As it was rather difficult to gather a big party to celebrate my anniversary, my wish was to go to a place so uncommon I would remember it for the rest of my life. So we packed our 7 things and left Wanaka for Glenorchy (50km from Queenstown), but not after having had a little birthday ceremony that included a wicked chocolate cake, a birthday salad 🙂 and the unwrapping of lovely gifts (including a beautiful butterfly kite that I of course lost in the trees some days later). The beauty of the trip was exactly the opposite to the horrible mood our 2 adored terrorists displayed in the car. I cannot remember taking a more scenic road.
Once arrived to Glenorchy, we bought some bubbly drink, found some peach nectar and had a few Bellini’s together with Heidi, the tenant of a souvenir shop. We discussed with her the art of surviving parenthood as well as the best place to spend the night in the area. Kinloch Lodge, at the tip of Lake Wakatipu. That’s where we should spend the night. 40min of dirt road later, we arrive to this 19th century lodge. Friendly staff helps us pre-order dinner and we are just in time to drink another glass of Red Wine with the sun setting on the opposite side of the Lake. The meal is very, very good. More than anything we expected.
The next day, we cross the lake back to Glenorchy and had a 2 hours beautiful walk before heading home via Queenstown, where we stop for a while to enjoy the trendy beach and cold clear water of the Lake Wakapitu.
The following morning, we decide not to spend the whole day in the Jacuzzi. We therefore put our shoes on, get some Powerade in the bag together with some granola bars and before we go, we check on Garmin Connect different trails that hikers have done in the park before us and decide to go for the so called “Waterfall Box Circuit”. We meet a bus load of tourist on the first few hundred meters and are terrified. Will it be like this all along? Is the trail so easy that these “shaped” people can do it in their flip flops? Well…no…the first crossing says to box circuit “left”, to botanic garden “right”. No one is taking a left.
The walk becomes more and more scenic, the forest become pristine, higher trees and at last rainforest. What we did not expect (mostly because we stand at the opposite side of a wild life expert) was all these encounters with animals we had never seen before and no clue what they could be. First we stumble on a 70cm big blue lizard (we learn later that it is a snake killer and understand better why he was not afraid of us at all…). We then stop of what literally looks like a mini T-Rex. It moves on its posterior legs like a T-Rex, it is not afraid like a T-Rex. Although it was quite small, I did not dare to go to near. Past this mini-dino, we walk a few hundred elevation meters down to the river and its waterfalls. Breathtaking beauty and we soon come to our next specimen: a blue sweet water langoustine surrealistically walking sideways through the forest (we learned later that we were quite lucky to see one of those crossing from one creek to another). After 2 hours of hiking, we arrive at the highest waterfalls. A few pictures later we make our way up back to O’Reilly. After 4 hours, we are back from our 2nd hike together since Bali.
The remaining of the week-end is spend to taste O’Reilly food (average) and O’Reilly wines (excellent) before driving back to the Sunshine Coast.
As New Year gift, our host, Rita, offered us to spend a long weekendwithout our daughters. We first thought about a romantic place on one of the Whitsunday Islands or a City trip to Sydney. But after a few minutes, we realised that we wanted cool, fresh, crispy air, escape from the heat that has surrounded us in Hong-Kong, in Bali and in Australia. What we also realised was how much the Southern Region of Queensland has to offer. Just 250km away from white sand beaches of the Sunshine Cost lays a 1000m high plateau in the middle of the Lamington National Park: the O’Reilly Plateau. It is named after Bernard O’Reilly, who settled in the region with his brother and became famous by saving 2 survivors of a plane crash in the Lamington Mountains: The Stinson Rescue in February 1937.
Anyway, we find the O’Reilly mountain resort very attractive and think it is a very good response to our needs. Let’s also say straight away that O’Reilly is way beyond our daily budget, but we thought; what the heck, it is our first week-end without our children in 12 months. So, I call and yes there is still a lodge available from the 1st to the 4th of January.
The packing is done in just minutes, the tank of Rita’s Chrysler Grand Voyager is filled up to the brim and there we are, kissing goodbye to our two little blondes. The kids reacted surprisingly well, as if they were as happy to let us go for three days as we were 🙂 .
The first highlight was the last 20km drive on the Green Mountain section of the Lamington National Park. A windy narrow roads amidst, or I should better say, under the big rainforest trees. Windy because the road respected big old trees and instead of bulldozing a highway the National Park Authorities decided to go for more elegant and environmental friendly way.
The second and biggest highlight is the O’Reilly resort. We could only book a “Rainforest Villa” (meaning that you have big trees and vines in front of your window without a vie really. But we got super lucky and we were checked-in a Valley View villa.
Part II of the week-end in Lamington National Park Coming Soon…
Wherever you stand in Bali in the morning, you can spot the magnificent 3154m high Gunung Agung volcano. It is not only a volcano that last erupted in 1963 it is also a holy place where all spirit of Balinese Ancestors dwell. This mountain is also of great significance in the Indus religion. I have been watching this mountain for the last 5 weeks, waiting for a perfect day and some people who would attempt the climb without guide with me. I finally find 2 Yoga friends, Steven and Rebecca that are willing to wake up at 04:30. We drive at the foot of the mountain (1500m) and from there start the 1600m climb. It is a 4km, 40% straight-shot without switchbacks. The first part, up to 1800m is very lush. The second part until 2400m is mostly pine trees and other conifers. The last part reminded me strongly of Lanzarote: a bare, black, rocky landscape. The last meters are a bit more difficult but the reward at the top is great. A beautiful large crater of ochre and reddish rocks. At the bottom a few pools with muddy water. It is 10:30. We are at the top with a great feeling of satisfaction. The air is fresh & crisp. A welcome change from the constant high humidity back down in Ubud .
The climb was in many ways rewarding. Yes there was this beautiful crater, but it was also a fantastic day to spend with friends, talking about nothing and everything. Last but not least a great fitness training to strengthen my knee and although going down was taxing for the knees, it felt good to know that it can hold again this type of effort. Another 3 weeks and I will be able to start running again!!!
I look every morning at Gunung Agung from our veranda in Ubud. It is not an objective anymore, it has become part of my world, a kind of acquaintance. I am quite sure everyone feels this way with mountains. Once you have been on top of it you look at it differently, knowing the price and the reward.
The first issue is to find a map with marked hiking paths. I found none. The second issue; even Garmin Connect has literally no GPS courses mapped beyond Ubud centre. The third issue; coming down from the North are multiple but bridges on the contrary are quite scarce, so you might end up going up or down a stream from some kilometres before being able to cross it. All those constraints should not prevent anyone to go and discover the countryside and the mountains/volcanoes of Bali. The impossibly green rice fields, the jungle (and sometime pristine rain forest), the scenic rivers, the friendly people along the way, the fresh air up in the mountains, all are great rewards for the effort made. It is the second time after Lanzarote that I travel with sport gears and I do not regret it a bit. It is a new way for me to discover a region, far away from any touristic path. Hiking in Bali is meeting the true spirit of this island, if you ask me.
The first hike was around Ubud, the second one on the 2nd highest peak of Bali, the extinct Gunung Abung volcano. On the second hike, I did not meet a single tourist. The only encounter I did was on the top of the volcano. 4 Balinese from Denpasar were picnicking after making some offerings to the gods at the temple erected at the top of the mountain.
I had planned to go on this day trip alone, but Manon insisted to come with me. So, on Sunday Oct. 11th we packed after breakfast and made our way from the Gold Coast Hotel to Lantau Island. Hiking with a 4-year-old changed a bit my plans so instead of going up Lantau Peak (934m) on foot we took the cable car from Tung Chung to the village Ngong Ping (where one of the largest buddha statue in the world stands). Manon loves the cable car. Its concept is still quite unclear to her (and I am not giving too much explanation). She still believes, she enters a glass cabin, it accelerates and suddenly it flies!!!
Once arrived in Ngong Ping, I want to start hiking but the “village” is in reality a shopping mecca for tourist, with loads of funny posters through which you can stick your head and take a picture. Again, Manon loves it and I feel obliged to oblige…I hence take a multitude of pictures like those below:
But now to the real thing; we pass the big buddha and enter the woods for a 2.5 km hiking till the picnic area. Along the way we stop to hunt down some butterflies and grasshoppers and take pictures of them. After 1 hour we finally get to the picnic place. It has not only a view, it also has a beautiful “path of wisdom” art installation. We first have a look at it before devouring granola bars, fresh strawberries, cherry tomatoes and bananas.
10 days without crutches, a beautiful day, Marc, Rea & Leo visiting; 3 good reasons to take the cable car from Leukerbad to the col du Gemmi. Once on top, at 2308 m., I realise how much I have forgotten about the mountain. At this height in September the wind is already cold. We are not dressed appropriately. Our light functional wears are barely enough. So we first decide to go to the wind protected terrace of the restaurant close by. The view on the Walliser Alps is beautiful with the Matterhorn in the background. It is most probably the last time this year we see the “summer” alps. The first snow is about to come. I take the opportunity to order a “Walliser Platte” and a liter of Rivella Red, my favorite (non-alcoholic) Swiss drink. After spending an hour or so bathing in the sun on this terrace we decide to go on a stroll. On the map, there was a clear sign that this was mad for baby strollers. Well they should have specified the making, ’cause our strollers weren’t good enough…but we did not let the difficulties get in our way. So we did a kilometer or so on the stroller hostile path before taking the cable car back down to Leukerbad (1400m). To round of the day we had a raclette. Those are days to remember. Eating traditional Swiss food in the alps with close friends.