Category Archives: Trek

Dharamsala, the Tibetan culture capital (in exile)

ENGLISH: Dharamsala is the north India city where His Holiness the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetan monks and citizens take refuge, fleeing from the invasion of Tibet by China that started in 1949. The atmosphere of this city is quite unique, with a blend of indian and tibetan culture that make the place unusually peaceful compared to the rest of India. That’s why many indians and westerners have been coming here for decades to discover the tibetan wisdom, often through its well conserved Buddhist traditions.

Traditional tibetan dances in Tsuglagkhang temple

On July 6th, Tibetans, friends and devotees of His Holiness the Dalai Lama gathered in large numbers at the Tsuglagkhang temple, the main Tibetan temple in Dharamsala, to participate in the official 81st birthday celebration of His Holiness. Traditional dances, rituals and beautiful costumes where showcased, all generations being actively involved in this celebration, from very young kids to the elderly, giving a sense of harmony in this peaceful community.

2 days later, we were fortunate to see His Holiness coming back to Tsuglagkhang after his long trip teaching around the world. Many people came there to see him just a few seconds, and we were fortunate to receive a big smile from him.

We continue our discovery of the tibetan world for a few more days, the time to meet with Vincent again after his retreat.

FRENCH: Lieu de résidence de Sa Sainteté le 14ème Dalaï Lama, Dharamsala est aussi la terre d’accueil d’une grande communauté de tibétains ayant fuit le Tibet lors de l’invasion et de la répression de la Chine en 1949. Il y règne une ambiance différente du reste de l’Inde, les tibétains sont des gens très pacifistes, généreux et d’une bonté naturelle. Beaucoup d’indiens viennent découvrir ce lieu insolite.

Dharamsala à cette époque, est plus fraîche que le reste de l’Inde, la mousson est là. Les rues se transforment alors en un torrent d’eau qui dévale les rues montagneuses de Dharamsala , drainant sur son passage tous les détritus laissés sur les routes. Personne ne semble habitué à garder et jeter les déchets dans une poubelle, les gens préfèrent jeter par la fenêtre, tout ce qu’ils consomment. Les routes sont animées et étroites alors chacun klaxonne sans cesse pour imposer son passage. Il n’y a pas de trottoir pour marcher… il faut éviter les motos, les tuk-tuks, les camions, les voitures, les vaches sacrées, les chèvres, bref c’est une aventure à chaque déplacement !!!! 

Le 6 juillet, les tibétains ont célébré le 81ème anniversaire de sa sainteté le Dalaï Lama au temple de Tsuglagkhang. Il n’y avait plus un centimètre de libre pour assister à cette fête. Les danses traditionnelles se sont succédées au rythme des musiques et des chants. Chacun a revêtu sa tenue traditionnelle, les nouvelles générations sont aussi très impliquées, les enfants vont perpétuer les traditions. 

2 jours plus tard, nous avons eu la chance d’assister au retour de Sa Sainteté à Tsuglagkhang après son long périple autour du monde à enseigner la sagesse Bouddhiste. Des milliers de gens étaient venus assister à son retour, et nous avons eu la chance de recevoir un sourire de sa part.

May Tibet be free (or an autonomous province in China) soon again!

 Notre découverte de ce monde tibétain continu pour encore quelques jours le temps de retrouver Vincent après sa retraite.


Australia Road Trip – The Video

4000 kms road trip from Melbourne to Noosa Bay, discovering beautiful nature, from cold Tasman sea climate to tropical bays north of Brisbane. Long roads, many hikes in natural parks, theme parks, surfing… and loooong moments stuck in the campervan practicing survival skills!

This is our Australian road-trip story.

NZ Coromandel Peninsula

This is the last step of our long trip in NZ!

We spent the last days around the Coromandel peninsula, visiting the beautiful Cathedral Cove that has a cathedral like arch that you need to go through before you access the beach. Then we went to the Hot Water Beach, a place truly unique in the world where some (very) hot springs emerge through the sand, allowing you to mix that 60 degrees Celcius water with the cold one from the ocean to obtain the perfect temperature in this natural spa (not that easy to do actually…)

We finish by going around the peninsula through very small dirt road that were a bit tricky for the camper van, but we didn’t crash!

We are staying in Auckland the next two days before taking off to Melbourne in Australia!

I hope to be able to post the video soon as my computer died, and I will need to get a replacement one before I can publish that great video of the NZ North Island adventure… Stay tuned!

North Island: Tongariro & Rotorua

After our ferry crossing from Picton to Wellington, we headed to the central mountains of the north island, first to Tongariro mountain range, then to NZ Maori cultural center, Rotorua.

The two experiences have been amazing. First, we went to Whakapapa (say “fakapapa” in Maori) to get the good weather window to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a famous one day hike to goes across many different geologic formations. And we got lucky to get the perfect weather. How beautiful it was to hike across volcano summits including Mount Ngauruhoe, moon like valleys, acid green lakes, original forest, 1000 m above the giant NZ lakes. 20 kms of pure enchantment. Probably one of the best hikes we had ever done…

Then we went to Rotorua to visit first Wai-o-tapu, the “Thermal Wonderland” of NZ which showcases many different geologic wonders like the “Champagne Pool” and several 100°C bubbling pools that sometimes merge with fresh waters to create perfect bathing for humans (with a little sulfur smell).

The following stop was Te-Puia where we could see the largest geyser in the southern hemisphere, as well as a cultural exhibition on the Maori culture that was way more interesting than expected as we always fear those traditional customs displays… But it felt quite authentic, and it was actually real fun to give a try to the warriors’ haka;-)
We completed the cultural journey by visiting the Rotorua century old museum that was telling the complete history of the Maoris across the Pacific, landing last in NZ around 1300 AD.

Now heading to the west coast to one of my favorite place on earth….

NZ South Island – The Video

What a roadtrip!

3000 kms around the south island, discovering some of the most stunning places: kayaking Abel Tasman, hiking Franz Josef Glaciers, flying over the mountains of Queenstown & Wanaka, exploring the fjords of Milford Sounds, watching the wildlife in the Otago & Banks peninsula, encountering whales in Kaikourai, and surfing world class Mangamanu bay waves!

Memories for a lifetime captured in this 20′ video!




NZ South Island Dream

ENGLISH: After a full week in Queenstown enjoying mountains and lakes, we took the road to the west towards Milford Sounds in the “Fjordland National Park“.

We crossed many landscapes that seemed to be scenes from the “Lord of the Rings” movie (it was indeed shot a lot in that region), with grandiose & wild mountains, endless rivers and lakes that compose pure nature poetry… We took a boat in the morning to with the Fjords, where mountain meet the ocean, and despite the bad weather, it was a memorable moment, sighting raw nature composition with countless waterfalls falling directly into the sea…

We then headed east to Dunedin , visiting the Otago Peninsula where we could observe Fur Seals in their natural habitat, enjoying the sun and fresh air of the early days of winter.

Further north to Chirstchurch, hiking the Banks Peninsula in deserted hills and secret coves where we could be alone with nature in untouched forests. Pure enjoyment.

Last, we stopped several days in Kaikoura know as one of the best surf spots on earth (Mangamanu bay famous rights over several kilometers), but also one of the unique place in the world where you are guaranteed to observe whales, as male Sperm Whales made their home in the Kaikoura underwater canyon where they can find food all year round. And we did see many of those rare whales, the largest toothed predator on the blue planet.

This long stay in the South Island exceeded our wildest expectations regarding encountering raw nature. NZ is magic!

Now heading back to the North Island to continue our NZ adventures…

FRENCH: Apres avoir passé quelques jours à Queenstown à profiter des montagnes et du lac…comme à Annecy mais en beaucoup plus sauvage, nous avons filé (autant que possible avec le camping car) vers Milford Sounds, dans le “Fiordland National Park“.

Les paysages pour y arriver étaient dignes du “Seigneur des Anneaux” des montagnes grandioses, sauvages, la nature à perte de vue, des rivières, des lacs et des moutons!
Nous avons pris un bateau le matin pour visiter les fiords… pays des montagnes et des cascades qui se déversent directement dans la mer. La végétation luxuriante et abondante habillait les parois rocheuses : magnifique spectacle de Dame Nature.

Nous sommes ensuite passés du côté Est de l’île sur la péninsule d’Otago à Dunedin. Nous avons eu la chance d’approcher des phoques sur une plage profitant du soleil pour faire la sieste… ils avaient l’air vraiment bien, lovés sur un nid d’algue ou carrément à l’ombre d’un arbre!

En remontant au Nord, nous nous sommes arrêtés sur la péninsule de Banks à proximité de Christchurch… Nous avons fait une ballade entre montagne et mer en traversant des forêts envoûtées pour notre plus grand bonheur!

Encore plus au Nord, à Kaikoura nous avons eu la chance de partir voir les cachalots géants. Il y a une communauté de cachalots mâles qui vivent dans les canyons sous marins au large de Kaikoura. Ces mammifères sont vraiment impressionnants, 15 à 20 mètres de long, se sont d’excellents nageurs, ils peuvent rester sous l’eau pendant 2 heures à une profondeur de 3000 mètres! Leurs queues sont comme nos empreintes digitales… uniques.

Nous avons vraiment tous adoré l’île du Sud, par sa nature sauvage et très variée…

Nous avons repris le bateau pour rejoindre l’île du Nord…

Wild Costa Rica – The Video

Our second stay in Costa Rica was definitely the best, probably because we escaped the surf beaches to focus on the natural reserves. From Arenal volcanoes in the north, to Platanillo’s forests in the center, and Corcovado Natural Reserve beautiful hikes and dives deep south, you will find the whole “Wild Costa Rica” experience in this video!

You can also find the full photo album here!

Now we are off to California! Stay tuned;-)

Mountains of Costa Rica

Back from Nicaragua, we headed to Lago Arenal, a lake surrounded by volcanoes, included the Arenal volcano that was still spitting lava in 2010…

It was a complete change, switching from dry landscapes to a tropical alpine climate with beautiful flowers everywhere.

Arenal is a fantastic playground for nature lovers with numerous hikes, dozens of canyoning and rafting opportunities, and a wonderful spot for observing wildlife and birds. So we did a bit of all of that, carefully sequencing our daily “nature and adrenaline dose” after the morning classes, as yes, kids had to go back to school one more time (and we could complete Jade’s full year maths program, yahooooo).

One hike, the “Cerro Chato” volcano, was particularly challenging has I decided to run it… 8K and 500 meters positive elevation in 1h30’… It took me a few days to recover;-)

For the kids, the rafting experience was probably the most memorable with 20 kms down a level 3-4 river!

Overall, Arenal was a great experience, even if it’s another kind of Costa Rica with european prices and wealthy tourists, it’s certainly a “must-have” for nature lovers.

Here are a few pictures of the experience there with the final sunset picture taken in beautiful Playa Dominical back on the coast.

Now heading back to the jungle south of the country to sequestrate some more carbon (plant trees)!

And the Rafting Adventure photo gallery!




Nicaragua – The Photo Album

Overall, Nicaragua has been a real adventure compared to other countries we visited earlier, which is expected from a “developing country” where things are quite different from our polished western world…

During those 3 weeks, we experienced tricky border crossing, rock’n roll car rides (having to avoid cows, horses, pigs, iguana, kids and drunk fellows), aborted boat transfers, one car accident, one police arrestation (due to my freestyle driving skills), and lots of unexpected encounters giving this trip a taste of adventure…

But that was the (normal) price to pay to discover beautiful and raw nature, meet extremely nice people truly interested into communicating with us, let’s the kids play with other local kids without a word of Spanish (kids language is universal), do challenging but rewarding hikes, experience the countryside lifestyle, and overall make of Nicaragua an unforgettable experience for us and the kids who went through an emotional roller-coaster!

We hope it has given them the taste for further adventures “off the beaten track” while they grow-up.

Here is the full photo album!

The Nicaragua Photo Album

We loved Nica and hope to come-back one day!