her name is Marvel. Because she brings us to marvelous places and she is a super hero of course!

We meandered back to the main road stopping at a lagoon and Eagle Bluff for lunch. Eagle Bluff was incredible. What a view with green/blue water. The flies were bad. To be honest, with the fly net they are just annoying. No where near the agony of the heat in South East Asia.

That night we stayed in our first free rest area. Luc’s favorite place to stay as it was free. There are places along the road that have toilets, tables and where a lot of other campers are (safety in numbers).

We took off in the morning and arrived in Carnarvon. Small town we wanted to check out the tourist info centre.

Then some groceries, gas and we couldn’t find the water fill up station so we went back to the gas station. Well I parked beside another truck and the angel it was parked at, the driver would have had to correct before backing up. Luc went in and I stayed in the van. The driver started to reverse and I could see he was really close to the van. If he didn’t hit the back corner it would have been a miracle. Oh and then he did. Sigh… thank goodness we got extra insurance. This guy was 19, from France, got his driver’s license in January and was driving around without insurance. Ugh….

So we exchanged all the particular info, sent it off to our rental company and set off to get water. Then we realized while we were waiting for water that the guy hadn’t signed. So we needed him to come back.

Back on the road again after a huge time suck.

We stopped at a road house to have lunch for the first time eating out. Another mistake. This just wasn’t our day. So we ordered two burgers and a BLT. My BLT came and it was tragic and $12!!!!!! Then we waited for Luc and Vivis food. I guess were used to not getting served at the same time as in SEA we all ate at different times. But after a while, I was done and their food still didn’t come, so Luc asked and they had forgotten about theirs!!! They got their food and the money back.

Onward we pushed to Coral Bay. We stopped once to fly the drone over a bunch of termite mounds.

We got to Coral Bay and booked a powered site. $57 with no wifi!!!! A travesty. And get this: no where in Western Australia (except Perth area I think) recycles!!!! I’ve talked to a few people who live here and they say it’s too expensive to put in a recycling plant. It also might have something to do with the fact that they produce iron in this state. I HATE throwing plastic, glass and metal in the garbage.

Vivi and Luc went swimming at the pool and then we walked down to the beach to see the sunset. It was stunning. Best sunset I’ve seen since being in Australia.

The next day we leisurely woke up and for ready. It was nice because every other day we were up by 6:30 and gone by 8. All we had planned was a day at the beach.

So back To the beach where we saw the sunset. We set up our free beach awning (we couldn’t believe we had the best awning on the beach and it was free. We were THOSE people! We snorkeled, made sand castles, read an actual book, saw a blue spotted sting ray in the water. It was a perfect day. We left there around 4pm and drove for two hours to another free camping rest area. We timed it so we didn’t have too much time with the flies before they all went to bed for the night (as soon as it’s dark). Then it becomes a battle with the moths as you cook with all the windows and doors open as it was still about 30 degrees out.

We finished burritos and star gazed for a while with our sky apps spotting Jupiter, the Southern Cross and Scorpio.

We slept well and awoke to the beautiful sunrise. Today would be a long drive day. We needed to make up about 450km to Karijini National Park. From there we have a day to chill out there and check the beautiful gorges.

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Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia

Apr 9-May 8, 2019

Time to slow it allllll down…. This is the place we’ve come to recharge and just be. Catching up with ourselves, blogging, writing, reading, video editing, sleeping, just being and reconnecting with my heart. Traveling, while I’m so grateful to be able to have this experience, is exhausting! I’m going to create a few blog posts on how we decided what method of travel, where we decided to go next, how long we decided to stay in places, etc… all of this takes brain power and is something that Luc enjoys but also, there are so many options and sometimes we take the cheapest (usually walking and bussing) and sometimes we take the easiest (plane). But Bali is a break from the fast travel and a rest before Australia where we have volunteering lined up, traveling in a van for 5 weeks around the coasts of Australia and lots of discovering.

I was really excited to go to Bali. It’s my second time being here. I came here 20 years ago with my mom and her friend for 10 days. I was excited for the beauty of it, the massages, the avocadoes, the beaches, and the people. What I wasn’t afraid of was getting sick. Last time I was here I came down with a terrible fever and all associated issues with food poisoning or a parasite/bacteria so was really worried about that. I’m writing this after 26 days and (knock on wood) we’re still totally fine.

I really feel that Bali is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Everywhere you look it’s stunning and breathtaking. Avocadoes aren’t what they used to be. I can hardly find them anywhere. They are still big but not as in abundance as before. I’ve had two massage since being here and I think that’s my fault for not putting time aside for that. Must get one more in before I leave here. And the people are so kind and beautiful.

Legian and the Fancy Hotel: Element

Not much to report when arriving. It was dark, the taxi drivers at the airport are pretty aggressive (I told one to leave us alone he was that in our face). We stayed our first night in a little place with a nice pool in Legian. It was nice to get our footing and hit a bank to take out some money.

Then we moved to Ubud where our 4th fancy hotel was. This was an eco-hotel and a little bit on the lower end but still really beautiful and the breakfast was out of this world. We checked in and just spent the day at the hotel enjoying the pool and room. We met some people from the States who also are super savvy with their points and told us about all the amazing places they have stayed for free. They earn points with work so that gets them to more places than us.

In the morning we did some yoga at the hotel (I hurt my neck… sigh….) and Luc took off on a bike ride to explore the rice terraces and discover Luwak Coffee. Vivi and I played in the pool some more.

It’s always a nice transition when you start your new country with a fancy hotel to get your bearings and not feel like you have to start exploring and discovering immediately. You actually feel like you need to take some moments of relaxation and moments of research to study where you want to go next.

Ubud: Bali Sunshine Homestay

We booked a place for a week called Bali Sunshine. We picked a place with a pool as we thought that there would be families and kids there. Turns out that it’s the low season and we were the only ones there. Hmmm… but the place was stunning. We upgraded to a room beside the pool for an extra $6/night. Luc is still sore about that. But I wanted to be beside the pool so we could just walk out and take our coffee, or write a blog, do learning time or watch Vivi play in the pool from the room.

Only thing was that this place backed onto a rice field which was stunning but also bug infested where we found cockroaches, crickets, spiders, ants, lizards. When the room is only about 400 sqft that’s a little piece of shared space with a lot of bugs.

The other things was we were located about 6km’s away from Ubud. So really out in the sticks. But being in the sticks has it’s pluses. We frequented the same two restaurants for a week and got to know the staff and the menus. The pool was wonderful so we really enjoyed our time in there. And I got to learn how to ride a scooter!

For the most part we hung around the pool while Vivi swam and did learning time. We ventured out 2 times on scooters to visit a waterfall, Luwak coffee farms, rice terraces, Pura Tirta Empul and eat lunch (where I got stung on the toe but I was assured from a local it was not a hospital visit I needed) in one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve seen (the view was incredible). All of those places I mentioned were absolutely stunning. It was like candy for my eyes everywhere. Being on a scooter is so much fun! Vivi would ride on the back of Luc’s as I was super nervous and to be honest, if we crashed, our insurance wouldn’t cover us so we needed to be hyper focused. I made sure that we went out on our first ride on a Sunday, when there wasn’t much traffic. I also didn’t want to go too far for the first go. I love it so much I want to get a scooter now when I get home. Preferably an electric scooter so there’s less pollution.

We stayed at Bali Sunshine for a week and it was just what we needed to chill and actually be on vacation.

Ubud: Dewa Bungalows

We moved for 5 days into the centre to be around some more people and see Ubud a bit more.

Dewa Bungalows was where we chose to stay. We met a really nice Aussie couple at the pool where Vivi got to play Uno with the woman and we asked a lot about Australia. We also got to connect with other people (which we love), tell our stories, listen to their stories and I got to talk about the Camino as Nicola was thinking of doing it as well. They are also on a 1 year trip around the world just starting out.

We arrived on Thursday in the early afternoon and I had a couple of places I wanted to visit. An eco-store and the post office to pick up stamps. We also needed to visit the bank. We left Vivi back at the room for a bit while we set off in the run our errands. By the time we got to the bank, most of them were closing (2:30-3pm). And the following day, it was a bank holiday so they weren’t open. We walked from bank to bank. Some banks were already closed, some banks were just closing and some wouldn’t take our credit card to give us cash advances. You would think that an ATM was a good idea but we wanted to take out more than an ATM would give us and more importantly, they don’t work with our Visa card. NONE OF THEM DO. So we tried our MC. That didn’t work too. Last resort (because of the incredible bank fees) our bank card (that worked but would only give 300. We were stuck: we would need to leave one day later and wait for the bank to open on Monday. I guess it’s not so bad when you’re stuck in paradise.

The next day we walked to a nice walking area. We tried to get there early enough in the day but it was already blazing hot. We found the cheapest Bali swing ($5 vs $15) we had seen and Vivi went for a swing. Then I took off to walk to another eco store that I wanted to visit.

We met back at this really expensive cool restaurant where we got fancy juices.

The next day was a day at the hotel and Luc hiked to the Volcano! We didn’t want to get up at 2am – nope not interested. We just lounged, washed laundry in the sink, and I went to my first grocery store in what seems like 3 months. I spent an hour in there just looking around at all the cool stuff. It felt like a new world to me. So tired of doing my food and beverage shopping in 7/11s and Circle K’s. I found S & V Kettle Chips for $8 a bag!!! I almost got them. I also had a reflexology treatment.

Amed

We hired the guy who we rented a room off of to pick us up and take us to Amed. Amed is a slow little diving and snorkeling area on the northeast side of Bali. We booked for 3 nights and stayed for 8 we loved it that much!

It’s 2.5 hours from Ubud to Amed and the drive is worth paying $50 to get there. We had a room right beside the pool (there are two pools) with a view to the ocean. The ocean is quite far away to see (only 8 mins to walk to) but so beautiful. Again not many people staying at this hotel (it started to pick up before we left). But the cleanliness and the staff make the stay here so worth it.

Last month they had a 6.8 magnitude earthquake and it rocked and rolled a lot of stuff. The pool that we swam in got a leak from it. It was a little unnerving to live in a tsunami zone for 8 days and even more when we moved into a red zone for a couple of hours (where if the active volcano erupts we were goners) but I kept telling myself that we can’t live in fear or we’d never leave our house.

Luc signed up for 4 dives and 1 night dive and Vivi signed up for her first diving! I couldn’t believe at 8 years old they will take a kid into the ocean with dive gear. She was nervous and excited and probably one of the most proud moments of my life (right up there with taking her first steps). I actually cried. She did two dives with Julien who was excellent with her (and with me the nervous mom). She was so proud of herself. She did really well equalizing her ears and breathing all the time. She only went to 4 (5.5) metres deep but it was enough to get a taste of diving and she loved it. She cried the next time we were at the dive shop and she couldn’t go (It’s expensive!). I’d love for her to go diving in Fiji when we’re there (they also let 8 year olds go) but it’s even more expensive there.

3 mornings I got up at 5:30 to watch the beautiful oranges and be there when the sun came up. It was exquisite. One morning Luc joined me.

Once when Luc did two dives, Vivi and I hired a guy for $15 to take us snorkelling around where he would be. I wasn’t confident enough in the water with Vivi to do it alone and to be honest didn’t know what to do it I got into a current. I’ve had some experiences with rip tides in Australia and also getting rescued by the coast guard when I was in my teens. So some of my past definitely lives in my fears now. The snorkelling was awesome! We saw 2 turtles: one on the sea floor and one that was swimming with us. Vivi and I fell in love. It was just too bad that there was also a plastic bag swimming with us at the same time. We also saw many fish, coral, a snake, a sea cucumber, and dolphins from shore!

The sand in Amed is a black gold sand which is HOT and very interesting. If you go there, Lipah beach seems to have the best beach for sand (not rocks).

Two times we rented scooters and zoomed around the countryside having so much fun. I also got in some shopping and we took out kayaks. These kayaks are from the 70s though and I couldn’t steer it so gave up after falling in and I couldn’t get back on.

All in all most days were spent doing something in the morning and then chilling at the pool in the afternoon. Vivi’s swimming has increased exponentially and she is such a strong swimmer now. It’s incredible to see the transformation she’s taken in the last 10 months with her confidence in the water. She loves her snorkeling mask and spends most of the time under the water. She loves to swim between our legs and her most somersaults in the water is 6! She is a pro diver, front crawl and recently we told her how to do a front crawl into a somersault at the wall, push off and then do front crawl again and she’s mastered that. A swimming group and/or synchronized swimming is something that we’ll be looking into when we get home.

We said goodbye to Amed and the staff at the hotel and we were ready to move on. We absolutely loved Amed but really felt like we were ready to experience something else now. Most times I just feel like we move on before we’re ready but spending 8 days here exploring and breathing and being close to the ocean has reinvigorated me.

Sanur

We jetted into another 2.5 hour drive to Sanur. We had heard that the beaches in Sanur are nice and so we wanted to check it out. We also heard it was good for kids too.

We checked into our bungalow but it turned out that the room we had was the most we’ve paid since Thailand and probably the worst we’ve been in. It smelled old, rotten, moldy, like moth balls. There was mold on the walls that had been painted over and it was nowhere close to the massive pool. The resort (?) was huge with no one around. Everything seemed pretty run down. We asked to change rooms and they moved us to the pool. A step up but still pretty dindgy. Attention to detail = -4. Then after a dip in the warm pool, we went back to the room (37 degrees out) and the AC wasn’t working. A guy showed us 2 more rooms and still no AC working. They said that they would get an engineer out to fix it.

We took off for the beach. The beach is a seaside little area with lots of Bali shopping and it’s a jumping off to Nusa Penida. After walking around and exploring we ate and headed back to the hotel onto to find out that the engineer hadn’t been by and that we could move to a room that we had already checked out and there was no AC. But shockingly there was AC! Thank you universe as I really didn’t know what I was going to do. We stayed two more nights at this place and were happy to leave.

Interlude:

Sanur is a quiet little beachside resort town which I liked. I think I’m just a bit sick of the heat and walking around in it. You know how you get when you know you’re going on vacation and everything at work begins to bug you about 4 days before your last day at work? Well, we’re about 5 days away from cool weather and Australia and I think we’re just done with the tropics. I’m done with eating out and can’t wait for yummy salads that I can prepare, lentils, sandwiches filled with veggies, food I can buy in a grocery store. We’re thinking of going vegetarian or eating meat just one day a week to limit our impact on the environment and just start to get back to basics and flush our body with fresh vegetables and whole grains. It’s going to be cool enough that hopefully I can start running in the mornings and doing workouts outside. We are also looking forward to our first volunteering opportunity when we get to Fremantle. We are staying for free in a woman’s home for 1.5 hours of house and garden work a day. After we leave there, we go down south for a week and check out Margaret River and the wine area. I CAN’T WAIT!! Then back up to Perth to pick up our camper and hit the road up north to Darwin. We’re taking 3 weeks. I’m just so excited about what comes next and the cool weather and salads. When we get to Australia on the 8th it will be 4 months that we have been backpacking.

Kuta and the last 3 days

We grabbed a GoJek to take us to Kuta and checked into a backpacker hostel here. Happy to be around a lot of people and so close to a white sandy beach. We’re now on the west coast so the sunset is profound. There is also an incredible cool pool here with lots of floaties and people to play with. And a slide! As you can tell, I’m writing in the first person so I’m finaly caught up to our travels! This is monumental! But I think this place probably set me back the cost of getting my website free of hackers unfortunately. I realized at this moment that my blog had been hacked so I needed to pay someone over $350 to fix it. Sigh…

We have just been laying pretty low our last few days here. We watched an incredible sunset on Kuta beach and then moved to another hotel closer to the airport. I’m spending my last days enjoying Bali and looking forward to Australia. We went and saw Avengers: Endgame on our last day.

So long Bali, you are so beautiful inside and out. I hope to make it back to you one day a few years from today to enjoy your beauty once again.

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Vietnam: Part 2 – Central

Vietnam: Part 2 – Central

Mar 15-Mar 26, 2019

The Sleeper train

The train ride… oh the train ride. So let me start off by saying, we’ve never taken an overnight train. So I was a little wary. When we booked our beds, we couldn’t get a 4 bed bedroom (2 beds on each side). We had to do a 6 bed bedroom (3 beds on each side). We could only book the top two and the bottom, the rest were taken by STRANGERS! The rooms were tiny from what we could see on Youtube. So I was already wondering exactly where all our bags would go, who would we be with in the compartment, was there AC, would they snore, what would it be like to be on a train with the train noise and shaking, what was the toilet like, what if there were bed bugs or cockroaches like the YouTube videos showed… There was nothing exciting about this, it was all foreign and outside my comfort zone.

We get to the train station and it begins to fill up. Finally it’s time to board the train. We get on, walk down the tiny corridor to our room, open the door and there are our bunk mates who all don’t speak English. There was a huge Styrofoam box on the ground and I was already starting to wonder where we would put all our backpacks. I get quiet when I’m really stressed. I go way inward. So Luc kept asking what was wrong. There was no way to answer it. Everything about this felt so weird and uncomfortable.

There was a pillow and blanket on each plastic bed but I didn’t want to use their blanket so I pulled out my silk liner from the Camino and laid it on top of the pillow. There was a USB charger for my phone which was a bonus. We all got into our beds (fully clothed) and tried to fall asleep. I of course couldn’t. I started to wonder, did Vivi go pee? What would happen if she had to go pee in the middle of the night, how would she get down from all the way up there? Where was the bathroom? What if I got robbed? I’m telling you… I thought about train derailments… just about everything that could go wrong. I threw some music in my ears to hopefully elevate my soul and maybe put me to sleep? I began texting with Todd and Jess to take my mind off of it all. We left at 10pm and now it was around midnight… Then I thought, Ok, I need to fall asleep or I’m ruined. I could hear the loudest snoring coming from the guy right above me. So stupid loud. So after I tossed and turned with music in my ears, I put in my ear plugs (also from the Camino) and tried to fall asleep.

Every once in a while I would wake up because the train would stop. And then at 5am that was it, I was awake. At 6am, someone started smoking in the hall outside my room. It was revolting. The train would stop, let people off and on (I assume), more smoking, noise, talking, etc… at around 6:30am Vivi woke up and I took her to the bathroom.

Well, we’d been warned but it was still just as bad. The first toilet was overflowing with pee and as the train moved on the tracks, the pee would spill over the sides. No chance we could pee there. As we move further and further down the cabooses the toilets got better and better until we finally found one that had toilet paper and it flushed.

We passed more smokers who were smoking on the train (no smoking signs everywhere) and food carts. I dropped Vivi back at the room and headed on to see if there was a place we could sit. As it stood we would need to lay down in our beds for the next two hours. Oh and I forgot to mention, I had seen one of those cockroaches made famous on YouTube on the table right by my head.

I found some empty seats  so hightailed it back to our room. When I got there, the family was up and taking up all the space in the room. The Styrofoam box was leaking water. What the heck was in there? And it was just about to soak my backpack. Wonderful. I told Luc and Vivi to get up – we were getting out of there. We grabbed our stuff and went back to the seats. Gone. People were sitting there now. Sigh… so we pushed on to the next caboose and found some more seats (some man made a motion that they were his but he was sitting elsewhere so too bad for you. Don’t mess with a tired ginger).

We stayed there for the remainder of the trip. Near the end, music came on FULL BLAST. Vietnamese national anthem? I have no idea, only that it was the loudest music I had heard since the Pearl Jam concert in the 90s.

We got the F off the train and I was so happy to be done with that.

Hue

We got a GRAB to our hostel, grabbed some breakfast and headed out into the hot sun while we waited for our room to be ready.

The next day we went on a tour of Hue. We don’t usually do the tour thing but we’d heard that Hue had a lot of history and was once the capital of Vietnam. It was also the city that was bombed the most so that also interested us.

The tour was really good! The guide spoke great English and was pretty funny. We had an American fellow who continued to get lost. We visited the Royal Palace and Imperial City, the Thien Mu Pagoda, and many temples where kings were buried. Something that was really interesting was that the kings were usually buried where no one would find them. The guy who buried him, committed suicide after burying him so that the secret went with him. We wondered if maybe the guy just ran away after burying the king instead of offing himself. That’s what we would have done of course. These amazing temples were huge and something that the king built for just his death. One king decided to live in it before he died (I can’t remember why) and another sent his helpers to search for 7 years before he found the perfect place for his burial.

After that we visited a place that does Kung Foo and we were entertained by some Kung Foo fighting. We’re now hot again and I’m was so uncomfortable all day. I just don’t get how the locals don’t sweat! We also visited a place that made Vietnamese conical hats as well as incense making where Vivi got to try making incense!

That night we had dinner in the centre of the walking street and checked out all the tourists and locals passing by.

Hoi An

After my terrifying experience with the train, I had earned myself a private car to Hoi An. I was a bit sick of travelling by way of planes, trains and busses so we paid a bit more and got a driver to pick us up and take us to Hoi An. The drive was chill (AC baby) and laid back.

Hoi An is a beautiful little town. The lanterns come out at night and really make Hoi An a place of beauty. We spent 5 nights in Hoi An because we loved it and also because we wanted to get some clothing tailored.

We visited a Refill MyBottle water refill station here and the guy was really committed to reducing plastic waste in Vietnam which was so nice to see. He was so happy to see us as I think not many people come to refill their bottles (yet) and asked us if we could share on our social media networks to get the word out about his restaurant.

We visited Gangaa boutique who was referred to us by my friend Helen, and Loan really knew her stuff and we loved spending time with her. We got to know her story and it’s really powerful story of a woman creating what she wanted in life with her business and her family. She’s the main breadwinner in the family supporting her and her husband, son, her husband’s parents and sometimes sending money to her mom. She quit her job of 7 years at a large tailor shop to start up her own business and she’s doing really well from what I can see. I’m so proud to know her and now have clothing that came from her shop. We got a bunch of stuff created by her and it’s now on its way to Canada. If you go to Hoi An, please shop at her shop. You won’t be disappointed.

We rode falling apart bicycles into town and the traffic was frightening. Luc and I argued as he had Vivi on the back of his bike (we were without helmets) and I was not happy with how he was riding with her on the back in the crazy traffic. It was a full moon when we were there so we got to be a part of the full moon festivities in town with lots of people, pay parking for bikes and beautiful lanterns on the river – oh and the power was turned off in town! These paper lanterns with candles placed in the river are also garbage and end up down the river where no one cleans up. So while they are beautiful, it’s also a lot of garbage. We refrained from putting any in.

We also rode our bikes 4km’s to the beach. More stress on the road from me. It’s just not really worth it IMHO. Pay the extra and get a cab. You’ll miss the countryside but you won’t miss the incessant honking every time a car, truck, scooter or bike rides past you. You’ll also miss getting hit by said vehicles (no kidding, I was almost hit 8 times while riding a bike in Hoi An by all modes of transportation). No tuk tuks in Hoi An unfortunately. The beach was really nice. We got a couple of loungers and just chilled at the beach for the afternoon. It was so hot in Hoi An that the beach was a welcome break from the heat.

We did a little shopping and bought some lanterns for back home. We also visited a market where we got some cheap delicious food. Luc was in heaven.

We ate at a place called Streets Restaurant and Café which helps to get people off the streets and gives them skills to take forward for them to be able to work in 5 star international hotels and restaurants. It was a bit more expensive but the food was delicious and it felt good to be contributing to a good cause as well.

We did the Hoi An EcoCooking Tour that really went all out. It started early in the morning and we walked through the market looking first at all the veggies and fruit. Then we moved onto living and dead seafood, then over to the meat area. If you’re a vegetarian, this is not the place for you. We witnessed people buying meat and putting the money directly on the raw meat in front of us. What a great learning opportunity to tell Vivi “that’s why you never put money in your mouth and to wash your hands after dealing with money.” Later on she saw someone put money in their mouth and she was disgusted and pointed it out to me. Lesson learned.

After the market, we climbed onto a boat and floated down the river until we got a ways away, and then we climbed into round coconut boats which seemed a little unstable for me. The guy rowing us couldn’t speak English but he was pretty hilarious. We stopped to do some fishing (piece of bamboo with string and a piece of fish) while he made bamboo art for us. On the way back, we sang “Et on pagaye, on pagaye” and he sang along as well as he could to it. It was so cute.

Then into a cab to the kitchen where we started cooking fried spring rolls and fresh spring rolls, a pancake type Vietnamese dish and also finished with a soup. We were stuffed!

We loved Hoi An. I dislike the getting around part. It was far too hot. But it’s a really cute little town and we met some wonderful Vietnamese people there. The lanterns really make it incredible to see at night. I can’t wait to open up my lanterns when we get home and have a little taste of Hoi An.

Timothe’s Beach Bungalow

Back onto a train to get to Timothe’s. We wanted to have a break from all the seeing and doing so we found a little beach bungalow between Hoi An and Dalat called Timothe’s. It’s off the beaten path and a bit challenging to get to and from but it was a little piece of white sandy beach paradise that I didn’t want to leave.

But first another train experience. We booked amazing seats with a table between us so Vivi could do some learning time and I could write some blogs. The 6 hour ride was great! We were even commenting that riding on the train was better than a bus because there’s toilets, more space to move around, a table, etc…

We were getting close to the end of our trip and things get hectic for me at these junctures. They don’t tell you on the train when the stops are coming but I’d been watching on Mapsme to see how far away we were until the stop and it looked like about 5 mins. So I announce “we should pack up we’re almost there.” Vivi said “I have to go to the bathroom”. We’ve had a few moments on this trip where going to the bathroom so close to getting off a plane or bus has caused some issues. (On a plane, she told me when we were on decent so she couldn’t go, and when we finally landed she ran before everyone could get their seat belt off and of course she was stuck behind 30 people coming back. I was freaking because I couldn’t see her. Needless to say, it causes stress and it becomes hectic. This would be the worst time this happens.

I should have went with her. But I watched her walk to the bathroom in our car so I thought “no problem, she’ll be back soon” I also told her to hurry because we were almost there. What I didn’t notice after I turned my back, was that she came out of that bathroom and continued to the next car because there wasn’t any toilet paper. After 3 mins I was really wondering what was taking her. I walked to the bathroom and knocked on the door yelling her name. But the train was so loud I had no idea if she was responding. After about 1 min a man emerged. Say what?

So I walked to the next car but she wasn’t in that toilet either. I could see Luc and I just had no idea where she went. I looked down at the next car and I saw this little hand waving at me through the window. I ran to the door and it was locked. She was on the other side bawling her eyes out. I started yelling “help help help!!!” I was panicked. She was beside herself crying. One of the guys that works the train made the motion of “no” and I was like “oh no your don’t motherfucker” – mamabear just showed up. Everyone was looking at me as I was screaming “help help help, my baby is stuck on the other side of the door!!” Finally the guy came towards me walking so slowly down the aisle. Fucker. He walked up to the door and unlatched it up at the top so she could get out. I could have done this but I was just so panicked I couldn’t see straight. I started crying and held her while we basically ran back to our seats, grabbed our stuff and got the fuck off the train.

After wondering and wondering why they would have locked the door we read somewhere that when trains are getting close to stations they lock one end of the car. It was just terrible timing that Vivi went into the toilet between it being open and it being locked.

Then we got in a car to go to Tomothe’s. My nerves were completely shot and the driver was driving like he was Michael Schumacher. I started crying in the backseat again. It was all too much. So I wrote on Google translate “my wife is feeling sick, could you please slow down?” and passed the phone to Luc to show to the driver. He slowed down. Breath, Robin.

And then we were at Timothe’s. A little piece of paradise. Our room was bright and we had beautiful views to the ocean. White sandy beach. The beach was strewn with garbage in places so we did a garbage pickup one day and got free coffee! There wasn’t really anything around to do or see except the hammock and the beach so we chilled, taught Vivi Jass (swiss card game), swam, and got to be. I wanted to stay longer but it wasn’t in the cards with our itinerary (we did stay an extra two days from the 2 days we had originally planned).

Another epic bus ride is in the cards when we leave Timothe’s. Stay tuned.

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