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A round the world trip in more than 80 days.

Why this blog ?

Our aim : travel and discover the world during 353 days and through some fifhteen countries. We are hoping that this blog will allow us to share the experience with our family and friends thanks to the posts and photos that we will be publishing and also thanks to their comments.

Currently ...

now. For the moment, we are gently readapting from nomadic to sedentary life.


Philippines : first steps in Southest Asia

We have for sure loved New Zealand's beautiful landscapes and Australia's wildlife variety. But it is also true that they are extremely Westernised and developed countries : so clean, so organised, so “nothing out of place”. By the time our Australian trip was coming to its end, we were starting to miss the colours, the liveliness and the spontaneity that we had met in South America.

A good timing for this feeling since the next country in our list was the Philippines. Just a few hours after boarding our plane, gone were the 21 million inhabitants of Australia, the manicured gardens, the cute and polished houses, the all alike Sydney buses and the cries of lorikeets and cockatoos in the parks. We were welcomed instead by 11-million-soul Manila, by a no-frills and in many cases still unfinished housing, by colourful and flashy jeepneys and tricycles customised to the taste of the owner and by the crowing of cocks (that has been following us everywhere, even to the airport and the ferries where fight roosters travel in individual cardboard boxes).

The Philippines is an archipelago of some 7000 tropical islands. Wanting to keep Manila for the end, we started the discovery of the country by diving in the Coral Reefs of Apo Island. We hopped from there to Bohol island to enjoy a weird landscape called “Chocolate Hills”, and to have a look at the smallest primate in the world, the tarsier (that fits in a hand and have got the eyes and ears of Star Wars' Yoda). We also took advantage of our stay in this island to spend a few days in the jungle by the Loboc river. The Bicol region was our next destination, where we went swimming along with the whale sharks and saw the smoke emanating from the Mayon volcano (just a few weeks before our arrival it was possible to spot lava flowing down its slopes).

Towns are by far not beautiful, but they are full of energy and contrasts : modern malls, creepy popular markets, beauty and massage centres, little stands offering a variety of products, not all of the highest taste (like those selling knee-high plastic religious images), a variety of fast-foods and little food stalls, run-down although still highly visited churches and commercials for male entertainment bars on the tourist TV channel.

Prior to our arrival, we were expecting to experience language issues for the first time in our trip, so we were surprised to find that practically everybody speaks fluent English. Even the signs are written mostly in this language, both in town and in the countryside. The Filipinos, tanned and almond-eyed, are easy-smiling, friendly and early-risers. At one of the villages we stayed, children were already at school around 7 am, and 6 am is considered to be late enough to play pop-rock music loud enough for all the village to enjoy it.

It is also a quite cheap country. We find refreshing that people are mostly straightforward, and to be able to get around without being made feel like a dollar-bill with legs or being chased upon arriving to a place. Although we have witnessed our share of poverty and even if there is a considerable number of firearms around, it is possible to walk around with less paranoia than in some points of South America.

In short, the Philippines are allowing us to soft-land in Asia, an experience that looks promising.


The places visited in Australia

View our itinerary in a larger map

Photos : Australie : East Coast

Click on the image below to see some pictures of the second part of our Australian trip :

Australia - East Coast

Going through the Australian est coast

Whereas I generally associate Australia with a dry and mainly desert land, the climate in Cairns, where we flew from Melbourne, is tropical. Neither the oppressive humid heat nor the surprise showers do miss. As neither do mosquitoes. While preparing the trip, we got used to the idea of getting bitten by the little things in Asia and South America, but so far it is in Australia we have been attacked and defeated by a full army of them.

We stayed in Cairns a few days, during which we stuffed ourselves with tropical fruits, for once really cheap, and we went scuba diving into the Great Barrier Reef. We were lucky because although it rained cats and dogs half of the time we were there, the day we went out diving the sun shined. Thus, we could enjoy the reef colours in all their beauty.

It was a delight and we were not expecting to have a better diving experience in Oz-land but, a bit further south, we dove on the Yongala wreck and we still can not believe it. I have always associated the word 'wreck' with a bunch of rusted metal. But in this particular case, over the hundred years that the ship has been sitting under the sea, it has been covered with corals and has become the home of what looks to be a million fish. It was a blast to float in a cloud of multicoloured tiny fishes and, at the same time, to watch as many huge fishes as in my thirty previous dives put together : sea snakes, turtles, tunas, barracudas, rays and even an old sea bass the size of a VW Beattle. The sobering part came when, during the safety stop, one of the instructors got stunk by a urukandji jelly fish, one of the most dangerous and painful, and had to be flown to the hospital.

Back on board of a campervan, we kept heading south following the coastal highways, driving through forests, sugar cane, mango and banana plantations. We made a few detours in order to see platypuses, sleep, picnic or swim in a natural creek (icing on the cake, where there was no risk of ending up being a crocodile's diner) in National Parks. And we went on a boat day trip to the Whitsundays and Fraser Island, to have a look and try to understand why all the fuss about them.

Eventually, we got to Brisbane, Queensland capital. A city with a lively downtown area where, as in the rest of Australian big cities we have visited, old buildings are interspersed with modern skyscrapers. We enjoyed visiting it on foot and from the ferries that goes along the river. We added a stop at a zoo to see a living Tasmanian devil (the main reason why Tasmania did make part of our initial travel plan, I can die in peace now).

Already over 2000 kilometres away from Cairns and with still 1000 kilometres ahead to get to Sydney, we realised that we had been too optimistic with our appraisal of distances in this country, as well as with the time required to cover them. With only 6 days left to return our van, we decided to rule off the north of New South Wales and get asap to the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, where we spent a couple of days visiting and hiking.

And here we are, ready to depart for the Philippines tomorrow, after a little week in this charming place that is Sydney. We are really happy to have left this city for the end of our visit to Australia, since we think the other big towns would have looked somehow faded compared with their glamorous cousin. It has felt great to get a week of rest, specially after so many days at the wheel, and to have the time to visit the city at a leisure pace, a different part each day.