We have arrived in Goma

After an interesting journey from Geneva to Goma via Brussels and Rwanda we have arrived. Our flight to Brussels was late so once at the airport we had only 20 minutes before the flight to Kigali would leave. The crew on the first flight told us to go to the Brussels airlines info desk and we ran there but waiting in the line would have taken more than 20 minutes so we decided to run back to the other end of the terminal to our departure gate. We arrived all sweaty and 40 minutes after the boarding time but the plane was still there 10 minutes before departure time waiting for us. So at least we made it to the flight! However, they told us that our luggage from Geneva wouldn’t make it, so we started calling to inform that we needed to stay another night in Kigali waiting for our luggage to arrive. That was quite a bummer!

About 9 hours later when we arrived in Kigali we found our luggage to be among the first ones on the belt. What a miracle! We were so happy to see it there and not having to go through the claim process.

We had to stay the night in a hotel anyway. The hotel was good and everything went well, it was a beautiful morning when we woke up for a new day in Africa. Only at a gas station on our way to Congo did we find ourselves in a misunderstanding! We were in the wrong taxi! The guy had the same name and arrived at the time our booked taxi driver was supposed to arrive, and was going to the same destination. However, he wanted 3 times more money for the taxi trip that we had foreseen. We thought he was trying to rip us off, so we started calling people and it took quite a while before we realized he wasn’t actually our taxi driver! Anyway, our actual taxi driver called another guy to pick us up and drive us to the border for the price we had foreseen. I guess our actual taxi didn’t show up in the morning because he was expecting us to leave the next day.. but we didn’t have to wait for our luggage in the end, so!

So then it was almost all good, except our taxi had an accident being squeezed between a truck and a police car in a corner, but as my dear wife said, TIA. This is Africa. Oh and at the border we were stuck because we had forgotten some papers and they wouldn’t let us in even though we had the visas. But then we waited for someone to bring papers from the office to the border and it was all good, our temperature was taken and we washed our hands, declared no ebola and got in!

Breakfast in Kigali

Colourful AfricaView of the Kivu lake from where we stay in Goma.Arrived at Medair officeSo excited to start working here!

DRC here we come!

Tomorrow starts our journey to working in the heart of Africa..!

Good to go!

Greetings from Iceland

Islanti - 7.9.2018 23:06

Check out our last, but amazing, video of Iceland: https://vimeo.com/288586351 and also a special video: https://vimeo.com/288601405 with password 1205.

This barren island between North America and Europe was the last destination of our 3 months honeymoon before returning to Belgium. We didn’t stay there for too long, but enough to be amazed by its beauty! Our flight from New York arrived in Keflavik airport near Reykjavik at 5:55am on Thursday the 23rd of August, and we flew out early in the morning on Sunday the 26th. Icelandair is trying to attract tourists to the country by offering tickets with a maximum one week lay over in Iceland with no extra costs. They are good in marketing this mystical place of the Vikings, which seems to be like a big family with just 350,000 inhabitants. Everybody is someone’s -son or -dottir, instead of carrying family names.

We rented a car from the airport, which I think was essential to explore the island. Our Airbnb was near Hallgrim’s church in the centre of Reykjavik. Like many times before, our flight was over night but just a few hours long, so we didn’t really get much sleep. We just crashed in our room and slept until midday, although we meant to take only a power nap to go and visit some places since we didn’t have much time in Iceland. Well we needed the sleep. So then for the first day we went for a lunch, explored the small city centre of Reykjavik, went up the church tower for views of the city area, and walked around the colorful town. It was a nice partly cloudy day, but the summer day’s temperature wasn’t more than +12 degrees. We drove up to a fishing town called Akranes and visited a lighthouse over there. On the way there we drove through an underwater tunnel, but on the way back we took the longer route along the coast, which was a very beautiful winding road, and there were almost no other cars.

While at the church, we had seen an ad for a haunted walking tour in the town of Reykjavik starting at 8pm. No booking required. So we showed up to what turned out to be a very fun and interesting 2h tour about folklores and explaining the Icelandic culture! The tour was run by a local and we were about 15 people in the group, it was very informal. We got to know the interesting history of Reykjavik and the stories of some of its people, and their spirits.. It’s a mystical culture. We learned about the hidden people, or man-size elves, who live inside big rocks for example. It may be sometimes that a rock will break machinery, injure, or even cause the death of a worker, if the rock is being tried to be removed from the way of construction or farming for instance. In such cases negotiators might be called for help in the hope of them being able to strike a deal with the elves so that for example the rock will be moved to a nice new location, perhaps in town, or something. And indeed, this is what we learned standing by a big rock in the middle of the town. But this is told to be the cause also for roads winding around boulders in Iceland. And who are these hidden people. Well, the story goes, that Adam and Eve were bathing their dirty children in the garden of Eden when God was calling to see the family. Eve hadn’t finished bathing all of them, so she showed only the clean ones to God, while hiding the dirty ones from God. And these people remained hidden and started the generation of the hidden people, who are still present, at least in Iceland. Back in the day, when men would go out fishing for weeks or months and find their wives pregnant when returned, the wives would have sworn to having been faithful, but telling that they had seen a dream where an elf had come in the night and made them pregnant during their sleep. This then had started the race of the people who were half human – half elf.

The tour finished at 10pm and we hadn’t eaten dinner yet! We checked the open restaurants (thanks EU for the cheap mobile data within EU and ETA!) and found one that was open until 10:30pm. We didn’t look further into it but just went in and then we saw the menu. It was a really fancy place, fancier than we would have needed, but we couldn’t really walk away anymore and we didn’t really have anywhere else to go. But it was so worth it, the food was something else than we had had before! My wife took a dish with three different kinds of fish, and I took lamb. Both main ingredients are were common in Iceland, plenty of fish and sheep. We had nice appetizers included as well, and they had a delicious spread for the dark bread. It was butter on butter they told us, almost a foam. And the arctic char on Deb’s plate was incredible. People in Iceland can cook food just by burying it in the ground for some time, and thanks to the geothermal heat the food gets cooked. It might not work everywhere but at some places the heat comes all the way to the surface. However, the fish was not cooked in this fashion. Actually we thought it wasn’t even cooked at all, but it was actually. It had been vacuum packed and then kept in warm water for a long time, which cooked the fish slightly, keeping it unbelievably tender so it just melted on the tongue. The great taste might have also been due to the fact that the fish would have been pretty fresh.

The next day, we are on Friday at this point, was the perfect day. It was our “Iceland in one day” -tour. We left just before 7am and were back at midnight. The weather was looking good again (apparently it can be quite often cloudy and rainy) and we were looking forward to exploring the natural sights of Iceland. The roads were empty as we left Reykjavik in the morning and drove inland towards Thorufoss waterfalls, the first stop on our Golden Circle route. All we could see were vast plains, fields, mountains, and rivers. No trees looks odd.. Next we entered the Thingvellir national park, which is frequently visited by tourists. Fortunately we were early on the move so we could enjoy the place without many others. So what makes this area interesting is that it’s the place to see the joining of the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. There is actually a long crack in the ground between the two plates. It’s a pretty special place and phenomena. If you had the time and money, you could also go snorkeling in the nearby Silfra Lake, where you can snorkel between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. But it was an interesting sight to see and it was worth walking a bit further in the crack to see the beautiful Öxararfoss waterfalls.

Then we drove down to Kerio crater, where you can walk on the rim of the crater and see the turquoise lake at the bottom of the crater. The volcanic soil in this area is red! Around there there are several craters and one could do a longer hike from one crater to another. At this point we started seeing many other tourists. We were getting hungry since we had started so early. I had looked up a place called Fridheimar, which is a geothermally heated greenhouse that grows a lot of tomatoes. They are well known for their tomato soup and bread buffet but it would open only at 12 o’clock. I tried to call them earlier for a booking, but they were already fully booked. We happened to be driving close by at around 11am so I decided to give it a try and they happened to be open already and we were the first ones to be eating there! It was a fascinating place, and such a great business idea to harness the boiling hot ground water to provide the climate for growing vegetables around the year. Tomatoes contain 90% water, and they say the water in Iceland is of very good quality, hence, Icelandic tomatoes are of very good quality! We also had some funky tomato drinks, I had a tomato beer and my wife had a healthy tomato cocktail. But it wasn’t overly tomatoey, they were just a hint of the delicious taste. And the fresh bread the served with the tomato soup was delicious too!

We continued our tour to the nearby Faxi waterfalls. These were already much wider than the previous waterfalls we had seen, but still small in comparison to what we were going to see! Yet much bigger than your general rapids anywhere else.. Next up were the Bruarfoss waterfalls. We found ourselves surrounded by approaching rain, but really wanted to see these waterfalls so decided to give it a go although it was a bit of a walk away. I asked a stranger and I was told they are 30min walk away. We had walked for about 20 minutes and it started raining a bit. I asked the next person coming towards us how far away the falls were and they said still at least 35 minutes.. I was a bit discouraged and said that we should go back to the car before we get soaking wet, it’s not worth it. My wife started walking back to the car but she said I should still go and see the waterfalls by myself. I thought I had to prove myself, so I ran. For 20 minutes straight. And I got soaking wet. And I had to run back again. But it was so worth it! Freezing looking blue water on black lava rocks, that was awesome!

Deb was napping in the car when I finally got back. Fortunately I had expected to get wet on that day so I had a dry change of clothes that I could wear. Not far from where we were was a local ice cream place, Efsti-Dalur. It was a cattle farm where the ice cream shop was built into the barn. Their ice cream was delicious, and you could see the cows it came from!

Next we drove to the town of Geysir. It was here where they founded the name geysir for those erupting hot water fountains, one of them being named Geysir, which started the family of geysirs around the world. That specific one apparently erupts very rarely, but next to it is a geysir called Strokkur, which goes off every 4-8 minutes. A lot of people were gathered around it, and some of them got wet with hot water at times when a bigger splash took place.

Last stop on the “Golden Circle” were the Gulfoss waterfalls, also known as the Golden waterfalls. The name is supposed to come from the colour of the waterfalls during sunset, but it could also be because of the rainbow that can be seen during sunshine as the clouds of mist rise up. These were the most impressive waterfalls by far, just the sheer size of them.

Then started what would normally be day 2, part of our trip, as we extended our Golden Circle back to the coast and all the way to Vik. On that way we stopped at Seljalandfoss, which were my favorite waterfalls because you could walk behind them! We got pretty wet doing that but it was worth it! The sun was already going down when we reached the last waterfalls of the day, Skogafoss. These were the second biggest waterfalls, and also impressive. We climbed all the 400+ steps from the bottom of the waterfall to the top, and the views were great! You could follow the river further upstream as well to see some smaller falls. We didn’t have time or interest anymore at this point for seeing more waterfalls though, so we just wanted to continue our drive to Vik to have dinner there. We still tried to squeeze one more sight before reaching Vik, though. Although that meant we would again be eating after the closing time of many restaurants, and that we would be home after midnight, it was definitely worth it! The detour we wanted to take took us on top of a cliff by the sea. It’s good we had 4×4 car since the road up was quite steep and rocky. From the top of the cliff we could see the Vatnajökull glacier, black sand beaches and Eyjafjallajökull volcano that erupted in 2010. But the reason we drove there was to see the “Arch” on the water. It was a cliff on the sea with a hole through it, so that the cliff looked like an arch. However, the most amazing thing about being up there was to see a colony of Puffin birds! They are absolutely cute with their small wings and big heads. They are a bit like Penguins, but they can fly, just. I think that’s why they were hanging out on a cliff edge, because they could easily take off from there after a bit of free falling. And when they walk, it looks like dancing. Their landing on water, and on ground, is clumsy. And they look like clowns with their colourful pecks. However, they can apparently dive down to 50m depth. And tourists love to buy the soft toys!

So we were done with the sightseeing, and were extremely happy of what he had been able to see. We drove a bit further to Vik, found a restaurant that was still open, although full, but we just ordered pizza to take away and ate in the car on our 2.5h drive back to our Airbnb in Reykjavik.

The next, and the last, day of our trip in Iceland, and of our around the world tour, we just relaxed. We slept long, ate a good lunch (fish of course), and went to the famous Blue Lagoon for the rest of the day. Booking is essential, and the price is high (90USD), but you can stay there as long as you want. The place looks amazing, this milky water surrounded by black lava rocks. It’s naturally hot water, but we did enjoy the sauna as well. We did white masks of silica and enjoyed drinks from the pool bar. The place was sold out, but even though there was still plenty of space and even privacy. A really relaxing experience with a delicious dinner as well.

The next morning we had to wake up early and fly back to Brussels. That was the end of our world tour, what an amazing experience it was!

Here are some fun facts we gathered together about our around-the-world-honeymoon:

  • 95 days
  • No sick days
  • 21 flights
  • No lost luggage
  • 12 countries
  • 4 continents
  • The place where we would like to go again is Hawai’i (explore Kauai and the Big Island)
  • The place where we would have liked to spend more time is Iceland
  • The place where we would like to live in is Canada
  • 10,000+ photos
  • I drove 9 cars and 1 tractor, the favorite one being the Jeep in Maui

Bye bye New York, good morning Reykjavik! Halgimskirka, the landmark of Reykjavik  Reykjavik  Ahoy! Lighthouses at Akranes    An elf-stone moved to the middle of Reykjavik On a haunted tour in Reykjavik  Thorufoss Öxararfoss Kerio crater Cheers with a tomato beer! Buraurafoss The original Geysir Strokkur geysir Cars in Iceland were even bigger than those in Canada, if possible! Gulfoss Gulfoss Seljalandfoss   Skogafoss     Puffin colony The Arch   Vik Icelandic lunch, last lunch of our trip!      Blue Lagoon Playing with the silica masks The sun in Iceland was so strong that we needed to paint ourselves against it. The return of the mummy!



Greetings from New York

Yhdysvallat (USA) - 31.8.2018 16:04

Check out the video of our time in New York here: https://vimeo.com/287660749  with password 1205.

Greetings from Big Apple,

It was the first time for me to visit the city that never sleeps. All I knew New of York before were the Islanders, Rangers, and the Yankees.. Well, I knew some other things as well, but not as much as my wife for sure! It was quite a contrast to the farm life we had in Canada. Some of the people we encountered were not as friendly as the Canadians, even quite rude, self-centered. Many looked tired.. The city was fighting for the attention of my senses as well, overwhelmingly! Lots of billboards, although I have to say some of the ad displays were of better quality than our TV. When they played the Aquarium ad it looked like it was real, but the size of a building!

The subway was hot and loud, making us sweaty and then cold once outside. We grew grey hair trying to make sense of the subway sometimes paying entrance only to go the wrong way. It was difficult to know when the next train was coming, if it was coming at all. But the subway saved a lot of walking in the end. However, still on one of the four days we walked more than 35,000 steps! On average we struggle to reach 10,000 steps per day.. Central Park was nice, though. We could find ourselves alone, for a second. I really liked the fact that you can be in the middle of the city but not see any building or car around you. There were great biking and running routes around the park, as well as sports grounds for baseball and football. I enjoyed watching the remote controlled boats racing on a pond, the old man leading a dance class by the Turtle Lake, and the busker at the John Lennon memorial.

We stayed in an Airbnb right by Times Square. That was such a busy spot, and so many billboards around the square. Always something going on, I don’t know how our host could live there. Although I’m not sure he even did. We never saw him around, just other Airbnb guests. But it was a good location to explore Manhattan! There were so many great eateries around, especially in Hell’s Kitchen area. I found the food the best thing about NYC! The burgers at Shake Shack were delicious, and the curry at Pure Thai was authentic, just like in Thailand. Juliana’s in Brooklyn had the best pizza. Bluestone Lane, Black Fox, and Two Hands were excellent for coffee. Luckily we had Deb’s friend from Mercy Ships, Kristi, whom we met for a breakfast, living in the city so she could advice us on the restaurants and cafes.

Nearby us was also the Hillsong Manhattan church, where we went to on the Sunday we arrived. Robert Madu gave such a powerful message on Jesus’ authority I want to link it here too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhO2SoLo-TQ

Luckily we had done (most of) our shopping already in Canada, so the little time we had in New York we could spend on sights and entertainment. One evening we met with Deb’s cousins and their families for a dinner together. They were really nice people. Deb and her mom had stayed with them already 5 years ago when they first came to visit New York. I got well along with Jo, Rachel and her husband-to-be who were about our age. They had been to Iceland so we received some valuable tips from them for our next destination.

We were pretty lucky with the weather. Apparently it had been very hot the previous week and in the city where there is no wind it gets really hot. For us the weather was a bit breezy and cloudy for one day and sunny but not too hot for the others. The cooler weather was good for sightseeing, so we went to Brooklyn and walked over the iconic Brooklyn bridge back to Manhattan. I liked Brooklyn. It was charismatic and less busy. That day we also went on top of the Rockefeller center, from where we had nice views of Manhattan and the Central Park. I wasn’t keen on spending time going to the Statue of Liberty, but we saw it from Battery Park in Southwest Manhattan. The history around the area is interesting as it served as the first point of entry to New York for visitors back in the day, and Statue of Liberty was there to greet them. Also quite nearby was the Titanic memorial, which we visited.

There are a few high rises in New York that one could visit: e.g. the Empire State Building, The Rock, or the new WTC One building. Had we not gone to the top of the Rock already, the WTC tower would have been a nice one to visit as well. The 9/11 memorial was an impressive site as well; there are two holes in the ground as fountains the size of the towers’ foundations, and the names of victims engraved around the monuments. There is a whole big museum about it as well, but we didn’t have the time to visit that one. Around is also an impressive work of architecture, The Oculus, which is a 4 billion USD transit hub at WTC. We also saw other significant sights such as the New York Stock Exchange, the charging bull, and the house from the famous TV-series “Friends”.

A definite highlight of the trip in New York was going to a Broadway show! We had received tickets to “Chicago” musical as a wedding gift from our friends, and we loved the show. It was really entertaining and professional. Funky jazz music played by an on-stage-orchestra who were also included in the play sometimes, great dancing, funny characters, and a storyline which was interesting and easy to follow. That was a great experience, and I would definitely recommend going to one of the Broadway shows if in New York. Just make sure to book early as they sell out pretty quickly.

Although New York (Manhattan) was busy as I had expected, it wasn’t crowded like Mong Kok in Hong Kong, and there were benches to sit down and take a break. In Manhattan we could go shopping for clothes until 2AM, but we couldn’t find a place to go dancing on a week night. So it seemed to be busy for business but not so much for party. And we had thought once in New York we will surely go dancing.. We did find a nice rooftop bar though, but the party was not there either.

Then it started raining and it was already time to pack, say good bye to our apartment at Times Square, and go to Iceland..

Looking at Manhattan from the top of the Rock Uptown Manhattan Manhattan bridge from Brooklyn Statue of Liberty Friends' apartment Tiffany's :) She learned to love coffee! Deb's family in New York It was time for a Manhattan hair cut Fancy cup cakes Trying to grab a picture with the charging bull was something we had to fight for! Breakfast with Deb's friend Kristi, a local from New York The Oculus at WTC WTC One 9/11 memorial   Looking gorgeous at Broadway CHICAGO!  Central Park Flat Iron building Alice in Central Park Manhattan @ Times Square New York Grand Central Terminal Empire State building Brooklyn Bridge Brooklyn bridge to Manhattan Cristopher Columbus monument Imagine all the people... LOVE

Greetings from Alberta, Canada

Kanada - 23.8.2018 09:26

Here again is the link to the video of our time in Canada: https://vimeo.com/285648254. Password is 1205.

After having a few days in Vancouver, we flew to Edmonton, in the province of Alberta. We stayed there from August 5 to August 18, so it was a good chance to calm down, relax, and enjoy some easy days, which was needed in order to have energy to experience New York and Iceland in just one week.

We were fortunate to be able to stay with friends while in Alberta. Deb knew a family through Mercy Ships, and they welcomed us to stay with them. I had met a young Canadian couple when I was in Cambodia, and they with their beautiful baby girl welcomed us to stay on their farm. Friendly Canadians!

Edmonton is not known for being an attractive city like Vancouver, but we enjoyed getting to know the area where our friends and their parents grew up. They are stories of life, which are interesting. We visited places that are meaningful to our friends, which helps us know more about them. Luke’s (friend of Deb) family is certainly an entertaining one, a lot of fun and warmth, and a cute dog, called Suki. There are funny stories about the dog too.

There is a lot of oil in Alberta, I understand most of it is still north of Edmonton. Some people are rich, and they have a lot of toys; so many people drive a huge truck! The land is vast, straight roads for miles and miles.. They call it the Prairies. That’s where they have the cowboys.

So we spent a day with Luke’s family (without Luke though because he was working in the north). They are really nice. After driving around the town we went to Fort Edmonton, which is a park that displays the old lifestyle in Edmonton, still when they rode horses, had saloons, and made old candy. We learned about the fur trading and about the Ukrainian bookstore. There were a lot of immigrants from Ukraine. Also from Finland, but the Finns didn’t bring bookstores, just good ice hockey players.

So my friend Stephen picked us up from Wetaskivin where we had stayed the day, as it wasn’t too far from their farm. Arrived at the farm, we had a whole floor for ourselves! It was amazing to see Stephen and Ally again, after knowing each other for a couple of months in Cambodia a couple of years ago. They have a beautiful place, lots of land to overlook. Corn fields, horses, cattle, chicken, dogs and cats. Oh, and a cute little baby girl called Anika. Deb loved her. She couldn’t get enough of playing with her.

Stephen and Ally took us horse riding one day. That was exciting! We had ridden only once before, but I had forgotten most of it. It was quite an experience. We had cowboy hats and everything. I was nervous about riding the strong animal and it could sense it, which made controlling it even more difficult, and me more nervous again. Deb was more relaxed, I was so proud of her. We did a couple of hours of horse trekking and I got better. There was one moment where a big truck drove close by on a farm road and horse was going back and fort but I managed to steer us safe. After that moment I think I gained his trust and the rest of the ride went very well, he was going really politely. I’m not sure if horse riding is for me, the animal is much more difficult to control than a car, but then again it must be quite special when you have a bond with the horse and it does what you want it to do. Also, I would need to start stretching my groin. Now I know why cowboys walk the way they do..

Stephen and Ally were kind to let us use one of their cars for our two week stay. One day we went shopping at the outlet malls, preparing for our move to DRC.. Another day we drove a couple of hours southeast to Drumheller, where they have the world’s largest dinosaur museum and a lot of fossil findings in the nearby area. It was fascinating. Especially to hear the stories of how some of the fossils were found and brought in. A lot of luck, hiking, drilling, brushing, and flying with the helicopter. The area around Drumheller was interesting otherwise as well, it was really hot, like desert, and you could see around you layers of old soil in the hills.

Finally Luke came down south from fixing roofs at the oil rigs in the north. We spent a weekend with him. His cooking was so good, and we had a great fun time together. We were supposed to go to Jasper at the Rocky Mountains but the weather was really bad so it wouldn’t have been worth it. Thus we ended up staying in around Edmonton. We went to West Edmonton mall, which has a waterpark and a little amusement park inside. I think it used to be world’s biggest mall when it was built. There were fun things to see and do in the mall. We ate cinnamonbuns, played UV minigolf and rode the Mindbender, which is the biggest indoor rollercoaster in the world. That was fun! It had been so long since I rode a rollercoaster. In the evening we did an escape room together with Luke and his sister, which was really cool. We worked well together and managed to escape the Jumanji! Good for marriage ;)

We drove back to the farm and packed our car ready to go camping the next day. We hadn’t brought any of our own stuff for the trip, but fortunately Stephen and Ally had everything we needed and much more, so they let us use their camping gear. We were camping from Monday to Thursday. The first day we drove about 2hrs to Lake Abraham where we set our camp by the blue lake, in a beautiful location. After eating camp lunch, and learning again how everything works when you are camping, we went to do a hike to the Crescent Falls. It had been raining the previous days, so the weather was beautiful and clear. There had been a lot of bad wildfires in the province of British Columbia, and the smoke from the fires made the air in Alberta bad and poor visibility. But that day at Crescent Falls was really beautiful and we enjoyed the hike along the impressive canyon. The waterfalls at the end were amazing too. Unique landscape with its fresh water and mountains, but what makes it different from Switzerland for example is that the mountains are covered by narrow spruce trees that give a distinctive look. Or the areas where there are no trees it’s just plain grey rock. No grass no nothing. Hence the name, rockies, I guess. White water river rafting or canoeing there would be amazing! Just need to mind those waterfalls..

Unfortunately because of the extreme dry weather we weren’t allowed to do camp fire, but there were some fireworks at night. Apparently the star sky was amazing too, but I didn’t crawl out the tent to look at that. We woke up to a sunny day, although the smoke had started coming back and the visibility wasn’t as clear anymore. Apparently it’s quite common that there’s smoke in the air around the mountains during summer. Anyhow, I went for a swim in the morning, although I didn’t really want to because I knew it was glacier water. But I thought I should because I could. That’s when I really woke up. We ate breakfast, oh the maple & brown sugar porridge tasted good! The coffee too, and the eggs, nutella sandwich.. things just taste better outdoors, right!

Anyhow, we packed our camp in the car and off we drove. We weren’t inside the national park at this point yet, but soon we entered the Banff national park, a heaven for outdoors people.. although, it was crowded, and I don’t understand why there was a highway through the park. Apparently Jasper NP would have been more “authentic”, but we had reserved our camp site from Banff already six months ago. Already then many of the sites were sold out. But I understand why many people go to Banff. It is really beautiful and it has those places that give you the wow experience. I guess once you’ve seen those spots you could happily move to less crowded grounds.

So we did the Bow summit hike. Unfortunately the views from the summit to the valley were so smokey that we couldn’t see much. But we had a really nice view of the turquoise Peyto lake on our way up. We drove to our campsite in Johnston Canyon and set up the camp really fast this time, after learning from the previous day. It was a very pleasant camp site with hot water showers, dish washing stations, and clean toilets. Also, what was nice was that each camp site had quite a lot of personal space. We did the Johnston canyon hike still before the evening, and that was a nice one following the crystal clear river upstream in the canyon. There were also beautiful waterfalls along the route. And the smoke didn’t affect the visibility in the canyon. We came back to our campsite, took a shower and went out for a nice C.A.B steak dinner in the town of Banff!

The next morning we woke up at 5:30! That’s what you have to do if you want to have some privacy on the beautiful trails in Banff. And it was worth it. It was nice to visit Lake Louise and hike up to the teahouse at Lake Agnes for breakfast, and take photos before the crowds arrived. That was a 16km hike we did, as we continued to the other end of Lake Agnes and hiked up to the Big Beehive, and down the Six Glaciers’ route back to Lake Louise. The lakes, rivers, and the forests were amazing, although we missed most of the mountains and glaciers around because of poor visibility. It was already impressive, so I can imagine it would have been spectacular in good visibility. We checked on our phone how the scenery would l00k like on a clear day.

We were back at the car and it was barely lunch time! There was still time to do so much. We wanted to go to Moraine Lake, but it had been closed off already because it was full.. that’s how crowded it gets. So we decided to make lunch, fortunately we had all the cooking gear in car. After lunch we checked Moraine again and they had reopened it, which was great! And I mean it really was great, because I think Moraine Lake was the most beautiful place in Banff we saw! The water was so blue, more than the other lakes. And the lake was surrounded by green forest, rugged mountains, and rock piles. Fortunately the visibility was better than elsewhere as well, because somehow of the formation of the mountains there was quite a strong breeze through the lake that cleared some of the smoke. We found a nice spot for ourselves by the lake and I got to go swimming again. I hadn’t tried the water temperature before I dove in, so it was quite a shock when I hit the water! Especially because my wife had affirmed me the water was warm.. I don’t think it was that warm at all!

That evening we still had time to go for a nice meal in Banff and enjoy the Banff hot springs as well. Amazing how much you can do in one day if you wake up early!

Our last day in Banff the visibility was still poor so we walked around the town a bit as it wouldn’t have been worth hiking up Tunnel Mountain in that visibility. We couldn’t even see the mountain! But then we hiked at Grassi Lakes in Canmore, which was a nice easy 2hr hike with really beautiful waterfalls and lakes. We drove on a dirt road to the Spray lakes, but decided not to drive the 3hr extra loop as the visibility was poor. Otherwise that area would have been much less touristy and we could have seen some wildlife. So far we had seen many chipmunks, some marmots and mountain goats, but I wouldn’t have minded to see a bear! We even bought a bear spray as we were told it’s a necessary measure for self defence in case threatened by a bear in Banff, last resort though. I didn’t wish to use it, and we didn’t. Actually I tried to return it to the shop but they wouldn’t allow me, which was quite annoying because that weapon cost 50 dollars. And I can’t even keep it because it can’t be taken on a plane. So we gave it to Stephen and Ally because they didn’t have one.. Stephen fights bears with his bear (bare) hands, I think.

The last couple of days we had in Canada we spent at the farm with Stephen and Ally. It was great fun talking, playing, eating and even working together. For one day I offered to help with silaging at the farm. It’s an intensive couple of days of work, when you cut down all the hay, collect it, and store it for the winter. Even the neighbors and family from out of town came to help. I got to ride in the truck that transports the hay and in the tractor that cuts the hay. I myself drove a big tractor in the pit, where all the hay was collected. My job was to drive this big machine back and forth to pack the feed. I had a great time! Haha, it’s a lot like on our farm in Swaziland, although they are quite different. There is always work to do, and something needs to be fixed. I have respect for these farmers. They have to be their own mechanics, vets, drivers, builders, and accountants. No wonder the work never ends! But I get it. You are your own boss. And you can see things change. Even in just one week the chicken doubled in size! It was interesting to learn more about that business too. There are so many moving parts, so much responsibility, and risks too. It was good to see where our food comes from, and what it takes to arrive on our plates.

So yes, we had a great time connecting with friends, witnessed beautiful nature, learned about farming, riding horses, driving a tractor, and even about life with a baby. What a great privilege to learn all that, right! Babies like ice cream. They eat it with their body, mind, and soul. That’s cute.

The Taje family, apart from Luke Fort EdmontonBisons near Stephen and Ally's farm Checking out the chicks at Stephen and Ally's farmThe Friesen family: Stephen, Ally, and Anika Horse trekking at the Prairies Once upon a time; a cowgirl and a cowboy.. Pro Bass Shop near Calgary  Some of the dinosaurs looked very real at Tyrell dinosaur museum in Drumheller At the hoodoos!  We escaped the Jumanji with Luke and Hanna! Suki Hiking at to the Crescent falls Wild views at the Canadian Rockies The beautiful Crescent falls Lake Abraham Lake AbrahamBeautiful lake waters good for morning swim Camp style breakfast at Lake Abraham Welcome to Banff! Peyto Lake On the way to Bow summit Johnston Canyon Morning coffee at Lake Agnes Smokey views in Banff Lake AgnesWildlife: marmot? Chipmunk King Lake Louise Moraine Lake    Moraine lake  Six glaciers' hike, but the glaciers were a bit difficult to see   Grassi lake Canadian delicacy Drinks after hiking Me and my monster truck! Packing animal feed Ice creams at the Wooden Shoe



Greetings from Vancouver, Canada

Kanada - 19.8.2018 18:57

This post is about the first part of our trip in Canada. While I finish the pictures and writing of the second part, you can already check out the video of the whole trip here: https://vimeo.com/285648254 with password 1205.

So, Vancouver, it is claimed to be even the most beautiful city in the world. I’d always wanted to go to see Vancouver, the waters and mountains around it. We had really nice few days there exploring the city a bit, although spending more time in the parks in and around it, which I appreciated. I thought Vancouver was beautiful as well though, especially because of its surroundings. There were small planes taking off and landing on the water in front of the city, flying passengers to the many islands and coves nearby. We rented a tandem bike to explore Stanley Park, which is a big forest/beach/inland water area covering a peninsula right off the city. It was nice to ride around the peninsula along the sea and in the forests. Doing it with a tandem was another new experience in itself as well! Balancing it was more difficult than I had expected, but we managed it and got better at it, and avoided any accidents on the sometimes busy bikelanes.

One thing I didn’t expect of Vancouver was the large number of homeless people. I understand that the living costs in the city have gone up a lot, many rich foreigners are buying properties in town and also driving up the prices. We did see many Asians, and they seemed to have been pretty well integrated, as in the immigrants had been there for quite some time already and it would be easier then for new ones to integrate as well then, I guess. I’m not sure if the high living cost is the only reason for the big homeless community, as we observed there were very liberal and alternative lifestyles that could lead in to more people living on the streets. We didn’t have a car in Vancouver so we used the buses, and there we encountered many homeless people. Especially along Hastings Street, which was on the way to our Airbnb. There is a stereotype of Canadians being friendly, and to my surprise this was true, among the homeless especially. And why not!? My experience of alcoholics and drug addicts from Finland just told me a bit otherwise. But actually the homeless people we saw in buses were in general really polite and didn’t cause any trouble. And I was happy to see that they were treated with respect, as in people would offer their seat to a homeless person in a crowded bus.

We met other friendly Canadians as well. Our Airbnb host family was one really friendly and helpful family. They even picked us up from the airport and had put a bottle of rosé in the fridge for the honeymooners! We shared many stories together and had funny and meaningful discussions. And they even let us use their car for one day when we went hiking in Lynn Canyon!

Deb’s friend, Sarah, joined us for a couple of days as well! She had taken time off of work and traveled more than 10 hours by bus to come and see us. Sarah is a friend from when Deb worked at Mercy Ships, and they had a really good time reconnecting. We did some hiking together, like the day in Lynn Canyon, and also up to Cypress Mountain. Both were really nice days. One day we walked along the coast just taking in the sea air and stopping at benches to read the special messages on them. We explored Granville island together, an industrial area that had been turned into a recreational area with markets selling good stuff, like food and desserts. That day we, like thousands of other people, went to English Bay for the evening to watch a beautiful fireworks show by the South Korean team, who were competing against Sweden and South Africa. We ate there at the beach, watched the sun go down, and the evening ended with a blast, spectacle. It took quite a long time to get back home though.. which was no surprise. A surprise was that Deb and Sarah met another friend from the Ship after the fireworks. Vancouver seemed to be the place to be.

Oh and before Sarah came we had a great day in Deep Cove, just the two of us. We could get there by taking two buses in less than an hour. I would definitely recommend spending a day there. It’s a beautiful area filled with nature, and there is a small town with cozy cafes, restaurants and shops. The atmosphere is really laid back. People have houses, or free time houses, by the sea. And just looking at the houses is interesting in itself. You have even a better view of the area if you rent a kayak and paddle around the cove and the islands. That’s what we did, in tandem again. We rented a double kayak for a couple of hours and that was a great way to explore and do some exercise together. We were actually really active. After the kayaking we still went for a couple of hours’ hike to the Quarry rock, which was a nice look out from the beautiful forest where the trees are so big and old. The forest was different from Finland. It was very bright and green, and there was a lot of ferns and moss growing.

We enjoyed Vancouver. It seemed to be a good place to live, kind of like Sydney in that way. I would like to go back and explore more of the archipelago around Vancouver, maybe take a plane with pontoons. Apparently there are quite interesting communities in these hidden coves, which can’t be reached by cars.. Oh and I’m sure one wouldn’t need to go far to do some good fishing. And then of course there is the Whistler mountain, which we didn’t have time to visit this time. But we did a lot of great stuff with the time we had, definitely!

Arrived in Vancouver Indigenous totem poles at Stanley park The Hollow tree at Stanley park. Here people have been taking pictures with their vehicle parked inside the tree for decades already. We continued the tradition. Breakfast at Honey Donuts and Goodies fuelled us for kayaking and hiking in Deep Cove Kayaking at Deep Cove was great fun! Hiking through the bright and spacious forest in Deep Cove. This would be amazing for mountainbiking! On top of Quarry rock in Deep Cove. Vancouver at the back. Beer tasting in Deep Cove style Coastal walk at the North shore of Vancouver together with my wife and her friend Sarah. Lion's gate bridge and Stanley park at the back. Found this on the beach At Cypress Mountain viewpoint with my wife and Sarah. Vancouver at the back Fireboat putting up its own show before the fireworks Fireworks spectacle by team South Korea in English Bay, Vancouver Some natural swimming pools in Lynn Canyon Picnic lunch at Rice lake with wife and Sarah At Lynn Canyon  Ice cream with my wife and Sarah. I had salty liquorice (salmiakki) and mint chocolate chip cookie dough flavours

Aloha from Hawaii

Yhdysvallat (USA) - 2.8.2018 08:59

Check out our new video at: https://vimeo.com/282805357

Password: 1205

Greetings from paradise!

When I was a child I dreamed of going to Hawaii. But it was so far away from Finland, and so expensive. The Canary Islands or Thailand were usually the easier holiday destinations. I never thought one day I would go to Hawaii. But I did. We did! It was conveniently on the way from Sydney to Vancouver.

It was expensive, but totally worth it. We had such an amazing time!

We flew in to Honolulu, which is the capital of the “aloha” state on the island of Oahu. On our way we travelled back in time! That was so weird. We had already had breakfast that day in Sydney, but we had it again the same day in Honolulu. We were so tired when we arrived very early in the morning. The US customs wasn’t even open yet so we had to wait for the staff to come to work before we could enter their country. You hear all those rumors of how intimidating the immigration is at the US border, but we had none of that. The friendly man said aloha and didn’t ask further questions. I do believe the rumors though.. Anyways, we were so tired, too many crying babies on the flight. The Dreamliner was a nice plane in itself though, big windows and such a smooth landing we didn’t know if we had touched the ground. Maybe it was just not to wake anyone up so early.. although we figured people in Hawaii get up very early. Sunrises are beautiful. Back to being tired, the excellent news for us at the time of arriving to our hotel was not only that we got an upgrade because we’re on honeymoon, but also the fact that we could check in at 7am instead of 1pm! We had breakfast and crashed on the bed.

We woke again in the afternoon and felt like it was morning. Did some bikini shopping and got a local sim card, which is great since it works in Canada as well and we can pick up Uber rides because of the mobile data. We went to watch the sunset at Waikiki beach and had some fish tacos for dinner. Couldn’t believe how loud the people were in the restaurant. And the tipping culture. Still getting used to it. The same with your purchases being hit with the tax at the cashier and there you go suddenly spending 10% more than you thought. But it’s probably just my cultural stiffness.. The beauty of the nature and the island lifestyle make up for it all.

So we spent almost four days on Oahu, renting a car for one and a half days. Even though Honolulu is quite a big city, the Waikiki area was nice and walkable. There were plenty of shops and restaurants. The island offers much more though. We paid a brief visit to the historical Pearl Harbour, and visited also Dole pineapple plantation. We also hiked up the crater at Diamond Head (with hundreds of other people). Then drove to the North Shores along the west coast. The scenery changed dramatically from dry to lush and mountainous, and there were really nice beaches at the North Shores. We had excellent shrimps at Giovanni’s shrimp truck. I never thought truck food could really be any good but I have to say these were probably the most delicious 12 hot and spicy shrimps I’ve had in my life! We spent our afternoon on a beautiful and quiet beach that I had spotted from the map. There was even a natural ocean pool! Turtle Bay, but don’t tell too many people about it. There were nice beaches at Haleiwa and Waimea as well. But we continued to Lanikai where we stayed in an Airbnb. We had a tasty seafood dinner there and the next day woke up to watch the sunrise at the beach. We had to get up early anyway to return the rental car and catch our flight to the island of Maui.

We had originally booked our flights to the Big Island where we could have explored the volcano national park, but because of the volcanic activity the park is mainly closed, so we decided to go to Maui instead. And I’m happy we did, since Maui was epic!

We spent 7 days on Maui, which was a really good amount of time to explore the whole island. Rental car is a must. We had a nice Jeep, which good on some of the bumpy parts of the road to Hana. The rental company we used on Oahu and Maui is called Alamo. They had frequent shuttle buses from terminal to their office where we picked up and returned the rental cars. Their service was very good and fast. No issues, and returning the car was very easy.

We had an Airbnb for our stay in Maui. It was located in south Kihei, which I think was a perfect location. The beaches in Kihei are much nicer and less crowded than those in Lahaina, where many of the tourists tend to go. Also, Kihei had a lot of services available and was a good location to explore the island. We saw many sea turtles when snorkeling at the beaches in Kihei/Makena area. The water was so clean and clear. It was pristine. Like it was supposed to be, everywhere, before man polluted the waters. And the beaches were sandy, no trash anywhere! So pleasing. It’s such an isolated place. That comes with a cost too. We thought we save a lot living in an Airbnb and cooking ourselves, and then we were quite shocked about the prices in a grocery store. But that’s it, the logistics of getting food and goods to the islands is so expensive. A simple package of toast bread was 5$, a bit fancier bread was already 9$. Four cans of Maui brewing company’a beer was also 9$. Mmm, pineapple wheat beer for the hot summer’s days. It was so worth the money.

We had sunny weather throughout our stay there. It was between 30 and 35 degrees. We were able to work on our sun tans. The Airbnb had beach chairs and the works, so we really enjoyed comfortable staying on the beach. The first night, we went for an evening swim at sunset and I almost bumped into a massive sea turtle! We saw many of them the following days as well. Amazing creatures. The snorkeling from the shore was good, but we still paid for a snorkeling trip to Molokini crater, which is supposed to be one of the top 10 snorkeling spots in the world. It was good and colourful, yet I would say we saw more interesting stuff at Palawan in the Philippines.

Besides the ocean and snorkeling, another highlight was the road to Hana, which is basically going around the East part of the island. We went via the south side, so we started by going through the dry and windy. It was spectacular. We drove through lava fields and dry lands, which changed to tropical forest around the eastern bend. On our way we stopped to eat local fruit from farmers who had fell in love with the island and its lifestyle. I can see why. During the day we did almost a three hours hike on the Pipiwai trail, which starts from the ocean, following the river leading from the seven sacred pools all the way to a beautiful waterfall. The trail follows the river and goes through a bamboo forest. A wonderful experience! The bamboos make an almost instrumental sounds when clonking to each others in the wind. Pipiwai was the highlight on the road to Hana, but we saw many more waterfalls and pools along the road still. We also explored a cave on the black sand beach, which gets its colour from the lava rock. The evening we ended in a surfing town called Paia.

Talking about surfing. I had to try that, of course. No instructions, but after about one hour of surfing I was able to stand on the board and ride a wave, three times! It was nearly sensational, the feeling when the wave took over and the board picked up speed.

We did some cocktails (Mai tais), good food (ahi and poke), chilling and sitting by the pool as well, although our week was pretty active! Difficult to say which one was the most unforgettable experience, but surely the summit hike at Haleakala Red Hill was an amazing one! We drove, from practically sea level to 3,050m altitude. On the way we passed through different climates, until we were above the clouds. Once up there, we did a 3hr hike down and up the crater. The scenery was like from Mars. Volcano cinders, red dirt, black dirt, species that can’t be found anywhere else. Dramatic landscape, and then clouds hanging low below. We went quite far to the crater until there were no other people. There was no sound. It was beautiful. I ran a loop around a cinder, which was a mistake. In that altitude and scorching heat I lost my breath and was exhausted! And that was at the bottom of our trail. Now we needed to hike up all the way had come down. But it went well, we made it back to the top. In perfect time to witness the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen! We sat on our beach chairs on the summit above the clouds watching the sun paint the sky and the dancing clouds as the evening turned to night. Just to reveal the most amazing starry sky!

Waikiki beach My little mermaidHonolulu as seen from Diamond Head 

Trying the local dish, Poke! Really yummy, raw fish. Banana ice!My wife having so much fun in the Waikiki waves Submarine at Pearl HarbourWhipped pineapple  The best shrimps I've ever had - at Giovanni's shrimp truck

Did you know that coconut palm trees were not original to Hawaii Our secret beach on the island of O'ahu, with a natural ocean pool 

Dinner with my beautiful wife Sunrise 6am at Lanikai beach Sunset at our home beach in Maui

Makena beach   On the road to HanaThe south side of Maui was very dry and windy Black goat on the lava fieldsOn the road to Hana - stopping to eat a fruitplatter in a bamboo garden Sandals Waterfall on Pipiwai trail Measuring the size of this plant Looking that the tree is in healthy condition after all those tourists climbing on it Bamboo forest The last waterfall on our Pipiwai trail On our way back Seven sacred pools leading to the ocean Cave exploration The sand on this beach was black from the lava rock The beautiful Hakeakala crater from 3000m   Silver sword is a plant that can be found only here in the crater The hike up from the crater was strenuous  After the crater hike we sat down to watch the sun set Watching the clouds dance as the sun set No more t-shirts and shorts in 5 degrees weather! Teaching myself to surf at Kanapali beach Happy man after learning to catch a wave  Snorkeling in the Molokini crater   My wife got friendly with the sea turtles  Local dish, Ahi Local dish, fresh fish Mai tais on the last evening in Maui

Greetings from Australia

Australia - 26.7.2018 21:34

Check out our video from Australia: https://vimeo.com/281873808

Password: 1205

Well actually we are already in Hawaii, but we have had too much fun to have the time to write. Now we are waiting for our flight from Honolulu to Maui so I’ll catch up with what’s been happening lately.

We had a wonderful time in Australia! It was just six days, but we loved it there in Down Under. It was their winter, but it doesn’t really look like winter when you talk about it with Finnish people. The weather was sunny and clear, around 20 degrees, except at the Blue Mountains where it was around 10 degrees, during the day. Nights were cold.

We stayed with my cousins in Sydney, and they made sure we had a great time, food and everything we wanted. They let us use their car to visit my friend Uncle-Peter (Piggy) in Katoomba, at the mountains. On our way we stopped at Featherdale wildlife park where we could feed kangaroos and pat koalas. I had already spent nine months in Australia in 2009 so I had seen many things before but for Deborah it was all wonderful and new! And she really didn’t want to leave Oz without seeing the iconic animals. A picture with a koala was high on the bucket list. And they had many koalas in the park, although they were all asleep. We found out that they sleep between 18 and 20 hours a day, and are most active during the night. So chances of having a nice picture with the fluffy package were slim. We did get (pay) a nice picture even though our friend was asleep. The roos instead were wide awake hopping around.

Lots of memories came back as I entered Peter’s home where I once stayed for a month. The garden was as wild as before, and the gardener hadn’t changed either. Happy as always. He showed us around his most inspirational spots: the three sisters and the anonymous cafe. In return I showed him around my secret lookout near the farm where I worked, and the Hargraves lookout over the Megalong valley. In return he explained us what Megalong meant. Apparently it’s not really megalong, it’s just an aboriginal word. We learned a lot of other history as well on that day. The day ended splendidly in Leura, where Uncle Piggy took us to an exquisite restaurant for dinner. Well done, mate!

The next day we went touring around Sydney with my aunt. We crossed the iconic Harbour bridge and learned about it in one of the pylons that held a museum about the bridge inside. On top of the pylon there is a great viewpoint looking at the bridge, the Opera house, and the city. That is well worth the visit, and I hadn’t done it before.

Sydney is a beautiful city, and the harbour area with the bridge and opera house look so good. Also, the sky is most often blue, sun is shining and making people smile. Besides, the harbour area has so many bays and nice gardens. We took a ferry from the harbour to Manly, which is by the sea. It’s a nice area with beautiful beaches. We hiked around it, altogether some 16km before going back to the city to eat with my uncle Rade. He had reserved a table in a really nice restaurant for us at revolving O bar overlooking the city. Second night in a row we were treated like royals.

Saturday we slept in a bit, had another great breakfast with pancakes, and then went out with my aunt and uncle. They showed us around the southern side of Sydney. We went to visit the Gap which is notorious for suicides. But it’s a beautiful place actually. We continued to the famous Bondi beach where there is always a lot of people surfing, swimming and exercising. Even some were sun bathing! I went in the cool and clear sea to hit the waves, which is so much fun. But I couldn’t stay too long otherwise I would have turned blue. But it was definitely warmer water than in Hammerfest!

We walked from Bondi to Bronte along the coast and then to another beach (there are so many!) for tasty fish and chips. It looks like life there is good. In some ways it reminds me of Switzerland. It doesn’t have the mountains but it has the beaches and the sea. Both countries enjoy a good wine culture. People look good and relaxed. Lots of young families playing with their kids outside.

That evening we went to an evening service at Hillsong city church. The sermon by Joel A’bell was really a challenging one, about Him increasing in us, and us decreasing. Very good. We met a Finnish guy, Oskari, who had come there to a bible college and ended up staying and is now one of the youth pastors! He and his wife were excited about the Hillsong conference that had just ended a week ago. Would be excellent to get a chance to join some year!

After the church service we went to have dinner in Newtown, which is a very busy bar and restaurant district. We must have looked for parking for 20 minutes! After dinner we went to a restaurant called “The Last Course”. It was a dessert restaurant serving delicious last courses. A nice concept, I don’t know why it isn’t more popular.

On Sunday we drove down to Wollongong, about 1hr south of Sydney. We met there with the Forrests, whom we had met about a year ago in Switzerland when they were returning from their mission at MercyShips. My wife got to know them when they were serving together in Madagascar. They are a lovely family. The father, Dave, showed me his woodwork and I got him excited about making a “kuksa”, which is a carved wooden cup used by hikers in Finland. The Forrests took us to a wonderful picnic by the sea and up a hill for great views of the coast. In the water we saw many surfers and also dolphins. Dave is involved in a very inspiring ministry mentoring men about fatherhood. It’s a new ministry, which has had a very positive reception. I hope this kind ministry would go across the Australian borders to all around the world.

That Sunday evening we still made it to the evening service at the main Hillsong campus at Hills. It was another kind of church experience! Hillsong has 88 services in a week in Australia. This particular building held about 3,500 people and they have 4 services there on a Sunday. It’s amazing how many people have been reached through this church, which has become global. They sell so many CDs across the world every year that they keep getting the Australian grammy awards for their records sales, which are the best of any Australian band. But it’s more than just good music.

After the church we had a delicious farewell barbecue dinner with my family at their place, and even enjoyed a sauna and some local craft ciders from the Blue Mountains. Our visit to Australia was a very joyful one and we would have loved to stay longer. There were still people and many places we didn’t have time to see, that’ll be next time.

Family dinner with Kikka, Zac and Rade Feeding the friendly roos  Koala Scenery at Blue Mountains Uncle-Piggy and his three sisters! Anonymous coffee in Blackheath with synonymous company A nice message from the chef at the Silk's of Leura  The Opera House Manly Australian coast line Sydney Sydney Harbour bridge Fancy dinner with aunt and uncle at O bar in Sydney  With Kikka and Rade at the gap Ocean pools at Bondi  At the Last Course restaurant in Newtown Picnic lunch with the Forrests in Wollongong    At Hillsong church



Byebye Bangkok

Thaimaa - 17.7.2018 21:54

Check out the video of our travels in Thailand here: https://vimeo.com/280392096

Password: 1205

We are now sitting at the gate waiting to board our plane from Bangkok to Singapore and then to Sydney, with handwritten boarding passes, which have already created amusement at the security check, passport control, and duty free. Nevertheless, we managed to board our 10th flight of the journey.

Once we returned from Krabi to Bangkok my dad had just arrived from Bhutan the same day. Bangkok is a great hub in Southeast Asia for many organizations. My dad is based there to work in a regional role with Fida International, and he seems to be traveling more than staying in Bangkok. I think he has now Been to about 70 countries, whereas I’ve unlocked a bit more than 50. Don’t know if I’ll ever reach 70!

As we knew that there will be quite much traveling ahead, we wanted to take it easy in Bangkok; eating REALLY well, going to the gym in the mornings, and playing boardgames for example.

Dad and Heather were around just for a couple of more days and then they flew to Finland for a holiday. As they were leaving, there was a beautiful fireworks show on the river just in front of us!

So we had the apartment for ourselves for a couple of days, nice! We continued eating well and going to gym and the pools, and even tried the sauna the last evening. On Sunday morning we went to the Life church in Siam. It was really good to be able to attend church, worship God and hear the word first time after leaving Switzerland. We met some nice people there and had lunch together. It was an international crowd of people working for different organizations, and somehow you feel like you know each other already.

After lunch we went to Chatuchak weekend market, which is so huge that you can easily spend a day there and still not see everything. It’s quite busy though so we were ready to leave after 3 hours. We found some nice little accessories and clothing. It’s good we have very limited space in our luggage so we avoid extra carefully buying anything unnecessary. In three hours we didn’t even get to the furniture, arts, or plants sections. Didn’t think we could fit any of those in though.

Sunday evening went along eating take away Thai food from our favorite kitchen around the corner and watching World Cup football just like on Saturday. Belgium was great and deserved their best ever World Cup result being third. We so hoped the petit Croatia would have conquered Les Bleus, but second place was a great achievement also.

Monday was the last evening and we decided to go check out the latest movie technology max 4D-hold your seats nose and breath- in your face-kick ass cinematography. The conclusion was that we still prefer the good old 2D movies. The Ant man was good though!

On the last day I still took advantage of the 3$ hair cut before saying good bye to our wonderful place in Bangkok. It was all so convenient and comfortable. Thank you. We have many reasons to come back.

Like best friends  The River residents' boat serviceThe girls played Scrabble while the boys competed in Agricola   Shabu shabu Farewell fireworks Lunch after church  Trying out another local eatery Sticky toast Our favorite local kitchen  This is how we started most of our mornings Our handwritten boarding passes

Belgium lost and the weather changed

Thaimaa - 12.7.2018 14:52

It was quite disappointing, we stayed up to watch the semifinal until the wee hours. I really thought Belgium was going to be the champion this time. But no, France was better and they went to the World Cup final. (Now we hope Croatia will keep making history!)

Although it was quite dire to wake up for breakfast after a short night’s sleep, it was worth it since the sun started to break through the clouds and the sky was blue after a while! We headed to the beach, but it was still too early as the tide was high, so we waited. While Deb stayed to watch the climbers at the beach, I decided to make a sacrifice for the sake of nice pictures and climbed the still muddy trail (that was closed during the rain) to a viewpoint. Actually I really enjoyed it, and the views were definitely worth the sweat and mosquitoes (it’s remarkable what kind of a jungle can live on a lime stone). The sacrifice was just in the form of blue shoes turning terra-cotta red.

When the tide went out we were able to reach the nice part of the beach for some cool photos and video. People had been waiting for the beach weather and now they were arriving with boats from the nearby ports.

After the beach we went back to our hotel for lunch and I got ready for my afternoon activity, rock climbing! I’ve heard the Krabi area is some kind of a Mecca for rock climbers, and I understand why. The limestone formations are not only wonderful looking but also really nice features for rock climbing. The rock is really nice to climb; plenty of interesting features and good holds as well. I went top rope climbing with a group of different level climbers. A lot of great climbers there, many of which are Chinese actually. I was climbing and belaying also. The fun cost me some 30$ and offered me the gear and a couple of hours of climbing. I did six different routes which were quite different from each other. Some were with a bit more overhang and climbing over ledges, so heavier on the arms, whereas some were more acrobatic on the feet. The climbing pace was quite high and soon the group was tired already. I however, managed to climb all the routes in the section we went to. Perhaps the most difficult one was a 6a+ route that was also the highest one (maybe some 30m) and had a tricky section just at the top before the finish where the rock didn’t have much features anymore. It was a great sensation to reach the end of that one!

We went for a massage still before dinner, which did very good after the climbing. Dinner was a BBQ buffet accompanied with cultural performance shows. The fire dance almost set the place on fire. The weather has been constantly hot and humid in any case. Good that the rooms have AC and that we haven’t caught a cold, which we both are prone to. Also, we haven’t spent a day sick in bed because of a stomach bug or anything else *knock wood*. Apparently food poisoning and that stuff are quite common at Railay.. we ate lunch almost every day at Local Thai, which was good and the staff was friendly. The last day at Krabi we had some time to walk around the “island” in dry weather and discovered that walking all the way up the east Railay is more quiet and has a really nice restaurant/bar Tew Ley Bar with really nice views and a cool sea breeze. Also, the Great View Resort looked really nice although it’s about a 10′-15′ walk from the beach and restaurants of Railay.

We are happy that we had some sunshine, and could see how beautiful Railay is, the limestones are amazing. And I am so glad I was able to try rock climbing in this special spot! Now we are on our way back to Bangkok, looking forward to seeing Dad and Heather again!

Thai long boats The steep route up to the viewpointRailay  Time to try out rock climbing So many sweet holds in the rock   6a+ This was the climbing spot at Railay Looking gorgeous <3  The cool views and breeze at Tew Ley