Homecoming…

1.5.2017

Believe it or not, it’s been more than 3 weeks now that we’re back home – wow! Just like on the trip, time is passing by so fast here so that we cannot even fully comprehend that our journey has come to an end…

You would like to know: how ist it back home? How do you feel? How ARE you?

Whenever people ask me this question, I think for myself I would need an hour to explain you truly how I feel, what the trip was like, how and what has changed in me,…most importantly, both Jakub and I were fine with flying home. There was no big farewell-kind-of-thing, no weeping, no big emotions. We have seen so many countries, more than some of our friends or family have ever seen or will see in their lifes! We have met countless wonderful, heartwarming people and we learned: wherever you go, you’ll always find a friend, a nice person who helps you and advices you with whatever you need.

There were a lot of adventures on our trip: ziplining through Costa Rican rainforest, sailing on a boat to Panama, encountering sea lions on Galapagos, hiking to get to see Machu Picchu, tenting in wild Patagonia, secretly climbing up the stairway to heaven on Maui, buying a car and drive into freedom in New Zealand and skydive (to death! ;)), snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, a jungle trip in Cambodian untouched jungle…we didn’t have any To-Do list, no bucket list with things we really wanted to do. Because we’re convinced this would have developed into “tasks” you check off the list but don’t fully immerse in it. Almost everything we experienced was planned on the spot, by checking the world wide web for recommendations or talking to other travellers! Everything we did was breathtaking. Every cent we spent was worth it.

Travelling as a couple can be challenging, I do not wanna lie. 😉 But our relationship grew even stronger in these 9 months and we realized: there is not a lot we need in this life, except for each other, a backpack full of clothes, nature,…okay okay, probably a cell phone and that’s it. 🙂 We were most happy when we stood on the top of a mountain, knowing we just made it up this damn stony path (mostly I was very relieved) to see more beauty around us.

Our welcome commitee at Frankfurt airport was wonderful and overwhelming at the same time. 🙂 I hugged my 90year old grandma no one could talk out of coming to the airport, got some really good swabian bread, cried and laughed, was surprised by the fact that Jakub’s mum and boyfriend were there as well (my father has secretly planned this, thank you dad!!), just enjoyed the moment…but then I was back home and started unpacking my backpack, and felt a little panicky. My backpack, my whole world in the past 9 months, was empty and all the clothes I still had were somewhere in some boxes. I lost my overview of everything I owned…fortunately, after sorting out 5 full bags of clothes I got over this quickly. 😉

So, to answer your questions: we feel good at home, especially being back with family and friends makes us happy. We feel that our experience has changed the way we see the world – we try to be more aware of the environment, try to not waste water disrespectfully, plan on buying only clothes and shoes we really need (mostly me), being happy with what we actually own and how easy our life is here.

But it is also the conviction that our trip has not really ended yet. We are back in Germany now, another stop in the world, where we probably spend the next years and call it our “homebase”. 😉 Still, we wanna travel again, discover remote places and countries, learn new languages, reach our limits,..most likely not for such a long time again, to be honest. 🙂 So it might happen that our followers on this blog receive some new stories to read from vacation trips!

Now, we want to say thank you to families & friends who were always with us and supported us with everything we needed. Thanks to the thousands of followers reading our blog (haha) and everyone we met on our trip. It was the craziest, happiest and most wonderful time of our lives!

The world is waiting for us…collect moments, not things & remember: travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

The Globewanderers

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Thailand – Two Nights in Bangkok!

5.4.17 – 7.4.17

It is serious: our very last destination on our trip around the world is Bangkok! We think we could have not chosen a better place, especially when we hear that our friend Jasmin moved there in January and will do some sightseeing with us! 🙂

But first, arrival at the airport, getting a taxi to our guesthouse (apparently there’s no bus going in our area), being suspicious about the driver asking for 120 Baht to pay the highway fee, but gives the lady in the box only 70…we accuse him of stealing money from us when we realize that there is another checkpoint coming up…poor man!! What a luck that he didn’t speak a word English and didn’t understand what we said. That’s a sad part which happened to us: in countries we don’t speak the native language, the feeling of being ripped off instantly shows up, although there’s mostly no reason for it. We need to get rid off this!

Anyway, our nice taxi driver drops us off at our guesthouse, where we’re super happy about our big room with AC, only to discover that the leaking noise doesn’t come from the bathroom but from the AC dripping on the floor and bed. Damn it!

The night in our smaller room went by fast and at 11am we meet Jasmin in front of the Wat Pho temple. To not get in trouble, Jakub and I both buy some light pants to cover our legs from a lady in a small store for 5$ – they can have strict clothing rules in relegions places here  🙂 The temple is huge and displays the lying Buddha, an enormous golden statue of, yep, a lying Buddha.

It’s great to talk to Jasmin and learn more about her encounter with the Asian culture – she adores the food and loves the friendliness of the Thais. We agree! 😉 Our next sightseeing spot is the Wat Saket, the Golden Mountain, where we have a great overview of the city and enjoy a cup of coffee.

For the evening, Jasmin invited us to her place to enjoy the…INFINITY POOL! 🙂 What a spectacular view from this pool we have over Bangkok, wow!

To end this wonderful night we head to a skybar with Jasmin and Dörthe, a colleague of hers. We treat ourselves with very delicious sushi and good drinks – we could have not had a better last evening on our trip. It was perfect!

The very last day we move in another hostel close to the airport since our flight departures at 4am and we don’t wanna cruise for 1 hour through Bangkok. Since we have all day to get there, we go for an adventure and take the public bus. 😉 From our hostel receptionist we learn that bus No 59 goes directly to the train station we need to catch the train in direction airport. At the bus stop however, one man tries to tell us with wild gestures that bus No 12 is the right one…but it does not leave here. Huh?! In the end, one English speaking Thai lady sends us 300m down the road to another bus stop where No 44 brings us to the train. So funny. 😀 And it took us only 1.5 hours, haha.

In the hostel, we try to organize our luggage for the next day. Interestingly, neither Jakub nor I are nervous or sad to go home. The time has come to return to Germany and we think we had enough time to “prepare” for it. And of course, we look forward to hug our families, get back in touch with friends, meet the 5 babies who were born when we were gone and to realize: actually, nothing has changed but us…

It was a crazy time, we had so much fun, we crossed borders, sweated, laughed, felt real fear,…but we’re most thankful for the wonderful people we met who made this trip a little bit more special than it already was. And we’re really thankful that we had not been robbed, did not lose our passports, did not get sick with any crazy virus but return home safe and sound.

La Vida es Loca! ❤

 

Cambodia – the Asian Beauty

22.03.17 – 05.04.17

We cannot believe that we are on the way to our last country we are gonna visit during our world trip! It’s been almost 9 months that we have been travelling, through big cities and tiny villages, the most remote beaches and waters in the world, high mountains and low valleys…how are we ever gonna process what we have seen?

We’ll think about that after our trip. 🙂 For now, we need a VISA for Cambodia, which is supposed to be super easy. First, they take our passport, 30$ AND: a photo. Guess how often we needed a photo for a VISA since we travel? Right, never. Which is why my pictures are in my backpack. And not here. Damn it. Luckily, sweet Jakub carries a pic of his girlfriend in his wallet and saves her VISA. 😉 Getting a taxi outside, we drive to our first hostel in Siem Reap, where we are about to meet Lissi! My friend who planned on visiting us for months and finally had the time to stop by, I am so happy. 🙂 We arrive at the hostel and there she is!! Joy and smiles, we hug each other and start talking and laughing like we only met a week ago. Friendship. ❤

We take a walk on the night market while Jakub gets a haircut and get ready for dinner with our friends from Australia, Marie & Frank. We have a nice evening, but need to go home soon because we’ll be seeing Angkor Wat tomorrow for the sunrise – means getting up at 4am, wuuaaa…

Our TukTuk driver is waiting patiently outside when we slowly crawl out of bed at 4am. We head to the ticket office of Angkor Wat to pay 37$ fee and get a mug shot kind of ticket for the whole day. It is still dark when we finally arrive at Angkor Wat and enter the beautiful dark walls over the bridge. We find a comfortable spot to watch the sunrise – the atmosphere is breathtaking!

To fully understand the buildings architecture and the history behind it, we get a guide who explains us a lot about the Hinduism, the Khmer,..After a quick breakfast break we head to the next spot, the Bayon temple. The whole area is huge, some people hired bikes for the day and make their way on their own. We are glad to have a guide pointing out the most famous temples, driving us around motorized in this heat. 🙂 Indeed, the temperature in this ares is incredibly high, it is sticky and we sweat with every step we take. Back to Bayon temple: it is a big stone formation, made of many faces.

We ended our day at Ta Phrom temple, which was magnificent. Trees have overgrown the area and nature worked its way through the building. Simply stunning to see.

Read more about it here:

Angkor Wat is an ancient city in Cambodia that was the center of the Khmer empire that once ruled most of Southeast Asia. This civilization went extinct, but not before building amazing temples and buildings that were reclaimed by the jungle for hundreds of years.

  • Angkor Wat – This temple was built by Suryavarman and is considered the biggest Asian pyramid. It is over 200 feet high and divided into several layers. The central part has four towers in the shape of a lotus flower. This temple is the largest in the whole complex and is where the historic site gets its name. The central temple complex has 2,600 feet of bas-reliefs, including famous battles and Buddhist scenes like the Battle of Kurukshetra, the Army of Suryavarman II, Heaven and Hell, Churning of the Ocean of Milk, Elephant Gate, Vishnu Conquers the Demons, Khrisna and the demon King, Battle of the Gods and the Demons, and the Battle of Lanka.
  • The Bayon – Built by Jayavarman VII, the temple stands in the center of Angkor Thom. With its 54 towers and 216 faces of Avalokiteshvara, this temple looks best in the morning just after sunrise or at the end of the afternoon when the sun shines on the faces. The temple was built on 3 levels: the first 2 are rectangular, while the 3rd is circular. This was my favorite—I really got a kick out of exploring all the little halls, rooms, and photographing the many faces.
  • Ta Prohm – Still covered by the jungle, this place is exactly as they found it. Ta Prohm makes it easy to imagine how the whole complex looked when it was re-discovered in the 19th-century. If you come early, you can avoid the crowds who arrive mid-day. It’s the second best complex behind Bayon in my opinion. (This temple was also made famous by the Tomb Raider movie.)

[Source: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-guides/cambodia-travel-tips/angkor-wat/]

A spectacular day!

The next day we book a bus and head to Battambang. Pick up time: 8:30h, at 9:15h our driver arrives… 😀 We drive through the Cambodian countryside for the next 4 hours. When we arrive we get out of the bus and surpisingly note that there is one TukTuk driver holding a sign up with my name on…how did he know we’d arrive since I didn’t advice the hostel?! Turns out that this nice man has been driving around all morning to every bus stops to catch us, awww. 🙂 Of course, he doesn’t ask for any money but invites us to pay him for a daytrip around Battambang in the afternoon. Sounds fair and he is super nice. 🙂 We start at 1:30pm in a local restaurant to have lunch and then chug through the countryside of Battambang.

The first stop is the bamboo train in the middle of nowhere. It’s basically a flexible wooden construction with 4 tires and a tiny engine. 🙂 We start speeding up and laugh a lot about this hilarious transportation manner, particularly because on the way we have to get up, dissassemble the whole thing to let other bamboo trains pass. 😀 The end of the rail is a small village with friendly local people & kids selling souvenirs.

When we return, our TukTuk driver waits patiently to bring us to the next destination, a temple high up on a hill overlooking the whole area! Close to it is our last stop for the day, the bat caves…when dusk is falling, thousands of bats fly out of their cave to hunt. We see clouds of black bats flying over the area and the stream just doesn’t stop, it’s crazy!

Because we had so much fun with our driver, we decide to do a half day trip with him the next day on which he drives us around local villages. It was so great to see how Cambodians there live. One family produces the rice wraps for Sushi, handmade with fire and wooden frames, others dry bananas from their plantains to sell them on markets or to stores…others produce rice wine which we get to try, strong rice wine! 🙂 We try sweet rice in a bamboo stick and visit the fish market. All in all our days in Battambang were educating, especially the last stop where we got to see a memorial sight for the thousands of dead people who were tortured and killes during the Khmer Rouge regimen in the 70s.

Sadly, we have to say good bye to Lissi who flies back to Germany in the evening from Siem Reap…Jakub and I however continue our trip through Cambodia and eventually land in Koh Kong! Our plan is to hike the jungle in the Cardamom Mountains – lucky us, because for tomorrow they have 2 spots along with another couple for a 2-day trip into the wild. 🙂 Sounds venturesome, we’re in.

We start at 9am when our guide Dina picks us up. Accidentally, the couple who will hike with us stays in the same guesthouse as we do! Germans, younger than we are, travel through Cambodia. Before our group makes the way in the jungle, we get some water and food from his families restaurant, very nice and friendly people! And then we start trekking deep into the jungle…oh no, wait. Most important before we set one foot in the forest: we put on our long pants, stuff our pants in the socks and then we can start. You’ll learn why… 🙂

Already after the first 30 minutes we are pretty exhausted all together – it’s challenging to walk through this jungle, mainly because you have obstcales to overcome everywhere. There’s barely any path, sometimes our second guide needs to cut away branches and leaves with his machete. Moreover, from right, left and above us plants grow into the way, so you keep ducking, dodging and balancing. 🙂 AND: there are many many leeches!! That’s the reason why we wear pants stuffed in the socks. 😀 Their reaction works like this: since we all walk behind one another, the first person in the line wakes the leeches up. They bob up, smell the sweat and blood and the next person passing them is their victim. Fortunately, Dina showed us quickly how to remove them (DO NOT touch them, otherwise they start sucking your finger – flick them away) and after a couple of hours we were higher and saw no more leeches.

Our lunch break in the middle of the woods was super delicious and again we saw: you can pack food without plastic bags which pollute the forest. The rice was wrapped in banana leaves and still warm, chicken and veggies in 2 boxes. So good!

We continue and finally see our base camp for the night – 6 hammocks, covered makeshift by a plastic roof, next to a huge beautiful river and a fire place close by. Wonderfully simple. 🙂 We are happy to have a roof covering us, because 30 min after our arrival and after we took a refreshing swim in the river it starts to rain. Another group of hikers appears at the camp – a family with a small child of 3 years…I admire these parents, being in the jungle for 2 nights with such a small child.

Our guides start the fire and soon some very delicious looking meat/veggie-skewers grill on the open fire, mmmhh. All together we sit unter the roof, eat from banana leaves, pass along Cambodian whiskey and have lots of fun. 🙂 The night we spend surprisingly comfortable in our hammocks, covered with mosquito nets and only the forest around us…

Together with the sun we wake up and have a rests-from-yesterday breakfast. 😉 The next 4 hours we hike another way out of the jungle and end up on a dust road. From there, a van picks us up and we spend the last hour at the Tatai waterfall. What a cool adventure! We were all sweaty, it was very humid in the forest, but a great get away.

After these 2 busy days we long for some relaxing, which is why we decide to stop at the coast of Cambodia in Sihanoukville. Our bungalow is close to Otres beach, a tiny village with only little things to do but a maximum factor of relaxation. 🙂 Other than reading books, snorkelling or enjoying our pool we don’t do a lot and it feels great.

The last stop in Cambodia for us is Phnom Penh. We booked a bus and within 7 hours we’re in the buzzing capital. Since we haven’t bought many sounvenirs  for family & friends so far, the first thing we need to do the next day is to see the Central & Russian Market to get some stuff! 🙂 Besides the keychains, bags and elephant pants which are typical for souvenir markets, we find a lot of sports clothes on the Russian market – brands like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour! Shopping time. 😀

2 hours later we leave the market, exhausted but satisified – we found something for everyone! To treat ourselves, Jakub desides to go all local this evening and have self-prepared dinner. That means that we order 10 different small dishes (almost like Tapas! :)), mushrooms, veggies, prawns, meat balls,…along with a small stove and a big pot with boiling broth. We throw veggies and salad in, boil mushrooms, shrimps and stuff we don’t even know what it is – the result was amazingly good!

Before we leave Cambodia, we wanted to learn more about the Khmer regime and visit the S-21 Prison, known as the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide:

Tuol Svay Pray High School sits on a dusty road on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In 1976, the Khmer Rouge renamed the high school S-21 and turned it into a torture, interrogation and execution center. Of the 14,000 people known to have entered, only seven survived. Not only did the Khmer Rouge carefully transcribe the prisoners’ interrogations; they also carefully photographed the vast majority of the inmates and created an astonishing photographic archive. Each of the almost 6,000 S-21 portraits that have been recovered tells a story shock, resignation, confusion, defiance and horror. Although the most gruesome images to come out of Cambodia were those of the mass graves, the most haunting were the portraits taken by the Khmer Rouge at S-21. [source: http://www.killingfieldsmuseum.com/s21-victims.html]

It was horrifying and terrible to be in the actual building were so many innocent people died, to hear the audio guides voice narrating stories of prisoners and what has happened, to comprehend that people died randomly…we both had goosebumps, but were glad to learn more about the history of Cambodia.

The 3 weeks here passed so fast! We enjoyed travelling Cambodia a lot and definitely wanna return for more Asian countries – most likely on another trip. 😉

អរគុណ, Cambodia!

Bali – Temples, Gardens and Incense Sticks

15.3.17 – 22.3.17

Late in the evening we arrive at Denpasar airport in Bali and already the aiport building is very impressive, being built like a temple, beautiful. Our first hostel is outside of the buzzing city, close to the coast in Uluwatu – luckily our airport shuttle awaits us already and we drive through tiny crowded streets. Bali…unfortunately, all we think we know about this spot on earth is that it is known to be a hotspot for young Australians, searching for party and party…and party. 🙂 But! It is absolutely not like this, read for yourself „8 interesting facts about Bali“:

1. Most expensive coffee
The world’s most expensive coffee in the world comes from Bali. It is called Kopi Luwak and is not your typical coffee bean… They collect the beans from the digestion of a Civat Cat, which is a shy cat-like creature living in Asia. The Civat cat only eats the ripest and finest coffee cherries but doesn’t digest the bean
2. Black Beach
When thinking about the beaches in Bali you’d probably think of white beaches and clear blue sea. While there are some stunning beaches like that around the island, there are some with black sand instead! Take for example Lovina Beach, where the beach is covered in black sand that comes from the cooled lava of the Mt Agung volcano. Even though it’s not what you’d think of when dreaming about a tropical beach, it’s still worth a visit!
3. Tourism
Due to the fact that Bali is a popular tourism destination for travellers all over the world, around 80% of its economy is related to tourism. From leisure activities to hotels and restaurants; tourism is the largest industry in terms of income.
4. New Year celebration
Did you know that the Balinese New Year starts in silence? The first day of the new calendar is called Nyepi; and no one is allowed on the streets. Noise and light are to be kept at a minimum and these rules apply to everyone who is on the Island.
5. Language
There a lot of different languages and dialects spoken all over Indonesia, although Bahasa Indonesia is the country’s official language. Most Balinese residents speak 3 languages: Balinese, Indonesian and English (the last one mostly due to tourism).
6. Children
Balinese babies are carried everywhere the first few months of their lives, this is because they are not allowed to touch the ground. They are considered little angels, their connection to the spirits is kept in tacked by not touching the earth. When the time has come that they are allowed to touch the ground, a big ceremony is held.
7. Teenager
Another big ceremony is held when a Balinese reaches puberty; the tooth filing ceremony. This ceremony symbolises three things: a coming of age, the transition from animal to human and the control of the 6 human evils (desire, greed, anger, confusion, jealousy and being under the influence of strong
8. Names
You will also find a lot of people called Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut. Actually, most Balinese people are given one of these four names, male or female. It simply means ‘first born’, ‘second born’, ‘third born’ and ‘fourth born’. So, what do you call your fifth child, you may ask? Simply start over again and name him or her ‘Wayan’ again!

Wow. Okay. How ignorant we are…^^ And how fortunate that we still decided to come here and explore this wonderful country. 😉 Let’s first get some money from the ATM…aha, maximum amount: 2.5 Millions….OMG, we are millionaires! 😀 Yeah…or not. Just a crazy currency exchange rate of 1USD = 13.000IDR…

Anyway, our first day we decide to spend at the beach Padang Padang. To get there, we need to climb tiny steps downstairs and need to pass some serious predators living here: monkeys!! To be honest, these animals can be sweet and everything, but most of the time we don’t wanna get too close to them in case they start a revolution or something and we find ourselves living on the planet of the apes! 😀 Just kidding.

As we reach the beach, there is little space to actually lie down and enjoy the sun, because the tide is so high pressing the waves in the little bay. At least we can swim in the warm water. After our quick refreshment, we wanna go to the next beach, Uluwatu beach. Since it is „only“ 2.5km from the first one we start walking…a very smart idea, with tiny streets, people on scooters driving like maniacs and honking cars. Ellen was convinced that sooner or later someone hits us and we die painfully on the side of the street….this did not happen. No, contrary a lady in a street cafe where we enjoyed a fresh watermelon juice encouraged us walking along the street! Well, all good then. 🙂 Uluwatu beach was not accessible either, but the terrace-like cliff next to it counted many bars and restaurants where we sat and watched the surfers taking massive waves.

Now for the next stop we decided to take a Tuk Tuk – we want to visit the famous Uluwatu temple. Typically, our driver stared with a price twice as much as we wanted to pay and so we met somewhere in the middle. The temple was huge and nice to see, built directly on the cliffs close to the ocean. What an amazing firth day! And no drunken tourists to be seen. Haha.

Our next location is Canngu, a beach town on the South Western part of Bali. Once we checked in our hostel, we headed to the beach and took a swim in the ocean – the waves were crazy here, coming in fast and strong. We actually needed to calculate the exact moment when to get out of the water to not being hit by a wave and end up with a ton of sand in the hair and other parts of the body. 🙂 In the evening we went out for dinner and found a restaurant, a local place, very cute and filled with friendly smiling locals – we ate there the first night and returned every evening, because it was so good and had fair prices!

The next day started rather cloudy and when it started to rain, we decided to give ourselves a little treat and got a massage! One hour, 8$, sounds like a good deal. 🙂 In the beginning we didn’t have any music since, due to the thunderstorm the electricity was gone, but after 10min music and AC went back on. 😉

Canggu, other than being a surfer spot and a tiny beach village didn’t have much more to offer, which is why we used the time to do…nothing much. 😉

Next destination: Ubud! This city in the middle of Bali is mainly famous due to the movie „Eat, Pray, Love“. Which we have never seen, but we know it’s about Yoga and Julia Roberts is the main character. Already the entrance to our home stay hostel looks fabulous – it’s basically a temple garden, with beautiful plants, offerings for the gods and the smell of incense sticks. Wow. There is one mini downside to this however: no AC. We’re not big fans of an AC normally, but here, having constantly 30C plus and high humidity, the room just doesn’t cool down unless you have an AC. But we’ll survive without it 😉

We want to explore the city first and dive into the beautiful world of local food, street market filled with clothes and souvenirs, sweet cafes and countless yoga places. We decide to take a small walk outside the city through the countryside, ending up at some rice terraces, where we drink fresh coconut water and smoothies – we love the fresh tropical fruit here!

On our last full day in Bali we do a temple tour with a guide, who speaks surprisingly good English. We first drive to the Taman Ayun Temple, the Royal Family temple. They do not live there, but it was originally built for them. The temple area is super big and looks amazing.

Next stop: Holy Monkey Forest….oh no. Let’s just not have any prejudices and just see what will happen! We walk in direction to the forest and have to admit that the whole place is simply beautiful. There is an old temple overgrown with moss which makes it look very magical. It seems to be a popular wedding photo place since we have seen 2 wedding couples being photographed here. 🙂 Along with a guide we walk through the forest, the monkeys being suspiciously close by. They know that the guides usually feet them and make them climb up the humans, waaaaaaa. Ellen doesn’t wanna have any monkey on her shoulder, but Jakub eventually gives in and let’s one big animal climb up his arm. Of course he ends up with scratches on arm and shoulder…haha.

We are about to try one of the most expensive coffees in the world: the Luwak-poo-coffee. 😀 As explained in the beginning, the coffee is made from the Luwak cat poo, which strolls around the plantain during the day, eating the fruit and comes home in the night, pooing in his cage. So weird. Admittedly, the coffee tastes very fruity! 😉

Our last stop is the Bedugul temple, probably the most famous one when thinking of Bali. We see a lot of local people here as well and are fascinated by all the colors! Our guide explains that in Hinduism, the colors red, white and black are important. They represent the three gods Prahma (the Creator), Shiva (the Destroyer of evil) and Vishnu (the Protector). Mostly the Hindu use yellow blossoms, because it is another version of the color white. Our guide asks us a lot about our culture as well and when he mentions that he has never seen real snow in his life, we again feel so grateful and privileged for being able to travel around the world and exploring small and big wonders.

Bali was a real highlight on our trip, because we completely underestimated this country and were biased by clichés. To sum it up, what Bali really is like:
☆ Friendly smiling people
☆ great food and tasty fruit smoothies
☆ the smell of incense sticks
☆ temples & gardens

TERIMA KASIH, BALI!

Australia – Down Under in Sydney and Cairns

08.03. – 14.03.17

At the beginning of our planning for the great trip, Australia was definitely on our list of countries we wanted to visit. At some point we even thought about doing a similar road trip as in NZ! Over the time, however we actually changed plans and even wanted to skip Australia – what a big mistake we would have done!! 🙂

Early in the morning we land in Sydney and take the incredible expensive train (17AUD for a 10min ride…thank you airport tax) to the central station. Our hostel is only a 3min walk from there, so we drop off the backpacks and wanna see the city. Surprisingly, maps.me tells us it is only 20min walking distance to Martin Place, the business district, where we wanna meet Jakubs friend Tomas. For some reason we thought Sydney is so big that we would have to take the train every time we wanna go somewhere. 😉 We also mistakenly thought that it must be always hot and dry in Sydney – wrong. 🙂 The weather was actually super nice, with a fresh breeze. Tomas takes us to the next coffee shop, where Ellen orders Nutella Cappuccino (yuuuuummyyyy) and he tells us that Sydney has a very good coffee culture, mainly because the citizens don’t hesitate to return a coffee when it’s not as they expected it to be. Good to know and indeed, the coffee is so good! We make our way through the business men and women, wearing suits and dresses (soon we will be one of them again, scary ;)) and through the lunchtime athletes, taking a run. And there we are, at the harbor with its famous harbor bridge and the opera building – wow! On TV it does look bigger, we have to admit… 😀 Just kidding, we are really impressed and love the view.

We learn from Tomas that the train is actually not as expensive as our first investment – within the center you usually pay around 3$ and never more than 15$ a day. The guys are hungry which is why we go back to the business district and thanks to Tomas, eat in a very moderate priced Asian food corner. You just need to know where to go. 🙂

2:30pm, our free walking tour starts! We begin the tour at the Town Hall and are at least 30 people in the group! Next stop: Queen Victoria Building, a small mall with a big clock on the ceiling. Every full hour the clock reveals its inside, shooting historical moments in the UK history.

At the harbor, our guide tells us that the Opera building is supposed to look like sails in the wind, which it indeed does, and that a Danish architecture won the proposal. However, on the opening procedure of the opera, his name wasn’t even mentioned because the Australian government cancelled his contract due to cost saving measures some time before being done.

The next day we want to spend mainly at the harbor, so we first have a walk through the botanical garden close to it. From there, we have an amazing view on the harbor bridge! Walking along the sea we are glad that we had not skipped Australia, especially Sydney. Though it is huge, the air is not polluted by emissions, it is clean and we feel good here…

Next stop: Darling harbor. Here are most of the famous attractions located, such as the Aquarium, Zoo, Madame Tussauds,…we decide to not spend money on anything there, but visit Chinatown and have a small lunch there. Since our hostel is, to be honest, a big s#$* hole and we wanna spend as less time as possible there, we go to the shopping center around the corner and enjoy good WiFi. 😉

A new day, a new plan. We really wanna take one of the ferries here in Sydney, so we decide to spend a day in Manly, which is on the opposite side of Sydney harbor. As we cruise out of the harbor and into the Tasman Sea, for a couple of minutes it gets pretty wild on the boat, waves are crashing and we experience the open ocean – shaky! After 30min we arrive at Manly, a pretty cool beach town with tons of souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes. At the beach we watch the surfers for a while and then walk to the North Head, a remote part of the island. Again, we have a spectacular view on the Sydney skyline. On our scale from 1 – 10, meaning „could we imagine to live here or not?“, we agree that Sydney is a 9.5. 😉


Back on the ferry, we arrive on time for the sunset and enjoy the orange-yellow-read background of the bridge and Opera. We discover that next to the opera building, hidden underground is a bar and so we get a cider and white wine with the moon rising above the opera…life is beautiful.

Unfortunately, 3 days in Sydney have come to an end and we board the airplane to Cairns. Within 2 hours we arrive in a different time zone and yap, a different climate: hot hot hot! Our hostel is seriously in the middle of the city center, perfect. 🙂 We decide to grab some food and end up, for the first time in our lives, in a Sushi train restaurant! For everyone who doesn’t know what it is 🙂 : you sit at the bar close to a tiny conveyor belt on which small sushi portions on plates drive by! Whatever you feel like you grab and pay according to the color of the plate (3$, 3.50$,..). So cool!! Ellen is so excited that she’d like to eat everything, so Jakub needs to calm her down and plan strategically. 😀 Additionally to the very good sushi, we decide to try something crazy: alligator and kangaroo meat! It’s only a small portion and surprisingly, the kangaroo is very soft whereas alligator tastes like fish. 😉

We try to sleep early because tomorrow we have big plans: the Great Barrier Reef is waiting for us! Cairns is a perfect starting point for the reef, which is mainly the reason why we came here. At 8am the next day we board the „SeaQuest“, a huge Catamaran bringing us to the reef for a whole day snorkel trip. The tour we booked on bookme.com and got a great deal on it. 😉 After the morning coffee on the boat, we get our snorkel equipment and a wet suit…we’re wondering why we need to wear that, since we expected the water to be warm. Our guide explains that the water is warm like a bathtub, but the yellow thing on the sky called „sun“ can burn us terribly which is why we should protect us…makes sense. 😀

The first snorkel spot looks great from outside and even better in the water. We learn that the Great Barrier Reef is separated in different layers: the inner, inner-outer, and outer layer, which is the furthest from Cairns harbor. Since a lot of trips cruise around the inner layer, most of the reef unfortunately was destroyed. We are lucky with our boat, because they take us to sport on the inner-outer reef, very close to the outer reef. And yes, the 2nd snorkel spot is a variety of different reef colors, corals, colorful fish in every size, fascinating! We feel like in another world and hover above the wonderful underwater world…everything looks so calm and natural. Wow. This trip was worth every penny.

We’re hungry from all the „strenuous“ snorkeling, which is why we decide to meet up with Marie and Frank, a Dutch couple who we met on the boat, for dinner. 🙂 Guess where we end up? In a German Brauhaus! 😀 After 8 months travelling, we have our first Bratwurst, Jägerschnitzel and Radler, haha. It was pretty tasty, to be fair – home sweet home is calling. 😉

The next day we had literally no plans, except for chilling in the lagoon with Frank and Marie. 🙂 The lagoon is located at the beachfront in Cairns, but since Cairns does not have a nice beach, they built a huge public pool! This is were you can handle the hot sun the best.

Spontaneously while we stroll along the shopping street, Ellen decides to get her ear pierced – not only one, but two new piercings, just a small souvenir from Australia. 😉 Tonight we wanna try our meal vouchers from the hostel and hence, eat at P.J.O’Briens, an Irish Pub. Marie and Frank join us and we have a great dinner, a couple of beers and a good talk. 🙂 Since this was our last evening together, we say goodbye only to find out that we fly to Cambodia on the same date!! We’ll definitely meet again!

Our last day in Cairns we wanted to spend with something typical Australian, which is to us wild animals and kangaroos! 🙂 Our flight only leaves in the evening, and so we do an afternoon trip to „Hartleys Crocodile Farm“. The whole area is pretty big and well arranged – the first resident we meet is Paul, a monstrous crocodile! The park has to keep him without other animals, because Paul is, according to the caretaker, a psychopath and total alpha male – he would basically kill everyone else…ooookay, we better keep distance to the fence….


At 2pm we start a river cruise. On a river crowded with crocodiles. Holy moly. To give us a good show, the animals are being fed with chickens and literally jump out of the water! The noise of the jaws snapping for food is unbelievable creepy.

After this crazy cruise, we need something sweet and fluffy, so we feed kangaroos! 🙂 They have a whole area (of course separated from the crocs) where they walk freely and lie around, so cool. We also feed small wallabies with fresh veggies and fruit – a great encounter with these animals.


To get our airport shuttle and be on time, we leave the farm at around 5pm and make our way to the city to catch the shuttle. Next stop: Bali! 🙂 Interestingly, at the Check In counter we are being asked for an exit ticket for Bali…several backpackers in front of us don’t have any and need to book some random flight out of Bali. Not us, since we are old stagers in travelling, we had booked a flight to Cambodia 😉 But now we’re super excited to discover Bali!

 

New Zealand – 45 Days and 5.300km pure Adventure

North Island

20.01.17 – 7.2.17

Setting foot on ground in Auckland was pretty – magical! Especially Ellen was super excited to finally explore New Zealand, a country which was the top one of her places-I-wanna-go list. 😉 As always we headed to the city centre and had WiFi in the shuttle bus, impressive. Particularly because New Zealand is known to not offer free WiFi in hostels, haha.

Once we moved in our 14 bed dorm (along with 2 teenage girls from the USA who basically lived on the floor…shoes, dresses, jeans, shirts, food everything around the bed, omg) we made a plan for the following days. Our mission was to find a good looking, cheap, totally equipped, comfortable and nice camper van…sounds easy! 🙂 First we went to several car rental stores, but the offers were either for cars and not vans or terribly expensive. Our next chance was a car fair where typically backpackers sell their vans to other backpackers. One Toyota Estima Van looked exactly like what we had imagined, only the price didn’t…we left and decided to try one more car fair. Sunday early morning we made our way out of Auckland to find our van for the next weeks. Several cars were already there, many of them from dealers who seemed everything but trustworthy. 😉 strolling down and up the lines of offers we saw a silver Toyota Estima…1996, awesome built in kitchen and bed, super nice owner and when Ellen saw the registration expiration (22.05.2017), her birthday, she whispered in Jakubs ear: „That’s a sign!! This is our van!“ 🙂 And she was right, after doing a pre-purchase check which was positive, we drove to the next post office with Pauline (the previous owner) to change owners and done! We just bought a camper van named „Aby“, yaaaay!! Adventure, mountains, lakes, endless highways, nights in the nature, here we come!


Okay okay, Jakubs responsible voice spoke up and demanded an insurance for the car…so, insurance done, finally we can hit the road. 🙂 Going straight North, our first stop was „Pak’nSave“, a huge grocery store where we spent a horrendous amount of money and got gas. The first campground was close to Whangarei, in the middle of nowhere. We couldn’t wait to spend the first night in our van and when we woke up in the morning, we grinned at each other and were so happy about Aby – the night was comfortable and we slept like rocks. The campground also had a kitchen area, where we had breakfast and talked to 2 girls from Germany (Germans everywhere again!!), travelling for 6 months, 19 and 20 years old – how brave it is to buy a car and travel around in their age!
The Abbey caves were our first destination – they are supposed to be so dark that you see glowworms everywhere. We climbed in with our headlamps, because it was indeed really dark and at one moment switched off the lamps…oh my…small stars everywhere on the ceiling, that’s what the glowworms look like! What an amazing view. So beautiful!

Yep, it’s dark 😉

Our next stop was a waterfall in Whangarei, easy accessible and we had a picknick in the park. Thanks to the App „CamperMate“, we easily found our camp for this night and headed to this calm campground located directly at the water.


We decided to relax here and stayed for 2 nights – one night, when it was really dark we checked the night sky and saw millions of stars, no light pollution to be seen…that was definitely magical.

Further north we visited Russell and Pahia, 2 cities which belong to the Bay of Islands, a beautiful area on the North East Coast of New Zealand. We crossed the country then from East to West and stayed at a farm campground, where we enjoyed breakfast with our new friend the horse…idyllic.

Possum living in the shed on the campground – hello!

Our next stop was the Waipoua forest, which makes up the largest remaining tract of native forest in Northland. Most of Northland’s ancient forest cover has been lost to saw and fire, plundered for the precious timber of the kauri tree or cleared for farmland. However the forests are now under the protection of the Department of Conservation. Waipoua is home to the kauri, one of the world’s mightiest trees. The largest kauri reach more than 50 metres tall, have trunk girths up to 16 metres, and sprang from seed as long as 2,000 years ago [http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/northland/places/waipoua-forest/]. The biggest of these trees is a short walk inside the forest – and all of a sudden it stood right in front of us, the Tane Mahuta. Never have we seen such a huge tree, emitting so much power and history….we’re impressed and enjoy the silence in the forest, when suddenly a native Maori guide started to sing in Maori. Magical.

As always we searched for a campground on CamperMate, but when we arrived there the owner didn’t have any vacancies for us (weekend and last vacation days for kids), neither the next one…damn it. We ended up on a super expensive Holiday Park camp, but learned our lesson. 😉 Luckily we so far had great weather and usually enjoyed warm evenings, but cool nights – good for our groceries which need to be kept cold and hang in a plastic bag outside every night. 🙂
With no big plans for the next day we accidentally ended up on an American Muscle car gathering and enjoyed some time at the beach.

I’m too CUTE4U,boop boop bee do 🙂

For the first time, we planned to stay at a free campground, zero costs and zero luxury. 😉 There were already 3 cars parked and guess what, the people were from Germany! 😉 We talked to one guy who has been travelling for 4 months already and he mentioned the app „WikiCamps“ – basically, we thought, just another camp search app. He stated that he didn’t spend a single dollar on camping because WikiCamps finds all the free camps and additionally public showers, free drinking water refill stations and so on. Awesome! We downloaded the app and from this day on, except for 3-4 nights spent 0$ on camping. 😉 Cheers mate!

On the following day we drove Aby up the Coromandel peninsula, where we went to the Hot Water beach – here we received the explanation for the shovel in our car! 😀 There are subterranean hot water sources which you can dig out on low tide – and wow, that water was hot! All around us it was steaming and people digged their holes, so funny. As mostly we saw at least 6 dead possums on the road…nasty.

Obviously, being in New Zealand you truly feel like in a real time Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movie set. This is why we decided to visit „Hobbiton“, the area where the Hobbiton village was filmed for both movies. Did you btw know that the first part of Lord of the Rings was released in 2001?! That’s 16 years ago!! Holy s#!%. 🙂 Additionally we learned that the movie set appears in total for only 30 minutes in all the 6 movies of LOTR and Hobbit…or that the tree behind Bilbo Begging house was a fake tree with fake leaves, each one painted individually…crazy!

Our next stop was Rotorua, the „sulfate“ city – yes, we smelled it from far away already, like rotten eggs. 😉 We visited the Whakarewarewa native Maori village, where we learned a lot about their way of living and how to use hot springs and steam from underground to cook dinner! Further south we explored the volcanic Valley Waimangu by foot and it seemed so surreal, almost like from another planet! This area is the worlds youngest geothermal system, consisting of steaming volcanic crater lakes and geysers.

Before we headed further South to hike the famous Tongariro Crossing, we stopped at Lake Taupo, enjoyed the beautiful lake view and visited the Huka Falls, a stunning tunnel of water where 200.000l a SECOND are pushed through!

The mountains are calling, Tongariro Crossing is on the list. 😉 Close to the starting point of the walk we stayed on a campground and met our new personal evil enemy: sandflies! These small beasts can be so annoying and bite you everywhere, grrrr.
After we linked together with 2 other girls to organize our transport (you start on a different point where you end up, hence you need 2 cars on the 2 spots) we started early in the morning – the weather was supposed to be great! Oh wow, and surprisingly all Asian tourists heard of the hike as well and were at the ready. 😀 The first 20min lead through stony areas, then a steep path winds its way up. Here the hikers can decide whether to ascend the famous LOTR Mount Doom or walk further. Of course Jakub was thrilled as well as the girls, whereas Ellen took it easy and stayed down. The views from the summit were stunning, although the way basically consisted of stones and slippery rocks and was very strenuous. The further we walked the better the hike got – we crossed emerald lakes, volcanic craters as red as a the lava itself and beautiful blue lakes. In the end and after 23km and 10hs we were all happy to be back at the car!

Our last stop on the North Island was Wellington, where we went to the Weta Caves. It’s the special effects company for several movies, of course also for the Hobbit and LOTR.

In the night, we took the ferry to Picton and continued our adventure on the South Island, which will be summed up in our next article – stay tuned, amigos. 🙂

Fiji – Bula, tropical paradise!

9.1.17 – 20.1.17

Whenever we write an article for our blog we are like “Man, we were on the Fiji Islands, how cool is that?!” 🙂 And interestingly, it is not as expensive as you might think. Our impression of Fiji was this posh rich-people island we leave totally broke and ready to fly home. What we got was backpackers everywhere, many coming from/going to New Zealand or Australia and modest prices for food and accommodation (okay, it was a 16-bed dorm, but comfy anyway!). Most of the people were – surprise – German travelers! What a crazy travel nation these Germans are … 😉

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Our first days on Fiji we spent close to Nadi, trying to cope the loss of one day – flying from Hawaii to Fiji caused 23hours time difference and hence, we never lived the 8th of January 2017. 😀 Other than that we organized the following days: we wanted to go on an Islands hop trip around the Yasawa islands close to Fiji. In total, 333 belong to the mainland and 3 of them we wanted to discover within the next 6 days! Early in the morning we boarded the huge Catamaran, basically the water taxi for all the islands the tourists can visit. Within the next 5 hours we shipped along so many stunning and beautiful islands, crystal clear water, amazing to see!

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Our first island was one of the remotest ones and shortly before they droped us off it was pouring! We tried to hide our backpacks and ourselves in black plastic bags, but 5min before we needed to leave the boat it stopped raining, thank you! A small side boat took us to the island and we immediately felt comfortable with our travel group – our honeymoon couple Evelyn and Isaac from LA and Debbie from the Netherlands. I think we will have tons of fun on the islands… 😉 Our first dinner was very traditional and consisted of rice and the local Casawa root, which reminded us a lot of the Yuka-food in Colombia.
Expect for one small walk through the island to another beach, our days were pretty lazy here. We enjoyed the bathtub warm water and jumped in the ocean as often as possible. Here we really got in touch with the locals, because the resort is family owned. One small kid was really cute and kept playing around us, but whenever we tried to talk to him (we asked for his name, “Bill”) he wouldn’t respond or say anything….well, in the end it turned out that “Bill” is actually a girl and he’s not deaf as we had assumed, he was simply a girl named Casey…oh god. 😀 Who got this whole thing wrong in the first place?!

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On the 3rd day we moved to another island, Naviti island. The staff welcomed us with a big “Bula!”, which means hello in Fijian and sang a song. This day we learned that some days ago the islands had a tsunami warning and everyone needed to move to the highest spot possible on the island. All of a sudden we for the first time thought about this major danger and wondered how we would ever survive on such a small island! Everything would be just washed away…scary.

The next morning we woke up to the sound of the morning drum, calling us for breakfast. But wait, isn’t it one hour too early…? Oh no, as we learn, the time has been changed here , makes sense…but Ellen in her German way of thinking almost loses her s***…”why has no one told us this earlier, could they not have made an announcement?!?! What is wrong with these people, why did no one say anything yesterday….”. Haha. 🙂 This is obviously the Fiji time everyone talks about here – whenever we would ask for something like pick up time, they’d say “10am, but Fiji time people!”. Means: add another 30min and you know when to be ready. 😉

The humid and hot days here were really hard to get used to, but our animation team from the island did everything to distract us, such as presenting us the “Gecko Man”, a local guy who has learned to climb a palm tree up, get the coconuts and climb down, head first!!

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Our last island on the 5th day is probably the smallest one we’ve ever seen in our lives – it took us solid 5 minutes to walk around it…haha. 🙂 We enjoy a crazy delicious dinner and a whole next day full of sunshine, snorkeling, submarine ride around the reef and good talks.

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What a privilege to travel as we do…seeing so many different countries, cultures and climate zones, meeting awesome people and live our lifes to the fullest! Thanks also to our best Fiji companions possible – we cannot wait to meet you, Evelyn, Isaac and Debbie again, some day somehow. 🙂 We shared so much fun, laughter, sweat plus mosquito bites like with no one else, haha 🙂