A Travellerspoint blog

Wilsons Promontory NP

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On the way along the coast to Melbourne, another mandatory stop is certainly Wilsons Promontory NP or just ‘the Prom’. This big national park is only 250 km away from Melbourne and hence a popular holiday location. Moreover you can find there the southernmost tip of the Australian continent.

In the high season, beginning of January, the park, at least all its camping facilities, were full to burst and even on the walking trails it was quite busy. But on the one hand the park is big enough for the people to spread out and on the other hand the nice corners of this park are even with more people around a top destination on the tour from Sydney to Melbourne.

Besides tree ferns, dense forrest and beaches we got some more kangaroos in front of our camera and where accompanied by the loud noises of the cicadas.

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Before visiting ‘the Prom’ we made a detour to Agnes Falls, which is just a short distance off the highway. As often, already 10 km off the main road there was a nice place for a picnic with a waterfall, that is of course even more impressing in the rainy winter season.

As usual you can also read this article with even more pictures on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 18:13 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Raymond Island

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Who stays in Bairnsdale for the night should go for the short detour to Paynesville and from there by ferry to Raymond Island. The short ride of 100 m is for free for persons and on the island one can see quite a few Koalas, again for free.

But not only the Koalas, also the rest of the island, the nature and the birdlife make the journey here one you should not miss.

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When traveling on to Melbourne, the Ninety Mile Beach should be considered as a further stop, because it is actually just what it sounds like.

As usual you can read the full article with more picture on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 18:08 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Mount Buffalo & Great Alpine Road


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After another day in the car and a drive through the mountains ans along the Murray River we reached the small town of Bright, which would be our home for the next couple of days. The heat in the higher 30′s is resulting in quite a crowd in the park next to the small river that runs through town.

Hence we are lucky to go for another day trip in cooler heights on the next day. Mount Buffalo NP is on our agenda. The day stars with a walk to the Ladies Bath Falls and further to the Lower and Upper Eurobin Falls. Afterwards we take the longer trek to the Rollasons Falls, where we use the ice-cold water for a much needed swim. Though it’s to cold to stay in there for more than 5 minutes.

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After seeing the waterfalls we take on the summits. First the highest peak of Mt Buffalo, “The Horn” with 1723 m and later on the more centrally located “The Hump” with 1695 m. A lot of cooling wind, combined with nice views makes these tours worthwhile.

We finish the day off with a nice 400 g rump steak, grilled on our public BBQ at the motel. This is the first real piece of meat since months, but surely a few more will follow.

Now, we travel towards the sea on the Great Ocean Road via Omeo. On the way there are great views of the Victorian Alps (Mt Feathertop, Mt Hotham). We use the beautiful day for some stops and hike up Mt Loch as well as to the Camichael Falls from Dinner Plains. In the evening we then reach the end of the Great Alpine Road in Bairnsdale.

As usual you can also read this article with many more photos on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 10:50 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Snowy Mountains & Mount Kosciuszko

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Our trail led us further via Cooma to Jindabyne (derived from the Aboriginal word for valley) into the Snowy Mountains. This small ‘alpine’ village with 1900 inhabitants lies at altitude of about 910 m. Even this was not enough to provide some relaxation from the heat wave. Hence we needed to take a dip at the lake of the same name (Jindabyne), which has been created by damming up the Snowy River. Refreshed like this we could survive the rest if the day.

The following day was all about Mt. Kosciuszko, with 2228 m the highest mountain of continental Australia. Since we enjoy hiking in the mountains and because this particular mountains had been named after the Polish national hero Tadeusz Kosciuszko by Strzelecki, the first men to climb it, a trip to its peak was high on our and especially Natalia’s ‘to do list’ for Australia.

For our hike we went to the small village of Threbdo at 1380 m, from where many tourists take the lift up to 1940 m, before walking the last 6,5 km to the top. Not just because two tickets would have cost us 64 AUD (1,5 cartons of beer), but also because of our sportive ambition, we did the whole tour on foot and returned 7,5 hours later with the knowledge that these beers were well deserved.

The ascent to the moutain station in the heat was the biggest challenge, because after reaching the high plain, there was cooling wind and temperatures well below 30 degrees. Like at my first visit, the barren landscape up here had its own charisma and the views were worth the effort. After a picnic at the summit we headed back down to Thredbo again.

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We finished our stop in the Snowy Mountains (New South Wales) and headed on to the state of Victoria to see the Victorian Alps there as well.

As usual you can also read this article with even more photos at my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 10:43 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Canberra

Visiting Australias capital

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From Sydney we were heading of to Melbourne by car. To make the trip more interesting we decided not to take the direct route with about 1000 km, but plan for a few detours.

Hence we left Sydney to the South, where we already stopped shortly beyond the city boundaries to have afirst walk in the Australian bush in the Royal NP. A late start und some stops meant that our first day would already finish in Wollongong.

From here we went on further South and even picked up German hitchhiker for an hour, who was a travelling carpenters apprentice. When we reached Nowra, we decided to head West through the Morton NP. Our target for the night was Tuggeranong, 25 km south of Canberra, from where we wanted to explore the Australian capital on the next day. Since we had plenty of time left, we could manage to visit the Gibraltar waterfalls and to replenish our food supplies at the local supermarket, because in Australia we have switched to self-supply for food and drinks.

Our tour through Canberra was of course focused on the parliament hill and primarily the new and the old parliament houses. In addition we made a detour to the National library, which we will keep in high regard due to the free internet access. We deliberately skipped the Australian War Memorial, but I had visited it in 2007 and can recommend it. A final view across the city from Mount Ainslie completed our day.

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For people with more enthusiasm for museums than us, a second day is certainly wortwhile to visit the National Gallery and of course the National Museum of Australia. For us on the other hand the next days forecast promised 39 degrees Celsius for our trip to the Snowy Mountains.

As usual this post is also available with more pictures on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 18:12 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

NYE in Sydney


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Our first stop on the fifth continent was Sydney, where we had planned to spend NYE for some time. Directly after landing there at 9 am we went to meet Steve, another friend from Perth. Together with him and some of his friends we spend the day in Newport, north of the city, at the pub and the beach.

On the next day I showed Natalia the city for the first time, walking around the CBD, the parks and towards the opera, where we picked up our tickets for NYE. We finished the day, by catching up with another friend of mine, Kim from Brisbane, who invited us to visit her later on our trip.

The highlight of the 4 days in Sydney was of course the NYE celebration. We had allowed us the one-time luxury to get tickets for the NYE Gala at the Sydney Opera. The show was great, a “best-off” of famous opera arias, presented with the special enthusiasm and casuality of a NYE celebration, which the singers enjoy themselves as well. The evening was later topped off by the fireworks on the Harbour Bridge across the water, which was as usual an amazing spectacle. (see videos)

Countdown

Firework

Finale

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It was astonishing to see the crowds of people squeezing themselves into the city for the NYE celebration and out again afterwards. We saw the first contestants for good free spots already in the afternoon of the 30.12. queuing up in front of the barricades for the following day. This of course increases the value of our opera tickets, with which we still got great spots even in the evening.

Besides this unique experience, we shall not forget to mention some of the other things we did while we stayed in Sydney, like ferry cruises to Parramatta or Manly, walking across the Harbour Bridge or through “The Rocks”.

For me this third visit to Sydney was again a good experience and we will certainly come back here for another couple of days on our next loop through Down Under from March to May.

As usual you can read the article with some more pictures on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 17:50 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Lembongan

Christmas well spend

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Our target destination for Christmas was Lembongan, a small island with 7000 people east of Bali. We had chosen this destination, to have something more quiet and peaceful than Bali (already traffic jam on the way from the airport) for Christmas and have picked the right spot. We could use the 6 days here to have a break from our usual travel speed of 2 nights per accomodation, which we really enjoyed.

The trip from Bali takes about 90 min. or just 30 min. by speedboat. Therevare almost no cars on the island, mainly scooters and some bicycles and the only sealed road is relatively narrow. Beach bars and restaurants in the two villages Jungutbatu and Lembongan are inviting you to eat or have a drink with views on Bali, which we have welcomed regularly.

The island is hinduistic like Bali and people also speak Balinese. So far there is no ATM, but that is supposedto change. This, however, leads to money exchangers offering to pay out IDR against credit card for a few percent commission. The main income of the island, besides the developing tourism is still the harvesting of seaweed.

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Lembongan is definitely worth visiting, no matter if you come for diving, snorkeling, surfing or just relaxing.

The time here on Lembongan marks the end of our great time in South-East Asia, because from now on we have 5 months Australia and New Zealand ahead of us. We are looking forward to that, but are also aware that we need to adapt to new mentalities and travel styles.

More photos for this article as usual on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 15:11 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Tana Toraja

Funeral tourism

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From Makassar we were heading to the heart of Sulawesi, to Tana Toraja. This region lies a good 300 km north of Makassar, which meant a 9 hour bus trip for us. This long time is necesary, because traffic jam, bad and / or small, winding mountain roads keep the speed down, though it is often faster than one would like.

Since we decided to take the day-bus for the trip, to see the countryside, we arrived at Rantepao, the commercial centre of the region, at about 8 pm. There we quickly organised a guide for the following day and a hotel for the night. In this mountain region the nights are cooler (for local standards) so there is no need for A/C.

Tana Toraja is a unique region und the day here was goint to be one of the best on our whole journey so far. The area is surrounded by mountains and this seclusion has helped to remain the culture so unique. The Toraja, who speek their own language, have reached the shores of Sulawesi a long time ago by boat from Indo-China. Other groups that arrived later made them fall back to the mountainous regions, but their traditional houses still look a bit like boats. In the beginning of the 20th century they were converted to Christianity by Dutch missionaries, which still shows in the over 80% of Christians in this region. Nevertheless, some of the old rituals survived, most prominently their funeral ceremony.

When a family member dies, the family saves until they can arrange a great celebration. This celebration can take 1-3 days in the lower and middle class and up to one week in the upper class. During the time up till then, which can take months or even years, the dead (today preserved with formalin, earlier with natural ingredients) stay in the family house.

The funeral ceremony will be attended by family and friends, which can add up to 1000 people for a big ceremony at the upper class. The guests will give buffalos, the status symbol of the Toraja, and pigs to the family as presents. The family then decides, how many animals will be sacrified during the ceremony and how many they will keep or sell. Especially the number of sacrified buffalos is however a symbol for the status of the deceased. The gifts given are carefully written down each time and because the family is afterwards in debt toward those giving the presents, a gift giving circle develops. This can, however, also lead to high financial risks at big celebrations.

We were lucky and had the chance to actually witness such a ceremony of the upper class for a few hours on its second day. For this purpose, they had build and decorated some kind of houses over the last few months. The open rooms within, without walls, from where you can watch the activities have numbers, so that guests can easily find their assigned place and the host knows, where each guest is located.

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At our arrival there were still to buffalo heads from the previous day to be seen in the centre. Moreover the “butchering place” was busy with handling the pigs, that had not had the luck to be kept or sold. Here small groups of men would, under the eyes of guests and children, first literally stab the pig and afterwards burn of the hair with a flametorch, before gutting them and cutting them to smaller pieces. Especially the later is by itself nothing special, but in the context of a funeral celebration with a coffin nearby something completely new for us. In addition this work did not seem to disturb any of the guests from eating and we as well liked the food that was offered. (Have a look at these videos.)

Welcome dance

Pigs on the central square

Gutting the pigs

But how did we as tourist got offered something to eat? Well, it did not seem unusual, that also strangers would give their condolescens, bring a present (in our case cigarrettes were explained to us as costumary) and afterwards get invited to coffee or in our case rice, buffalo curry, pork satay and fish. Since it was explained to us that tasting everything and eating a lot is a sign of respect for the host, we were glad we got served such tasty dishes.

Our eventful day in Tana Toraja included, however, not just the funeral ceremony, which is the biggest of the 4 remaining ceremonies from Toraja tradition (the others are house opening, wedding and thanksgiving). In addition we have visited three burial sites, to get an insight into the 6 different burial methods of the Toraja. These are stone grave, hanging grave, house grave, natural grave (cave), tree grave and earth grave (graveyard).

In one of the most famous burial sites at Lemo (9 km south of Rantepao), we could see impressive stone graves, that each belong to one local family. Here, we also saw the first “tau tau”, wooden figures resembling the deceased, that stand on a balcony in the stone wall.

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In Londa (4 km south) we visited cave graves at the foot of a cliff in which coffins and sculls are buried. There was a mix of old white sculls of more than 100 years age and coffins as recent as 2010.
Another most interesting site was Ke’te Kesu (4 km south), where besides a village with traditional houses you can see graves hanging in the rock wall behind the village, though most of some have already fallen down due to their age. In this place we also encountered the modern version of the house grave (from concrete).

Eventually we finished this eventful day by dinner in a small restaurant for locals, with buffalo (for me) and eel (for Natalia) in black sauce and a beer. We also used the opportunity to talk a bit longer with our great guide Manda about the local traditions.

Well fed, we took the night-bus back to Makassar to spend another evening with Martin, before travelling on to our Christmas destination, the island of Lembongan.

More pictures are as usual available on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 09:26 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Makassar

Indonesia

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Six weeks after the start of our world tour, we headed towards the first country none of us had visited before, Indonesia. It seemed the logical choice for us because of its location between Malaysia and our target for NYE, Sydney.

Our first point of contact should be my good friend Martin Krebs, who lives in Makassar since 2002. Already the flight to and the arrival in Makassar differed considerably from our experiences so far. Suddenly we were apparantly (almost) the only white foreigners. Even in the big city of Makassar itself this was not any different. You could realise by the attention you got (Hello Mister) and the wish to take a picture together with you at many places, that this is not a typical tourist destination.

This is on the other hand understandable, as Makassar itself has not much to offer, if you are not visiting a friend. To catch up again after 4 years and to be able to use his appartment with a great ocean view to relax and as a base for a trip to the islands center, however, made Makassar a great stop on our tour.

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Remarkable for us seemed the relatively liberal Islam in most of the society. Of course Makassar has mosques at every corner and you can hear the prayer calls throughout the day, but many women do not cover their head and beer is with 25.000 IDR (10.000 IDR = 0,80€ = 1,00 AUD) of course not cheap, but acceptably prized and available at many places.

More pictures for this article are available on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 18:02 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Singapore


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When visiting the malay peninsula you should also plan some time for a detour to Singapore. This city state, which is independent from Malaysia since 1965, has a unique flair in South-East Asia.

I have chosen these words with care, because Singapore can hardly be compared to the other major cities of this sub-continent and if you like this atmosphere or not, certainly depends on your personal preferences. In our opinion KL and Bangkok were much lifelier and more asian, which we liked more. Singapore is often called the fine city, and though it is fine indeed, the fines signposted across the city for all kinds of unwanted behaviour are the even more prominent meaning.

Singapore is a nice, modern and clean city, the latter showing at the lack of dirt even in the red-light district, where we could find not too expensive rooms suitable for our backpacker travels. This is a clear distinction to Bangkok or KL. The system for public transport is well organised, although I personally liked the chip solution from l better. The skyline is impressive, especially with the new view across to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, whos three towers are connected on floors 56 + 57 by the Sky Park in the of a ship.

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Moreover Singapore allows you to speak English at every corner, because except of some older Chinese immigrants from the first generation, all citizens have learned English. Many signs however, still show their information in the other three official languages Chinese, Malay and Tamil as well.

The other side of Singapore are the high costs of living, with the most basic hotels starting at 70 SGD (1 SGD = 0,63€ = 0,79 AUD) per night. A 0,5l beer costs 4 SGD in the supermarket and easily 10 SGD in the pub. A hamburger in the pub is available at 16 SGD. Food at street stalls is cheaper, but still a bit above the level of Malaysia (Coffee 1 SGD, Laksa 3,5 SGD).

These high prices lead to actual mass movements across the border to Malaysia on the weekends, which we had to experience ourselves.

We have used our two nights and one day in Singapore to discover the city on foot (with some friendly support of the local trains). In addition we took the opportunity to catch up with George, another friend from studying in Perth, on the second evening.

Altogether it was a detour worth doing. It might appear to be short, but is enough to get some impression of the city, if your aim is not to go after standard attractions like the Universal studios and the zoo. Our sleeping place a bit outside the city centre has certainly also helped to look a bit closer behind the facades.

You can see more pictures for this entry on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 16:52 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

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