Posts Tagged With: australia

Bergen to Jostedalsbreen National Park

After 2 days we are leaving Bergen but not without seeing the stave church (a wooden church built by the Vikings). There are 28 stave churches in the country but this one is going to be our first one. Unfortunately it is not original anymore but has been rebuilt.

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Driving along road 16, we pass the Tvinnefoss, a majestic and very impressive waterfall. It has been raining a lot last night so there is a vast amount of water coming down. At the tourist shop I then find a postcard of the waterfall in winter: completely frozen!!! Absolutely amazing.
We also buy some more lures to be able to go fishing in lakes as well. Before Gudvangen we spend the night at a lake but again Logan doesn’t catch any fish. This lake may actually be too far away from the fjords and only have smaller fish…?

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The next day we are driving through the world’s longest road tunnel. 24.5km of boring blackness? No, when you make it to quarter, half and three quarters of the tunnel, you will see a spectacularly lit up part of the tunnel, reminding me of an ice cave.

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After the tunnel we take a right turn to get to Borgund where one of Norway’s oldest and best preserved stave churches is located. On the way we drive past a former excavation site where Viking combs, jewelry, keys and other objects have been found when building a new road from Bergen to Oslo in 2009.

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Borgund Stave Church:

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Eventually we turn around, taking the historic route, and cross one of the many arms of the Sognefjord with the ferry, to get to Jostedalsbreen National Park, the place with the largest glacier on the European mainland.
One of the many glacier tongues is the Nigardsbreen glacier. The last part of the road is actually a toll road, we pay 30NOK and get there just in time before sunset. Unfortunately the sun is only still reaching the mountain peaks, not the glacier anymore but we still get to see the fascinating shades of blue in the ice. A raging current is coming out underneath the glacier, forming a lake.
The glacier was measured to move up to 1.5m downward per day, therefore it is not the safest place to be in. We take some footage and enjoy a few minutes of looking into the icy blue colours of the giant before we have to leave.

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Gfrill, a German hill-top village in Italy

Having done a lot of sightseeing, Logan and I want to return to the mountains and do some hiking in the picturesque Dolomite Mountains.

  

Once we drove past the Garda lake (lago di Garda) I look up camping sites in the Dolomites in my Bordatlas.  The only free one nearby is in Gfrill. Well it is free when you have dinner in the restaurant of the “Fichtenhof” and since we feel like a good South-Tyrolean meal, we are glad to have an excuse. I have never heard of Gfrill before and upon arrival I realise why! Only about 40 people live here and it is quite hidden up high on a hill. The drive is rather exciting with our Campervan, but it is do-able.

  

The owner of the Fichtenhof tells us where we can park for the night and supplies us with electricity from the wooden shed. Since the temperature still drops down to zero degrees at night, I’m relieved we are able to heat!

The restaurant is furnished in typical Austrian style and everyone speaks German, even though we are still in Italy. German seems to be the main language here and after some research we find out, that the borders had been moved years ago after the war. Even the town and street names are in German, I’m feeling quite at home here!

     

Our meals are just delicious and while feasting we are enjoying a stunning view down the valley from the restaurant window.

I just finished my meal as suddenly I hear my name: Frau Koennecke!? I’m thinking, there’s gotta be someone else here named Koennecke, how would she know my name?? She is looking at me and says: “Telefon! Ihre Mama ist am Telefon!” …My mum is on the phone? I had just sent them a message letting them know we had safely arrived in Gfrill. How would they know that we’re sitting in the Fichtenhof?? I guess I just have smart parents.

After a nice chat to my mum, Logan and I are about to leave the restaurant to return to our Globetrotter van when one of the friendly staff is starting to talk to us, questioning especially Logan about Australia. Then the owner comes back with some photos of himself in Australia a few years ago. Very nice and welcoming people here in Gfrill!
Finally we are off to our van and after a game of chess we are falling asleep in a warm and cosy campervan.


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Tale of the leaning Tower of Pisa

Today we went to Pisa and Logan couldn’t help himself but have a taste of the marble walls of the tower of Pisa. He must have thought it would be similar to the marbled Italian ice cream.

  

Now look what happened!!! The tower of Pisa is leaning off to one side!!!

I’m trying my best to move it back into position…

 

 

And even Logan is trying to straighten it…

   

The people up the top are scared and start to panic…

 

Eventually we give up and quietly disappear from the scene, pretending we had nothing to do with it!

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Locorotondo and the Trulli of Alberobello

Logan read about Locorotondo being one of the most picturesque towns in Southern Italy, so we were curious about this. On the way I did some more research and stumbled over a place called Alberobello said to have cone shaped houses, only a couple of kilometres from Locorotondo.

First we explore the lovely little town of Locorotondo and stroll through the small alleyways gazing at the pretty white houses. The view from the top of the town is fantastic and we get to see some of the cone shaped houses from here. They are called Trulli.

 

 

 

       

        

On the way to Alberobello these Trulli seem to get more and more. First of all we are following the camper sign to find a place to park and stay the night. Up on the hill we find a nice spot to camp and then ride down with the bicycles to the town district with the Trulli.

It’s the first time we see tourists in a while! There are actually a lot of Italian holidayers. And then I catch a glimpse of an old lady sitting outside of her Trullo.

 

The cone shaped dome is actually of oriental origin introduced into Puglia by tribes from Asia Minor. The word “Trullo” derives from the Greek word “tholos”, which refers to a circular dome-shaped construction. On the highest part of the face of the cone, very ancient Pagan and Christian symbols were painted in white chalk. Symbols with magic and proprietary powers, all pointing in the directon of the first deity: the sun.

 

The roundish head of the pinnacles is meant to represent the link with the solar sphere and it is more noticeable in older trulli.

Originally some people used to put drawings of the horoscopes of the people who lived in the house on the house itself so as to bring good luck. The pagan symbols represented animals and human motifs connected with superstition and used to be put on the cones for protection. Finally ornamental symbols had only a decorative role and alluded to persons or particular situations.

In 1926, the Monti Quarter, St. Anthony’s Church was built, according to the traditional local trullo building technique.

We walk down the labyrinth-like alleyways and get a lot of footage of the cute little houses.

I couldn’t resist but buy a small 1Euro Trullo for myself which is now attached to our camera bag. We are also offered some home made chocolate liquor and cookies, gosh are they tasty!!!

Back at the campsite we enjoy a nice warm shower, do some laundry and actually wash the van from the outside. It was about time!

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Manfredonia and Gargano NP

 

We are getting our push bikes ready to discover Manfredonia today. First we are riding along the (polluted – for Australian standards) beach and then head into the city. The cliffs in the background look interesting to us and we are planning on driving up there after some sightseeing in Manfred.

 

Most of the city’s buildings are white and joint to each other with balconies. The streets are small but since it’s Sunday, everyone is out on the streets and walking into the cathedral.

 

We are riding back to our van and then make our way to the Gargano National Park (the home of Gargamel – I’m kidding!). To get there we have to drive very high up over the

cliff and mountains on which Monte Sant’ Angelo is situated. The views are impressive but we keep going further inland, into the National Park, where we find ourselves a beautiful little spot in the ancient forest, covered with a green canopy.

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Italy’s Spur – Pischici and Manfredonia

Another shower experience! This time it’s different, so I feel like sharing this fun story once again! The shower at Azzurro Lido needs tokens to work. My first mission is to find the owner. Equipped with a towel and my toiletry bag, I search for Mr. Azzurro Lido all over the campsite, including the house, when all of the sudden the alarm goes off. I’m sure that at least now he’ll turn up somewhere. But he doesn’t! I then see some smoke trailing behind an old caravan and find him and his wife cooking a BBQ. His wife is getting a token out of the house and exchanges it with me for 2Euros. I assume that the time is limited, so I get undressed first, before inserting the token. Then I pop in the token and quickly get my hair wet under the still cold water (don’t want to waste time). All of the sudden the water gets boiling hot and there is no way of changing the temperature as there is no tab. I step aside from the water and quickly get shampoo in my hair and over my body. The boiling hot water burns my feet and I force myself to at least quickly rinse the foam out of my hair. The moment I step under the water, the water flow stops! WHAT IS THAT? A 30 SECOND SHOWER??? I’m full of shampoo foam everywhere, including my eyes! Half blind I reach outside, hoping the token may have come out – no luck! My eyes burn and I’m so frustrated, a few tears are flowing. I paid 2 Euros for this shower and would have been better off washing myself with a hose! Well all the frustration doesn’t help, so I walk over to the tab which is for cleaning your feet and squeeze underneath to rinse the shampoo out of my hair and then splash it over me, to rinse myself too. Lucky there is only a few people on the beach, quite far away, not knowing I’m half naked and blind.

When I tell Logan about my lovely experience, he is laughing. He had the same experience yesterday but he was given two tokens for 2 Euros and he didn’t wash his hair.

All batteries charged up we leave Azzurro Lido and drive through Pischici. The very steep and tight streets make it hard not to damage our Globetrotter. At times, I have to get out and guide Logan through between cars and walls, only having 1-2cm on each side!!! At one point we realise all our fresh water is running out of the pipe. Just out of nothing! Oh no! What did we damage now?? We find out, it’s only a valve that needed to be turned back and everything was closed again. Phew!

We soon keep going and choose to stop along the coast at a few lookouts. The dramatic cliffs and small coves are picture-perfect!

  

  

  

The road leads us to Manfredonia. The architecture shows signs of Greek influences, probably because the city was settled by the Greeks in ancient times. We only drive through once and then go grocery shopping in a nice shopping centre, before finding ourselves a car park next to a small takeaway bar.

Logan got motivated and is having a bottle of vodka tonight and soon is feeling social again, talking to some strange characters at the take-away bar next to our van. “Oh no”, I’m thinking. I hear him talking about our travels and I really hope the person he is talking to, and the two dodgy looking Italians behind him, are good people, since we are planning on staying the night and next day here and I wouldn’t appreciate any visitors or people stealing things from our van.

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Monti Sibillini National Park

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The weather has cleared up a little and we hit the road down to Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini. Monte Sibilla is one of over 20 peaks above 2000m and the park is home to over 50 species of mammals, including wolves, porcupines, wild cats and martens. On the way to Montemonaco, our starting point, we decide to go for the 18km Sibillini Traverse, which is said to have breath-taking views. During our 2-hour drive, we get to see spectacular views of the mountain peaks, some of them still covered in snow.
Finally in Montemonaco, we don’t exactly know how to find the “Refugi di Sibilla” , the actual starting point of the walk, as described in the “Hiking in Italy” Lonely Planet.

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We follow the road and a few signs saying “Monti Sibillini National Park” but there are many walks in this National Park. The road leads up a fairly steep Mountain and turns into a gravel road soon after. We zick zack up the mountain and I keep telling myself: “This can’t be it! This is insane!” The cliff next to us drops down a few hundred meters and the Globetrotter is working hard to climb meter by meter. It took about 15-20min but felt like an hour and we finally reach a hut. This is the rifugio! A sign hanging above the closed door reads its name. I take a few deep breaths and sigh in relief that we finally made it. Hungry, we are having a quick lunch and then get our gear on.

With hardly a trek visible, we follow little paths and a few poles stuck in the ground as way finders. We partly ignore the actual path and walk up the steep cliff, making slow progress, as my breath can’t be fast enough to get the oxygen into my brain. Every so often we have to stop but it’s not like we haven’t got an amazing view over Le Marche and even the Adriatic sea in the distance.

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Logan is first on top of the ridge and from his reaction I gather it must be a good view from up there. When I arrive seconds later, the view just blows me  a-w-a-y! I expected a valley with green hills on the other side. Instead we see a steep cliff and massive mountains around it. It felt a bit like standing on the ridge of a volcano and looking into the inside.

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We then walk along the ridge for over an hour, through snow and over rocks and grass; the 360-degree views impressing us all the way. In front of us lies Monte Sibilla, a stunning peak and the one the national park is named after. I’m feeling a little exhausted and we haven’t got much time anymore as the weather changes on the horizon. I know Logan would like to climb it quickly, so I tell him to leave everything with me and run up to the top with his go pro camera. He thinks it’s a great idea and is off a coupe of minutes later. Meanwhile I enjoy the stunning views in every direction and take some panorama photos with my iPhone 4S. There is a steep bit that needs to be climbed via a rope and I lose sight of Logan there. Soon after I see him at the top, both his arms stretched into the air. Then I even hear him! He does a sort of “howl” and I’m surprised how far the sound travels. I’m whistling back. About 15min later he is back at where I waited and we wander back together, cutting down the mountain diagonally to save some time. It is very steep and rocks are lying around everywhere. Walking sidewards makes you tired a bit so I turn on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and jokingly dance down the mountain. Yupp, Logan caught that on camera

and yupp, it will be on YouTube soon!

After probably about an hour, we are back at the van and Logan shouts out: “SHIT FRANNY!!!!” I think, someone must have broken into our van and run after him. “The car lights are still on!” Logan jumps inside and turns them off. I’m thinking this must be a joke!!! The imagination of having to push and roll the van down the zick-zack gravel mountain road turns my stomach upside down. The thought that I might even have to sit inside because only Logan is strong enough to push it makes me especially nervous. Logan jumps in to try and start the engine. While I’m still in panic, I suddenly hear the engine turn on
like nothing ever happened. “WHAT?” I say surprised. How is that possible? We are very lucky and I’m so relieved.
Time to go “home” to Colmurano…

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Grotti di Frasassi, Europe’s biggest cave system

I open the blinds and squint through the window of our Globetrotter. Half asleep I say: “Caves!” Logan is confused: “What?” So I repeat it: “We gotta go to the caves today, it’s raining!” “Ah!” he replies and turns around for another 5 seconds. Then he jumps up and says: “Ok let’s get going then.”
We make our way to the “Grotti di Frasassi”, Europe’s biggest cave system. I have to admit; I found out about the cave by accident when reading the Lonely Planet guidebook. On the way, we stop at Tolentino to buy a few groceries and to find a shop with TIM sim cards. In a town where hardly anyone speaks English, it is quite a challenge to find the store. Even Google is of no help. Eventually I get a street name off a lady in a 3-Store, another telephone provider. Surprisingly we find the TIM store quickly, just that the service inside the store is anything else but quick. We wait around for what seems like over an hour and finally get served. Yippie, 20Euros and 250MB per week included for free. That’s pretty good and will save a lot of international roaming fees.

It is a rather long drive to Genga because of the mountainous terrain and we got lost quite a few times. The main issue being, that the caves are not in Genga, as Google suggests. No, they are actually 15min out of town. No drama then.
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We park the Globetrotter in a large outdoor car park with only a few cars in it. We are very much out of season, being here in April, which also has the disadvantage of only Italian tours being offered until June.

A bus takes us and about 15 other people to the cave entrance. I see a sign of a photo camera in a red circle, with a line through it. It dawns on me that there may also be no video cameras allowed but I’m still hoping they are only referring to flash cameras. While the woman, guiding us into the cave, runs through her spiel (in Italian!), we get the camera out and try to secretly film the cave. At some point she stops and talks into our direction. Oops! I’ve got no idea what she’s saying but I think she doesn’t want us to film. Soon after we get past a coin-operated photo machine. Great. So why don’t they just sell photo and film licenses then? And who “possesses” this cave anyway that they can forbid taking footage home with you? It almost makes me angry and I keep filming secretly from time to time. Most of the visitors do and we smile at each other with understanding. The caves were discovered 1971 and have been used to conduct experiments in chronobiology. I don’t particularly like to be guided around a place that is so fascinating, especially when not even understanding what is being said. I would rather like to take my own time and to get lost in this different world. I keep discovering holes and smaller caves in the walls high above us and below us and when there is a moment of silence, you can hear the stalactites dripping onto the stalagmites. A tour in English would have probably helped make it more interesting.
Halfway through the cave, Logan turns around at me and says: “I just talked to someone from Currumbin Waters!” I can hardly express what a co-incidence and surprise this is. How unlikely would you meet someone from the other side of the world, in a cave in Italy, way out of season? We haven’t seen any tourists so far and the first ones we run into, are almost our neighbours. Hi Nick and girlfriend (so sorry I forgot your name!). If you read this, say hello and we can catch up for coffee when we’re back. But we’ll surely run into each other sooner or later anyway.

We return to our ‘base camp’ Colmurano and are looking forward to the Monti Sibillini National Park tomorrow (if the weather will allow so).
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The Veneto, Italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 6 (by Francy)

Oh hey, while people still work on the bathrooms we are at least allowed to use the toilets and showers today. What first stands out to me again, is the loosy goosy way labourers work in Italy. Cement is splashed all over the shower walls and it just doesn’t look done properly. The toilets are also built too closely to the door that you can only sit down with your body straight up and the flush is the coming out like a fountain! The water is splashing all over the toilet bowl and onto the floor. I find that somewhat disgusting and amusing at the same time. Welcome to Italy, or should I say Mediterranean countries, as similar things have happened to me before in France and Spain as well.

We empty our grey water again, fill up clean water and this time also empty the toilet box. “Eww!” You would think. That’s what we expected too but it’s not actually smelly or disgusting at all. All that comes out is blue “water” and you wouldn’t even see it, if I wasn’t so curious to bend down and look in the waste shute. It’s all blue from a chemical we put into the toilet that breaks down whatever goes into it; even toilet paper. While I get rid of all the rubbish Logan walks to reception to pay.

“14 Euros please!” “Excuse meee???” Yesterday he said 10 Euros! Now why is it 14? The guy at reception says: “I made a mistake yesterday, it’s not 10, it’s 14.” When Logan tells me that I’m furious. I guess it doesn’t help much to be angry now and I remind myself of the fact that we got away with washing a few clothes in the washing machine without paying.

We drive on towards Venice but don’t want to go there just yet. The weather isn’t quite perfect and we rather want a full day in Venice, so we just drive around to see if we can find a free parking spot for the night and have a look how we get into Venice.

After having lunch next to a small river, we drive on to Venice. A long bridge leads over to the islands. We find a car park on the island of Tronchetto: 21 Euros for 12 hours and an extra 16 Euros on top every 12 hours. We decide to drive back to that same spot at the river and come back in the morning to then have a max. of 12 hours in Venice.

The drive back was another interesting one with one Italian man suddenly swerving onto our lane, racing towards us and turning into his driveway only seconds before he would have hit us. Another person overtakes us where there is a double line indicating, “overtaking not allowed”. Road rules are just a suggestion in Italy!

The landscape has changed a lot since Slovenia. There are fields as far as the eye can see and big brick houses in the middle of them with a few bushes around. Long driveways lead to those houses that often look abandoned and in ruins.

We try and approach a few of these deserted houses however discovered that they were not abandoned but still in ruins with roofs, windows or walls missing.

We are trying the fishing thing again; and again without success. It must be the wrong bait, as so far we are only using little colourful rubber bait and they probably don’t help much in murky water. Once it gets dark we start to get a little worried that police might see us and give us a nice big fine. It’s Easter weekend so it’s more likely they check for illegal campers. We hear a group of people walking out of a nearby church, going in a circle and chanting before heading back in. We’re looking forward to see Venice tomorrow…

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Ljubljana and Izola in Slovenia

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Day 4 (by Francy)

Last night I had to turn off the heater because it got too warm in the van. I was expecting to wake up freezing but no, it’s actually still nice and cosy, even though it’s raining outside. Logan is off for another run up a hill in the distance. There is an old ruin on top on the hill and the stairs were beautifully lit up at night time. Unfortunately the hotel doors are closed and therefore the access to the toilets! Weren’t we paying for electricity, water and t o i l e t s ? Maybe this is how things work in Slovenia.

Since we are still Wohnmobil-virgins I’m now excited to announce that we are about to empty our grey water the very first time. It may sound like a ridiculously easy task but in my head I’m playing through all sorts of dramatic scenarios. First of all I have to direct Logan (driving backwards) around another mobile home and then over the tiny grey water drain. Once that was managed successfully, I try my hardest to open the tab underneath our Globetrotter but it won’t open. Panic sets in! Then Logan marches to the tab and turns it as if he was Thor. A shame he couldn’t prove this ability back on the first day when we needed to fill up diesel and couldn’t open the tank!

A huge load of water is being released into the drain and we are quite surprised how much water we have used within four days. This also means that our fresh water tank is missing quite a bit, so we fill that one up with a hose provided by the site.

Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city, is only a few kilometres away and I’m quite curious how it may look like. As we drive into town, I feel being set back in time. The buildings look the same as the GDR style “Plattenbau”. Basically that means it’s post-war residential housing or box-shaped, grey and boring looking units. While Germany is trying to reduce the number of “Plattenbau” buildings, Ljubljana still seems to be dominated by this kind of architecture. On the other hand there are also many older style buildings in the city centre, which give the city a real character. We are positively surprised by the many green trees, bushes, flowers and parks throughout the entire city. Spring is definitely underway. There even is a fortress on a hill that we drive underneath, through a tunnel. Many people stare at our van and two young lads waving and laughing at us when I point the camera at them.

On the way to Izola, a beach-side town in Slovenia, we have to take the highway as I can’t see any main roads on my rather superficial map. This means we also have to buy a vignette (a toll sticker for the highway) for 15 Euros as otherwise we can get fined 800(!!!) Euros. I wasn’t actually aware of that amount yesterday when we drove on Slovenia’s highway for a few hours without the vignette. Oops!

We pass some beautiful mountainous landscape, bridges, forests, caves and road signs with rainclouds on them. I’m puzzled. Is it always raining here I think jokingly?! It actually just means that the streets may be slippery when wet but I still think that sign alone doesn’t really explain itself.

Just before Izola we see the Adriatic ocean the very first time. It is so flat and calm that at first you could think it’s the sky. The grey-blue colour of the sky and the sea are just the same and the horizon is hard to find. It is here that we also see the first cypress trees that are so famous for the Mediterranean countries.

The plan is to find the free camping site with electricity near Izola port that is advertised in my “Board Atlas”. I think we found it but Logan still wants to check out this little area near the water since there were a few campers parked up there. Once we stop, a German fellow (in his 60ies) starts talking to us through our closed window. Logan winds it down and the German man repeats: “Pretty old van! You had many problems with it, haven’t you?!” Cigarette smoke enters our van. I responded: “No actually we haven’t at all”. He then points out that the car park over there is actually 15 Euros a night and the electricity isn’t working but where we are parked now, this is a private car park and the police can’t say anything. He also warns us not to go to Croatia as it’s too corrupt and free camping is not only being punished with a 80 Euro fine per person but also with them taking away all your papers and charging you for being an illegal immigrant. Any visitor to Croatia needs to be reported to the police when entering the country and it needs to be clear where you are staying. All this didn’t sound too nice, so we decided to head to Italy tomorrow instead.

Now we can’t seem to get rid of this man though. Every time I say: “Thank you for the information. We are going to have a look around now.” He starts talking again just as I want to turn around. It takes about 4 or 5 tries until we can finally walk away and check out the ocean.

Logan and I decide we are going to try out our (early) Easter present: a fishing rod. On the boulders, 20m in front of our van, we try to catch some fish but the fact that the water is very clear and we can’t seem to see any fish bigger than bait fish, makes us give up very quickly. On the way back to the van I have to come to the conclusion that fishing is a very dangerous sport: I hooked my finger! Ouch! Not badly but enough to make me squeak out loud and draw some attention towards me.

Well, it’s soup then for dinner!

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