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!  

Please follow and like us:
error

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.

Please follow and like us:
error

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.
Please follow and like us:
error