Sunday, 2 December 2007

Life at the Pines - Mt Arapiles

The climbing Mecca of Australia - Mt Arapilies. We have been staying at the campsite (known as the Pines) below the cliffs on and off for the last 3 weeks (with time out the the Gt. Ocean Rd.).

A similar photo was on my calinder before we left the UK. 'Kachoong' 21

Above and below: 'A taste of Honey' 21. I almost lost it on the footless move right after the bottom shot but just made the crux to the ledge.

Stumpy - strange beasts that like to hide under your tent. At about the size of a house brick they could make a pillow.

BIG things - Part 1

This may become a regular feature if we find more..

We have also seen many real ones in the trees along the Great Ocean Road, but this was far more impressive! ??

The Great Ocean Road

This will be written about by Jo when she has time.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Hay Jack, I've been surfing!

After a few days in Melborne mainly sorting out bank stuff, phones and looking at cars we finally hit the beach - the waves hit back harder though. Full on smiles all round - surfing - welcome to Australia!
Melborne and the Yarra
Dan, Mark and Pat - The surfers??

Dan hanging 9 1/2 (but on my feet!)

Sunday, 11 November 2007

One night in Bangkok

Golden Palace, Koh San Road, Thai boxing and more.
Photos to follow.

Dive, dive, dive.

Back from the Similans diving trip and now in Bangkok. Still bobbing up and down as if on a boat and feel like i have a mask still on. Luckily i realise i can't just pee myself when out of the water.

The trip was FANTASTIC. Most dives were to 30m below, which was the deepest either of us have been and we saw loads. Sharks, octopus, cuttlefish mating, Barracuda, stingrays, etc etc.
I did all 14 dives, (4 a day and 2 on the last day), the night dives were scary!

Kee our Divemaster for the trip

Ahhh, my head if fizzing with Nitrogen and we fly tomorrow...

No photos of underwater stuff though.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

2 days on Koh Lanta

Took a boat accross from Phi Phi to Lanta and arrived at a very wet and deserted set of beach bungalows - not too impressed. Made the bar next door open for the first time this season and things seemed better at the end of the night...

Walked along a very long Long Beach the next morning, bright sunny and more what was expected. Spent the rest of the day chilling out and watching a sunset.
Boat back to Phi Phi this morning to find that in the last 2 days accomodation prices have shot up. Perhaps its a good thing we are leaving thailand as we could not afford these prices - makes our live aboard Similan dive trip (that starts tomorrow) even better value (250 GBP for 4 days, 4 nights and 14 dives).

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Phi Phi

A change of scenery on the busy Koh Phi Phi. It might seem like a nightmare after the peace and quite of Tonsai but it seems like a welcome relief. We are staying in a hut right on the beach with only mosquitoes and monkeys to annoy us. The climbing is right above us and it is easier. And we have a choice of restaurants and shops.
Ko Phi Phi from the climbing wall ( our hut is in the left bottom corner)
Went Scuba Diving. Amazing fish and coral. Dan saw a shark and an octopus. I struggled with my ears but managed the second dive fine and saw cuttlefish and Morey eels.

Looking attractive after a dive in Maya Bay (where the beach was shot)

On the rocks at Ton Sai beach

Two weeks have been spent staying at Ton Sai and climbing around the beaches there. We may have been here before but it was that good...

Photos say more than words (and internet is not free here)...

Dan on Burnt Offerings 7a+ (photo taken by Jo while belaying - not bad huh!)

Ton Sai beach in the background.

One of the local climbers hanging out. Dam those guys are good!

A blurred shot of the second i was on the slack line between the Freedon bar and the Ton Sai overhang.

Angkor What?

We arrived in Siem Riep by bus to see the highly renowned tourist attraction of Angkor Wat and it's surrounding temples.

We booked the tuc tuc for a sunrise start but this was quickly changed when it thunder stormed all night. However the weather improved throughout the day. We followed the one day tour from the lonely planet, which is apparently sacrilege due to the vast number of temples, only seeing four.

Ankgor Wat is the grandess temple with impressive carvings along the walls and high towers, however the number of tourists kind of spoilled the effect.

Ta Phrom was the best being in a state of disrepair. The massive wall were supporting, or being supported by huge trees. It was the setting for tomb raider and has a very Indiana Jones feel about it.

Phreah Khan was pretty much a ruin.

Inside Ankgor Thom, the largest complex of temples, was the Bayon. This was amazing with faces on every tower.

All Ankgored out we didn't wait for sunset and ware in the bar by 4 30pm.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Friends blogspot addresses

The Meersbrook blog

Jim's travel blog

Phnom Phen - Pol Pot - what a nasty man!

We have arrived in Cambodia for only a flying visit through to Thailand. Just time to see the sights of Phnom Pehn and Siem Riep.

In the morning in Phnom Pehn we made an early start to see Tai Chi in front of the Royal Palace, however after a navigational error we got to the riverside too late. While we ate breakfast we watched lots of Cambodian in their 'Sunday best' ride past. We later discovered they were celebrating a Buddhist Festival which meant the city was empty and the Silver Pagoda closed.

The Silver Pagoda

Food Donations in a Buddhist Temple


After lunch we caught a tuc tuc to the Killing Fields and S21 Genoside museum. The both sites aimed to remember the atrocities caused by the Khmer Rouge. The Killing Fields showed the remains of mass graves of the viciously murdered S21 prisoners. The grounds still had bones and clothing scattered around and some 800 of the 1500 skulls found were placed in the memorial tower.

The skulls in the memorial tower.

After we took the tuc tuc to the Genocide Museum of Tuol Sleng (S21). The museum is the prison in which intellectual people were tortured and remains how it was found. The museum house photographs and biographies of prisoners and their families. Both places were very sad and sombre places which seemed strangely to still need signs asking people not to laugh.

The Mekong Delta to Cambodia

Our final days in Vietnam on the way to Cambodia were spent in the Mekong Delta. This is the area of land in the south of Vietnam at the bottom of the Mekong river after it has flown through China, Tibet, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. It is primarily known for it's rice paddies but also grows many types of fruit. We spent a lot of time on boats of various size and condition with a few bus rides thrown in for good measure. The first day we visited a floating market, coconut sweet makers, rice corn makers and then watched the sunset at Chua Hang Pagoda near Chau Doc. Early the next morning we squeezed in a tour to a floating village with a fish farm under a house and a visit to a Cham Minority Village before a long ride past the Cambodian border to Phenom Phen.

One of the 'Nine Dragons' of the Mekong River

Rowing up a canal

Dalat and Saigon

After hearing people rave about Dalat we left the coast and headed inland. We took a coach tour of the area after decided moutaining biking was too expensive. We initially took a cable car from Dalat to Truc Lam Meditation Monastery. Then we went to see a waterfall via a tobogan ride with dan at the controls. The most impressive Dragon pagoda was visited next and covered in tiles and smashed potery mosiac.

Dragon Pagoda

Dan beating a drum at Dragon Pagoda

In the afternoon we visted a Lat Minority Village and was talked to by the village leader and offered a taste of his rice wine.

Dan sucking up the rice wine

They don't have asbos but they still have hoodies

After Dalat we visited Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City) for a short 1 day stay. This gave us enough time to visit the main sites of The Cu Chi Tunnels, where we passed on the chance to shoot army guns, but went down a very cramped tunnel.

Jo in the Cu Chi Tunnel

In the afternoon we took a tour around the city visiting the quite graffic war remnents museum, reunification palace and a post office. I know strange to walk around a post office with nothing to post.

Cyclo driver catching a nap

Beach and Boat days in Nha Trang

At last we've found the sun. We only had to travel around 1000 kilometers to find it and there is still rumours of typhoons in Asia.

The first day was spent lying on the beach and swimming in the warm sea until we were properly cooked. Don't worry, the factor 30 stopped a complete burn. A run in with a local boy wanting to play Connect 4 (we only assume for money) would answer our refusal with "Why, you scared?".

The second day in Nha Trang was a highlight of Vietnam. We took a tourist boat ride to see four Islands - Mun, Hon, Tam and Mieu. After an easy ride we arrived at Mun Island, recognised for it's black rock. Here we went snorkeling. We were really desperate to use our brand new snorkels that we had carried around for 7 weeks that we forgot to remember our boat. We swam along the reef with the coral and fish improving by the stroke. We saw Emperor fish pairs and parrot fish, and Dan got attacked by a very defensive Clown (Nemo) fish. When we returned to the boats we had to board 2 others before we found our own, we were apparently very late and the boat had been waiting for us. Embarrassingly our reputation did not improve throughout the day. We were unable to stop for lunch at the second island as the wind had picked up and the sea had become choppy. We stopped for lunch at Hon Island and met some really nice people from the Netherlands and America. On the boat the crew all started singing song from around the world accompanied by a barrel drum kit and we danced on the boat. After the floating bar was opened which involved jumping into the sea, sitting in a life ring and drinking distinctly bad Dalat Wine with Pineapple from a floating bar. Obviously, in true British style we stayed by the bar. The final island stop was to visit an aquarium. We opted out in order to drink more whilst floating in the sea. Dinner was spent with our new friends followed by happy hour red bull and vodka. The next day hangover was awful.

The boats crew giving it some on the home made drums

Lunch on the boat

Monday, 1 October 2007

Cooking up a storm in Hoi An

We are now in Hoi An, about half way down Vietnam, and yesterday it stopped raining! So I ran around taking photos for the french style buildings in the morning and we both attended the Red Bridge cooking school in the afternoon. This included a tour of the local market, a 20min boat trip up the river to the school, demos, practice cooking and dinner. Really good afternoon.

This morning we went to My Son and saw the very old (accurate as ever) temples. But the rain is back - pelting it down - so that's why we are back on the Internet.

Off down the coast tomorrow in search of beach weather...

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Dodging the rain in Vietnam

We arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam on Saturday 22nd September via train from Guilin. The journey lasted 17 hours and we slept thel night in a soft seater coach with the exception of being woken for visa and passport checks.

In Hanoi we found cheap accomodation of 8US$ per night then went to see the very dead Ho Chi Minh in his Mausoleum. He looked like a wax work of Madame Tousaurds. In the same area was one pillar pagoda, the presidential palace and the museum.

The highlight of Hanoi was discovering Bai Hoi ( draught beer) for 2000 dong ( 6 pence) sitting beside a busy crossroad junction with hundreds of scooters passing by without crashing.

The next day we caught 3 buses and a boat to Cat Ba Island to the east of Hanoi in order to go climbing. A company called slopony are new routing there so we thought it would be good for a few days. We got one days climbing done before it rained and so all plans of deep water soloing on the Ha Long Bay Karsts did not happen:-( We did not even get a boat to look due to a promised storm. We waited a day incase but all forcasts said it would not stop for 5 days. Apparently it stopped the next day! (We've now been told a typhoon hit the next day and wiped out a few of the boats - Ed. 1/10/07)

We decided to go back to Hanoi and catch the overnight train to Hue. This time a hard sleeper, and hard it was. The only thing between me and the bunk was a carpet and a sheet. Surprisingly we slept quite well. Toilets and sinks were cleaner than expected and better than many I have used.

When we arrived in Hue we got bombarded by hoteliers and taxi drivers wanting us to use them. So we walked about a mile just to get away. That afternoon we walked around the Citadel. Many beautiful buildings in the Imperial Enclosure either having been repaired or being reconstructed after years of wartime bombing.

The next day we visited the Demiliterised Zone (DMZ) on a tour. It set off at 6am for 12 hours stopping only to briefly walk around or eat. Very interesting walking down Vietnamese underground tunnels at Vin Moch which were built and lived in during the war by both the local farmers and the Viet Com.

So today we moved on from Hue to Hoi An by bus. Still it continues to rain.