Tanzania- Discovery channel becomes reality (Part I)

The Massai people once belived that all the cows on earth are promised to them by god. This led to a little bit of trouble because travelling around, they tried to take what´s theirs- even if it was in the hands or lands of others. Due to that, the Tanzanian government nowadays tries to stop this normad lifestyle by giving them land  to settle down and farm on. How must it feel as a normad to stand still suddenly and stay in one territory? Does it even change your personality if you lose all the outrageous experiences of exploring and instead seeing the same land every day? I have to admit- after one year of travelling, I also had big questionmarks in my head, maybe that is why I followed the Massai so excitedly every time I met them. What was quite everywhere in Tanzania. But let me tell you our story from the beginning.

Ariving in Dar es Salam, a costal city without costal flair due to the beaches being mostly used for fishing, I needed to aclimatise from jetlag- 8 hours time difference and taking Doxycyclin, the shitty malaria-prevention I was just tired and damn sad to leave Colombia. Nonetheless the exotic flair of Tanzania hooked me up quite fast so continuing up north along the beautiful cost with my boyfriend refreshed my mind. In Bagamoyo, former capital in the German colonisation era, we enjoyed a relaxing vibe camping on the beach and practice our first words in Swahili. Here I also regained more confidance discovering Tanzania as a backpacking-friendly country. We could spontaneously arrange our (more economic) trips and move very flexibly during our whole stay what I truly apreciated- but still, we could not run from the partly sad history of this country.  Bagamoyo, “the place where you lay down your heart”, was the port where all the slaves from (Central-) Africa were passing on their way to be sold on the slave market in Zanzibar. In this white-beached paradise only the strongest men arrived after a hard and violent trip in chains, knowing that from now they will never return home. This thought was hard to bear… selling people… indicates owning people… this idea of life is scaring me so much and is not even older than 150 years! But to gain some positive energy from this I try to focus on how mindsets can change rapidly and that change starts within yourself! And for me, the biggest value of life is diversity so learning from history and nature itself is an important step to move towards to a future worth living and protecting. And Tanzania had plenty of lessons for me!

 

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With this energy we travelled up north to Ushongo beach, a barely visited cost stripe, where we enjoyed more camping days right at the beach with very few people. Here I also got to know the hermit crab that made me laugh really hard! This little naked crab is looking for “homes”, may it be shells or sometimes even empty coke-cans, and moves in for a time until he growes and needs to find a bigger house. We could watch them walking on the beach at night and I wondered once again how crazy Pachamama is to develop such a diversity on this planet, on my journey I sometimes felt like a hermit crab: unprotected, trying different homes where to feel most comfi. I also admired maritime wildlife on a snorkling tour to a surreal beautiful sandbank between Pangani and Zanzibar! In general, the wildlife was what brought me to Tanzania and it was very easy to find impressing creatures along all our way- after the beautiness of the Amazonas region I still could not get enough discovering nature and I was excited like a little child for our Safari starting from Arusha even though our way there was a mess, spending more that 14 hours on motorcycles, ferries and busses. In general the transportation here is always very uncomfortable because the streets are very bad, superdusty and busses are from the 80s without AC, dirty, smelly and slow. But the best people we met in public transportation like these guys from Tanga who saved us from getting out of a bus at a random junction in late afternoon we probably would´ve still be waiting there! We even got a city tour in Tanga for free, exchanging our mindsets.

Arriving in Arusha, we prepared for a 3-day-hike to Mt Meru, the “little brother” of the Kilimanjaro. The first high mountain I should climb up to the very top and I got really excited. Starting the worldtrip as a really grumpy hiker, I kind of found a passion suffering for days to enjoy the rewarding view of the top- thanks to my sister Adelia:o) The first 2 days led us from savanna to rainforrest up to dusty vegetations. On the 3rd day we started by midnight to rise 1000 m on partly very steep scee slopes in complete darkness to arrive for sunrise at the peak of the 4566m high mountain. What a feeling, soo much adrenaline! Unfortunately it was bitter cold and we knew that we had to descend about 3000m, let´s say my sleep that night was priceless and my muscles hurt 2 more days!

 

But as a reward, we started a 2-day-safari to  Tarangire National Park and the Ngorongoro crater right away. Together with the family of a volunteer we met at Ushongo beach, we spent 2 amazing days observing wildlife! Big herds of zebras, wildbeests, elephants, hippos, giraffs, baboons, buffalos and impalas were crossing our way and occasionally we could also watch secretary birds, lions, gepards and many more. This was a dream come true for me, seeing all these thousands of animals so close and wild in a surreal landscape. And also the Massai were present again! Living close to Ngorogoro they gave this crater its name: Ngorongoro is the sound they use to communicate with their cattle, sometimes even pushing out a teeth in order to make louder sounds. The value of a real Massai by the way is defined by his possession of cows and children- from up to 5 wifes! In that order. What a life….

 

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All these adventures happened in just 2 weeks, so in the next post I’ll write about chilly Moshi and our trip to the west, the non-touristy area around Mwanza, 2nd deepest lake of the world Tanganyika and best for last: Zanzibar!

 

A big kiss for everybody who´s still reading- this is nearly the end of one year traveling. But I get more confident about coming home- looking forward to be with my best friends and family and to all the small pleasures in Germany- and making plans about the next journeys:o)

Mella

Calling of the wild: Madre Ayahuasca (Jahé), the ancient amazon medicin.

After spending some beautiful weeks in el Eje Cafeterio, in small little villages such as Jardin, Jerico, Salento and Finlandia i was ready to go to the jungle. This time it supposed to be a special experience.It was a spiritual journey to the roots of myself. I was thinking a lot about if i should write and share my experience or not. Finally i decided to do it, for myself, as i still have to deal with what happened to and with me during the ayahuasca ceremony and for those who wish to experience the amazon medicin.
My travelmate Meghan was a source of inspiration and mi hermana during weeks of travel. Our journey took as to Mocoa were we spend a night at the entrance of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world: Cascadas el Fin del Mundo. After we hiked to this amazing waterfall in the morning we took a long bus ride to a town deep in Putumayo. We had no real adress, just a name of the Taita (Shaman). We were told once we arrive at the town we should ask the people, they will know….all super exciting. Arriving at our destination we took another ride (in fact a small little jeep) for about an hour till we were dropped off in front of the house of the famous Taita.
We found ourselfes in the middle of a huge kitchen surrounded by a lovely family.

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Grandparents,aunts,uncles,grandchildren,friends….everybody under one roof. And us, two travellers searching for answers. We were accomondate in a small cabin by the river, in front of our terrace the jungle.
You can find many places to take Ayahuasca, retreats in fancy places for hundreds of dollars a week, but this is not what we wanted. So we were very lucky to be with the indigenous family in the middle of the jungle. This was for sure a special opportunity for us and this place was just magic.
The first days we spend our time to get to know the family and our Taita. We had a special bound to one of his grandchildren Tania, who is 8 years and to Melucha, the wifes sister, who lived across the river in a beautiful house. We spend a lot of time with her. She teached us how to make necklaces and in return we teached her some english. This days we were very peaceful. Before the ceremony i woke up a couple times in the middle of the night, i heard some singing and music coming from the jungle. This is for sure something what scared me a little bit, one night i was about to sneak into Meghans bed 🙂 I talked to the Taita about it and he explained me this are the spirits of the jungle. The family has a very special relation with the jungle and Madre Ayahuasca.


I heard many things about preparing yourself for the ceremony including a special diet, no alcohol weeks before and about having a purpose. Well nothing of that had value in the Taitas house. We ate normal, just the dinner before the ceremony consisted of outmeal, aquapanela and cookies. I wasnt asked if i had a purpose for the ceremony. The Taita believes that Madre Ayahuasca will show you what you need to see.
Before the ceremony we tried some eyedrops of Sananga, an amazone medicine, which a Kambo Healer brought from the jungle. This drops were burning in the eyes for minutes. Sananga supposed to help you to have good visions while the Ayahuasca journey.


In the first night we went all to the ceremony place. It had several hammocks, matresses, a fireplace and a toilet around the corner, surrounded by the forest. We drunk the first cup all together, a brown, thick sirup which tasted like something you do not want to drink again.
And than silence, everybody got to his place, which was a matress on the floor in my case.
I waited…nothing happened and i started to think it might not work for me. I decided to sit a the fireplace and watch the fire. Than it started. I felt a vibration deep in my stomack, it got more and more present and extended to my arms, legs, fingers, toes. I felt restless. I watched the fire and noticed i can see all the muster, patterns of the wood. When i closed my eyes i still could see them. I opened my eyes and started to see the patterns moving on the wood. In the next moment it was a snake on the wood, moving slowly. Everything else was clear, there was just the snake. I watched it fot a couple of minutes and decided to go back to my place. Walking wasnt that easy anymore. I was totally clear in my mind, just my body wasnt really controlable. I layed down and closed my eyes. I kept seeing snakes moving and turning into roots, trunks of trees. In the next moments everything was vibrating, i kept seeing colours, patterns turning into animals, butterflys, trees, leaves. By this time the Taita started to play music on a guitar and sing. He was doing it the entire night, songs of the amazon tribes. I wasnt feeling well, it felt like a hot stone in my stomach. I felt sick. The first family members were ” using” the bathroom. I was very restless and i coudnt really stay still. I was moving around from one sight to the other. When i watched around everybody else seemed to be quite and peaceful, which wasnt really helpful for me. Purging is a natural effect of Ayahuasca. People throw up or just “go to the toilet”. On my way to the bathroom i felt very dizzy, i moved so slow but it didnt feel like that. Sometimes i was surprised, it felt like i walked for minutes but i just got a few meters far. I went to vomit three times to the toilet and each time i lost more control of my body. It felt like beeing in another dimension, all looks familiar but still different. A place that looks alike the one you used to be at.I didnt vomit this night, even if i tried to. There was just a bunch of air (actually like wind, which scared me a bit) coming out. I kept seeing things around me, shades, snakes and patterns. I tried to think of people, problems i wanted to solve but i couldnt really control my thoughts. It was like a movie, i kept seeing things and i talked to myself. Sometimes when i asked myself something i had the feeling something in me answered and showed me pictures. I tried to walk around when Melucha came to me. She asked if i am ok and i sayed i feel weird. I couldnt really talk as it was an effort. She grabed my hands and said it is normal. I just thought i cant really feel my heart, i dont know if its still there,i couldnt feel it. When i looked in her face i saw colours, like she painted her face for a parade. She smiled and i went back to my place. I struggled for a few hours, trying to put together the things i saw. And than i was somewhere else. I was with my mum, we walked along a trail close to her house. We were not talking but we smiled. It seemed like its autum and we were wearing jackets. Some trees were already yellow and leaves were on the ground. I stopped at a tree. I showed her something, pointing at some leaves and she looked at me and smiled back. She had tears in her eyes.
The vibration in my body was getting less and i became clearer in my head. Moving was still weird but i felt the magic of Madre Ayahuasca leaving me. I talked to the others for a bit and listened to the music. I was thinking a lot, about the vision of my mum. And after a few hours it became all clear to me. That what i showed my mum was just a simple thing and i realized i have to show her how beautiful life is and how little things like a leaf or a flower can make you happy. My mum is having a hard time and she is also very sick. I realized i have to remind here of the small little things in life which can make you happy. I am very greatful for this vision. Madre Ayahuasca just showed me what i needed to see and not what i wanted to see. The rest of the night i spend watching the stars, talking to the family and Maghan ( Megui, as Tania used to write). I felt happy and peaceful. I decided not to drink another cup, instead i enjoyed the feeling i had. At about 4 am i left the ceremony and went to bed.

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Next morning i felt great. I knew i struggled with myself for a while during the night. It was like fighting against something in me. But all the things i saw and the vision of my mum made me really happy.
I decided i want to dive deeper and drink another night.
I went for a walk with Tania, she asked me if i had beautiful visions and i said yes. I asked her if she drunk last night. She said no, but she feels that Madre Ayahuasca is calling her. Tania is 8 years and she drunk Ayahuasca before.


The second night the same ceremony. We drunk the first cup together, first the man, than the women. I layed down again. I started to feel the vibration. Slowly in my stomach, my arms, legs , the entire body. I closed my eyes and i found myself in the forest. I leaned against a giant root of a tree.i was connected to it. My hair was floating into the tree. It felt like i was laying down for hours. Surrounded by butterflies, leaves, lush mountains and gras. I felt incredible. Kind of connected to the forest, like being a part of everything around me and her. I saw her face and i felt greatful, she let me be a part of her.
But something happened, i opened my eyes. People were sitting by the fire. Whenever someone passed by it felt like a dark shade touched me. I looked over to Meghans place and she was gone.i started to worry about it, i didnt see her for a while, but i was unable to move. I looked at my phone and i was counting the hours till i might feel better again. The numbers wernt clear and i couldnt even see what time it was. I felt restless and somehow frightened by everything around me. I didnt know why. Minutes feeled like hours for me. When i closed my eyes again i was flying over a horizon far away. There were no people, just an endless sky and forest. I started to feel very very sick. My stomach was hurting, way dramatic than the night before. I tried to get up but i couldnt. No energy. Getting into my flipflops was impossible. One second i was clear in my mind, the other i was totally lost. After i somehow arrived at the bathroom i couldnt vomit. I felt terribly sick. The next 8 hours were a nightmare. They were very painful and i thought i would loose my mind. I lost completly all orientation and the sense for time. I heard voices and i couldnt tell where they came from. Everything around me was moving, i couldnt really get together where i was. When i thought i am lying down towards the fireplace i opened my eyes and i was starring at the forest. I ll spare you the details about my time in the bathroom, it was awful. Its like having a bad foodpoisining and being super drunk at the same time. Close to be unconscious. At some point i was not even in my body. I saw myself kneeing down. My face burried in my hands in the bathroom. The candle was the only light. The curtains had a flower print. I saw myself. I was outside of my body but somehow when i think about this picture now it seems to be beautiful to me, even the situation was awful and redicilous.Who else would see something nice in beeing in the bathroom, trying to throw up? It showed me how hurt i was in this moment. Alone but still there, no matter how bad i felt. Something painful but at some point beautiful. Back at the ceremony place i tried to ask the Taita for help. I couldnt really speak, i felt very sick, unable to concentrate. I looked in the people’s faces, i couldnt see them, they scared me.The all looked like monsters to me. The Taita talked to me but i couldnt really understand him. I thought again i am loosing my mind. I went to see Maghan and i layed down next to her. She put her hand in my hair and said she wished she could help me. I know it was my fight. I was suffering and struggeling to keep awake, but i wasnt able to do anything.
The Taita came, asked me to sit straight. I tried. I told him how bad i feel. He asked me to lift my shirt. I tried.
He did something to my stomach. Put earth and hearbs on it. Said some spells, moving his fingers around and in my stomach. It looked liked he took something out of it and threw it far away. People were watching me. And i wasnt even able to lift up my shirt. He gave me something to drink and said its going to be all better in about 20 minutes. I didnt believe him. I thought i am about to loose my mind and than die.
But he did something to my body this night. I started to feel better, less pain. I was getting clearer in my mind but in total i was far away of being fine. I struggled the whole night. Actually the entire day aswell. All the things i saw. I tried to put them together. I still try. In total i needed 2 days to get back to my old shape. I talked to the Taita about how i felt, he said my body was doing some serious deep work. Purging. Cleaning, or however i should call it.
We went to bed in the morning, got some sleep….and we talked about our experience. Some of the pictures made sense and some not. But we were in common that this night was a tough night for both of us. We left next day and crossed the southern border to Ecuador trough the jungle. We felt like a part of the family and it was hard to say goodbye to all of them.

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They say once you drink Ayahuasca, she will be always in you. I might left a part of me in the jungle and took her instead with me.
Be aware that during the ceremony you will hear and sometimes see people vomiting horribly. You ll see people toss and turn themselves, crawling on the floor.You will sweat like hell and be cold at the same time. You will feel pain, nauseas, fear and on the other side true happiness. You will lay down in fetal position and you will think you loose control about yourself. Or maybe not. But it doesnt matter how horrible the situation appears, there is always a purpose for that.
Everybody has a different journey and she will let you experience what you need to experience. You have to give up fighting and put yourself in her arms, thats the best preparation you can do. Just let it go… .

Traveling in Colombia- there is no way you won’t like it no matter who you are

I arrived in Bogota at night. Alone. To a city that I just new from a free download map. Hello excitement zone! On one side I was happy to finally travel to an Spanish speaking country (no more undefinable food!), on the other I imagined it to be like in my time in  Mexico City where it was not very recommendable to be in the streets alone after 10:00 pm. But arriving in Bogota  was surprisingly smooth and I stayed in la Candelaria for 2 days joining the Graffiti tour and climbing the Cerro de Montserat.

It was nice to be welcomed by the people, you find yourself greeting strangers in the streets, people in general in Colombia are very polite and ‘alegre’, what is a mixture of lively and very socially interested to me, haha. You can always get into the wrong place at the wrong time but even traveling alone as a woman I had just friendly and inviting encounters mostly talking about why I chose Colombia or how I like Colombia.

Arriving at the coast in Santa Marta I got kind of caught by surprise by the wheather- we had about 32 degrees there for about 2 weeks! Constantly! This must be one of these magic places that us Germans only know from our dreams- and I already winded hords of equals here but surprise! This time I found plenty of Israeli instead, of Argentinians and French. After some days of chilling with Adelia and updating each other cause we hadn’t travelled together for a while, we decided to go to Tayrona National Park in the rainforrest on the Caribbean coast. Can you feel that? Maybe? Just by naming rainforest and coast I get goosebumps! We had that before in New Zealand at the Abel Tasman track and really liked it. Well, Adele was not so amused after the last costal track due to the heat and after some hours of trecking in the Sierra Nevada we were laughing about each other because some parts of the walk (especially to Pueblito) were kind of demanding and I saw her grumpy face.

So we decided against the Ciudad Perdida-trip (way toooo hot!) and instead I did my diving course and Adele visited Minka and Palomino, small villages at the cost in the tropically covered mountains. Arriving in Taganga I was just asking for a discount at the hostel Casa Gypsy and 1 hour later I was officially accepted to work in the bar for a week getting free food and accommodation. Nice!

Visiting some beautiful reefes in the morning and at night serving drinks was my first kind of “routine” and it was such a hilarious time! We made lots of jokes and I could test the nightlife of Colombia for the first time. But I already knew what to expect: either reggaeton, salsa or a caribbean beat because you hear this music ev-ery-whe-re and I´d go even further and call the Colombians the most music- (and football-) obsessed nation I´ve ever visited.

On partys it’s nearly impossible to not get in touch with marijuana or cocaine but you can also have great nights without. At least I heard about that🙃

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Us after our float in the mud vulcano

Passing by Cartagena for just 2 days to jump into the mud vulcano Tutumo was enough for us at that time as we perceived the city too touristy and expensive. Further, I snapped up some news about a techno festival in Medellin so we wanted to arrive in Medellin soon. Regarding transportation it´s really easy to go pretty much everywhere spontaneously, it´s so amazing- you just go to a bus terminal and anounce your destination and there is always a helping hand around:o)

Discovering Parque Arvi

In Medellin, a really good place to learn Spanish as the colombian accent is quite clear, we met some friends from a spanish language school and went out to dance salsa. In general, this city hooked us up with its enormous crazy party scene, passion for music and we enjoyed again a stunning time for a week.

The BAUM festival was one of the hardest techno parties I´ve ever joined, dancing for 12 hours and enjoying a sweet stupor caused by becoming one with complete strangers and dancing and sharing everything! Unfortunately also our hangover was exceeding the 12 hours but luckily we stayed in a very nice hostel, the Jaguar hostel where we could chill and regain a clear mind. It was also this place where I fell in love again with the Colombian hospitality because I immedeately felt home and got lots of good recommendations such as Comuna 13, various parks to chill out and a wonderful visit in the Botanical garden.

After that, nature was calling and we continued our trip to Jardin, famous for its waterfalls, mountain tracks and rivers.

Yoga in the morning, a track at lunchtime and a good chill in the afternoon, something like this. Hearing about Yerico, a very original village about 50 km north of Jardin we decided to do a bicicling tour there. What was actually very very hard overcoming the mountains (we even hitchhiked for a while!) but sooo worth it because this village is stunningly beautiful, lovely and welcoming!

Colombia really showed its vibrant joie de vivre so far, talking about nature, big city life, culture, food, party and value for money it has everything combined. We are currently dreaming about opening a hostel in Choco- this is also what this country allowes: dreaming about an upright, autonomous future ✌🏽✌️✌🏿

Next destination: Salento and Cali!

Stay inspired

Nepal Part 2

After surviving an eight hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Pakhora (and imagine its a distance of only 200km) i arrived in this lovely city by the lake. Its not only i was lucky enough to make it in eight hours, i was also blessed with the company of an elder nepali women who took care of me the entire ride. And i really mean the entire time:we started talking about where we were from in a really bad english. She was singing some nepali songs, which was nice, but the last few hours she felt the need to show me all her photos she had on her phone, including her entire family and dozens of selfies.

As Flo and Mella took off to explore the Annapurna mountains i decided to visit a Tibetan Buddhism Meditation Center for three days. I had no previous experience in any of this. I had no expectations but i felt after the adventuriuos time at Everest Base Camp Trek i needed some time off. The center was set up on a hill with a stunning view of the lake. There was also a giant fortune wheel at the terrace and a nice garden to hang out.The people i met where from all over the world, a good mix of interesting characteres.
The days were completly filled: yoga in the morning, breakfast, meditation, buddhism teaching, lunch, group conversation, yoga, dinner and meditation again. We learned the basic of buddhism and discused wheather happiness depends on previous suffering and how to reach the enlightening. It was super interesting and i definitly found my peace in this place.

“welcome to karma cafe, you get what you deserve”

I spent the following days exploring the town and its surroundings with the people i met. We went for a hike to the World Peace Stupa on the top of a mountain. We stopped by at the Devrils Falls, but it was pretty disappointing. The view from the Stupa was very pretty, you can see the entire lake and the lake side town. We did not walk all the way back, instead we descended the mountain and took a boat, which was very convenient exept for a heavy rain fall which caught us while we were in the middle of the lake.

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Another highlight was the sunrise at Sarangkot as we were a group of 10 we shared two taxis and left the buddhism center at about 5:30 in the morning. Just in time we reached after a crazy drive through the steep and curvy streets the viewpoint. Apparently our taxidriver was a stuntman in movies like ” fast and the furious” or “speed”, i am glad i had breakfast after the ride 🙂
The sunrise was just stunning. The Annapurna mountains were still covered in snow and luckily the weather was as clear as possible.

After 7 days on ” my own”, which was actually the first time for me travelling alone, i finally met Mella and Flo back again. But our reunion was not meant to last long. After Flo suffered horrible and painful food poisoning (i will spare you the details – let’s just say there are things i can never unsee) 🙂 he left for the National Park to do a Safari tour and Mella and me took the bus back to Kathmandu were we finally got our Tattoos!!

“living on the edge”

Back at the Hostel Fire&Flies we spent our amazing last days with some friends:
Our “aussie”  Luka, who shared my destiny of regressing from the Base Camp Trek unwillingly with a helilift
a guy from India, who wished to be named “Chris or Richard Parker”, Bishal from Nepal, with an icredible life story like that of”Slum Dog Millioniare”
Esme a mexican-american who now lives in Japan, who turned out to be my nepali tequila sister
…. and many more!

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We spent our evenings singing, playing silly games and not to forget listening to some really creepy but catchy songs as: ” monday morning loves you, tuesday morning loves you…. I waaana loooove you eeeevery daaaaay!”
We shared everything and these days will always remain very special in my memories. Thank you for being part of our journey ❤ .
Namaste Adelia

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Nepal Part 1

Coming to Nepal was already an adventure! After we sold our car in New Zealand three hours before our flight (oh my gosh…i dont want to remember this day),we took the longest flight ever to Dubai (14 hours ). Beeing a backpacker means you can not always afford a hotel, so you just sleep like a homeless on some random seats. Thats why we decided to sleep at the airport as our connection flight was on the next day. According to Mella this wasnt a good idea at all. Horrible things must have happend while i was asleep, which involves babys vomiting next or actually on Mella and some rude bahaving people doing disgusting things next to our “sleeping camp” while boarding an airplane. Well, i dont really know what was going on, but i never forget the pale face of Mella saying to me ” you just have no idea what f*** happened” when i woke up in the middle of the night. You must have seen her eyes… . 🙂

Finally we found ourselves at tiny Kathmandu Airport. After paying the visa fee (60$) we got picked up by our hostel (the happily ever after hostel 5$/night). Way to expensive, a taxi would have been the half price (500R). We stayed at Thamel, where probably every tourist ends up. Kathmandu is super dusty, the streets are in bad conditions and the whole city looks like it is under construction for ages. Nevertheless i fell already in love with this country. I liked the flair, the coulorful shops, the bustling streets and i really liked the hostel we stayed at: Fire&Flies (4$/night).

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View from hostel fire&flies

All the people always smiling and wishing you a great day,something you dont find everywhere. After our friend Flo arrived from Germany it was all about getting prepared for the Everest Base Camp Trek. Flo was organizing a lot for our stay in Nepal and we are very thankful for that. In the first days we manage to hire a Tourguide and a Sherpa, buy/rent hiking gear and get mentally prepared for this adventure. There are many cheap gear you can buy in Thamel like jackets, pants, gloves….but i highly recommend not to buy hikingboots AND socks. Mella bought some fake hikingboots and after 2 days she brought them back, they were just very bad. The three of us bought fake North Face Hiking socks and we all ended up having really smelly feet on the trek. 🙂 Good sleepingbags (-20 degrees) you can rent in some shops!


Our tourguide Jag and NJ were so kind to take care of us before the trek even started. We were lucky to join them on a holy festival called Sariswati. They took us in the evening to the Pashupati Temple (Pashupatinath Tempel), where thousands of people were waiting to enter the holy place. On the way we were able to see cremations along the riverside, which was a very interesting but also disturbing experience. We entered the temple, which was very crowded. People were singing, meditating and praying. Holy people “Babas” where around and everybody tried to get a foto with them. I have to admitt i also own a few hundred but only because i was kind of forced to stay next to a very special Baba while NJ proudly took millions of fotos. Some of the “babas” were selling Marihuana for spiritual purpose, which is consumed by many people in this temple on this particular day. The celebration was going on the whole night. It was a very unique experience for us.

On day 5, fully equiped and prepared, we took the cab to the airport.We supposed to fly to the most dangerous airport in the world “Lukla” and start our 16 days hiking tour to the Everest Base Camp, cross the Chola Pass and walk back to Lukla through Gokyo.
Bad luck for us, on this day we didnt fly to Lukla due bad weather. The airplanes are only landing by clear sight. After waiting for 5 hours we were send back to the hostel, next day new try. Unfortunately the weather was still bad and all the flights got cancelled again.
We had to make a decision, loose one more day or fly with a helicopter. Of course it is expensive but we met 2 other hikers and split the costs which was actually a good price. We also got our money back for the cancelled flights. We took the helicopter (420€).

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Apart from the tourguides it was the first helilift for all of us. We were super excited and took as many selfies and videos as possible during the 45 minutes flight. We must have looked rediculous, especially mella focused on filming the poor pilot all the time 😉

In Lukla we met our Sherpa who was carrying our common backpack which we filled with extra food and sleepingbags. I insisted to carry our own backpacks and equipment as it is a part of the adventure. It was already very cold in Lukla and it suppose to be much colder the next days. The official hiking season starts in March so we were still trekking during off season. As i got ill i will only describe the 7 days of our trekking:

The 1.first day we hiked only 3 hours and reached our first teahouse. It was cold and we all got together in front of the fireplace. Who would know that this was one of our warmest nights by that time.

The 2.day we woke up very early. The target was hiking (mostly uphill) 7 hours to reach Namche Bazar, a beautiful village surrounded by the highest mountains in the world. On this day we passed one of the most beautiful swingbridges ever. The day was sunny, but once the sun is behind a mountain it gets super cold.

Day 3 was our acclimatisation day. We did a 5 hours hike with a descent elevation to a viewpoint (thats the birthplace of the “famous” himalaya dance video) and to a close small village where Edmund Hillary onced build a school and back to Namche Bazar where we stayed overnight. Here we had our only one hot shower during the whole trek.Last teahouse with running water aswell!

Day 4 we hiked 5-6 hours to a tiny village which seemed only to consist of three guesthuoses and a monastery. The teahouse we stayed at was in front of the monastery. Each day it was getting colder and colder. It was already so cold that the waterbottles got frozen during daytime. In the afternoon we visited the monastery and had the chance to watch the monks praying. At this point i was already not changing clothes for bedtime because this would be the same as commit suicide.

Day 5 we walked 5 hours to Tingboche where we had a fantastic view on the famous Island Peak. We stayed at a nice and friendly teahouse where we meet the germans who shared the helicopter with us. We decided to buy a bucket hot water to shower and wash some clothes…bad idea as the clothes got totally frozen after a few minutes outside.

Day 6 we had our acclimatisation day. We hiked up to a viewpont at an altitude of 4700 meters. The view was just stunning. All this peaks appear to be unreal und you feel so small being surrounded by all the high mountains. We stayed the night at the same teahouse and spend the evening in front of the fireplace like every night.

Last day we hiked up 3 hours to a teahouse at an altitude of 4620 meters, on this day we supposed to reach Lombuche.

Even after this trip brought me to the hospital (where i actually spend the first night since almost 7 months alone) it was one of best things which happened to me. The nature was so stunning, i always felt attracted to the mountains but around the Everest i thought i can stay forever. Even the hikes were exhausting i felt every day good and balanced.It was one of the toughest things i have done so far. We saw many different birds as Jag turned out to be a professional bird watcher. We met interesting people on our way and we spend our evenings sharing funny stories. No television, radio or cellphones, just great company, blue rivers, endless mountains and clear skies.
I he i can come back one day to finish the trek ❤

Adelia

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New Zealand or the place where I lost myself to travel

By the time we reached Christchurch, we were traveling for 4 months already and we felt very happy about staying longer in this country than we normally do. Our mission was big: buy a car to travel flexibly, find a job and still visit as many places as possible. What I could not foresee at that time was the danger of feeling too comfortable with all the conveniences that come along with this kind of travel. That´s why in this entry I will put more focus on the personal experiences of my travel rather than the sights and recommendations I normally concentrate on (btw: it is so easy to travel NZ: Just download Campermate and go with the flow- you´ll have an excellent time!)

Buying a camper van determined also the atmosphere of our trip. Having everything close and in one single place is a fantastic feeling! We dind´t touch our backpacks for 6 weeks what made me feel „at home“ and also the posession of cutlery, gas cooker and chairs made me feel prepaired for pretty much EVERYTHING, haha! Additionally, this beautiful country literally awaits to be discovered, every 20 km you find a new mountain, beach, view point, tramping opportunity, cave or animal spotting point, that´s why in the first weeks we felt like Robinson Crusoe himself- besides the fact that we had to share most of our discoveries with many other tourists. Well, December and January are not the best months to look for remoteness- but still I found way more than expected.

From Christchurch we started our trip to the Banks peninsula where we had the best view on the southpacific ocean. Here, we also spent christmas in front of a fire place with a bottle of wine and 2 german friends we got to know in a hostel- Bernhard and Christian. We met them spontaneously in a couple of places and always enjoyed an easygoing mood- especially the tramping to Mt. Cook was a very deep common experience as Christian and I pretty much had the same (slow) trecking velocity and so did Bernard and Adelia. At Mt Cook, we started at a temperature of 20 degrees in the valley and ended up walking in the snow at 1800 m altitude. What a walk for me as an unexperienced grumpy tracker! Here I learnt about the rush it can bring to fight your steap way up to the summit to enjoy the astonishing view- what a nice metaphor for so many situations in life!

Spending some days at lake Tekapo and lake Pukaki, we enjoyed some clear nights to watch the stars.

Heading towards the Catlins, I can say that there is barely a comparable feeling of freedom to me than passing beautiful landscapes with a well-choosen playlist and the best friend beside me talking about everything that comes to my mind and never knowing what can be discovered behind the next slope. We passed by a gemstone beach, „the end of the world“ , many camping grounds where we spent the nights in front of a bonfire and beautiful forests that where mystical and surreal because of the outrageous diversity of flora and fauna.

This was also the part of our journey where I started to appreciate the simple act of sharing because in this abandoned area, you feel the inner necessity to get in contact with the few people you meet-not only for sharing good stories but also for salt, cooking equipment or a helping hand to collect firewood. As trivial as it sounds, the satisfaction of dissociation from personal possess was one of my key experiences I had in New Zealand. The further we reached the remote south, the more I focused on the pleasure of the nature rather than thinking about things. Living with the nature, the world I know from back home seamed so far away and gave me lots of reason to think. There is so much pleasure for me just by waking up with the sound of the birds singing, then quickly jump into the next river and discover the surrounding by taking pictures or walking around. This part of our journey was characterized by a calm and close relationship to Adelia also because we evolved the same rhythm what made it very intensive for us to travel together.

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Daily camper life I


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Camp ground daily life II


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Us at Nugget point


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South cost


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Bluff

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Slope point


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Catlins landscape


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Yellow eyed pinguin encounter


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Sunrise at the catlins

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In the Fjordland, I had my next magical moment: seeing a yellow eyed penguin just because waking up with sunset and going to the beach enphasized the necessity to enjoy every single moment rather then spend too much time planning the next trip, goal or what ever. Especially while travelling when you know you will probably never return to the place you´re at right now makes it so clear that the moment is now and shouldn´t be wasted by worring about tomorrow. From my background I feel that especially my people tend to always plan, organize and worry a lot about the future and, while doing so, miss the chance to feel the uniqueness of that ONE moment. I hope I will learn to appreciate the moment on our world trip and not always keep busy thinking about tomorrow!

An unforgettable moment, in a very bad context though, was the start of our year 2017: disapointed from the slightly boring atmosphere of Invercargill we spent the night in a hostel (pure luxury!) with a kiwi and a malaysian girl until 1:00 am, deciding to go to bed early, we suddenly heard the kiwi peeing right next to Adelias bed in our dorm. He didn´t even wake up after Adelia made clear that he is triyng to enter HER bed instead of his a couple of meters away- he only put off his pants and layed down naked in his bed. OMG, what a disgusting moment, probably the worst hostel experience ever and we qickly continued our trip via Te Anau to the westcoast and appreciated our togetherness in our beloved van.

At Milford Sound, we met Bernhard and Christian again and decided to do a kayaking and boot trip through the beautiful 15 km long fjord. It is amazing how small I felt compared to the huge dimension of the glacier-formed landscape. A very nice experience!

Passing by Queenstown and Wanaka, we enjoyed being back to civilisation and directly bought some warmer clothes because the weather was worse than expected in this season. Like jerks we stormed the Kathmandu-store and bought jackets, socks and warm leggins. Obviously prepared now, we did our first glacier track in Wanaka before the phone call of Gourmet Summerfruit reached us: „Girls, meet you at 4:00 pm in our office, your first working day starts tomorrow at 8:00 am :o) Sometimes everything goes exactly as it should- we were very lucky to find the job in the cherry packhouse and so we continued our trip to little Roxburgh, surrounded by yellow and ochre-coloured montains and a nice river.

Without knowing anything about cherry grading we found ourselves in front of a convert belt with approx. 50 other people- let the show begin! Most of the days we started at 7:00 am and finished at 5:00 pm. The work routine followed a fixed schedule of 3 breaks between 10 & 30 minutes. The rest of the day we sorted out bad cherries from a convert belt that ran THE.WHOLE. TIME. The biggest motivation for me was the music we listened to while grading the cherries. Sometimes everybody was dancing to keep warm (in the packhouse we had approx. 10 degrees to keep the fruit cold), it was very funny to watch this spectacle and also our supervisors joined us from time to time- the atmosphere was very peaceful. But still, after nearly 4 weeks of standing the whole day in one place watching the millions of cherries passing by, we were happy to leave Roxburgh! We finished with my birthday party, after which several people had to leave the camp ground- it was a really wild party and will always stay in my mind! By the end of our job, we became good friends with some french, kiwi, mexican, taiwanease, argentinian and thai working mates what also resulted in a spontaneous adaption of our travel route. To better stay in contact and enjoy our last 2 weeks we decided to skip the north island and travel up the west cost until Montueka, do the multi-day-hike at Abel Tasman and return to Christchurch.

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For me,the best came last: the whole west cost was insanely beautiful: rain forest right next to mountains, glaciers and awesome beaches- the widest range of the best landscapes here in (south) New Zealand! We traveled with a friend from Roxburgh and his chilean friend from Wanaka to the Franz Josef Glacier, to Okarito, to Hokitika, to Punakaki and to Takaka. Again I felt vast freedom and excitement on our way along beautiful beaches; had another struggling track at the glacier and enjoyed the leaned-back atmosphere in Takaka- right after the luminate-festival, many visitors came here to „chillout“ so we met very interesting people and had good conversations while smoking an apple. I was so ready to „live the moment“ and I really enjoyed every minute of our journey. I shared everything I have with the people around me and became one with my environment. Especially at the Abel Tasman track I inhaled all the nature around me and captured the beautiful sunlight in combination with the palm trees, the marine blue or turquise water , the green forests or the moonlight at night- we even had full moon! After that track I had the feeling that the colour of my eyes got a little more blue somehow- I don´t know what this is about but my time in New Zealand literally opened my eyes for a lot of things and I am very thankful for all the awesome moments I spend in the nature, in my thoughts and in the embrace of the great people we met here! It was nice to see you again, David and my lovely Zora and also meeting Flo again felt like meeting longknown friends! Thanks for our common adventure, as always the people met determined the success of our travel!

We are lucky now to continue our trip to Nepal. So far I didn´t regret one single day of our trip, not even now that we struggle to sell our van so hopefully you feel inspired by our journey!


Thanks for reading*

Mella

Sydney- or should I better call it Birdney?

Spending 3 and a half months in Asia tought me a lot. I got used to deal with very slow transportation, very crowdy and dirty places, ongoing stomach problems and different customs (like lighting a fire right next to the street in order to keep mosquitos- and bad spririts- out . What was most impressing to me is the amazing way in which people find creative -though not always longlasting- solutions for pretty much anything, from the crazy electricity nets hanging just centimeters over one´s head because it got too heavy, from changing business models of a shop depending on the day time (during day time a travel agency, a clothes shop at night) to the many ways in which a hat can be build. In general I felt a fast-developing atmosphere with many young managers, and a well-connected net of connections between people. I enjoyed people saying: “I can´t help you but wait 5 minutes and I get a friend here who surely has what you need…” .

What I missed in this time was good electronical music and -surprise, surprise! food like cheese and bread and not-already-melted chocolate. So somehow we felt ready to leave the asian fields and change it for Australia and New Zealand. Spending just 3 days in Sydney after our stay in Thailand, we would like to share our experiences on what to do in there in just a couple of days.

First, if you are not totally desperate to make party with 20-year-olds avoid the hostel Summerhouse Backpackers. In order to not end up in the streets shortly before christmas we made the mistake to rely on a prebooking and ended up in a messy, impolite crowd of girls and boys finding it funny to flood the bathrooms or distribute a torn newspaper in the whole hostel. Anyway, this made us spending most of the time outside in the beautiful surroundings of King´s Cross and competely sober by the way because it was so difficult to find a store selling alcohol. It is very interesting how drug regulations differ from country to country and now we changed an environment where marihuana cosumption is treated with death penalty to lands where alcohol consuption seams to be treated nearly similar. Without showing the passports (not ID or driving licence!) of EVERYbody you are with, you cannot buy alcohol… even with 30! Besides there are (too) many alcohol bans for parts of the city or also beaches what I just don´t understand but hey! you can smell marihuana everywhere again. Okay, let´s come to the things you definetely shouldn´t miss in Sydney.

Our first encouter that was totally astonishing is the botanical garden where you can enter for free. It shows a breathtaking viarity of palms, rhododendron, roses, bushes, old trees and also birds- I never saw a more beautiful garden before. We spend hours there just walking around and watch the Harbor bridge like a queen throning over the city or also the Opra House. Also there, I evolved my new hobby what is: Bird watching! We saw aras, paradise birds, other parrots and many differnt species it was sooo cool. Right in the middle of an urban structure you see even big birds passing you by just some meters away, this is an awesome feeling!

Aditionally, the fancy Opera house and the Harbor bridge are a must-see, it is simply beautiful and spreads a sophisticated atmoshere because of its unique architecture I think. Enter the view point in the middle of the bridge and enjoy the high stairway. Walking around this area, you find every shop you look for as the city centre is a large melting pot of malls, boutiques and technology stores or follow the water and find nice restaurants and bars with swimming pools and cool partys at night.

Bondi beach was also very recommending to visit.It has a nice walk along the cost and here, besides the beautiful beach, it is cool to watch the locals do what they just do on a saturday morning- running, taking the dog for a walk in jogging pants and hoodie, meeting up for a coffee with the best friend… I liked the relaxing atmosphere here and we walked a lot that day. There is also a small market on sundays where you can buy nice local things for a lot of money- or just take away a coffee and watch very handsome and talented surfers if you wish to :op

 

For dinning, we ended up at Domino´s.On the one side because it´s a cheap alternative to all the pricey restaurants and on the other side because we missed eating pizza in Asia:o) after that we were so satisfied and were absolutely looking forward to our next destiny New Zealand where we stay 2 months and also plan to work.

Hopefully, you didn´t find it disappointing to find nothing but the very touristy places here but in such a short time we had to stick to the obvious places and attractions.

In our next post, we will tell you about the best places to see in the South Island of New Zealand, so thaks for keeping in touch!

Cave exploration by kayak: Xe Bang Fai Cave

Thakhek was our destination after an 11 hours drive (but only about 300km distance, with an estimated time of 6 hours) with a local bus from Pakse (80k kip) . As we already mentioned everything is taking a bit longer in Laos than usual 🙂

Our local bus was stopping at every corner to buy food or either take the opportunity for pass by for something thats close to an outhouse or just stopping for i dont know what!
Anyway we arrived just before sunset and the bus stopped in front of “the” backpacker hostel ever. And we stayed there for a night. It was cheap but everything than clean. The sheets were full of stains, but as i already mentioned it was cheap. The city us not really nice but there is a kind of feeling of lots of adventure when you get there. Many off road cars spread the feeling of departure.From here many travellers are getting ready for ” doing the loop” around the Lak Sao Road, passing by giant caves such as the famous Kong Lor Cave and the tribe villages. So that was actually our itenerary. But arriving at Thakhek there was no way we rent a scooter again (especially after being exposed to pictures of a deadly accident on the road of a foreign couple) and we also did not want to join a mass tourism group to explore the nearby caves.
After some research a found an article about the Xe Bang Fai Cave (Tham Khoun Xe) which is close to the vietnamese boarder

When i first saw the pictures i knew i have to go there no matter what the cost. And in fact there was not much choice. Green disvovery is the only operator. Going by your own makes no sense, as the road is pretty bad (dirt road). You have to cross even rivers and you definitely need a 4 WD. In rain season its even not possibly to access this cave at all. Even if you get there by your own (we met some dudes, which were bagging to share our kayaks) the only thing you can do is see the cave from outside and rent a wooden boat from a local to go for the first kilometer inside the cave an thats pretty much all you can do. Going further you need an inflatable kayak as you go upstream inside the cave. There are 4 significant rapids you will pass and each time you get off the boat and you carry the kayaks along the rapid… .

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But to start the story from the beginning: we asked for information at Green Discovery and a 2d/1n trip was about 380$ us dollar each of a group of 2. Price would drop to 260$ each by 4 people. There was just Melanie and i, so we decided to wait till the evening. Maybe there will come more people for that trip. Unfortunately no one came, but however we managed to drop the price a lot (i ll get in trouble if i tell you how much we spend at the end 🙂 ) by skipping some points of the itenetary.

Cave history: the cave supposed to be the largest river cave in the world with a lenght of 9,5 km.It was first discovered in 1905. Almost 100 years later she was rediscovered and in 2012 (recording the agency and locals) she was opened for tourism. In 2008 the cave received public attention after being explored by the caver John Pollak for National Geographic.

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Day 1: the very next day our tourguide “Dick” and the driver “Phun” picked us up at 8 am. First stop was this big market in Thakek where we bought our food supplies for the next day. Everything was fresh (herbs, fruits, rice,vegetables), so fresh that a few ingredients very still alive (fish) after we left the market.
For the next 3,5 hours we ve been driving mostly a dirt road passing by beautiful limestone scenery of Khammuan province. We ate lunch in front of huge limestones and stoped a few times to make some pictures
Arriving at the river by 3pm we had to get the kayaks prepared and get everything out of the car(tents, lifejackets food…) as we were about to tent on an island in front of the cave. Melanie and i were eager to try to kayaks so we decided to take care of our kayak and paddle alone as it was not far at all. Thats where we realized how exhausting it is to paddle upstream. None of us has much experience in kayaking and none of us was doing a caveexploration before.
After setting up a camp we took a bath in the river, while the dinner was prepared by our tourguide. At least we helped them by making the campfire.

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Imagine you sit at the beach in front of turquise water and a giant black hole in the rocks: the cave, and you know you ll spend the whole day inside without any daylight. Retrospectively it still gives me goosebumbs. Some poeple from the village joined us for the campfire, they couldnt speak any english but they obviously liked the company of strangers as not many come along 🙂 they even slept near the campfire to “make sure” we will be safe. Lovely people. At 3 am i put the alarmclock as i wanted to see the stars, so i woke up and there was this stunning sky with so many stars.


Day 2: We started at 8 am after a great breakfast at the campfire. We paddled to the cave entrance, carried the kayaks and equipment along the rocks and put them back inside the river to finally start the tour. Going further inside the cave meant going into completly darkness. Receding more and more from the entrance means getting used to the darkness. But after a few minutes you get used to it, unfortunately neither my gopro nor my waterproof camera were able to make proper pictures inside the cave. After arriving the first rapids we had to go off the kayak and carry it to the other side, this was very exhausting but necessary. There is no way you can paddle upstream at this point. The rocks very huge and we had to take care of our steps as there were huges descents where you can fall in for a few meters. Some rocks were also slippery and i actually fell one time badly on my wrist. It was also very hot inside the cave, or i felt this way because of the excercise. Any time we got in water i was really happy about the refreshment 🙂


You get hungry quick? You are afraid of not getting enough food on this trip? Dont worry every time you get off the kayak and breath you ll get enough insects in your mouth to fill you empty stomach in seconds.
Continuing to the other side of the river we passed in total 4 rapids, each was the same procedere: get of the kayak, carry it and equipment to the next side. It took us more than 3 h to get to the other side of the cave. According to the agency it must be a distance of about 6 km to the opposite entrance, but inside the cave i totaly lost my relation to time and distance. I was really concentrated to stare at the cave wherever i could. Thinking of being alive just because of a few headlamp pumps so much adrenalin in your blood … living on the edge as we use to kid around at our juvenelity 🙂


Arriving on the other side (of the rainbow) we set a campfire and had a lunch on the rocks. We swam to the rocks, climbed around and explored the area. The knowledge of being so far from civilisation is a feeling you wont forget that quick! Everything depends on you. Heading back was easier as you follow the stream. The first rapid we passed with the kayak which was really fun. The other 3 rapids the same procedere as usual. Sometimes we stopped at some sandbanks to explore the cave and at the last rapid we even kind of lost control of our kayak which ended up being stocked between some rocks. Scary situation but with hard work of our tourguides we managed to pull the kayak out of the rocks again. We stopped for another exploration close to the exit. There is a “balcony” where you have a stunning overview of the cave entrance. After 9 hours of hard exercise we were so happy about us mastering the cave exploration. Dick told us we where the first ones in this season who managed to go to the other side, the previous custumer gave up after a few kilometers. What a compliment.
The drive back we were pretty tired as you can imagine. We stopped for dinner at a local restaurant and after arriving to the hotel, which we havent booked in advance as always, we fell asleep within seconds.

Tips: bring some sneakers which can get wet or proper watershoes, shorts and a sleeve are enough to wear but bring some changing clothes, ask everybody to turn off all lights in the cave…thats so creepy, wake up in the middle of the night to see the stars when the moon is gone and ASK for discount at Green Discovery it is more affordable than you think!

Thx Adelia

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Laos- easypeesy flow meets native countryside

After spending the ultimate days of our Cambodia tour in Siam Reap, we looked forward to arrive in a more quiet and natural surrounding. We chose Don Det as a destination, this is one of the 4000 islands in the southern part of Laos. After we crossed the border, our lao adventure directly begun: Instead of driving in a normal bus, we were “loaded” on a truck with an open passenger hub and drove nearly half an hour to the port of Ban Nakasang. As everything takes a little more time here than usual, the sun set already and with a very small wooden boat we continued to the island.

Happy to finally arrive, we found a nice homestay on the sunrise side of the island right next to the Mekong although we had no reservation and the next day we cycled over the island. The vibe is very relaxed here and you can see some people smoking Marihuana at the riverside. Special attention lay on the citizens as they were very friendly waving and smiling all the time as the islands were not that highly frquented by foreigners until only some years ago. Passing by the waterfalls of Don Khon, we found an idyllic little oasis with a cute café and hammarks right next to the imense falls. There is also a beach to take a bath but as we saw an imense water snake the first day we were not to much into jumping to the waters. Also here, there were not too many people and everything still seemed very original, only a little wooden fence divided the steep cliffs of the river of the walking ground- a nogo for european circumstances but this is what makes the charme of Laos- the nativeness of the landscape and also the people. Another example?  We passed by a house where a father and his son just had dinner at the patio and suddenly the little kid got of his chair, went to the balustrade and peed on the dusty path were we stood- we were lucky enough not to cross his direction:op

The next day it was time to head north to Pakxe. It took us approx. 4 hours by minibus (when we hear this word, there are some really bad experiences tied with this kind of transportation because it is very common that the operators promise a pickup at the hotels… at the various hotels… so pretty often you spend the first hour just driving from hotel to hotel watching the bus get fuller and fuller). Trying to organise a tour to the numerous waterfalls nearby, we were disappointed because as there are only a few operators every tour was quite expensive and we missed the good travel infrastructure of Vietnam a bit- but if you want to visit the abandoned places, of course there are not too many providers what turned out to be our luck: we rented a semiautomatic motorcycle, initially for one day, grabbed a selfdrawed map and started our private tour to the Bolaven Plateau, famous for endless coffee plantations, beautiful landscape, native villages and- surprise- waterfalls! After a short introduction of how to drive the semiautomatic transmission (pretty easy), we dared the adventure! Driving north, our first stop was Tad Pasuam- a little bit of a tourist trap beacause the waterfalls were not that big at this time and in the village itself was not idigenous at all. Following the recommendation of the scooter rental, we took another stop at Mr. Vieng, an organic café . It was our luck that a group of dutchies, italians and kiwis arrived there at the same time because from then on, this was our lovely travel entourage and what was planned to be a day trip turned out to be a 3-day- discovering tour!! At the end of day 1, we ended up in Tad Lo, about 80 km away from Pakxe. Our homestay there was one of the cheapest we ever stayed in, for 1,5, we had a 16-dorm, veerry basic with just a mattress on the floor and a mosquito net. We had some beers and went to bed early to be prepared for the next day as we had about 100 km on our way to the next destination- wich we didn´t know by then:op

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Tad Pasuam waterfalls

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Tad Pasuam waterfalls

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Cock fight at Mr Viengs cafe in the backyard

So after breakfast we went east to Kok Poung Tai, the town of “Captain Hook” according to our motorcycle rental. Not sure what to expect we entered the village and immediately we were surrounded by many (half-) naked children who begged for food or little presents. Meeting captain Hook, we found a small guy in his 30s, showing us his selfmade tattoo (the writting Captain Hook of course!) explaining that many years ago americans came to his town to do some research and teaching english to him. Walking around the little village and visiting the coffee planttions and herb gardens, he explained us many facts about his town:

Consisting of 724 people, the leaders of Ko Poung Tai are the guru and the shaman. The villagers stay for themselves and it´s not allowed for other people to constantly enter there. Men can have several women and if a woman gets a baby, she leaves to the forests around. After some days, she brings the newborn to the shaman who decides if it has a good or bad spirit (based on the dreams of the woman). In case of a bad spirit, she has to return to the forests:o/ ear, a little puppy is sacrafied to keep the bad spirits away and as a reward, the villagers get a new water buffalo. As everybody in this world sees the same sun, differences in time are a lie- if the sun shines in Laos, it shines everywhere! And differences in skin colour appear because of drinking too much of “blue” or “red” waters- so I drank too much blue water, Captain Hookwas explaining.

A little confused, we left the town and continued to the next waterfall in Tad Faek.

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these needles are used for tattoos

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Captain Hook in his coffee fields

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a venomous spider on our way- omfg!

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playing

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our posse

After a short lunch break, we continued to Tad Tayicsua, the most beautiful part of our trip as the landscape was overwhelming! We even saw the sunset… wait, the sunset?? We still had a little bit of a way upcoming to the waterfalls and… one moment. was this tiny path over there the actual way to the waterfalls?! Okay, no excuses- let´s go! We found ourselves on a dirt road, it was about to go dark and we didn´t even know if we´ll find a homestay but we were keen enough to try- and we had no other options:o) luckily, we found a nice stay in a natural hut and had the best preconditions to explore this beautiful area in the early morning next day!

Waking up in the middle of nowhere we were very excited to leave. After an 20 minute hike, we found an awesome waterfall and even a place to swim! It was so worth th go there and we got in some kkind of an adrenaline rush. I even could enter the water right under a waterfall and let myself float in the river for some meters, that was really huge!! Energized by this adventure, we continued west to finish our 340 km loop by the end of that day. At Tad Yuang we took another brief stop and saw two enormous waterfalls.

Arriving back in Pakxe we enjoyed a last common dinner with our new travel buddies before we continued our journey further north on the next day. Our new destination was Thakek, where we went with a local bus- again it was very intersting to watch some local habbits: every half an hour we stoped in small villages and about 5-7 roughlooking women entered the bus with food, mostly speard on a stick: whole chicken, fish or sweet sugar balls… and if some of these touched a seat or a shoulder, nobody even cared… it seams like the 3-second-rule is also locally adabtable and in Laos there is a very flexible interpretation of it:oP

We really enjoyed our stay in Laos, the silence at night and the calm spirits of the people.

Read in our next post how we nearly drowned in the Xe Bang Fei cave and how we made it from Laos to Thailand in just half an hour.

 

Cambodia,dark background and present beauty

“The Killing Field (1984)”, a movie i watched when i was a teen was the first time i heard about this country and i recommend to watch it when you’re about to go there or if you havnt heard about the Khmer rouge yet. If you re travelling from Vietnam take one day off this horrible party mile in HCM, get yourself a hotel with good WiFi connection and watch The Killing Field and if you havent seen Heaven&Earth (1993, Oliver Stone) yet, by the way, just do it, but get yourself enough tussues though.
We took a sleeping bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh. A two days history tour began. First we took an audio tour through the actual killing fields, make sure you dress yourself proper with long pants and at least a tshirt.I cant describe how you feel by passing the mass grave and hearing the history and be aware of the meaning of a killing tree.No expression for it. I guess my travelmates were pretty shoked (they were not prepared by watching the movie) and there was such a silence through the whole place. Reflecting the killing fields we visited the genocide museum, a former shool which turned into a torture prison during the Khmer rouge regime. Not many handle to enter the former prison cells as they remained untouched. There are also tours offered to tunnels and shooting range compared to Cu Chi in Vietnam. But i really cant understand why people would make funny pictures with weapons in theier hands and shooting selfies while coming out of a tunnel with a smile close to a mass grave? Maybe there is something wrong about me…

To remember is the only thing we can do about the past.So we left Phnom Phen behind a headed to the South. Kep, a small village by the sea with a sweet National Park. We ended up staying there for three days. And it was worth it! Yasmin and i managed to organize a DIY tour to Kompong Trach caves. We took a local bus to Kompong, the bus driver stopped at the market where we asked for a driver to go to the caves. Of course we did it the cambodian way. Yasmin, me and the driver on one scooter 🙂 He did not speak english but apparently he knew where we wanted to go. 4$ and 10 minutes later we arrived at the caves which were completly flooded due the rain last night. But our 8 year old tour guide Rita showed us as much as she could untill she had to go to her school classes. We decided to take a walk around the limestones and climbed up a hill for some selfies. Always in mind not to leave the path because of the landmines. On the way back a friendly farmer passed with his selfmade carriage filled with grave and gave as a ride back where our driver was waiting. That was a lovely experience which a travelagency cant offer!

 


Next day we did a mountain bike tour without mountain bikes though. How is that possible? Well we rented some kind of “bicycles”, tiny little wheels, no gears and no proper breaks. Its a miracle that this bikes didnt fall apart on the tour. However we managed, again, to start at an unfavorable time such as noon. Too hot to cycle uphill on a rocky road. But as you see we also survived that. On the way a sign made us stop: cold drinks and monkeys, Gibbon valley.We left the bikes at the street unlooked, would be a surprise if anyone would have stolen it by this heat. We walked the short trail to the Gibbon Valley which turned out to be a kind of a small hotel with a few bungalows in the middle of the jungle. Nikki an australian women runs it since a few years, she also helds some rescued monkeys which are addicted to everykind of jewellery or sunglasses as i can tell you by experience. We liked it so much that we decided to overnight at this place. We got a spacious cottage in the middle of the jungle for 15$, a crazy night with some crazy people from all over the world and a beautiful sunrise uphill in the morning.

A contrast to Kep was Otres Beach close to Sihanoukville.We stayed at Everythung hostel, 10 metres from the beach for only 3$ a night in a very simple dorm. If you want to party for a few days and get drunk or change however your mental condition, thats the place to be. The beach is nice, not the best i ve seen so far but ok to relax a few days. Melanie and Yasmin liked it a lot, especially Melanie, so on the last day i had to pick her up after a party at 8 am in the morning to catch the bus/boat to Koh Rong Samloen.


At Koh Rong Sanloem we found cheap huts in front of the beach for 20$ a night ( Homestay resort, to the right of the harbour). This Island was super expensive compared to the mainland. If i would known that before i would have brought some wine and cigarettes with me :). Also taking a boat to beaches you cant reach by foot, was so high that we decided to walk only the few trails on the island. Lazy beach was very quite, you feel like robinson crusoe for a moment. There is only one hotel with some bungalows. There is also a two hour hike to a light house which is pretty nice, make sure you carry enough water with you as the are no restaurants or anything else and at least one dollar to pay the entrance fee for the lighthouse.


One of my highlights was a glowing plankton tour for 8$ with the owner of the homestay resort (actually it has nothing to do witha resort, there are just a few simple huts!). He took the three of us for a private tour at night to swim with the plankton. It is like you swim in the sky and above you is a second sky. I tried to capture this moment with all my high technology photographic equipment, but apart grabing darkness and some voices screaming:” holy *** something touched my feet” there is nothing left than indulging in memories.

Last stop: Angkor Wat, in Seam Reap, 40$ for a three days pass, holy water! But if you realize how huge this terrain is, 40$ is nothing to keep all the temples for eternity. So the first day we arrived, full of energy, desperate to see Angkor Wat, we decided to rent bicycles and “do the small loop” DIY. Great but very painful idea. We ve been driving for 7 hours this day. By Sunset we’ve passed just the half of the temples we wanted to see on this day. Luckily we met a local who was working at the temple. He was amused by the idea us cycling all day long. He offered us a tour for the next day starting with sunrise at Angkor Wat, ” doing the big loop”, the kings wife temple of Banteay Srei and waterfalls for 10$ each. Great deal and a long 12 hours day. There are many rumors how to avoid the crowds, apart from Ta Prohm, which is apparently crowdy all the time, we kinda manage to stay away from the crowds. Of course there is no way to be alone by the lake in front of Angkor Wat at sunrise or sunset. So after sharing the sunrise with millions of people we decided not to go inside, we drove straight to the Bayon temple which was very empty as it opens at 7 am. We visited Angkor Wat on the third day by noon, compared to the days before it was empty.


Apart from Angkor Wat we visited the Angkor Hospital for Children, which offers free treatment to the cambodian children. There is a small visitor center which takes donation.
The last day in cambodia was sad in many ways: i ate a one kilo dragon fruit, which was apparently to much for my stomach, we had to leave this beautiful country and also say goodbye to our travelbuddy Yasmin. We spend 6 weeks together, day and night. It was bound to happen, sooner or later. Last evening we spend drinking expired red wine and we enjoyed our first khmer massage in kind of a pyjama 🙂

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Crossing the border to Laos was very easy.Early in the morning there are a few minivans driving to the border (no nightbuses as the border closes at 5pm). In total in took us 11hours to get to 4000 islands in Laos, after changing the minivan for a bus and a public transporter. We paid around 42$ for the visa on arrival.

Adelia