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Entries about camping

Tramping in New Zealand

Why and how you shouldn’t pay all that hard earned cash on the Great Walks.

all seasons in one day

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First of all, I need to tell you guys a secret.
When I was about 13 years old, I did some hiking in Switzerland on a summer camp kind of ordeal. I liked it a lot (although my main memories of it are all about a certain boy of course, as it should be when you’re a teenager). But since then I’ve never really been into it or just haven’t had the chance to do much of it. When I met Connor, things changed. He got me back unto the right path. He revived that need inside of me of wanting to go explore nature more again. I’ve always loved camping, so why not go off into the bush and do it more often, yeah? If you would have told me four years ago that I voluntarily would carry around a backpack climbing up steep unformed pathways for 5+ days I’d say you were crazy. Honestly. But now… I love it!!! It gets you in shape first of all. And fast. Being surrounded by nature and not modern society is a plus as well. There’s nothing more satisfying then hearing nothing but water and birds and the wind in the background while reading, relaxing or even dozing off in the afternoon sunshine. The continuous walking in silence clears my head and I always feel like I have accomplished something big at the end of the day. Therefore I highly recommend hiking to everybody. Plus if you ever find yourself thinking about a trip to NZ, do NOT skip the opportunity to do some walking! You will not regret it. With its hut system and very well organized and marked tramps, NZ is the perfect place to get into it. It has never been so easy basically.
You’ll find yourself dealing with DOC (Department of Conservation – or as the locals like to call them sometimes; the Department of Contradiction, because of certain policies DOC has associated themselves with) a lot when getting involved with tramping while you are in NZ. They are responsible for informing and helping you out with anything concerning taking off on a tramp. You book your huts through them, consult weather and track conditions and in some cases you’ll encounter them on the tracks or in the huts and they will give you even more useful information.
Unfortunately a lot of international tourists have caught on to the great walks NZ has to offer and therefore they have become extremely expensive because of the demand for better facilities along the way. Today when you go to stay in a hut along one of the great walks, there’s…. wait for it… in the middle of nowhere… electricity (solar), flushing toilets and warm water. That’s not really tramping anymore, that’s just a luxury vacation. Not even mentioning that a lot of them these days pay guides to take them up (already really well marked seriously overcrowded pathways, why there is that need.. I do not know), carry their backpacks and cook for them at the end of the day…. Really…
The old romantic huts that had room for less people, yes, had more of a convenient setup though. A stove in the middle of the room, to keep you warm at night. In these fancy huts you are actually stuck in dorm rooms with no stove present. You have gas cookers in the kitchen area, which is weird as well in my opinion. You don’t need them. You should just bring your own gear and be fine, yeah? So every real tramper that is always packed correctly with all you could ever need, gets stuck paying 50+ NZ dollars a night to sleep in a fancy hut, they don’t want to sleep in to begin with (because they liked the old ones better) but you have no choice, cause you are not allowed to camp anywhere anymore. So what’s the solution to this problem, when you have no money and want to enjoy all of these beautiful tramps? Choose more low key ones and not the great walks. You have no choice sometimes and that really sucks. There is a couple of loopholes though. One being that the great walks season goes from November till the end of April. So basically outside the season you can still walk the great walks at the normal prices (but the weather conditions might screw that up for you, sometimes they take the necessary bridges to cross the bigger rivers out as well, which makes it impossible for you to complete them). Another loophole is you can only do parts of the great walk maybe connecting it to your own made up tramp. I say… boycott DOC’s great walk policy and walk the less famous ones. Most important first step in the right direction get a backcountry hut pass.
For example a couple of my memorable tramps are the Cass Lagoon Saddle in Arthur’s pass, Greenstone-Caples, Rees-Dart (including a day trip to Cascade Saddle – the most beautiful one I’ve done so far). It won’t be long before these will be classified as great walks officially too and become more expensive, cause they ARE that great. You can make your own track combinations in some places with an extensive system so you can avoid paying all that money and will only encounter real trampers and not the ones who expect their dinner to be cooked at arrival in the huts.
Both the South and the North island have an amazing amount of tramps and they will not disappoint you. Huts are becoming more expensive and they are banning camping out slowly but surely. It’s becoming an elite sort of thing to be able to do these great walks and that is ridiculous. I understand the need to keep things under control and make nature your first priority. I’ll be the first to agree. But it didn’t seem to bother anybody before. When you make the access and luxury less, you attract only the real folks who are doing it for the right reasons and know the etiquette of camping in the wild. By creating this fancy resort-walks you attract people who do not care and therefore you’re creating this problem by catering for stupid people. You don’t need a flushing toilet on top of the mountain!!! You need a shovel or you carry it out, it’s that simple.
There, I had my say. I’m one of those who is willing to pay for all the work DOC is doing, but not so they can built a resort on the top of the mountain. Give me my rustic little hut back.. They are the best. I have not been able to do or complete any of these Great walks because I did not have a couple thousand dollars extra saved to walk them. I just think it’s wrong. Luckily there’s plenty of other tramps that are more low-key but just as precious! Thank god for that! Let’s hope that will last.

Posted by flemishgirl 18:12 Archived in New Zealand Tagged hiking camping huts doc tramping routeburn great_walks cascade_saddle rees-dart greenstone-caples milford_track backcountry_hut_passes

“Aotearoa – The land of the long white cloud : Unplugged”

AKA New Zealand, most definitely one of my favorite places in the world.

all seasons in one day 12 °C

Out of our 6.5 months in NZ, we spent about 4 over the summer on the South island enjoying the beautiful scenery and doing some tramping (= trekking + camping = hiking). The last 2.5 were spent discovering the North Island which is poles apart. It’s like comparing chocolate and cheese, a saying we’ve heard Kiwi’s use frequently. (Kiwi= New Zealander) We’ve experienced this country in every single way possible and walked (or rather flew) away very satisfied and with, what we feel is, a correct view on a very isolated and enormously beautiful, friendly place on this planet. A country that has a very green image, but we know now that is not completely true.. When you hitchhike and stay with the locals, conversations are very enlightening . We had a blast traveling around this country, making new friends, meeting up with old friends, NZ will always keep a special place in my heart.large_548289_376..38362_n.jpg

Hitchhiking, helpXing, couchsurfing and tramping… is all (you need) we needed to get a real insight into what New Zealand is all about. We’ve stayed and worked on farms, climbed some mountains and saddles, did the real touristy bit when my dad came over for three weeks, cruising around the country showing him all the good stuff. We know Maori names for plants, trees and birds…We can tell the difference between a Kauri and a Puriri tree. We know how to recognize the call of the Kiwi bird at night (if it’s a male or a female – not a Morepork , which is a small owl who makes a similar sound) and how to spot one. A 85-year old Maori woman named Jean taught me how to weave different kind of flowers with flax, a native plant with big strong leaves of which they use the fiber it produces off for just about anything. Unlike Australia, where the possum is cute, well loved and considered to be a protected species, it is an all-around pest in NZ. The debates heat up massively at times for what the best method is to get rid of them humanely. It suffices to say that we’ve been offered to shoot some at many different occasions (which Connor successfully did a few times) and have been shown how to set up traps. It surprises me sometimes, when I think back, how much NZ actually has taught us. No need to say, it has left a huge impression on me. I loved the country, it’s amazing wild nature and especially the extremely helpful and friendly people. Basically I wish I could go back already..
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It’s the perfect country for the keen hunter or fisherman. Many pests to get rid of including deer (you can shoot as many as you like basically). So many unspoiled waters for fishing. I, myself caught a 15 pound snapper just of off the coast in the Far North (top of the North island), which a lot of kiwi’s have complimented me for as they themselves had never caught one that big before.

Here’s a little itinerary so you’d have a good idea of what we’ve done and where we’ve been during our time in NZ.

December, we arrived in Auckland made good friends with the Davis family (located on the North shore) and scooted in hurry over to the South Island, because the summer had arrived and the tramping season had officially begun. We wanted to take advantage of the good weather and start taking in that elusive grandeur that the Southern alps and Fiordland are famous for. Made a little stopover in Nelson to get ourselves sorted (where we exactly were going to start our exploring). We then decided on Arthur’s Pass for Christmas and New Year as there is always snow to be found on the mountain tops there and we hadn’t seen snow in ages! (It still feels weird being in the Southern hemisphere when it actually is summer when I’m used to seeing snow and ice for Christmas). So we worked in the Bealey Hotel for a couple of weeks, helping in the kitchen, working behind the bar, changing sheets. Not the most glamorous job in the universe but it had some fun folks to hang out with day in and day out (wink to our Argentinian friends, who are living it up for the snow season in Queenstown right now). Being in the middle of nowhere surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, immense wild braided river flowing right underneath your window, most beautiful sunrises and sunsets, admitted it was pretty awesome.. I’m trying not to forget to mention the local wildlife which pretty much only consisted of sandflies and Kea’s due to the altitude. Sandflies must be NZ best well kept secret. You don’t really hear about them until you actually encounter them. They are tiny little black flies that bite kind of like a mosquito. The bites are nasty and itchy though. Fortunately once you know about them and get used to them, you’d be able to outsmart them by covering up and spraying wrists and ankles especially (as they like those the best). Kea’s are the NZ’s ONLY alpine parrots. They are pretty looking and extremely inquisitive. They tried to fly off with one of my hiking boots one day at one of the campsites. They’re quite big and have very colorful wings (mainly green and a bit of red). We encountered them while tramping quite often. Terrorizing the neighborhood in packs, you have to watch out for leaving food out and they have been known to break into tents and cars… You’re asking me how? Very sharp beak and very smart, that’s how…

January, we said goodbye to Arthur’s pass and went more south. Through the Canterbury plains, through the Southern Lakes region, Lake Tekapo, Twizel, Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki. Some glaciers and hitchhiking rides later we made it to Wanaka and really started to get a feel for the South Island. Queenstown was next and we stayed in this area for about a month. Working on a farm just outside of Glenorchy 45 minutes north from Queenstown at the top of the lake there is an substantial amount of South Island beauty to be found. Anyone ever going to Queenstown should rent a car for the day and explore more north. Much better than only a visit to the super famous action capital of the country. Seriously, don’t stop at Queenstown, get your ass up there. Until this day this is still one of my favorite places in NZ. Riding horses (who almost guaranteed were in the Lord of The Rings movies, as they were all filmed in this area), tramping the different valleys and mountains are still part of my most memorable accomplished activities. This region borders Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Park which are world famous for their great walks. We did some 5 day tramps and they are indeed Great… It’s a magical place. large_552088_376..77999_n.jpg

February, we met up with friends and went to Abel Tasman national park for my 30th birthday. Did some sightseeing and camping at Golden bay and tramping.. Success! After a very fun week hanging out with our American friends from home, we needed to get down to the more Southern part of the South Island as summer was threatening to disappear on us soon. Made our way down the east coast, saw some penguins and seals and weird looking boulders on a random beach. Crossed through more dairy farm country and landed in Invercargill for a while. Worked at a very hilarious hostel, waiting out the rain. Got to Te Anau and realized how immensely beautiful and wild this country is.. again. Did some tramping around Lake Manapouri and got on a very successful Doubtful Sound day cruise. Oh my…. That was an incredible experience. Dolphins came by and said hi… waterfalls were plenty..there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so the water was quite calm and we were able to get out into the Tasman Sea in our little boat to have a look back onto Fiordland…. One Word: Breathtaking.

March, we finished our time down south and made our way back up to Christchurch (6.5 months in NZ and I did not feel ONE earthquake, which is very rare, as going to CHCH basically guarantees you one…. It was earthquake central for the last 5 months and will be for another while they say.) We spent a marvelous time on the Banks Peninsula, learning how to look for Paua (abalone) and huge green lip mussels for dinner. Learned a bit more about Maori culture and took my dad later back there to go camping on the beach in one of the spectacular looking bays. Flew out to Auckland to go get my dad from the airport, jumped in a little cheap campervan and started a 5000km adventure on both the North and South Island showing him, what we thought was, the best NZ had to offer… in about 3 weeks. It felt like a success afterwards… but in comparison to the way we normally travel, it was way too fast and not enough time. The glowworm caves in Waitomo stick out in my memory though and Rotorua’s smell! Should have spent more time in Kaikoura as the dolphins and seals and tramping opportunities were plentiful! Our Milford Sound trip turned out to be the most divers one we could have ever hoped for. We had rain, snow and hundreds of thousands of waterfalls in every shape and form to admire during the first half of the day driving from Te Anau towards Milford Sound. That road is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. Once we got on the boat, the sun decided to come through so we had a good view of the very famous and picturesque Mitre Peak before encountering more dolphins, seals and an amazing amount of rainbows. What good karma us three must have, cause good god.. for a minute there before we got on the boat the outlook didn’t look very positive.
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April, we dropped Dad off in Auckland and put him safely back on a plane to Belgium and had a good rest at our favorite family’s place. Stayed on the North island from now on. A fishing trip to Coromandel got us some yummy fish dishes for a while.. the amount of fish we caught fed us for a week! Northland was next on the list and we really lived the good life up there… Digging up Kumara (sweet potatoes), went fishing some more and looking for seafood almost every day. Had a good night out with some local Maori boys in Hokianga (who picked us up hitchhiking and in return we picked up little bit of the local dialect – chur brew!). Went looking to catch a ride on a boat to one of the pacific islands in Whangarei and in the Bay of Islands, but decided we weren’t done yet with NZ.
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May, Hawkes Bay and Napier is indeed all it’s cracked up to be. Drove a quad on the beach at low tide to go see Cape Kidnappers from up close. It was starting to get real cold now. Not cold like European standards for winter but frosts started occurring overnight and frequent Southerlies (wind) made it chilly. It was no longer comfortable camping, so we were getting excited about leaving on a jet plane to Fiji! Finished off some tramping in the centre of the North island in the shadows of the mystical three volcanoes who by now had very snowy tops, which made for exceptional picture taking. Got a good view of Mount Taranaki and enjoyed a steep tramp halfway up the mountain. Too much rain and cold weather made us go up north again.large_532857_420..33668_n.jpg

June, ending our NZ adventure with one of the best helpX experiences we’ve had so far. Between Thames and Paeroa, in the Maratoto Valley (bordering Coromandel peninsula) we planted heaps of little native trees and had spiritual bushwalks hugging some Kauri trees. Learning how to correctly do Light Clay wall stuffing and talk to fantails. My wisdom tooth started to act up and it was decided that it had to be surgically removed (I’m writing this 10 days after this has been done and it still hurts! My jawbone was drilled into… trust me when I say mind-blowingly painful). Then after saying bye to the Davis’s and getting a new tattoo, we finally jumped on a plane to Fiji.

It’s warm and coconutty here…. And I miss kiwiland.. (fail) Smiles!

Posted by flemishgirl 17:40 Archived in New Zealand Tagged snow queenstown fishing boat snowboarding wildlife hiking locals fiji sun new_zealand dolphins camping milford_sound maori lotr south_island north_island seals hunting hunter doubtful_sound hitchhiking glenorchy lord_of_the_rings tramping couchsurfing helpx far_north

The Great Ocean Road.

South-west Victoria, Australia. Hitchhiking, camping and hiking.

It must certainly ring a bell when you hear someone mention "The Great Ocean Road". If it doesn't.. What if I mention the Twelve Apostles? Does that sound familiar? Well, as we’ve experienced last week, pretty much the whole world knows about it and it is THE major tourist attraction in Victoria, Australia. Tour buses of every size cramped full with little Asians passing us by every minute, while we are standing on the side, of what for the most part is a one lane windy 243 kilometers (150 miles) long coastal road, with our thumbs up in the air. It stretches from the cities, Torquay and all the way west up to Warrnambool. The road was built by returned soldiers and is the world's largest war memorial, dedicated to casualties of World War I. Honestly, nobody really talks about this important historical detail. What the GOR is famous for is the limestone rock formations, which are slowly crumbling into the ocean. There aren't really twelve apostles, it’s more like 8. In recent years, a couple of these important landmarks collapsed, one actually with tourists still one them. The London Bridge incident anecdote was told to us by a friendly local giving us a ride. Now called the London Arch, cause there’s no longer a connection with the mainland, that’s the part that gave way in 1990. No one was injured, but it left two tourists stranded until a helicopter came to rescue them.

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Originally we would have liked to walk the Great Ocean Walk. A 104 km walk starting in Apollo’s Bay almost all the way up to the Twelve Apostles. Instead we chose for a combination of hiking and hitchhiking. It turned out to be a very eventful 3 days, filled with amazing sights along the way and unexpected experiences. The first day was spent trying to get out of Melbourne as quickly as possible. We used public transport to get to Torquay, the start of the Great Ocean Road. Bell’s beach, a world famous surf beach was the first thing to check out. The weather was perfect for surfing and we did get to see locals have a try at some nice tricks. Our first ride was with a surf dude, with his over-friendly pup in the back of his 20 year old van, just making his way back home from Bell’s Beach. I thought that suited the start of our trip. There are a couple of free camp sites along the way but they were mostly located of the road for quite some kilometers. Finding camp spots wasn’t an issue. Rides on the other hand proved to be a bit more difficult. Lots of tour buses and tourists in rentals. We basically relied on locals to give us rides and they did, only our waiting times were a bit longer than what we were used to.

One goal I had set out for myself was to spot some koalas in the wild. There are heaps of them to be found around the Kenneth and Wye river area and the Otway National park. So we got a ride into Wye river with a local delivery guy and he told us to go to the back of the camp grounds and look up in the trees. And there they were. My first koalas! They’re usually found hanging around or dozing off in the bigger eucalyptus trees.

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We had to do at least a part of the Great Ocean Walk and decided to tackle the last bit towards to Twelve Apostles. We started at the beginning of Port Campbell National park, where all the good stuff is to be found. The sky finally cleared up and it was the perfect day for a much needed photo shoot of the most important part of the GOR.

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After about 7 kilometres of walking along the magnificent cliffs (with all of our stuff on our backs going up and down the whole time may I add) overlooking the Great Southern Ocean, the Twelve Apostles came in sight. Unfortunately the Great Ocean Walk doesn’t go all the way up to them, so we had to hike a bit along the highway. The first big sightseeing stop of significance was the Gibson Steps. They take you down to the beach, so you can really admire the height of those cliffs and some Apostles in the distance. If the tide is out enough you can walk along to the rest of them, keeping in mind you have to get back in time, there’s no way back up on the other side of the ridge. (I actually think there were signs and it wasn’t really allowed, but we saw folks doing it.) Hitchhiking from one point of interest to another (as they are quite close to one another) wasn’t that hard. It has to be said though the place was over-run by tourists so we didn’t get rides that fast.

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Finally we made it to The Twelve Apostles! They are pretty impressive to see from close by and it was all definitely worth it. Even though we still think it has nothing on the Washington coast though. We should start calling it the Ten Thousand Apostles and rename the 101, The Great Wild Ocean Road.

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The next amazing place was The Loch Ard Gorge. The gorge is named after the ship "The Loch Ard", which shipwrecked at this location. There still is a cemetery you can go visit there. An extensive walk all around the place is highly recommended. Some incredible formations make for some very interesting views.

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The Great Ocean Road and all of it’s wonders ends officially in Warrnambool. There is still much more along the way to see only we didn’t have a vehicle at our disposal, so we had to be content with what was accessible to us and take the rides that were offered to us.
In conclusion, everybody knows what The Twelve Apostles are and would recognize them in photographs. Well having seen them with my own eyes (and we worked hard to get there by hiking the last part of the Great Ocean walk), I can honestly state that the whole area is damn spectacular and they are truly one of a kind. Another great little adventure completed successfully.

Signed,

A Flemish Girl Down under.

Posted by flemishgirl 01:25 Archived in Australia Tagged twelve_apostles melbourne victoria great_ocean_road hiking surf locals wild surfing geelong loch_ard_gorge camping backpacking backpackers surfer hitchhiking torquay koala's kenneth_river wye_river great_ocean_walk warnambool bell's_beach

Tasmania Unscripted.

Hitchhiking around Tassie. Using alternative, sustainable methods of traveling. Hiking, camping, hitching, couchsurfing and Helpxing around the beautiful Isle of Tasmania. When they say Tassie’s got it all, they really mean it when they say All…

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Until about 15 years ago, before an opportunist real estate agent made a documentary about Tasmania, this particular state of Australia was almost forgotten. When talked about, it was more commonly known as a joke. Nowadays mainlanders and your odd foreigner are buying up land like their life is depending on it. Granted, it is a good investment. It makes prices skyrocket and it’s no longer affordable for the average person with a serious interest in the country lifestyle. Cause that’s what Tassie is all about. It’s still a place where small villages rule and the local communities are going strong. Front doors do not need to be closed and neighbors help each other out without being asked. This could all be gone in the nearby future.

Anyways, the diversity of this island called for some serious exploration, so that’s exactly what we did. After our initial two weeks in Hobart (See previous blog entry Life in Hobart, Tasmania), we started our hitchhiking adventure around the island. We didn’t really have a plan, but we did pinpoint a couple of destinations along the way. The first was the Freycinet National Park and Wineglass Bay. Which turned out to be a magnificent little adventure. (See previous blog entry called Camping at Wineglass Bay.)
Next we were heading more north up along the east coast towards the Bay of Fires. Critically acclaimed by Lonely Planet (I’d never heard of it.), thus worth checking out in my book. Hitching to St. Helens was interesting. We almost got stuck in the middle of nowhere until a car stopped way ahead of us with screeching tires, putting himself in reverse and speeding backwards coming to a halt right in front of us. This is going to be interesting we though to ourselves. Turns out they were a lovely couple, providing us with a ride all the way up where we needed to be. After some much needed fish and chips in town, we got to know a kiwi couple living out their campervan. They took us up to the Bay of Fires and we camped in a pretty fantastic spot right next to the beach together. It’s exactly what we expected it to be. Endless perfect white sand beaches, red rocks and clear blue water all the way for miles and miles.

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Sometimes these HelpX hosts fall through and you are put in, what we thought at the time, a rather luxurious position. Extra free time to go scout the island. We reconnected with another host, who took us in last minute for a couple of days. Just because he could and wanted some extra company around. Andre has this little paradise tucked away in the middle of nowhere and we would have wanted to stick around for a lot longer, but as you can guess, there was still plenty to see in a limited amount of time, so we had to say our goodbyes way too early. Tassie seems to be a lot of firsts for me. Catching my first fish and shooting my first riffle! Target practice was awesome and a good skill to have in case the world goes apocalyptic on us and I’d have to survive by killing some scary zombies.

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Next was Launceston (aka Launie by locals)! Nothing much to do or see there. Another big city, I mean oversized village, but this time on the northern part of the island.

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Some lovely couchsurfing and a visit to the gorge later and we were on our way to Deloraine. This was where we were going to base our visit to Cradle Mountain out of. We thought we were pretty lucky to have found these awesome hosts. They were tremendously accommodating and we owe much to Graeme and Geraldine. Without their help we wouldn’t have been able to experience how beautiful this region actually was. Not to mention their house! Perfect example of using recycled and readily available materials.

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Cradle Mountain was gorgeous, we saw our first wombats (alive and not as road kill, very important detail). An initial 20 minutes of blue skies was the start of our 3 day planned hike. Then trouble began to rise to the surface or rather come down on us. Icy winds, snow storms and pathways turning into rivers wasn’t exactly what we were prepared for. We do have some warm clothes in our backpacks but no mountaineering gear though. So after drying out all of our stuff in one of the shelters, we decided to cut the hike short and make our way down to the sunny valley of Sheffield, a town famous for its murals.

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We followed the Tasmanian trail (Devonport to Hobart, north to south, straight across) for a bit and camped out in a forest nearby town. And what a fabulous alternative that was. The pine trees very much reminded us of home. The distinctive Eucalyptus trees are basically the only vegetation we’ve been seeing here so far in Australia.

Hitchhiking is definitely more easy in Tassie because of the small island mentality. We thought it was never going to be as easy as Hawaii again (Where hitchhiking is a very common way and very much accepted to get around the island. See previous blog entry The Big Island of Hawai'i), but Tasmania has proven to be the most helpful and trusting place. We stuck our thumps up once again and crossed the state in less than four hours making it all the way down to Woodbridge, to our last HelpX place. Another hidden little piece of paradise with a gorgeous view of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Bruny Island.

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Dagmar, our host made us feel at home instantly and I know, I didn’t really feel like leaving at all. We meet many folks the way we are traveling and a lot of them we won’t remember, but once in a while there’s someone you will want to keep in contact with and maybe one day visit again. Dagmar is definitely one of those. We’ll miss her and her crazy nonetheless extremely lovable pups. Because we are traveling, there’s no time to get a dog ourselves any time soon. So it expresses itself into a lot of love for all these puppies we meet along the way. Bonnie especially, she kept us busy taking us along for her extensive swims. She could be a little neurotic but such a beautiful Stafford terrier. She definitely did a good job at keeping us entertained. You had to watch out though or she would have taken off by herself and swam all the way to Bruny Island.

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One other animal we encountered for the first time in Tasmania was the black Tiger snake. They seemed quite scary to me and I didn't realize Tasmania is much populated with all kinds of Tiger snakes. They are extremely venomous, but locals succeeded at making me less nervous with stories of their encounters and bites that they knew of. When they hear or see a human, they will make their way out of there, as they are not big fans. Only when you step on one they’ll bite and the chances of the venom actually making it into the wound are small. So when I actually saw a few over the next couple of days in the backyard and surrounding areas, I remained calm and couldn’t be bothered less. (That last part is a lie.. I still freak out of course. What do you want? I'm from Belgium. Last time I checked no venomous creatures to be found there.) Though I will admit I banged a couple of pots together to chase the first one I saw away…

Our last night in Tassie was spent camping on the waterfront in Devonport, waiting to leave on the ferry the next morning back to the mainland. A beautiful sunset was our goodbye gift.

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So in conclusion, Tasmania is ranked high on my favorite places in the world list. It still has it all. Cozy little villages, beautiful beaches, mountains, an abundance of lakes and part of it, the west is still wild and uninhabited. But most of all, I liked the friendly islanders.

Dear Tasmania,

Please don’t ever change.

Sincerely,
Flemish Girl.

Posted by flemishgirl 23:53 Archived in Australia Tagged sunset hiking mountain tasmania gear camping hobart snake ferry recycle hitchhiking devonport helpexchange helpx tassie deloraine cradle_mountain hitching woodbridge tiger_snake stafford terrier bonnie recycled_materials

Camping at Wineglass Bay.

The Freycinet peninsula - National Park, East Coast Tasmania.

Stunningly beautiful Wineglass Bay is probably the most populated tourist attraction in the whole of Tasmania. Hoards of colorful campervans and tour buses unloading visitors of many different origins and ages, indicate that you’ve arrived at a pretty special place. We hitchhiked our way up the east coast all the way from Hobart to this overcrowded, yet still amazing destination in about 2 hours and a half. Which for us was probably a personal record. Several times along the way, we barely had our thumbs sticking out in the air or a car had already stopped to offer us a ride. To make sure you understand exactly how smoothly this hitchhiking trip was, we beat the same campervan three times. Every time after we got dropped off and they had spotted us yet again, they waved at us. But still no ride from them though. I thought they would have gotten the message, but then again we could have been sending out the wrong one. Obviously we had gotten there without their help and pretty damn fast.

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There’s a moderate hike involved to get to the lookout point, which gives you a massive overview of the area and the Bay. To actually get there, there’s another hour or so, depends how fit you are, down the hillside. By then you don’t really need to worry anymore about being overrun by other day hikers. Only about 30 percent makes the effort to hike down to the beach, which is a shame. We planned on camping 2 nights on the peninsula. Unfortunately we had to stick to one campsite, on Wineglass beach, as we didn’t have a place to leave all of our stuff we didn’t need behind. So we hiked in with all that we own on our backs.

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Pretty heavy, let me tell you that but we made it without panting too much. First thing we encountered, when we arrived down at Wineglass, was the wallabies. Uninformed selfish tourists (screw the rules for a picture, right?) have been hand feeding them. In return creating these tame daring little wallabies. One cheeky big one, probably that huge because of the easy food access, just carelessly hopped over to where I was sitting next to the tent with the open daypack containing our lunch in between my legs. The mischievously cute daredevil had his nose down the backpack before I even knew it. Now, you have to realize this was my first close encounter with a wild marsupial and I noticed the size of his claws. Especially the sharpness of them. So naturally, not knowing if it potentially could act up and decide to scratch my face, I didn’t dare to push it away. I got up and yelled no at it, like it was a dog. Hilarious to onlookers, but I did the trick.

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The whole peninsula is a not to miss destination on your maybe future Tassie trip. Plentiful of wondrous hikes, beautiful camp spots and an abundance of local wildlife. One hike we did easily, was to walk across the thin part of the peninsula to Hazards Beach on the Great Oyster bay side. At once, after your arrival on the beach, you understand why the naming of the place involved oysters. Thousands of oyster shells, some very pretty and shiny, some almost fossilized, cover the entire length of the beach. It’s hard when you’re backpacking around and have to resist taking some extremely glittery ones home with you to show to your family or just as a remembrance of an amazing time spent on the Freycinet Peninsula.

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There’s a steady flow of young backpackers and old and wise local hikers, passing though Wineglass bay’s camp site every day. (Certainly during peak season) It’s from one of those locals, we heard why precisely this gorgeous bay is called Wineglass. Back in the day, they used to trap whales into it, to slaughter them more easily. Therefore the bay, shaped like a wineglass, colored blood red during these events. Like a glass of red wine. Sad story, yet it is part of the local history. It’s just not so fun to hear when you have an imaginative mind like I have. Anyways.. Hooray for the Sea Sheppard, who actually just anchored in Hobart. Alas even though we are in the area (very, very close), we won’t be able to go pay them a visit and give them a pat on the shoulder. The local ‘FBI’ has closed the area off and is continuing to investigate the ships. Anyways.. Well done, boys! I heard there was a party in one of the local Salamanca bars. I bet they have lots of groupies by now…

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The last morning, we woke up relatively early and started to hike out before the sun got too high. It was a very special feeling to turn around, glance one last time over Wineglass Bay and see that the only footsteps you could see, were yours. It was an unusually quiet morning. You could hear merely hear anything but the sound of the calm small waves rolling in. It probably only lasted for another hour before another day of being overrun by tourists began. I put my faith in the Tasmanian park rangers, to keep this wonderful place safe.

A Flemish Girl Down Under.

Posted by flemishgirl 23:24 Archived in Australia Tagged beach camping national_park wineglass_bay freycinet_peninsula wallaby

The Rules of Packing your Backpack.

Need help deciding what to bring and what not to?

Stop packing right now! Get rid of all that crap in your backpack , please.. yes, I’m talking to you. Toss everything out and let’s start over together. No more dilemmas and almost panic attacks. I’m here to help..

First of all, it is a backpack you’re trying to pack. Think about it. That means everything you put inside of it will be carried by you and you alone on your own back. That will stop you from trying to stuff more useless objects in there, will it not?

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Okay, now that you realized the most important rule, we can go over the basics. Clothes, toiletries, camping gear (optional), electronics (optional, although I doubt that these days there’s still people traveling without a camera or cell phone). Long term travel or short term travel, it doesn’t really matter. You’ll still need all of the same things.

Let’s talk clothes first. Most of you take half of your closet with you on holidays right? You should see some of those girls and their backpacks, I’ve encountered in hostels before. They carry like 10 pairs of shoes around with them! Why? I’ll admit it’s definitely everybody’s biggest problem, trying to pack light. Even I made mistakes in the past, but I learned from them and here are my positive results. One pair of flip-flops and one pair of sneakers/hiking boots, five pairs of underwear, a sports bra, 4 pairs of socks, 1 short summer dress, 1 long summer dress, 1 bikini, 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of leggings, 1 pair of jogging pants, 2 tops, 4 T-shirts, one long sleeved shirt, 2 hoodies, a hat and a light but big scarf. Now this is not much at all, I know, but they are all very versatile pieces of clothing. Plus I can still look very trendy, despite what you’re thinking. For example my scarf has been used as a knapsack, picnic blanket, towel to lay on on the beach, head wrap for the sun, sarong and scarf for when it gets colder. Dirty clothing can always be washed in a sink with a piece of soap or a bit of shampoo! Don’t carry around all of your dirty clothes inside your bag for too long. It will start to reek fast! Another thing I’ve learned from my first long term backpacking trip, is to take your favorite clothing with you instead of your old, ripped up stuff. It’ll make you happy and not want to go shopping all the time :).

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Toiletries are also a necessity, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be smart about them! What I personally have with me at all times is a toothbrush and toothpaste, 2in1 shampoo/conditioner (preferably organic), one comb or brush, one bar of soap, 1 razor (a girl’s gotta shave her legs once in a while), tweezers, nail clipper, cotton swabs, body butter, lip balm, sunscreen, hair bands, mascara, tampons (of course!), baby wipes (they’re good for everything, especially during camping trips), small first aid kit, Iodine tablets (for producing drinking water), anti-mosquito spray (preferable organic), painkillers and anti-histamines. I can swear to you, I don’t need anything more than this. I am, after all, traveling non-stop. I can always go to a local department store if I need anything.

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If you plan to go hiking and camping, you might want to make your pack a bit lighter of course. Make some space for water and food. We decided to take camping gear with us this time around and have found it very easy to make the extra space available in our backpacks. A marvelous tip for finding discount topnotch camping gear is going to your local specialized Outdoor’s shop and check if they have garage sales. This means returned items from unsatisfied customers for less than half the original price. Sometimes there is something wrong with it, but usually it’s more because it’s too small or short or the wrong color. That’s where we went looking (REI, Seattle) and got a super fancy tent,

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2 sleeping mats and 2 very comfy and warm sleeping bags for a total of 300 bucks. I can tell you that the price of it all together new would have been more than double that price. We also have a flashlight, pocket knife, a small one burner gas stove and one small pot and recently acquired forks. You don’t need more, well maybe a book, but that’s pretty much it.

By now, we have gotten the electronics part down as well. You could easily travel without a laptop but I personally can’t, so we have a netbook and a small external 1TB hard drive that we carry around with us. Connor can’t go without taking fabulous photographs everywhere we go, therefore we have a fairly new digital camera with us as well, plus a cell phone. Don’t forget the most important part. A internationally convertible adaptor for charging your batteries. We have a wonderful little thing that does it all in one.

Time for the last tips. A couple of things you wouldn’t think you’d need, but will prove to be super useful. Rubber bands (multiple uses), ziplock bags (for waterproofing or just space saving), pillow cases (separate the inside of your backpack into compartments or just as a laundry bag), a rain jacket is never a bad idea either or a journal to keep track of your adventures. Have a small rucksack with you as well for carry on purposes or as a day pack. We also save a lot of money on having or own water bottle. Instead of buying water all the time, we fill ours up pretty much anywhere.

Well, I think that’s about it. I hope this was helpful and please, if you have questions.. ask away!

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May you all have many grand adventures without too much back and/or shoulder pain!

Love and Peace,

Flemish Girl.

Posted by flemishgirl 01:05 Tagged backpack camping back discount backpacking rei weight toiletries shoulders garage_sale electronics

The Big Island of Hawai'i

30 outstanding days on only 300 bucks

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Our whole month of November was spent enjoying every single minute of it hitchhiking, camping, couchsurfing and helpXing around the Big Island. It was definitely the first time we’ve encompassed all of these alternative means of traveling in one journey and it turned out to be the best trip EVER! The only money we spent, was on beer and food..

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We had one minor setback, being that the airlines had lost our tent. Well that is, part of our tent. So what does every normal person do in that case, except for getting furious and demanding the tent back as soon as humanly possible? You go to Walmart and buy a shitty version of what should have been your ultimate camping gear. The airlines eventually decided they were not reliable (Boo that Delta!) so we grew some balls and contacted the tent company online. They loved our story and were willing to help us out by sending a replacement for free. Now that’s cool! Thanks Kelti! Camping is allowed everywhere despite what the tourist related media tells everyone.

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It is common knowledge on the island that as long as you behave and clean up after yourself, you can camp wherever you’d like. They just want to keep that little fact to themselves though so their local secret spots will not be overrun by tourists. We understood this perfectly and played by the rules. One well kept secret was Kiholo bay on the south Kohala coast. We camped and swam right in between the green sea turtles.

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Hitchhiking has never proven to be so easy as on this island. Sometimes people even stopped to ask if we needed a ride without even sticking out our thumbs.

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Lots of hippies on the Big Island and as you can guess also a large quantity of certain substances. Rides resulted frequently in free beer, free food, free advice and this one particular time an invitation to Thanksgiving Dinner by a remarkable man. Donnie is a retired professor, member of WWOOF and runs a ‘salad’ farm on the hillside on the Hamakua Coast. During the ride to Hilo, he immediately started to educate us with local facts and how to be a successful grower. On the way back to his place for the festivities on that day, we got invited again twice by locals. Suffice to say we found this island a very friendly and welcoming place. Nobody judges here. Everybody just lets his freak flag fly. Especially on the Puna Coast, where one can find many enlightening guru’s and their groupies. Time’s different here too. There’s no such thing as being on time. You’re on Hawaiian time. Everything’s a lot more relaxed.

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There wasn’t much couchsurfing to choose from, but we managed to stay with 4 different hosts and they were all equally as kind to us. We will without a doubt hold Bob, our lovely host in Hilo, in our hearts forever. We stayed with him a couple of times while passing through. He knew how to throw a party! Thanks to this online network we also got to stay overnight in the backstage room of Honoka’a’s ‘30s theatre. We made heaps of new friends. I realized inserting the word heaps sometimes into my vocabulary makes me fit in a bit more here in Australia. :)

Now our helpX experience on the island was certainly very fitting for Hawaii. We were staying for a week within a vegan community. The original members and their stories go way back, so I can accurately say they probably started to whole movement. Our work involved simply daily tasks and in return we learned a whole lot about Veganism. Including some delicious recipes! We had a view of the ocean and Maui from our little love shack in between the papaya and avocado trees. It all felt very Hawaiian for sure.

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Another very memorable moment during this trip was our 3-day hike into Waimanu Valley and one to treasure forever.

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You start your hike from the Waipio Valley lookout at the end of the road. Unless you get a ride from someone with a four wheel drive, you’re going to have to suffer through a very steep descent into the valley. Anyways it’s worth it. We met this local kid who’s family still lives down there and he gave us some useful tips for Waimanu, which is the next valley over. To get there we suffered 5 hours of constant up and down hiking as once you go over the big valley wall there’s still 12 gullies to make your way through. And the hardest part of getting there was not the much feared steep ascent of the first valley wall. It was the steep descent into Waimanu. My legs had given up somewhere halfway down, but somehow I managed to make it to the campsite. There are some amazing waterfalls to hike to in the back of the Valley….. this place was magnificent! So worth it!

When you are on the Big Island one thing you certainly can’t skip is Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park and if you’re lucky there could be a surfacing lava flow you can walk up to and be in awe of mother nature’s creation. We tried to save that for the end, but as it turned out when we actually got to the park there was no lava to be seen anywhere any longer. We did see, when we were couchsurfing on the Puna coast, the steam clouds coming from the spot where the lava hits the ocean water and the heat waves coming from the new lava surface.
If you want to go to Hawaii, go to the wondrous Big Island. It has it all. Postcard picture beaches, rainforests bursting with fruit and waterfalls, immensely green valleys and green sand beaches, petroglyphs and last but not least a live volcano. Why wouldn’t you go there?

Love & Peace,

Flemish Girl

Posted by flemishgirl 18:30 Archived in USA Tagged waterfalls beer volcanoes valley camping hawaii national_park petroglyphs couchsurfing helpexchange.net big_island hithhiking vegan veganism green_sand_beach sea_turtles kiholo_bay waimanu waipio

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