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Faces in Places Traveling as the Uni of Life

On the move...

NEW ZEALAND | Wednesday, 5 March 2008 | Views [1274]

Sydney's great skyline

Sydney's great skyline

Hola! Since my last blog entry I've been on the move quite a bit. After spending some excellent days in the Philippines, Thailand and Australia, I'm now in New Zealand. In Auckland I reunited with my parents who are on the road as well and as of today we're cruising through New Zealand in a van together. Awesome! But as usual, first I'll go back in time..

On the 16th of February I left on a boat expedition from El Nido, Palawan Island to Coron, Busuanga Island in the Philippines. Together with a local crew, a map of the region showing every tiny island, two adorable pups and a friendly group of seven, we boarded the expedition boat designed and managed by two guys in their 20s from the UK; Jack and Eddie. They finished their boat early 2007 and started doing these kind of trips just a couple of months before, making their (and my) dream come true. The regular ferry boat normally takes about 8 hours to get to Coron and doesn't stop. Our boat on the other hand, spend 3 days and stopped everywhere we felt like stopping; untouched coral reefs, perfect deserted beaches and rural island communities.

On our first evening we stopped at a small village to ask if we could spend the night in one of their houses in trade for some rice and sugar. After we got granted to stay, we made a fire on the beach and ate a simple meal.. accompanied by hypes of beer of course. ;) I really enjoyed the company of the international group of people who joined the trip, talking our way into the night.. Early morning, Gabi, the two months old pup from Jack, woke me up by biting in my fingers and feet through my mosquito net and eventually I decided to get up and play with him on the beach while the sun rose out of the turquoise Chinese sea. Ah!

Next day I was obviously a bit tired and slept some more on the boat before we found another island to hang out for a while. This one had some dodgy people on them though, who are also referred to as pirates and without hesitation our crew quickly turned around and got lost between nearby islands. An hour or so later we found a kind of secluded spot on some other island, which sheltered us from the wind and the eye-patched men. Here we set our base for the second night, this time in tents on the beach. One of the crew members was an excellent masseuse and she gave me a lovely massage before I fell asleep, having wicked dreams, but not as wicked as my freaking great day had been! :)

Third day the weather had changed and thus we had to cross a tricky bit of sea ASAP. The waves were not too bad though, and early in the day we already came near to Busuanga Island. Here we anchored in front of a wall of lime stone and after snorkelling to it, we climbed over it to find a beautiful lake. Snorkelling in here was amazing, since the water was crystal clear and the underwater rock formations pretty mysterious. After spending some hours in the water we got back to the boat, ate a fish and set sail for hot springs close by, which were also accessible from the sea. Up here we drank some cold beers while dipping our bodies in 40C water and chatted away, as we were in a pub. Later that afternoon we arrived in Coron and I checked into a hotel to stay for a couple of days more.

Together with Matt, Valarie, Azina and the two dogs I hiked the next day to a river dam an hour walk outside of town. In the evening we had a nice dinner with most of the people from the El Nido – Coron trip. At first I thought of leaving Coron earlier to go to Cebu in the East of the Philippines and spend my last days there. This would however cost me a lot of money and time and thus I decided to stay in Coron and made myself a deal I would have to come back to the Philippines one day. :)

And so I rented a motorbike the day after with Azina, Matt and Valarie to make a two day trip to an island on the West coast of Basuanga. Marcos, the formal dictator of the Philippines, had created a hunting ground on this island for his son and he had brought African animals to the Philippines in the 70s. Nowadays it is a national reserve where biologist from all over come to study animal behaviour in this context. The 1000+ Palawan deer’s, 20+ giraffes, 50+ zebras, crocodiles, monkeys and cobras were all born on the island and it was absolutely amazing to see that their presence had transformed the landscape into savannah. The motorbike ride to the island was pretty tough, since the roads were in a really bad shape and so we arrived in the evening, not seeing where the road and small family boat had taken us. As the only visitors on the island we were warmly welcomed by the manager and his wife, both living in a simple house on the island. She cooked the food we brought and he offered us rum and karaoke, a killer combination! Next morning we woke up in freaking Kenia and had breakfast while herds of zebras ran from hill to hill and giraffes tried to reach for branches from a nearby tree. We spent our morning walking around the park and then headed back to our bike. On the way back we stopped for a swim at a long stretch of empty beach...

The day after I flew early morning from Coron back to Manila and had to wait 12 hours on the small airport before I could board my next flight from Manila to Bangkok. Since I didn’t sleep the night before I found an uncomfortable position on the impossible metal seats on the Manila airport and fell asleep.. But only until I could check in and I could spent my last peso’s on airport lodge access where I would eat, drink and relax as much as I wanted. In Bangkok I arrived in the middle of the night, but finding cheap accommodation here is never difficult and so I was able to crash soon. After sleeping late I went to the park to play guitar. Only ten minutes later, Eddie, the young filmmaker and fellow guitar player from Malaysia who I met weeks before, came up to me. We exchanged stories of our past weeks and went back to town for food. Here I met Paul from England and Nella from Finland and after we picked up Eddies guitar we got down to Kosan Road to busk, like Eddie had been doing every single night. Every now and then new groups of people would hang around for a while, enjoying the music and sharing their beers. Good fun!

Next day pretty much same same thing, except for an interesting talk with an older Canadian painter who showed me his favourite bar in Bangkok (which truly was a really nice place!) and a group of Japanese youngsters that, after playing some tunes for them, wanted me to join them to a karaoke bar and for which we drove in a taxi for ages around Bangkok to find one that had both English and Japanese songs.. I was laughing all the time though, because I think Japanese are funny. After I woke up next day way to late because of busking again all night, I had breakfast with Eddie and Paul. Also I did some last minute shopping, since this would be my last stop in cheap good-price-for-me-good-price-for-you-Asia.

Then, again back to the Thai airport. This time I had a 9 hour flight to Sydney, Oz awaiting me… Just a day before I had found out that a Dutch friend of mine was also travelling and would be with his gf in Sydney around the same time. And so, after finding myself a cheap as possible hostel (which by the way is not cheap at all. Come on! – sorry, having a hard time to adapt again to Western prices. I just don’t see the need to, for example, pay f#@*in` 3,5 dollar for a small bottle of water! Jesus.).. Anyway, after finding myself a place to stay I met up with my friend Bram and his girl. We walk around the parks and took a boat to Manly Beach while we talked and talked about our travels. In Manly we walked to Shell Beach and had dinner at a Thai restaurant with great food.., I think I am addicted to that stuff.

Next day my friends would drive to Melbourne and I stayed in Sydney. It rained the entire day and sticking to the hostel to watch movies was tempting, but I felt I had to go out and see some more. Also I really needed to buy stuff, because, in the Philippines, a small boat I was in had turned over and my bag and guitar got completely soaked, killing my mp3-player, torch and rusted my guitar strings and such. So after buying everything I needed, I shared some beers with a couple of guys on the hostel roof and ended up watching movies anyway..

A flight to Auckland, New Zealand was the upcoming event of the day that followed. It was only a three hour flight, but with two hours time difference it seemed to consume my whole day. In Auckland I got picked up from the airport by my lovely family, who had been in Auckland for a couple of days already. They booked me a place to stay and we sat down on their balcony, overlooking the centre of Auckland, while we all shared our stories.

When I started to write this blog entry we had just picked up a campervan to move ourselves around New Zealand within the next three weeks. Just now, when I pick up my story to finish it, time passed and we’re three days later.. First day we drove from Auckland to Rotorua; the asshole of the earth. Not because it is a very remote place or anything, but just because it smells a bit.. ehm.. interesting up there. :) Of course this is just the sulphite leaving the earth everywhere in this very active volcanic region. Actually, this is the place to observe awesome geysers, with some of them spraying water in the air for meters and meter. So we did that day, hiking around parks with boiling water and mud pools everywhere. Also since we all just had arrived in New Zealand we did some museum visits to gather some more information about the Maori culture and their background. We visited a village from the Et Awaka tribe, where they performed traditional dances for us.. I guess ‘impressive’ is the right word to describe it.

Next day we drove further down to Taupo and stopped at a really pretty waterfall. We’ve decided to stay a couple of days in Taupo, since my dad injured his back and needs some days to recover. This is a great place for him to soak in warm mineral baths while I can explore the surrounding mountains on a bicycle.. Stay tuned.

With love, Daan

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