Archive for November, 2011

It has surely been a while – so, yes, first of all, I am still alive. Since Nico has been the only one updating this blog in recent months I thought that maybe it was about time to say hello again, too.

Also, I decided to tell the rest of our roadtrip that was so abruptly terminated when Murphy finally decided to give it up. But he did bring us down to Peth and beyond safely, and when looking at a map of Australia, Broome to Margaret River is quite a distance, so of course, the time spent driving that road was not eventless.

We got to experience Australian desert not long after leaving Broome- don’t think Sahara and dunes, just imagine incredible heat, vast plains, and a lot of red dust. And mines. Mines, mines, mines and monstertrucks entering and exiting these mines. Port Hedland forms one of the major hubs of the regions (the word major is not to be taken in its usual meaning- out here in Western Australia, 10.000 counts as major already…). It is a bit of a miserable place (sorry, Port Hedlanders), covered in a layer of red sand, with temperatures that make you want to stay in an airconditioned room rather than walk around outside. We did not linger.

Further south, the landscape chages again, however. We made our way to Exmouth, a small town located at the tip of a peninsula that is famous for its national park and marine reserve- and indeed, it was worth the drive up there. The coast boasts a reef right offshore- grab some flippers and a snorkel, and you can go on exploring yourself, no need to be taken out by a boat. We saw lots of fish, corals and even sharks (just casually swimming by…). And we did celebrate Nico’s birthday in this lovely little place, with breakfast on a campsite by the beach, mini golf, and dinner at night.

The further south we drove, the morre the landscape began to resemble something that we are used to from Europe again- farms, rolling hills, grassy plains- some looked like straight from the Netherlands. Gerladton was the first place that felt like a city again, and Perth, with its 1 million plus inhabitants greeted us with the first proper bed and shower in over a month…

Considering Nico’s interest in wine, we spent the time in and around Perth sampling some of the regions finest- first, Swan valley, just noth of Perth, but the highlight was definetely Margaret river, about 250 km south of Perth, and a very famous wine growing region in Australia. We duly enjoyed their produce and purchased a bottle or two to have over dinner.

When the north had been unbearably hot, approching the deep south, all of a sudden, the temperatures dropped to a chilly 12 degrees- having gotten so used to high temperatures over the previous months I had a rather hard time readjusting to the sudden change…

The summer that we eventually spent in Australia was unusual in that it was way too cold and rainy anyways- in Canberra, it was the coldest summer in the last 50 years.

This seems to be all in terms of the missing details of our roadtrip, you have been informed by Nico about the rest- while he is already walking around Bangkok as I write this, I am still facing a last week at work, my final shift will be on Sunday, and I will then spend a week getting ready and relaxing a little before heading on to Thailand to meet up with Nico again.

I will try and add some photos to illustrate the story as soon as I can.

More news from South East Asia very soon!

Cheers, Anna

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Sad News!!!

We are sorry to announce that our car broke down again and that the costs of the repairs are simply too high to justify them. Therefore we are forced to put our travels on hold for a while and to start looking for a job in Melbourne straight away. It might well take a few months before we have enough money and until anything new happens on this website. We are sorry for all our loyal readers but we hope you all enjoyed following our journey so far and we hope that we’ll be able to provide you with some interesting reading materieal once again in the future….
Thanks a lot following and supporting us, Anna & Nico

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On the Road

The long Road...

The long Road...

Jumping on the Road

Jumping on the Road

Relaxing on the Road

Relaxing on the Road

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Roadtrippin’

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Australia- land of meatpies and kangaroos (oh no, we are not being stereotypical ;-)), of vast stretches of nature, of extreme weather, of surf, beach, of low population density, of laid-backness, of ‘hey, mate’, of cold beer, good wine, good food, sports, big cities, empty countryside, desert, rainforests, indigenous people- and problems with racism, of weird animals and plants (and many poisonous at that), of sun (and sunburns), of 4 wheel drives and Blundstone boots, of huge cattle stations and fancy cocktail bars- opposites and extremes.

Our new ride "Murphy"

Our new ride "Murphy"

We entered, to begin a new chapter of our ongoing adventure. It started in Darwin. First through quarantine checks: “Can I take my wooden necklace into Australia?” “Can I take these shells I collected at the beach?” We could. Then on to find a vehicle to get us around in this huge country, and to serve as our home in the coming weeks and months.

Thus we met Markus, and his van Optimus Prime, which seemed quite fit for his age, and kilometres, so it was agreed to purchase the car. Only that the roadworthy inspector did not quite agree so much on the fitness of Optimus Prime, and before being able to get it registered in the Northern Territory, he demanded some repairs to be carried out. Off to the mechanic we went (who became our close friend in the coming weeks) to fix the little ills. Or so it seemed. They unfortunately turned out to be a bit bigger- and thus more costly. Long story short, 3 visits to the mechanic later, we finally had our registration in hands and were the proud owners of a white 1997 Mazda E2000 van. And two days later the gearbox decided to give it up.

Baaam, 660 bucks for a new one, whohoooo. By then, we had decided to rechristen the car (initially intended: Chuck Norris). The new name: Murphy, as in Murphy’s law, i.e. whatever can go wrong goes wrong.

The Hawaiian Shirt Connection

The Hawaiian Shirt Connection

We were starting to have had enough of Darwin and mechanic workshops, and after some nice evenings spent with newly found friends and some birthday parties we first headed to Lichfield national park- beautiful place with rockholes to swim in and waterfalls under shady trees (just have to look out for crocodiles in the waters….), then briefly back to Darwin to prepare for the final departure and the way West. Or so the plan. 300 km south of Darwin, in Katherine, Murphy decided not to start anymore- some blockage in the carburator….and no mechanic in Katherine that could help us, as the vehicle also drives on LPG, and no one had a license for that. So we had to drive all the way back up to Darwin (he still started on LPG….). Our mechanic friend could not believe his eyes seeing us again, but managed to help us out for free, provided us with some tips on how to keep Murphy happy, and off we went again, the Odyseey finished (for now).

Our new Ride and our new Travelmate Peter

Our new Ride and our new Travelmate Peter

Our way has since brought us to Broome on the West coast- and by now we have greeted a new member in our travel party: Peter, also known as ‘the Schlawiner’, who joined us in Darwin and now shares all the joys and pains of road-trippin’ with us. We visited Katherine gorge national park and went for a beautiful hike up to a lookout into the gorge, down to a fairly empty rockhole, and then continued West along the long and empty highway. And if I say empty, I mean empty. Around here, you can drive for hours at a time without seeing a single other car- there is hardly anyone living this far up north, gas stations appear every 220 km or so, and all the towns on the way have populations of around 160- 6000 people max. So there was a lot of bushland, rock formations, vast plains at the edge of the Great Sandy Desert and roos and cows along the road on our way to Broome. And another visit to a national park with gravel roads that left Murphy covered in a thick layer of red dust, inside and out, as we were stupid enough to leave the windows open- took more than 3 hours to clean. Yet, we were rewarded with another beautiful walk through the rocky landscape.

Some Canyon

Some Canyon

Broome itself can be consider a proper town even (whohey, 14.000 inhabitants) and it has a beautiful beach, on which you can observe amazing sunsets.

So by now we are all settled in, ready to explore more, trained at fighting off flies and mosquitoes to the best of our abilities, skilled at cooking on camping stoves, finding ideal sleeping spots on parking areas along the highways- and spending the nights playing cards and sampling the odd wine and beer: Australia, here we come!

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Holy Statue

Holy Statue

Our time in Indonesia began on Sumatra, the biggest of the many islands, all the way to the West. Indonesia is a huge country, stretching for thousands of kilometres along the equator, made up of around 17.000 islands, home to more than 250 million people and uniting a host of different cultures, traditions and languages under one banner- exactly how, nobody knows, as there is little a Papuan tribe has in common with conservative Muslims from Aceh province in Sumatra.

We only got a very small taste of the country, not even nearly enough to be able to claim that you know anything about it, really- and we have decided, since our time now was too short, that we have to return, probably even on this trip.

What can be said is that it is a country of extremes- in nature as well as in culture. It is diverse and intriguing, the people are friendly and hospitable, and there is so much to discover you could spend an entire year only in Indonesia.

It is hectic and full in the cities, but in a different way than in India- still more ordered. Crazy traffic, but less noise somehow- even though one has to bear in mind that Sumatra and Bali, the only two places we were able to see, cannot be seen as representative for the country as a whole, as Java is the most densely populated of all the islands, and we did not have a chance to go there this time.


Our path on Sumatra led us from the city of Medan to Berastagi, a small town in the periphery of two active volcanoes. One day, we climbed one of the mountains, a sweaty and exhausting, but rewarding trip- the crater was impressive, with clouds of sulphuric fumes hovering in the air, rocks coloured a bright yellow, and all of that combined with the smell of rotten egg and hot steam escaping cracks in the rock in loud whistling sounds from the pressure inside the mountain.

The area is full of hot springs, of which we made use at our next stop- Lake Toba. Indonesia’s biggest lake, it was formed after the death of a huge volcano and fills out its former crater. And it is one seriously big lake. In the middle of the lake is an island, on which we stayed for nearly a week, exploring the area with a scooter, going for walks and just enjoying the calm atmosphere. The region is Christian, so all of a sudden, one sees small churches everywhere, and very interesting shrines/tombs- many of them resembling the houses in the traditional building style of the local Batak people- curved roofs and beautifully carved wooden fronts, painted and richly decorated.

Lake Toba

Lake Toba

It was also here that we both experienced our first serious earthquake: in the middle of the night, both of us fast asleep, our entire house starts rattling, windows and doors clattering about, the bed moving. The time it took us to wake up and realise we were just in the middle of an earthquake and should probably leave the building, it was nearly over. We found out it had been a magnitude 6,7 quake the next day- but apparently it did not do too much damage and not too many people were killed.

Our next stop was Bali, which has a very mixed reputation- famous for its surf and rich culture and traditions, infamous for some of its tourists. We got a taste of the latter first- we ended up in Kuta, the most touristic place on the whole of the island, a bit of the ‘Ballermann of Bali’, for all Germans out there. Drunk idiots abounding, everyone wearing terrible Bintang tank tops (Bintang is the local beer brand), slutty girls and much partying and drinking at night. Most visitors are obnoxious Australians that treat the local people like shit, but luckily, they are not representative of the whole Australian population….

Fat Monkey

Fat Monkey

So after we got seriously drunk one night, we decided to flee the place and rented a scooter to explore the calmer southern peninsula, where all the good surf is, and then went up to Ubud, a mountain town famous for its traditional dance performances. It is a much more quiet and, in our eyes, nicer place than Kuta and the like. The population is Hindu, and every morning, all the houses are decorated with little offerings to the gods- flower petals, rice cakes, incense, all placed in a little container made from banana leaves. There are beautiful houses with amazing yards, all with their own shrines and god figurines, and the women dress in long, colourful skirts with lace blouses and a scarf wrapped around their waist.

Monkey Statue

Monkey Statue

One day, we rented a car to drive around the central mountains and up along the northern coast- Bali has a lot of beautiful spots, far away from the party and intensity of the touristic areas, so there is way more to the island than one might first think.

Unfortunately, our time had to end down south, close to the airport, so it was tourism all over again. We did not fancy going back to Kuta, so opted for one of the neighbouring towns- not much better, only older idiots, and we even got into a fight in a pub with some old stubborn guy about watching a rugby worldcup match. After that, we were both quite happy to be leaving- yet, still eager to return to Indonesia, to see more of its people and culture, but definitely not to this part of Bali ever again.

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As stated in the previous post, Borneo is divided into a Malaysian and an Indonesian part- yet, in all this, one should not forget the Sultanate of Brunei, which also has its share of the island, if a small one at that. It is a tiny country, completely surrounded by Malaysia, and even broken up into two parts, meaning that when travelling overland from Western Malaysian Borneo into Brunei and further into the Eastern part of Malaysian Borneo, one acquires 8 stamps in one’s passport….(exit Malaysia, enter Brunei, exit Brunei, enter Malaysia, exit Malaysia, enter Brunei, exit Brunei, enter Malaysia….).

Mosque Brunei

Mosque Brunei

Brunei owes its riches to oil that was found offshore and has thus managed to keep its independence against its bigger neighbours. There are no taxes, there is free healthcare for everyone, and there is a sultan, who, by constitutional law ‘can do no wrong’. Hmmmmm. Alcohol was officially banned in 1991, and the country is certainly more strictly Muslim than most parts of Malaysia.

There is not all that much to see in the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan- the watervillage is definitely the most striking sight. Entire suburbs of the city are built into the vast river, on wooden stelts, connected by narrow plank walks, transport is by tiny ships. We spent some time meandering through the maze of alleys between the houses- many of them dead ends, so there was a lot of backtracking.  Yet, there are some other curious sights- maybe curious is not quite the right word. The sultan’s brother achieved fame of a rather doubtful nature by nearly ruining the sultanate during his time as financial supervisor- he commissioned the construction of buildings of such pompous, megalomanic dimensions that it is hard for the average person to imagine. The completion of a palace intended as guesthouse for the sultan’s visitors cost an incredible 1,1 billion dollars (additionally, he bought himself about 20 planes and 2000 cars….).  After he was stripped of his responsibilities, the sultan transformed the building into a hotel, to at least fix some of the damage by earning a little money with the golden palace. We went there to have as look around- the lobby sure is impressive, full of marble and gold that it is, but the rest reminded strongly of the average 4 star holiday hotel- so where did all that money go, one wonders????

Hotelpool

Hotelpool

We ended our stay in Brunei with a boatride along one of its rivers that meanders through the jungle, and another walk in the dense forests of the sultanate, before setting foot into Malaysia once more.

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