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Wwoof wwoof! Up the coast!

Coffs Habour, Bellingen, Yamba, Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise & Brisbane

sunny 25 °C

G’Day!

And again it’s been way too long! But I finally feel the tendency again and have the opportunity again to scribble something down about the last month, month and a half?
At the moment I’m sitting on a pillow in a cozy, arty living room in a half open house build on the slope of a hill in picturesque Closeburn, a collection of a few houses about 30 minutes from Brisbane. I’ve been wwoofing for a little more than a week now at this place and it’s become a bit like home. Approximately three weeks ago I met Franziska (or Franzi as we all call her) when I was in a surf hostel in Yamba. We decided we both wanted a change from regular travelling and so made up our mind to go wwoofing together. We contacted no less than 18 hosts in the Brisbane area as we heard it would be difficult to find a spot. Over the next few days we were contacted by about half of them and could choose between a few hosts. In the end we went with the first host that accepted us enthusiastically and without too much hassle and we’ve been very lucky. Randall, a forty-ish filmmaker and his arty friend Tinuviel, (yes as in from The Silmarillion), a dancer, welcomed us and after some getting to know each other chitchat we went to a local festival (The Winter Solstice Festival), tried some Indian chai, admired some local characters (especially one sixty-year-old hippie with shining -stars and planets- leggings!) and met some of their friends. It was a very nice start to our stay here!
The next day we started work around 8:30, digging holes for shed foundations. As you can imagine this was pretty exhausting and afterwards a little painful because I didn’t handle the maddock particularly well. Besides digging a lot of holes (in which Franzi was much better, quicker and less annoyed than me) we have planted many little trees, done a lot of mulching, cleaning, some building and painting jobs and baked some lovely fresh bread. We eat pretty healthy here as most things come from the garden and we try to make the lion’s share ourselves. Tinuviel and Randall are both good cooks and love to experiment with new ingredients and recipes. I’ve learned a lot of new vegetarian recipes already and tried many new things like halva, poppy seed cake, and roasted pumpkin with rosemary. We usually get up at 7.00 or 7.30 for some yoga and then eat breakfast, followed by work till 12.30, lunch, some more light work or relaxing and then dinner around 19.00. I had to get used to getting up early again and also the physical exhaustion was pretty major in the beginning after ‘lazy travelling’ without too much hiking for the last month. But now I’m getting used to it and I feel healthy and sleep very well. Besides working and eating well we have been to a veggie barbie, dinner party, garden party/performance night and yesterday we had a lovely, sunny day off and went hiking up Mt Warning. Great views up there and after the hike we (me, Franzi & Tinuviel, as we dropped Randall at the airport at 6.00, he’s just left for Japan for two weeks) went to the beach and ate at an Tibethan restaurant in West End. It’s quite relaxing to get some roots for a while and not move around my increasingly heavier backpack for a while. Silly as I am I do continue picking up things, I’ve just bought a top and skirt for 7$ at a garden sale!
I’m not sure where I want to go next, probably somewhere near the Bundaberg region for some work in fruit picking. Though, it’s maybe a bit off season.. I think I need to work for maybe a month or six weeks in order to afford what I want to do next. The plan is still to travel up to Cairns and after that I’d like to fly to Darwin and then make my way down through the Outback, to Uluru, finishing in Adelaide. But we’ll see how it goes! If I’ve learned anything here it is not to plan too much.
I’m aware this post is already too long, but while I’m at it I’ll add a little about what happened since Katoomba. Wow, that feels so long ago! After Katoomba I went back to Sydney, Cronulla Beach to be precise. I stayed in work hostel, got my RSA and started asking around in local restaurants for a job. I did find a few places that seemed promising but it was all a bit too much at the moment and I decided to leave Sydney. My last days in Sydney were nice, meeting up with Ali & Hayley I met in Melbourne and going to a great dress-up circus themed birthday party. But I was glad to leave, Sydney didn’t feel right at the moment and the anonimity and vastness seemed to add to my homesickness. Anyway, next stops were Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Yamba, Byron Bay, Nimbin, and Surfers Paradise. In Bellingen I met a German girl, Sabine, with whom I travelled for two weeks and after an extra weekend at Coffs Harbour I met up with Franzi in Byron Bay and moved on to Surfers. I did some beautiful hikes (Dorrigo National Park, Cape Byron), hitched (to the NP), saw dolphins and whales (Byron Bay), tried something ‘magic’ (from hippie-tourist-heaven Nimbin), did my first surf lesson (I could stand up quickly to my own amayement, the difficulty is more related to picking the right wave), discovered the television series The Inbetweeners while waiting for the rain to stop in Yamba, and was bored and lazy in awful Surfers (don’t go there!). Much more to say of course, but these are some highlights! Time to move a little closer to the fire again and join in with conversation, I’m sure I’ll post again at least once before I’m back. The vague plan for now is that I’ll be back somewhere in October!

x Sanne

Posted by sanneastri 04:42 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney harbour surf paradise bay hike surfers byron yamba wwoof coffs bellingen Comments (0)

Lasts weeks in Thailand & New Zealand

Ko Pha Ngan, Krabi, Bangkok, Auckland, Whangarei, Paihia & Rotorua

overcast 20 °C

Kia Ora!

I know it’s been quite a while, almost a month since my last post… time is indeed flying! At the moment I'm in Taupo, the largest town near Tongariro National Park. Tomorrow I'm going to do the trans alpine crossing with two French girls I met earlier today. It’s going to be a long day as I have to get up at 5.15 and walk for approximately 8 hours. And as you well know, exercise is not my main hobby! But apparently this crossing is one of the must do's in Kiwiland so I've just stocked up on food and will try to get to bed early. I've never done so much hiking in my life as here in NZ... but it’s wonderful!
Since my arrival in NZ on the 31st of March I've spend a few days in Auckland, two in Whangarei, three in Paihia (Bay of Islands), two in Rotorua and now I'm in Taupo already. A quick summary; Auckland was a nice start! I spend the night in an easygoing hostel in the Parnell neighbourhood, the loveliest in Auckland! I climbed Mt Eden, visisted the Auckland Museum and went to Rangitoto, a volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf near the town. Fortunately I met a nice French guy in the hostel, Jacques, who’d been in NZ for a while on a work and travel visa and we explored the city together.
After that I spend two days in Whangarei (pronounce Vangarai -- WH is V is Maori), a quiet and slightly boring place, but I had a nice bush/country walk to the local waterfalls and met up with a few other travellers to check the glowworms in the local forest which was very cool! At some point they were spread over de entrance of a small cave, seemed like something out of LOTR! The next day I moved on to Paihia where I met up with Patrick (whom
I know from back home). We travelled around the Bay of Island for a couple of days. Went on a dolphin cruise, saw the Treaty Ground where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, walked around Russell (former hellhole of the Pacific) and viewed another waterfall. The power went off for a couple of hours one evening so we spend the time playing sh*thead with candlelight with a group, which was quite cozy! I'm pretty dimwitted when it comes to cardgames, but surprise, surprise I was actually pretty good at this one, or lucky anyway! After three days Paihia I went on to meet Lennart (friend from AEGEE) in Rotorua to spend the weekend together. He just moved to Auckland and already knew some nice places in Rotorua and could show me around. Haha pretty typical.. I'm travelling the world but I've hardly spend a day not speaking Dutch so far!!
The first full day we went to a local Maori village (Whakarewarewa) and saw some traditional dancing and singing. It was nice but also felt a bit awkward somehow. In addition, a Maori local showed us around the thermal pools they use for cooking food and bathing and we saw the Pohutu geyser erupt! Pretty neat! After that we walked around the bush and found a fast flowing river with some cool waterfalls. When we heard the screaming and laughter from the people rafting on the river we decided to do that too! So this morning we went on the crazy river near Okere Falls and had a huge jump down from the waterfall! Very exting and scary... but great! After that our last stop together (while already on the way to Taupo) were some remote thermal pools and we had a relaxing swim together with two French hitchhikers (Rozann and Agathe) we had just picked up. The water was so warm, a very odd experience! And I’m happy to say not as smelly as most pools near Rotorua … I'm glad to finally breath clean air again! Well, that's as far as my Kiwi experience goes so far. I love it so far! I've never seen such bright greens and blues, it’s definitely a different colour spectrum here. Guess you have to see it to believe it!
Furthermore, I also want to share with you a little about the last two weeks in Thailand. It rained almost the whole time which was very disappointing of course. I'm happy we did have nice weather and endless slumbering on Ko Tao. As we could do so little because of the bad weather we felt even more confronted with our approaching split-up. We had become like an old married couple, worrying immediately if the other was away a little longer than expected haha! After Ko Tao we did a visa run to Burma (a very long boring day) and then turned to Ko Pha Ngan where we stayed in a remote, unfriendly resort (but relatively cheap!) and just went out for food and the Full Moon Party. Most of the time we were reading in bed, eating bad 7/11 food while the rain poured down. It was pretty much the same in Krabi where we spend our last few days together. But the Full Moon Party was nice, it’s absolutely an experience! Drunken en drugged people lying asleep on the beach or going for a swim… we felt underdressed as most party-people had on neon outfits and painted faces! We partied till half past six and then took a bumpy, nauseating ride back to the resort... a once in a lifetime experience! So many people, everybody talking to each other and going crazy, great fun! After Ko Pha Ngan we moved to Ao Nang, a beachside near Krabi which was a bit dull but nice. The weather was the same unfortunately so we couldn't rent a motorbike or spend a day at the beach anymore. On the 27th me and Marije split up and I took a horrifying endless bustrip back to Bangkok. The streets were floated and the driver would not drive on without a full bus making a 9 hour trip into a 14 hour one! I arrived in BK around 1:30 at night and had to look around for a hostel on Khaosan Rd for about an hour. The next two days I walked around town, bought a lonely planet for NZ, shopped, and had time to catch up with Matthias and Jeroen (Groningers me and M. met twice before in Hanoi & Siem Reap). We had some drinks and tried a shisha before saying goodbye on the 30th when I flew via Kuala Lumpur to lovely, sunny Auckland! I won't bore you with any more details, I know this post is way too long already!

x Sanne

Posted by sanneastri 22:49 Archived in New Zealand Tagged islands auckland rotorua of bangkok bay taupo ko paihia ngan ao nang whangarei pha Comments (0)

Grouptrip to Ha Long Bay

Hanoi & Ha Long

semi-overcast 14 °C

Hey there!

Yesterday me and M. came back to Hanoi by bus from Ha Long. The trip to Ha Long, our first real touristy group trip ever was great fun but also really exhausting! We had to get up at seven each day and be really sporty at eight.You can imagine me and M. struggling
with early morning climbing and kayaking!
However, we did met some affable people, an Australian couple from Melbourne (Nicky and
Felix), a hilarious Chinese Indonesian (Limhendro) and two engaging Swiss guys (Patrick and Adrian). On our first boat there were just elderly people, but fortunately the groups were fluctuating constantly so you met people from different companies and hotels.
Marije, me and Hendro formed one group and we were constantly accompanied by 'Strong,' our tour guide who spoke a few memorised English sentences. He would just give very general comments ('The cave is very big', 'You have to be careful with passport') or start summing up the programme again when you asked him something. It turned out we paid twenty USD extra for him and because we booked the Ha Long trip in our 'corrupt' hostel. That said, it was definitely worth it, even though there was no sun, the views were stunning!
And it’s quite an experience to sleep on a ship there in between the sloping hills and waking up with a sunrise on the water. The food was great and so was the hotel for the second night, the night on the boat was pretty bad because it was way too cold and there was just one dirty blanket (without sheet) for everyone. But I guess that's part of the Vietnam tourist experience, just like the presence of our bodyguard Strong! The first day we visited a cave, went to Cat Ba island, climbed a peak, and went kayaking... only the promised Karaoke never happened! Something I at least was secretly looking forward to!
Tomorrow we're hopefully taking a bus to Hoi An to celebrate the Vietnamese New Year there. I say hopefully because Marije was pretty sick last night, I'm fine so it’s probably some meat she ate... you never know. We heard Hoi An would be a good place to be stuck for a few days. We booked the open bus ticket in town this time, twenty USD cheaper than in the hostel! We might seem a bit obsessed with the prices, but trust me, most backpacker are. After all, we're planning to stay away for six months at least!
Next update will be from Hoi An!

x Sanne

Posted by sanneastri 02:39 Archived in Vietnam Tagged mountains water cat bay mist long climbing hanoi ha ba grouptrip Comments (0)

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