RUSHPACKING AUSTRALIA (recap)

I was never as fascinated by Australia as I was by New Zealand. But I thought that it would be quite foolish to skip Australia when I was so close to. So I decided to reschedule my return ticket and “rushpack” Australia in 3 weeks.

I landed in Melbourne and decided to rent a car to drive up the East Coast to Sydney…in 4,5 days… making a detour to spend Australia Day in Canberra to see the famous free concert near the Parliament. Who would have thought that INXS was such a big deal there? The highlight on this stretch was Jervis Bay: amazing long white sand beaches, clear wild ocean and kangaroos hopping around. When I left Jervis Bay I got pulled over by the police…I was like ” Oh no…did I speed again” but this time it was an alcohol teting. The police officer seemed kind of disappointed that I haven’t been drinking at 6pm!!! 

In Sydney I was staying with Sam’s brother Tim who lives in the city center which was awesome! While he was mountain-biking with friends in Manly I decided to hike with a German dude I met on the way to a view point. We got lost a few times and I had my first scary wildlife encounter: a brown snake and a black and yellow spider. Apparently I always see dangerous animals in cities! A friend of Tim took me to that night to a birthday party of a friend and we had fun till late singing karaoke…While in Sydney I also caught up with Nathalie and Marios- 2 English friends I met in Vietnam in 2010 and who are currently living in Sydney. Nathalie took me sightseeing and we met Marios in Bondi Beach to chill out. I started missing doing outdoor stuff so one morning I took Tim’s mountainbike and went to the Blue Mountains. Even though it was a bit cloudy and I didn’t have the best view I loved that place! I mountainbiked from one point to the other enjoying an amazing scenery and some pretty decent though not to difficult trails.

Then it was time to go to Tasmania. I decided to spend 8 days there traveling around the island. It is a great place! It is less touristy than the other parts of Australia I have been to and like in New Zealand you see a big variety of landscapes within a short driving distance. My highlights were Wineglass Bay- a secluded white sand beach you can only access by hiking about an hour from the parking lot, Port Arthur- the former British Empire prison full of spooky stories and Craddle Mountain. I found very funny that it was an Austrian who settled there in the 19th century who lobbied to make this place a National Park. And I am glad he did. When you hike there you are surrounded by echidnas, wombats and wallabies. What was also amazing was how quick the weather could change there. On our hike up Craddle Mountain we had rain, hail, sunshine, fog…

My last stop in Australia and on my nearly 10 month adventure was Melbourne. There is always this big discussion which city is better Melbourne or Sydney and I am clearly on the Melbourne side. It is artsy, European in some way and very diverse. My favorite place was Brunswick Road where you have plenty of restaurants and bars. With my friend Nina and her friends we spent a fun night in one of the clubs there where a jazz orchestra was playing in the middle of the room old and new tunes and everyone was dancing around them. My friend Mehdi took me up to a fun rooftop bar and an amazing Japanese restaurant and I visited Christine a girl I used to know from work who immigrated to Australia and is now living in St. Kilda. 

At the airport it was hard to believe that the journey was over…but I am sure the adventures will continue.

Roadtripping New Zealand (December 11- January 12): RECAP


On the 19th of December I said goodbye to Claire, Tom and the other housemates in Auckland and started my month long roadtrip across New Zealand. For the first stretch I decided to join a small fun group of international people where I met among others Megaen from San Fransisco who would become one of my funniest and silliest travel buddies.

The first couple of days we stayed on the North Island checking out the Bay of Island on a boat called the Rock. It’s run by young and fun people who take you night kayaking, walking and snorkeling (where I had a little frightening encounter with a sting ray). Once back in Paihia I decided that it’s time to practice for the skydive I wanted so badly to do, so I went parasailing with Megaen checking out the beauty of this place from above. This little rush of adrenaline definitely made me crave for more…so from then on I kept my eyes open for adventure and didn’t have to wait too long. In the next days I black water rafted and night abseiled in the glowworm caves of Waitomo, rolled down a hill in a Zorb and white water rafted the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world near Rotorua. What an experience! Our raft flipped in the waterfall! After visiting the Prince of Whales thermal stream (disappointing compared to Yellowstone though) we headed to Tongariro National Park to do the famous 19,4 km Alpine crossing. It is considered as the best day hike in the world and it’s certainly the best I have done so far. We were so excited by the beauty of the landscape and the sunny weather that Lucien, Hermine, Megaen and I decided to be a bit crazy and climb up Mount Ngauruhoe as a side trip…and what a side trip it was. There was no track, for each step you took the loose structure of the rock made you slide two steps backwards and it seemed to never end. But on the top standing on the crater rim you know that it was worth it! I looked at one of the most beautiful and interesting landscapes I have ever seen and racing down an ice field with Megaen was just hilarious (and cold and wet).  After stopping briefly in Wellington and having fun in the Te Papa Museum, it was time to catch the ferry and go to the South Island.

Down South our first stop was in Nelson- our base to check out Abel Tasman National Park. Situated in the wine region this park is way less rough than Tongariro. It’s a more harmonious, easy going, smooth landscape. As I am not the biggest fan of water sports I decided to discover the Park by foot. I got dropped of by a boat and walked about 16km along the coast. It reminded me a lot of the South Coastal Path I did as a multi day hike a couple of years ago in Devon and Cornwall. From there we continued the journey on the west coast going through Kaikoura and Punakaiki where the waves hit against the so called Pancake Rocks and where one night I saw the most amazing sunset ever. For once I took no pictures because I knew that they would not have done justice to what I saw. And then it was New Years Eve and we were on the way to Franz Josef…Hiking Franz Josef Glacier has been my dream for a long time and was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to New Zealand. We got scheduled a hike for New Year’s day…no better way to start in the New Year right? But before I still had to do something in 2011: my skydive. So shortly after we arrived in Franz Josef I was on my way to do it and it was a mind blowing experience. Jumping out of a plane, enjoying 45s of free fall and then taking in the view at sunset of Franz Josef glacier on one side and of the Ocean on the other side is something unforgettable…as was the hike the next day. Megaen and I wanted to be in good shape to do it so we only shortly celebrated New Year dressing up with silly moustaches, and were full of energy the next day. We hiked up to the glacier, put on our crampons and followed the guide up the icefield. Well it didn’t start of that well because I was grumpy because I left my camera in our room but that was soon forgotten. We enjoyed the snow and were silly in our usual way. And when I got stuck in an ice cave and had to pull myself out with a rope, we had the biggest blast ever. As we were getting to Queenstown the adventures continued with a fun rock climb, a descent canyoning in Routeburn (great scenary but too many jumps and not enough abseils for my taste), freaking good burgers and a fun luge race. From there we took the beautiful Milford Sound highway to spend the night on a boat there. The landscape could not change more dramatically. It felt like going from Austria to Norway within a few hours drive! The quiet and the clearness of the sky were just amazing! The next day we drove to Mount Cook and my heart started beating faster like everytime I see amazing mountains and Mount Cook on a clear day is amazing! Unfortunatly the next day when we hiked there the weather was not good- fog, rain and cold. We were supposed to cross a stream which has turned into a kind of river…but despite that I still believe that it’s one of the most magic places in New Zealand…and this whole landscape with the bad weather reflected in some way my mood. On one hand I was excited and looking forward to spend 10 more days down South roadtripping without a clear plan and getting lost in the beauty of New Zealand’s more off the beaten tracks but on the other hand I was sad cause I knew that I will have to say goodbye to Megaen in less the 48h when she has to take her plane home from Christchurch. In the 3 weeks we traveled together we became soulmates, completing each other in a lot of ways and sharing the same passion of being incredibly silly.

So after 2 nights in a former jail transformed into a hostel in Christchurch, a depressing what we called “destruction” bike ride through the city which nearly no longer exists after the earthquake and a sad goodbye I headed off to get lost down South. I spent a night in a former French settlement called Akaroa on the east coast where I stayed in a farm with 2000 sheeps before heading to Dunedin and the Catlins. The Catlins impressed me because they cut you off from the rest of the world. There are only a few hostels, barely any cafés or restaurants, no cell phone connection or working internet…but what you find are long sand beaches where sea lions hang out and disguise so well that you nearly step on them, penguins and weird hidden rock formations. But I was missing the mountains so I headed back to Queenstown to do a via ferrata and continued via Corona to Wanaka which I heard was less touristy and cooler then Queenstown. And honestly it is. The hike up Rob Roy Glacier (and the way to go to the trail where you drive through little fords) is a real hidden gem and I did the best canyoning ever in the Nigel Stream: the canyon is beautiful with an amazing rock formation reminding the American canyons in some way with more green and the canyoning is just sweet as: about 10 abseils through waterfalls, a 10 meter slide and fun jumps…wow! I would do it again immediatly if I could! From there I winded up my trip by going to Mount Hutt and from there to Christchurch airport.

Before heading to Australia I had a couple of days left in Auckland with my friends Claire and Tom. With our housemates Sam and Chris we went on a 2 day hike in the Coromandels- enjoying to be outdoors and climbing up the Pinnacles to watch the sunset and the sunrise.


The elarious adventures of Clarinore in Auckland- RECAP

I don’t know if you guys still follow the blog as I am back from the journey and haven’t posted anything since end of November. But 3 more posts (including this one) of my adventures are to come…and believe me it was one of the best part of the whole journey. 

So after Indonesia it was time for me to go to New Zealand- one of the countries I was looking the most forward to see on my travels. I decided to stay a month (from mid November to mid December) in Auckland with my friends Clare and Tom who I met while roadtripping in the US. They lived in a very nice part of Auckland near the water and the Domaine (huge park) in a houseshare with 5 great Kiwis. 

And the month went by very quickly. Auckland is a fun city with some good trails to walk (one is a 16km walk through the city and its hills), some nice parks, good pubs (where Tom and Clare embarrassed ourselves at a pub quiz) and an interesting music scene. Sam- one of our housemates took us to a music festival, Yas the girlfriend of another housemate performed in a club some songs and played the ukulele and we all went to the big event which is Christmas in the Park where famous Kiwi performers play some music in the Domaine.

Also the surroundings of Auckland are pretty wicked and totally worth checking out. A 40 minute drive takes you to to Piha- a little town with an amazing Beach on the Westcoast. I went there with Clare to climb up a rock and stroll around and went back to take some surf lessons. Well…the waves were freaking high and it was crazy how much speed you could pick up when you managed to catch the wave. I decided that the process of actually standing up is not what gives me a big thrill…I prefer catching the wave, picking up speed and just enjoying this. That was the moment my career as a surfer ended and I began to be a bodyboarder. And I had the opportunity to improve my skills in that field during a great week end in the Corromandels- a beautiful non touristy part of the North Island. James’ family (another housemate) has a house there and we went there for a week-end. We bodyboarded, run on the beach, skurfed (it’s wakeboarding with a surfboard), played bananagrams, went for boat rides…awesome!

Rangitoto is another cool place just a 30 minute ferryride away from downtown Auckland. Clare, Tom and I went there for a day. We did most of the trails and thought it was boring. So we decided to get off the beaten tracks and thought we found a funny shortcut to a beach…well…it was not exactly a shortcut. After killing our shoes on sharp rocks, we realized that we might run late and miss the last ferry. At that point Tom wanted to build a raft to get us quicker to the other side of the bay where the trail to the ferry was. Good we didn’t pick up that idea because with the raft we would have missed the ferry for sure! 

On my own I did a short trip up north to see Cape Reigna and the 90 mile beach. Cape Reigna is this cool lighthouse where you can see the meeting and melting of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Right from there starts 90 mile beach which is an awesome stretch of sand and sanddunes- pretty great place to do some sandsurfing and some long extended beachwalks where you encounter surfer, kite-surfer, people horseriding or people driving on the beach. Seems crowded but it is not! You can really get lost in your thoughts there.

During my stay in Auckland I also rediscovered my passion for extreme sports. I picked up canyoning again. I love it! The Blue Canyon was pretty awesome with cool abseils through waterfalls and some pretty cool jumps (although I am much more into abseils than jumps)…and I guess the tree climbing where Sam took us made me want to explore climbing a bit further…which I would do later on when I roadtrip for a month through New Zealand and hit the South Island.

INDONESIA- recap

After China I headed to Indonesia to get a better feel for the South-east Asian culture. My journey started in Bali and compared to China it was so westerized:

  • you pay your entry visa in US-dollar…although I am still not sure if it is to make it easier for tourists or if it is a sign of the lack of confidence of the Indonesian government in their own currency (unfortunately I guess that’s the main reason)
  • Western surf-shops everywhere
  • lot of Western people (most of them red and sunburnt)

But beside the tourist enclaves Bali has much more to offer. As the only non Muslim part of Indonesia there is a plethora of temples and believe me they don’t take their religion (Hinduism) lightly: minimum of about 10 offerings a day, ceremonies constantly, extra section in markets to buy the stuff for the offerings, strong believe in Balinese medicine…I met this guy and we started talking about religion and traditions and he told me that his mother in law has been ill for 5 years. He told me the Western doctor said it was a stroke but he and his wife went to see about 10 Balinese doctors and make every day special offerings to the Gods because they are convinced that they can pray away the illness…

The landscape was also beautiful: lush green vegetation, waterfalls, great coral reefs, volcanos…I headed out to Menjangan Island from where you can see Java to snorkel in a reef full of clown fish, hiked to waterfalls and climbed up to Mount Batur (an active volcano) to see the sun rise.

When you arrive in Lombok after a 4 hour ferry journey it’s at first glimpse difficult to believe that you are still in the same country. It gets less colorful, poorer, people seem more closed and often still stare when they see Westerner but the landscape is amazing: rougher, wilder, more volcanic than Bali. I just loved it! My highlight will be an overnight trek up to Mount Rinjani Indonesia’s second highest volcano. The hike starts by walking a couple of hours through the rainforest (and yes there are very high chances that it rains there. Got completely soaked) before reaching the savannah and finally the crater rim where you can look down on a lake and an active crater on one side and to Gili Islands on the other side. The only thing you should be careful about are your shoes. A woman from my group left hers for a while outside her tent and one got stolen by a wild dog! 

Once you manage to meet the locals they are also less closed as they might appear first. For Eid Al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) we went to some waterfalls in Senaru. The falls where packed with locals. We started talking to them, they took us for swims and I had to pose for pictures with about 10 teenage boys and girls who told me that they want to have a picture with a white person. One of the coolest experiences in Indonesia.

Before heading to a spa and yoga retreat back in Bali (amazing massages, nearly finally got into yoga, great location in the more secluded northern part of the island), I chilled for a few days on Gili Air. Wonderful island: no cars, everything is chilled, great snorkeling (even saw a manta). It would have been perfect if I did not get ill at the end of my stay in Gili. Still blaming it on my stupid Malaria pills my doctor back home told me to take for Lombok. Back in Bali I went to the pharmacy, nearly puked on the poor girl working there, got sent to the doctor and had to take some weird tasting pills… 

At the end- some general remarks:

  • don’t go to Indonesia if you look for a culinary experience…the food is always the same: plain rice, some grilled meat, some veggies and for me some very spicy sauce…it was nice the first days but you get a bit tired of it as it more or less always tastes the same. But at least the coffee is good. Even tried the Luwak coffee! Just saying that it is the famous coffee produced with the help of cats!
  • if you ever want to volunteer and do some teaching this is a place to do it: school is not mandatory and costs a lot of money. So many kids don’t have the opportunity to go to school and many people cannot read or write. 

CHINA- recap

As I didn’t like Vietnam a lot last year, I was not really sure what to expect from China on my journey taking me from Hong Kong to Beijing via Emei Shan…But during this trip China fascinated me, made me smile and is in my opinion way worth a visit than super hypered Vietnam…

The journey started off in Hong Kong getting via subway to the border in Shenzhen one of these free economic zones- a no man (or more a migrant, overpopulated, weird) land between communism and capitalism where we borded an overnight train to Yangshuo a town popular among tourists on Li River. The scenery reminded me of Halong Bay in Vietnam with a lot of things to do: kayaking Li River, hiking Moon Hill, cycling the countryside, trying tai-chi and kong fu, eating local (avoiding dog…yep…you can buy dog and cat on the market there) and just having a good time before heading off to a more remote area near the town of Chengyang- home to the Dong minority. The main attraction is the Water and Rain Bridge built buy the locals without nails…took them a couple of years. My favorite story there happened in a restaurant. Basically like in Russia the menu is always bigger than what they really have. After my desperate attempts to order some juice my friend Prav tried it with banana-milk shake. The guy looked around, asked her for a second, went to the neighbor table where some girls having lunch had in their bags some bananas they bought on the local market. The guy bargained with them, bought the bananas and made Prav one of the most disgusting milkshakes ever. But hey- appreciate his pragmatic spirit!

Next destination: Chengdu- home of the pandas (very cute and really lazy little bastards, loved them) and apparently best city for old people in China known for its high living quality. And you know why when you go to the People’s Park there: old people organize themselves into little groups taking dance lessons, doing aerobic, singing or just playing mahjong. You want to be a retired person there! Seriously. On top of that you can admire there one of only 3 remaining Mao Statues in China…there used to be one in every town…

Then off to some more spiritual experiences. After visiting the Giant Buddha in Leshan, we were off to Emei Shan, went up to the Golden summit and hiked to a remote monastery. To get there you had to cross a forest of aggressive coke and sprite addicted monkeys…and you love the owners of the little Hard Wok Café just a bit further down the hill from the monastery because believe me you don’t want to eat in the monastery…and when you go to the toilets you regret not having picked a monastery run by nuns (way way cleaner).

After enjoying some Hot Springs, off to a long long train journey to Xian famous for the terracotta warriors. But what I really loved in Xian was the Muslim quarter: the old mosque, the busy street life, the small streets full of vendors and street food. With Nic and Prav we decided to spend the afternoon bargaining with the vendors and eating delicious street food. I still don’t know what I ate but I always went where the queue was the longest and pointed at what the people in front of me ordered and it was just delicious!

Last stop Beijing: went to a not so touristy part of the Wall (3h away from Beijing) on a gorgeous October day. One of the best days on the trip. Just crazy, impressive and wonderful…I didn’t want to climb down again. Besides the obligatory Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square my favorite place in Beijing is certainly the Summer Palace where it is delicious to just spend an afternoon getting lost.

As I like also to point out the low-lights of trips…here you go to finish: the Chinese spit everywhere. It’s disgusting, the sound haunted me. Worst experience. We were on our way to an Opera and behind Prav and me this guy kept spitting every 2 seconds. We started to run away because it was so gross. Even women do it…Second low-light never try to send a parcel in a Chinese post office:

1. they check the content, unwrap everything, check everything meaning it takes ages

2. they don’t understand that you want to send things by air. Not even me imitating an airplane helped

3. they hand you 3 times the same customs form without any explanation

Actually in the end it started getting really really funny….

HONG KONG- recap

After a long long flight from the Fijis via Auckland I finally got to Hong Kong on what I thought was just a rainy day. Exhausted from my travels I went to sleep and decided to get up early the next morning to apply for my Chinese visa. I slept like a baby, woke up full of energy and left the hotel. Outside it was still raining and it was quite windy. I protected my documents and walked about 10 minutes to the Chinese Embassy. The streets where deserted. Strange I thought. Outside the Embassy though was a huge crowd and the doors of the visa office were closed with a little printed note: “Due to severe weather conditions the office is closed. Sorry for any inconvenience”. The crowd (a weird mix of Chinese living in exile and Americans) was angry- they said that their passports were inside and without passport no hotel room…they told us to stay and called the Hong Kong police. They arrived with 4 cars. They yelled like crazy and made the chief of this police force call the Chinese ambassador in Hong Kong. Huge foreign and exile crowds make the Chinese very nervous. The ambassador decided to send people there to open the office. The angry crowd got their passport and I could apply for my visa just before the start of the Chinese National Holiday (it lasts a week). Turned out the rain and the wind were a typhoon rated 8 out of 10…that was my welcome to Hong Kong and Asia!

Things calmed down afterwards. I got my visa the next day and spent the rest of the time visiting the city, hotel hopping (that’s what happen when you book last minute during the Chinese holiday week) and enjoying the weird mix of London and Asia that is Hong Kong. In many ways Hong Kong is still British: people queue at bus stops, British chains (Marks and Spencer, Watson’s, Pret à Manger, Pizza Express…) and than you turn into a side street and you are in Asia: little shops, markets, street food…

I also met really cool and fun people. When I went visiting the Giant Buddha I met Gabi a girl from London. We visited the Buddha together, went hiking up the Wisdom Path and had a fun experience sharing food on our way back and strolled the streets of Soho. Xavier a friend of Marie-Lise who has been living in Hong Kong for a couple of years introduced me to some of Hong Kong’s nightlife with some crazy bars. The best is certainly one in Soho on Wellington street, where you have to ring a door bell , get up some stairs and find yourself in place that looks like a student’s alternative house share in Berlin. He also took me to Cheung Chau island where we ate great seafood and hiked. I totally freaked out when a snake fell down a tree a couple of feet in front of us!

Randomly I learned from Pamela that Anja (who I used to hang out with a lot in London) was moving to Hong Kong a few days after I got there. We had a good time catching up: we met some days in Hong Kong and walked around and I went to see her, her husband and 7 months year old son in Discovery Bay. It’s cool and weird to meet people again randomly like this! 

FIJI- recap

When I watched TV as a kid there was always a stereotype of paradise shown in commercials: sandy beaches, transparent sea, happy local people with some healthy green vegetation in the background. As I was a rather realistic kid growing up with parents working for the Austrian broadcasting station I always thought that these scenes must have been shot in some studio and be the fruit of the imagination of some guy who just took the best scenery from a bunch of countries and mixed them up. Nearly 20 years later I was proved wrong. This guy just went to Fiji!

Too lazy to do island hopping, I was lucky to find paradise on the first Fijian island I went to: Nalawaki on Waya Island and you know that you are in a good place as soon as you set foot on the island:

  • no phone connection, only one computer with internet that was so slow you didn’t want to use it…
  • no roads or cars…if you wanted to go to the villages you had to go there via a mountain path
  • no shops or souvenir tourist traps. Just a local market once or twice a week where the locals displayed peacefully there crafts. They never tried to talk you into buying and you didn’t have to bargain.
  • a bunch of really fun kids who always wanted us to take pictures of them to see them later on your camera…and even in the smallest village (the biggest village having 400 people living there) had a kindergarten where class is in Fijian and English. Some European countries could take an example…
  • great food

I also met up with Silke. So good to see her! We had a really good time and met a lot of very nice and cool people from Canada, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Australia, New Zealand…and did a lot of fun stuff:

  • hiked up 2 mountains…you feel so bad when your guide is barefoot and like 10 times quicker then you…though you feel better when you realize that you are the quickest westerner.
  • played volleyball with the locals. What a disaster! They are so good…we managed a couple of nice shots but mainly just got bruises and entertained them.
  • snorkeled and kayaked…Petra and Krissi see you in March for practicing for our world championship participation!
  • chilled…ate…chilled…gossiped…chilled…
  • tried to play pool…I say tried because I am the worst pool player on earth. But Evie was in my team so despite me being on the team we won every game against the boys! It was thanks to babypowder!

But I guessed what amazed me the most is to see how this villagers managed to install a really sustainable way of tourism based on mutual respect. The people we met were proud of their culture, happy to share it with us without commercializing it and in return were also curious about our culture. Priority was given to get funds to support the village kids education and unlike in some parts of Asia they were not used by their parents as mere cash-cows having as a mission to get money from westerners. No big hotel chain is present and unless in some other countries the fishermen and their families live still on the coast next to the sea and where not disowned and forced to move away from the shore so that some investors can build big hotels there…hope it will remain like this!

SF, Stanford, Palm Springs, LA and Hawaii- recap

The above were my last stops in the USA and they made it really hard for me to leave…

After Luisa left I stayed for a week with Bille in Stanford being lazy and enjoying the campus life without having to study!…and I didn’t get bored:

  • went to SF to catch up with Val who is currently there for 6 months. We spent a great day walking around the Castro, eating near Mission Dolores and of course ending up in Haight-Ashbury. We were really disappointed we didn’t have enough time to try on a lot of crazy stuff in the vintage stores. I would have loved to see myself in Linda Perry’s outfit when she was singing “What’s up!”
  • nearly assisted as the official photographer to a marriage. A friend of Bille decided to get married. She told it to Bille the night before the marriage…but cancelled her wedding plans the next morning!
  • Celebrated Bille’s b-day: got a nice breakfast with champagne, went to the manicure and pedicure, baked 2 cakes in 1 hour (one burnt and one was not well done…but they were still tasting good) and went out  in SF in Hayes Valley and on Polk Street. Finally great German/ Austrian food!!! and we had a fun night out and a crazy cab ride back to Stanford with the driver shouting every 2 seconds in his phone: “Tasha, Tasha- my girl don’t move! A friend of mine will pick you up! Tasha- please wait! Don’t go home alone. Your skirt is too short!” Turned out Tasha was his 21 year old niece…
  • hated to have to say goodbye to Bille!

I got a really cheap flight to LA and got picked up by Linda’s sister. We had dinner with her parents in a great Italian restaurant with amazing pasta. The next day I drove for 2 days to Palm Springs to meet Dana who stayed there over Labour day week-end to celebrate her friend Johnna’s b-day…and we had a really good time: I met great people, chilled by the pool while sipping vodka cocktails…and it was surprisingly not too hot because it was slightly raining. OK. I managed to get rain in the Grand Canyon, in Monument Valley and in Palm Springs…where it never ususally rains during the summer. There seem to be something special going on with deserts, rain and myself!

Back to LA, I had one of the best weeks of my trip! I stayed with Linda’s sister in her great house in Pacific Palisades and enjoyed every morning my breakfast in the beautiful backyard while playing with Nelson- the cutest dog ever. She also gave me a car and a mountain bike to go around so I was driving HWY 1, cycled from Pacific Palisades to Venice…

Dana took me for a cool hike to Runyon Canyon, we had great food (still can believe how tasty the gluten free donut was) and we had a fun night out in the Abbey- one of the best locations I have ever seen. Every city should get a location like this!!

Linda’s parents took me to the Huntington library and her sister to the Getty- both really beautiful and unique places! We also celebrated Linda’s dad b-day and I made an apple strudel…we served it directly from the oven and it was so hot that the candles were melting in the strudel…I have never seen that before.

I also caught up with my friend Latham who I have seen last time in Paris 7 years ago. It was so cool to see that he is still the same cool, relaxed guy! We went for dinner, he took me to a b-day party of one of his friends and gave me a tour of Paramount Pictures where he is working.

Last stop- Hawaii! I just had 4 days…here the highlights:

  • North Shore- perfect beaches and met 2 really cool people there: Emily and T.J. who are from Texas but live in Hawaii now!
  • Emily and T.J. took me for a hike up a ridge. We got heavy heavy rain! It was so fun!!! I have never been that wet!!! We had to stop under a shelter to wrap our phones in plastic bags! but it was worth it! The view cleared up near the end and we got great views of the Eastern shore and on our West we saw great waterfalls. In the evening they took me to a great local restaurant and we had a fun time just hanging out!
  • Beaches on the West shore…bodyboarders, surfer, kayaks…good place to chill

Well, the adventure in the USA is now officially over. No regrets! Tons and tons of good memories with amazing people…thanks to everyone who has been part of it!!! 

WESTCOAST ROADTRIP with Luisa to meet Bille

After a couple of days on my own in Portland (best city ever), I took the train to Seattle to meet Luisa and to start a crazy roadtrip down to San Fransisco or more precisely Stanford to meet Bille.

  • Seattle: we catched up, walked around, bought overpriced peaches @ Pike Market and rented our great little red car that seemed to be from the 80’s…
  • Olympic NP: staying in Fort Warden State Park near Port Townsend we enjoyed the nature and I even managed to make Luisa do some little hikes: we climbed a mountain to look over to Canada (Hurricane Ridge), went to see waterfalls (Sol du Duc)…everything would have been perfect if we were not sleeping next to a German-American family with an over-excited daughter that made us wish we would never ever have children…the kid was loud, not cute and always wanted to talk tu us.
  • Portland: my fav city…we just got back there for one night but the vibe here is just so good, the people cool, the food delicious…perfect! makes me wanna go back…
  • Columbia River Gorge: I managed to make Luisa climb up on the top of a waterfall (Multnomah Falls)- she told me she nearly died…Luisa: thanks for being such a good friend and doing that for me! Actually she was not lucky at all because at night we stayed in an old school. When the guy told us that sometimes harmless spiders climb in, I felt really bad for her…thanks to a great organic pizza she survived and we were hitting the road again early the next morning after an awesome breakfast in Hood River where Luisa decided to buy a couple of shorts to look more outdoorsy. If she would have stayed longer with me they would not have recognised her again at L’Oréal.
  • Crater Lake: beautiful scenic drive. Mount Hood is just stunning and we stopped at a canyon in a little State Park near Terrebonne. Then I got pulled over again for speeding…told the same old story: I am sooo sorry! I always mix up miles per hour and km per hour…the police officer was so nice! He wished me a good trip and I did not even got a talk! So we comtinued up to Crater Lake NP…just awesome. Look at the picture how clear the water was!
  • After a nice night in Asheville and a way too filling Italian 4 course dinner and an organic breakfast we headed to California. First stop Redwood NP. We took tons of scenic routes. First we loved the trees, then after the 3rd scenic route and confusing street signs Luisa started to hate them. I told her that if I will ever be rich, I will buy her a road named after her in the Redwoods. At night we arrived in the weird town of Arcata: there are 3 kind of people there: nice older hippies, stoned people and homeless people. We quite liked it even though we got a bit scared that one of the stoned guys will hit us with his car…honestly they were all driving completely stoned.
  • Lost Coast: near Petrolia we were at the best beach ever: we were the only people, no fog, blue sky, black sand, rocks, waves and cows! Unfortunately near Fort Bragg it went all foggy and we could not enjoy the scenery!
  • Hitting SF via Sonoma Valley…a bit too snobby for me but it was good to see where the wine I have been drinking for 4 months now is coming from. We stopped at the Golden Gate bridge but couldn’t see anything because of the fog. Honestly I think I am not meant to see the Golden Gate Bridge properly! After that I took Luisa to Haight-Ashebury and we had good fun walking around and checking out vintage stores. Then off to Stanford to meet Bille!!!! Reunion with champagne, wine and great Burgers!
  • Yosemite: as I loved Yosemite so much when I did my 42 day camping trip and Bille likes it as well, we decided to go there for the week-end! and no regrets! Half Dome is still as impressive and I still want to climb on the top of it one day. This time we decided to go up to Glacier Point and do the Panorama trail. On our way there Luisa got pulled over by a ranger for…guess what…speeding! She was told that her behaviour was not only dangerous for her but also for the animals and the way the ranger said it, it sounded as if she cared more for the animals than for our lives. Luisa apologized and told the same story I told to the police officer in Oregon to the ranger and she got no ticket! On our hike Bille and I saw a strange animal: it looked like a bear or a gorilla…we started running like crazy then we took a picture. Even when we zommed it in at home we could not figure out what it was….
  • San Fransisco: last day with Luisa..sad day! we walked around in SF, bought beautiful scarves and met a little crazy old Chinese man who took us to to a dim sum place (sure he got a commission for that…but he was entertaining and old…so it was ok). 

WEST TO EASTCOAST ROADTRIP (SOUTHBOUND)- recap

After a really sad goodbye in Los Angeles the roadtrip continued…destination NYC via the Southern States. What an adventure!

  • Las Vegas: our first stop and for me a real cultural shock! I was able to deal with fake boobs in Florida but this was weird and way too fake for me! With a couple of others we decided that Las Vegas should only be seen at night so we spent the day doing our laundry (very exciting!) and hit the casinos at night (after a funny pre-party where I was introduced to flip-cup and beer-pong).
  • Zion: so glad to be back on a hiking trail and a good one. Angel’s Landing was fun to hike and I got a new nickname: Gallinore because from that day on I only bought water in gallons and drank gallons. Why bother with bottles?
  • Wild Wild West: we stayed at a cowboy ranch, ate great steaks, had a funky theme party, did an awesome horseback ride (my horse was crazy and had a stupid fringe…loved it!) and were swimming in Lake Powell…could get used to that way of life…
  • Grand Canyon: after a missed sunset (missing sunsets seems to be a recurrent theme on my travels), I saw a pretty sunrise and hiked the Bright Angel Trail with Penny and Jason…yep! we were the only brave up for a big hike!…and a brief but frightening and thankfully harmless encounter with a rattlesnake.
  • Monument Valley: stayed with the Navajos, sang, played the guitar and just enjoyed the beauty of the landscape!
  • The weird part of the trip: being in 4 States at the same time @ 4 Corners (what a surprising name), getting cornered by 4 dogs with Penny on our 6 am run and getting rescued by a woman in a BMW, trying to believe in ufos @ Roswell and adopting a bat in Carlsbad…
  • San Antonio: strolling along the Riverwalk (we are such a bunch of tourists), eating at Dick’s and having a funny night out @ Coyote Ugly. Jason and Adam were in heaven and Katie and Penny made me dance with them on the bar…
  • New Orleans: after a swamp tour we hit New Orleans…what a great city! and it was my b-day! So on our second night we decided to get dressed as Amy Winehouse (as a tribute) and to go out and celebrate. We went to a couple of bars, had lot of fun and met great locals (my favorite being a crazy but lovely woman called Michelle who encouraged Penny and me to dance on a pool table…and yes we did it…). With Katie and Penny we headed back to the hotel at 8am and Penny and I went for a random morning walk till 9.30am…great and random b-day! Thanks guys!!!
  • Mississipi and Alabama: Alex’s feet got eaten by ants so we ended up in a rural clinic somewhere in Mississippi. While the others went shopping I stayed with Alex in the clinic. We were the only white people and most of the other people there have never met a foreigner. So we had a great time! While Alex got examined, they made me tell them about my country, told me all the secrets about Southern food and tried to teach me their Southern accent. Best hospital visit ever!
  • Tennessee and West Virginia: we rafted in Tennessee and attended a weird local concert at night: All the songs of the band were about weed…and everyone was stoned. Headed to West Virginia where I saw the fattest und uggliest people I have ever seen on our campground. I decided that it was the right moment to win my bet: so we went to a Dairy Queen and I finished the large icecream with an extra. I am still obsessed with icecream but I am pretty much done with DQ.
  • Washington DC: strange city…everything was so quiet and the people looked busy, serious and unhappy. Penny, Freya and I decided to break into the campground pool at night. We had a very nice swimm…then Katie tried to climb the fence, broke a chair and we nearly got caught (although it was not Katie’s fault and seeing her breaking the chair was quite hilarious!)
  • NYC: saying goodbye again to my fellow travellers but this time the goodbyes were less hard because we decided to continue the adventure in NYC. I changed my flight so that I could stay there a couple of  days longer and I had a great time. Dev and his girlfriend Kanika were amazing hosts, we celebrated George and Jason’s b-days, the crazy and hilarious adventures of the 3 musketeers (Katie, Penny and myself) continued and we all met Rachel and Sarah for a great night out @ FatCat…

Needless to say that my neighbour in the plane to Portland had to wake me up when we landed…