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Bye Bye Lisbon!

Well, this is the end of our one month long dream stay in Portugal.

A big thank you to all our friends who have been offering us shelter, food and a lot of joy during those weeks that were a great way to land softly from our journey around the World!

We were lucky to be able to visit some of the most beautiful places in and around Lisbon, including amazing Sintra, one of the most mystical places on earth.

I was also lucky to get wind and decent waves almost everyday, allowing me to complete this trip with my favorite sport in one of my favorite spots: windsurfing in Guincho!

So here are a few pictures of beautiful Lisbon, a European capital that is proposing one of the best Lifestyle / Cultural / Natural combo!

I wish we could live here one day…

And here is the complete Portugal Photo Album as usual;-)

Now off to our last destination: home!

 

 

 

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Kerala: God’s own country

Kerala is known as “God’s own country” as it is the Indian state with the most religious diversity… and tolerance. Hindou temples, Christian churches and Muslim mosquee are often located within the same village area with a few meters between them, enchanting the atmosphere with religious chants often happening at the same time (even if it sometimes leads to a loudspeaker volume competition;-)

After our Yoga retreat in Varkala, we went north to Kollam to visit the ancient colonial city that saw Portuguese collons, followed by Dutch and the British… The backwaters, a long laguna between the ocean and the forest, stretching from Kollam to Kochin, are also a beautiful area to explore as it allows to approach nature and people from a very quiet perspective.

Kollam was also the starting point for a big surprise for Jade’s birthday…

Indeed, we had a “Kettu Vallam“, a traditional house-boat, coming right next to our guest-house, and she had to do just a few meters to jump onto that beautiful boat that we hired just for us to take an unconventional route, from Kollam to Kochin, going through natural lagoons, lakes and man-made canals.
And it was a good idea, as it is known that more than 500 Kettu Valams cruise around Allepey, leading to water-traffic-jams that pollute the experience, and we didn’t see any until we arrived… in Allepey😉

On the way, we have seen beautiful small villages with people literally “living with the river”, from fishing to washing, small hidden temples and churches, India’s Green Venice on Munroe island, holy places such as Amma’s Ashram where people from all over the world come seeking for enlightenment (which is internal peace and love), fishermen markets, and much more…

A deep immersion into Kerala’s nature, lifestyle and culture!

Here is a snapshot, and the full photo album below:

The full photo album is available here.

The video is on its way!

 

 

 

We are in India!

What a journey: 48h to reach the Kerala state in India, and our final destination: Varkala.
3 hours flight from Brisbane to Cairns. 7 hours from Cairns to Hong-Kong. 8 hours to go to Bangalore. Another 2 hours flight to Cochin the next day. And finally 5 hours of crazy taxi-driving to Varkala… We were cooked on the arrival!

As soon as we landed in India, the trip become intense, which is expected in this country that can not compare to any other country in the world. It’s a different planet, especially when it comes to traveling on the roads… We left Delphine at the Cochin airport (she went for her own Ayurvedic retreat while abandoning me with the kids;-) and took that crazy taxi-driver who must have tried to break the Cochin-Varkala speed record.

It seems local drivers must believe in some sort of road divinities who guide their destinies and survival if you consider the general insane driving habits. Several times, I thought we would crash. By night, under heavy monsoon rain, it’s kind of a miracle that on a 2 lanes road, a cow, a cyclist, a moped with a whole family on it, an overcrowded rickshaw, a truck, a bus and finally our taxi, all manage to perfectly align in the last second to allow all vehicles coming in different directions to cross with just a few centimeters of space between them!
When such a miracle happens several times in one journey, you definitely tend to believe in road divinities;-)

we finally made it to Varkala, one of the nicest beach city, but also home of holy saints and of authentic Yoga practices.

It was the place to take a full week Yoga retreat, which we just started with intense 2 x 3 hours a day, with the kids attending some of the more simple meditation and yoga sessions. I feel really blessed to share this experience with my children!

Kids also rejoiced (well, not really) to start school again, but this time it’s a bit different with Mindfulness Meditation classes and some Yoga for sport. The hardest thing for them so far is to adapt to the Yogi regime, especially the rice soup at night;-)

This is the beginning of our Indian journey that we wanted to be the spiritual part of our family experience, and it is starting just like that.

Namaste

 

Wild Fraser & Lady Elliot Islands

Brisbane was supposed to be the last stop of the Australian journey, but to leave on a wilder impression (we were still on the impression of an overcrowded coast), we decided to go to Fraser island, and then a surprise destination…

Fraser island was a short but intense experience. The ferry crossing from Hervey Bay allows to reach the world’s largest sand island, a sanctuary for wildlife… a 4WD! Indeed, it’s a popular destination for people how want to get into the wild by accessing remote beaches with a vehicle, which is needed because of the huge size of the island, more than 100 km long. There are plenty animals to watch in the sea and on the land, including the potentially dangerous Dingos (wild dogs, closer to wolves) which is normally preventing to go alone for hikes (which Delphine did).

I was lucky to finally get some wind for a good kitesurfing session in shallow waters and a beautiful scenery of forest and sand dunes ending into the sea. Kids could enjoy a short stay in the resort, getting some good food and playing in the pool: I guess they needed that;-)

After Fraser island, we went for a little surprise for the whole family. In the morning, I brought them to the small Hervey Bay airport, and everybody quickly understood we were off to an island. After an hour of a scenic flight over Fraser island and the beautiful sand formations that look a little bit like the “Cap Ferret” in France, we landed in Lady Elliot island, the most isolated island on the Great Barrier reef that you can only access through a private plane landing on a small strip of grass…. The trip to the island is already amazing, but visiting it was even more impressive. Perfect coral beaches without any waste, pure water hundred miles away from the shore, amazing live corals and marine wildlife, and of course sunset like nowhere else… Lady Elliot a Unesco World Heritage site, and it is really deserved as this place is really nature’s heaven, protected from pollution, with wildlife also carefully protected. The island is famous for diving and snorkeling, so we did: several snorkeling safaris where the guides take you to the spots where the marine life is most active at a given time, which allowed us to see huge manta rays (some were certainly beyond 5m wide), big schools of fish, many turtles… We only missed the dolphins that came early in the morning and didn’t come back when we were there, but overall, the island hold it’s promise of showing nature in a spectacular form! We really hope this place will be preserved from the massive coral bleaching that is happening on the rest of the Great Barrier reef, largely due to the rapid increase of water temperature (of course linked to global warning), even if this phenomenon can not totally be explained at this stage.

The 2 days spent on the island where really out of time, and we felt almost alone as the accommodation of the island was far from being full, a benefit of travelling off season. One of the highlights of this world tour!

Immediately after landing back in Hervey Bay, we drove overnight to Brisbane to take a looong journey to our next destination: India! See you there!

A video should come soon if we get a normal Internet connection!

Gold & Sunshine Coasts

After weeks of bad weather, we finally did catch some sun on the Gold and Sunshine coasts of Australia, even if we didn’t get completely lucky either.

A sign that we did indeed had bad weather so far, was to hear on the news the south of Australia being flooded, with Tasmania having the worst floods ever. Needless to say that we had some “survival moments” in the campervan, locked in it several days in a row waiting for the rain to stop;-(

The first stop was Lennox Head, the most famous right-hander surf spot where I could catch the end of a nice swell, but it was crowded like hell with hungry Aussies… and sharks as surfers had to exit the break the second day because of two great white sharks and one bouldog shark (two of the most dangerous species) spotted that day! Next was beautiful Byron Bay that is a surfer beginners paradise with a perfect point break where Jade and I had great fun: I even took a loooong wave with a dozen of Dolphins jumping around me under a red sunset: memories for a lifetime!

We then headed to Brisbane for a surprise for the kids: Dreamworld theme & water parks, where kids had unlimited fun for two days in a row;-)

Last stop on this part of the coast was Noosa Bay, that was both rainy, stormy, beautiful… and bloody crowded: parking was a real mission to access the natural park and surf spots. Despite a good swell, waves were so-so because of the strong winds, but I could still get two OK sessions at famous Tea Tree and other Noosa points with solid but blown-out waves.

Overall, despite some great beaches and surf cities, we found that the Gold & Sunshine coast are a bit over-rated… We constantly felt the crowd pressure, both on land and in the water where at every singles moment you had hundreds of people on the beach and in the water… Difficult to find calm in nature like we have constantly found before!

That’s almost it for Australia, but there is still a (wild) surprise coming for the family, hopefully for a nice “happy ending” of this challenging part of our world tour!

Here is the photo gallery!

 

Melbourne to Sydney road-trip

We left Melbourne with a pretty bad weather, and we were impatient to find some sun on the road to Sydney!

We stopped in the beautiful Wilson’s Promontory park where we could see plenty wildlife: Kangaroos, Wallibies, Ostriches, dozens of birds including the famous laughing Kookaburras (that do indeed laugh), and the cutest animal ever: Wombats! This place is truly amazing, and off-season, we could have it for ourselves. But the weather still being cold, we headed straight to Sydney!

The road was quite tiring, with Kangaroos jumping in front of the car, and unfortunately, dozens lying dead along the road, together with Wombats that also suffer from these roads cutting their habitat…

We arrived in Sydney where we had to deal with a number of issues, like a dead computer, and getting visas for India, which took 2 days, 3 attempts, and 8 hours total in the worst bureaucratic private company we had ever seen. We still hoping to get those visas on time!

Appart from those usual world traveler duties, we could enjoy what must be one of the coolest city in the world: young, dynamic, cosmopolitan, and surrounded by nature! We could attend the kickoff of the Vivid Festival, an amazing Light show across the city where the main buildings are transformed in art at night.

But the highlight was certainly our 2 days in the Blue Mountains. We initially were a bit scared by the proximity of the Highway that is getting people into this “World Heritage” natural park, but once you leave one of the numerous lookouts along the highway, you really quickly enter beautiful nature, and despite the crowds and dozens of tourists’ buses (mostly Chinese tourists) arriving there, we could do two hikes almost alone, as we were of course taking the “off the beaten track” trails, including the 3 sisters rock trail that is revealed only to those daring the 900+ steep stairs going down!

We could also meet our good friend Tom, the Marketing Director of South Pole Group, the company that we used to offset our Carbon footprint. We had passionate debates about Carbon compensation and how the world should move to go towards a more sustainable economy. The conclusions were not too enthusiastic, but we are still doing our best to travel with the lowest possible today.

We are now heading to the Gold coast and Sunshine coast, and we hope they are well named, because cold weather stuck in a camper-van is not fun (see Jade’s latest video telling all the truth;-) !

Here is the Melbourne To Sydney Photo Album with some highlights below!

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!

NZ North Island: Raglan surfers’ dream

We had a dream stay in Raglan, a place I first visited  17 years ago (makes me feel old…) and that completely mesmerized me at the time with its perfect surfing point-breaks and hippie vibe…

17 years later, the charm is still intact! The family stayed in the Solscape Lodge, a very special place where backpackers come from all over the world, and sleep in train wagons! It was great coming back to this place so many years after, and meet all those travelers who come here to share the same things: good waves, beautiful nature, and meet cool people! Kids could live that special feeling for almost a week, living in the communal area where people cook, chat and dream until late at night.

Surf wise, it has been a dream. We arrived for the beginning of a clean winter swell, 2.5m at 17 seconds period… which delivered perfect waves for 4 days in a row on all the Raglan point breaks, from classic Manu Bay and up to 4 meters sets on the outside of Indicators! I got a few of those barreling beasts and got rides from outside Indicators to the end of Whale Bay in just two waves (I guess a kilometer of riding), until I got seriously punished and broke my board in two halves…. One less board to carry;-)

We could also enjoy some hikes (including gorgeous Bridal Veil waterfalls) and a great mountain biking trail around the Raglan countryside.

Good memories for the whole family! Raglan has definitely something special!

Now heading to Coromandel peninsula, our last stop before leaving to Australia.

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 from the sky

We had many opportunities to see the South Island of NZ from the sky, either by paragliding in the mountains of Queenstown and Wanaka, or by flying the drone where it was aloud as NZ has tight restrictions in most of the national parks (where helicopters fly a bit too often to keep those spaces quiet)…

Here is a selection of some of the most beautiful shots from the sky that you will soon see in the video that we will publish (as soon as we have a chance to find a decent Internet connection to upload the 2 GN of video;-)