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The Real Fiji Experience.

Our Time in Fiji well spent.

semi-overcast 28 °C

Screw those backpacker itineraries, flashpacker resorts and cruiseboats… man, we saw the real Fiji or better Viti. (Viti = Fiji in Fijian.) What it really is like living in Fiji and it couldn’t have been a better experience.
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What I didn’t know was that there is some hardship to be had by about 70 percent of the population. You got to work hard out there to live your sustainable life on a tropical island. The luxury resorts on numerous tiny islands away from the main island (which is Viti Levu = literal translation = big Fiji) and the main cities (especially Suva, the capital) are all a tourist really gets to see. Happy Fijians greeting you and helping you out with anything you need. Lovely service, although a tad on the slow side. Fiji Time is a common saying here, I guess also known as island time. Time doesn’t really exist here. Things happen when they happen, so you better leave your western mentality and expectations behind. What you don’t get to see, unless you go out explicitly in search of it, is the real village life. How most of the Fijians still live these days. They don’t really need electricity and are fine with not owning a fridge (which in my opinion I couldn’t do without). Their main resources are limited in variety, but I guess they also don’t really mind. Life revolves around food, so farming and fishing is the main activity besides preparing and cooking. Seems quite simple, doesn’t it. Well it is, but there’s a beauty in it, that I as a western girl wish I could appreciate more. I noticed first hand, by my own experiences that I get quite restless while staying in villages for too long. They don’t really use downtime for personal need. There’s no such thing as reading a book for leisure and maybe if you’re lucky there will be one household that owns a TV. Computers and internet are a city thing and most villagers don’t know what Facebook is. Oh my lord, I can hear you saying… it is in reality a third world country. Well... yes and no. Most people would label it as such but I think Fijians really don’t mind the kind of life they lead. They are not in need of anything else. This is what it has been like for a while now and it works so what’s wrong with that. Everything you do or work for is in service of the local community. Everything is a communal possession. A great example of this is how any house is everybody’s house. People walk in and out, chatting, gossiping and sharing responsibilities such as caring for the little ones. Babies are adored, really I can’t put it in any other way then they are conceived as little gods and goddesses. Constantly being kissed and paraded around, an average baby in your average village is not alone for a moment. The complete opposite of how western babies grow up. They can’t be taught how to be independent fast enough! Fijian babies are cuddled and loved and passed around frequently. Everybody is everybody’s mother, father, big brother or big sister. Seriously, it blew my mind..
Although the city life is definitely different. I speak mainly of my village experiences on Vanua Levu, Viti Levu and Taveuni. Unfortunately that’s all we had time and funds for. Thanks to a friend of my dad back home in Belgium we were able to hook up with a local family and their extended family spread all over the country. We visited several villages thanks to them and on our own we managed to integrate in some more as well. It is a fascinating culture with old traditions still embedded in their everyday life to this day but missionaries have definitely succeeded in religiously conquering and transforming Fiji though. There’s about 6 different branches of Christianity present everywhere we went plus Islam in the bigger places and Hinduism as well. I don’t think you can find an untouched village anymore regrettably.
Even though the real Fijian food we had day in and day out, never disappointed us and is, if I may say so really yummy, there’s not much variation. As too be expected by being extremely isolated islands and it is a tropical climate after all. The main diet consists of Dalo (Taro), cassava and coconut. The coconut tree must be the most versatile around. They use every single part of it for cooking with, eating, body care products and building their houses and furniture, weaving hats, mats, baskets and fans with the palm leaves. There are a couple of green leaf vegetables, readily available and that made me happy but for the rest, unless it’s a village close to the sea and they get to fish every day, there is really not a lot to it. When you go visit people or a village, you bring them one of the following as gifts (Sevusevu) and they will be extremely grateful; canned fish or meat, cookies, sugar, bread, butter, soap and toilet paper. These are luxury items only available in shops and the cities. Wages are extremely low but I guess the cost of living is not that bad either, if you don’t buy beer and meat every day. The traditional Sevusevu would be or as they call it, Grog. Let’s have a little chat about Kava shall we? It is the original traditional drink for Fijians, pounded root of the peppershrub, mixed with water, it makes a muddy not so nice tasting drink. It’s their versions of drugs and alcohol (cause I haven’t really encountered anything else once off the beaten track). Granted you can find beer, wine, spirits and marijuana in the cities, but not as plentiful and besides Fiji Bitter or Gold (which is quite cheap) the rest is very expensive. Normal Fijians can’t afford alcohol so Kava it is. And trust me it is.. at all times and for any occasion possible the bowl comes out and the traditional half coconut shell used as a cup gets passed around. You better not be afraid of catching something when you go visit a village cause everything is made with the local water and food gets eaten with your hands and the kava bowl is shared. So once you get over the muddy numb-making taste of Kava, you might enjoy it and maybe after a couple of full cups you might feel a bit drunk, but it wears off extremely fast. So don’t get your hopes up. No, you haven’t found an cheap alternative to alcohol, forget about it. It makes you at best a bit woozy and very mellow. You will sleep great and the next day you might just want to do nothing and take another nap. On the other hand, I’ve heard Vanuatu has the strong and better stuff though. But I wouldn’t know myself as I haven’t tried it.
Fijians are basically the most hospitable people I’ve met so far (I think it can be said about almost any Pacific Island nation). There is nothing they would not give to you, because you as a foreigner are really honoring them with your interest and your visit. They will invite you in, just cause you are passing by, for tea, lunch or dinner depending on what’s going on at that time. They will make a spot at the head of the table for you (that is the head of the tablecloth on the floor, there is no such thing as a table in real Fijian households.) They’ll give you the best piece of meat and will give their beds to you if you are invited to stay the night. You’ll be proudly guided around and invited in and you’ll be shaking (lululu = official greeting/meeting) a million hands (because they all want to meet the –as it was in our case – white people). We’ve had young kids be afraid of us, starting to cry (cause they have never seen a white person before in their lives). We’ve had to smack away some little hands trying to peek into our bedroom, prying the curtains to one side in the evenings. Kids just being gob smacked when looking for the second time when they realize we don’t really belong in their village. Being stared at was definitely a common occurrence. We had the occasional better educated and worldly young ones flock to us and ask us a million questions in English about traveling and what it is like outside of Fiji. It was fun and new for the first few days but after a while there’s that guilt sneaking it’s way in and you start to feel a bit inappropriate for many different reasons. I’m sure those are feelings many of us would feel in those kind of situations and I’m not sure if I’m comfortable feeling them all the time because of the way we travel. From now on, we’ll be heading only to poorer countries and we will keep on hanging out with the locals, so I guess I better get used to it. Fijians are very respectful people. Unless you’ve been living with them for months and been seen as one of their own, you will not be allowed to do much. Offering to do the dishes or your own laundry are not going to be allowed. They will tend to you and try to make you as comfortable as possible. Adults won’t really ask about your life or pry into your business unless they really feel close to you which takes some time. Romantic gestures or kissing or holding hands are NOT done and it is very hard to tell how they actually go about dating and getting to know one another. I guess it all happens in secrecy. In one of the villages we visited on Vanua Levu we got the experience a real Fijian style wedding. Four days of full on organization and celebration. Pigs and cows were slaughtered and the best ingredients were used for making delicious food! We had squid in lolo (coconut milk) and lime, clams and grilled fish. Lots of meat and chicken curries, plus all the different kinds of fried bread for breakfast the day after the wedding. It was amazing!!! Not only the food but the teamwork of the village on display.
Let’s just say experiencing the real Fiji was a once in a lifetime thing and that I’m very satisfied with our choice of travel methods. I can go in search of the perfect beach and lazy around in Indonesia for a lot less money and that’s exactly what I’m planning on doing. I’m glad I went for an off the beaten track kind of experience in Fiji. Just cause it was SO worth it!
There will be more detailed entries of our adventures in Fiji coming soon.

Posted by flemishgirl 20:07 Archived in Fiji Tagged islands food boat beach religion bus locals ferries resorts blue island fiji paradise taveuni viti_levu mamanucas buses coconut pacific guitar backpackers vanua_levu tropics suva hitchhiking couchsurfing ukelele nandi yasawas cassava pacific_islands viti real_fiji_experience fijians tropical_climate dalo tarot casava indo-fijians missionaries flashbackpers

“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 Rainbow Coast, Western Australia.

And who was it that said Seattle was rainy? Try the Great Southwest of Australia. It's called the Rainbow coast for a reason. Our 5 months in Albany, Western Australia.

Okay. First of all, I will apologize. Forgive me for forsaking my blog entries for the last 3 months. It may not be a decent excuse though, but I have been working my - now very much in shape - butt off, thanks to biking several kilometers in and out of town everyday for work.

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What can I say about Albany? The first words that pop in my head are grey, rainy.. and windy. But I'm not doing this town any justice at all. It has a stunning coastline and after all it is winter here. And what a mild winter it is in comparison to what I'm usually used to. I can hardly complain. It just makes me miss home more. That's all.

We lucked out basically. Five months in a wonderful house, stocked with all the herbs and spices and basic cooking supplies that I could ever need. With a magical veggie garden in the back, where all our daily needs for fresh greens are met. The two chooks, who don't really need looking after at all. They already realize, they are living in paradise. They've stopped laying eggs for a months or so, but now one of them is getting back on track so who could blame them for anything? And then there's the orange tree... even if there's no sunshine most days, the tree is making us feel loved at least. Never tasted such fantastic freshly squeezed orange juice in my life! But the best perk about this gig is.. the three boxes in the back room filled with VHS's from the nineties. What better way to spend your dark, cold, lonely nights?

So this house-sitting thing is working quite well for us actually... probably better then we could ever have hoped. We knew when we arrived in Australia, running out of money was going to happen at one point (it being so expensive here and all). When we figured out this overly expensive country came along with equally high wages, we knew we were going to take advantage and soon. But how to go about all of this you ask? No worries. Working Holiday Visa? Check. And that's all you need. The rest just takes a bit of smarts and effort and maybe some persisting as well. We were initially worried about a place to stay while we would be working. Rent prices were scaring us quite a bit to be honest. So we came up with two options. One: Find work that would include accommodation and maybe also food or.. Two: find a house-sitting gig in a place where finding jobs would be easy - easier. Both are equally as hard to find. So when we found this ad online for a 5 months long house-sitting job in a reasonably sized town along our planned travel route, we jumped on it immediately. We managed (somehow) to convince a 70 plus year old couple, who spend the winter up north every year, to let us take care of their house while they were gone for 5 consecutive months. Needless to say we will be eternally grateful to Harry and Val. They are the ones responsible for us putting away large amounts of money on our bank accounts at an extremely fast rate.

So work, work, work.... What does it feel like? After a couple of years of indulging ourselves in a rather relaxed way of living - traveling the world and not having to worry much about money. It feels a bit numb to be honest. People might think of us as the escapist kind. Not wanting to settle down, not wanting to tie ourselves down to certain responsibilities. Some of you out there would call us cowards for not wanting to deal with the real world (as they would call it). Which I understand. Completely. But see it from our point of view. Why not take advantage of the limitless possibilities out there? Why not get to know this planet for real before it's too late? We just want to have fun and experience all what is out there as much as possible. What's so wrong with that? We'll get tired of it at one point. We'll settle down. Just not yet though... It's way too much fun being a global nomad..

One place where I work at is the Royal George Hotel. A bartending job will stay the same wherever in the world you may find yourself. So it's a good skill to fall back on. This bar in particular has an immense amount of history. This whole town does by the way. What makes the George a different kind of pub to work at is the old fellas. It's a good old local kind of pub. Nothing fancy. I've got my regulars that come in everyday and they are amazingly entertaining and splendid company. The times they have made me giggle with their wild stories from the good old days. I've heard Robert Plant and Neil Young anecdotes from a former musician suffering from severe tinnitus. Or how about this other fella that one day decided to fill me in on a certain part of his past. "That time I almost went to the slammer for nearly killin me own brotha." That was one of the more heartfelt ones. There was still sadness and pain to be read on his face while he tried to explain. In his defense, his brother did take off with his fiancee while he was at sea. Most of these guys once used to be fishermen or working on the rigs or for the Navy. Now most of them are retired and meet up with each other in the pub almost every day. Every single one of them is adorned with plenty of visible tattoos and even though they might look like rough oldies not to be messed with to an outsider, to me they all are cuddly bears with a heart of gold. To see them all lined up sitting at the bar next to one another, mumbling and cursing a lot (ooh yeah... they curse a lot) with their free hand (the one not holding the beer) cupping their ears trying to catch what their neighbor just had said, because the batteries in their hearing aid might have run low again. You just have to see it for yourself, it's very endearing.

Albany was the right choice to make. Even though I did run into some trouble with a local business owner thinking, because I was a backpacker, that must mean he had a freebie to take advantage of me. Well guess what? I might be a backpacker but I'm not a stupid one. Shame on those who try to scam us out of our hard earned money. Luckily I caught on to it from week number one and made my way out of their as fast and confrontational-free as possible. Karma will have it's way.

So yes. I would recommend to every young backpacker looking for another adventure to come to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa and to work their butts off. If they are smart about it, they will walk away with a huge sum of aussie dollars to spend nice and slow in less "dearer" countries.

3 months down. 2 to go.... then it's back to singing my favorite tune. "On the road again..."

Love and Peace,

A Flemish Girl Down Under.

Posted by flemishgirl 09:41 Archived in Australia Tagged winter australia work north money western_australia orange orange_tree working oranges aud albany exmouth couchsurfing cira's royal_george_hotel housesit housesitting chooks veggie_garden mild_winter working_holiday_visa whv

The Big Island of Hawai'i

30 outstanding days on only 300 bucks

sunny 25 °C

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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