Thursday, 20 December 2007

My new career!

As long as I can remember my deepest desire has been that I wanted to become a cleaning lady when I was a grown-up. I wrote that in all 'vriendenboekjes' and for some reason I lost track of that. Apparently becoming a teacher and later on a consultant seemed more appealing. Thank God I got my act together and I am absolutely loving my new career: I am finally a cleaning lady!!! And I am damned good at it as well if I may say so myself... (I already 'earned' a bottle of wine for working that hard...)

My welcome at the Hopewell Hostel in Marlborough Sounds has been more than great. My bosses, Lynley and Mike, are absolutely relaxed and lovely, the surroundings are superb and my extra benefits (let's call them 'secundaire arbeidsvoorwaarden') are in one word fantastic. I work in the mornings (cleaning, making beds etc.) and in the afternoons I can 'play'. Considering the fact that I love being outdoor, the kayaking, the mountain biking, the hiking, the beach, the outside air and the beautiful nature are amazing. Besides that, there are lovely people staying here and for some reason people are constantly offering to make me dinners (great, thanks!) and the best benefit of all is that Mike loves seafood and he makes the most delicious mussels ever...And we have them every third night or so...How is that for a benefit, who needs a laptop, a mobile, an OV card (free public transport) or a bonus at the end of a year? Not me, I'll take the mussels!! No other job can EVER top that.

And even though it has been raining quite a lot over the last few days, I have not been bored, because I bought myself a Spanish course to learn a bit of Spanish before heading to South America. I haven't learnt a new language since I was 13, so picking up the Spanish is great: it keeps my brain active!

And sorry, no pictures: the computer is too slow...well, the hopewell website says it all...

Monday, 10 December 2007

Proper updating alert!

Behold: an update on the previous 6 weeks in New Zealand. Grab a chair, get a coffee, some biscuits and enjoy the reading. Unfortunately Eefje has troubles with her computer sending me some nice pictures, so I will only have a few now. Hopefully I will add some more in the next days or so.

If you want to go chronological, read it in this order:
First Winter,
Then Fall,
Spring,
Summer,
Travelling with Mark and Ellie,
Back to the ‘real’ world,

Enjoy!

Back to the ‘real’ world

I returned to Christchurch via the nice town Dunedin where I spend a day going to an interesting museum and a beautiful art gallery. Back in Christchurch I’m using Patrick’s welcomeness (yes, that’s a new word) again and I’ll stay with him until I find a job. Most of you will find the next thing strange, but little workaholic and career woman as I am, after 5 months of travelling I still don’t feel like working. Yes, get back on your chairs again: I do not feel like working! I am completely cured and it’s great!!
However, there are loads of jobs here though, but all for 3 months or more and I am only here for 2 months. And since I do not really have to earn money (lucky me!), just not spending any money in the next few weeks, I found a really nice job in the North of the South Island. As of the end of this week I will be working in a hostel, just doing general work for 3-4 hours a day and then I have the rest of the day off to do the things you do in the middle of nowhere in a beautiful place like Marlborough: hiking, swimming, reading, meeting people and hopefully some exciting activities (check their website if you are not jealous of me yet… www.hopewell.co.nz)


But of course before work comes pleasure and Patrick wanted to go on a ‘proper’ hike with me, so he took me to his best hike in New Zealand…And I have to admit: it’s a winner. On Friday we took off to Kaikoura to start the hike to Mount Fyffe the next day. Bloody hell, the first 4 hours were absolutely terror: going straight up the mountain till 1602 meters. That was Patrick’s trick to let me know I was not as fit as I thought as was. I needed to take more breaks than I expected (I was very annoyed about that to be honest), but the views were excellent. Well, I shocked Patrick when I told him that the highest ‘mountain’ in the Netherlands is 322 meters, so he was quiet after that…We continued along a scary edge (mum: you would have died instantly…Femke too for that matter) and we were literally sliding down rocky landslides. I loved it, especially with the views of the snowy mountains. Coming down till the Kowhai Saddle, after that we had to hop up and down along the river: really looking for a path at some times.


After 8,5 hours walk we got to the hut where the cold creek was awaiting us for a cold dip. Mind you, Patrick chickened out, so it was just me being fresh afterwards. Patrick crashed at that point (so who is the fit one now, hey?!), so I was enjoying myself getting the firewood and making dinner. No, to be honest, the sun got to Patrick’s fair Irish skin and he looked like a nicely cooked shrimp so he was out for the day.
The next day was like ‘whipped cream on an ice cream’: we had several river crossings to do which I had done before with Eefje, but not as many and ‘wild’ ones as these. It was great fun, I really enjoyed it. The gorges were beautiful, the track was hardly visible at times, the weather was excellent (too bad I do not have a picture of Patrick being completely covered up with gloves and my towel to keep the sun of him…), the variety of the scenery; it all made the track the best hike so far in New Zealand (sorry Eefje, Mark and Ellie…). So Patrick’s hike is a winner!


After returning to Kaikoura, having an ice cream and a coffee, I did another two hour walk along the peninsula enjoying the seals, the weather and the scenery. Patrick stayed in the Van, keeping out of the sun, because he still looked pretty cooked to me and he preferred to be cooked instead of getting roasted as well. Fair enough I reckon!

So, how about this for a proper update! I hope you enjoyed the stories, I surely did in real time. I will, with a bit of luck, update regularly in Marlborough, perhaps with even better episodes (as if that’s possible…)

Travelling with Mark and Ellie

After Eefje left for Belgium again, I drove back to Christchurch because in all fairness the Van wanted to go home because he was a bit tired. And his brakes seem to malfunction a bit, so time for a pit stop. The next days were ‘all Irish’: catching up with Patrick and later on with Mark and Ellie. Irish as they are (of course I would never do that) it involved some nice wine and beers and loads of talking. Great stuff!

Then Mark, Ellie and me headed of to the South again to do one of the Great Walks: the Routeburn Track.

I hadn’t seen Mark in about 4 years and I had never met Ellie before, but it was one of those incredible matches from the start. We got on very well and I think we were all very happy to spend a week together. Mark informed me about all the people back in Dublin (oooeeei, I wanted to say back home…sorry) and he was quickly reminded again that I always teased the hell out of him. Well, Mark got me back as well, don’t worry. Then again, I think Ellie and I annoyed Mark a bit sometimes because while hiking we were chatting too much and he thought we should walk a bit quicker.


But on the other hand, Mark and I really wanted to have apples during our hikes, which Ellie could not understand (weight wise and its bulkiness), so Mark and I had to team up against Ellie for that.

But in fairness, I think the only reason Mark and Ellie asked me along on the trip was because I had the biggest bag so I could take most of the food…As you can tell; we had the best time together! The track was lovely (see pictures, and no, the one on which we are jumping is not fake…), the weather was excellent and the company was an absolute bonus.


After the track we decided to keep Eefje and my tradition alive, so we had lamb and Ellie made apple crumble…Splendid! The next day we literally spend the entire day drinking coffee in the sun (yeah, they are addicts just like me!!!) and after that we had to say goodbye because they were going to do another track and I needed to find myself a job…

Summer


One season was still left out: summer! As soon as we arrived at the North of the South Island, at a town called Nelson, summer had arrived. There we arranged our 4 day track to the popular Abel Tasman National Park. It’s an area where the first European set foot on land, and yes he is Dutch. Go figure. So the theme of that hike was ‘Goh, die Abeltje toch’ [sorry, only sounds nice in Dutch…].

Anyway, we planned to do one day of kayaking on the sea and then 3 days hiking. Everything was very well arranged and to get away from the tourists we decided to go camping which was absolutely fantastic; nice camping spots along the sea.

The kayaking and hiking was easy compared to everything we did before, but we thought we sort of deserved an easy walk. And because of the nice weather, the sea was very appealing! We saw a cool seal colony and we spied on them for hours! And on our way back with the water taxi we saw dolphins; we had never seen them in a natural habitat before, so that was truly amazing to watch.

After this hike, we went for a nice dinner in a great pub where loads of people recommended us to go to. And since they brew their own beer (mjummie!) we asked whether we could park the Van at their car park for the night so I could have some beers as well. And of course they said yes (you got to love the Kiwi’s!) so we had a fun evening playing games and drinking excellent beer. That night we decided to go crazy so we went hang gliding a few days later…

It was cool to see everything in the air and just enjoying cruising down. The last days Eefje and I spend walking along the dunes and beach near Farewell Spit where we both had the fantastic feeling of being the happiest person in the world. And we were: running through the sea, splashing each other, getting wet, laughing and just being very happy to have spend a month with each other in a lovely country like New Zealand. So saying good bye to Eefje was sad, but then again we felt amazingly happy with the previous month: thanks to Patrick who lend us his Van we truly had the most amazing time we could have had. So once again Patrick: Eefje and I are genuinely thankful for the Van. It would have been completely different without!

Spring

New Zealand is quite special; after Fall comes Spring. It’s great. Spring had a theme for Eefje and me: have a lot of ‘first time ever’. We saw penguins in the wild, we saw and heard avalanches, both snow and rock (quite scary), we’ve been in natural hot pools, we saw a massive glacier, well 2 actually, and Eefje was drunk for the first time ever (oeps sorry Eefje).

Anyhow, we did our third walk in beautiful spring weather; a three day hike to the hot pools of the Welcome Flat. Great hike and especially the reward of the natural hot pools were fantastic: you could jump in the nice hot water to refresh yourself after a sweaty day. Great! Eefje also tested my reflex skills several times: she almost fainted halfway the track on the middle of a pretty rocky area. Luckily I was walking behind her so I could grab her backpack and push her towards the side. Another time I was walking a bit further up the track when I realised Eefje was not there anymore. She got stuck on a landslide, meaning whenever she moved, all the rocks and stones around her moved as well: naturally going down. Eventually she got out by moving very slowly and holding on to me as soon as she could. Pure survival skills and a good story to tell later on…
After some nice walks along the West Coast, we did a really cool walk (Alex Knob track) near Franz Joseph Glacier. But unpredictable as spring can be, we had rainy weather and no views whatsoever. Except excellent views of New Zealand’s best clouds…but if you’re freezing, wet and cold, you just want to get down the mountain as soon as possible anyway…to have that well deserved coffee and hot chocolate for Eefje (even though Eefje doesn’t share my love for coffee she was quite considered for my addiction!)

Fall

In New Zealand after Winter comes Fall. Yes, it’s true. We had a wet day on a boat on a fjord or was it as sound…Anyway we got wet, soaking wet, but it might have been the waterfalls throwing as much water on us as they could…all together it was quite reviving. Our next hiking trip was quite challenging: we wanted to do as much in 2 days of the Caples and Greenstone track which normally takes for about 4 days or so. We did -the way I like to call it- the best out of both: we designed our own track, walked quite a lot of hours (8-9 hours a day) and since it was fall, we had wet undergrounds, a little bit of rain and lovely formed clouds.

After that we wanted to head via the West Coast more up north. But the Van wanted to have a pedicure (Patrick neglects him a bit, if you ask me…) so we decided that his current tyres were -as the petrol guy said it nicely- pretty dangerous and we got him brand new ones. But, same as with new shoes, sometimes you get blisters. So after a days drive we had to get them re-adjusted. If you wondering how come Eefje and I know ssooooo much about cars; well, the Van taught us everything. Filling air in the tyres, topping up the oil, Eefje learned how to get petrol (she doesn’t have a driving licence…), checking the water levels and just everything the Van wanted, we served for. As good owners, euh I mean borrowers do.

Winter

It seems such a long time ago that Eefje (my friend from Belgium) and I started our travels with our beloved Van (beware of the capital!) at the end of October. The Van, Eefje and me had enough time to get to know each other better; he told us all about New Zealand, his previous adventures and the good life. Eefje and I told him loads about our lives and it was great to catch up on everything which had happened in the last months.

While leaving Christchurch, heading South, our first day was beautiful: nice weather, great views of Lake Tekapo and were we genuinely screaming out ‘waaauuuuuw, look at that!!’ (well, in Dutch of course…). The second day we had horrible weather; loads of rain. Upon entering the small town of Te Anau where Eefje and I wanted to do the Kepler Track (4 days) we got the sad news that the track was partially closed due to avalanche danger and bad snow circumstances. Big disappointment, but positive as we all were (and the Van liked to have some unsupervised evenings in town…) we decided to go anyway, but only half way. Especially because the Department of Conservation (DOC) said it was going to be miserable weather all the way through, we were well prepared with loads of nice food and hot cloths. The next day we took off in the cold, freezing cold to be honest. And it was wet, and the track was pretty much going up the first hours…But still, the feeling you have when you get to the hut: great. And amazingly the sky cleared up and we had a magnificent view of the mountains around us! Since it was still really nice weather the next day we decided to ‘ignore’ the avalanche danger sign (sorry dad) and go up the mountain top. Snow up till our waists, hiking became falling and a snow fight was inevitable. The views were excellent and ‘worth’ the danger!
In the meantime the Van and we got on very well. If we weren’t hiking, we slept in the Van, just somewhere along the river or road or where ever the Van wanted to lay down his head and feet. We made dinners on a stove, we had nice wine (even the Van had some!) and only when the Van said we smelt too bad we pulled in for a shower at a camping site. Imagine how wonderful the showers are after one week without…just fantastic…

So far for the Winter episode…

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

What about...

updating your damned blog, Maaike...???

Sorry sorry, I am genuinely sorry for not keeping in touch for more than a month and not emailing anyone at all. Have I forgotten about 'home'? Yes, to be honest I have. I just had an amazing month with Eefje together with our lovely van (yes, Patrick, our van), cruising along the Southern Island having an excellent time: hiking, kayaking and doing heaps of 'fun' stuff. Last weekend I was back in Christchurch (Eefje has left already...) to hand over the van to Patrick, but no time for the lazy people: Patrick and I went on a wee trip straight away and had some genuine good catching up to do!

On Monday my Irish friends Mark and Ellie came down to Christchurch as well. In the category 'small world' I have told you that story before. Ellie and Patrick have known each other from way back when they were little, so Ellie and Mark (they're a couple) were checking out Patricks weblog a couple of months ago and Mark saw my name. Patrick does not know Mark, but I know Mark from the diving club in Dublin. So we had a weird reunion on Monday: Mark knowing me, Ellie knowing Patrick, Patrick knowing me, Mark (obviously!) knowing Ellie...So we had a lovely day with the four of us yesterday and today I took off with Mark and Ellie to the South to do another multiple day walk. Great people, great environment and great weather!!!

So, anyway, to keep it short: I'm doing just excellent, absolutely loving it (yes, dangerously loving it...) and if Eefje sends me some nice pictures this weekend (hint...) I will write some nice stories about my previous weeks!!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Reunion in Auckland and Christchurch

After enjoying the Auckland scenery and the vulcanos, doing loads of nice walks, meeting nice people in my tiny hostel I went to pick up my friend from Belgium, Eefje. Eefje and I got to know each other at the climbing club in Dublin. Although we are living in a small world, this was less of a coincidence because Eefje planned to get out here to do some nice hiking with me for a month!! Our reunion was full of good hugs, a lot of laughter and a nice bottle of wine to end the day!


On Saturday we flew straight to Christchurch because people were telling us that the South Island is way more beautiful for hiking. And there we had another quite enjoyable reunion with a friend from Ireland, Patrick. We got to know Patrick at the climbing club as well. Patrick moved over to New Zealand 4 years ago and never left the place. Again, we exchanged big hugs, we smiled and talked and since Patrick had 2 parties to go to, we just went along as well!

Halloween parties to be exact so this is what we looked liked after trashing Patricks wardrobe:

Eefje, the perfect housewife and Maaike, sleepy in her pyjama's...Patrick was Polypro-Superman. No questions asked, but let's say the reunion was just splendid!

The next day Eefje and I did some serious hiking planning, figuring out where to go and what to do. We have three four day tracks ahead of us, some kayakking, a lot of stunning views and excellent company. And now here it comes, just as we wanted to get a rental car for these four weeks,

Patrick chipped in the offer again (which I had forgotten) that we could use his mini van for the next four weeks! So, great great great, we have a car!!! We have a tent also, but there is a matrass in the back, so we can sleep in there too. Nice and cosy... So big, massive thank you for Mister Patrick himself: he is the best!

And of course, the car needs to smell nice during our travels, so I put Guusjes present in: a vanilla scented thingy with a very nice message! (just in case: not all who wander are lost...) So not many blogs for the next weeks or so, but loads of stories and pictures afterwards...WAUW!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Small world...truly!

First blog in another new country: New Zealand. I arrived on Saturday, I took the bus to town and I had the nicest bus driver ever. He showed me around the city when all the rest of the people got off.

The next day I walked to town (I am staying at a very cosy, wee little hostel outside town) and I 'sniffed' the city to get a feel of the place. Although everyone is telling me to go to the South Island straight away because it is much nicer, my conclusion of that day was (and I am sticking to it!): New Zealand has a great VIBE, even Auckland. I don't know why, but I had the same feeling when I got to Ireland 5 years ago. So that is very promissing!

No pictures yet, because well, taking pictures of the town is not really appealing. But I have 2 stories though:

story one:
I went to the Auckland Museum yesterday to learn more about the Maori people. Great museum, good exhibition. They had a display on all the Melanesian and Polynesian art, language, customes and cultures: they were saying people from Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Hawaii, Papua New Guinea and all the tiny Islands in the Pacific have huge similarities within several areas of their culture. People travelling from as West as Papua New Guinea to as far East as Tahiti should be able to see the similarities. But they were saying, not many people are actually going to all those places.... As if I knew this when I was planning my world trip: I was in Papua New Guinea, I am here now (=NZ) and I'm heading to Tahiti in three months...So my planning turns out to be 'culturally correct'!

'weird' story two:
Several months ago an Irish friend of mine, Mark, who I know from the diving club in Dublin, tracked me down via my friend Patrick in Christchurh who I know from the climbing club. Mark turns out to be travelling around the world as well and next month he is going to be in NZ too, so great to meet up. That for one is bizar. To make it more bizar; he knew I know Carole, another friend of mine from Dublin with whom I lost contact. Turns out that Carole is leaving NZ today to go home (!) and that she is leaving from Auckland. So I just spend the day with her in Auckland and it was great talking to her again! Small world, really. And she gave me her SIM card, so as of today I have a number in NZ. First I have to figure out how it works though....I hate mobiles...

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

A brand new experience!

After travelling and working on the farm the past few weeks I am in a completely different but exciting new world...I am in a terribly sweaty Darwin, at my cousin Imke. Imke and I didn't know each other that well until 6 years ago. Around that time I was working in a pub in the Outback near Darwin: we knew that we were both in Australia, but we did not have each others email addresses. By weird coincidence we ran into each other in Darwin (20 million people in Australia and you run into someone you know...). Since then we kept in touch and 2,5 years ago Imke was in the Netherlands with her daughter Josie. We had an incredible nice time, so meeting up here would be great fun guaranteed.


Imke still lives near Darwin, in a place called Humpty Doo (see sunset at a nearby lagoon). Josie is 4 years now and Josie has a little brother, 7 months old Liam. And that's where the new world starts: until now I have not spend more than one day with really young kids or even babies. Yes, I have lots of experience with bigger kids (yes mum, I know, I can still be a kid), but the tiny ones...Oh no, I am too afraid to 'brake' them.

So my cousin warned me that it would be full on. And guess what, I surprised my cousin and myself; I absolutely love spending all my time here. Of course the kids are no perfect angels, but that makes it all more lively! On the right you can see the moment Imke decided to dump 'het pierebadje' and get a bigger pool.



At first Josie was shy, but that went away quickly. Now I can wrestle with her without a problem, I can eat her alive (always screaming big time when I chase her), I can throw her away in the pool, I can steal some kisses of her and I can get a little bit angry with her if she does something naughty. She even calls me ' mum' sometimes. Of course by accident; Imke and I have to laugh and Josie gets really shy then.


Liam deserted even quicker. In the beginning when he cried, I could pick him up, but I could not get him quiet. The next step was that I could get him to calm down as long as his mum was close by and now, I can 'hush' him to sleep, he follows me around when he's looking for 'a mum' and he gives the biggest hugs anyone can ever give me.


In the meantime I'm spending lots of quality time with Imke as well. I am teaching her a bit about her new computer, we wrote a letter of interest for a job Imke would like to have (and they have already called her for an interview: great stuff!) and I am just helping Imke around the house to give her a sense of holiday as well.

We do a lot of walking, swimming and once in a while we go to the pub to have a nice ice cold beer...Being with small kids you have to watch what you are doing though...See picture above how I got confused...In the meantime Josie is picking up a habit almost every young kid does: finishing the beer bottle...



Anyway, after 2 weeks of babies and kids (I held a 3 day old baby today even though I told the mother better not too, because I am not used to the little ones...I'm learning though!) I am off to New Zealand on Saturday. But before that some kids logic (true story!)

Setting: Maaike and 4 kids of each 4 years old in the pool (of course all the mothers were taking advantage of my energy and they were taking a relaxing day off with Imke next to the pool...)

Kid 1: Maaike, who's mum are you?
Kid 2: Yeah, who is your baby?
Me: I do not have a baby.
[silence and 3 pairs of weird eyes and one normal pair-Josie- were looking at me]
Kid 1 (definitely the most rude one): But you are old!
Me: Well yes, I am old enough to have a baby, but I don't have one yet.
Kid 2: Ok, so you are a kid still.
Kid 1: Yes you're a kid!!
Me: No, not really, I am a grown-up without kids.
[Mumbling]
Kid 1: Ok, I get it, you are a big kid!

Kids logic: you've got to love it. And it's true, totally true!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Herberton: the relaxing place


The world is treating me well. More than 2 weeks ago my friend Helen (left) came down to hot Cairns to pick me up and she took me to their place. Six years ago I worked for Helen and Duncan at their organic farm; then I planned on staying for 2 weeks, I ended up staying for 2 months so that says enough about how Helen, Duncan and I got on!

We were reunited at their new home near Herberton (semi-Outback) and we just picked up our friendship where we left it 6 years ago. Of course some things were still the same, some things were different.

Things which were the same:
- We talked a lot, and if I say a lot, I mean constantly… (sorry Helen for keeping you off work…)
- Helen and Duncan made me feel very very welcome. Perhaps these pictures give you a clue about the indescribable nice atmosphere at their place.













- I did not use a computer for the entire time, I did not watch TV (except 2 movies…) but I did listen to a lot of real Australian music, thanks to Duncan. AC DC rules…


- Duncan’s cooking qualities (left) have not changed, so every single meal was a big hit!
- I worked in and around their farm doing loads of things like taking care of the animals (horses, goats, chickens), cleaning the stables, creating new gardens, cleaning in and around the house. In short: making myself use full after travelling for some months made me feel good!!
- I slept like a baby, every single night. Fresh air, good food, casual work and excellent company wear you out…
- I met loads of their good friends which (by no surprise) turned out to be lovely and inspirational people.
- I have laughed a lot. Again… Still.

Things which have changed:
- Well obviously their house: they have bought a piece of land (bush) and they are planning on building their own house. For the moment they are living in a ‘shed’. Well, that’s the official name, but I genuinely think it’s one of the most romantic spots I have ever been.


- Almost every second day we went horseback riding. Yeah! It was great, really great. Trotting along in the bush, going for long and short rides and I even had a lesson from a good riding instructor. (Picture shows Duncan, Helen and Viola)


- I slept in a caravan next to their house, their shower was very idyllic (open views into the bush) and their toilet was optional: either wee behind a little tree and get great views late at night or use ‘the hole in the ground’ with, well to be honest, another great view!

- I made some good new friends: Roger (the dog) and the horses Rocky (I knew him already), Condor and Spot (‘my’ horse, see picture).












- Duncan and Helen wanted to do some preventive fire burning so if there is a real fire threat, they are safe. They decided to wait until I was there. Best decision ever! They did not know I am a little pyromaniac…So off I went on their four wheeler (a quad) and burned the place. And then sit back close to the fire to watch it and listen to it. GREAT!

Anyway, I really relaxed at their home, their land and their bush. Their company and their animals gave me the ultimate relaxing feeling. Well, I was already very relaxed, but I did some good thinking about living in remote areas and why I am so much enjoying my travelling and just loving the little things in life. Sounds tacky, but I still feel I am one of the luckiest people in the world…

In the meanwhile I am in Darwin, in another very enjoyable place where I feel very welcome again: at my cousin, Imke! More stories will follow soon(ish)!

Friday, 21 September 2007

Australia: like it or not...

After 6 years of me being away of Australia several things have changed...

- Cairns has built a beautiful lagoon at the Esplanade where everyone can swim for free (since the sea is covered in deadly jelly fish you need a pool...)
- Australia has been taken over by millions of Germans...
- Backpackers only drink shitloads, every day, and the next day they hang around the tv room and complain about how tired they are...
- While they are at it they complain about not having any money...
- 6 years ago I had the average age, now I am old...Or at least I feel old...
- The weather has not changed however, so there is an absolutely lovely sun out there now!
- There is cheap, I mean 'free' Internet at the hostel which is excellent after having no Internet or very slow Internet

But to be honest; I'm having a 'reverse cultural shock'. I'm terribly annoyed by all the lazy backpackers and I know it is me now who is complaining. So time to change that mood!!! I've seen everything in Australia that I wanted to see 6 years ago, so I rang my friends Helen and Duncan yesterday. I worked at their farm 6 years ago and I absolutely loved it, so it will be great to see them again. Talking to them on the phone made me already feel really welcome!! Helen is picking me up tomorrow, great!
And I rang my cousin in Darwin who is delighted to see me as much as I am to see her (and I cannot wait to see her 6 month old baby Liam and Josie who is 4!), so it's all good.

So I'm off now to buy a ticket to Darwin, take a dip in the lagoon, read my book and tonight I am going to see a movie at the cinema (Guusje and I were talking about going to the cinema since Thailand, so I am finally going!)

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Back home in the Netherlands...

Just a quick 'none' traveling message:

A friend of mine is participating in a tv-show 'Op zoek naar Evita' to become 'the new Evita' for the musical Evita (it all makes sense...). She is very tiny (even smaller than me...gnagna) but she has a miraculous voice. My sister tells me she gets great criticism from the jury, so check it out:

Nederland 1- AVRO: 'Op zoek naar Evita'
Her name is Suzan Seegers...

Be amazed...

Monday, 17 September 2007

Em tasol…

Spending a week in Madang has been great; really relaxing. Moreover, it gave me some time to get to know Sjoerd’s future home, his friends, his new work environment (Divine Word University: he is going to be head of Physiotherapy Department there) and of course Elina and her lovely family. Especially Elina’s family have made a great effort to show us around, introduce me to as much things I had not seen or done before and we had some nice dinners together. So our goodbye on Wednesday was tearful…

But no time for sorrow, because we had cool stuff ahead of us. Laura (another volunteer in Madang) decided to go with us to Goroka, to see a bit of the Highlands and of course to experience the Goroka show (different tribes showing their traditional costumes and singing and dancing).

Laura works for a creative self help centre: she does disability awareness. Special about Laura is that she has a superb personality, she is a great laugh and she is blind. Basically I think being a volunteer in PNG is quite an experience and their lives are sometimes pretty mindblowing, but doing what Laura is doing is truly amazing and I really enjoyed spending more time with her, because I genuinely think she is one of a kind.

Anyway, we got to Goroka on Thursday and we were staying at Marcels, another volunteer. He was doing a workshop that week at his Physiotherapy Department in Goroka Hospital and us three helped him out a bit in the preparation. We even joined him the next day at the workshop which was quite interesting to do because I had not seen a professional setting like this in PNG yet.

The Goroka Show over the weekend was just great: seeing all the different tribes, talking to them, getting to know the story behind the dances was excellent. I took loads of wonderful pictures as you can (hopefully) see.

Laura has a degree in music so she decided to join a tribe when they asked her. Lateron, one of the tribes stayed at Marcels place where we had dinner together. It was a really really wonderful experience for both sides, because the tribe had never experienced that white people were so friendly to invite them into their home.

Yesterday we took the PMV home to Mount Hagen, together with Robert and Mark who ended up spending the night at our place. Today is laundry day again and tomorrow, well the title of this message says it all: em tasol [this is it]. I had the best experience ever in PNG, all the different things we did, made the trip exhilarating. I really enjoyed my time with Sjoerd and Femke, and I will be sad to say goodbye to Sjoerd, because I am probably not going to see him for the next three years. Learning a bit of Tok Pidgin has been challenging, meeting all Sjoerds friends made my trip even more fun because every single one of them is special. But on the other hand, I am happy to travel further to Australia, to be on my own again and see how I like Australia again after 6 years…

Some pictures:

This is a tribe from Mount Hagen.










Unknown tribe: some kids taking it easy...












Unknown tribe: their bilas were great! Covered in grass, moss and weeds!










Goroka tribe: this woman is chewing 'buai' and she really liked my blue eyes. I said I was happy to change them for her beautifull brown eyes...












Oncemore unknown tribe: the tribe is showing a Snake dance

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Relaxing Madang!

After the exhilarating Highlands the three musketeers took the PMV to Madang via Goroka. The trip was , how to say it properly, NOT nice. The driver drove to quickly and the mountains and its drops came too close by...If you know what I mean. Femke and I have taught Sjoerd a new trick how to avoid to get scared: just put your head down, pretend to be asleep and what you do not see is not there...Yes, we are just like an emu, but it works for us...

Madang is nothing like the highlands: it's warm (bloody, sweaty warm!), tropical, nice sea and very mellow. Well, you have to with this warmth. We decided to go mellow as well, so we went to an island to do some swimming and snorkeling and 2 days we hired kayaks to go on the sea. Very relaxing. Again, we met some of Sjoerds friends who are all very lovely.

Of course we met Elina as well, Sjoerds girlfriend. She is very nice and she kicks Sjoerds ass, so Femke and I are very happy with her. It means that someone is taking care of Sjoerds manners when Femke and I are not around!
Elina took us to her village as well, or actually: her mothers village. It was really nice to see a sea village as well compared to the Highlands villages we've seen before. Elina's aunt has got the clear blue sea in her back garden...how cool is that!
Elina's mother helped me to try 'buai': it's a beetle nut PNG people chew. You chew on the nut, add some white stuff with it on a green stick and you get an aw full looking red mouth. While chewing, you spit it out. Sjoerd chews it a lot, and for me it was a one time experience...it was quite strong and I was sort of high for 5 minutes. Imagine that, even small kids chew it here...

In the meantime we did some more swimming, played tennis with some of Sjoerds friends, had nice meals and yesterday Sjoerd and I went diving! I hadn't dived in 4 years so being in the water like a fish was GREAT! We even saw a shark, but of course I did not see it. But everyone else did...

Anyway, Femke has left the country: we had the best holiday ever! Sjoerd and I are heading to Goroka this weekend for the Goroka show: all sorts of tribes will be there in their traditional dress. Should be good.
I just tried to put up some pictures but it does not work. Check out Sjoerds website for the visuals...

Monday, 3 September 2007

Southern Highlands

Since my brother likes to have more hits on his website, please have a look at his blog: there is a new (quite shocking) story to read...

[no, Internet is too slow, so we decided to publish it only once...]

We're in Goroka now, tomorrow off to Madang to meet Sjoerds girlfriend....coolness...!

Monday, 27 August 2007

Country of contradictions

Although my brother thinks it is stupid to write that PNG is a country of contradictions, I think it is true.

PNG people are one of the most welcoming people I have ever met: they're genuinely happy to see us, they love to shake hands, my sister and I get massive hugs from women and they all want to talk to us. They share their fruits with us while we are sitting on the bus (PMV), they are impressed whenever my sister and I understand a bit of Tok Pisin and they are very interested in what we do. And they absolutely love laughing out loud! Sjoerds Wantoks like seeing us around, we got really nice bilums (colourful handbags). I really feel welcome and the people are really, honestly nice.

While writing this, there is a massive fight on the streets next to this building: people throwing stones, men shouting (sounds really frighting to be honest) and loads of noise. Sjoerd just took off with a friend to collect two other white people to make sure they are safe.
During the weekend we were in Kundiawa where we saw two ' meri fights' in other words: two women fighting because of men. And not a girly fight, but a proper fight: there is blood involved. The arguments are often about a man who has several women. The big fight on the streets is about a woman being raped: one tribe is taking revenge on another tribe.

I was planning on telling you what we did the past 5 days, going to Minj- a local village- and seeing Dutch friends in Kundiawa where we did some nice hillwalking, but I am really distracted by the noise on the streets so I am not going to. Don't get me wrong: I still ABSOLUTELY love it here, but the fight puts me off for now...And don't worry: tribes are not interested in harming whites, it's revenge they want...

And on the good side: Sjoerd, Femke and I are really enjoying each others company so there is no fighting on this side of the table...Anyway, tomorrow we will go with some other wantoks to the Southern Highlands where we will do some hillwalking and camping. Should be good!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Mount Hagen

Since we all love to eat a lot, we go to the local food market every day. We're eating loads of 'weird' fruits which taste delicious! My sister is starting to feel left out, because more and more people recognise me as Sjoerd's sister and they think Femke is ' just' family. We hug her more to feel part of the gang...





We're meeting up with some of Sjoerd friends (all volunteers from Mount Hagen or surrounding areas), great to hear all their stories although many of those stories are not all happy ones. Well, it gives us a better view of the PNG culture....
The first day we got to meet Sjoerd's neighbours/securitygard/friends/cleaner: lovely family who are going to take us to the Southern Highlands next week. Great stuff, just with the locals! On the picture to the right you can see my brother with Linet, a kid 'from the block', eating fruit. Femke would say the cutest kid, but they all look gorgeous....






After that we went to see one of Sjoerds wantoks (family, not the ones like we have, but just friends who will help you out if needed). They are taking care of Sjoerds pig. Yes, a pig. A respectable (marry-able) man in PNG should have a pig so he can ' buy' a wife. The pigs name is Bell (from Jingle Bell, don't ask me why...) His other pig Jingle (there we go...) died recently.
Sjoerd is putting my sister and me on the market as well, so he can become a rich man...Yeah, right. I will kick your ass, big brother...
So far my first impressions: great to be here, Sjoerds is making spectacular travelplans for the upcoming weeks, so it should be great fun!!

Check out Sjoerds website for his version!

Monday, 20 August 2007

First day Papua New Guinea!


The famous three Jongerii:
From left to right: Maaike - Sjoerd - Femke
Don't we look alike....(except Femke). A friend of my brother actually recognised me as being his sister...weird stuff.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

pictures

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Picture 1: Guusje (left) and me: aren't we a pair...
Picture 2: Kbal Spean: lingas in the water
Picture 3: Me on the back of the moto: practising my 'fake' smile
Picture 4: Angkor Thom: Bayon temple
For more pictures and a tiny movie: take a look a Guusje's website!! And now I am off to have a final beer with Guusje (although my pinky pills don't allow alcohol...but well, this is an exception)

off to Papua New Guinea

Just a quick preview of what is next: Sunday (tomorrow) I am off to see my brother in Papua New Guinea (in sort: PNG) . I haven't seen him for 2 years, so it should be fun!

My sister has decided to join us for 2 weeks, so I am meeting her on Monday in Sydney. Together we will try to go to PNG. With an emphasis on ' try' ...

- according to my brother the flights in PNG are often cancelled or delayed without reason...
- in July PNG had elections. Due to the results of those elections, a man who lost the elections is threatening to set fire to the airport in Mount Hagen (that's were my brother lives...)
- my expat friend in Laos said he had gotten a warning (just as all expats) not to travel to PNG due to the dangers...
- my brother wants to travel to the South West with us; an area which has been very unsafe...He likes to give it a try now.

Needless to say that I am really looking forward to going. PNG was the reason of my travelling around the world!!! Seriously; see my brother again, see what he has been doing, see the country, meet his friends: great stuff!

And, bare in mind, my brother, my sister and I have not spend more than 3 days in a row since 1997 and we are all very stubborn and we have a strong mind of our own (good self reflection, I know...), so I think we do not have to watch out for PNG, but PNG has to watch out for us...Or at least our quarrels...

gumpfff... to be continued!!

Cambodia continues!

Siem Reap

Siem Reap was in one word 'magnificent'. All the different temples of Angkor Wat are truly amazing. Yes, every temple is another mind blowing image of a creative architect, using different shapes, divers faces, local animals and worshipping ancient Kings and religious Gods and Buddhas. Bare in mind that most of the temples are build in the 12th century: Europe was still living in tiny castles and wooden houses at that time...

The most interesting temples, at least that's what I think, were the Bayon (Angkor Thom) with its amazing large heads on the temple which follow you wherever you walk: freaky but really cool. Secondly, the Kbal Spean: this is actually not a temple, but lingas carves IN a river which flows in the jungle. You have to walk for about 2 km to get there and when you stand there you're sort of looking 'and yes, what am I looking for'...After a minute or so you see the carvings and it is truly amazing: you wonder who ever thought of the idea of making them IN the river and secondly who ever found them again after so many years (because everything was covered up by the jungle...). Yes, Angkor Wat deserves to be a World Heritage. (I hope to add some pictures later on so you can judge yourself!)

Seeing the temples around Siem Reap were interesting, but our transportation for those 3 days was very divers as well. The first day we took a tuk-tuk with a young driver, Rin, who just could not stop talking to us. The second day, since we are still Dutch, we hired bikes and cycled around (30-40 km). The last day -and please show some respect- we had two motorbikes with two young drivers (one was the tuk-tuk driver from the first day). For those who do not know me that well: I hate motorbikes since I had a wee-little accident in Australia six years ago. I knew Guusje really wanted to go on one, and I reckoned I should not be a 'wooz' and just get over myself...The first hour I sat frozen on that damned thing...And after a while Rin told me (Guusje was on his bike) that his cousin who was driving my moto was actually still learning how to drive a moto....Cheers, Rin, good work. But I managed, Guusje was impressed with my guts (although she could see I was lying whenever I said I was fine...) and Guusje even had her go on the moto as the driver herself....

On top of that my diarrhoea got back, with renewed energy...Perfect, when you are on a moto...

Sihanoukville
After those cultural days we decided to do a cooling down at a beach and get some sun on our white bodies, catch up with our reading and relax. Enough said: we arranged a local bus to the South of Cambodia: Sihanoukville. A trip to remember... We took the bus early morning, packed with Khmer people, luggage, food, equipment and all the stuff you will not see on a bus back home. After one hours drive, there was a little fuzz on the road, people gathering and our bus slowed down. All the people in the bus looked to the right (with paparazzi Guusje on top of them!) and there we saw what the fuzz was about: there was a dead body lying next to the road...one police cop standing nervously next to the body keeping the crowd to a distance (say 2 meters...) Blood everywhere and obviously the blood poored out of his head. Absolutely horrifying. Guusje, as a true journalist, did some investigation and found out that the man was murdered the day before (seriously, leave a body for an entire day in the stinking heat!!) and that the murderer (or two) escape to the woods. Reason for the killing: unknown...
The bus continued and after a couple of hours we were driving along side some mountains, a lot of curves on the road, when a car drove directly at us with an enormous speed (Guusje and I sat in front so we saw it all...)...Our bus driver used his claxon, reduced speed and the car in front of us just changed direction in time to fly off the road...Big shock, but it turned out the be okay (-ish). Arriving in Sihanoukville was very pleasant, as you can imagine...

Relaxing on the beach was really nice: swim, read and talk to all the Khmer kids who are very nosy (and same for us, 'coz we are very nosy as well!!). My white skin (except my face and arms...) was as white as snow until then: after the first day it was flaming red even though we put sunscreen on it...Ah well, we learned it the hard way...My sister can have a blast peeling my old skin off...

Back to Bangkok (Thailand)
After those relaxing days we had to go back to Bangkok, because Guusje is flying home this Sunday and I am flying to Papua New Guinea. We had two options to go to the border: take a horrible 5 hour bus ride on a bumpy road or take the scenic 5 hour boat trip via beautiful little islands. Exactly, we did what every sane person would do: take the boat. This boat trip would have been fantastic, if not for (no, no dead bodies or bad traffic this time) the awful bad weather... I was the first to vomit, luckily in a bin thanks to Guusje's quick response, many followed including Guusje. I lost track after the 10th time, but I vomited non-stop. The old man who was taking care of the people on the boat came apologizing to us for the bad weather (as if he could help it...), kept rubbing 'tiger balm' on our neck and head and gave me the entire stack of his 'vomit-bags' when I asked him for the third time whether I could have more bags... 'again?' was his reply...
Guusje and I have never been so happy to get to our destination, Koh Kong...

The next day we crossed the border without any hiccups: it was a bigger bordercrossing than before and more possibilities afterwards. We got a reverse culture shock: everything went so smooth in Thailand...We did not have to think at all: people just arranged everything for us, roads were excellent, buses were luxurious with just people on it and before we knew it we were in Bangkok. Because we were still shaken up by the day before, we kind of liked it...

Finally, some peculiarities (it's becoming a theme!!):
- we had mais yoghurt with our muesli. Disgusting, they even put red beans with it.
- the diarrhoea came back for the third time in Sihanoukville and I had a craving for beans on toast...
- for all my former colleagues who were always worried about my drinking habits (no, people, not the alcohol, but my coffee addiction). I have had 6 cups of coffee in the last 6 weeks...No problems here!
- I have some living creatures in my body at the moment
- no I am not pregnant, but I have bacteria in my stomach. Due to that I am taking horrible pinkish pills and my stomach is a battlefield at the moment...

So far so good. Let's see about those pictures!

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Discovering Cambodia

We made it to Cambodia!!

Last Friday we hopped on the bus to the (unofficial) border crossing Laos-Cambodia. Crossing it was an experience on its own: a bus dropped us in a forest, near a small hut: Lao Border. We signed some papers, paid $1 and walked (!) 1 km through the forest to the Cambodian Border: tiny hut was the place to be! There again: we filled in some forms even though we had visas and paid $1...Sounds not to bad: and it wasn't if you compare it with the day before that someone got robbed in the forest and that sometimes people have to pay $30-40-50 just to cross the border...Why that much? Don't know, just because they can I presume...

We hopped on another bus to Kratie (we had to changes buses another 3 times...) where we spend the night. Tiny town, hardly any tourists (great!), so we spend the night playing cards with some schoolboys (age 15-16) who wanted to practise their English while playing cards with us. Great evening!!

The next day we took a local bus to Phnom Penh (capital). During the stops we saw quite some disabled people begging for money; most of them got disabled because of landmines. And Cambodia does not have a good health system, so we give them money every time we see one. It's really shocking to see so many of them.
As most of you know Cambodia has a terrible history (Khmer Rouge / Pol Pot Regime: 1975-1979); Guusje and I both read the History Chapter in the Lonely Planet twice to understand the History, but it is quite confusing. We talked to loads of people, but our questions seem to confuse them as well. After 2 movies and an excellent book ('First they killed my father' by Loung Ung: I recommend it!) I sort of get it now. The most shocking thing to realise is that most people of my age and definately the ones a bit older than me, have all experienced the horrors. Everyone you meet on the streets has lost a relative...And the landmines are still their legacy.

Phnom Penh: absolutely lovely city! Great ambiance, nice people, beautiful buildings and just a great place to be (especially compared to Vientiane). Definately a cool place to live. Moreover, the S21 museum (old prison during Khmer Rouge) and the Killing Fields outside the city centre were truly interesting: we spend the entire day there.

Update on the belly: After 6 days severe diarrhoea (it got worse at the end...) and quite some 'shrinking' on my side, Guusje put pressure on me: either go to hospital or take medicine. So I took the easy way out: medicine. I am okay now, still bit stomach ache. Even gained some weight again. (and I always say: the more of Maaike, the better...)

Again some peculiarities:
- it has happened again: a Lao man asked me why I did not eat meat. Was it because I am pregnant...Cheers, thanks man...
- Cambodian people speak better English than Lao people
- Khmer food is superb!
- a guy we met on the bus thought Guusje and I were a couple. We found out three days later when we met him in the city by accident. It was hilarious: it was actually our first time someone thought that. When he found out we weren't, he started hitting on me...Go figure...
- Latest fashion for women in Cambodia is wearing pyjama's during day time. No kidding.

And now: Siem Reap. Place to be to check out the next World Heritage location: Anchor Wat. We just had a quick preview during sunset. Looks amazing. Suske & Wiske in Cambodia is nothing compared to the real thing...

Thanks for all the comments by the way: it is lovely to read them all!

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

last message from Laos

Travelling is so excellent...we were on a night bus from Vientiane to Pakse (south Laos), arrived at 6 Am. We wanted to head for the Cambodian border straight away, but just before the border we decided to get off, take a boat and relax on ' the four thousands islands'...Millions of islands on the Mekong River, only accessible by tiny boats, little houses to sleep in...Briljant...

Vientiane turned out to be a less nice city as Luang Prabang. We walked loads, saw some temples, monuments etc. We had dinner with my former colleague, Marco. We had an interesting evening, great to hear his (expat) stories and we both had different hangovers the next morning. He had a beer hangover, and I, suprise surprise, am having a belly-hangover...I've been eating at street stalls for 2 weeks: no problem with my stomach. One evening a proper restaurant, and yes, diarrhoea... So a rice and ORS diet for me since 2 days...

So we have just decided to stay another day, and head for Cambodia the day after tomorrow. Now I am off to see the sunset (and I want to say good food, but it is rice for me this evening...). Damned, I am really enjoying every single bit!!

Saturday, 28 July 2007

pictures from up North




Crossing the border by tiny boat: you can see Laos in a distance!







The rice fields during our trip up North









Maaike and Guusje on the 2nd day of the trekking, we arrived in the Hmong village. We just got out of our trekking pants and we, as women, had to wear a sarong...

Don't we look appealing...





The road stopped suddenly during our mointain biking trip: we had to put the bike on our back to cross the strong current river!

Laos: an adventure!

After an absolutely luxurious train trip to ChiangMai (North Thailand), we took the bus straight away to Chiang Khong, a village at the Thai border. The next morning we crossed the Mekong River and we arrived in Laos!

Most people took the slow boat heading south, however, we decided to head North by bus. After a beautiful bus ride which supposed to be the worst road in Laos (which was not the case, because the Chinese just fixed it!) we got to Luang Nam Tha (grab an atlas). Gorgeous place: not many tourists and it looks like Papua New Guinea from what I know from pictures of my brother...I know, that does not help many people to visualise, just my mum and Sjoerd...

Anyway, from there we decided to do a three day trekking in the jungle. Three days of hiking in the jungle, crossing rice fields, walking through bamboo forests, mud, loads of mud and sleeping in the homes of the local Hmong people. The walks were amazing, but staying at the villages was truly excellent. Sleeping on the ground, no toilets (just an hole in the ground), no running water, no electricity, all the curious kids dropping by. The villages were really poor: just wooden houses, pigs, chickens etc running around. Kids not wearing any clothes, or just really dirty ones. The villages could only be reached by foot (after hours of walking).

Our group was quite interesting as well. Of course we are two very direct Dutch girls, so we were accompanied by a socially incapable Finnish guy who could not stop talking about diving (wrong country my friend...), an 1.50 tall Canadian gay guy who felt he was going to die after the first day ( I quote: I feel like a punctured ball), a guy from the UK who always wanted to overtake us somehow and while doing that he fell an awful lot of times and finally a posh UK expat who was hiking in one of his work shirts...Needless to say we had an excellent time with them: it was hilarious! We even drank homemade Lao Whiskey with the village chief!

After the three days we did some mountain biking as well (beautiful!) and a couple of days ago we took a bus to Luang Prabang: World Heritage City because of its beautiful temples. Here we are kicking back (its really hot here, and as most of you know: I cannot take the heat that well...), do some kayaking, sightseeing etc.

But to keep a long story short, some Lao peculiarities:
- Loas has a curfew, so everything is silent after 23.30...
- we have seen butterflies as large as small birds...
- the Hmong villages are very very poor, but they did have cellphones...
- during the trekking we encountered loads of leeches (bloedzuigers): everyone had them, but apparently they do not like me...great!
- Guusje cannot count and using Bath (Thailand), Kip (Laos) and dollars is too confusing for her... - when taking a bus, all your luggage has to be taken with you of course. So if you want to transport your scooter to a different city, you just put the scooter in the aisle of the bus. And if your friend wants to take his as well, you put that one in the aisle as well...
- if the bus stops along the way and you need to pee: just go out of the bus, drop your pants and do your thing...
- needles to say that Guusje and I adapt perfectly to the above Lao manner...
- Lao money notes show the president. He looks like a combination of Boris Jeltsin and Mao Zedong. Seriously, I am NOT joking: weird psychology tricks perhaps?
- Guusje sang to the Hmong children and they sang Lao songs. Very touching...
- The reason why I did not sing with her was because I truly did not know ANY of the songs she sang. I am shocked: I have no knowledge of any songs, just Kortjakje perhaps. I blame my parents...
- Guusje taught me some Dutch lullabies and THEN I sang with her...

Next stop: Vientiane, the capital of Laos!

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Finland and Bangkok

What do you do if you have 9 hours in Finland? Exactly, you meet up with your best Finnish friends from Turku, Finland, who you haven't seen in 4 years (since Ireland). Seeing them again at the airport was loads of fun and we gave each other big Finnish-Dutch hugs. After that we went to Helsinki where we all were tourists, so Laura put on her ' tour guide hat' and she showed us around. We chatted about the last 4 years, but also about the good things in life. To make it unforgettable we ate an awful looking grey ice cream: salmiakki ice cream...! Yummie!

After a tearful goodbye we took off to Thailand. Guusje and I are good travelling partners: I could not stay awake in the plane, Guusje fell asleep in the taxi from the airport to the city. Either way: there was always a clear mind awake! But seriously: travelling with Guusje is easypeasy.

Bangkok has not changed one bit since I was here 6 years ago (except the airport: mayor shock!). Same crowdedness, loads of backpackers with their Loney Planet and same touristy stuff for sale. We are trying to see the tiny bits of Thailand without the LP...experienced as we are...Not to worry, we have an LP from Laos and Cambodia!
Guusje and I took our time to see the city: we saw some temples, the Grand Palace, boat ride through the city etc. Since we are very good at sleeping: that's what we did the last couple of days to get rid off the jetlag. We ate delicious food on the streets, we drank some Thai beer and cheered that we (but especially me...) will not get sick. Last time in China, I was sick within 2 days...

Anyhow, just a quick note to let you know all is very well. Travelling feels good! Tonight we are off to Chiangmai by train and then tomorrow we take a bus to Laos. We will cross the border there and we are still thinking about what is next. Either go up north to do some hiking and visit tribes or take the 2 day boat to Luang Prabang and do stuff there.
We will probably be in Vientiane (Capital of Laos) in 2 weeks, and hopefully meet up with an old colleague of mine who is working for Unicef right now. Should be really interesting!

No pictures this time, haven't got the right cable here...

Thai greetings,
Maaike (and Guusje of course who just had her birthday

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Get ready, set, and she is off...

I came across the happiest woman on earth today. She was glooming and frolicing at the same time. You could see she set her mind on something, something good and exciting. So, I stopped her and asked her what she was up to. It turned out to be me in the mirror!!

I had an excellent 2 weeks, seeing everyone, chatting and drinking coffee. But now I am off! Totally excited and anxious to go.


So chronological:


Finland (yes, for 9 hours!)


Thailand


Laos


Cambodia


Papua New Guinea


Australia


New Zealand


Tahiti


Chile


Bolivia


Peru


and last but not least Surinam!


I am a lucky bastard, I know....

Bye for now!

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

my favorite travelpartners

Needless to say that I did excellent at losing my job. Well, to be honest it took some effort to loose it in time... And moving out of my house the next day was peanuts. It was the 8th time in 10 years, so I am quite an expert on packing and moving and thanks to my helpers it was 'inladen en wegwezen'...

So now plenty of time to arrange the final things like visas, insurance, vaccinations, catch up with my parents while drinking a Leffe Dubbel. Good stuff...

But back to business; I want to try to put some pictures on this weblog, so here it goes. Let me introduce you to my favorite travel partners: some are new, some are ancient...

To your left [to bad you only see the picture and not my 10 efforts to put it here...] My true best friend 'miss Paspoort'; she has been with me since 2004. She has never travelled for an extensive time with me (no Australia 2001 nor Ireland 2002-2003), but she enjoyed China (2005) so she is dying to go!




On your right hand side we have 'Mr Wallet'. He has been in my pocket since 1998 so he is an experienced traveller. He enjoys different currencies. Euros have been in his possession way too long, so he is looking forward to the change. He is very introvert and unsociable; he likes to be very close to me and he doesn't trust other people easily. I respect him for that of course.



On my left we have 'Lady Red'. My Tatanka backpack, 50 litres and specially made for 'tiny' people so she fits perfectly on my 'tiny' back. She enjoys the company of my friends 'Tent' and 'Sleeping bag', but for this trip only 'Sleeping bag' is coming along. You can see him crawling close to her already. 'Tent' is looking for asylum; my friend Guusje might take her. Illegally of course because our old minister Verdonk always says 'full=full' so I will sneak her on board the train tomorrow.


Here are the youngest of my good friends. They are in my possession since the summer of 2005 [my old shoes got sick during China and eventually 'died' during a conference meeting in Norway]. The Hanwag twins proofed their skills during two terrible wet trips in the Ardenne, Belgium, [Ascension Day 2006] and Wales last summer. Very comfy, extremely dry and they NEVER complain. 'respect' is in order here for such youngsters!

To the left we have a new friend. Probably going to be a good friend, but I am not really familiar with her yet. She is called 'the world'. But not for real of course, it's just her nickname. Two of my good human friends, Catherine & Floor, gave her to me and they wrote a welcome message on the first page. 'The world' likes stories, good and bad, dialogues, discussions, love quarrels and all the emotions I will encounter. She is much like http://www.maaikeisweg.blogspot.com/, only less advanced. She likes to be tickled with a pen and ink, Catherine told me. Floor said that 'the world' loves secrets and gossip, a thing the weblog sometimes likes as well, but not every day. I will make sure I'll feed 'the world' in time. Just like the weblog, but different. There are no 'pottenkijkers' [or is it 'pottekijkers', Floor, Cath, anyone??]
Anyhow, these are my friends. My dad can sleep well now, knowing that I have such trust full friends. They will look after me, just as I look after them. It's a win-win situation!