Travel Notes

Fri Mar 29 00:20:13 2002 (rr)
Book: Australia Rough Guide
Location: melbourne
Currently in Melbourne, and am about to go pick up my 911 Porsche Speedster for the weekend. We are going to drive along the Great Ocean Road which is supposed to be as scenic as Big Sur. We'll see! So far we've seen a bit of Melbourne. It is strange to suddenly shift from eternal tropical summer to autumn. The leaves are falling off the trees, there's a nip in the air...

Tue Mar 26 02:27:01 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: South Pacific Moon Guide
Location: Port Vila, Vanuatu
So we just had a work week (5 days) in Vanuatu. Because of the internal monopoly on air flight,the distance between the island (there ar no ferries) and our relitive lack of time, we were pretty much stuck on the main island (Efate) and pretty much the main town Port Vila.
It was however pretty cool, we rented a little studio apartment on the fringe of town and got around by minbus. They run a cool system with minvans that will pick you up where ever and drop you of where ever ( if it's in the general direction that the other passangers are going ) for about 70 cents US pp. a good and very effiecent system.
We basically hung, going to a couple of little tiny offshore islet to swim, tan , kayak and snorkle. We also went to the falls , nearby which was a good if overcomercialized day trip, and spent plenty of time wanding the fairly cosmopolitan city and cool local produce market where we bought a chunk of our food for the nights.
The cheap Advocados and bananas became staples. We had much guacamole, (there was a specilties food shop which sold mexican) and banana sauce (on frnch toast for breakfast). It was very good food wise
It was fairly good in all ways, the weather was rainy, but it seamed that every day had at least a bit of sun. And it was a fun place to be. The only drag was that we didn't have enough time to make it to the outer island where they still dress in penis gourds and grass skirt and live a very traditional life style. Still we saw how that life style met the city which was cool, and we listened to bislama, the local language.
Bislama was pretty cool in itself, as its vocab, all 9000 words, is english based but the sintax is all local. So Number One is Numba Wan and they us the word blong (belong ) for all posesives including 'of' so you get the 'National Bank Blong Vanuatu' pretty cool.
On the whole a very fun stop.

Tue Mar 19 02:08:55 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: Australia Rough Guide
Location: "New Caladonia, The People|"
So New Caledonia was a little different from most places, 'cause it was so french in the cities and the plains, so native (Kanak) in the north.
Noumea had all the french conviences , the fashion and the food, also the topless beaches. Very french, very 'Metro', with many local civel servant from paris. As you drove north you ended up in the plains where they grow cows and ranch. This is a much more concervitive french style, basically these people are decendents of the orignal french colonist, both farmer and convict. Basically french cowboy style.
Then as you get to the north and to the mountains you get into Kanak country, These areas are dominated by small melensia farms, with men wandering around with machettes and woman in mother hubbard dresses ( though not as many here as in Vanuatu and Fiji). Also the independance movement is strong here.
It's a pretty weird mix, the groups don't mix to much, nor get on too well politically.

Tue Mar 19 02:04:22 2002 (rr)
Book: South Pacific Moon Guide
After a number of days in Noumea, we took a high-speed boat over to Ile des Pines, an island southeast of Noumea. The ride took two and half hours, and was mostly uneventful. We had taken sea-sickness precautions, but others hadn't. I sat and stared at the waves and watched birds flying right above the waves. And listened to the discman. The boat pulled through a narrow reef break and headed in for the island, which is covered in araucaria pine trees. This makes it look very different from the often palm-tree covered islands. The boat pulled up into Kuto Bay, where we would spend a few afternoons playing in the waves, and where Nathan's glasses now reside. (I think his glasses fell in love with Ile des Pines, and decided to take an early retirement there, very much like other local residents.)
I was not up to booking accomodations over the phone in French so we didn't having anything arranged beforehand. We had no luck at the first gite we tried, but did luck out at the second and last, reasonably priced option. We had some language difficulties as this was perhaps our first real encounter with having to communicate entirely in French, and depending only on our trusty phrasebook and hand gestures. But we got a room, for multiple nights, even.
Ah, I forgot. Before we went we knew that it would be expensive on the island. We decided to try and bring a lot of food with us to make our own romantic picnics - cheese, wine, baguette, the usual. This means we lugged over four bottles of wine, one small bottle of cassis, many wedges of cheese, olives, artichoke hearts, and what we thought was a jar of roasted red pepper paste (it was hot red pepper sauce). We could only count on the store having baguettes and expensive Number 1 beer for sale. We ate a lot of baguette - one in the morning with butter and jam, usually a baguette sandwich for lunch from the local snack, and one or two for dinner with the aforementioned ingredients. It was a lot of baguette. One night we lost electricity (no ceiling fan!) during a particularly gusty storm. No baguettes that day. Nathan suffered withdrawal. That night though we had a particularly delicious dinner because of this baguette drought - Nathan made us buy couscous. I thought it silly. We made a salad of couscous, goat cheese, tuna, and various vegetable items. It was excellent.
Enough on food. In between eating, we hung out on the beach, read books, and played chess. There were two different beaches, Kanumera and Kuto. Kuto was the beach with waves. Nathan hurdled over the waves. I attempted to body-surf. We eventually switched to body-surfing as a form of entertainment. The waves really weren't big or frequent enough to body-surf in, but we did it nonetheless. The other beach, Kanumera, was protected from the wind. Nathan didn't like this beach as much. I believe he found it boring and over-populated. I liked floating in the water there. The swimming was nicer too. On our last day there we went snorkelling and saw an amazing variety of fish. New Caledonia has the second largest barrier reef in the world. If I stoppped swimming, I would become surrounded by these silvery fish with very long swordfish-like noses. Lots of bright yellow fish with various patterns in black on them. Larger uglier bottom feeders that blended in well. Fish that were pink and green, fish with many many colors.

Tue Mar 19 01:42:30 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: South Pacific Moon Guide
Location: Fiji, Taveuni, the lagoon. and a kite
So this missed the blog for fiji, and there was no inet access in New Caldonia (except for weekdays 8-11 and 2-5 in noumea, and we just weren't there,then). But on one of the rainy days on Taveuni, probably one with brownies as dessert, it cleared up, and we flew a kite.
The kite was an X-mas present from Mum, a travel kite. It folds up to about the size of my journal and a tenth the weight, so seeing as rachel thought it sounded fun, it actually made the cut for the trip.{packing was very difficult task and we brought an extra bag of stuff to Anchorage so that we could have a few more days to figure it all out}
So this day it cleared up, and we figured we ought to get out and enjoy it so we grabed the kite, walked across the street and onto the lagoons floor, it beeing low tide and there being a large tidal flat. Out we went and flew the kite walking in and out of the water wading a good bit of the time. The wind was pretty hard and the sky cleared up so we could see the colours of the kite, looking like stained glass from the suns rather bright illumination, It was really cool. And it's definitily worth carrying a kite all around the south pacific, just to fly it in a lagoon.

Mon Mar 18 00:37:25 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: South Pacific Moon Guide
Location: "New Caledonia, Le plage"
So New Caladonia had the best beaches yet. They were incredible, both in Noumea, which had white/yellow sand and topless sunbathing and also platforms out in the sea, which are much more fun than I thought they'd be, and on ilse de pines where the beaches where considered "cocaine white" and are about that fine a powder as well. We spent much time sunbathing, hanging and snorkling. They were pretty much all our entertainment, and it was much fun.

Mon Mar 18 00:34:52 2002 (rr)
Book: South Pacific Moon Guide
Location: Noumea
We arrived in Noumea in the evening and had the shuttle driver drop us off at Motel Le Bambou in the Anse Vata region of the city. We were lucky and got their very last room. This was good as the Bambou is a twenty minute walk from the nearest other hotel. It was also the same distance from the beach, Anse Vata. Noumea has a number of great beaches right in the city. Later on we would enjoy the Baie des Citrons, which is the next beach down the road. My personal fave is still Anse Vata.
We arrived in Noumea on a Saturday night, and things were bustling. The next day things were still happening, but only in the beach areas. We went downtown to see what it was like -- dead. Absolutely nothing was open. Back to Anse Vata for us. We spent a number of days hanging out on the beach, tanning and swimming. For lunch we had either vietnamese food or large casse-croutes from the snacks. There are billions of little snack-bars along the road by the beach. Casse-croutes are sandwiches made with 3/4 or so of a baguette, sliced open and filled with ham or chicken or whatever. SOmetimes they are even served hot. Later on in our stay in New Caledonia, I ordered a "Sandwich Vietnemienne" in the town of Bourail. I had eaten a similar concoction in Noumea - marinated char-grilled pork, green onions, hard-boiled egg, lots of veggies, in short, a really good sandwich. Anyway, we both got our sandwiches, mine the vietnamese, nathan's ham, and carried them off to the local park. Mine was very heavy, presumably full of interesting tasty things. I unwrapped the paper around the sandwich and saw ketchup. Then I saw french fries. Then I saw beef. It was like a hamburger and fries in a baguette. And it was actually pretty good. Nathan liked it more than I did I think. My theory is that this was the "Sandwich Americain" instead.
Speaking of Americans...we are rare around here. Mostly Australians and New Zealanders make up the English-speaking tourist population. At one hotel our nationality was correctly deduced due to our habit of carrying the hotel key around with us, rather than dropping it off at the desk.

Sun Mar 17 23:31:19 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: South Pacific Moon Guide
Location: "New Caledonia, the food"
The food here was french and was incredible. We had baguettes and jam for breakfast nearly every day. We also had baggutte sausage and cheess picnic dinners faily often. Also Yop! a liquid yogurt was staple.
For eating out we had a couple of french influneced native (kanak) dinners at our gite in Heinegene. They where all fish. You start with an excelent fish based saland and move on the a fish in a sauce. Finishing up with Chocolate ( usually an amazingly good chocolate mouse, mmmm!
We also a vietnamese and the every present, often vietnamese owned, snack stands, which sell baugette sandwiches ( cheap and good ) and whatever else they want., The snack bambino, in anse vata Noumea, became a faovorite , for (relitivly) cheap and good food.
We also ate couscous , our 2nd last night we had an amazing Morrocan dinner out with Eggplant caviar, a couscous dish and a really good prune and almond tagine. That night we also tried an apretif of ricard pastis which is very popular here and suprisingly good (if so very very strong, you must water it down.) But we also ate couscous on our own, as mediteranian ingrediants were easy to buy and you can whip up a good meal in 10 minutes without a stove. It was very cool, and very good.
Also at Mount Khogis we had a savoy fondue, a first for both of us and suprisingly good. The power of cheese. Prefect for the end of a rainy day on top of a mountain ( even if was a tropical mountain).
On the how the food was very very good. It also rediculusly expensive wether you went out or self catered, baguettes and snacks are all that seamed resonably priced.

Sun Mar 17 23:31:01 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: South Pacific Moon Guide
Location: "New Caledonia, the place"
So New Caledonia, which we left last night, was a pretty cool place, with excellent beaches, both in the capital, and on ilse de pins, great food and amazing landscapes in the north. It was also incredibly expensive. New caldonia is actually part of france and everything is imported.
The first night in NC was saturday and we took a shuttle from the airport to our hotel for 35$US more than we'd been spending in fiji for a nights lodging ( we later figured out that renting a car for the day is by far the cheapest way to get to noumea from the airport).
The hotel was cool and the next day we started enjoying the beaches and food of Noumea. We also learned, that yetagain we ere in a country where nothing is open on sunday, We almost got ourselves stuck downtown, because of the lack of transport availible. We pretty much did the same thing on monday, but we also managed to get tickets to one of the little island off of Grande Terre ( the main island) and a travel guide in english, which proved to be very helpfull although not as helpful as the french phrasebook rachel picked up. And on tuesday, Guess what we hung on the beach.
But wednesday was different we woke at 6am and caught a ferry to ilse de pins, named after the really cool basically straight up and down pines on the island. On wednesday, thursday friday and sat, We lazed on the beach went snorkling and basically self catered. Although this was broken up by a few nasty storms ( so no beach ) one so bad that it knocked out the power ( so no baguettes). On Friday I lost my glasses in the waves. That really really sucked (I'm now wearing 2 year old glasses, a real bummer) that kinda screwed that day up form me.
On sat evening we went back to town , had a terrible time finding a room, butlanded at the ibis, where we also stayed sunday 'cause you can'tdo anything on sunday. On monday we picked up a rental car and drove.
We ended up at a really cool place Mt Kohgis. It is a mountain a half hours drive from noumea ( an hour if you have lame maps and a tenuos grasp on french street signs). There is hiking and a Resturant/Hotel. We got a room/meal deal. dropped our stuff in the bungalow and went for a hike, to a watefalls. After Fiji I LOVE tropical waterfalls, They are everything they are cracked up to be. So the trail it self was incredibly complicated, full of hills and tree roots and streams and red clay. It was very slippery, and it was raining. I got muddy , rachel fell and got very muddy, but the falls were amazing. and after we got back to the room and cleaned up we went to a nice hearty savoy dinner of Fondu. It was very good , and and excellent was to end the day. (unfortuanatly the misquitos that night where a fright otherwise we may have stayed another day.)
Then next day we took a long if very scenic drive up north and camnped on a beach . It was a great spot and we watched the sunrise the next morning.
That day we drove to hienegene a lovely spot with mountians behind it and hug sharp rock formations guarding it's bay from the sea. We stayed for a couple of rainy days hanging out, and then we drove south. We stoped a night in La Foa and looked at there Eiffel inspired bridge ( as well at some pretty cool rock formations on the beach at Bourail. Then a night at Noumea, and a day onthe beaches ( also an amazing morrocan dinner). And then we flew onward.

Fri Mar 1 23:09:25 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: South Pacific Moon Guide
Location: "fiji and our food"
So we have been cooking for ourselves a bit here. it's cheaper (by some measures(it adds to lodging , but lodgings with cooking are usually more our style around here, people holiday house usually)), but mainly in the little towns the access to restuarants is difficult and most foods is greasy. Plus it's nice to cook your own food. The difficulty comes in shopping, the stores have a weird varity of food. Basically no local fruits ( the locals just pick them from the trees), just vegies, eggs, and bread. Also imported stuff. It makes planning dinners interesting particularly since the cooking facilities vary. Do we have an oven ( usually no), a grater , pot and pans. Rachel is however a genius at this and in spite of the difficulties we have been eating well.
And rachel is gathering ideas for a travel cooking shop. Travel knives and graters etc. We have also been collecting important dry goods, (tea and sugar, etc) for future use. Also a travel cookbook using local ingrediants.

Fri Mar 1 23:06:25 2002 (rr)
Book: South Pacific Moon Guide
Location: Fiji
After five days of doing not much of anything in savusavu, we arranged to travel by bus and boat to Taveuni, the "garden island". We got on the bus at 8:15 am sharp, and travelled for an hour and a half on a potholed dirt road at as fast a speed as possible. It was a rough ride. We eventually stopped in front of a dock, where we learned that we had gotten on the wrong bus. So we paid again for the bus. The driver said our boat would be along in about half an hour. Meanwhile, another ferry boat pulled up to the dock. We sat on some rocks by the beach. People began pouring out of the tiny boat, way more than I thought could fit in there. The driver walked by us, and told us that the bus we were supposed to be on originally hadn't left savusavu yet. We looked at each other, at the boat, and decided to just pay for everything twice and get there early. I popped a Dramamine, just in case. The boat had a main room with a ceiling about three and a half feet high. Just enough space to sit up on the low wooden benches. We made two stops along the way. Each time they rowed ashore and dropped off people or supplies. I started getting drowsy and tried to sleep. Both of our butts hurt from the benches. The water was pretty calm. We could see the long green arms of Vanua Levu and the long ridge that is Taveuni.
We had made reservations to stay at the northern tip of Taveuni, at the Little Dolphin Treehouse. The treehouse was as cool as our Savusavu holiday house. It was a small two-story house, surrounded by avocado, papaya, and banana trees. We again had a view of the ocean and of small islands (these small islands were slightly larger, and had multiple trees.) And it was sunny. THe rest of Fiji was flooding, but it was mostly sunny here. The treehouse had a large stack of National geographics, which Nathan promptly began reading, a hobby that lasted throughout our stay in the treehouse. We made guacamole from a huge avocado, chili-garlic sauce, red vinegar, salt, and garlic. It was surprisingly good, given our choice of ingredients. We ate it off the spoon (no tortilla chips around here.) We also had an oven, and I attempted to make both cornbread and brownies from memory. The brownies turned out better than the cornbread, but both were edible.
One day we went to the eastern side of the island and hiked along the coast to a waterfall. The walk was through the coastal rainforest, then headed inland up the river to the falls. Return to the Blue Lagoon was filmed here. The waterfalls and the associated pool was cool and refreshing, as expected. We swam up to the falls and then floated down the current staring up at the greenery. We even pulled out our snorkel gear and swam behind the falls. There were some fish swimming around as well.
Yesterday, the day we flew out of Taveuni, we kayaked to the small offshore islands. There were a number of tricky spots where we had to kayak over reef openings, surrounded by breaking waves. The coral looked incredible beneath us. We paddled to the little island that had a small sand beach and ate lunch. We were short on time, so unfortunately we didn't have time to snorkel. Instead we paddled out and took turns going for brief swims. The water was incredibly warm. I felt like I was in a kayaking vacation brochure picture.
In taveuni, I wished we could stay for another week or so. I could kayak a few more days, go back to the falls, explore the other three waterfalls, and spend some more time doing nothing. I will definitely be going back in the future. That is the problem with buying tickets in advance. However, I feel confident that New Caledonia (leaving for there later today) will be equally cool. I'm looking forward to the Ile de Pines (Isle of Pines) with its "stunning cocaine-white beaches".

Fri Mar 1 22:56:16 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: South Pacific Moon Guide
Location: "Nadi (nandi), Fiji"
So we are in nadi today, we head out tomorrow. Fiji has been pretty amazing, much fun.
When we landed 2 weeks ago, we headed directly to Luatoka, a very nice indian city, and a great contrast to Tonga. It was pleasant, BUSY, and cheap ( during the day). At night it was a bit scary really. Still a very cool contrast to Tonga. We a samosas as a snack ( later in suva we'd have roti and masala tea for beakfast, the indian infulence being very strong here).
The next day we headed to Suva the main city here, where we hung for a few days. We saw the motorcade taking the man who plotted a coup 2 years ago to trial. And also a pretty cool museum and bought some books at the University.
A few days later we flew to Savusavu on the 2nd biggest island. A pleasant little town in the jungle and on the coast. We rented a holiday house, just out of town and hung. It was much fun , we cooked out own food, kayaked, and watched the rain (and it can rain all day here). I practiced my pen and ink drawing, we both practiced out chess. It was as much fun as you can have int the pouring rain. Mainly 'cause it was the prettiest pouring rain I've every seen.
After that we boated to Taveuni, 'the garden island' for the last few days. it was simple buetiful. We got another holiday house, and rachel perfected both brownies (which we where really craving) and french toast. I read back issue of National Geographic, to which I must get a subscription to when I get back. We also sunned, and hung.
One day we took a taxi out to and a bus back from Lavena on the east side of the Island. where the locals along with some help from New Zealand (which funds parks everywhere) have created a nature reserve, and have thrown there hats in the ecotourism ring. We took a great 1.5 hour hike out to an amazing set of falls. The hike it self was through some great tropical vegetation, allong both white and black sand beach. There were a couple af amazing veiws and a couple of streams to cross (one with a suspension bridge). But the best thing was the end of the falls. The trail stops .2 of a k from them and you hike and swim up the river to them. You ditch your stuff a bit before the end, cause there are 2 deap pools with cliff walls, one before the falls and the one they fall into. There are actually 2 falls in that pool one high, and one short and fast. very cool. We snorkeled, and floated on our backs down the river looking at the vines and trees above on the top of the cliffs. Then we ate a quick lunch and hicked backl to catch the bus. A really good day.
The next day we flew into nadi, but before that we rented a kayak near where we where staying and kayaked out to a little island where we ate lunch and then kayaked back. We stopped to go for an ocean swim, and we watched and navigated some pretty cool coral reefs along the way. Also a great day.

Fri Mar 1 22:42:56 2002 (rr)
Book: South Pacific Moon Guide
Location: Fiji
We spent three days or so exploring and lazing around in Suva, the capital of Fiji. Fiji has been the hottest place that we've travelled to yet on this trip. Occasionally we would duck into various stores to have a brief air-conditioned respite from the heat. Everyone was complaining of the heat. The rest of the time it would rain, hard. Mostly we were in a state of do-nothingness. We kept thinking about catching ferries to Taveuni, an island further north. I think that the prospect of a twelve-hour boat ride wasn't enticing to Nathan (I'm fine, I have dramamine.) Eventually Nathan reserved us on a flight from Suva to Savusavu.

Savusavu is a small town on the island of Vanua Levu, which is the second largest island in Fiji. It was raining when we landed. This was to become a theme of our stay in Savusavu. Our mission was to stay at the Vatukaluvi Holiday House. The phone numbers for the place didn't work, but we knew that the owner was a geologist with an office at the Copra Shed Marina. We hauled ourselves and our gear to the marina, and eventually determined that the office with rock specimens was probably our man. Our hunch was correct, but unfortunately Geoff's mum's house was already rented out, but he had another house for us. I ran over to the grocery store and picked up provisions while Nathan waited for our taxi.

The house was great - wooden floors, ceiling fans, a great view of the ocean and of tiny islands with lone palm trees. There were lots of rainforesty-looking trees and plants surrounding the house as well to add to the tropical feel. It is a good thing that we liked the house so much, because we ended up spending a lot of time in it. It rained almost continuously for the next few days. It felt like Seattle in many ways. We read books, played chess, cooked food. Ate pancakes. Learned that golden syrup is NOT maple syrup. We attempted to make coconut milk from coconuts we broke by dropping rocks on top of them. Nathan read John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead, I read the rest of the Great Railway Bazaar and an Agatha Christie (we read each others books).

One morning, it was sunny. We took advantage of this brief interlude and carried the two-person kayak down to the water and paddled out to the small lone-palm tree islands. We circled the islands in our boat. On one island there was a long light-blue snake. We believe it was a sea snake. Very poisonous creatures, but they only like to bite between your fingers and toes (or so I've heard). I've never seen a snake that color before. Shortly after our kayak trip it started raining again.

email us
email Rachel
email Nathan

See the pictures.
Palau Pictures
Yap Pictures
Hawaii Pictures
Taiwan Pictures

View the original itinerary

March 2002
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Febuary   April