How the Simple Act of Walking Can Change Your Life

WALKING

Also known as strolling, hiking, tramping, trekking, marching, wandering, or my favorite – gliding.

How can this motion we mindlessly do daily actually add anything to our lives? There are tons of ways! That is the beauty of it all – why not use something as simple as walking to bring positive change to your everyday life. Check out how walking can change your life below.

HOW THE SIMPLE ACT OF WALKING CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Walk with a friend to build a relationship outside of the bar. Do you find yourself spending most of your friend time at happy hour? Why not take a walk after work instead. You’ll save money by dodging the bar and get a bit of exercise. Afterwards, you can still get that drink at the bar and feel better about doing it.

Walking places instead of driving can help save the environment. Is your destination a mile or less away? Walk! You will reduce your carbon footprint and get some exercise.

You can use a hike as the perfect excuse for staying in on the weekends. Let’s be honest with ourselves, we don’t actually enjoy going out on the weekends. It is nearly impossible to simply tell a person you don’t feel like leaving your house. Instead of fighting that battle, plan a hike for Saturday or Sunday morning for an excuse to stay in. You’ll save money, wake up feeling great, and get some exercise.

How does a peaceful walk in the woods sound compared to a hangover?

Walking is the gateway to working out. Have you been considering starting a workout program but you don’t have the motivation to get going? Start with walking! Making time for a workout is the hardest part so you need to start with something easy. If you make time to walk everyday, eventually you can use that time for other workouts. Or, you can just keep walking! Walking is a great way to keep your body and mind in shape.

Walking is the gateway to the gym. Do you want to join a gym but suffer from “gym-timidation”? Join that gym and start off by walking on the treadmill. You everyday and can certainly walk on a treadmill. This will increase your comfort level in a gym atmosphere in no time. Once you are feeling confident enough, you can start hitting the weights! Eventually, you will realize no one cares what you are up to at the gym and it doesn’t matter what others think anyway.

Hiking uphill is a great butt-shaping workout. I have yet to find a better butt workout than a 3000 ft climb during a hike. Start off small with a 500 ft elevation change and work your way up. Your soul will be rewarded with beautiful views as you workout that butt. Once you are comfortable, try an overnight hike with a 30-50 lb pack to carry. You’ll have the butt of your dreams in no time.

A 1000 ft climb can give you a view like this.

Walking is the perfect idea generator. When is the last time you went for a mid-day stroll ALONE? The key is to be alone. Your mind can fully open up when you give yourself some alone time. If you are sitting at your desk stuck on a problem, take a 5, 10, or even 15 minute walk break. You’ll be surprised how energized and clear-headed you will feel.

Speaking of being alone, a walk ALONE during a group vacation can end a grumpy spell. Have you ever been on a trip with a bunch of people and started to snap at someone or felt your mood declining? Go for a walk! Five minutes ALONE in the outdoors can solve just about anything.

GET WALKING PEOPLE

 

 

 

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The Best Podcasts for Anytime Listening

WHAT IS A PODCAST

Podcast App on the iPhone

Have you ever wondered what that purple, pre-loaded app is on your iPhone? It just so happens this little button contains hours of entertainment and education! By simply opening this app, you can search for various Podcasts. Podcasts are pre-recorded audio stories you can stream or download for offline listening. If you have an Android phone, check out this website for podcast apps: 10 Best Podcast Apps for Android.

Podcasts can cover any possible topic you can think of including fiction and non-fiction.  If you deleted the app, go straight to the app store and re-download it. Check out the podcasts below for entertainment during road trips, flights, and rainy days or for an educational wake-up.

THE BEST PODCAST FOR ANYTIME LISTENING

Below are my favorite podcasts with the descriptions from their websites:

  1. S-Town: “John despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks a reporter to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.”
  2. Serial – Season One“It’s Baltimore, 1999. Hae Min Lee, a popular high-school senior, disappears after school one day. Six weeks later detectives arrest her classmate and ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for her murder. He says he’s innocent – though he can’t exactly remember what he was doing on that January afternoon. But someone can. A classmate at Woodlawn High School says she knows where Adnan was. The trouble is, she’s nowhere to be found.”
  3. This American Life: This American Life is a weekly public radio show, heard by 2.2 million people on more than 500 stations. Most weeks, it is the most popular podcast in the country, with around 2.5 million people downloading each episode.”
  4. On Being:On Being is a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast, a Webby Award-winning website and online exploration, a publisher and public event convener. On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.”
  5. Dirty John: “A true story about seduction, deception, forgiveness, denial, and ultimately, survival. From Wondery and the L.A. Times. Reported and hosted by Christopher Goffard.”
  6. Last Podcast on the Left: “Last Podcast on the Left barrels headlong into all things horror — as hosts Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks and Henry Zebrowski cover dark subjects spanning Jeffrey Dahmer, werewolves, Jonestown, iconic hauntings, the history of war crimes, and more. Whether it’s cults, killers, or cryptid encounters, Last Podcast on the Left laughs into the abyss that is the dark side of humanity.”
  7. Embedded: “Host Kelly McEvers takes a story from the news and goes deep. We mine the records of Donald Trump and some of his closest advisors. We examine police shootings caught on video. We report from a small town in Indiana, where a powerful prescription opioid sparked an HIV outbreak. And we spend 24 hours in the middle of the gang war in El Salvador, a conflict that’s forced tens of thousands of people to flee to the United States. Embedded (EMBD) takes you to where the news is happening.”
  8. Hidden Brain: “The Hidden Brain helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain’s host Shankar Vedantam reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships.”
  9. The Joe Rogan Experience: “The Joe Rogan Experience podcast is a long form conversation hosted by comedian, UFC color commentator, and actor Joe Rogan with friends and guests that have included comedians, actors, musicians, MMA instructors and commentators, authors, artists, and porn stars. The Joe Rogan Experience was voted the Best Comedy Podcast of 2012 on iTunes.”
  10. First Day Back – Season Two: “First Day Back returns this season with the story of Lucie and Gerry – lovebirds who were together for 13 years. Until the fall of 2010, when Lucie accidentally shot and killed him. And here’s the thing. She has no memory of killing him. Lucie’s story isn’t just about what she did, it’s about the aftermath. How does she come back from the worst thing she’s ever done, when she doesn’t even remember doing it?”
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Reflecting on the Trip

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

In my mid 20s, a lot of my friends and my siblings were getting married and settling down. I started to feel that societal pull to follow their lead, but I was really bad at it and I couldn’t figure out why. I struggled to find a guy I was compatible with and felt anxious about planting roots anywhere. I honestly felt bad about myself.

It was around age 26, in 2014, that I thought I figured out a way to move myself to the next phase of life. I finally became smart with money and paid off all my debts and saved enough to buy a house. I did the “adult thing” and bought my dream house thinking life would slowly fall into place. A short while later, I read this article with the topic of if you saved half of your money for a year, you can take a year off and live on the savings.

That article started it all.

If I could save half of my money for a year, I could take a year off! Hmmm. I still felt uneasy about staying in Nashville for an extended time even after I bought the house. I thought that if I took a year off and traveled around, it would “fix” me. When I came back, I could settle down and potentially start a family.

That’s how I came up with idea to do my big trip. I couldn’t save half of my money with my huge mortgage payment, but I knew I would make a decent amount on my house because of the Nashville housing market and depended on that. I would sell my house right at the 2-year mark to avoid paying taxes on the profit and leave shortly after. I just had to wait patiently and keep my mouth shut around work.

Everything fell into place in 2017 when I sold my house for above asking price, quit my job, and found a guy that wanted to go on the trip with me. The plan came together perfectly and then some!

Come August 2017, off I went on the trip of a life time with the intention of getting travel out of my system.

THE TRIP

The trip happened and was more wonderful than I ever could have imagined. I saw and experienced things I never would have otherwise. With that being said, the trip ended up having quite the opposite effect on me than what I was hoping for.  I’m returning home feeling more energized about travel and exploring than ever before. It is astonishing what you can learn and realize about yourself with a break from everyday life. And I’m not talking about a one week vacation, I mean at least a two month removal from your world.

Here’s what I learned in no particular order:

I may never settle down and that’s ok.

My travel bug is still very alive despite my best efforts kill it.

Being nice will take you a long way, but sometimes it best to be firm and a little mean.

I need to stop trying to change myself for others. I need to love myself and simply find people that love me for me too. I’m far from perfect and have some things I need to work on, but I’m still pretty great.

Hair conditioner is a necessity.

I enjoy writing.

I’m horrible at languages, but a smile can get you anywhere!

I don’t think you ever have life fully figured out. You just head in the next direction that’s best for you.

Japan has the best culture.

Nail clippers can be used at scissors.

Good communication is key!

I have to figure out a way to stop caring what other people think about me.

I want to help save the environment.

I like traveling alone and traveling with people. As long as there’s travel involved, I’m happy.

Drinking is a horrible waste of time and money, but there’s nothing wrong with a nice glass of beer, wine, or whiskey.

I like being productive and having a daily routine. Who would have thought.

My laziness and impatience get me in trouble A LOT.

I have a bit of evil in me and it makes life more interesting.

I have an amazing support system. Thank you everyone. I’m a lucky girl 🙂

Morocco has the best breakfast.

Driving on the other side of the road isn’t that hard.

I’m happy people are getting out to see the world, but overly touristy places are the worst.

New Zealand is my favorite… there, I said it.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

I have no idea what I’m doing next. I do know my initial idea of planting roots and ending my travels is off the table. I plan to spend the next couple months visiting friends and snowboarding as much as I can, but that’s as far as I’ve made it.

I have a few ideas about my future and I know the rest will come to me when the time is right. I might not have a concrete plan, but look forward to whatever life has coming my way.

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New Zealand: Part 2 – Going Out with a Bang

ADRENALINE RUSH

December 9th, 2017

I had one last thing to do while in the Queenstown area, the Nevis Swing. I’d never really considered the more popular bungee jumping as it looks terrifying and potentially painful. I saw an advertisement for the big swing about a year before the trip and had my heart set on doing it. Bungee jumping for the afraid!

Little did I know, the swing still involved at 70 meter free fall until the arc finally pulled the rope. I saw this piece of information as I was checking into the swing. I immediately became nervous and excited.

As soon as I sat down, a nice Canadian guy named Nick started talking to me. We were both headed to the same spot only he decided to do the Nevis Bungy. He told me he was afraid of heights and I instantly thought he was crazy. He was clearly a bit anxious as he talked away. The conversation put any worries I had aside for the time being.

We jumped on the bus and started our journey. The drive took 40 minutes and ended climbing a steep cliff that didn’t seem built for buses.

We made it safely to the top and my heart started racing. I knew I would enjoy this, but I certainly was scared. They harnessed me up and sent me over to the swing. You had to walk across a suspension bridge to get to the platform which might have been the scariest part. The railings seemed slightly too short and a burst of wind tilted it to the right.

The Bridge
All Ready!

I got to the platform and the workers immediately started asking me questions. Where are you from? How long are you here? What do you do at home? They were well versed on how to deal with nervous people. My turn came up fast and my heart jumped into my throat. The guy strapping me in kept asking question after question distracting me. I hung over the edge, smiled for the cameras, and asked if there was audio so I could say something.

Smile?

Before the trip, the Lady Mantis girls (we call ourselves Lady Mantis because the female praying mantis bites her partners head off after they mate. We are 4 successful, independent ladies soooo), my three friends Kelly, Megan, and Mary, gave me some cash and told me to have an adventure on them. This was the adventure I had selected. I wanted to say thank you to them and started to do so. I said “This is from you Lady Mantis! Thank you Kelly, Megan, and Maaaarrryyyyyyyyy ahahjakfnndlakhd”. The guy dropped me as I was saying Mary. It totally caught me off guard because the person before me had a countdown. I’m not upset he did it though.

The first 5 seconds I had the falling feeling and kicked my legs like a wild child. Then I opened my eyes and enjoyed the soaring feeling. I threw my arms up in the air and let out a big “wooooohooooo”. I guess I get that from my mom. The views of the gorge were unbelievable as I swung around. I loved every second of the experience.

Nevis Gorge

I filmed the people after me. They were a couple who did the swing tandem and upside down. After, the girl said she wished they held them longer at the start to build the suspense more. She must have been an adrenaline junkie.

After an adrenaline rush like that, I became a different person. All I wanted to do was talk or run around or something requiring energy. I sat next to Nick on the bus and we both talked about our experiences. I guess he didn’t have any issues or pretended like he didn’t. We went and had a victory beer afterwards and then I started my short drive to Te Anau.

The drive was only 2 hours and my new podcasts made it fly by. I was now listening to Dirty John about a manipulative psychopath. I highly recommend it. I filled the gas tank once I arrived astonished by my $82 bill. Gas is really expensive in New Zealand.

I splurged for a single room all for myself this night. I figured I would want it and I was right. The snorer in Queenstown really messed up my sleep. I made some quesadillas, did laundry, watched the sunset, and called it a night.

Te Anau Sunset

WELCOME TO THE FIJORDLANDS

December 10th, 2017

I woke up at 5 AM to drive myself to Milford Sound. The ticket was cheaper if I drove myself, but with gas prices so high, it might not have saved me any money. I did have the freedom to go where ever I wanted which proved useful.

I woke up to pouring down rain and shrugged it off. I had to go! I kept hearing Milford Sound is better in the rain but I didn’t understand why. I started the 2 hour drive down a windy road through what looked like a rainforest canyon. I couldn’t really see with the rain.

I arrived to more rain and some tourists. I picked the early boat tour which might have been the best thing to do. They piled us on a large boat with free coffee and tea. The captain shamed me into going outside by saying “The best views are from the top deck. You are in control of making this a good experience”.  He seriously said that over the loudspeaker! I slammed my coffee and headed outside.

The rain had stopped! The sky was clearing and now it was just a little misty. I could finally see what all the fuss was about. Water streamed down impossibly tall mountains forming the shape of the sound. This place didn’t look like anything I had seen before. If you’ve seen the movie Avatar, it reminds me of Pandora except cloudy.

I learned the sound is actually a fjord that was named incorrectly. It was formed by a glacier and received an annual rainfall of 30 feet. The fjord only had two permanent waterfalls while the rest disappeared during a dry spell. This place was heaven on earth. I couldn’t believe the mountain formations and the waterfalls.

 

A Permanent Waterfall
Waterfall Close Up
The Four Sisters: Only visible after a good rain
Seals on a Rock

As we turned around to go back to port, we had a wild ride when the boat entered the ocean. The fjord ended in the ocean with huge waves. We got to see some dolphins! Then we headed back and I got to admire the scenery one last time.

Milford Sound

I was in awe after seeing that. I couldn’t believe a place like it existed. I drove away planning to stop at any points of interest along the way.

The first one was The Chasm. I walked along the well marked path and stopped when I heard large volumes of water flowing by. I couldn’t see it until I looked below me. Through the forest, a raging river carved a path into the solid rock. The rocks were smooth in shape from the violent erosion. It was cool!

The Chasm
The River Flowing into The Chasm
Ferns Near The Chasm
FERN

Then I saw some views of the valley and more wild flowers.

Fijordland
More Lupins

I wanted to do a hike to Marian Lake and found my turn about an hour into the drive. I parked and started up the path. About 10 minutes in, the path had a huge sign and tape saying it was closed.

Trail Closing Sign

What! I guess there had been a land slide or something. I snapped some pictures of the waterfall and turned around.

The Waterfall

 

I was a little bummed but also excited to get to my next destination nice and early. I made another stop to see more flowers and then at a sign that said “The Divide”.

More Wild Lupins!

I pulled off into the parking lot and read the sign for the various hikes at this stop. There wasn’t any phone service so I couldn’t look anything up to see the views and reviews. There was a 3-hour hike to Key Summit I debated doing. My legs were sore and I had a big hike planned for the next day. I was almost in the car ready to leave when I changed my mind. I might not ever come back. I had to go.

What. A. View. I powered through the 1.5 hour climb only looking up a handful of times. I kept peeking over at the view and quickening my pace to see it faster.

Weird Trees with Peeling Bark
Another Fern Because

It turned out the view overlooked the lake I had originally planned to visit and I’d say was a better hike. I didn’t want to leave. I loved watching the clouds move angrily around the peaks.

Key Summit Overlooking Lake Marian

I pulled myself away a short while later because I had a 3 hour drive ahead of me.

I stopped at lake Howden for a quick peek then made my way back to the car.

Lake Howden

I was just so happy I did the hike and was rewarded with such a spectacular view. It had been a beautiful day. I went straight to Wanaka to my next hostel. The place itself was fine, but they didn’t have Wi-Fi so I just watched their free movies and went to sleep.

THE LAST MAJOR HIKE… MAYBE

December 11th, 2017

Only three more days 🙁

I got up and headed to a cafe to get some internet. They only offered free Wi-Fi for 20 minutes. I guess it just wasn’t a connected town. Oh well. I had a great latte and did what I needed to do in that short time.

It Looks Like the New Zealand Fern!

I had another epic hike planned for the day. Roy’s Peak climbing 4000 feet. My extended family was having their Christmas as I was hiking so I mentally dedicated the hike to them.

I have to go all the way up there??

I must have been feeling their love or something because I was energized enough to get up that mountain in 2 hours. I wore headphones for the first time ever during a hike and powered through it. I felt great about my accomplishment. I had a girl take a jumping picture of me at the summit, ate my canned tuna, and headed back down the path.

Jumping Pictures from Roy’s Peak
Roy’s Peak Pano

It took me 3 hours to get back down. The path was just so steep I had to have my brakes on the whole time. That hurts after a while! At one point I started running down to relieve the pressure on my knees and feet. I also had my camera out which never allows me to get anywhere fast. A leg of the lake winding into the hill intrigued me and I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it.

The Winding Leg
The Clouds!

I made it down and headed back home for the bathroom. The whole hike was fully exposed with no opportunities to go potty. I then sat down and lacked the motivation to get back up. I somehow found the energy to shower and go out to buy my victory IPA and a cup of noodles to enjoy back at the hostel. I ate and then relaxed in the hammock.

I was hungry again and craved Italian. I couldn’t find a place and settled for a big plate of nachos from a Mexican restaurant. The nachos were just ok and then I passed a food truck park on the walk back. No!!! Next time 😉

I watched Step Brothers while trying to plan the next day. I had originally planned a sunrise hike and really wanted to do it. The forecast showed potential rain and I wasn’t sure how safe hiking alone in the dark would be. I slowly talked myself out of it and found a better hike in Arthur’s Pass I couldn’t wait to check out.

GLACIER DAY

December 12th, 2017

I slept in and got my full 8 hours! I actually had time to sit down, eat my oatmeal, and enjoy my coffee. Such a good start to the day!

I was headed for Franz-Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier for the day. They were only 3 hours from Wanaka and 10 miles apart from each other. I would call this an easy day.

The drive took me about 5 hours because I kept stopping. Driving along the lake had new and exciting views and then I had to see the blue pools that weren’t blue.

One Last Look at Wanaka Lake
Blue Pools?
Still Not Blue Looking This Way

I pulled over for a waterfall knowing it wouldn’t be that great. I don’t really enjoy a waterfall unless it’s unique somehow. I jumped out and started following these other tourists to the overlook. We were on the wrong path and ended up in the grass hugging the river bank. I was fidgeting because I was in a hurry and decided playing with my keys in my pocket was a good idea. At one point, I slipped and put my hands out to catch me. I laughed at myself and kept going. I took two steps and felt that my keys were missing. NOOO. I guess I accidentally threw them when I slipped. I slowly took two steps back and started searching the waist high grass. I FOUND THEM! I started breathing again and kept walking. I just dodged a huge headache and waste of time. I could have just ended my trip! What a relief.

The waterfall was only ok and I decided not to stop for anymore. I only stopped one last time when the drive popped out on on the shore.

The Waterfall
South Island West Coast

I made it safely around the curves to Franz-Josef glacier. A short hike alongside of a glacier river led to the glacier.

Franz-Josef Glacier River

They didn’t let you get very close to the glacier due to flood risk. The glacier had retreated significantly since 2008 and they had the pictures to show it.

Franz-Josef Glacier is Retreating!
Franz- Josef Glacier

Tons of helicopters flew overhead taking people to get a closer look. If only I was made of money!

On the walk back, these nice guys struck up conversation. They were fly fishing guides in Alaska who saved up their money from the 4-month season every year and traveled the rest of the year. What a life!

Fox glacier also had a little, less exciting hike. You could get a slightly closer to it, but it still wasn’t anyything like Perito Moreno in South America. I missed that glacier.

Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier Valley
Fox Glacier River

I drove into town and found my hostel. It ended up just being me and this British girl in the room. Score! I warned her I was getting up at 4 AM and she was nice about it. I packed all my stuff so I could just get up and go. I ate an unmemorable dinner and then hit up the hot tub. The hostel had a hot tub! And it was actually really clean. I met all kinds of people including this couple that was cycling through New Zealand. People are crazy.

ONE. LAST. DAY.

December 13th, 2017

I’m up! Kind of. I got on the road by 4:30 AM headed for Arthur’s Pass. I stopped multiple times as the sun rose and then went straight to the pass. I had a tough hike ahead of me and a storm was on the way.

The Sunrise

Everything I read about hiking Avalanche Peak scared me a little. None of the other hikes in New Zealand mentioned them being difficult and they were tough! This one actually said it was hard and listed precautions. I made sure I wasn’t in any type of avalanche danger and proceeded to do to the hike.

I stopped in the visitors center for one last check. The lady explained a storm was on the way so I needed to hurry and that the hike was a 37% grade. I grabbed my crap and hit the trail.

37% grade…. just call it what it is! This was a scramble. I used my hands for 50% of the hike.

The “Hiking” Trail… SCRAMBLING

Luckily there was an easier path down I planned to use. I made it through the brush and had an easy 20 minutes or so of just steep incline but no scrambling.

Mid-Way View

Then came the scariest part. The path went straight up along a narrow, fully exposed ridge. If you took one wrong step you were in trouble. I take my time in areas like this and had my hands out the entire time. I probably looked ridiculous, but I made it safely!

The Last Section

That view! The mountains still had some snow and were surrounded by storm clouds creating a dramatic view. These nice hikers entertained my wish to have a picture on top of a rock. I’m usually against asking people to to do that, but it was my last day sooo.

Made it!
Hello World!
Avalanche Peak Pano

As I ate, a kea bird randomly showed up. I quickly picked up all of my food so he couldn’t get it like last time. The other people were holding out their hands to the bird. I told them they were crazy. Those birds can eat car tires!

The Mischievous Kea ( Also a delicious IPA by the way)

The storm clouds started moving over the mountain peaks so I made my way down.

Here Comes the Storm!

The other path down seemed sketchier than the way up. The path was narrower with more problem areas. Then the rain came. It never came down as more than a strong sprinkle, but it was enough to wet the trail. I slowed down to be careful. Then came the sadness. It all hit me at once that the trip was ending and this was my last hike. I started dragging my feet and struggling to finish the hike.

By the time I made it down, the full rain started to go along nicely with my mood. I pulled myself into the car and drove the rest of the way to Christchurch in heavy rain.

I was exhausted. What do most people do on their last night of a long trip? I have no idea, but I just wanted to eat really fast and go to bed. I found the closest place and got some sliders and veggies. I stayed in the old jailhouse. The walls were high and rooms quite spacious. I somehow got a single bed and they had high speed internet. Heaven! I watched an episode of Black Mirror which was a huge mistake. Watching a depressing show while you are feeling depressed is not s good combination. I switched to Brooklyn 99 and fell asleep.

BYE

December 14th, 2017

Today was the day. The end of an epic journey. It felt unreal to be going home. I didn’t have any hotels to book or activities to plan. I simply had to get home. Such a weird feeling.

I packed my stuff and headed for the airport. That was that.

THANK YOU FOR FOLLOWING MY TRIP!

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New Zealand: Part 1 – Christchurch, Queenstown, and Nearing the End

WELCOME TO KIWI LAND

December 6th, 2017

I got into Christchurch at 1 AM, easily got to my Airbnb, and wanted to call it a night. The door was locked and I didn’t have service to message the people. They mentioned they would leave the key in the mail box if they weren’t awake. I walked around the mail box trying to open the top having no luck. I knocked and this giant dude in his underwater opened the door and smiled asking if I was the new Airbnb person. Thank goodness they answered!

It turned out he was another guest and I accidentally woke him up. The host got up a couple minutes later to show me around and give me the Wi-Fi for Netflix watching. She was in a nightgown and looked like a hot mess. Poor thing be woken up at 1 AM. I guess the mail box opened in the back and my silly brain couldn’t figure it out.

The house was kind of trashed. There was a sewing room when you walk in with crap everywhere and an office following the trend. The bathroom seemed to be decently clean and my room looked ok. It was a safe place to pass out.  

8 hours later….

I woke up as sleepy as can be. I had plans for the day but really wasn’t feeling up for anything. I rolled around in bed until 11:30 AM when I was finally hungry enough to get up. I found a vegetarian Indian restaurant and started walking that way. All I had to do was make it to lunch, take out money, and buy a SIM card.

The Lotus-Heart was really far away. Like a whole 30 minutes of walking when I had a car… I needed the exercise so I’m happy I walked. The service and food were great and a bank was close by.

Mmm Indian Food

On the walk back home, I passed a grocery store and decided to get my SIM card from there as I had in Australia. Boom – all my chores were done by 1:30 PM.

I put the SIM card in and nothing happened. I’d say I played with it for an hour before admitting defeat. There was a cellular store a couple miles away i annoyingly now needed to visit. I took my rental car and went on my way. It turned out the SIM I bought from the grocery store was expired. The nice guy at Vodafone got me a new one and helped me set it up. THEN, my chores were done.

I spent the rest of the day trying to avoid humans and editing pictures. I got hungry again and got myself to check out a close by asian fusion place. I guess I was in an Asian food mood.

Once back in the safety of my room, my hosts boyfriend walked by and said hello. He then proceeded to tell me the bed I had slept in the night before and was currently laying in was the wrong bed as he didn’t change it from the last tenant. WHAT. There were two beds in the room and both were nicely made when I walked in. Why even tell me that now?? And why didn’t you change the sheets if you knew I was coming?? Whatever. I’d slept in worse, I just wish I didn’t know.

I slept in the same bed because it was less creepy hehe.

OFF TO THE WILD

December 7th, 2017

I got up as early as my body would rise to get out of the weird house. The itinerary for the day was simply to drive to queenstown.  A 6 hour drive and maybe laundry?

I hit the road at 8 AM with new podcasts and music for the ride. I made it a whopping hour before my plan changed. I wanted to see everything and had already nixed the west coast so I didn’t over do it. I looked at my course for the day and found I would pass close by Mt Cook. I originally planned to visit the area on my last day before going back to Christchurch. The sun was shining and I felt I couldn’t pass the chance to see a clear sky around Mt Cook.

I decided to do a 3 hour hike up to Hooker Lake and add 2 hours of driving to the day. The sun didn’t set until 9 PM so I had plenty of day light. This way I could also change my initial plans and see the west coast my last day! Yay! Everybody wins!

Driving through New Zealand in their spring should go on everyone’s bucket list. These amazing wildflowers called lupins lined the road and steams. I pulled over to take a picture of an entire meadow filled with lupins.

The Meadow of Lupins
LUPINS!

Lake Pukaki soon came into site with Mt Cook looming in the distance. I pulled over for more pictures, put the windows down, cranked my music, and turned right to head straight for the tallest peak in New Zealand.

Lake Pukaki

I stopped at a shop near the Hooker Valley trail head for a burger and some fries. I figured I’d burn it off on a six mile hike right? Kind of?

The Hooker Valley hike leading to a scenic overlook of Mt Cook and a glacier lake is easily accessible and a flat hike. It’s amazing how such an easy hike can lead to a tremendous view. I constantly kept me camera in my hand not knowing what would come next on the hike.

Hooker Valley Track
Suspension Bridges on the Hooker Valley Track
Mueller Lake
Glacial River and Mt Cook
Approaching Mt Cook
HELLO MT COOK
Hooker Lake and Mt Cook

I got back to my car at 6 PM with 3 more hours of driving ahead. I had half of a Subway sandwich for dinner and enjoyed a story about the serial killer HH Holmes while finishing the drive to Queenstown.

I arrived just in time for sunset. It was beautiful. Everyone crowded the beach with their friends drinking beer while the sun dropped. I felt a sting of loneliness in this moment.

Queenstown Sunset

I checked into my hostel and was greeted by a friendly group in my room. They all seemed quiet and ready for bed. Just my style. I’d say we were all headed to bed by 11 PM – then I heard the freight train below me. This somehow was my first snorer I’d encountered in a hostel. WOW – did he make up for all the other nights I’d been lucky.

I unfortunately think he had sleep apnea as he went silent for ten seconds before bellowing the loudest snore ever. I think I would have slept better if there was a rhythm to the snoring instead of loud bursts.

Needless to say… I didn’t sleep.

December 8th, 2017

Brain fooogggg

I popped out of bed as soon as the sun came up ready to get away from the snoring. I had a hike planned for the day and would just start earlier than anticipated.

My hike for the day was to Ben Lomond summit. Google had it marked, so I selected the trail on my map and had it navigate me there. It turned out google was wrong but it led me to a nice coffee shop. I quickly found the right trail head and drove the 2 miles to the new location.

When I pulled up, I couldn’t figure out the parking signs. Another girl couldn’t either and hopped out of her car to ask someone. They directed us to a free parking lot and off we went. I thanked her as she started up the mountain and I finished my coffee.

I couldn’t quite get all the coffee down so I just took it with! Walking with a cup of coffee straight up hill is not fun. The first part of the trail climbed up to a point a chairlift would easily take you, but  it was not running just yet. Plus, you have to do the whole hike or else!

I met back up with that same parking lot girl around the top of the chair lift. We started talking and I decided to hike with her. She was a very interesting person. She lived in New Hampshire with her boyfriend but was currently traveling around New Zealand for 6 months with a program called WWOOF. Organic farmers would hire people for a free room and food using this service. Seemed intriguing… Rachel was the girls name and she worked as recovery therapist before the big trip. She didn’t know if she wanted to return to her old job and was loving her time in New Zealand.

Lake Wakatipu from the Chairlift

We kept climbing past the chair lift. What’s 1700-800?? 900. Ok ok. What’s 900 meters in feet??? 2952 feet. That was the elevation gain for the day. I didn’t really think about it since everything was in meters. I saw the summit and it all hit me. This was going to be a tough hike. Ok. We have this.

Rachel and I did a good job of keeping conversation going to distract us from our burning quads while the trail only traveled up. We finally made it to the summit for worthwhile views.

Mid-Way Up Ben Lomond
Ben Lomond Summit Pano
Ben Lomond Summit
Lake Wakatipu Pano

I sat down to eat my peanut butter sandwich and saw this bird coming toward me. It looked like a parrot/ hawk mix. I didn’t think much of it and the next thing I knew, the bird had my bag of nuts! Luckily it was too heavy for the bird to fly with so I was able to distract him with some bread while I grabbed the nuts.

I had another bread roll I tucked away from the bird so I could sit peacefully. I wanted some pictures and reopened my bag forgetting about the bird. A couple minutes later, my bread was gone, bag and all. 

It turns out they call these birds the mischievous Kea for all the trouble they cause.

We started back down with ease passing the poor souls making the climb up. My knees wanted to burst towards the end. Rachel and I both had the same hiking boots on and shared a mutual dislike for them. I planned to get a new pair when I got home. Thanks REI!

I said goodbye to Rachel at the base and walked back to my hostel to relax. I took a quick shower and headed to the common area to use the free wifi they offered from 8 am to 8 pm. I got a blog post done only having one melt down when I thought the internet went out and it didn’t save. Then I attempted to download some podcasts for the next day but couldn’t get them to go for some reason.

I went back to the room facing the snorer. It turns out he was an annoying human too. I really wish he would sleep in private rooms or do something about his snoring.

I dodged any conversation with him and headed out to a beer cafe called Atlas for dinner.

I ordered an IPA and some braised short ribs. I sat my butt down on a bar stool fully prepared to play with my phone until the food got there. The older man next to me started talking to me and I went with it. He was a local working in a tattoo shop. He had tons of funny stories and was a good source of entrainment. I think he wanted to hang out more,  so I took this as my opportunity to stand up and leave – after I ate of course. Not today or ever buddy.

It was a good day. Then I drugged myself and put in ear plugs to try and sleep.

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Melbourne and the Five Weirdest Days

HELLO BIG CITY

November 30th, 2017

I landed safely in Melbourne, jumped on the sky bus, and let the weird begin. I booked a hostel right on the main drag as it had the best ratings and a good location. What I didn’t do was read the details. I arrived at the multi-story hostel above a bar and immediately regretted my decision. People I’d guess were about 20 sat outside of the hostel all smoking and being loud and probably drunk. Yay.

I checked into my 4 person female dorm discovering they didn’t have free wifi or a quiet place to chill. The dorm was clean and the much younger German girl sleeping on the bottom bunk by my head was nice. I wanted wifi to work on some things so I walked down stairs and bought the $10 24 hour package and retreated back up stairs. I couldn’t get it to work. Wa wa wa. The front desk said the bar below had free wifi so I just went there and paid $9 for a beer so I could enjoy their “free wifi”. The hostel offered free dinner on Thursday’s which sounded great to my budget traveling self. I worked on booking the remainder of my trip at the bar until dinner time came.

I took the elevator up to the hostel kitchen, saw the massive crowd probably waiting 30 minutes for some pesto pasta, and just closed the door on the elevator and exited the hostel to find my own dinner. I obviously didn’t feel like socializing. I was able to escape a little at most hostels I’d been to, but this one was so massive, people were everywhere. I quickly found a chain burrito place, ate some dinner, and climbed into bed. I had some podcasts I could listen to for entertainment. I tied my scarf around my face to block the inevitable light from when my roommates came in drunk at 2 AM, and went to sleep.

December 1st, 2017

I woke up to my roommate accidentally kicking me in the head. I kept moving down in my bed to avoid her feet. I felt ok. I’d say I got about 5 hours of sleep or so. When I got up to get my computer out of my locker, I walked past my roommates bed and noticed she slept with her head towards me, not her feet. There was a sheet separating us so I couldn’t see while I was laying down. I also discovered she brought a guy home and it was his head that kept bumping into me while they were doing who knows what. It’s like we were all cuddling together.

I knew after this moment I couldn’t stay in that hostel much longer and made my way down stairs for the free breakfast and to plan. I talked with the front desk and found out they couldn’t refund me, but they could give me a voucher I could sell to someone else. Oh joy.

While eating my unfrosted flakes, I realized I could reach the bars free wifi signal from the window seat. YES! I quickly booked two over priced camp sites at the 12 Apostles and Wilson’s Prom with a nice single room the night between. I then rented a car and just planned to sleep in it. It couldn’t be any worse than this place. I also  planned my day to see all the sites. There was only one problem – the state of Victoria ( where I was) was predicted to get an entire seasons worth of rain in three days. I put on my rain coat and went out the door.

My first stop was lunch at a popular place called Naked for Satan. The restaurant sits in the Fitzroy neighborhood full of cute little shops, hipsters, and culture. It was like East Nashville on crack. I really should have stayed there.

Fitzroy
Fitzroy

I enjoyed my $9 tapas and $20 cocktail on their rooftop terrace while the storm moved in.

Naked for Satan Carrot Salad
Naked for Satan Carrot Salad
Naked for Satan Meatballs and Drink
Naked for Satan Meatballs and Drink
View of Melbourne from Naked for Satan

By the time I finished, the storm had landed. I had a lot of ground to cover so I powered through the rain to see a church and the old prison called the Gaol.

St. Patrick's Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral

I was soaked when I arrived at the prison. Rain ran down my legs into my water proof boots forming pools around my feet. My pack took a hit but everything at the top felt dry. I had my camera in a waterproof bag just in case.

I made my way into the creepy place and stepped foot in the first cell. Each cell had the story of an inmate or some creepy doll or mannequin. The whole place was dimly lit and with hardly anyone there, it creeped me out.

The Gaol
The Gaol
A Cell
A Cell
Creepy Inmate Head Cast
Creepy Inmate Head Cast
Inmate Information
Inmate Information

While reading the story of an inmate, I started hearing an intense clicking from my pack. It about scared me half to death as I had no idea what it could have possibly been besides a ghost. It was definitely a ghost. I walked out to nearest bench and started digging though my pack. My heart sank. The sound was my camera shutter rapidly closing even though the camera was off. I ripped the battery out to stop the sound and saw the water. My pack was water resistant enough to hold a puddle of water in the bottom that must have come through the top. My water proof camera bag had a tiny tear in it perfectly placed to let the water in. NOOOOO. I couldn’t even let myself think about the possibility of my camera being dead. I quickly freaked myself out looking around the rest of the prison and then headed straight back to the hostel.

I held my camera safely under my rain coat on the way home. Melbourne has a free tram so I jumped on that to carry me home out of the rain. Once home, I opened every port in the camera and searched for water. There didn’t seem to be any behind the lens, but there was some in the SD card and charging ports. I held the camera under our hand dryer for a while and then set it aside and hoped for the best. I decided to let it sit over night and test it in the AM.

I found a nearby brewery and headed there to enjoy good beer and forget my odd day. The rain had let up. It turned out I was walking around during the worst of it. Genius.

Colonial Brewery sits in an industrial park just outside he city. The tram took me close, but I still had to walk a good 10 minutes past businesses and shops. No one else was walking around so it felt weird. When I arrived, a huge crowd of business people were inside. I felt like I was crashing a work party which would have been fine if the beer and food were free! I made my way to the bar hoping to just sit up there and tinker on my phone.

Colonial Brewery
Colonial Brewery

They didn’t have bar seating, only couches to lounge on. Every seat was reserved except for this green couch and chairs. I took a seat on the couch and started in on my delicious fried chicken sandwich and beer.

Fried Chicken and Fries
Fried Chicken and Fries

Some guy asked if he could sit in the chair across from me.. of course! Then his friends showed up and needed somewhere to sit. I kindly offered up the rest of the couch and moved to the corner. I kind of thought they would try to talk to me, but the guy squeezed next to me turned his back at me and just talked to his buddies. It was so awkward. Just me sitting in the corner trying to finish my super messy meal. I quickly finished my mean and just got up, got a different beer, and sat my ass in one of the secluded reserved areas. The people could ask me to leave if they wanted!

The brewery was super cool, I would just recommend going with friends. I would definitely go back with company!

I made my way back to my lovely hostel. The other two girls in the room were up packing and listening to music. Old grumpy Molly asked them to turn it down a bit, covered my eyes, and went to sleep.

CAR CAMPING TIME

December 2nd, 2017

I woke up at 6 AM and immediately put my camera back together to see what the damage was. I planned to rent one if it had died. IT WORKED!! YAY.

I proceeded down stairs to write a blog post huddled next to free wifi window and then peaced out! Right before I left, I awkwardly interrupted this guy buying some extra nights at the hostel to see if he wanted to buy my voucher. I had actually seen the guy earlier and must have accidentally made a face at him as he got on the elevator. He looked like he had just been hit by a train from whatever he did the night before. He actually apologized for his appearance! I felt so bad! I must learn to control my reactions. The guy was so nice and offered to buy the full $92 voucher. I definitely didn’t expect that and handed him $20 back. I would have sold it for $40. #winning.

I really felt like things were turning around this morning. Not that things weren’t good, it had just been an odd couple of days. I grabbed all my stuff and headed out the door to see the 12 Apostles.

The guy at the Budget Rental Car counter was overly nice and made my day. They gave me a great automatic car I had to maneuver on the opposite of the road. It really wasn’t too difficult. The hardest part was making sure you approached the car on the correct side. I walked to the wrong side at least a dozen times. The only other time I got tripped up was when I hit an empty road. I was cruising down a 2 lane hilly road and panicked for a second as I went over a hill thinking I was on the wrong side!

I made a pit stop at McDonalds because I wanted to see if a Big Mac was actually as good as I remembered it being. It’s not. I did not enjoy it and felt disgusting after eating it. *Sigh*.

I enjoyed the drive while listening to a podcast called Home Coming. Three hours later, I made it to my camp site. The storm was still very active producing strong winds and some rain. It was also freezing. I came close to requesting a more expensive room to avoid the cold car camping. They didn’t have any rooms so the car it would have to be! I kind of looked forward to sleeping in the car…

Once I was all checked in, I made the short drive to the 12 Apostles. Ahhh, so pretty! Totally worth whatever was happening with the weather. Hardly anyone was there and the giant waves created this surreal image. I could have stayed there forever watching the waves, but then I got cold.

A Stormy Day at the 12 Apostles
A Stormy Day at the 12 Apostles
Storm Waves
Storm Waves
More 12 Apostles
More 12 Apostles

There were tons of other sites around the area to see that I would get to the next day. I drove my tired butt back to the campsite to relax. I ate my wraps for dinner and listened to more podcasts. I saw the clouds were clearing slightly just before sunset. I jumped in the drivers seat and made my way back to the 12 Apostles to see the setting sun! I didn’t get to see much… oh well. Back to camp.

Sunset at 12 Apostles
Sunset at 12 Apostles

I tossed on multiple layers and curled up under my two coats. I woke up three hours later freezing with intense hip pain. I turned the car on for some heat and tried to figure my hip out. I guess my body just didn’t like the pressure from the seat. Once the car was warm, I turned it back off and found a way to lay on my back with my legs extended. I got another three hours of sleep before I had to get up.

December 3rd, 2017

The wind was still crazy and the temperature no warmer. I decided to quickly see the sites and head back to warmth. I had a private room waiting for me back in Melbourne. 

The weather cleared up slightly and I got to see the 12 Apostles with sunshine, Loch and Gorge where an old ship wreck took place, the Arch, and my favorite, the London Bridge.

Sunny 12 Apostles
Sunny 12 Apostles
Lock and Gorge
Lock and Gorge
Loch and Gorge Beach
Loch and Gorge Beach
The Arch
The Arch
London Bridge
London Bridge

The spot is called the London bridge because the island used to be connected to the main land with a land bridge. In 1990, the bridge collapsed without harming anyone but stranding two people on the island. They were quickly rescued by a nearby helicopter. That’s so cool! Those people got to witness millions of years of geology come to an end!

After the London Bridge, I stopped at Thunder Cave and the Gibson Steps Beach.

Thunder Cave Cove
Thunder Cave Cove
Thunder Cave
Thunder Cave
Gibson Steps Beach
Gibson Steps Beach
Gibson Steps Beach Birds
Gibson Steps Beach Birds

That was the end of my 12 Apostles journey. I didn’t want to leave. The drive back was nice though.

Great Ocean Road Trees
Great Ocean Road Trees
Great Ocean Road Forest
Great Ocean Road Forest

I drove straight to my hostel in a different hip area called Richmond. The building was super creepy and cold. Oh, they also didn’t have free wifi. COME ON PEOPLE. I switched on my hotspot and started working on my computer via my 4 gig SIM card. I checked my usage when I was done and found out I nearly used up the SIM. DANG IT! The silly things I do sometimes.

Matt was coming back from camping with his friend and I made plans to meet up and get dinner. I forced myself to shower (I’m gross) and found the water to be freezing. Ugh. I did my best and ended up with some hot water for a minute or two. I just wanted to be warm!

I made my way over to Matt and saw the brand new, great location, and WARM apartment he was staying at. I took his offer to stay there immediately.

We went out and got some Ramen and then just watched Brooklyn 99 before making it an early night.

ONE LAST DAY

December 4th, 2017

I had two beers the night before and felt like crap. TWO BEERS. Oh well. I got myself together, trammed back to my creepy hostel, and grabbed my stuff. Byyyeeee. Miss you never.

Matt and I got breakfast tacos before making our way to an animal sanctuary and the yarra wine region. I hadn’t seen any koalas this trip and really looked forward to spotting some and the rest of Australia’s bizarre wild life.

It was still raining. We walked around the park taking shelter durning the storms. The koalas were super active and put on a great show! They are just so lovely 🙂 We also saw echidnas, emus, a cassowary, a platypus trying to itch his back, and some wallabys. It was great.

Koala
Koala
Model Koala
Model Koala
Emu
Emu
A Platypus Scratching His Back
A Platypus Scratching His Back
Echidnas
Echidnas
Sleepy Wallaby
Sleepy Wallaby
Grooming Wallaby
Grooming Wallaby
Pelican
Pelican
Stilt Bird
Stilt Bird
Kookaburra
Kookaburra

Then Matt found some wineries to visit. We joked if they would be open after our Italy wine country experience. The first place called Dominque’s was open and had a $5 tasting. Yes! I loved the wine.

Then we made our way to Many Hands winery for another tasting and some pizza. We walked in and the staff were all lounging enjoying a glass of wine after they said a big group had just left. The owner was hilarious and quickly got up to let us taste some wine. This place specialized in Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz. They hand picked all of their grapes and made the wine the old fashioned way. We tasted a couple different years of the Chardonnay and one tasted like popcorn. So odd. The Cab Savs were yummy as always. Then came the Shiraz. I’d say it was the best wine I had ever tasted or at least was really really good.

Many Hands Winery
Many Hands Winery
The View from Many Hands
The View from Many Hands

After the tasting, we ordered a pizza and sat down to relax. The owner asked who was driving and I pointed at Matt and got myself a free glass of wine. The owner chatted with us for a bit and then gave us a bottle of the Shiraz. He said he could see how much we enjoyed the wine and wanted us to have it. I love nice people. This kind act really woke me up and pushed me out of the rut I had dug myself into. It might have just been a bottle of wine,  but it reminded me of all the kind people I had encountered during the trip and that I have in my life. I felt all the feels.

We got home and enjoyed one last cup of wine while watching the sun set. I ran out and got us some Mexican takeaway and called it a night.

Sunset in Fitzroy
Sunset in Fitzroy

FINAL GOODBYES

November 5th, 2017

This was an emotional day. I was leaving the wonderful country of Australia, saying goodbye to Matt, and wrapping up the trip with one more country. We woke up and started the emotional roller coaster by saying goodbye to Matt’s friend Alix. We went and had a breakfast that reminded me of Morocco and how far we had traveled. Then Matt packed up his stuff and off he went. I would miss my travel buddy.

I had a couple hours to hang out at Alix’s place before my flight to New Zealand. I pulled myself together and drew up a tentative plan for my last stop. I really didn’t want to leave or to have the trip come to an end. I guess all good things come to an end.

Bye Melbourne
Bye Melbourne
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Port Douglas and The Great Barrier Reef

One Last Look at the 4 Mile Beach

WELCOME TO PARADISE

November 25th, 2017

The air felt crisper when I stepped outside of the airport. We arrived in Cairns, Australia at 6 AM and immediately took a shuttle up to Port Douglas. There wasn’t any traffic and the town seemed deserted. I was in pure heaven.

We couldn’t check into our Airbnb until noon, so we found a park right next to our place and took a nap. It was such a peaceful experience to be outside relaxing with no one bothering you.

Park Napping
Park Napping

Our Airbnb host messaged me saying the room was ready early and the cleaning people needed a tip for going out of their way. I thought this was a weird thing to say, but I didn’t mind tipping someone for their hard work.

We napped for a hot second and then headed out the door for a $50 lunch. We weren’t in Southeast Asia anymore! I realized we could walk the beach back to our place so we did just that. Wow. The 4-mile beach at port Douglas has to be a top rated beach in the world.

Beach Walks
Beach Walks

You really shouldn’t swim there because of crocodile and jellyfish potential. I don’t actually like swimming at beaches so this place was perfect! I had been to Port Douglas 10 year before this moment and forgot how stunningly beautiful it is. The small town atmosphere and lovely scenery really drew me to love the spot. I actually extended our stay by two days after seeing the beach.

We watched some Netflix on our first high speed internet in a while. Then we made our way to the store to get stuff for dinner and breakfast the next couple days. Staying in and eating a home cooked meal was just what the doctor ordered.

DIVE TIME

November 26th, 2017

The big day. We booked three dives for the day on the very same boat I went out on 10 yeas previous. I had been talking it up knowing the dives would live up to the hype. Every dive I’ve gone on I always compared to my time at the Great Barrier Reef and nothing quite beat it.

The Poseidon!
The Poseidon!

We climbed aboard for our dive briefing and 1.5 hour journey to the Agincourt Ribbon Reefs. The waters were calm and the sun deck nice and warm.

The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef

As we neared the dive site, they had the divers start gearing up. We had to wear “stinger suits” to protect us from a small jelly fish bite that will land you in the hospital. These suits were blue the last time I dove on the Poseidon and would form a bubble in the hood on your head from your air.

Me Diving with Poseidon in 2007
Me Diving with Poseidon in 2008

Today, they’ve changed them to a classier black color and all the cool people don’t wear the hood. The hood actually kind of strangles you so I happily tucked it away. I put my wet suit on, climbed into my bcd, and pulled the most uncomfortable fins clearly made for narrow footed people over my bunions before getting in line to jump in. Our first site was called “the point” because of the airel shape of the reef.

I took my long stride into the ocean and immediately started looking around. I couldn’t see much and impatiently waited for everyone else to get ready for the decent.

We arrived at the reef and my heart sank. Where were all the fish? Is that what coral is supposed to look like? We swam though the site barely seeing any marine life. This was not the reef I remembered. I would have considered it a bad dive compared to everything else I had seen. The visibility wasn’t great and it was overcast which could have had an effect on the dive site quality. With that being said, I think the coral was all dead. Or dying and the fish had left. I’m not a marine biologist, but the reef didn’t look good.

The First Dive Views
The First Dive Views
Is This Coral Ok?
Is This Coral Ok?
Dead
Dead

On the ship, I expressed my concern for the reef and no one seemed to agree with me. They all just smiled and said the reef was ok. Our dive master seemed pumped about the dive so maybe I was missing something.

They amped us up for the next dive and their energy rubbed off on me. We were doing a one way dive at a spot they rarely visited. We jumped off the moving boat with strict instruction to “SWIM AWAY FROM THE BOAT”. The waves were huge and fun to float over. We quickly went down to avoid being carried by the current. We cruised along a breath taking wall of coral. The coral looked ok, but there still weren’t many fish. We did see a shark which was cool. I just could remember all these colors and tons of vibrant giant clams from my last visit. Maybe I was remembering wrong. It was 10 years ago and my first ocean dive. Who knows.

The Coral Shelf
The Coral Shelf
Stunning Coral
Stunning Coral
More Beauty
More Beauty
Coral Close Up
Coral Close Up
Some Fish!
Some Fish!

The dive master led us through this little canyon they had never taken anyone before. It’s was ok. Matt and I ran into each other while swimming through… whoops.

The last dive had similar corals to the first dive. We saw another shark trying to nap and a hump head parrot fish. The dive group nearly sprinted through the dive. You aren’t supposed to do that while diving to conserve air and  to not spook the wildlife. It was such a weird dive day.

Napping Shark
Napping Shark
More Coral
More Coral

And that was that. I left feeling extremely depressed and pissed off at man kind. I knew estimates of as high as 50% of the reef had died, but I guess I hoped deep down it wasn’t true. I couldn’t really infer anything from the dives especially since I can’t identify living versus dead coral. All I know is the diving was disappointing.

We went to a brewery at the marina for some IPAs and chicken wings. Then we walked back to relax. We had another day of diving ahead. Hopefully it would be a better day.

Sunset at the Marina
Sunset at the Marina

November 27th, 2017

I honestly wasn’t looking forward to the dives today. The dive boat was double the price of anything we had done so far and the dives depressed me. I also still didn’t feel great and just wanted to blob. The trip was already paid forcing me up and making my way to the marina.

There was a different dive crew that seemed more my pace. I had bonded with a crew member I was talking to the day before about an old grouper named Daisy they used to see ( she’s probably dead :(). He might have been working on the boat when I was there!

Daisy!
Daisy! ( From my dive trip in 2008)

Anyway, he said I would love the first dive all excitedly. I pulled myself out of my rut and got ready for the first dive. I also rented a camera hoping I could get better videos of the reef.

The guy was right. We dove around this huge “bommie” a bit away from the main reef.

The Path to the Bommie
The Path to the Bommie

These huge barracuda greeted us. I have a slight fear of barracuda. They seem unpredictable and will chase shiny things like jewelry.

Large Barracuda at the Bommie
Large Barracuda at the Bommie

The visibility still wasn’t great which I attributed to it being summer vs the winter the last time I was there. I would have to google later.

I fell behind the group trying to take a million pictures and soak the coral views in. I turned a corner quickly to catch up and a school of smaller barracuda were swimming right at me. I was afraid. I somehow managed to turn the camera on as I froze not knowing what to do. In the process, I guess I was holding my breath ( a huge no no while diving) because I sank right to the bottom.

The School of Barracuda that Came at Me
The School of Barracuda that Came at Me

I snapped out of it as the dive master started shaking his noise maker at me. We weren’t supposed to go below 18 meters and I was sitting at 24. I got a talking to after the dive and said I would do better the next time. It also turns out barracuda are harmless soooo yeah. 

The Bommie Wall
The Bommie Wall
Fish at the Bommie
Fish at the Bommie
School of Fish at the Bommie
School of Fish at the Bommie
Bommie Fish
Bommie Fish
A Sea Squirt
A Sea Squirt

At the end of the dive, we made our way to shallower waters revealing what I would classify as damaged coral. I did see little baby clown fish. Clown fish are endangered on the reef after Finding Nemo came out and everyone wanted a clown fish of their own. I seriously kind of hate people.

Shallow Coral
Shallow Coral

That was my favorite dive this time around in Australia.

The second dive was a drift dive. We saw some sharks and had a good time just floating around upside down while the current carried us.

The last dive would have been my favorite of the trip if the reef wasn’t in such bad shape. The dive called “the maze” was shallow weaving between various reef structures over a sandy bottom. I love shallow dives because of the visibility and sandy bottoms generally have fun creature lurking around them. We saw more sharks and a couple giant clams. The clams didn’t have the same vibrant colors I remembered.

Giant Clam from 2008
Giant Clam from 2008
Corals
Corals
Giant Clam Sighting!
Giant Clam Sighting!
Met Getting in the Way of Matt Taking a Picture
Met Getting in the Way of Matt Taking a Picture of the Same Giant Clam
Clown Fish
Clown Fish
Soft Coral
Soft Coral
Puffer
Puffer
More Coral
More Coral
Another Giant Clam!
Another Giant Clam!
Nudie Branch
Nudie Branch
Ball of Fish
Ball of Fish
Dead Giant Clam
Dead Giant Clam
Me Capturing the Coral
Me Capturing the Coral
Is the Coral OK???
Is the Coral OK???
Coral Cove
Coral Cove
Coral Arch
Coral Arch
Oh the Giant Clams
Oh the Giant Clams

I asked our dive master his thoughts about the reef. He said it wasn’t as bad as the media was claiming. He went on to say bleaching is a natural process but is now happening too often and could eventually kill the reef in 50 or so years. When natural bleaching happens, new corals can form on the old skeletons promoting overall growth. If bleaching happens too quickly, the new corals can’t grow fast enough. He also mentioned corals can recover from bleaching if the water temperatures drop back down after a month or so. The other issue with the reef is recent powerful cyclones that hit the year before. They caused a lot of destruction that we saw. GLOBAL WARMING.

I have no idea if he is right or not. I got all my knowledge from “Chasing Coral” who claim bleaching is a huge concern and could wipe out the reef in a couple years. I looked forward to forming my own option through research.

We went back for beers after the dive and then just ate at home.

LEARNING TO RELAX

 

November 28th, 2017

We slept in and ate a huge breakfast of potatoes, bacon, and eggs. Big mistake. We could barely move afterwards and had a lazy day. I took a couple walks on the beach while Matt stayed home. He wasn’t feeling well.

Plumeria Flowers
Plumeria Flowers
Reflections
Reflections
Stormy Day in Port Douglas
Stormy Day in Port Douglas

We ate dinner at a pho place and that’s about it. I debated diving or a rainforest visit for our last day. I decided on the rain forest remembering it was quite impressive during my last trip to the area.

November 29th, 2017

We woke up early for a decent sunrise. Matt still wasn’t feeling good and now had extreme pain in his ear. He eventually decided to go to the doctor instead of the rainforest tour.

Early Port Douglas Sunrise
Early Port Douglas Sunrise
Port Douglas Sunrises
Port Douglas Sunrises

I left on the tour after lunch. My tour guide was this bubbly older man who loved to talk. It was refreshing to listen to someone teaching you tidbits about the area so I didn’t have to try and talk to the people around me. I was having an introverted day.

We arrived to our first stop, the Daintree River. We were taking a boat around for an hour I thought to learn a bunch of stuff. We learned a little and mostly just searched for crocodiles. We saw a baby one… eh.

Cruise on the Daintree River
Cruise on the Daintree River
Daintree River
Daintree River
Baby Croc
Baby Croc: He’s in the middle, you can make out his tail and go form there
Tree Frog
Tree Frog
Mangrove Roots
Mangrove Roots

Next was a swimming hole in the rainforest and a small walk. Our guide did a great job teaching us, but the whole thing was very underwhelming. Maybe I was just feeling blah. Who knows.

Rain Forest Trees
Rain Forest Trees
Fern Nests
Fern Nests
Mossman Gorge Swimming Hole
Mossman Gorge Swimming Hole

I really wished I had gone on this snorkeling trip my cousin mentioned instead. I could have spent my time learning more about the reef. I guess I’ll just have to go back one day 😉

I made it home to find Matt alive and diagnosed with an ear infection. Multi-day dive trips are hard on the ears!

We ate some kebabs, drank a bit of ok wine, and watched Chasing Coral.

GOODBYE MY LOVE

November 30th, 2017

We had an early shuttle to the airport for our 11 AM flight. I went out to the beach one last for one last look.

One Last Look at the 4 Mile Beach
One Last Look at the 4 Mile Beach
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Bali: Part 2

A QUICK TRIP TO UBUD

November 21st, 2017

We traveled up to Ubud for the day. An old friend of mine named Patrick I had not seen since my sophomore year in college connected with me via Facebook and said he was in Ubud. The beauty of Facebook. Patrick arranged a driver named Dwi to pick Matt and I up and tour us around the Ubud area for the day. We planned to meet up with Patrick at a waterfall around mid-day.

The first stop was the temple Tirta Empul for the bath house. Matt and I waked around gawking at the beautiful yet dark architecture.

Tirta Empul Entrance
Tirta Empul Entrance
Tirta Empul Gate
Tirta Empul Gate
Tirta Empul Wall
Tirta Empul Wall
Tirta Empul Sculptures
Tirta Empul Sculptures

At the end of our visit, we changed into green robes and headed to the bath. The waters came from a natural spring and were considered holy waters by the Balinese Hindus. They used they water for purification rituals.

Tirta Empul Spring
Tirta Empul Spring
Tirta Empul Bath Gate
Tirta Empul Bath Gate
Tirta Empul Bath
Tirta Empul Bath
Bath Time!
Bath Time!

Matt and I watched everyone dunking their heads under the fountains and followed. I wasn’t sure what to do so I thought of things I was thankful for with every dunk. I mostly thought of my health and safety and my wonderful support system.

At one point, we both went under one fountain and someone told us to skip that one and the next one as they were for “dead people”. Maybe they meant people in mourning? I was so happy they told us yet embarrassed to be that dumb tourist. I loved the whole experience.

Then, it started raining. We made a 5 second pit stop at the rice patties for a picture. You could go into the patties, but it was expensive and the view was good enough for me.

The Rice Patties
The Rice Patties

Patrick had already left the waterfall at this point because of the rain. We decided to skip the waterfall and pick Patrick up at his hotel and grab some lunch.

Patrick took us to a vegetarian place with a cool atmosphere. He told Matt and I about how he quit his job and his adventures and how he was filming various retreats to make some money and gain free travel. He plans to continue his journey on the road indefinitely with the hopes his new idea that I won’t disclose takes off fabulously.

After lunch came the best part of the day. Patrick taught Matt and I a little acro yoga or yoga with acrobatic moves. The first move was to “fly” where you lean on the “bases” legs and they lift you up. It’s basically what you dad did for you as a kid with a fancier name. I can’t remember what all the poses were called, but Patrick had Matt and I completely out of our comfort zones and flipping around in the air. The final move was called the “reverse star” where I had to blindly jump upside down on to Patrick’s feet. Luckily his friend Tiffany was there to spot me. We left without any broken bones.

The last stop of the day was a coffee and tea producer. They taught us about coffee production in Indonesia and about Luwak coffee. A Luwak is a small rodent-like animal that eats the coffee beans, ferments them a bit in its stomach, and then poops them out. This company and other coffee companies gather the pooped out coffee beans, clean them, and roast them as a luxury coffee. We tried it. It was ok. Indonesian coffee is too strong for me, but I left with some tea.

Coffee Sampling
Coffee Sampling
Luwak Coffee
Luwak Coffee

A couple hours of traffic later, we felt a bit defeated not accomplishing all that we wanted for the day. Bali’s traffic makes days trips nearly impossible. Toss in the rainy season weather patterns, and you have a recipe for disaster. We quickly ate at the noddle place across the street and rested up for another long day of driving to our last dive spot.

The Noodle Shop
The Noodle Shop

ONE LAST DIVE IN BALI

November 22nd, 2017

Breaking news “Mt. Agung volcano has erupted”. That’s what Matt woke me up with. Our dive site for that day was a U.S. cargo ship wreck pushed into the water by that exact same volcano in 1963. We knew the volcano was on yellow alert and could erupt. The news said it was a small eruption and the bigger one was still to come. Hmmm. The dive shop didn’t contact us so we assumed is was still ok.

We had Ethel as our dive master again and he told us the police in the town we were headed to wouldn’t allow us in if the volcano was an issue. The clouds blocked our view of any smoke so we just assumed it was all ok.

Mt Agung
Mt Agung

We arrived in Tulamben 2 hours later and walked into the water for my first shore dive. The shallow waters provided some entertainment before we dropped to 30 meters and enjoyed the wreckage. The ship was hardly recognizable after over 4 decades under water. the U.S.A.T. Liberty was a cargo ship torpedoed by the Japanese in WWII. The U.S. towed the ship to near by Bali to salvage anything they could. The ship then sat on the shore of Tulamben, Bali until Mt. Agurg erupted in 1963 and pushed the ship into the water. The ships surfaces are now covered in coral and marine life for us to explore. 

Shore Dive!
Shore Dive!
The Wreck
The Wreck
Saddled Pufferfish
Saddled Pufferfish: These cute little guys are my new favorite fish followed by the boxfish
Divers At the Wreck
Divers at the Wreck
Wreckage
Wreckage
Another Batty!
The Top of the Wreck
The Top of the Wreck
An Old Hatch Door
An Old Hatch Door

We ate lunch just off shore. Immediately after, I didn’t feel so great. I hadn’t been feeling well for a couple days and had a horrible attitude. They say your gut controls your mood so now I’m a believer. I did the dive anyway and was fine.

We were back at the wreck being a bit more adventurous this time. We swam up into some tower-like structure and under the wreckage. A giant grouper swam passed us under the boat, but I didn’t quite get to see him. 

More Wreckage
More Wreckage
Giant Clam Sighting!
Giant Clam Sighting!
Inside the Ship
Inside the Ship
Unicorn Fish
Unicorn Fish

We got back exhausted and over the whole driving in Bali’s traffic thing. So why not book another driving adventure for the next day! We are really smart. We ate at the noodle place again and I laid down still not feeling that well.

MORE DRIVING AROUND

November 23rd, 2017

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

After seeing the coast line of Nusa Penida Island while diving at manta point, we decided to actually go to the isalnd. They say the island is similar to Bali before tourists took over. I told Matt I would rent a scooter even though I have a strict “no scooter policy”. A majority of the people I knew who rode scooters in foreign countries wrecked them. I really didn’t want to add my name to the list, but the island wasn’t crowded so this was the time to try.

I pre-booked a ferry which was a big mistake. There were tons of ferry companies and I could have just taken a cab there and bought a ticket on the spot and saved some money. Our prepaid driver walked us to our ferry leaving at “8:30 AM” which turned into 9:20 AM. This bummed me out since we didn’t have a lot of time. You had to wade onto the ferry and hope you wouldn’t get your shorts wet. The waves came up to some peoples waists. 

Once on Nusa Penida, the taxi drivers attacked. Each one was trying to give us a tour while we were simply attempting to find the bathroom. I had two guys hovering over me after I told them “no” multiple times. Ugh. Matt and I debated the scooter thing after the taxi drivers warned us of the horrible road conditions. I was tempted to enjoy the safety of a car, but Matt helped persuade me to rent a cheap scooter. $7 for all day!

I did a test lap on the scooter to finalize my decision. I felt like a baby deer wobbling around on this thing, but I felt good enough to ride. Riding a scooter for the first time reminded me of mountain biking or skiing for the first time. You are unbalanced and uncomfortable while you cruise around at high speeds. We also didn’t have helmets on which was the dumbest thing I had done all trip.

The roads were nicely paved at first. Matt navigated us around while I drove a safe 15 mph and let everyone pass. We made a turn and then came the pot holes. The road for half the trip was horrendous. I tried to zig zag through the water filled pot holes getting lucky not to have oncoming traffic.

Scootering
Scootering: Look at the road!

A couple tight turns required me to honk my horn to warn cars of my presence. There weren’t any cars and hardly any other scooters making the bumpy section not so bad.

We finally arrived to our only destination for the day, Kelingking beach. The view was gorgeous overlooking white sand beaches and clear blue waters all surrounded my shear cliffs.

Kelingking Beach
Kelingking Beach
Kelingking Beach Blue Waters
Kelingking Beach Blue Waters

Matt and I quickly ate a noodle lunch before heading down to the beach. A sketchy stairway led down to the white sand beach… if you survived.

About halfway down the stairs, my mind started running. The stairs were made of trees or bamboo tied down by rope. The railings where secured by god knows what and if they gave way, you would die. The cliff was too high to survive the fall. Matt was wearing flip flops and had taken them off and I was losing my confidence with every step. Then, the rain came and I called it quits. The beach didn’t look worth it and you couldn’t even go in the water because of strong currents. I turned around and Matt followed as his bare feet couldn’t get a good grip in the mud.

The rain stopped as soon as we got back to the top, but I stand by my decision to turn around. I braced myself for the ride back and jumped back on the scooter. There were more cars this time making me extremely nervous. I scared myself once when I tried to move over for a car and went off the road and again when I skid a little stopping. In the end, we made it safely back to the port and the scooter was fun. We hung out on the beach for a hot second before taking an early ferry home.

It was Thanksgiving day and we decided to keep with the tradition of overstuffing yourself with a 12 course meal for dinner. The ride to our dinner spot took an hour for 2 miles. This was the moment I never wanted to be in a car in Bali ever again. We were greeted by the friendliest staff who were  more excited about our meal than we were.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the meal as I have a small stomach. I think you are supposed to take your time with these meals and Matt and I did not. We scarfed down each course and the servers almost immediately brought the next one. Each course also came with a drink pairing. I figured it would be a sip of something because no one can drink 12 servings of alcohol and be ok. I was wrong. Most of the drinks were full servings. I had to tell the server to stop giving me full pours after the 4th. Woof. Here’s some of the food:

Suckling Pig
Suckling Pig
Sushi
Sushi
Falafel
Falafel
Steak
Steak
Dumplings
Dumplings

Matt couldn’t even finish the meal which is saying something. We split the final dessert served after two other desserts. We both sipped the dessert wine but had to leave the rest. That meal was intense.

We were both in pain and immediately passed out.  

November 24th, 2017

The last day in Bali 🙁 I honestly was excited to leave. I didn’t do a good job of planning this leg of the trip causing higher levels of exhaustion and wasted time. I also had been experiencing an upset stomach the past 5 days and just really didn’t feel like myself. Above all, the Great Barrier Reef was next and I couldn’t hold back my excitement for that.

We hired Dwi again to take us to a couple temples in the afternoon and then drop us off at the airport. The temples were amazing, but we were stuck in traffic 90% of the time making the experience annoying.

Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot Island Temple
Tanah Lot Island Temple
Tanah Lot Gate
Tanah Lot Gate
Tanah Lot Statue
Tanah Lot Statue
Uluwatu Temple
Uluwatu Temple
Uluwatu Monkey
Uluwatu Monkey
Uluwatu Ceremony
Uluwatu Ceremony

After Uluwatu, Dwi suggested a place for dinner to watch the sunset. It was storming so we wouldn’t see the sunset, but I was so tired I happily accepted his suggestion. I ended up googling the place to see the menu and immediately saw it was a tourist trap in the reviews. Ugh. I think the drivers got a commission to take people there or something. I found a different place and offered to buy Dwi dinner. It was just a small Chinese place. It wasn’t the best end to the Indonesian adventure, but also not the worst.

We arrived at the airport for our actual last red eye. This one snuck up on me.

GOODBYE INDONESIA, HELLO AUSTRALIA.

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Bali: Part 1

Reflecting on the Beach

WELCOME TO INDONESIA

November 15th, 2017

We took the last red eye of the trip to Bali, Indonesia. We did have a 6 hour layover in Singapore for some nap time, but I could barely stand up straight when we arrived. I needed sleeps.

We found a $26/ night Airbnb in the town of Kuta about a 20 minute walk to the beach. The cab ride there reminded me of Morocco as the cab driver weaved in and out of traffic honking away.

A Statue Near the Airport
A Statue Near the Airport

The guy tried to charge us 5 times the amount our host told us we should pay for the cab. I was warned about this and braced myself for 10 days of negotiations and haggling (my least favorite thing to do). We arrived to our huge, open room and I flopped down in the bed.

My sister-in-law’s friend Anna also happened to be in Bali (Anna is now my friend)! I made plans to meet up with Anna in the afternoon after I napped. Matt and I found a noodle place for our first Indonesian meal and loved it.

Then it was off to the beach to meet up with Anna and her friend Taylor. They had an umbrella waiting near the waves and a very obvious rip tide. The waves were decently large and red flags marked the danger zone.

Rip Tide Warning
Rip Tide Warning

Taylor mentioned she knew how to surf and offered to teach us. We went to rent a board and the sales guy said the waves weren’t good for surfing and offered boogie boards instead. He also made sure we saw the rip tide.

With our boogie boards in hand, we went to the left of the red flag and started riding some waves. I’ve rarely played in waves and found these a bit rough. A few minutes in and the rip tide took hold. We all felt it pulling us sideways and looked up to see Anna being pulled out to sea. My novice self asked what we should do and Taylor said just ride it in. I luckily was able to ride the waves in. Taylor handed Matt her boogie board and dove after Anna. Matt hung out to make sure they were ok.

Once on shore, I was next to the “life guards” and could see Matt and Anna floating and felt confident Matt was all over it. He was keeping Anna calm and they would find their way in. Then, Taylor popped on to the shore in rough shape. I honestly was so worried about Anna I forgot about Taylor. She waved the guards down and they ran into the water and grabbed Anna as Matt rode the waves in. It turns out, the waves nearly drown Taylor as she swam to Anna. She got lucky and was able to touch at one point and pulled herself out. Lesson of the day: never abandon your flotation device and if in a rip tide, let it ride! I’m very grateful she’s ok.

The scary event kept us on land for the night. We made our way to Anna and Taylor’s beautiful villa and then to a delicious meal at Ginger Moon. Matt and I got to take the leftovers home 🙂

ANNA!
ANNA!

November 16th, 2017

We decided on another beach day to rest up before more diving. I loved the $7 umbrellas and $3 beers. Unfortunately, you also have to deal with people trying to sell you anything and everything while you try to relax. We constantly had to tell people no until a foot masseuse came by and gave me a preview. She had just the right pressure and I happily said yes. I did make the mistake of not agreeing on a price before hand, but it was still only $20.

Beaching
Beaching
Kuta Beach
Kuta Beach

The worst were the little kids who gave you a pouty face trying to sell bracelets. Matt bought a couple after I pinky promised a little girl I would buy some in an hour and then tried to leave before they came back. It sounds horrible when I look back on it so I’m happy he bought some.

The saddest part of the beach came as we entered the water. The ocean and beach were trashed. It turns out the local people throw their trash in creeks and rivers not knowing any better and during the rainy season, it flows into the ocean. Gross. I would love to be in charge of educating them to help the ocean.

We didn’t last long in the littered waters and made our way to lunch. Matt convinced to be leave my comfort zone and eat at a little shop with meats sitting on plates and curries in pots. Nothing seemed to be heated or covered and who knows how long the food had been sitting out. The food safety knowledge I had learned during my old job started screaming “no” at me. I ate it anyway and it was fine. The food itself rocked.

Meat Sitting Out
Meat Sitting Out

After lunch/dinner, we just walked back and watched movies waiting for the sun to set. We walked back to the beach and found a spot for the show. This turned out to be the only sunset we would see because the rainy season went into full swing. It only took one to see the magical colors the sun can produce off the coast of Indonesia.

Early Sunset
Early Sunset
The Sunset Finale
The Sunset Finale

On the walk back, we found a delicious burger place! It felt good to eat something my stomach considered “normal”.

Sometimes You Need a Burger
Sometimes You Need a Burger

November 17th, 2017

We slept in and had an interesting breakfast across the street. Our Airbnb host said we could get 50% off at this hotel breakfast buffet near by. We decided to check it out and walked over and told them our hosts name. They had to go grab the manager who took our money and then just walked away. We got the food and sat down to eat but didn’t have silverware. The manager was walking around giving people silverware but seemed to purposefully avoid us. She also never came around to see how we were doing while she did to everyone else. We felt very unwelcome and never went back.

We finally got our act together at noon and made our way back to the sitting-out meat place from the day before. I got tempeh this time just in case and the meal was just as scrumptious.

Tempeh and Curry
Tempeh and Curry

We rented another cheap umbrella on the beach, this time loaded with our own beer. Matt found a beer shop on the way with actual IPAs instead of cheap pilsners. The beers were costly but quite tasty.

Beaching Again!
Beaching Again!
Reflecting on the Beach
Reflecting on the Beach

We dodged all the salespeople today and left after a couple hours with all our money. I wanted to walk up to a place our Airbnb host recommended for sunsets and live music. The spot had neat beanbag chairs, expensive food and drinks, and mediocre music. The clouds covered the sunset so we left as quickly as possible to sleep before diving the next day.

Waiting for the Sunset
Waiting for the Sunset
Live Music
Live Music

DIVE TIME

November 18th, 2017

Diving day number 1! I really looked forward to the diving here with my new diving skills. I’d been reading how Indonesia is part of the coral triangle and is similar to the Great Barrier Reef! Bali supposedly wasn’t the best dive spot in Indonesia, but I happily accepted whatever I could take.

The dive shop picked us up, took us to the dive shop to pick out gear then dropped us off at the harbor. Our dive master Ethel briefed us on the two dive spots we would explore for the day, crystal bay and MANTA POINT. People often spotted breathtaking mantas at both locations so I couldn’t wait.

The bumpy ride over to the island Nusa Penida revealed Cliffs of Moher- type cliffs and bright blue waters. The ride itself made the cost worth it. We stopped at crystal bay and quickly suited up and rolled into the water.

Nusa Penida
Nusa Penida

Honestly, the dive was a little disappointing. A strong current prevented us from turning a corner where the rays might have been and the visibility wasn’t great.

Crazy Current
Crazy Current

Half of the group had to surface early because they ran out of air. With them gone, we did see some boxfish and a turtle so the whole dive wasn’t all bad.

Black Trigger Fish
Black Trigger Fish
Moorish Idol : My first decent picture of these fish
Can You See the Eel?
Can You See the Eel?
A Turtle Being Cleaned

Then it was on to the main event, Manta Point. Ethel said the other boats didn’t see any manta rays in the morning so maybe we would get lucky in the afternoon.

Manta Point
Manta Point

We rolled off the boat into rough waters and immediately descended to get out of the big waves. The water was murky giving about 20 feet of visibility. A couple minutes into the dive and we started hearing the shakers or these little devices dive masters carry to get your attention. They were going crazy hopefully signaling a manta sighting. Ethel quickly swam towards the sound and lead us right to our first manta. The giant creature swam over a pyramid-shaped mound and swooped over our head. Ahhh they are unbelievable! The manta rays circle these mounds to get cleaned by the fish living on them.

Manta!
Manta!

I kept my eyes on the mound hoping to see another one. I saw one in the distance and then my group started swimming away. I stayed for a second and the unthinkable happened only to me. I turned and a huge majestic creature was headed right at me. I was afraid I was in his path and would hurt him. He floated above the sea floor and just feet away from me. I couldn’t get anyone’s attention but caught the whole thing on my GoPro and posted it on social media so it definitely happened.

My life was made after this point. I could have died happy in that moment. I did see one more manta, but then I had to follow my group because that’s the number 1 rule in diving, always dive with a buddy. We spent the rest of the dive searching the cloudy waters for more mantas but came up short. I didn’t care. I was the happiest girl after my experience. I soaked in the beautiful cliff views on the boat ride back reminiscing about my close encounter with a manta ray.

The Arch
The Arch

We ate lunch back at the dive shop and all gathered to watch the manta video.

Diving Lunch
Diving Lunch

Back at home, both tired and worn out, we just wanted to eat somewhere close. I let Matt pick another dodgy restaurant with traditional Indonesian food and he again found a good spot. He got the spicy and I got the regular chicken meal with a curry and veggies. I took a huge bit of the veggies and they turned out to be extremely spicy. The Indonesian’s love their spice! It was a good day.

November 19th, 2017

That spicy food though….

I didn’t do much of anything today besides work on the blog.

I stayed in bed all day. It’s what my body wanted to do so I listened. I did get up for a pork plate lunch and to walk to a pizza dinner and that’s about it.

Pork Plate
Pork Plate
Pesto Pizza
Pesto Pizza

November 20th, 2017

Another dive day! Today we headed up to Amed for three dives at what is a top spot in Bali.

The ride took over two hours starting my hatred for Bali’s traffic. We arrived with Ethel as our guide again ready to hit the water.

We took the traditional jukung fishing boats or boats with two floats on the sides to balance the boat.

Balinese Fishing Boats
Balinese Fishing Boats

Our dive spots were very close to shore with our first being a wall dive. We saw the most beautiful corals and a new fish!

Neon Anemone??
Neon Anemone??
Heart Shaped Coral
Heart-Shaped Coral <3
New Fish! A Filefish
New Fish! A Filefish
I Love Coral
I Love Coral
My New Favorite Starfish
My New Favorite Starfish

 We ended the dive in a shallow section I could have stayed in for hours. I poked around (not literally) finding cool creatures in the small reefs. A large batfish curiously followed us around until the end of the dive. We named him Batty.

Batty the Batfish
Batty the Batfish
More Coral
More Coral
Batty!
Batty!

The second dive was my favorite. We visited an area with man-made cement pyramids built to promote coral growth. Coral needs a hard surface to grow on and these structures provided just that. They had been under water for 12 years and were covered in soft coral. During the dive, we saw garden eels, blue spotted rays, and a couple leaf fish I couldn’t get a good picture of.

Small Eel
Small Eel
Garden Eels: The retreated into the sand if you get too close
Garden Eels: They retreated into the sand if you got too close
A Pyramid
A Pyramid
Pyramid Close-Up
Pyramid Close-Up
The Coral!
The Coral!
Sea Cucumber
Sea Cucumber
Blue- Spotted Ray
Blue- Spotted Ray

The last dive was called, “The Drop Off”. After we got dropped off at the drop off, a strong current quickly carried us away. Ethel said we missed half of the dive. Whoops. The other person in our group named Lloyd almost got lost during the dive. He liked to dive at shallower depths to conserve air. The current was much stronger down at our depth carrying us away from him. We found him and he was fine. Then we spent the rest of the dive in the shallow waters I loved so much. The dive ended with a sea turtle siting.

Big Lips
Big Lips
A Trigger Fish Following Us: These fish will attack you if you get too close to their nest. This guys seemed friendly, but I didn't trust him.
A Trigger Fish Following Us: These fish will attack you if you get too close to their nest. This guy seemed friendly, but I didn’t trust him.
Sea Turtle
Sea Turtle

This dive site was wonderful but also depressed me with the amount of trash in the water. Matt and I were constantly grabbing plastic bags and had to give up after a while because there were so many. I hope we can all work together to clean up the oceans one day.

We got back late from the long journey and decided on burgers again. The Indonesian food was not sitting well in either of our stomachs.

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Living Aboard a Dive Boat in Thailand

RICHELIEU I LOVE YOU

WELCOME BACK TO THAILAND

November 9th, 2017

I made an adult decision to get a hotel near the airport since I got into Phuket at 3 AM and desperately needed sleep. The hotel picked me up and gave me the keys to my cozy room for the night. I forgot how wonderful the Thai people are. I really looked forward to my short stay here.

I unfortunately woke up to ants biting me. My 4 hours of sleep were not enough, but I couldn’t seem to brush away the ants. I was in the tropics – what can ya’ do.

ANTS IN MY BED
ANTS IN MY BED

I called the next hotel/ resort I was staying at and had them pick me up. It was time for a full 24 hours of relaxation before my live aboard dive boat. I ended up making a minor mistake. I didn’t look where the dive shop actually was and just assumed it would be near the ferry port and booked a resort near there. I was wrong and added 2 hours in the car and $100 to the tab. Whoops.

Once at the resort, I napped, ate, used their fully equipped gym, laid by the pool, and got a massage – all before Matt showed up. We then ate at the resort and fell asleep nice and early.

The View from the Resort
The View from the Resort
The Resort Pool
The Resort Pool
THAI FOOD! Basil Lime Pork
THAI FOOD! Basil Lime Pork

LIVE ABOARD DIVE BOAT TIME

November 10th, 2017

Live aboard dive boat day! I’d always wanted to do one of these trips and they are dirt cheap in Thailand. I get sea sick so I worried a little about that and decided to do a short three-day trip just in case. I chose an eco-friendly company called Wicked Diving because they had good reviews and we all need to care more about the environment. The shop sat in the cute town of Khao Lak where I should have booked our resort for the night before. We decided to stay there the last night instead of going back to Phuket to save time. We lost some money in the process, but it was worth it. 

The journey was long to the boat. We didn’t arrive until about 8 PM to be greeted by the happiest crew and a delicious Thai dinner. I had my sea  sickness bands on and was ready for the adventure. Matt and I retreated to our cozy bunk beds nice and early allowing the boat to rock us to sleep.

November 11th, 2017

Matt and I both decided to pursue our advanced open water (AOW) certification while on the ship. It was only $200 and could be quickly knocked out on the boat. With the new certification, I would be allowed to dive deeper and at more challenging sites such as ones with strong currents or wrecks. Little did I know, the time with our instructor Denise would also vastly improve my overall diving ability.

I’m simply going to share some quick notes and pictures from the ten dives. Just know that after each dive, I got back on the boat, ate a meal, took a nap, then got back in the water – for three days 🙂

Just Us and the Ocean
Just Us and the Ocean
The Boat Nap Area
The Boat Nap Area
Dive 1: Koh Stork – AOW Boat Dive

This was also the checkout dive so the dive masters could gage our abilities. I was not allowed to bring a camera and should not have. Our group got a scolding after we kicked with the current when you should simply let it carry you and blew through our air in 40 minutes. On top of that, I had to add an extra weight in my pocket just to go down ( this is embarrassing for an experienced diver). The site was stunning, but I had a lot to learn. Denise was all over it.

Koh Stork Dive Briefing
Koh Stork Dive Briefing
Dive 2: Castle Rock – Free Dive!

I saw about five Moray Eels! So neat! I loved the boulders around the site.

Castle Rock Dive Brief
Castle Rock Dive Brief
Castle Rock
Castle Rock
Puffer Fish
Puffer Fish
Moray Eel
Moray Eel
Another Eel
Another Eel
Clown Fish
Clown Fish
I'm Surrounded!
I’m Surrounded!
Dive 3: Aow Pakad – AOW Navigation Dive

We learned how to use a compass underwater and Matt and I were responsible for leading the crew back to the boat. We got the group back to the anchor forgetting to look up and see that we had already passed the actual boat. We still passed and I got to remove my one extra weight.

I love Coral
I love Coral
More Fishes
More Fishes
Dive 4: Aow Toa – AOW Buoyancy Training

I desperately needed to focus on my buoyancy. I was using too much air kicking myself up and wiggling around. With good buoyancy, a diver can hover consuming less energy and extending their dive. I don’t have any pictures to show, but our dive consisted of using our lungs to raise and lower ourselves and swimming close enough to the ocean floor to knock over a weight with our regulators with out touching the floor. It was hilarious watching everyone struggle a bit. We all exiting the water better divers and ready to test our new skills.

Sunset in the Rain
Sunset in the Rain

November 12th, 2017

Dive 5: Richelieu Rock – AOW Deep Water Dive

This dive site will go down as my second favorite ever only losing to the Great Barrier Reef pre- bleaching. We quickly descended to 28 meters to complete our deep water skills. We took a math test underwater to show the effects of nitrogen narcosis or the effects of nitrogen under high pressure in your body. It is not dangerous for your body, but makes you feel drunk-ish and can cloud your judgement or cause you to make a mistake while diving. We all did terrible on the test underwater because of nitrogen narcosis and laughed it off. Ascending a bit cures the effects immediately. We also drank from a coke can at 28 meters. The pressure kept the coke inside once opened, but the carbonation was compressed and salt water entered the can after the first person took a sip. That coke was nasty!

Then, it was on to the dive! This beautiful reef was covered in fish, eels, lion fish, and giant cuddle fish! I wished I could have stayed down longer.

Richelieu Fish
Richelieu Fish
Richelieu Rock
Richelieu Rock
Giant Porcupine Fish
Giant Porcupine Fish
ALLTHE FISH
ALLTHE FISH
Safety Stop Selfie
Safety Stop Selfie: These 3 minute stops at 5 meters allow your body to release any extra nitrogen build-up preventing decompression sickness. 
Dive 6: FREE DIVE AT RICHELIEU

YES! No training holding us back from enjoying the site. We saw more cuddle fish 🙂

Bat Fish
Bat Fish
I'm Surrounded Again
I’m Surrounded Again

 

Cuddle Fish
Cuddle Fish
Crown of Thorns
Crown of Thorns
Squirrel Fish
Squirrel Fish
More Fish Because
More Fish Because
RICHELIEU I LOVE YOU
RICHELIEU I LOVE YOU
A Wrasse Cleaning My Leg
A Wrasse Cleaning My Leg
Dive 7: Tachai Pnnacle

This dive consisted of huge square granite boulders and a strong current. We hung around the boulders to dodge the quick moving waters, but ended up sucking down our air fighting to stay in place. We saw schools of barracuda and other hunting fish.

Barracuda
Barracuda
Mini Fish
Mini Fish
Neat Anemone
Neat Anemone and Clown Fish
Dive 8: Koh Bon Night Dive – AOW Night Dive

My second favorite dive of the trip and our last training dive before being certified! We didn’t actually have to do any activities in the water as training besides staying calm. This can be hard during a night dive. You jump into pitch black waters with a small light in your hand and hope for the best. All you can see is what sits within your lights beam while you ignore the possibility of something behind you. It is scary, but also a rare opportunity in life. During the dive, we witnessed moray eels out of their caves hunting fish, bioluminescence, and hunting lion fish. The lion fish  would use our light to spot small fish and attack. It was fun to find a small fish and hold your light on it until the lion fish found it. It was kind of cruel I guess…

November 13th, 2017

Dive 9 and 10: Koh Bon

We slept at the site and would dive there the rest of the day. These were not my favorite dives, but what could compare to Richelieu and a spectacular night dive experience.

That Coral Though
That Coral Though… And Yellow Stripped Sweet Lips
WORM
WORM
Lazy Star Fish
Lazy Star Fish

And that was that. Koh Bon was the last stop before heading back to shore. I loved every second of the dive boat and never got sea sick! I felt more confident with my diving and couldn’t thank Denise enough for helping me. Her tough love method worked well and got Matt and I to be true advanced divers.

We got to shore and checked into our hotel for the night. We only had one more night in Thailand and picked a place to stay right near the dive shop. It was also Matt’s birthday! He is not much of a birthday person so we just got dinner and a beer. The trip exhausted us and nothing sounded better than a good nights rest.

GOODBYE THAILAND 

November 14th, 2017

We were taking the cheap overnight  flight to Indonesia leaving us the day to relax. We started with a nice massage and a walk to the beach. We finished the day with a foot massage and one last Thai meal. I fell more in love with Thailand the second time around and planned to come back for more diving, great food, and unremarkably kind people.

Khao Lak Beach
Khao Lak Beach
Beach View
Beach View
The Last Meal - Cashew Pork
The Last Meal – Cashew Pork

UNTIL NEXT TIME THAILAND

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