Saturday, 1 September 2018

Welcome to Australia!

We arrived in Australia in the morning, after quite a long trip, we did a stop in Auckland, where we slept at the airport for six hours roughly. It was the beginning of a series of challenges and the first of them was passing through the immigration with our 14 packages of yerba mate explaining in English what that was! The second one was arriving at Nelio and Ive's house, friends of ours from Brazil who will put us up for a few days. Finally, after a train ride, a bus ride plus a long walk we reached their place. We were welcomed with a delicious breakfast. That first day in Sydney was dedicated to resting and going for groceries at a supermarket nearby.

On the next day we felt the winter weather, we left their home early morning to go to Sydney's CBD area, on a cold, rainy day. We went to visit some of the attractions nearby the CBD. Our first stop was Sydney's Observatory, where we visited the museum and enjoyed some panoramic views. Later on we visited the Museum of Contemporary Art and The Museum of The Rocks neighbourhood, where the history of it is accounted, The rock is one of the oldest areas in Sydney. We also went to the oldest Christian Church of Sydney.

On the next day we went to visit the area of Sydney's Opera House and Circular Quay, the first one is one of the landmarks of the city and the second one is the place where many ferry lines depart. As always, we chose the economic way, so we just visited the opera house's surroundings, the tour to go inside seemed too expensive for us. What we were completely sure about is going to watch a show inside the opera house is really worth it. Next time we will!!!

Since we were already there, after visiting the opera house we went to check City's Botanical Gardens, which by the way is one of the main attractions of Sydney. Later, we visited the city's cathedral and after, we had lunch. 

We continued the day visiting Darling Harbour, which is a place surrounded by many interesting things, such as restaurants, museums, aquarium among others. We enjoyed the maritime museum, since it was the only one that's free. Later on, we went to Chinatown, which is the place, as its name suggests, where immigrants with a Chinese heritage live.  To finish the day we went to check Victoria Queen Building, which is very famous for its architecture.

We began the next day with a short walk at Luna Park, it is a kind of amusement Park, however, we were only interested in the views of the famous Harbour Bridge, not in the park itself. Later, we went to see a fish market, where it is possible to buy fresh products directly from the fishermen  or just walk around and eat anything there. We also visited Saturdays fair in the heart of The Rock, it was very interesting to buy some old stuff, handmade products  or  just to walk enjoying an ice cream. To end the day we went to see Hyde Park and ANZAC memorial, the last is a tribute to Australian and New Zealand troops, whom took part in the First World War.

On our penultimate day in Sydney, we went with our hosts to wander around Dee Why, one of the many neighbourhoods of the city, we liked its beach. Later, we went to sit at one of the many bars around the Opera House, we tried to eat like an Aussie, so we ordered fish and chips, some glasses of wine and beers. After watching the sunset we went to Darling harbour again, this time to check Saturday fireworks show. So this way we ended our first visit to Sydney. We already had planned to comeback for new year's eve.

Our last day in the city was just dedicated to packing and going to the airport and waiting for our flight to Cairns, the city that will be our home for the next five months.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Welcome to paradise

After Eastern Island our next stop was French Polynesia. We landed at Papeete, which is the capital of the archipelago and the main island, Tahiti. All international flights arrive there, therefore it is the most developed city. However, it has a paradise environment, definitely far from a city look. On our first day the only thing we did was to arrive and go to bed straightaway, because it was after midnight, actually after one in the morning. Despite arriving so late, we were welcomed by a group of people singing and dancing some traditional Polynesian songs. They gave us flower collars as well; this is how they greet visitors there. On the following day our adventure started!

We began our day by going to buy some groceries for the next two weeks. Everything was so expensive due to the fact that the archipelago is far away from everything. To give you an idea, the closest country is Cook Islands (more than one thousand km) and the closest one able to provide some goods is New Zealand (more than four thousand km). After we bought our groceries (ham, cheese, bread, canned food, frozen food, etc.), we had breakfast and departed to our first destination there, Moorea Island. The picture below shows the view from our hotel, you can see Papeete's Airport and Moorea Island in the background.

From the airplane we could see the beauty of Moorea, even before arriving there. Our first day was dedicated solely to enjoying the beach and the sunset. The day after, apart from repeating the same activities obviously, we went to watch a group of people who were tanking part in the interaction with dolphins. We didn't participate in it because we prefer join such activities with wild animals plus we are a bit stingy, hehehe. We also did some snorkelling in hotel's  coral gardens and a bit of stand up paddle, all free activities, what a coincidence! ;-)

During dinner we've enjoyed a show of traditional Polynesian dances.

The following day we flew to Tahaa, the next island on our itinerary. We were welcomed with flower collars and a welcoming drink for a change. Once settled in our room, beach and tereré. When we went snorkelling among the bungalows, Maria saw a ray for the first time in her life! We ended that day watching a spectacular sunset! And as you can see in the pictures, we weren't alone.

By the evening we had eaten diner and watched a parade of black pearl necklaces. French Polynesia is the biggest producer of natural black pearls in the world. Obviously the parade was to advertise to those willing to spend a small fortune on the pearls. As usually, we just observed. The day after we went snorkelling in the hotel's coral gardens and them just relaxed in the pool. It goes without saying that the snorkelling was awesome. In the afternoon we watched Michael Phelps finishing second at Rio's Olympic Games while eating a hot ham and cheese sandwich. It was pretty strange because he always finishes first. For dinner we took part in a barbecue nearby the pool offered by the hotel, which actually was our first barbecue outside of South America. What a big disappointment for us as there were a few pieces of meat, so I thought the word barbecue was an overstatement, hahaha.

On the next day we did a tour on which we saw some sharks and also went to visit vanilla plantations; We tried vanilla rum. We went to visit a pearl farm and learnt about the production process from the beginning to the end. The next day Bora Bora was waiting for us!

After a failed attempt to watch the sunrise, we took our flight to Bora Bora. We landed and after we checked-in we went to relax on the beach, we saw some rays visiting the hotel's beach because the employees feed them daily. The day after we did parasailing for the first time. We were just speechless as it was stunning: the water colour was something that we hadn't seen before, with different shades of blue, green, turquoise, etc. It's something that pictures can't really show. During the afternoon for a change we went snorkelling and then just enjoyed the sunset.

On the following day we went diving for the first time after our basic diving course. We did two dives where we saw, among other things, different types of sharks, octopus (they disguise themselves incredibly well, try to find the octopus in the top left corner of the picture below), manta rays and maaany different fishes. The visibility was amazing, more than 30 meters for sure! In the afternoon we took part in an event offered by our hotel, which was wine tasting along with some finger foods. Of course we enjoyed the chance to drink and eat for free all we could! ;-) After the event we continued drinking with some Americans whom we met at the wine event.

We began the day with a tour during which we swam with sharks and rays, something very interesting and useful to help decrease our fear of these creatures. The rays were very gentle and it was possible to touch them without any problems. Later on we enjoyed a "barbecue" on a tiny paradisiacal island, imagine that! After going back to the hotel we enjoyed one more sunset with a delicious tereré. The day after we departed to Rangiroa, which was unfortunately the last island we were to visit.

The main reason why we went to Rangiroa was diving. Our first day was dedicated to relaxing, a bit of the beach time and tereré. At the end of that day we went to a place where around afternoon time it was possible to see dolphins passing by.  Unfortunately, we could only see four, but at least we watched a beautiful sunset.

We began the next day with two dives and as usual in that place, the visibility was excellent and the sea was full of life. It was our first time doing a drift dive, that is, we jumped from the boat and the current carried us, so swimming was unnecessary. It seemed like we were flying! And as if that weren't enough, after our first dive a few curious dolphins swam beside our boat for five minutes.

The day after we went diving again, unfortunately it was the last one. Again we saw a dolphin, however this time still underwater, which was very exciting. Marine life in French Polynesia is amazing! We ended up with tereré enjoying our beach time and we did some kayaking as well. The next day, one more leg of our journey started, which was our trip to the land of kangaroos.