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Fiji – Bula!

by Dani and Michael Fiji, finally!! When we arrived in Fiji, I was very relieved. First, it was finally nice and warm! Second, the flight had been horrible: the first hour only turbulences, then an hour rest, then the last hour again only turbulences! I still do not like flying definitely! In Fiji we were on the first night in a nice hotel Tokatoka next to the airport, because there was no ferry to the Mamanuca Islands, where our real hotel was. At the Toktoka we were greeted by the doorman by threw open the door of our van, roaring with an insane volume "Bula" and immediately afterwards cordially beaming two frightened tourists. I'd better not recently read that the previous generations in Fiji had been cannibals ... the welcome was certainly a little scary! The next day we were taken by a small motorboat of the Ratukini Resort to Malolo Island. The departure terminal was behind a deserted unfinished house construction. It looked very strange and we had our hands on the door handle, because we feared not to be really taken to a boat. But it was all good! When we arrived at our Resort Tropica Island, we loved it. It was fantastic, we had landed in a small quiet resort with an infinity pool overlooking the sea, palm trees, white beach, crystal clear water and very nice staff, who welcomed us also warmly and loudly singing, with music and "Bula" (which means "hello" or "welcome") and greeted us personally with our names in the following days! After we checked into our hotel room, we lazily laid down on the sunchairs next to the pool and enjoyed the burning sun. Pool and sea were not really to refreshing as they were both very warm (even for my taste), but it was still great to swim in it! The next days we spent actually at the pool and in the sea, and read so many books that we almost got square eyes. In between times we approved a cocktail and then turned our attention once again to relaxation. It was just lovely!! In the evening we enjoyed the happy hour and a cozy dinner in an open pavilion on the beach with a spectacular view of the sunset. Could not be better!! On 26/01/ - the Australia Day and National Day in Australia and Fiji - we could take part in a kava ceremony. Kava or Yakona is called an infusion of water and a powdered root of the Kava plant that tastes of mud and numbs the tongue. In addition to some hotel staff and some hotel guests the hotel manager took also part in the ceremony. The ceremony is traditionally performed only for celebrations and special occasions. The head of the ceremony prepares the infusion in a large wooden bowl by wringing the Kava powder in a towel in water and passing the drink in a coconut shell to the participants. Everyone can decide if they want to drink a half or a whole bowl. Before the bowl is taken on, the recipient must clap once with cupped hands as a sign of respect and must say "Bula". Then you have to drink the bowl at once, return it to the head of the ceremony and clap now have three times in the hands and say "Bula Bula". Women clap with flat hands. Kava is known for its relaxing, anxiolytic and sedative effects, why it is very popular among the Fijian people. Michael drank a total of two shells, I only a half one. However, it tasted half as bad as we feared, only slightly muddy. My mouth was actually numbed, however, nothing else happened to me. Later only Michael seemed to be very relaxed ;-)! After two rounds the ceremony was over. After that the staff sang and danced in a very cozy atmosphere. In the whole time on the island, we did only two tours. On the first tour we were taken to a small island called Honeymoon Island (just right for us ;-)), where we participated in a guided snorkel tour around the island. It was nice, but we had already seen much nicer places for snorkeling on our trip. The second tour took us to Mondriki Island, the island on which the movie "Castaway" with Tom Hanks was shot. This tour was beautiful! The island was a dream with white beach and crystal clear water. We also did a guided snorkel tour here, but was far better than the tour to Honeymoon Island, there was a lot more fish and much more colorful corals. Later we were shown on the island also to various locations of the film. At lunch time we were spoiled with one bottle of champagne per couple and cold sandwiches, salads and cakes. We enjoyed our lunch very much and clinked our glasses at our 1-month wedding anniversary that had fallen exactly to this day (27/01/2015)! It was wonderful and we were very happy! Unfortunately, the five days on Malolo Island passed too fast, but we definitely had a wonderful time there and enjoyed every moment! Now we were in good condition for the next challenge: let's go to Sydney!!

New Zealand – Round trip South Island

by Dani 05/01/15: As we previously reported, on our arrival, we had to get familiar with the new situation of our backpacker travel. 06/01/15: On Tuesday morning, the next little culture shock was waiting for us. We went into the large communal kitchen, where there should be breakfast. What we found was a large plastic box, which stood on the ground and which the guys of our group sought their breakfast of. It was a huge chaos, since about 20 people prepared their breakfast at the same time. We were completely surprised and desperately looked for something to eat. We took toast and cereals from the lunch box and ate it quickly because we had to leave quite soon. Oh my God, that would be our daily breakfast in the next two weeks. We headed at 6.30 am in our minibus to the ferry. The ride with the ferry took about 3 hours until we arrived in Picton on the South Island. On the ferry we already booked the first activities we wanted to do on the trip - as our tour guide Rebecca said that the trips would be pretty booked and so we should decide as early as possible. We made reservations for both of us for the skydive the next day. Oh my God! I should jump on the next day out of a plane, on my birthday ... although I was scared of flying until recently (and still do not like flying)?! But well, it was me who had the idea originally to do this ... so take a deep breath and go for it! In Picton we quickly ate some sandwiches as lunch before we left on our minibus to the Abel Tasman National Park. Rebecca, incidentally, was not only our tour guide, but also our driver. When we arrived at Marahau after a few hours, we grabbed our already packed small daypacks, in which we had packed the necessary things for one night, and boarded our water taxi (a medium sized boat) - on land. The boat was in fact not in the water, but on a trailer pulled by a tractor to the beach and into the sea. I had never experienced this before! We were moved to a small beautiful bay in the National Park, where we checked in to our first accomodation - a houseboat! I'm a sailor and like very much to stay on a boat and am really not sensitive, but this was a bit grubby. Michael and I stayed together with five other girls from our group in a tiny, dark, stuffy berth, where you had to climb down a very small ladder. We had a double bed directly under the ceiling of the berth, but in which we could only roll in sideways, since otherwise we would bump our head. Ok, once again, this was a backpacker tour ... so, just take a deep breath! We stored our bags in the berth and then Michael and the others jumped from the top deck of the houseboat happily into the icy sea. I still had to cope with the whole accomodation situation and remained on deck. Somehow I was not in a good mood today. In the evening we had a barbecue on deck, which was great fun and delicious. However, the night was hell for me, I could not sleep at all in the tiny berth and was far too nervous because of the skydive the next day. 07/01/15: The next morning, my birthday, I was completely knocked out, and not in high spirits. Oh great, for my birthday I had wished for a different way to start the day. Michael brightened my mood a little, as he handed me a candle that looked like a small cake and sang the first line of Happy Birthday and congratulated me quickly before we had to hurry to breakfast. Well, even that I had imagined otherwise. After breakfast we were taken to the beach, where we hiked for four hours through the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park back to Marahau. In the park we had a quick lunch on a wonderful beach where we jumped into the sea. My leg hurt a bit while walking, but we had to arrive at the Old McDonald's farm, our next accomodation, at 2 pm since there, we were to be picked up together with seven other guys of our group for the skydive. On the ride to the airport, no one said a word, each lost in his own thoughts, trying to get the own excitement under control. Michael and I, we were both nervous as hell and a little scared. I had the greatest fear of the free fall, because I really hate the feeling of falling, this strange feeling that is felt in the stomach. I do not even jump off the 3-meter tower at the public swimming pool. As our driver then said that the jump would not feel like a free fall, but more like flying with very fast speed, I was not scared any more, but only excited. Jippiii, I would not have this stupid feeling of falling, but would fly very fast! That sounded great! When we arrived at the skydive school, we actually expected a detailed explanation of how we should conduct ourselves properly, what security was and how we should land safely. But we were totally wrong! Nothing of that happened. We were warmly but shortly greeted, had to decide very quickly on the height (9000, 13000, or 16500 feet) and the type of photo and video package and a few minutes later we stuck in the jump suit and were provided with a harness. Nadine, Michael and I were the first group to jump. We were quickly introduced to our tandem partner (Scruffy - as it turned out later) whose name I first did not understand in this rush. Introducing was followed by a very brief interview with my camera man (each tandem pair had its own camera man) and then we three were already pushed towards the plane. Oh my God, it all went really fast! I had no time to deal with the thought that I would really jump out of an airplane. The plane was very small and we all sat quite squeezed, with our back to the starting direction, respectively on the lap of our tandem partner. After we started, I became very calm at once and was only excited to do the skydive, though I still could not really believe it. Then things moved quickly. When we were on our jump height, the door was opened and Nadine jumped with her partner first. Within seconds, she was gone. Then it was my turn. I crawled with my partner to the exit, where I could feel the strong wind. Oh my God, I would jump!! I could not look down, because I had to take back my head. Then it was time: hands on the harness, legs back, a quick smile and a "jippiii" into the camera ... and then my partner pushed us off the plane and we fell into the depths ... oh my God, there was that terrible feeling of falling and it went through my whole body, but it was also very exciting and cool! For a few seconds we fell head over and flipped over (which is apparently normal) until my partner opened a mini chute to stabilize .... and then we actually floated several thousand meters above the ground and were flying - actually with crazy speed (200 km/h as we were told before)!! IT WAS INCREDIBLE!!!! I felt so released and was completely overwhelmed by the sight of the sky and the fascinating landscape below me. My camera man flew in front of my face and took photos and a video of me while I was flying in the air and screamed with excitement and could not stop cheering. Instead of looking into the camera, I was completely fascinated by the beautiful landscape that lay beneath me and the incredible speed. I enjoyed the wind that rushed past my face, the sun, the blue sky which I was pretty close to, the sea, the beach and the mountains in the distance! We had such a breathtaking view of everything that I could hardly believe it! I WAS COMPLETELY FREE (ok, not really, I was strapped to a tandem partner)!!! IT WAS PHENOMENAL, AWESOME, UNBELIEVABLE!!! Unfortunately, this free fall was over after 45 seconds and my partner pulled a leash which opened the big parachute that catapulted us approx. 20 meters in the air only in a few seconds. The feeling was similarly exciting as the free fall at the beginning, but we went up and not down. With the parachute we now hovered slightly downward and my partner started to fly very narrow and steep curves which made us suddenly fall down a few meters and what made me feeling a little bit like seasick. But it was so much fun that I pushed him to go on. A few minutes later, this beautiful hover was ending and I lifted my legs for landing. Unfortunately, I forgot to take the legs down again, why we ended up on my knees and my partner on top of me. My camera man was already there and held the camera into my face, which I happily and completely thrilled beamed into it. Then Michael landed and I hopped into his arms. We were both absolutely thrilled! This has been the best and most exciting thing we have experienced in our lives! Michael experienced the jump similarly: For me, it was almost too fast. We had changed our clothes and packed the bags, we were greeted by a man with a camera and were passed on to the next. I should comment on the camera, but mentally I was already in the clouds and wondered how the jump would probably feel. I was a little nervous but had still kept within limits. The joy and excitement had prevailed. A moment later we were sitting close together on the plane. Had not thought that nine people would find place in such a small plane :-). It took some time until we reached the jump altitude of 4,000 meters. I turned around a few times to Dani, to see how she's doing. Amazingly, she was sitting with a big smile behind me. The view and the weather were great. I could not wait to jump. During the flight I was told by my skydiver to whom I was chained a few details to the environment. Then it finally happened. Nadine jumped first, then it was Dani's turn. I was hoping that her partner would bring her safely to the bottom. As soon as they jumped off, they were already out of sight. Crazy, at what speed you fall down here. Then it was my turn. Unfortunately I had forgotten to pose into the camera and then we jumped off. First we have turned and it seemed to me as if we flipped over. The falling was not as bad as I had imagined. I thought it was pure fun. As then opened the auxiliary parachute (which you do not notice), we were stably floating. From then on, it felt like flying very fast. The camera man came over and grabbed me by the hand, turned us and then let go. As a spinner we went through the air. The view was great. Then the camera man grimaced with his hand to his nose. When I wanted to repeat this, the parachute opened and took us several meters up in the air. For me that was the sickest feeling during the whole jump! The blood rushed into my head and I was dizzy. When the delay was over, we glided only peacefully through the air and I could enjoy the scenery. Gorgeous! Below, I saw Dani flying in circles and preparing for landing. I was happy. My landing was smooth. As soon as I was back on the floor Dani came running towards me and fell on my neck. What a welcome! Nice that this scene has also made it on my video :-). Then we told us about our experiences. Right after us, the other did their skydives - and all were equally enthusiastic when they came back. After our skydives, we watched together our videos before we returned to our farm. In the evening we went with the entire group to an open air burger restaurant. After the meal, I got a surprise, namely a chocolate brownie cake with a candle and all sang Happy Birthday. I was very pleased about it. But the best part of my birthday was the skydive anyway, that was unbeatable! 08/01/15: The next morning we went to the Pancake Rocks to Punakaiki. On the way to our destination, we spent a little time wachting a sea colony at Cape Foulwind. It was nice, but we could only watch the seals from a big distance. We had been much closer to a lot more seals in Ushuaia, so we were not very impressed, to be honest. The pancake rocks were much better. This impressive rock formations have their name from their look, because they look like huge mountains of stacked pancakes. We stayed at a very nice bush camp called Te Nikau Retreat in a bungalow with a few others from the group, but in which we had a private room. In the evening we cooked together with the whole group in one of the other bungalows to which we had to walk through jungle paths which was quite funny. We played games like Yenga, watched the beautiful sunset on the beach together and emptied a few bottles of wine. It was a nice evening. At night I got unfortunately again terrible sore throat and could hardly sleep. 09/01/15: The next morning I was ill again and felt terrible ...wow... had not had sore throat since a week! Bloody hell! Unfortunately, I therefore had to skip the planned kayak tour. So, Michael did the tour only with Saku and Krista and told later that it had been beautiful. I spent the morning with tea and writing for the travel blog in a coffee shop and walked again to the Pancake Rocks. In the afternoon we went to the Franz Josef Glacier and stayed in the same called town in the Glow Worm motel where we got a private room with bath at a surcharge. The motel had a small hot tub and laundry facilities, so we were finally able to do the laundry once again. After a quick dinner, I took Advil tablets that we fortunately still had left from Nasser from the Patagonia tour, and went to bed early. However, my cold kept me away from sleeping, again. 10/1/15: The next morning we were able to sleep a little longer, which was great, before we had breakfast at a cafe and then went to the check-in for the tour "Ice Explorer" on which we would explore the glacier. We got changed, were briefly instructed in the use of crampons and were taken by helicopter to the glacier. The pilot was very funny and surprised us with a funny ride as he abruptly steered the helicopter after a mountain into the depth, which felt like being on a roller coaster and we all screamed. Since I was taking a video in this second, I have now my scared face on tape ;-)! On the glacier we hiked with a very relaxed local guide, who welcomed us in shorts whereas we were armed with hat, gloves, long pants, thick jackets and scarves. Our hike took about 3 hours on the glacier. Our guide took us through narrow ice cracks and holes in the ice which was great fun. However, for Michael and me as newly adrenaline seekers, it could have been a little more adventure. After the tour we warmed up in the hot water pools, three large open-air pools with 36, 38 and 40 degree water, before we went later to the Rain Forest Hostel with the group for dinner. 11/01/15: The next morning we started quite early to Queenstown. Since the minibus had a few technical problems for the last couple of days, our start was delayed a bit. However, we arrived quite promptly in Queenstown in the afternoon. We stayed here at Nomads Backpacker Hostel, this time in a 4-bed-room with Saku and Krista, what was really funny. Unfortunately, it was raining in Queenstown, but we were confident that it would become better. In the evening we had dinner with the whole group in a Thai restaurant, then fell exhausted in bed. 12/01/15: The next day we got up a little later and were surprised by glorious sunshine. Here we are :-)! We wandered around Queenstown, which we liked very much. There were several pedestrian roads, beautiful shops and very cozy bars and cafes. Because Queenstown is located directly on Lake Wakatipu, there is also a great promenade, again with nice restaurants and cafes, a lawn and a pebble beach, from where you can look at the surrounding mountains. In the afternoon, we bumped into Nadine, Marc and Laura, who came straight back from her canyon swing and were completely crazy about it. Why not adding a little bit more adventure to our trip, we thought and rushed to the next counter where we booked the Nevis Canyon Swing, in which we would fall (of course, strapped in a harness) 70 m into the depths and then swing 300 m in approx. 40 m height over a canyon. Next thrill would come, yeah!! But then directly after booking we realised what we had done and would do the next day. Oh my God, we now needed food. So, we had to beat this shock with one of the famous Fergburger in Queenstown, which were really delicious. In the evening we went with Krista and Saku in a bar, where serving cocktails in teapots, which indeed looked funny, but not tasted very well. Nevertheless, we had a very nice evening and were beaten mercilessly by the two playing pool billiards. 13/01/15: The night was for me again short one, as I had barely slept again because of huge excitement. I was a hundred times more excited because of this stupid Canyon Swing than I was before the skydive. It was probably the free fall again, which I did not want to do. To the swing I was really looking forward, but the fall I would like to cancel. Although Michael was nervous and scared, he was decided to jump. I was not sure and told him constantly that I still had not decided yet to jump and I would hold my decision until the end. A little later, we checked for the swing and took the bus to the Canyon. The ride was beautiful and the last piece on the steep mountain road was surely more dangerous than the swing. When we arrived at the top, our weight was painted on the hand and then we were sent to the jump platform on the bridge. When we reached the bridge, which looked like hanging in the air in 160 m height above the canyon, we were scared. Oh my God! Suddenly we heard a scream and saw a pair falling on a rope into the abyss. Oh sh ...! Nevertheless, we walked to the jump platform to have a look, although it was not easy for Michael to convince me to join him. When we got over there, the couple just came back up and was totally excited and euphoric. Well, apparently it was nice! Then a man jumped alone and with his head down. That was the most scary way to jump. But I still could not decide to jump. Hey, what was the matter with me? Even this swing had been originally my idea and it had cost me a lot of talking to persuade Michael to do it, and now he wanted to jump and I DON'T?! We let two other couples and two men going first until we were the last ones who had not jumped yet. Ok, now or never! We chose the Honeymoon position in which we both sat in our harness, I sat on Michael's legs, we were facing each other and I wrapped my legs around his back. I asked again if I could still decide what to do until the very last second. Yeah, assured me the guy at the switch. I looked questioningly at Michael again, but he only smiled at me and said that we would jump now. All right! We nodded to the guy at the switch who pulled us over the abyss. We waved our hands in three different cameras, held firmly to the belt of the other and decided to go for the count down instead of for the surprise. We could see the tension in the other's face! We heard only "one" and suddenly fell screaming into the abyss. Oh God, that was awful ... and awesome!! We both were screaming like hell! I automatically closed my eyes and could not stop screaming until Michael finally said I could stop now because we would swing already. I opened my eyes and hurray, we swung in about 40 m above the canyon. It was gorgeous and pure relaxation!! Yeah, it felt like sitting on a giant swing!! I could have swung and enjoy the landscape for hours! But after a few times swinging back and forth, we were pulled up again. Too bad, already over! At the top I was so thrilled that I would have jumped again. Falling had indeed been terrible, but also the most exciting part of the swing. But Michael had had enough. So we went, equipped with a video and photos back to Queenstown. In the afternoon we relaxed on the beach in the sun after this exciting adventure. After dinner with the group we packed our daypacks for the next day and the night in Doubtful Sound. At night, I was awakened by a small earthquake. The whole building and the beds were shaking, but no one besides me had been woken up. It was scary, but after a few minutes it was already over. Adventure, adventure! 14/01/15: The next day I felt sick again! We went to Doubtful Sound, a fjord landscape in a National Park, where we stayed on an island. On the way we saw the famous Lake Matheson and then later were taken by ferry to the island. We stayed there in a hostel in a double room with bunk beds. Shortly after our arrival, the other took a hike to the Helena waterfalls that I had skipped because I had sore throat again which was very painful this time. 15/01/15: We got up at 6.15 am and moved on to the kayak tour, which I unfortunately had to cancel, too. Michael later told of dolphins that they had seen, but also from the many sand flies that were almost more unpleasant than mosquitoes. In the afternoon we returned to the starting point and the bus headed to Wedderburn, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere in Central Otago. Meanwhile, Michael and I were tired of bus rides, sandflies, group activities and got a little cabin fever. We looked forward to the end of the tour, and to be alone again soon. When we arrived in Wedderburn, the whole scenery cheered us up again. We landed in a small village with about 20 inhabitants, where there were except a few houses, many sheep, a golf course (a sheep pasture, which was provided with banners), a pub and our hostel, which consisted of small cottages. The area was beautiful, endless fields and grassland with a beautiful view at the mountains, and once again fantastic weather. We stayed in the cottage where we had a private room. The cottage was a sweet little and cozy cottage that was lovely furnished. Here we felt for the first time really good. You could hear nothing except a few sheep baaing. Heavenly silence, wonderful! Exactly what we needed! 16/01/15: The next morning we were dropped 35 km away on a bike route, where we received bicycles and did a bike ride on the Otago Rail Trail back to our accommodation. We all got decent mountain bikes and started in sweltering heat and quite strong crosswinds. We had five hours until we had to be back at our cottage. Therefore, we drove slowly on this wonderful route, which ran on a dirt road along cliffs, fields, grasslands and mountains. After two thirds of the way we took a break before we climbed the last third. Fortunately, the last kilometer led downhill, which was a relief! Despite my cold it had been great to move again after days of long bus rides. Michael was happy, too. We had missed some sports. We spent the afternoon sitting in the sun, reading and saving pictures to our portable hard drive. We enjoyed the quiet and beautiful surroundings and just relaxed a bit, which was very nice. In the evening we all ate together in the pub and afterwards we played with Krista, Saku, Chris, Marc and Ranj a round on the with sheep dung covered golf course, which was more a pasture with a couple of flags. Did not matter, as this also corresponded to our Golf arts! But at least each of us hit the balls and we had a lot of fun, so we played until almost 22 pm until finally the sun set. 17/01/15: The next day we started at 7.30 am, as we would have a long bus ride to Christchurch. On the way we stopped a few times to drink coffee or to buy something at the supermarket for our lunch, that we had in the afternoon in a small park, where we unfortunately forgot my glasses along with case and contact lens container, but what we only noticed later. Against 3 pm we finally arrived in Christchurch. When we arrived at our hostel, I was shocked. We were housed in a former prison, where the cells had been transformed into hostel rooms. The atmosphere was awful and it smelled horrible. When I saw our cell, I got anxiety. But when I came back from the bathroom, it was clear to me that I would not stay here tonight. Everything was just disgusting! I was not alone with my opinion because some others were also shocked. But others again in the group liked the place quite well. The flavours are very different. My mood was however first at the lowest level! For this problem I had to find a solution! After we were dropped in the city, we decided after a short discussion to find another hotel. No sooner said than done. Within ten minutes we have found with the help of the tourist office a nice hotel that we booked immediately. Excellent! We took immediately a taxi back to the jail, packed our bags, left a message for Rebecca - and were gone! The new Hotel Chateau on the Park was exactly the opposite. It had a great garden, a swimming pool, a restaurant and a bar and was right next to the city park. When we said at the reception that we were on our honeymoon, we even got an upgrade to a suite with a balcony overlooking the garden. What luck! Very relaxed and happy we made our way to the city. Beforehand, we had heard of Rebecca that many houses had been destroyed by the earthquake and many people had left the city. But when we were on site, we were very shocked. Almost every second house was damaged and abandoned, as it was not safe in case of further earthquakes, which documented the inspection notices pinned on the doors of the abandoned houses. After the earthquake, all the buildings in the city were checked and every house and office locked, that had not passed this review. In the meantime, probably many houses were demolished and rebuilt, but there were still many construction sites and countless dilapidated and nearly collapsing buildings. In some of them we could see files and papers still laying on the floor, as if everything had happend only a few days ago. The city was deserted and seemed to be a ghost town. It was also found hardly a café or restaurant and many shops were barricaded and closed. We only found a small street with shops and cafés reopened in colorful containers. There we found something to eat. This depressing impression we had to cope with and could now understand very well that many residents had left this city. On the other hand, we admired the people who stayed and devoted themselves to the construction of the city. In any case, we will definitely remember Christchurch. 18/01/15: The next morning we drove towards Kaikoura, our last stop on the South Island. On the way there, we stopped a the famous Moeraki Boulders at the Koekohe beach. The boulders are large black stones laying on the beach which look very fascinating and had been built 60 million years ago. The further drive to Kaikoura took along a beautiful coastal road, from which we could even see dolphins near the beach. Kaikoura is known for its underwater wildlife, as you can see not only dolphins, but also sperm whales, killer whales and other marine life here. In addition, Kaikoura is a sweet little place with a mile-long black pebble beach. We stayed in a lovely hostel in a double room, again at a surcharge. Right after our arrival we went into town and explored Kaikoura. We ate together with Krista and Saku fresh tasty fish for lunch, including elephant fish, and walked through the small town. In the afternoon we went whale watching. We were really excited and looking forward to watching the whales that we were promised to see. And indeed we saw later the back and the tail of a sperm whale and a few dolphins, but that was all. When we then headed back to shore, I was very glad because I had become seasick on that stupid boat in high waves and for the first time in my life. Now I can understand that this really is NO fun and I will never make fun of someone who is seasick! 19/01/15: The next morning we headed to Picton to catch the ferry. Our trip on the South Island was over and we started the journey home to Wellington, where the tour would officially end the next morning. On the bus Krista and Saku told us about the wonderful dolphin swim and that they had not only seen hundreds of dolphins, but also three orcas and swam beside them. Wow, that was really impressive! On the way to Picton then we saw a few orcas near the beach. What a nice farewell! Kaikoura is definitely worth a second visit! When we arrived in Wellington, we moved into our new hotel as we had accidentally booked a night earlier in the Ibis Hotel. But secretly we were glad that we did not have to stay in the backpacker hostel again. In the evening we met the group for the last dinner and spent a funny evening at an Indian restaurant. However, we were happy to start from now on our own journey again. That would be a bit more relaxed! But it had definitely been a great tour with incredibly exciting and beautiful experiences and where we met very nice people and got to know a small piece of a wonderful New Zealand. 20/01/15: The next day our own tour started again. We spent a wonderful day in Wellington, visited the Botanical Garden, explored the downtown and walked around the harbour towards the beach. Wellington is really worth seeing and a cozy town in which you can certainly have a great life. Now, however, we were looking forward to our next destination: Fiji!!! soon...sorry!

New Zealand – Auckland and North Island

by Dani On our flight to Auckland, we have lost a full day, namely the 30/12/2014, as we flew over the international date line. We started on 29/12/2014 in Rarotonga and landed in the morning in Auckland on 31/12/2014 at about 2.00 am. We both have never experienced losing one full day. Very funny! Now, our real honeymoon was about to start... We initially had a few problems since we got our rental car only after a call from the manager of our apartment hotel. We had forgotten to take into account the time difference, so we ordered the car too early and could not pick it up in time. We had a great time in Auckland! Auckland is a beautiful city with beautiful residential neighbourhoods and a beautiful city center, where you will find many skyscrapers next to very old buildings. They are situated around a pedestrian walk to the Skytower, which is the main attraction of the city. The Skytower is 198 m high and has apart from several viewing platforms a restaurant with a beautiful view over the city and which slowly rotates 360 degrees. You can make a kind of bungee jump off the Skytower, which is slightly cushioned and therefore not a real free fall. And you can also make the "Skywalk"with a guide in 192 m height where you walk on a grid path that leads around the tower, but which has no railing and you are only secured by two ropes and where you can perform a few nerve-wracking (if one is notafraid of heights) tasks - what we have done, of course :-), but more on that later ...! At the harbour there are many restaurants and bars where you can enjoy a delicious cocktail overlooking the opposite peninsulas. The New Year's Eve, we spent at the harbour in a bar outside looking at the Skytower, which was colorfully lit and from which later the fireworks was started. Hundreds of people were standing in the warm night on the road, waiting for the new year. We were standing with a bottle of Prosecco in the crowd and looked at the Skytower, where the minutes were displayed. The last 10 seconds were counted aloud by all people, it was a breathtaking atmosphere ... and then it was 2015, yeahhh! We were very happy! This was our first New Year's Eve as a married couple and on our journey around the world in an exciting city! Later we landed in a salsa bar and danced salsa and bachata the whole evening before we eventually headed back to the hotel and fell exhausted into bed. The next day we walked through the city and did the Skywalk. It was a little exciting, to be secured in 192 m height only by a rope and to stand outside and to look down to the city. The tasks that we had to deal with, began with pushing the toes over the edge of the path and looking down and ended with hanging ourselves with our full weight into the rope and over the edge, so that we practically hung free over the city, which was a scary feeling. We had a lot of fun and excitement! In the afternoon we drove with our car to the opposite peninsula to Devonport, which is a nice place from where we had a fabulous view of the sunset and the skyline of Auckland. The next day we started our small 3-day road trip. It should lead us on the Coromandel Peninsula, passing Bay of Plenty, towards Lake Taupo and down to Wellington where we supposed to be arrived on Monday. We had not booked any accommodation as we did not know where we wanted to stay and thought we would certainly find a B & B or any similar. So we drove off in a good mood and saw many beautiful places and beaches on our first day. The scenery and beaches were very different from the beautiful beaches of the South Seas. The beaches here reminded us more of beaches in the south of England or France. The sea was much colder, as well as the entire climate. But it was still very nice, we only had to get used to it again. In the evening we landed on the east coast in a small place called Hahei. As we slowly became too hungry and were tired, we decided to look for accommodation here. But the only things we saw were signs with "no vacancy". Huh, we had not expected to face such difficulties. We went from street to street, from one B&B to another, but did not found anything. Eventually we just ignored the sign and asked in a B&B for a room. The elderly lady laughed at us and said that we were here in the high holiday season and that they already had reservations for 2016! Whaaat?? Ok, we tried not to become discouraged and called all possible hostels and B&Bs in our guide, even these which were 100 km away, but we heard only "sorry, fully booked". Also online there was no accommodation so far. Now, we had become discouraged and the atmosphere was at the lowest point. Apparently, we had only the option to sleep in the car because we were too tired to continue driving. We decided to eat something first and then to search for a place somewhere where we could stay with the car overnight. After the meal, we were standing undecisively before our small car and looked on the bulletin board behind us. Suddenly, I saw a notice in which a house was for rent. I asked Michael to call and ask, whether they might rented us only a room - and finally, we were LUCKY!!! In the house there was a flat that we could have. We were incredibly relieved! We immediately left and found a very nice house where we definitely wanted to stay. We were so happy and grateful. Lorne and Carroll, the owner of the house had never rented before only the single apartment, but made an exception for us because they had been as a young couple in a similar situation. They invited us even to a glass of wine and we had a lovely evening with them. Lorne also arranged on the same evening a boat tour for us for the next morning. We were infinitely happy and relieved!! The next day we took the Hahei Explorer, a small boat along the coast and watched the caves, found numerous there. Then we went to Hot Water Beach, a beach, which is crossed by underground hot springs, and where you can sit at some places in boiling water if you dig a hole. Therefore, all the people were armed with spades and there was a small battle for hot spots, because you can build a small pool in the sand when you find the hot water and mix it with the cold sea water. Unfortunately, we found no more free place and just laid down on the beach. Later we went to another attraction, the Cathedral Cove, a huge rock that contains a cave or tunnel that connects two small beautiful beaches with each other. Until there, you have to walk for 45 minutes but the scenery is beautiful, so well worth to do the walk. The water was icy cold, but I finally managed to give it a try and survived 🙂 ! We stayed another night in Hahei and spent a fun evening with Lorne, Carol and her neighbours in the pleasant open-air restaurant and with "live" music which later turned out as a simple DJ. The next morning we drove to Bay of Plenty, a stretch of coast further south with miles of beaches. It was beautiful there, the beach did not seem to end. Out of sheer joy I hopped along the beach. But suddenly I felt a sharp pain in the left calf and could no longer stand on this leg. Damn, leg dragged!! And this now one day before our trip was supposed to start, where we would have to do some walks. I laid my leg half an hour into the icy sea, which helped a little. But the rest of the trip was painful and I could not replace Michael with driving first. We drove to Rotorua where we went to the Thermal Wonderland, a nature park where you could see geysers, bubbling craters and boiling mud pools. This is unique in New Zealand and it was a great experience. It smelled horribly of sulfur and rotten eggs, but it was breathtaking. The crater contained red, yellow, green, and blue liquids and toxic deposits (sulfur, manganese, iron, arsenic etc.) and bubbling boiling hot water. After that we drove to Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. Taupo is a cute little town with lots of cafes and bars right next to the lake. We ate dinner there and saw one of the most beautiful sunset we had seen so far on our trip. Slowly it became dark and we still had about 300 km to go to Palmerston North where we wanted to stay in a motel. New Zealand is a country of curves and country roads, so the ride was very uncomfortable and the two of us were sick. For hours we did not encounter any car and the ride did not seem to end. Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun, singing loud and talked about funny things 😉 ! At about 11.30 pm we finally arrived in Palmerston North and in our motel. Actually, it was a shame that we could only stay here for one night. The city was very nice, even in the dark. After searching for minutes we finally found the key to our room and fell exhausted into bed. The next morning we drove in two hours to Wellington. We also had time to unload our luggage at Nomads Backpacker Hostel, where our tour should start before we dropped off our rental car. Dutifully, we reported the damaged wheel cover (such a stupid curb edge had jumped into my way, I could not do anything), but we had not to pay anything, "no worries", we were told. Just very relaxed the Kiwis (as New Zealanders call themselves), that's so great! We took the bus back into town and checked in to the hostel. We landed in a "super awesome good times hostel" with "super friendly people" and "super cool kids at the reception" as everywhere written on the welcome leaves. The whole place was crowded with young travelers, there was a large communal kitchen, a communal TV lounge and communal bedrooms (dorms) and bathrooms. Ok, now we were arrived at the backpacker level! Again a new experience ... However, we were still unpleasantly surprised when we heard that we were in different rooms, Michael in the men's dorm, and me in the women's dorm. That was probably a joke?! No, it was not, we were assured, as this was planned on the entire tour. Pardon?? For this, we definitely had to find a solution. For this night we paid our first surcharge and "splurged" us a double room. So far, so good! I marched into the city in the afternoon and wandered alone through the shops, while Michael was resting. In the evening we went to our first meeting with the tour group in the bar next door. We were very excited to see who and what to expect. We found a quite large group of 20 people with an average age of 25 years, some even much younger and only a few in our age. The music in the bar was very loud, so we barely understood anything, the atmosphere was a big party with much alcohol and we suddenly felt very old somehow. We were not very interested in a party trip. Well, we had to wait and see. We asked Rebecca, our tour guide, to try to arrange, if possible, double rooms for us or possibly shared rooms with the other pair, Krista and Saku from Finland. Rebecca promised to take care of it, even if it was actually not planned for this trip. She said that we should have been informed about it by our travel agent what not had happened. Later, we got to know Krista and Saku, the only other couple in the group, ate something, and finally went to bed. We were very excited about the trip and hoped that our first impression would turn out to be wrong! Pictures coming soon ...

Cook Islands – Aitutaki

by Dani Aitutaki began with a very bumpy flight in a small propeller plane. I still do not like to fly, but I'm not as nervous as a few months ago. While landing, we had a beautiful view over a wonderful lagoon with turquoise water and many small islands! Wow! At the tiny airport we were picked up by Miles, our host, and traditionally greeted with beautiful floral wreaths (it is called neck-ei). They are made from the flowers Frangipani (Tipiani) and are mixed in the colors white, yellow, pink and yellow/pink. They smell wonderful and stay fresh very long. Miles took us first to a scooter rental, where we immediately rented a scooter which I drove following the car - here, of course, again without a helmet. When we got to our bungalow, we could not believe it - what a wonderful place! And the view from our terrace was spectacular. Our bungalow was standing at the end of a row of only three bungalows right on the beach, so everything was very quiet, relaxing and private. To the water it was 20 meters. The bungalow was beautifully decorated and we looked both from the bed, and from the terrace on the white beach, which was surrounded by palm trees and a crystal clear turquoise lagoon. In front of our bungalow stood on the beach two sunchairs for us, inviting us to relax. THAT was now paradise!!! Everything was just perfect: the bungalow, the quiet, the beach, the sea, the weather - everything!! We were very happy! After a short briefing by Miles in all facilities - we had a washing machine, which was like a gift for us after doing our laundry by hand for weeks - we went to the Christmas Market in the town (from the size rather comparable with a village). While observing the whole scenery, we sat on the grass and ate a delicious dish with prawns in coconut milk. We were looking for our wedding plannerin Tania, because she was supposed to be Santa Claus' helper, but since we do not know her yet, we did not find her. Later it turned out that she was standing directly behind us, I photographed her by accident when I just shot a few pictures of the crowd. We met again a couple that we had met already at the airport in Tahiti on our flight to Rarotonga and we had them given a few coins (sorry if you are reading this now, then please do not be angry, but we have forgotten your names ... it is just too many people in too little time, sorry). They told us about their first experiences on the island and we talked for a long time before we went to the supermarket to buy the most important food. On Aitutaki there is no real supermarket, but some small shops selling food and household items. However, each store offers other things, so you have to go to several stores to finally get everything you need. Everything here is very expensive because everything has to be imported. Therefore, you pay e. g. for a watermelon 15 NZD (about 10 Euros). On Tuesday morning we had breakfast in glorious sunshine on the terrace overlooking the sea. Tania contacted us by email asking if we wanted to do the lagoon cruise in the 70 square kilometers wide lagoon today, as we would otherwise have no chance because of the Christmas holidays. Around 9 am Tania was suddenly standing in front of us and welcomed us warmly with a hug and a kiss, as if we were old friends which we liked very much. She told us that we would be picked up at 10.30 am and proposed a meeting to discuss the wedding preparations at 6 pm at our place. Tania is very young, about 21 years old, and a very funny, helpful and very lovely person. We liked her at first sight. The lagoon cruise was incredibly beautiful. We were picked up by the wife of the new owner of the former Samade on the beach and went to the beach where we got overwhelmed by the view over the lagoon. We faced a stunning, huge lagoon with turquoise crystal clear shimmering water inviting for swimming. With a large boat and a few other tourists we drove about an hour to the first small island where we were dropped for a short time to take pictures. The islands are mostly privately owned, but are for tourists - only by boat - accessible. On this island, there were a few small bungalows that were supposed to be rented to tourists, including a bungalow of the Queen of the Cook Islands which she also offers to rent. So, everyone has the opportunity to spend one night on a deserted island, great! We took countless photos of the crystal-clear water, white beach and palm trees. It was just too beautiful!! This was just as we had always expected the South Seas and we were just happy to experience real beach feeling for a second time after Bora Bora! It was wonderful!! Then we drove to a spot in the lagoon where we swam for about an hour with some very large fish and snorkeled. However, the snorkeling tour on the lagoon cruise in Bora Bora was much better, since we had there seen a lot more fish. But this was topped shortly thereafter when we were dropped on a sandbar called "Heaven" directly in front of Onefoot Island, on which we also got married later (we have already reported about our wedding), and walked from there through the waist-high crystal clear water on the soft sandy bottom to Onefoot Island. The view from Heaven was breathtaking. Around us, fine sand, turquoise water and small islands were only to be seen. It was a dream and by far the nicest place we've ever stayed on so far! Once on Onefoot Island, we were overwhelmed again. This small island was beautiful and was exactly what you would expect from a South Seas island. We were very much looking forward to getting married here. After a great lunch with salads, grilled fish and meat and fresh fruit that had been prepared for us by the crew, we took countless pictures of beach, ocean and palm trees and were swimming in the crystal clear water, which, however, was quite cold (compared to Bora Bora, but compared to New Zealand, it was again really hot). After the cruise we spent the rest of the day at our own beach until 6 pm when Tania arrived. We were very excited to see what she would tell us of the scheduled ceremony. First, I chose, of course in the absence of Michael, my flowers for the bridal bouquet and hair accessories. Michael would get a matching flower neck-ei. Then we were told of any details of the ceremony, what the Celebrant would say, and what was foreseen for us as marriage vows. A marriage ceremony includes here the beautiful tradition (as in many other English speaking countries), that each one swear a marriage vowe, which is usually written by the groom and the bride themselves. Tania proposed a ready draft to us, but we told her that we wanted to write them ourselves, what we were going to do in the next few days. After everything else had also been fixed, Tania gave us a few tips on where in the evening on the island we could go out a little. We spent the evening relaxing on the terrace of our bungalow. The next day (Wednesday) was the 24th December and thus Christmas. We had all the time not really been in Christmas mood, which did not changed today at 30 degrees and bright sunshine, and to be honest we were not very sad about that. We found it rather very pleasant not to have to expose ourselves to the whole Christmas stress, but simply to be able to relax in glorious summer weather. After a relaxing day on the beach in front of our bungalow, we celebrated a little Christmas Eve. First we went to Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa for booking our wedding dinner. We were shown to a small cozy peninsula and the different ways there to have dinner which ranged from an open pavilion to a small bungalow (Gazebo called) right on the water. We opted for the pavilion, but on our wedding day they changed to the Gazebo because of the bad weather, which was much better in the end. After having chosen our location, we drank at the pool bar a cocktail to toast on Christmas. After that we drove a few meters further down to the Aitutaki Village Restaurant (formerly Samade on the beach), where we also sat nearby the water and had a great dinner. We were in a good mood, had a nice chat with our table neighbours and spent a very nice evening there. The staff were all smiling and wearing funny Christmas hairdress (headband with horns of a moose - by the way, such things had been also worne by the official staff in the Justice Department, people are just a bit more relaxed here than at home). Afterwards we drove to the Game Fishing Club, the local disco/bar on the island, which is located on the harbor in the city. It was very nice there, there was a lot of local music played and everyone was dancing. Local dance style looks pretty good, especially shaking the hips in that special way how women of all ages do here, which even me, I could not take my eyes off. People were mixed and of different ages, but they all had the same fun, just beautiful to see. The next morning we wanted to go to church because it was Christmas day. Just at the time of departure, it began to rain heavily. Anyway, we sat down with our rain jackets on the scooter and drove about 20 minutes to church in town. We were still dripping wet when we arrived, but at least the rain was warm 🙂 ! The church was filled slowly, but there were also some tourists and our travel couple there. The church service began with singing very loud Happy Birthday Jesus Christ. What a nice idea!! The whole service was great and lasted almost 3 hours. After a lengthy sermon primarily hold in Maori, the five different villages of the island, each represented by a local pastor and a part of the community, started singing loudly their songs, some of them were swinging in the rhythm and some even got up and danced. The atmosphere was just fantastic! After the service we had a chat with the other tourists outside and then a local couple just gave each of us a few fresh mangos. People here are incredibly nice and generous. We experienced it ourselves later on the beach that local people who we do not know and who sat with their families on the beach and celebrated Christmas, invited us to eat with them. Also, our travel couple told us that they had previously been invited to a wedding and had spent a great evening there, though they did not know anyone. It seems that you will be added here very quickly to the community and everyone talks to you without any concerns or reservations. This openness, hospitality and generosity has impressed us deeply. Something we've never seen before. Hopefully we can keep some of this spirit for us. After church we went to the local water tap, which consists of a huge circular water tank and a sink with two taps, in order to fill up drinkable, bottled filtered water in our bottles. So we were able to save at least the purchase of water. Everything else was already expensive enough. We also could take a few mangos from the road because everywhere mango trees standing on the streets and the mangos simply lay in the grass underneath. In the afternoon I took then finally my wedding dress out of my vacuum travel bag that had been "shrunked" by vacuuming to a minimum size. So, the dress now looked like a nightmare, is was covered with crimples all over. Oh my God, how could I get that without any dry cleaning shop around the island out of my dress in only two days? I decided to first hang it up for a while, so I hung it behind another dress on the hanger and then rolled the curtain over it so that Michael could not see it. The next two days it was very early very bright in our room, but finally the wedding dress was more important and a closed closet was not there. After the next shower I hung it in the shower, unfortunately without success! We spent the evening relaxing on the terrace and unexpectedly got a new roommate, namely a small cat who never left the next two days of our site until it left us again on the third day. The next day, boxing day, we were just laying on the beach and started in the afternoon for a ride around the island. The first stop we made, was at Hotel Pacific Resort and Spa, because I wanted to book a pedicure there. The resort was beautiful and we reserved a table for our last evening on Sunday. We were allowed to go on the beach of the resort and so, we immediately jumped into the sea. But when we wanted to continue our tour, we realized that we had left the key in the seat of the scooter, which contains a small box. The seat could of course only be opened with the key. Crap! Michael went to reception and could fortunately reach the owner of the rental shop who wanted to send someone over. We were quite annoyed, because we thought that we certainly had to wait two or three hours. So, we were quite surprised when, after a quarter of an hour someone stood before us - with our keys in hand. He had already managed everything, he said. Yay, so we could go on! How wonderfully uncomplicated they all were! We had heard that here at Christmas and New Year's Eve one of the villages makes a dance performance and thus they go from village to village on the island, of course, accompanied by a band, singing and lots of food. With these performances the village gathers in any other village money to use for investment in their own village. Since we did not know where the group was, we simply drove off ... and were lucky and caught the group in the last village and were able to follow everything. It was fantastic. Small, large, young and old, men and women danced in the group and a large band accompanied with local songs. The women, even the little girls, swinging their hips and were dressed up with the beautiful flower neck-eis. It was so moving that I got goose bumps. Again, we met our tour couple who've been the whole day already with the group. The event ended with us standing in the crowd around the buffet, which was built there. After initial hesitation, we got food and were served with drinks from a local woman. Within ten minutes the whole buffet was empty and the food orgy ended. To be honest, you can see a little bit that food is one of the local's priority. Then we drove around the island and discovered beautiful little villages, deserted roads and a great lookout on the mountain of the island, from where we could enjoy the view over the huge lagoon. In the evening I started then to iron or steam my dress with the small steam iron. First I ironed the underdress, fortunately with a cloth underneath, because the iron rubbed off black. Oh my God, lucky again. Then I hung the dress on the bathroom door and tried to steam it with the small steam function of the iron. This painstaking work took me two hours and a lot of nerves. But the result was well worth seeing! Then we went again to the Game Fishing Club, because we had heard at the dance event from someone that there should be live music this evening, what we did not want to miss. Although it was not the great music that we expected, we still had fun. When Michael was about to buy a new beer, suddenly a man who was sitting next to us, offered him a full bottle of beer - just like that. We were once again astonished! Later we met the people again who had gave us the tip in the afternoon, and were asked to dance with them and sit at their table, where we had very nice chat with them. At around 11 pm we went back home. Finally, the next day was our wedding! The Sunday after our wonderful wedding, which we have previously reported, we spent sitting in the rain on our terrace, slowly packing our bags and remembering our wedding. It was passed much too quickly and we could not really realise that we were now married and we had such a fabulous wedding. In the afternoon we drove to Tania's place to pay the wedding. That was definitely the unromantic part, but we still had a funny conversation with Tania, who told us a bit more of island life and her family. In the end, we left with plenty of water bottles, as we before only briefly mentioned that we wanted to go to the water tank. Wow! In the evening we went to the Pacific Resort and treated ourselves to a seafood platter, but it did not taste good and we already noticed at dinner that the quality was not very good. The next morning we both felt very sick and we had to take some pills. It was awful! Fortunately, Annie, Tania's mother promised to take over the paperwork with our marriage certificate in Rarotonga and give it to us at the airport. But even worse was the fact that we had to wait until 9.45 pm in Rarotonga for our flight to Auckland. Miles took us first to the scooter rental service to deliver the scooter, and then to the airport and said goodbye to us there. The airport is so small and everyone knows everybody, so we did not even have to show our documents at check in, but immediately got our boarding pass. They probably knew that we stayed with Miles, and because they knew him, they might also knew us ... or something like that?! Tania came also to the airport and brought us a small gift and a printed version of the text of our wedding. We met Potini at the airport, too, and he gave us a DVD with 50 pictures of our wedding. The rest he promised to send it by mail to our home. The flight back to Raro was terrible. One turbulence after the other shook the small plane and I had to grab a couple of times in the direction of the "white bag", but fortunately I had not to use it. When we arrived in Raro, we were now so sleepy from the pills and still felt so sick that we did not see Annie standing right next to us. But she saw us and waved to us. She and her husband told us that they would not get the apostille, since the office was closed. But suddenly Annie's husband met a friend who offered to help. A few minutes later, Annie's husband was off with this man to get the apostille. In the meantime, we loaded our luggage off at Annie's husband's place and then spent the whole day in a backpacker hostel, which was opposite the airport. It was a terrible day as the only thing we needed was some sleep, but was impossible at this place. So we tried just to survive the day until we could call Annie to pick us up. In the car, Annie's husband gave us the certificate with apostille. Yeah! We were very happy and could finally do the check-in. Then, we only had to wait a couple of hours until we could board our plane. It was done! Unfortunately we had now to say goodbye to the beautiful South Seas. We spent four weeks in the South Seas, whereas Aitutaki was the absolute highlight for us and we would love to fly again to this beautiful island! In general, the Cook Islands were the most beautiful South Sea islands to us, not only because of the stunning scenery, but mainly because of the incredibly hospitable, good-humored and friendly people there. The Polynesians had been very nice, but the people of the Cook Islands have just made us speechless! There is a quote I have seen in Tania's office on the wall that I'm not getting out of my head and which really describes the way of life there: "Live every moment, laugh every day, love beyond words"! WE LOVE THE COOKS!! Pics will follow soon ...

Cook Islands – Rarotonga

by Dani On 18th December 2014 we arrived in Rarotonga. We were very sad to leave Bora Bora, but also looking forward to the new destination. In addition, it was raining in Tahiti when we board the little plane, so it could only get better. After two and a half hour flight we finally arrived. Already on the landing we saw that the island was surrounded of long beaches and a reef, so that there was a chance to enjoy long beaches again. We were picked up by a nice driver, unfortunately we did not understand anything of him, neither his name nor what he was telling since we now had to get used again to a new English accent. On the way to our accommodation we got a first impression of the island, which was quite different from Bora Bora, aside from that it was much larger than Bora Bora. There was a real town with some shops, the properties and houses were well kept, there were churches of many different religions at each corner, the traffic drove on the left side, the scooter drivers and motorcyclists were not wearing helmets, there was an island bus, which drove in two directions (clockwise, anti-clockwise) and always stopped at the place which was told to the driver when boarding, there were everywhere bars, cafes and restaurants ... in short, Rarotonga is much more developed than Bora Bora, but of course a little more hectic than Bora Bora. Bora Bora offered more "island feeling" because everything was simple and original, and there was not very much. Here we had a lot more options what raised the stress level a little bit. Anyway, we had again get used to only a bit of traffic and the many beautiful sounds - especially the insanely loud sound of breaking waves in front of our bungalow. Our bungalow at Tropical Sands was very pretty and here again lovingly decorated by the owners Kanoe and Rudy, both about in their early sixties and artists: Kanoe paints, makes mosaics and designs Maori symbols of wood, which were affixed at the bungalows. Rudy is a musician and plays in a band. Kanoé was born in Hawaii and grew up and stayed in the whole world. Rudy is of Rarotonga. Both are having, like almost everyone here, tattoos with pretty Maori symbols representing their life story. However, they were not as helpful as Annette and Marc. They told us just where on the island which was to be found, but then they said "do it yourself"! So we started walking in glorious sunshine, but very strong wind that never stopped during our stay on Rarotonga, to the next village, where a "night market" should take place, where we could eat national dishes. After three quarters of an hour we arrived and enjoyed fresh fish, a coconut and a cold beer and this time for the equivalent of about 20 euros. We could not believe how cheap it was here. On the way back we wanted to take the bus "anti-clockwise" back home, but found that this only operates to 4.30 pm and now it was 7 pm. Since we did not want to walk again, we had to take the "clockwise" bus, but it went around the entire island, which took one hour. But it was definitely more comfortable and we could see the entire island. The island was very nice, but we changed our plans and booked new flights to Aitutaki on Monday instead on Tuesday how it was planned before, because we wanted to spend more time there. The next morning we took the bus and all the papers to the Justice Department in town to apply for our marriage license. We were a bit nervous whether it would work, but since we were well prepared, everything worked out very well and it was said that we could pick up our license on Monday at 10 am. Yeah! The first step was taken towards the wedding. Then we wandered around the town and started a crazy shopping tour when we found out that everything was much cheaper here. I bought two dresses and a lot of souvenirs that we sent the same day home by mail. Then again, we rented a scooter, which was done in five minutes: submitting international driver's license, credit card brandished, short briefing and then we had a scooter - without helmets of course. The nice lady just said that in the town the speed limit was at 30 km/h and on the highway only 50 km/h and therefore you would not need to wear a helmet ... ok, apparently, the streets here were made of rubber ... well let's go then! Again, it was actually normal for children and adults to sit on the back of the truck, and on the scooter the children were only tied with a sarong to the mother while being so happy to ride with their parents. Everything just seems a little more relaxed and not necessarily dangerous, as anyone speeded on the streets here, but all went very relaxed and quite considerate on the island. Somehow all people here were even more relaxed, cheerful and friendly than in French Polynesia, which also impressed us very much later in Aitutaki. In the afternoon we went around the island and watched out the most beautiful beaches on where we wanted to spend the weekend. We also discovered many nice restaurants and bars right on the beach. It was just great! In the evening we took the bus into town, ate baked swordfish with fries and aioli in the famous (on the island) Bar Trader Jack's and launched into a fun party night that began with cocktails and live music and exuberant dancing, and ended up in another bar/disco with another drinks and live music, and we just caught the last bus at 2.15 am. The next day we only cured Michael's hangover and went out for dinner to a very cozy beach restaurant. On Sunday I went to a church service at 10 am at a Christian/Baptist church, because I had been recommended to see it as it was supposed to be very nice, especially the great songs. To be honest, it was impressive and quite different from ours. The church was packed, everyone was dressed up, especially the women wore almost all hats with beautiful floral wreaths decorated. The greeting of the pastor began with the question "Are you alright?", which was answered by the whole crowd unanimously and loudly with "all the time" while a smile arised on their faces. Wow! The church was open during the whole service, and constantly adults and children came in and out and just spent a pleasant hour in the church. The children met friends and were laughing - and no one bothered fortunately! And the songs that were sung were just beautiful! The whole church sang all the songs with a lot of fun and in a volume, as I've never heard it in our churches. A few English songs I could, thanks to a video projector that projected the lyrics on the wall, even sing along. All other songs and worship were mostly sung or held in Cook Island-Maori. As the people left the church, everyone wanted the pastor again to shake hands or talk with him. It was just a warm relaxed atmosphere that was contagious. In a good mood, I returned to the bungalow and we then spent a day at the beach on the west coast. Monday morning we drove into town to be on time at the Justice Department. But we had to wait because the license was not ready yet. It still had a lack of clarity regarding a mistake in spelling to be eliminated, so that we finally got the license at 11.30 am, dropped off our scooter and took the bus back home to pack our bags as we had to catch the plane at 3.30 pm to Aitutaki. Despite an half-hour delay of taxi we succeeded to get the flight. And so we headed to the next destination - yeah!! Pics will follow soon...

Just married!

by Dani and Michael JUST MARRIED !! We are now married and had a perfect and fabulous wedding in paradise here on Onefoot Island in Aitutaki. The day began with loud music and a last breakfast as fiancees. We both were very happy and a little excited. Since we spent parts of the day separately, we describe the preparation alternately in the individual perspective to better describe the individual thoughts. Preparation: Dani: After breakfast I went with our scooter to the Pacific Resort and Spa, where I had a very relaxing pedicure for the beach wedding. This was perfect because the treatment was so relaxing that all the excitement faded. At about noon I was then picked up by Tania Bishop, our wedding planner, and was taken to the Aitutaki Village (formerly Samade on the beach) where I stayed in a bungalow, in which I was able to get changed separately from Michael. Also, I met there Potini, our photographer, who did the hairstyle and makeup. Before we left for our trip I had sent him a few ideas of what I'd like. So, when he came in, Potini directly sat me down on the chair and started with the hairstyling - without a mirror. So I had to trust him that he would implement my ideas. When I looked in the mirror after about an hour, I was just thrilled! Tania brought me a glass of Pinot Gris in the meantime, so that the styling would be something funny. Immediately afterwards the makeup followed, which made me completely happy when I saw it at the end in the mirror. That should be me? Wow, I could not believe it and was just happy that I would look so great on our wedding !! During our styling it started to rain. We knew that rain was reported. But this was also reported for the previous days, where it was very sunny, so we had had the hope that the forecasts for our wedding would be wrong. Potini, Tania and I hoped further, however, that it would get better - which it did not. So even Tania's mother eventually came to me and asked me if we really wanted to go to Onefoot Island, as it were raining there too. She could offer us to marry on her big excursion boat somewhere on the water in the lagoon. But I did not hesitate and said that we wanted to get married in any case on Onefoot Island, no matter what the weather was like. Potini and I had a little photo shoot before Michael was picked up by Tania's mother in our bungalow and went to the beach, where the boat was waiting for the transfer. Meanwhile, the rain had set and it was drizzling only slightly. So our first sight could still take place on the beach. As Tania drove me with her car, I saw Michael standing right on the beach. He looked a little nervous, he wore a white shirt with cufflinks, a white linen pants, a shell necklace and was barefoot 🙂 !! We wanted to get married barefoot, or in any case both in flip flops. With its great tan Michael looked stunning! Wow, this man I would get married to marry soon! I slowly got out of the car and walked towards my future husband. It was a great moment! We then got together with the marriage celebrant, the witnesses Annie and Tania Bishop, Potini and the 2-man string band in the motorboat that took us across the lagoon to Onefoot Island. It was a great experience to go by boat to our wedding so we could see the magnificent lagoon again. Michael: After breakfast, Dani headed off to her pedicure. Then I started to clean up the bungalow to make it perfect when we came back again at night.  After that I prepared the bag with key items such as wedding rings, passports, battery packs, mobile phone, camera and bluetooth speakers. Then I started ironing my wedding clothing - which consisted of a white shirt (with cuff links, so it looks a bit more festive) and a white linen trousers. The fight lasted nearly an hour. By transporting them in the backpack there were crincles all over. Even with the steam from the iron they were hard to beat. When I finished, even Dani came back from the pedicure and was soon picked up by Tania Bishop for further preparation. Slowly the excitement was noticeable. My thoughts were constantly around the question of how Dani would look like and how the wedding would be. Then I started to get me ready. Since it did not take me so long thereafter was still plenty of time to sit around nervously in the bungalow and stare at the sea :-). Should I wear the shirt rather over the pants or should I stuck it in the pants? Eventually I struggled through to wear the shirt over trousers - casual flat. At three o'clock I was released from my sufferings and driven to our meeting place. The weather was not really good, but I did not care. While driving Tania's mother Annie told me of the difficult decision that Dani had to take. I winced. Difficult decision? What decision then? Does she not want to marry me any more? But Annie told directly that it came to deciding where and how the wedding was to take place. Either on a boat in the lagoon or on the beach on Onefoot Island. Dani chose correctly for the wedding ceremony on Onefoot Island. The little rain did not matter. Our celebrant called it "liquid sunshine". Arrived at the meeting point I briefly went on the boat to drop the bag. When it was decided that we should meet on the beach, I went back from the boat to the beach. Just before the car came in which Dani sat. Now the excitement was huge. As the door was opened, the most beautiful woman in the world got out of the car!! Madness. She was a dream in white. And she beamed with joy. It was lovely. She stood in front of me. In a stunning dress. I then also got to know Potini, our photographer. When he saw me, he started to laugh because he had seen us a week earlier in Rarotonga at a party, but had not known us at this time. Obviously, we have remained in his memory, as we danced non-stop and celebrated. Then it was finally happening now. The boat took off and we went to Onefoot Island. The wedding ceremony: When we arrived on Onefoot Island, the rain was not strong. We took off our flip flops and walked barefoot along the beach to the celebrant, who was waiting for us at the other end of the beach. Meanwhile, Potini, armed with umbrella, took pictures of us. The wedding ceremony was beautiful! We knew already the little speech made by the registrar, as Tania had emailed us this before. But to hear those beautiful words live, was simply sensational. Also, the moment we mutually swore our marriage vows, was very touching! We had written these two days before. There were no tears as we both were just happy and enjoyed everything. We both beamed with joy. After the ceremony our witnesses and we signed our marriage certificate before we opened a bottle of champagne and a coconut and clinked glasses with everyone. The band played traditional songs to which we danced on the beach. Potini made a lot of photos of us. Finally, we also got the Barefoot stamp with the word "married on Onefoot Island" in our passports. After about one and a half hours and another small photo shoot on the sandbar right in front of Onefoot Island called Heaven, we again left the island and were driven to Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa, where we had our wedding dinner in a small open timber bungalow right on the beach. It was decorated very pretty with flowers and candles and we had an excellent dinner with lots of wine and music, as we had brought our small portable speaker and our mobiles so we could dance between the courses on the beach. There was nobody else there, so it was very intimate and incredibly romantic! It was still raining, but the rain did not bother us! We just enjoyed every single moment. At half past eleven we were taken back to our bungalow where we briefly had video calls via Skype with our very excited parents (now both parents in law) and danced into the night! We really had a wonderful beach wedding despite the rain! Everything was just perfect for us and we really had the most beautiful day of our life that we will never forget! We are very happy that we had our wedding at this beautiful place! Of course the wedding could not have been so beautiful without the great work and organization of our wedding planner Tania Bishop (www.bishopscruises.com) and her mother Annie. So we really thank both and the whole team of Bishop's who all took care of us before and after. They just made our wedding very special and perfect. Just look at the photos in the gallery, then you know what we mean ;-)! Dearest greetings from the happy newlyweds Dani and Michael

Merry Christmas!!!

We wish you all a very merry christmas and wonderful holidays! We will spent the christmas holidays with snorkeling, swimming in the South Seas and laying on the beach ... and of course, we will have a cold beer from time to time!! We will write again here next time as married couple :-)!! imageimage imageimageimage

Bora Bora

by Dani and Michael Our last day in Moorea was fortunately very nice. Shortly before our departure from the stunning Hilton Hotel we jumped again from our terrace into the crystal clear sea and snorkeled around the nearby coral reefs. We have seen a lot of great colorful fish that you usually only see in the aquarium, it was lovely. Pictures coming soon ... From the tiny airport in Moorea (Saarbrücken in comparison is a huge airport) we flew with a little machine Air Tahiti to Bora Bora. The flight took about 45 minutes. The approach to Bora Bora was a dream, because you could see the whole reef with its motus and the huge turquoise lagoon. By ferry we went to the capital Vaitape on the main island. There we met Marc André one of the owners of Bungalove. On our way to the bungalow we had a quick stop at the grocery store because we are self-suppliers from now. On his ground the lovely house of Marc André and his wife Annette (www.boraborabungalove.com) as well as the two bungalows they rent are located next door. The plot is quite large and is located on the waters of the great bay of Faanui. The large garden is like a small jungle, has a small pond with water lilies and is lovingly decorated throughout with shells and Asian accessories and paintings and other pieces by Marc André. We were initially housed for two days in the small bungalow next door with a kind of outdoor bathroom with an open air shower and an open kitchen. After two days we were allowed to move without any additional costs in the large, luxurious bungalow because we were the only guests for the last six days of our stay. This bungalow was fantastic. It is a former water bungalow of a luxury hotel, which was closed. Marc bought it and it has been transported in one peace over the sea. It has a waterfront terrace from where you can watch fishes while you are having breakfast in the morning. The first day, however, was somehow disappointing. We have found out that we still need about a day to get used to the new environment. On the way to the bungalow we were able to get a first impression of the island, which is very original. The people here live mainly outdoors and therefore don`t give much value on a nice house. Additionally, everything here is very expensive. So many people live very basic here. Well, we already knew this from Moorea. But we imagined Bora Bora as island having many great white beaches and crystal clear water. Things we didn`t see on our way from the wharf to the bungalow. We grabbed therefore the free bikes offered by Marc and Annette on the same day and rushed towards the only public beach on the main island at Matira Point, which should be one of the nicest beaches. We finally wanted the typical Bora Bora South Seas scenery to see. Due to the old bicycles and on a duly potholes road we took almost an hour to get up there to deal with the 14 km distance. When we got there we did not see the beach and what we saw was all marked as private property and are not accessible. Funny, we have expected something different. Where should we swim and snorkel the next week? Except for a few small shops and bars there was nothing else on the island. You could still walk, but we already had so many mosquitoes stitches that we excluded this alternative. Truly depressed, we returned to our bungalow. Finally, it even began to rain, which then gave the rest to us and we were bound to our little bungalow. This should be Bora Bora? Oh no... On the second day (Friday) we woke up in the morning and it was still raining heavily. This was going to be great here. After breakfast I skyped with our office team, which was 11 hours ahead in the evening celebrating strongly our Christmas party in the Hofhaus. For a few greetings and comments I turned me on Skype to what was quite funny. Then Marc told us in the short rain breaks which activities we could do on the island (in case of good weather). We were pretty confident and planned for the next day a lagoon tour where you could swim with sharks and rays. In addition, Marc told us a little bit of Bora Bora, e.g. that there was almost nothing on the island 50 years ago. At the time of conflicts at Pearl Harbour the Americans built up a base in Bora Bora so why everything started to develop from this time on. The Americans build virtually everything on there. They built an airport, the second airport at all after Maupiti in French Polynesia (Tahiti only built in the late 1980s an airport), they built the complete and only road around the island, they built a water supply and built two docks for the transport of cargo and cannons that they installed at four points on the island and that can still be seen. Only decades later the French discovered her interest in Bora Bora and started to support the island and the entire region of French Polynesia with money and goods. With the French also many laws and rules have been put in place, which the natives first did not like. Even today there are movements that want to make French Polynesia politically independent of France, but this is absolutely impossible for economical reasons. On the third day (Saturday) we unfortunately had to cancel our plans for the  lagoon tour due to the ongoing rain. We spent the day with skype, reading and a bit of snorkeling in the rain in front of our bungalow. In the afternoon, however, the weather got better and the rain had stopped. We realised the opportunity and took advantage of the offer to finally visit one of the small islands located in the lagoon (so called motus) where all the hotels are located. Perhaps we would finally experience there real beach feeling. We took therefore the shuttle boat to the nearby Pearl Beach Resort, which offers like many other hotels in Bora Bora, external vacationers the opportunity to use the hotel facilities and the beach either free or for a payment of a daily fee. As I mentioned before there is only Matira Beach on the main island and the other beaches are all located on the outer Motus. And what can I say ... despite clouds we were finally arrived here in paradise. When we got off the boat, a white with palm-fringed beach and the crystal clear warm waters of the South Pacific lay before us. Like a dream!! We were absolutely thrilled! THIS was Bora Bora. And just as we had imagined it to be. We spent a great afternoon with minor rain showers along the beautiful beach with views of Mount Bora Bora. It was a wonderful setting, even without much sun. In the evening we went out for dinner in the Maikai Yacht Club. We have been fetched and returned by a free shuttle service of the restaurant which was very pleasant. On the way to the restaurant we talked a little with a driver named Philippe. He asked us where we came from. We told him that we live in a small town called Saarbrücken in southwest of Germany near the French border, but for sure he won`t know it. But he nodded his head and said that he knew of course Saarbrücken. He spent several years living there with his family because his father was at the French military and was stationed there. The world is really small!! The dinner was excellent - and quite expensive. We eat here in the South Pacific for two weeks of course only fish that is prepared here deliciously. But the food or even life in French Polynesia is just insanely expensive, because almost everything has to be imported. Our travel budget has been significantly reduced, so we decided to cook on the other evenings at home. But on that evening we have eaten the world's best Schokolavakuchen with a warm liquid chocolate heart. Divine!! On Sunday we decided to hire the car of Marc to go around the island because of the bad weather forecasts. Amazingly, the weather changed, however, and it was a mostly sunny day with only light rain showers. In the afternoon we finally discovered the real beach of Matira Point, where we bathed in clean crystal clear warm water and lay lazy in the sun. Monday we wanted to go to the Hilton hotel, but we had to give up after we were surprised by heavy rain on our bicycles on the way to the boat. We were really soaking wet, as if we would have set ourselves under the shower. In the afternoon, however, the weather was a little better, so we could go to the Hotel Intercontinental and enjoyed there the extraordinary facility. This was crowned with a great experience at the beach. There we were able to participate in sting ray feeding. Here the rays swam and climbed up to our legs (as far as possible without arms and legs) and pushed us to get fed. It was so beautiful! The Rays felt all soft and tender and I could feed them for hours. Meanwhile, we saw our hosts barely, as both were caught by the epidemic Chikungunya that is rampant in French Polynesia. This is a disease that is only transmitted by mosquitoes and has similar symptoms as dengue fever or a very severe flu. In comparison to malaria you just get it once. Unfortunately there is no vacination for that disease. Since that we applied the mosquito repellent more often but it helped not much. We still were able to count new bites on a daily basis. Despite rain and thunderstorms forecasts on the internet, the last two days we were really lucky with the weather so we could finally make our tour of the lagoon in bright sunshine on Tuesday. The better weather we owe our tactic that we had been used successfully with our tour group in Patagonia to toast with a glass of wine or beer to the weather. However, we have now expanded our nightly toast. We no longer toast only to the weather, but also against the mosquitos and for our health. Our lagoon tour was beautiful. We spent the day observing hundreds of fish in a huge beautiful coral garden while snorkeling, swimming with small black tip sharks, a ray and large lemon sharks in the sea. Before the tour I had been a little afraid of swimming with sharks. But when we were in the water and the sharks suddenly appeared out of nowhere and swam next to me and the others, it was just fascinating and not at all scary. Finally, we had a somewhat more dangerous situation when Michael was nearly attacked by a 1 m long moray that swam towards him, bit into the camera, tried again to bite until he could push her away with a slight thump. Afterwards, we were told that it probably was the camera that had irritated the moray. These stupid snorkeling tourists ;-)! Finally, we stopped at a small motu where we could swim. It was just great! We spent the afternoon again in Pearl Beach Resort on the beach and in the water. In the evening we treated ourselves again a nice dinner at the Yacht Club in very relaxed sophisticated atmosphere right next to the water. On the last day we cycled quite relaxed in fantastic weather to Vaitape, shopped souvenirs and sent the first souvenir box at home by mail, so that we had not to carry all the souvenirs with us all the time. We spent the afternoon again in Pearl Beach Resort on the beach and in the water. On this day the water was so warm that I just could not go out. I jumped and swam almost continuously for two hours in the water because it was just too good! It was a wonderful end of a wonderful week in Bora Bora. We had very lovely landlords, who warmly welcomed us despite illness, who were very generous and very helpful to us in organizing our activities. It was really nice with them. And we have learned to love especially the island this week despite initial misfeelings, and even despite the bad weather. Everything here is very easy and relaxed and all original. And the nature and underwater world are so fascinating that you cannot get enough of it. Here you can realize that you really do not need much to live and to be happy. This is the way how the people live here which easily can infects you. Everyone smiles friendly at you and greets you with a warm "ia orana ("jorana" spoken what "hello" means) - that is contagious and very relaxing! Now we also love Bora Bora and would like to come back!! Pictures coming soon ... Strange things about Bora Bora and Moorea:
  • there are no cemeteries, therefore, the dead are buried in the front gardens (no joke)
  • you can surprisingly drink the tap water in Bora Bora, so we had not to buy any water
  • for scooter riding you have to wear a helmet here (as in Moorea), but the kids sit just without helmet behind their parents on the scooter and get only tied with a pareo to the driver and are quite happy with this - this is perfectly normal here
  • there is only one road that goes around the island, and of course no traffic lights
  • food is very expensive, on the other hand sending parcels is very cheap
  • internet works great (no joke)
Pictures coming soon...promised ;-)!